Paul Connaughton TD Paul Connaughton TD Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:23:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Introduction of eAccounts welcome Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:23:34 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton has welcomed the introduction of eAccounts in post offices, which he said will support rural post offices in coming years.

Deputy Connaughton was speaking following the publication of the report of the Post Office Network Business Development Group. ‘This group was asked to identify new business opportunities for post offices and has come forward with a number of worthwhile recommendations. We all know that post offices are central to communities in Galway East, but we have to allow these offices to do more business and attract more custom.

‘I have long advocated that post offices should be able to offer more in the way of banking services, including online banking, especially as many of the larger banks appear to have no interest in maintaining a presence in rural Ireland and expect people to drive for miles to complete simple banking transactions.

‘Post offices need to be able to offer a full banking service, including online banking, direct debits and ATM cards. I am delighted that eAccounts are to be rolled out in 2016. I also note that it is hoped to have a pilot scheme to offer motor tax services in post offices and I believe that Galway East would be the ideal location for such a pilot service because at the moment many motorists who don’t have internet, and in particular elderly people, are greatly inconvenienced in terms of going to local council offices to obtain motor tax.

‘The post office network has to be supported, renewed and maintained and I believe that this week’s report is an important step in terms of identifying opportunities available in the short and medium term. These changes will help make the current post office network more sustainable in the future.’

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Agreement on compulsory land purchase Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:22:39 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton has welcomed the signing of a new agreement between the Department of Transport and the IFA in relation to landowners whose lands are compulsorily purchased for road developments.

‘The new partnership between Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the IFA will see a fixed payment of €3,000 per acre paid to landowners on all lands acquired for national road improvement works in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

‘Landowners in the Headford and Milltown areas have been incredibly frustrated by the delays experienced to date in relation to payment for land compulsorily purchased for work on the N84 at Luimnagh and the N17 at Milltown and I hope that today’s announcement will see those landowners receive their payments in a timely manner.

‘These important projects would not have been able to progress so quickly without the co-operation of local landowners and it is only fair that they receive prompt payment for the land purchased.

‘In recent months I organised a meeting in Headford between Minister Ring and local landowners so that he could hear at first hand the difficulties arising as a result of the non-payment of local landowners for the land compulsorily purchased for these projects.

‘It is crucial that landowners experience no further delay in terms of receiving their money and I will continue to liaise with local landowners and the Department of Transport and Transport Infrastructure Ireland to ensure that landowners in east Galway are among the first to benefit from this agreement.’

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Funding to repair flooded roads Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:21:50 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton has welcomed today’s announcement that €106 million is being provided to address damage to roads throughout the country which arose during recent flooding.

‘This money will be especially welcome in county Galway as many roads, both national and regional, were damaged as a result of flooding. The repair of these roads will place significant strain on council budgets and that is why today’s announcement is so necessary.

‘This money now needs to be drawn down as quickly as possible so that work can start on repairing flood-damaged roads throughout the county. I know that the damage done to roads has caused huge inconvenience to motorists to date and given the extent of the damage, it is important that work on these roads gets underway as quickly as possible.

‘The €106 million provided will be used to repair roads and will also be used for preventative works in county Galway. The scale of the flooding required a cross-departmental response and while I know that a lead was taken on this issue by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, buy-in was also necessary from the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

‘The work done by many voluntary and community groups, from civil defence to local community groups and groups of neighbours working together during the floods, must also be commended. When significant floods strike on a wide scale, the resources of the local authority are stretched beyond their limits and I believe that greater planning for such events is needed, for example, Galway County Council should have a plan in place to liaise with local Community Alert groups or community development companies to ensure that local information is fed back to the Council in a timely fashion, which can help with the erection of warning signs and the creation of diversion routes.’

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Purchase of Knockma land agreed Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:21:10 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton believes that a deal to complete the purchase of lands on the summit of Knockma has been completed.

‘After arranging meetings between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the landowner and Minister Humphreys in recent months, I am delighted that negotiations are in the process of being concluded. This is great news for the Tuam region and this will allow the development of an amenity of regional importance on Knockma.

‘Once a purchase is complete our efforts will have to focus on the completion of the walkway. Tremendous credit is due to the local community for the work they have done on this project over many years to create a fantastic amenity for recreational walkers in the region.

