News & Current Issues
Here are some of the current issues.
DOCUMENTS RELEASED under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that John Perry, was the only Government Oireachtas member from the Sligo/North Leitrim constituency who made written representations relating to the Breast Cancer service, to the Minister for Health in the period from the new Government was appointed in March to the end of June. Cllr Declan Bree said today.
“There is no record of any of the other government T.D or Senators from this area making written representations to the Minister for Health regarding the reinstatement of the Cancer Service.” said Cllr Bree.
“There is not one letter on file from Deputy Tony McLoughlin, Senator Imelda Henry, Senator Susan O’Keefe, or Senator Michael Comiskey. Nor is there any record or minutes of the Fine Gael/Labour Oireachtas members having a meeting with the Minister for Health to discuss the reinstatement of the Breast Cancer Service to Sligo General Hospital.
“On the basis of the official records held by the Department of Health the only formal meeting with T.D’s and Senators took place on the 23rd June, and that was a meeting with a cross party delegation of Oireachtas members from the region.
“It’s as if the Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members from Sligo-Leitrim forgot about the restoration of the Breast Cancer service once they managed to get themselves into Leinster House.” said Cllr Bree.
“In a letter from Minister of State John Perry to the Minister for Health James Reilly, on the 1st of April relating to the reinstatement of the Symptomatic Breast Unit, Deputy Perry said, “This was a pledge that was made by yourself (James Reilly) as Fine Gael Health Spokesperson at a public meeting in March 2010 in the Sligo Park Hotel (whereby were Fine Gael in government within the subsequent 12 months the service would be reinstated) and was also reaffirmed during the recent election campaign.”
Deputy Perry went on “In addition, the Tanaiste also gave a commitment pre-election, in his capacity as Labour Party Leader, that Sligo would become a 9th Centre of Excellence should Labour be elected to government. While I realise that this is an unlikely prospect, what is essential is that the services which were removed, i.e. the Symptomatic Breast Unit, are now reinstated.
“It is now a matter of credibility for the government, notwithstanding the detrimental effect the lack of such services have on the people of this region.
“The onus is therefore on us as a government to ensure that the pre election pledges are delivered upon as a matter of the utmost priority and that the services removed by the previous administration are put back in place as soon as possible.” said Minister Perry in his letter.
In a reply the Minister for Health James Reilly ignored the issues raised in John Perry’s letter and stated that he would “shortly meet with Dr Susan O’Reilly, Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, to discuss a range of strategic issues in relation to cancer services, including the provision of breast cancer services at Sligo General Hospital.”
The documentation also confirms that the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’Reilly, refused to meet with Minister of State John Perry following a request for a meeting from Minister Perry.
Other documents released include an email dated 19th May from Dr Mary Hynes, Cancer Network Manager West, National Cancer Control Programme to Ms Mary Jackson Principal Officer, Cancer Policy unit of the Department of Health referring to a question on the restoration of the Breast Cancer service submitted to the HSE by Cllr Declan Bree for the Regional Health Forum meeting in Galway on the 24th May.
Another email dated 16th June from Dr Hynes to Ms Jackson refers to a notice of motion and a question on the reestablishment of the Breast Cancer services which Cllr Bree submitted for the Regional Health Forum meeting of the 21st June.
The documents confirm that the Minister for Health met with Dr Susan O’Reilly, the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme on the 15th of April, where she outlined the cancer services provided at Sligo General Hospital. According to the internal notes of the meeting the Director “confirmed that breast surgery had moved to Galway in line with agreed protocols.”
Speaking this week Cllr Bree said “on the basis of the released documentation it is obvious that the Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members did little or nothing to have the breast cancer services restored to Sligo General Hospital.
“Minister Perry was the only one to make written submissions and it is clear that his efforts were ineffectual. To add insult to injury the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’Reilly, refused to meet with Minister Perry to discuss the cancer services in Sligo.
