End of Dáil Term Report
With the conclusion of this Dáil session I’d like to take the opportunity to update you on my work locally in Galway and at the Oireachtas. It has been a very busy and intense Dáil session with several important legislative and policy achievements which I believe will positively impact on Galway.
Perhaps the most important development has been the inclusion of the Galway City Outer Bypass in the second phase of the Stimulus Programme, a programme made possible by the European Investment Bank and the Government’s success in securing the renegotiation of Ireland’s assistance programme. Having met and spoken with Transport Minister, Leo Varadkar, in both Dublin and Galway, I’m confident that the undeniable importance of the Galway City Bypass to the economic wellbeing and quality of life for Galway and the West is recognised and that the focus is on ensuring that the project is ready-to-go pending a successful outcome at the Court of the European Union in the autumn.
Another development which will particularly impact on Galway is the Gaeltacht Bill which has been unnecessarily controversial. I met with Minister Dinny McGinley on several occasions regarding this bill which is the first Gaeltacht Bill since 1956 and I contributed to the Dáil debates on the Bill. Under the bill, the focus on planning for the future of our first official language is placed at the community level and will draw upon the benefits and strengths of community organisations. Galway’s unparalleled role as the centre of the Irish language will be greatly enhanced with the provision in the bill for Gaeltacht Service Towns. It must be emphasised that the bill is part of a suite of initiatives under the Twenty Year Strategy and I have to say I was very disappointed to see, for the first time in the history of the Dáil, our native language being used as a means of scoring political points.
The Personal Insolvency Bill, which recently passed second stage unanimously in the Dáil, is also significant legislation which Minister Shatter discussed on several occasions with the Fine Gael Justice and Equality Committee of which I’m a member. The Bill will radically reform Irish debt law for the first time in decades and will enable all citizens to access a non-judicial debt-settlement system. I’m certain it will help Galway home-owners and other citizens who have been grappling with the problem of over-indebtedness.
Locally, there have been several successful projects announced which will boost our county including the new water and waste-water schemes at Oughterard and Tonabrucky, the launch of the Wild Atlantic Way initiative in Connemara which aims to create a world-class tourism driving amenity and the announcement of October as the completion date for installing 100 megabyte per second broadband internet in Galway’s secondary schools.
The successful resolution of the MFG/Leader issue and the awarding of the contract to Comhar na nOileán Teo to administer funding came after much contact and several meetings with Environment Minister, Phil Hogan. This will facilitate community groups in the Gaeltacht regions across Galway in applying for EU funding for community projects and programmes.
As a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for European Affairs I participated in several weeks of debates on the European Stability Treaty which heard from academics, business and finance correspondents, NGO directors, business and union leaders, European public representatives and our Taoiseach among other Irish public representatives. There can be no doubt that the achievement of securing the renegotiation of our IMF/ECB/EU financial assistance programme was helped enormously by the successful passing of the Stability Treaty referendum which in itself provides a safety net for all Eurozone countries including Ireland.
As a member of the Oireachtas Committee for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation I’ve participated in meetings on several significant issues including the needs of indigenous Irish businesses and the problem of youth unemployment.
The Jobs Action Plan for 2012 has proved to an exceptional aid in implementing the measures necessary to tackle our jobs crisis by identifying not only the areas we need to concentrate on but also the departments/organisations responsible for achieving the actions. The introduction and retention of several Government initiatives including the half-rate PRSI, the reduced VAT rate for tourism-related businesses, the improved seed-capital and Revenue Assist schemes and the newly-launched Partial Loan Guarantee Scheme and the Micro-Finance Scheme are helping to retain and create jobs. By the end of June over 90% of the measures planned for the first half of 2012 had been achieved.
In July I attended the Jobs Action Plan forum which took place in the Ardilaun Hotel as part of a series of consultations between Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton, TD, and the business community. The Galway forum was well attended with some very useful and insightful suggestions from the Galway business community on what needs to be included in the 2013 Action Plan.
There is, of course, much more work ahead of us and I expect the autumn session of the Dáil to be even more intense and challenging as we in Fine Gael work with our coalition partners to frame the 2013 Budget while striving to maintain primary social welfare payments and income tax rates but also taking the steps necessary to regain our economic sovereignty.