Mary Lou Visits Dundalk

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald visited Dundalk to thank groups for their support of communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. She also met with a number of families whose loved ones died at Dealgan House.

The party leader was joined by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú and met a number of groups at Muirhevna Mór FC before going to the community centre where she heard about insurance and childcare issues.

The Dundalk TD said the meetings had come about because of Deputy McDonald’s ‘determination to not only show leadership in Leinster House in holding the government to account, but also to come to communities to say thank you to them for their outstanding work during the pandemic’.

He said: ‘She also got the opportunity to hear from groups in Dundalk who are affected by State-wide issues such as insurance and healthcare’.

Muirhevna Mór FC were thanked for their work, along with volunteering with other sports clubs, during Covid-19 which ensured vulnerable people in the area were looked after, while Ms McDonald also heard about the work being carried out by Cuidigh Linn.

Muirhevna Mór FC also raised more than €10,000 for charity by hosting a socially-distanced 24 hour run that was attended by Ireland manager, Stephen Kenny, Dundalk FC manager Vinny Perth and players from the League of Ireland side.

The ‘Unite the Parish’ event, which was ruin by Bay FC, Na Piarsaigh and Pearse Óg, raised almost €4,500 for the Maria Gioretti Foundation.

The Sinn Féin leader met with Mandy Fee from Pelican and Muirhevnamor Community Centre manager, Susan O’Neill and heard how the centre had been turned down for public liability insurance before Ms Fee helped to facilitate a policy thanks to her previous work in this area.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘Mary Lou heard first-hand how the fiasco that is the insurance industry is affecting the lives of people in communities across the State. I had raised the issue this week in Leinster House and I am following up with Minister Seán Fleming’.

Ms McDonald also heard from Clodagh O’Mahony about the possibility of childcare services, provided to children in disadvantaged areas of Louth, are under threat of closure.

Her final meeting was a private one with some of the families whose loved ones died in Dealgan House during the pandemic. Ms McDonald said she supported their calls for answers about what had happened.

Ó Murchú: Drug Crime in Dundalk Raised in Dáil

Dundalk’s drug crime and the government response to it has been raised again in Leinster House by local TD Ruairí Ó Murchú who highlighted recent arson attacks in Clontygora Court and Bay Estate.

The Sinn Féin deputy raised the issue during a late-night topical issues debate last week and outlined to Minister of State, Charlie McConalogue, how a family escaped death during an arson attack at a house in Clontygora Court earlier this month.

He said: ‘That is the seriousness with which criminal gangs are operating in Dundalk’.

Mr Ó Murchú praised the ‘incredibly vigilant’ Dundalk Gardai.

He said: ‘Since a drugs unit has been in operation, there have been multiple finds of cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin.

‘When talking to community activists I have consistently been told about dealers being really sound to some of their customers and telling them: ‘I know things are not great now and I do not necessarily have a great supply of heroin, but do not worry because I have plenty of crack cocaine and I will sort you out with that’.

‘That is the reality, especially in working class areas. We have drug dealers who have been operating for many years but there has been a failure by the State to deal with them.

‘I welcome the operations that have been carried out recently, and in all my dealings with the gardaí I am happy that they are utterly focused. However, one will never have a meeting with gardaí in which they will not talk about the need for more resources.

‘With regard to the attack I mentioned and a previous attack that occurred in Bay Estate in which a garda’s home was attacked, I must commend the neighbours who were vigilant and called the fire service, whose actions were spectacular.

‘My difficulty with the drugs problem is about how one should deal with at Cabinet level. Gardaí will state that they are constantly arresting people who need services and cannot get them. Services such as the Family Addiction Support Network (FASN) are vital services that are not funded in any proper way. This issue crosses the areas of housing, health, education and justice. We cannot allow these dangerous criminals to operate. I want the Government to put somebody in charge. I welcome what is going to be done with the Citizens’ Assembly, but we already know a lot of has to be done.

‘We also need to ensure we are serious about harm reduction. The superintendent in Dundalk said at a recent joint policing committee meeting that drugs are the most serious issue he has to deal with in his region and that he requires greater resources to give the drugs unit what it requires.

‘We have had a chief superintendent who said we will lose an entire generation to cocaine. We need to ensure that this issue is dealt with at Cabinet level, somebody takes control and we can deliver a solution and look after our communities that are suffering from all this criminality’.

Minister McConalogue condemned the arson attacks. He said: ‘We share the deputy’s concern about the serious issue of drugs crime as well as drug related intimidation in communities.

‘Government policy is guided by the national drugs strategy, which represents a whole-of-Government response to the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse.