“I fear now that the Fine Gael and Labour representatives have no intention of honouring their promises and commitments. If the breast cancer service is not restored and if it is the case that the issue of the cancer service was used solely to win votes, then the Fine Gael and Labour representatives in the Dail and Senate will pay a heavy price.” Cllr Bree warned.
CUTS ANNOUNCED by the Government in recent weeks will affect some of the most vulnerable sectors of Irish society, Cllr Declan Bree, told a meeting of People First in Sligo this week.
“The cuts in special needs assistants and reductions in resource teaching allocations will have a seriously detrimental effect on the lives of children with educational needs, their teachers, families, classmates and indeed society as a whole.” said Cllr Bree.
“In addition the government decision to cut fuel and household allowances to pensioners and social welfare recipients will cause significant hardship in many households throughout the country.
“The fact that the Ministers imposing these savage cuts are Labour Party ministers clearly confirms that Labour in Government is prepared to sacrifice children’s needs and the needs of the most vulnerable in Irish society to placate the greed of the ECB, the EU and the IMF.” Cllr Bree said.
“Pensioners, carers and the unemployed will be hit by a serious of government cuts to fuel and household allowances, effective from September.
“The number of free units of electricity under the electricity allowance is to be cut by 25%, this at a time when electricity prices are set to rise. In addition the telephone allowance is to be cutback and the smokeless fuel allowance is being withdrawn.
“These cuts will cause increased hardship and place the health of many elderly people at risk this winter.
“The Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, defended the cuts as ‘an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB troika.’
“Ironically at the same time the Fine Gael Minister for Finance Mr Noonan, confirmed that the IMF/EU are set to make €9 billion profit from Ireland’s bailout. This surely makes a nonsense of the assertion by the government and the political establishment that the EU/ECB is some kind of ‘kindly uncle’, a benefactor that has the Irish people’s best interests at heart.
“The fact is that the bill for the bank bailout is now being presented to the Irish people in the form of cutbacks. The EU/ECB is insisting that the money will be spent paying the bankers and speculators In essence this is about shifting the burden of debt from the banks and the bondholders and those who created the financial crisis onto the backs of the ordinary people of this country.
“There is no justification for ordinary people pay for the speculation of private institutions. We are being forced to pay a debt that is not of our making. The banks’ debt is not sovereign debt. It was not borrowed by the Government to build schools or hospitals, or to develop our natural resources: this is private and corporate debt, and we should refuse to pay it.” Cllr Bree said.
WE NEED a strategic plan to be developed in this whole area of Renewal Energy and we need to raise the awareness of the potential jobs and opportunities that exist in this sector, Cllr Declan Bree, told this months meeting of Sligo Borough Council.
Cllr Bree referred to a request which the Council received from Carbon Sole & Industries Ltd seeking seeking consent to carry out a study on lands in the ownership of the Council.
“I understand that we are being asked to consent to Carbon Sole & Industries Ltd to carry out what is described as an interaction study on lands which this Council owns at Finisklin. I also understand that we are not in any way agreeing to sell the land in question to Carbon Sole or to any other party at this stage.” said Cllr Bree.
“With regard to the local area plan for the Harbour I presume that a number of submissions will have been received in respect of the future use of the harbour and surrounding lands and hopefully in terms of developing renewable energy.
“There are huge opportunities for renewable energy in off-shore wind farms, wave power and tidal power off the North West Coast. Sligo with its port and direct rail connection and with its airport with helicopter facilities is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that could make Sligo and the West of Ireland, European leaders in the renewal energy market.
“The County Manager in Mayo recently organised a Conference to explore the benefits to Mayo for Renewable energy. And in an article in the “Irish Times” last week the Clare County Manager said that Clare County Council was hoping to lead by example in attracting private investment in renewable energy into county Clare. Provision for a €2 billion investment in renewable energy including a €900 million pumped storage hydroelectricity plant is to be included in the Clare County Development Plan.
