Cllr Joanna Byrne Calls For Legislation To Protect Emergency Services Frontline Workers

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has welcomed the passing of her Council motion calling for any future sentencing guidelines to consider assaults on frontline worker’s as ‘aggravating factors’, potentially leading to more severe punishments issued by the courts. Her motion was successfully passed with cross-party support.

The motion read as follows:

“Louth County Council recognises the essential role carried out by emergency service workers including Ambulance, Fire Service, Gardaí and Customs, and the risks that these frontline workers take in the service of the public.
We also recognise that assaults carried out upon such emergency services in the course of their duties, can hamper, delay, and prevent these services coming to the assistance of the public, often during situations and events of serious duress and danger.
– Therefore, we consider the nature of such assaults as serious, and it should be considered an aggravating factor, where any assault is made against a frontline worker during the commission of their duties, and that any review or future sentencing guidelines should provide that it would be considered an aggravating factor.”

Cllr Byrne gave a passionate speech to the chamber while delivering her motion. “There is unprecedented levels of violence occurring in the line of duty for these workers and the worrying trend of callout crews being targeted shows no sign of abating, including here in Louth. Crews have come to accept these attacks as an ‘occupational hazard’ which is just wrong; violence against any emergency service worker should never be accepted at any level, let alone expected.”

Cllr Byrne also recognised the need for “specific legislation to protect emergency personnel and send a firm message to the perpetrators that the law will no longer be as lenient.”

Cllr Byrne was able to state cases of a paramedic being assaulted while treating a cardiac patient on a bus, during which he lost his two front teeth whilst his colleague had blood spat in his face. In another case she told of a firefighter losing part of his ear through being bitten, amongst others, and all the while highlighting the impact that these attacks could potentially have on the lives of the people these workers were trying to save.

Cllr Byrne also explained that ‘The Irish Fire and Emergency Service’s Association’’, the Union for 999 personnel, claims that “assaults like these are much more common than statistics even suggest, considering they are only recorded when an injury occurs, incidents with physical contact but yet no injuries are not recorded.”

Cllr Byrne said “We cannot sit idly by just expressing sentiments of thanks to these valuable frontline services, it’s time to support them properly and do our utmost to ensure their safety at all times, only then can they focus on their duties and continue to protect and save the lives of us all in this country.”

Notification of this motion being passed will now be sent to the Minister for Justice, Charles Flanagan, for his Department to consider when next reviewing sentencing guidelines.

Ó Murchú Welcomes Dundalk Respite Services

Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has welcomed commitments made by the HSE during a meeting of the Louth Disabilities Forum this morning that respite services will be operational in Dundalk by mid October.

Councillor Ó Murchú said; said;

“This Forum, which includes parents of people with disabilities, political representatives and HSE staff, has been meeting for over a year on the issue of respite.

“During this time my colleague Gerry Adams TD and I have been raising gaps in provision which exist across the county and particularly in the Dundalk area.

“I am satisfied that commitments made during this morning’s meeting in Ardee have confirmed that respite will finally be operational in the coming weeks.

“For far too long citizens with disabilities in north Louth have been ignored. Their parents are extremely frustrated and understandably so.

“I will be working closely with the HSE disabilities manager for CHO 8 to ensure that his commitments come to fruition.

Children in north Louth waiting 33 months for Psychology Services

Gerry Adams has criticised the Minister for Health for allowing a situation to persist in North Louth where 209 children are waiting for an appointment with HSE psychology services which may take up to 33 months

The Louth Sinn Féin TD said;

“I have been contacted by a number of families from the Dundalk area who have been advised to refer their children to the HSE’s psychology services in Barrack Street. Yet when they do this they are notified of an appointment date which could be years into the future. Often this initial appointment is not even with the child but is designed to give parents advice on how they can help their child at home.

“I spoke to one mother whose 5 year old child had accidentally seen an inappropriate video game at school. The child was obviously traumatised, he couldn’t be left in a room on his own day or night. That family needed help and advice at that time, but they couldn’t access it.

“The response to my parliamentary question indicates that there are 209 children on the waiting list for north Louth, many of them will be in acute need of psychological support.