‘With respect to Garda resources working with communities in Dundalk in particular, 184 gardaí were assigned to Dundalk as of the end of May 2020. This is an increase from 147 gardaí, or 25%, since the end of 2015.

‘We hear Deputy Ó Murchú’s contribution and are very much aware of the serious issues at play. I assure him that, working with and supporting the Garda Síochána, and working within government, we will do all we can to try to ensure that this issue is addressed in every way possible’.

The drugs issue in Dundalk and the need for a whole of government response to it was also raised by the Louth TD with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee during her recent visit to the town.

Minister McEntee said she would speak to the relevant ministers and Mr Ó Murchú said he would follow up with her.

Cllr Antóin Watters Welcomes Money to Greenway Fund

Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has welcomed news that €200,000 will be going towards the Carlingford Greenway.

At the Council meeting this month, Cllr Watters received assurances from the Council’s Director of Economic Development, Planning and Infrastructure that funds would be available. Cllr Watters had raised concerns at the long delay in the planning stage and expressed concern that the offer of funding would expire and be lost.

“There has been a lot of work put into this project by the Council and by local people and has been in the pipeline for a number of years. I was happy to received assurance from the Council and am delighted to welcome this €200,000 today that has been awarded to the project. It is a relief to know that everyone’s hard work will not be for nothing.

“Now that the funding has been secured the hard work begins again with engaging with residents in the route selection process.”

The funding received will cover the preliminary design and environmental evaluation for a section of the Greenway almost 12.5km long going from Carlingford to Templetown Beach.

Ó Murchú: Clear Roadmap Needed For Re-opening of Schools

The government must provide a clear and comprehensive roadmap for schools to open and ensure that they can stay open, Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has said.

Education Minister Norma Foley was due to bring a memo to Cabinet on Monday outlining plans and funding for schools to re-open next month.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘Schools have been closed now for over four months, and in that time two Ministers for Education have repeatedly promised a comprehensive roadmap for the reopening of schools that seems to be only materialising now.

‘We are now just a month away from when one million children are supposed to return to school.

‘The lack of clarity over the last few weeks is causing real concern, worry and anxiety.

‘We know that more teachers will be needed. We know that more money will be needed. We know that we will need to see increased investment in cleaning and hygiene measures. We know that children will need to get buses and we know that there are other children with additional needs that will need to be catered for.

‘Parents, students, teachers, support staff and transport operators are, right now, completely in the dark as to what is happening to ensure all of these needs are met.

‘This plan needs to be comprehensive and definitive, and it needs to answer all of the questions that all stakeholders need answered. The timing of this plan has been cut very fine as it is. The uncertainty has gone on far too long already. It cannot go on any longer’.

Ó’ Murchú: Minister to Read Report Before Decision on Inquiry

The new health minister Stephen Donnelly will read the report from the nursing homes expert panel, along with the HIQA report into Dealgan House Nursing Home before making a decision about any inquiry, TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has revealed.

The Dundalk TD said he had raised the deaths of 22 people in the nursing home during a Covid-19 outbreak with Minister Donnelly, after he highlighted delays in Dealgan getting negative test results for residents earlier this month.

Mr Ó Murchú used his time during questions to Taoiseach Michéal Martin to point to the recently-released HIQA report about how Covid-19 was handled in nursing homes across the State.

The Sinn Féin deputy told the Dáil: ‘The report lays out in stark terms how nearly 60% of homes inspected following Covid-19 outbreaks were found to have insufficient infection prevention and control measures, which possibly led to greater tragedy.

‘It speaks of deficiencies in governance and management. It also speaks of the unsuitability of some of the units during the pandemic and their need for upgrading. There were many horror stories from families and staff.

‘I have spoken to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, about the testing delays that have become evident in recent days, including at Dealgan House in Dundalk. A few weeks ago, it was able to get Covid-19 test results within five hours.

‘Last week, it took almost 48 hours to get two test results. I am told that prioritised testing facilities that were available to Dealgan House and other nursing homes no longer are. This situation needs to be fixed.

‘Some of the families who lost loved ones at Dealgan House wish to meet the new Minister for Health. Twenty-two people died in the home during a Covid-19 outbreak. The families want to tell the Minister about the need for a public inquiry to ensure that all problems are arrested and the questions of families and management are answered. I would like the Taoiseach to add his voice to this call and ensure there is action to deal with the problems listed in the HIQA report’.

Mr Ó Murchú said Minister Donnelly had told him he would read the report from the nursing homes expert panel, due for release this week, along with the HIQA report into Dealgan House before making a decision about a public inquiry.