“However to date Sligo unfortunately does not have a comprehensive policy on renewable energy
“We in Sligo should be leading the way in terms of the development of Renewable energy in the western counties. The financial benefits of the exploitation of these natural resources should be for the benefit of the people of this region and the people of Ireland and not for the benefit of foreign multinationals. We have to become the leaders in this region and it is only through local leadership that we can do this.
“At this stage we need a comprehensive strategic plan to be developed in this whole area of Renewal Energy and we need to raise the awareness of the potential jobs and opportunities that exist in this sector.
“I believe that this Council in conjunction with the Western Development Commission, the Institute of Technology and the various economic agencies like Enterprise Ireland and the IDA and LEADER should get together and develop a comprehensive strategy for Renewable Energy in consultation with the other local authorities in the West. This is something that the County Manager and indeed the County Development Board should have as a priority.” said Cllr Bree.
SLIGO County Council at its monthly meeting adopted a motion deploring the proposed wage cuts by Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton.
The motion, drafted by the United Left Alliance, which was tabled by Cllr Declan Bree, deplored the Government proposals to introduce legislation to remove legal protections for the poorest paid employees in the retail, catering and construction sectors.
The motion also called on the Government to abandon the measures and called on the Labour Party to vote against any such measures ‘in accordance with the principle of solidarity with the lower paid and the best traditions of Larkin and Connolly.’
“Until 1995, shop workers were paid treble time for working on a Sunday. They received a holiday at Christmas, proper overtime rates and a small annual increment for their length of service. These gains were the result of strong union organisation.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
“However the employers’ organisation, IBEC, began a roll-back strategy by hiring a large number of part-time workers. Workers were taken on for less than 18 hours a week to minimise their legal rights. Numerous large retail outlets also hired workers on contracts of less than 12 weeks to reduce their legal cover.
“These changes occurred at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom and had nothing to do with a desire to create jobs. A parallel process was also underway in hotels. In some of the largest hotels, union organisation had been quite strong. But again a high number of casual employees were hired during the boom and union organisation in the hotel industry was effectively broken. Today, just 4% of hotel staff are unionised.
“This is the background to the most serious attack on workers’ rights that is about to occur here. Minister Richard Bruton recently announced that he is going to introduce legislation to remove legal protections for the poorest paid employees in the retail, catering and construction sectors. Should the Labour Party support Minister Bruton and should he succeed, tens of thousands of workers will be seriously impoverished.
“The myth that low wages will create thousands of jobs in the Irish economy, which is being peddled by Minister Bruton and his colleagues in government, must be exposed for the nonsense that it really is. said Cllr Bree.
“Where in the world is there any evidence that low wages and light regulation lead to massive job creation and economic stability? The fact is that the countries with the lowest wages tend also to be the countries with the highest unemployment rates and the worst social conditions.
“The low wage agenda which is being incessantly promoted by many elements in Fine Gael, by IBEC and the Construction Industry Federation, will lead to the impoverishment of tens of thousands of poorly paid workers.
“Low wages do not increase employment. Low wages are specifically imposed to increase private profit. The current demand for low wages is driven by greed, not by some concern for the common good.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree’s motion read:_
“That Sligo County Council deplores the proposals of Minister Richard Bruton to:
Reduce or abolish extra pay for working unsocial hours on Sunday;
Allow employers to claim ‘inability to pay’;
Reduce overtime rates for workers;
Remove protection for young workers under 18;
Reduce the number of Employment Regulation Orders and end coverage of working conditions such as sick pay;
Allow employers not to keep proper records about which workers were employed at certain hours which would make it easier to evade the law;
And further this Council calls on the Government to abandon these measures and calls on the Labour Party to vote against any such measures in accordance with the principle of solidarity with the lower paid and the best traditions of Larkin and Connolly.”
THE members of Sligo County Council unanimously supported a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree calling on the Government to provide adequate funding for the Council’s Housing Grants Schemes.
Proposing his motion at this months meeting of the Council Cllr Bree said: “The decision taken by Council officials to suspend the housing grants schemes and not to accept any further housing grant applications since the 1st of May, due to lack of funding from the Department of the Environment clearly confirms that this Council is being discriminated against in terms of the funding being allocated for such schemes.
