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Oireachtas Report

Story by Brian O Loughlin

Tuesday, 13th March, 2018 10:27am

Oireachtas Report

Oireachtas report.jpg

Senator called on to apologise for article in Westmeath Examiner

The description of Mullingar as unkempt, neglected and degrading by Senator Gerard Craughwell (independent) in the Westmeath Examiner was raised in the upper house by Fianna Fáil’s Senator Aidan Davitt.

“I got many phone calls about the article,” he said. “I was very disappointed to read it to be honest.”

In fairness, Mullingar is in the top section of the Tidy Towns competition, he said.

It also has a very active Town Team. It has a full-time chamber of commerce and is one of the few towns that has been awarded a Purple Flag.

“I have talked to several business leaders in Mullingar town and they have told me that they were shocked and disgusted by this article,” he said.

“As an active businessman and member of the business community in Mullingar, I ask Senator Craughwell to rethink his piece in the paper. It would certainly be appreciated by the people in Mullingar. I ask him to amend it or to apologise. If one cannot make a good comment about a place it is not worth making any comment at all.”

To build the background, Senator Davitt said when one comes into Mullingar from the Dublin Road one passes the Mullingar Park Hotel, which has a fabulous convention centre – one of the finest in the midlands – and a health club and spa.

“Having passed the hotel, one sees the new National Science Park, which was previously the tobacco factory,” he said. “We talked about that factory 18 months ago. It was closed and has been reopened by the businesspeople of Mullingar. Gary Moore and the guys from TEG and Mergon are in there. They are hoping to create 100 jobs there in research and development.”


 Penrose concerned at drop in sucker cow numbers 

Having a brother who is a suckler cow farmer, Labour Deputy Willie Penrose said he is keenly aware of a significant decrease in suckler cow numbers in the past four years. Nationally, beef cow numbers have declined by approximately 6%.

“I hail from a mainly beef production area,” he said. “Longford-Westmeath is at the very heart of that. We must be truthful and stop codding here. The cause of that decline arises from a number of things, including the number of younger farmers in particular who have gone into milk production.

“I have seen it happening in my own area and have been warning them about it. I said it at the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. They have opted to switch to dairy or to have integrated calf-to-beef systems. Large increases have taken place in the eastern and south-eastern counties.

“In my county, there has been a 3% drop in the number of suckler cows in the past four years. Longford has experienced a decline of just over 5% in the same period.”

With the removal of milk quotas and a continuing question of profitability, Deputy Penrose said many experts anticipate the decline will be even greater. The advent of the beef data and genomics programme payment may have helped to stem the exit. “I sat on an agriculture Committee when Fianna Fáil nearly stopped the programme, together with the IFA,” he said.

“Former spokesperson Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív was there. I am 150% behind the programme however. It is worth approximately €80 to €100 per head but it should be increased to €130 or €140 per head. That is important because the only way we are going to increase efficiency is through genetic improvements in herds.”


Troy seeks funding for Ardmore Road housing scheme

Details of plans by the Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government to fund an application by Westmeath County Council for a project on Ardmore Road, Mullingar from the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) were sought in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil Deputy Robert Troy.

Speaking during Question Time, Deputy Troy said that the minister was aware of the introduction of the LIHAF as part of Rebuilding Ireland and that €50 million was originally allocated in that regard.

“Will local authorities that made an application to the original fund have to reapply or will such applications be judged based on the previous submission?”

In response, Minister Eoghan Murphy said the first call for proposals under the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, was issued to all local authorities in August 2016 and subsequently 34 projects received preliminary approval in March 2017.

“Westmeath County Council submitted two projects for consideration under LIHAF and funding in the amount of €1.83 million was approved for an access road on Brawny Road, Athlone,” the minister said.

“However, the proposal on Ardmore Road, Mullingar was not approved for funding at the time.”

As part of Budget 2018, Minister Murphy said that he had announced that an additional €50 million of Exchequer funding would be available for a second LIHAF call.

“I anticipate that there will be a further call for proposals in phase 2 of LIHAF during March,” he said.

“It will be open to all local authorities to submit new projects or resubmit previous ones for consideration at that time.

“Following the assessment and selection of successful projects, it is expected that the LIHAF 2 projects will commence towards the end of 2018,” the minister concluded.

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