‘Knockma is at the heart of Celtic mythology in this region, being the reputed place where Finnbheara, King of the Connacht fairies and the protector of horses and crops, holds court and some believe it to be the burial place of Queen Maeve.

‘The eastern side of Knockma has been in state ownership for decades, but the western side is in private ownership. The existing walkway was confined to one side of the hill, but this deal to purchase six acres at the top of the hill will allow walkers to enjoy much greater access and much better views across to Clare, Connemara and Croagh Patrick.

‘The summit of the 170 metre hill, also known as Castlehackett Hill, features three cairns or burial mounds and these proved of special interest to Minister Humphreys when she visited Knockma last February at my invitation.

‘Now that the deal is complete, this will be a facility that can be marketed throughout Ireland and beyond and one which will require significant promotion in years to come.

‘I would like to commend Minister Humphreys for her interest and enthusiasm and her action on this project since I brought her to view the area in February 2015. I now look forward to working with the local community towards the creation of a walk to the summit of Knockma and the widespread promotion of this fantastic outdoor amenity.’

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Tuam nursing home investment welcome Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:20:33 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton has welcomed news that €3.3 million is to be invested in Áras Mhuire Community Nursing Unit in Tuam over the next five years.

‘This funding will be used to replace facilities in Áras Mhuire and reflects this government’s commitment to providing nursing home beds that comply to HIQA standards by 2021.

‘Áras Mhuire is one of 33 facilities around the country that will be replaced, while a further 57 existing facilities will be refurbished or extended. This major investment programme will deliver an additional 215 beds throughout the country.

‘The investment is made up of €148 million in the current HSE capital plan and a further €237 million from the Capital Investment Plan. Ten facilities worth €150 million are also being funded by public private partnerships (PPP).

‘The majority of residents in nursing homes in county Galway receive an excellent quality of care, but some of the facilities are not up to date. This funding will ensure that the best facilities are available for residents and their families in the future. I will continue to work to ensure that funding is available for important services like nursing homes and health care to elderly residents throughout county Galway.’

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Assurances needed for landowners Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:19:53 +0000 Galway East TD Paul Connaughton is seeking assurances from Transport Minister Paschal Donohue that landowners in Headford and Milltown will receive prompt offers and payment in relation to compulsory purchase orders for road alignment schemes.
‘I have been working on this issue for a number of months and have organised meetings between Minister Michael Ring and others and local landowners. I have also raised this issue at the Public Accounts Committee as it involves public funds. The problem is the drawn out nature of negotiations and payment schedules in relation to the N84 realignment south of Headford near Luimnagh and also the N17 realignment north of Carrownurlaur.
‘These are uncontested CPOs but landowners are hugely frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations. What is needed is a sustained focus on these schemes so that the negotiations can be concluded and landowners paid. Landowners have been extremely co-operative in relation to both of these schemes, yet are not been communicated with properly and are increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress, the complete absence of communication and the slow pace at which the project is moving.’

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Farming by calendar not working in current climate Fri, 22 Jan 2016 12:03:31 +0000 The vexed question of trying to farm by the calendar and not by the prevailing weather conditions has been raised by Deputy Paul Connaughton who said this week that changes will have to be introduced to allow flexibility to farmers to put out slurry when field conditions are suitable and not to have a straitjacket approach which may ultimately mean that slurry will be applied after a given date but not necessarily in the best of conditions.

Deputy Connaughton said there were many occasions at the end of last October and before the monsoon weather started in November and December that farmers could have put out slurry in almost ideal conditions but were prevented from doing so by the calendar date of October 15th.

‘What has now happened is that many slurry tanks are almost bursting and despite the fact that they are legally entitled in county Galway to put the slurry out after January 15th, they are unable to do so now because of the wet, sodden conditions of the fields. I would hope in the near future that real common sense would prevail and when weather and soil conditions are right, that farmers should be allowed to put out slurry.’

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Connaughton slams ‘lucky bag’ politics from FF Fri, 22 Jan 2016 12:02:48 +0000 In a hard-hitting response to the speech made by the leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Micheál Martin TD, at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis last weekend, Deputy Paul Connaughton said it was simply astounding the policy u-turn that Fianna Fáil is now making on the issue of water charges.