“The outgoing Minister for Housing Michael Finneran, provided only €997,000 to cover the cost of our Housing grants scheme this year. Yet Leitrim, a county with a much smaller population, received €990,000; Donegal received €3,100,000; Mayo received €2,724,000 and Roscommon received €2,562,000. In this context we have to ask, why are the people of Sligo being discriminated against?
“The limited level of funding allocated to this Council for the ‘Housing Aid for Older People’ grants; the ‘Housing Adaptation Grants for People with a Disability’ and the ‘Mobility Aid Grants’ can only be described as an injustice.
“All of us are aware that these schemes are vitally important in helping older people and people with a disability to continue to live in their own homes and communities with the dignity they deserve.
“However the lack of adequate funding will leave many elderly and disabled people on low incomes without the necessary assistance to carry out required works on their homes.
“What we are talking about here is an attack on the elderly and disabled. At a time when central Government continues to bail out the bankers and developers to the tune of billions of Euro there can be no excuse for penny pinching on these important housing grants.
“There can be no justification for penalising the elderly and the disabled – people who have had no hand act or part in bringing about the financial crisis that this Country finds itself in, while at the same time the fat cats, the bankers, bondholders and the speculators who have brought the country to the verge of ruin are being rewarded.
Cllr Bree then formally proposed his motion which read: “Recognising that there are in excess of 100 Housing Grant applications (Housing Adaptation Grant for Persons with a Disability Scheme; Mobility Grant Scheme and Housing Aid for Older People Grant Scheme) which the Council cannot process due to lack of funding, and further recognising that the Council was obliged to stop taking applications from eligible applicants for Housing Grants from the 1st of May, this Council now calls on the Minister and the Department of the Environment to provide adequate finances to fund the Housing Grants Schemes for the current year.”
IF THE Government reneges on its commitment to restore the Breast Cancer service to Sligo General Hospital it will pay a heavy price, Cllr Declan Bree, told a meeting of the Regional Health Forum West in Galway this week when the Forum was advised there was no notification from Government of a policy change in relation to the provision of breast cancer services
In response to a formal question submitted by Cllr Bree, seeking a date for the re-establishment of the Breast Cancer service in Sligo, the Forum was told “There is no reference in the Programme for Government to breast cancer services at Sligo General Hospital and there has been no notification of a policy change in relation to the provision of breast cancer services nationally. Medical oncology and outpatient radiation oncology services will continue to be provided for breast cancer patients at Sligo General Hospital as at present.”
An angry Councillor Bree told the meeting that the response was extremely disappointing and unacceptable.
Speaking at the Forum meeting Cllr Bree said, “In August 2009, against the wishes of the people of Sligo and the North West and against the wishes of the members of this Health Forum, the former government closed down the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital and transferred the service to Galway.
“Up until then the cancer unit in Sligo had operated to the highest standards and was serviced by an experienced and highly qualified team of medical and nursing staff who were second to none in this country.
“However in advance of the recent General Election both Fine Gael and the Labour Party gave solid commitments that the Breast Cancer Service would be restored to Sligo General Hospital within a 100 days of the new government being established, and that commitment was warmly welcomed by the people of Sligo and Leitrim and the entire region.
“In addition the Labour Party gave a solemn commitment that Sligo will be designated as the 9th Cancer Centre of Excellence. That commitment was also welcomed and we expect to see that pledge implemented next year.
“It was in this context I submitted the formal question asking if the necessary staff and resources have been put in place to ensure the re-opening of the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital in accordance with Government commitments, and seeking a date as to when the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital will become operational.
“I am extremely disappointed and concerned with the response we have received today. The Government has had more than adequate time to at least set a date for the restoration of the service in Sligo. If the Government reneges on its commitment to restore the Breast Cancer service to Sligo General Hospital it will pay a heavy price.” warned Cllr Bree.
