Healy seeks water charge waiver in Dáil

Contaminated water is being supplied to many households and an exemption from water charges should apply from day one and not after a period of time of three or six months, Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.

Contaminated water is being supplied to many households and an exemption from water charges should apply from day one and not after a period of time of three or six months, Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.

Speaking during a debate on a Fianna Fail Bill which would exempt such household, he said houses in the Burncourt and Skeheenarinky area of South Tipperary, like 20,000 or 30,000 houses all over the country, must be exempt from day one.

“Families who are supplied with hard water are being forced to pay over the odds to replace clapped out electric kettles and washing machines and dryers,” he said. “They have been forced to buy machines to reduce the hardness of the water, costing anything up to €1,000 to install and with ongoing maintenance costs. These machines must be flushed out on a weekly basis which adds to the costs. There are thousands of such families across the northern area of Clonmel and throughout south Tipperary who should also be exempt from this water charge.”

Replying to the debate Minister of State Paudie Coffey said the legislative and policy framework put in place by the Government already provides a very robust and flexible system to ensure that Irish Water’s customers are protected, and arrangements to provide discounts for customers affected by sub-standard water supplies are at an advanced stage.

“The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has been given the role of independent economic regulator for Irish Water, and its primary statutory purpose is to ensure the protection of customers’ interests,” he said.

The Fianna Fail Bill was defeated by 69 votes to 40.

Hayes outlines measures to help beef producers

Primary beef producers are under significant pressure this year as a result of reductions in price, but a significant infrastructure has been put in place to help improve on-farm profitability, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Tom Hayes told the Dáil.

Speaking during a Topical Issue debate, he said the medium-term prospects for the beef market are reasonably positive, with increasing global population and demand for animal proteins.

“In collaboration with Bord Bia and Irish embassy personnel, my Department engages with a wide range of countries on market access issues,” he said.

“In this context, the Minister has led trade missions to Japan, China, the US, Algeria and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, in the Middle East to promote Irish food, including beef. This work has led to a number of notable successes in securing market access in Japan, Singapore, Egypt and Iran. This year we have agreed access terms with the Lebanon, the Philippines and Namibia.”

Furthermore, he said his Department is working with the meat industry to finalise the various technical requirements for trade in Irish beef with the US.

“We are optimistic about the opportunities this market will bring,” he said. “China is another market where there is considerable potential for Irish beef. The Minister intends to lead a trade mission to China towards the end of the year and beef will be firmly on the agenda.”

Irish beef is listed with more than 75 high-end retail chains across EU markets, he said. This wide portfolio of customers reflects the success of Bord Bia’s differentiation and premiumisation strategy.

“This strategy focuses on the key attributes of Irish beef: environmentally sustainable, grass-based production systems, full traceability, quality assurance at all stages and superior eating quality,” he said. “Among Bord Bia’s key initiatives this year is the continued development, promotion and marketing of its Origin Green initiative. This is designed to establish Ireland as a world leader in sustainably produced food and drink.”

Hayes receives plaudits from Opposition deputies

Tipperary Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Food Safety Tom Hayes this week completed the passage of his fist Bill through the Dáil Chamber. The Forestry Bill make regulations for the effective management of the forestry sector as well as making further provision for the giving effect to Acts of the institutions of the EU in respect of forestry and forestry-related activities.

Unusually at the end of the debate, the Minister received generous praise from the Opposition Spokesmen for his handling of the Bill. Fianna Fáil Deputy Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív said Minister Hayes promised at the beginning that he would listen and take on board arguments that were put forward.

“Whereas he might not have given us everything we wanted - certainly, he probably got advice not to give us everything we wanted - I believe he genuinely interacted and took on board the suggestions put forward by members of the Opposition,” he said. “That is important because at the end of the day we are all elected equally and it is a great sign of democracy when whoever is in government listens to cogent argument put forward and takes on board good suggestions.”

Sinn Féin Deputy Martin Ferris was also complimentary. “I wish to be associated with Deputy Ó Cuív’s comments. The Minister of State has handled this Bill so carefully, he is obviously heading for higher places.”