Speaking during his key note address to Fianna Fáil delegates at Saturday night’s Árd Fheis, Mr. Martin said, ‘We will scrap Irish Water and the failed, loss-making charge which funds it.’

Deputy Connaughton said, ‘This appears to be one of the greatest policy u-turns any political party has engaged in, given that it was official Fianna Fáil policy to introduce water charges since the Troika were allowed to determine the destiny of our citizens in 2010. Not alone does Fianna Fáil appear to have abandoned its own stance on water charges, but it consistently backed the principal of water charges whilst in opposition during the lifetime of this Government, which makes a mockery of the party’s insistence that they will not engage in ‘auction politics’ during the forthcoming general election campaign.’

‘In my view Fianna Fáil is approaching the ranks of the Anti-Austerity groups and Sinn Fein, who are against everything and for nothing. I fully understand the anger and frustration that many people felt about the water charges, despite the relatively low cost levied on the average household. I believe that most householders in Ireland, both in urban and rural areas, now recognise that unless there is a seismic increase in the investment in water infrastructure in the near future, job creation will be severely compromised and the health status of the nation will be put in jeopardy.’

Deputy Connaughton said this latest move by Fianna Fáil is likely to infuriate the 61% of households who have paid their dues to Irish Water and there are encouraging signs that huge numbers of others are preparing to pay.

‘The about turn by Fianna Fáil reveals the party’s real fear of all the anti-austerity parties and Independents who will never clarify where the billions of euro needed to provide individual householders and industry with ample supplies of good clean water will come from.’

Deputy Connaughton said that it smacks of ‘lucky bag’ politics and he asked that all anti-government candidates be asked at the doorsteps where they would leverage the money from to pay for the new water schemes that are necessary and at the same time achieve a reduction personal taxes which they all seem to aspire to.

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Payments to young farmers must be prioritised Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:58:58 +0000 Payments to farmers in the Young Farmers Scheme must be prioritised, according to Paul Connaughton TD, who has also called for greater access to information for young farmers left without payment.

‘In recent days I have been contacted by a number of young farmers who are very frustrated and worried because they have not received their payment from the Department of Agriculture. These farmers have significant investment planned and while the 25% top up payment is most welcome for these farmers, the lack of payment is causing real difficulty.

‘Another problem that these farmers face is the lack of transparency from the Department of Agriculture. They are finding it impossible to get information as to what is causing the delay and when payments will issue. These farmers are crucial to the future of farming in this region and they must be encouraged in their efforts and supported in terms of their investment. I will be taking this matter up with the Minister for Agriculture in coming days.’

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Motorway construction must not exacerbate flooding Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:58:14 +0000 Construction of the new N17 motorway must not exacerbate flooding in north and south Galway, according to Galway East TD Paul Connaughton.

‘In recent days I have visited a number of areas of East Galway that are affected by flooding. Last Saturday I accompanied Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he visited the region and in recent weeks in my clinics I have heard many harrowing stories of how flooding is affecting families throughout the county.

‘One concern that has been repeatedly raised with me in recent weeks is that construction of the newM17/18 motorway from Tuam to Gort will exacerbate flooding in some areas along the route. I will be contacting the relevant construction companies and government departments in coming days to verify that construction of the new motorway will not lead to any additional flooding. This is just one of a wide range of flooding-related problems that must be addressed in mid and south Galway in coming weeks.

‘Not enough heed was paid to flood plains in the past and householders and land owners need to be reassured that proper recognition was given to flooding in the design and construction of the new motorway.’

‘The issue of relocation also must be addressed. I raised with the Taoiseach on Saturday last the need for a very viable and workable relocation option for those who want to avail of such a measure.

‘The Taoiseach saw at first hand the complicated geography of south Galway and understands the need to resolve these problems in the short term. We also need to ensure that the work that is necessary to protect homes and farmland is carried out as soon as possible and common sense must prevail across all departments. The focus must remain on solving this problem, not creating obstacles to the necessary work and all arms of the state must work together towards this one goal. This area has been devastated by flooding and the people living in this region of south Galway need and deserve a coherent approach that involves every department.’

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