THIS country is in the midst of a catastrophic financial crisis because those who were charged to look after the interests of the people chose to look the other way and to ignore events that were happening all around them. Money was borrowed, money was squandered and no one was held accountable, Cllr Declan Bree, told Monday’s meeting of Sligo County Council.
“In this context I would remind the members of this Council that in terms of corporate governance we have an obligation both legal and moral, to ensure that in so far as possible that sound systems of financial management are in place in this Council.
“The Annual Financial Report for 2010 which we have before us today clearly confirms that this County Council is in the midst of a major financial crisis.
“According to the report this Council overspent by €2.46 million in 2010. We are also told by our officials that there is a deficit brought forward from 2009 of €7.5 million, leaving this Council with an overall deficit of €9.98 million.
“Apart from the unacceptable overspending last year I have to say that I am amazed to find that there was also a deficit of €7.5 million brought forward from last year.
“Following consideration of the 2009 Financial Report, in July last year, the County Manager asked the members of this Council to authorise a facility of borrowing of a sum not exceeding €18 million by way of a term loan of €15 million and a temporary overdraft of €3 million and it was understood at the time that the borrowing of the €15 million would clear the then existing €7.5 million deficit.
“We were told then that the main reasons for the loan and overdraft facility totaling €18 million was because there was an accumulated deficit on the revenue account of €7.5 million and that there was expenditure of approx €10million on capital related activity that awaited funding. We were also told that there were time differences where expenditure is incurred in advance of receiving the recoupment from the Department.
“However despite the fact that the Council borrowed the money to clear the €7.5 million deficit last July, the report we have before us today tells us that the deficit of €7.5 million still exists. I suppose I will be accused of inappropriate behavior when I say that this Council has been hoodwinked, however that is my interpretation of the matter and I find it unacceptable.
“In January we asked the County Manger to provide this Council with a report indicating the amount of interest being paid on the €15million loan along with a full report indicating where the borrowed money was expended. To date the County Manager has not provided us with that report.
“What is happening here is unacceptable. Information which we are entitled to and which we should have is being withheld from us. Councillors are being kept in the dark and possibly some are happy to remain so.
“However I would point out that the Council is on the verge of bankruptcy, Decisions relating to our finances are being taken by councillors without adequate reports or background information being provided by the County Manger.
“In addition to borrowings, huge deficits of millions of Euro have now been run up by the Council and no one appears to be accountable.
“What is happening in terms of the finances of this Council is unsustainable and we urgently need advice and assistance from a third party.”
Cllr Bree then proposed the following: “That this Council, recognising the grave financial position it finds itself in, requests the new Minister for the Environment to meet with an all party delegation of councillors to consider the critical financial position of the Council and to seek the advice and assistance of the Department of the Environment and Local Government in terms of resolving the crisis.”. Cllr Bree’s motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
NEW GOVERNMENT SAME AS THE OLD ONE
It’s just two months into this new Dail and the character of the new government is clear. Its the same as the old one, kneels before the diktats of the EU and IMF, with the Labour Party in particular, arrogantly lecturing working class people to accept austerity cuts, said Mr Joe Higgins T.D., when he spoke at a United Left Alliance public meeting in Sligo on Thursday.
Cllr Declan Bree and Mr Richard Boyd Barrett T.D. also addressed the meeting which was chaired by Mr Ross Gildea of People First.
“It is only a matter of time before Fine Gael and Labour's defence that they have inherited an economic disaster will cut no ice and people will fight their attacks.” said Deputy Higgins.
“At the end of March the new Government announced a €24 billion bailout for Ireland's four remaining banks. In so doing, Fine Gael and Labour indicated that their banking policy is a mere carbon copy of that previously pursued by Fianna Fail and the Green Party.
“This total capitulation to the demands of the markets and the European Central Bank was a clear indication that “Labour's way" was always a sham and "Frankfurt's way" was now government policy.