“In the South of the county there are 175 children on the waiting list with a longest wait time of 10 months.10 months is too long for a vulnerable child to wait for help, but 33 months, almost 3 years, is an absolute disgrace.

“I have written to Simon Harris to ask him to recruit additional staff in primary care psychology in North Louth to eradicate this waiting list and provide more than a service which exists in name only.”

“I am also mindful of the stress which those working in this service are experiencing.  It is unfair to expect an understaffed and under resourced service to meet demand.  

“Unless more resources are targeted in this direction this government will continue to fail children and their families in Louth.”


Adams concern at CAMHS and Paediatric Psychology services

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Gerry Adams has reiterated his concerns about the resourcing and staffing of the disability division of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Louth and East Meath and of the Meath Paediatric Psychology service.

Teachta Adams said: “In a recent response to me the Chief Officer for Midlands Louth Meath Community Health Organisation (CHO) detailed some of the serious resource difficulties that this CHO is currently experiencing”.

Gerry Adams said:

“Children who present with moderate to severe mental health problems are seen by the CAMHS service. It is a multi-disciplinary service and the psychologists involved work alongside other related disciplines. Currently only one of the three psychology posts is currently filled.
Psychologists who work within the disability division work with children aged from 6-18. They have responsibility for seeing children with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities, including autism. According to the CHO there are usually over 400 referrals each year to psychologists working in this area. There are currently five WTE (whole time equivalents) posts of which one is vacant.

The young child whose case Cllr Ferguson and I have been raising has been on the children’s disability waiting list for over one year. According to the Chief Officer of Midlands Louth Meath CHO the waiting lists can vary from between 18 months and two years.
The reason for this is “down to a significant increase in referrals over the last six years to this service in Meath. Also, there have been four staff departures and three staff maternity leaves within the last two years. Due to a shortage of psychologists nationally, and the demand for vacancies to be filled across the country, this has resulted in service gaps over a long period of time with the difficulties being experiences in filling these posts”.

The CHO Chief Officer also revealed that the primary care psychology service which usually receives over 800 referrals each year and provides therapy for child victims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, is short three posts out of seven.
 I have written to the Minister for Health. Very clearly there are very significant gaps in service provision within the Meath Paediatric Psychology service and the CAMHS division. I have asked Minister Harris what plans he has to address the obvious gaps in service provision and to fill the staff vacancies that currently exist.”

Brexit Should Not Cost Lives

L-R SF Cllrs Antóin Watters, Mickey Larkin, Roisin Mulgrew, Edel Corrigan & Pearse McGeough

The Cross Border Fire and Ambulance Services gave a presentation to Councillors and members of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this week.

Sinn Féin councillors from Louth, Armagh and Down expressed concern that the current Memorandum of Understanding between Louth County Council (LCC) Fire & Rescue and NI Fire that has been in place since 2012 would be in jeopardy post Brexit.

Councillor Antóin Watters had raised the issue a few weeks ago following an accident on the main A1 dual carriageway just north of Dundalk. LCC Fire and Rescue were called to assist the Newry Fire Services following a car accident.

Sinn Fein councillor for the Slieve Gullion Area Mickey Larkin said “We need to ensure that this cross border co-operation continues after Brexit. We received a very valuable presentation from Joe Lumdsen for LCC Fire and rescue which related to Cross Border Emergency Planning.  He informed us that they have been mobilised to 31 incidents on both sides of the border since the Memorandum of Understanding started in 2012.”

Cllr Watters said “Let’s face it, people from the remote part of North Louth, like Omeath and Edentubber would get an ambulance much quicker from Newry than they would from Drogheda. People in these areas need to be able to rely on these vital cross border services. There is so much uncertainty around Brexit but this is one issue that we need confirmation and clarity on.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Edel Corrigan who is joint Chair of the MOU said “We must ensure that response times and access to both sides of the border is not affected. Brexit should not cost people’s lives and with all the uncertainty around the issue and the possibility of a hard border, we in Sinn Féin are calling on the Irish and British Governments to ensure this vital co-operation continues.”