"The bill for the bank bailout is now to be presented to the Irish people in the form of cutbacks, privatisations and fresh attacks on public sector workers.” Deputy Higgins said.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett told the meeting “The McCarthy plan to handover vital state assets to the same corporate vultures that helped to crash the financial system is scandalous and irresponsible.
“Selling off our public assets is, in fact, robbing the country of precisely the assets we need to get out of this economic mess. If we invested properly in these assets we could provide much-needed jobs, fuel economic growth and ensure continued revenue for the country. Selling them off will provide a once-off payment and is in no way a solution to the problem.
“It makes no sense to give away, in many cases, highly profitable state assets that have the capability to get profit, revenue and employment going which is precisely what is needed for sustained economic growth.
“The EU/IMF will insist that the money will be spent paying back the bankers and speculators while further cuts will be imposed on the population. This is yet another example of the majority suffering for the gain of the elites.” he said.
Calling for support for the United Left Alliance Cllr Declan Bree said “The ULA is the new left force in Irish politics. It has five T.D.’s one MEP and nearly twenty local representatives. Our new alliance now has to convince large numbers of people to break from political and union leaders who have systematically cultivated a mood of defeatism.
“The current bailout is about shifting the burden of debt from the banks and the bondholders and those who created the present crisis onto the back of the ordinary people of this country.
“There is no justification for ordinary people pay for the speculation of private institutions. Throughout the boom their massive profits remained private. Their debts must also remain private. The Irish people should not have to pay for their loses.
“Water charges, property taxes and job cuts are all attacks waiting to take place. The ULA is determined to position itself so that it can respond to these attacks.
“Our Alliance has already made its mark in the Dáil. This will be more that matched by our role in campaigns and the developing struggles in communities and workplaces in every part of the country.” said Cllr Bree.
We need a referendum on the IMF-EU bailout so that the people can democratically reject it. We need to end the absurd state guarantee to repay the debts of private bankers, said Donegal Independent T.D. Thomas Pringle, a patron of the Peoples Movement, when he addressed those attending the People First annual Easter 1916 Commemoration Ceremony in Sligo on Easter Sunday.
Led by flag-bearers carrying the Tri-colour and the Plough and the Stars, a large number of participants marched from Cairns Drive to the Republican Plot in Sligo cemetery to hear Deputy Pringle deliver the oration.
“The IMF-EU deal is a scandalous plan to force ordinary working people, the poor and the vulnerable in our society to pay the private gambling debts’ of German, French and British banks.” said Deputy Pringle.
“If Fine Gael and Labour are permitted to continue with this disastrous policy the country will be bankrupted for decades to come.
“The majority of Irish people are opposed to the bank bail-out and EU-IMF deal but have been denied a say on the matter. We now need a referendum on the IMF-EU bailout so that the people can democratically reject it.” Deputy Pringle said.
Sligo councillor Declan Bree, who presided at the ceremony told those attending “Before the election Fine Gael and Labour gave clear indications that they would abandon Fianna Fail’s policy of bailing out the banks at all costs and suggested that they would force the burden of the banking crisis onto the shoulders of the speculators and the bondholders who caused the crisis in the first place.
“Labour and Fine Gael went as far as calling it economic treason. Now they are doing exactly the same thing. But they are not just guilty of economic treason, they are guilty of political treason for deceiving the Irish electorate in the run up to the election.” said Cllr Bree.
Following the oration as a lone piper played a lament, Mr Ross Gildea laid a wreath on behalf of People First, Ms Laura Scanlon laid a wreath on behalf of the Connolly Forum and Mr Thomas Banks laid a floral tribute on behalf of the People’s Movement. The ceremony concluded with the National Anthem.
At its meeting this month the members of Sligo County Council unanimously supported a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree welcoming the commitment in the Programme for Government to abolish the position of County Manager.
Speaking to the motion Cllr Bree said “Every citizen who believes in the concept of democracy and local self government will welcome the commitment in the new Programme for Government, to abolish the position of County Manager.
“The commitment states ‘We will abolish the position of County Manager and replace it with that of Chief Executive, with a limited range of executive functions.’ Cllr Bree said that the primary function of the Chief Executive will be to facilitate the implementation of democratically decided policy.”
“Local Government, as it is normally known in the rest of Europe, does not exist in Ireland. At best we have a system of local administration, through which centrally appointed County and City Managers make the executive decisions for our cities, counties and towns. This system was established in the 19th century when we were still the subjects of a foreign monarch. In my view this is no longer appropriate for the citizens of a modern republic.
“The fact is that elected councillors in Ireland have very little power. In recent years elected councillors have lost powers over road plans, waste management plans, waste charges, and many planning functions. Even the decisive role which councils once had over their Annual Budget and over County Development Plans has been greatly diminished.” said Cllr Bree.
“On many councils, the Manager and his/her senior officials are the “local government”, and the councillors function as a kind of “opposition” in the council chamber. In fact the power of City and County Managers has been greatly increased in recent years and in many cases they act as the agents of Central Government.
“The management system as operated in this country has contributed to an extremely weak local political system. Managers do not have a political mandate to represent the local community while local elected representatives do not have the responsibilities or structures to optimise a strong local leadership role.
“This local democratic weakness in turn reinforces the tendency for local communities and politicians alike to turn to central government to deal with issues which should be dealt with locally.
“I believe that the powers and authority of local councils should come from the people. This means that the will of the elected representatives of the people, should, subject to law, take precedence in the conduct of the Council’s business.” said Cllr Bree.
At its meeting this week Sligo County Council voted to support a motion from Cllr Declan Bree, opposing moves to privatise our state forests.
Speaking to his motion Cllr Bree said that the vast majority of people in this country “would consider it utterly unthinkable that the forests of Ireland would be sold off for the sake of short term financial gain.
“However I would point out that the privatisation of Coillte was first floated in the McCarthy report where he called for a review of ‘the operations of Coillte with a view to realising optimal return through rationalisation, asset disposal and, possibly, privatisation’
“And while the EU/IMF deal only talks of the ‘possible privatisation of state owned assets’, we have seen in Greece that a recent EU/IMF progress report on their bail-out has called for a ‘scaling up of the privatisation’. With Fine Gael now in government it is my view that all state owned companies may be under threat of privatisation.” said Cllr Bree.
“It has also recently emerged that a Dun Laoghaire based British company called International Forestry Fund (IFF) has expressed an interest in buying Irish Forests. The chairman of the IFF is non other than ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
“The idea that Bertie Ahern, the architect of the current economic collapse should end up making profits from the forests of Ireland should be vigorously opposed by everyone.
“Privatising our state assets is no way of dealing with the economic crisis. It will lead to job losses and wage reduction which will in turn lead to further job losses. Coillte is still a profitable company that pays a dividend to the state.” he said.
Cllr Bree proposed the following motion which received the backing of the Council: "Recognising the significant economic, environmental, health, and tourism benefits of our public forests and concerned that the EU/IMF deal could lead to the sale of state assets, this Council confirms its support for the continued public ownership of Coillte and opposes any attempt to privatise the company and sell off our state forests.”
At its meeting this month the members of Sligo County Council unanimously endorsed a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree, calling on the new Government to immediately restore the pay of working fourth year student nurses/midwives to 80% of the minimum of the current staff nurse scale.
Proposing his motion Cllr Bree said “The outgoing Government in addition to pay cuts, pension levy and increased taxation, which applied to all public servants, imposed a further savage pay cut on working fourth year student nurses/midwives.
“Over the years fourth year working student nurses/midwives were paid 80% of the minimum staff nurse scale for the duration of the 36 week working placement when the student nurses replaced fully qualified staff.
“However the outgoing Government made a decision to reduce the pay to fourth year working students over a number of years to the point where they would not receive any payment for their services by the year 2015.
“It is unacceptable that student nurses, especially those who work at the frontline of public service, should have to suffer to pay the debts of private banks and bondholders.
“Fianna Fail’s decision to reduce the pay to fourth year student nurses to the point where they will receive nothing is simply outrageous and must be reversed.” said Cllr Bree.
Currently there are almost 2,500 family carers in Sligo. Many are overburdened, feel undervalued and unrecognised and are unable to have any life of their own, Cllr Declan Bree, told this months meeting of Sligo County Council, where he proposed that the Council call on the new Government to publish the National Carers Strategy and to restore the Carers Allowance to its 2010 level.
“The Carers Association point out that carers in Ireland provide more than 3.7 million hours of care each week. Replacing this care would cost the Government €2.5 billion each year.” said Cllr Bree.
“Despite this, it is generally recognised that family carers are one of the most socially excluded groups in Irish society and face significant hardship and disadvantage as a direct result of their care-giving responsibilities.
“In the most recent budget carers had their weekly allowance cut by a government which re-allocated the monies to pay off the private debts of bankers and speculators. Surely this is unacceptable in the Ireland of the 21st century.
“Carers have been calling for the publication of the National Carers Strategy for the past number of years. Despite all the promises the National Strategy still has not seen the light of day.
“In my view it is unacceptable that a carer would suffer financial hardship and disadvantage because he or she provides care to a loved one. I believe it is time for Government to recognise the value of the work of carers.” Cllr Bree concluded.
While pleased with the vote in the Sligo urban area where he came second, Cllr Declan Bree, said today that he was disappointed with the vote from the rural parts of the constituency.
“In order to be successful and attract transfers I required a sufficient amount of first preference votes to stay in the race.
“In a sense we were squeezed by the two larger parties Sinn Fein and Labour, and the fact that so many former Labour candidates stood as independent candidates also fragmented the vote and the potential for success.
“However at a national level we are very pleased that five of our colleagues in the United Left Alliance, including Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett, have made the breakthrough and have been elected to the Dail. This success will now lead to the development of a new movement to represent working class people in its widest sense – the public sector, the private sector, pensioners and young people.
“The United Left Alliance must now establish itself as the real opposition and the real alternative, not just inside the Dail, but outside as well, and I and the Left in Sligo intend to play our full part in that initiative.” said Cllr Bree.
Independent candidate Declan Bree, has called on voters who want to see the cuts in wages, public services and social welfare reversed, to vote for the Independent candidates opposed to the cutbacks.
“The reality is that all the mainstream parties are committed to making ordinary people pay for this crisis. People who vote number one Independent can give their second, third and fourth preferences to the other Independent candidates thereby maximising the Independent vote.” he said
Cllr Bree, criticised Fine Gael and Labour for failing to support the reversal of the Universal Social Charge.
“The Universal Social Charge has got to be scrapped, for both moral and economic reasons.” said Cllr Bree. “There can be no justification for ordinary people, many of whom are already struggling, to pay for the private debts of bankers and speculators. In the boom times their profits remained in private hands and therefore so should their debts. Irish taxpayers should not have to pay for their speculative gambling.”
“The fact is that the Universal Social Charge specifically targets low and middle-income earners as those who will have to pay for these private debts. People with an income of over €250,000 are actually much better off under this arrangement, as now they only have to pay a 7% rate when they previously had to pay 11%. It is utterly disgraceful that people earning such huge amounts of money are now better off after the budget, while people earning as little as €77 a week are being punished.” Cllr Bree said.
“Labour and Fine Gael are supposed to be the opposition parties, but they will not reverse the Universal Social Charge nor will they reverse the cuts in Social Welfare. They are effectively pursuing the same policies as Fianna Fail.
It is obscene that under Fine Gael and Labour, just like Fianna Fail, people earning just €16,000 a year will be paying the same Universal Social Charge rate as Irish millionaires. Not only that, but the charge is fiscally neutral, meaning that the country will not save a single cent by the implementation of the Universal Social Charge. It is simply a means of placing the burden of debt for our economic crisis not on those who caused the crisis, but on hardworking people in middle-income brackets and the most vulnerable in society.” said Cllr Bree.