Fianna Fáil is committed to protecting and developing agriculture for the 140,000 farming families in Ireland as the main driver of the rural economy and custodian of the Irish countryside.
Our policy is built around the following core issues.
- Family farming should remain the mainstay of Irish farming
- Fair prices and increased farm profitability for the primary producer
- Supporting a fair and simpler CAP
- Balancing environmental responsibilities with food security
- Fair farm inspections and proportionate penalties
Ireland’s economy is grounded on small and medium sized indigenous business. The health of the sector is vital to that of the overall economy. Fianna Fáil has put forward a strong package of policies to incentive job creation in our communities.
Improved access to credit for the SME sector by establishing a fully licenced state enterprise bank to lend directly to businesses.
Reward job creators by extending PRSI benefits to the self-employed and end their current inequitable tax treatment, especially those on low incomes.
Incentivise entrepreneurs to set up new businesses by providing relief from capital gains tax. Such policies can enable Louth and East Meath to become the best counties to do business in.
Narrow Water Bridge
Fianna Fáil is commited to delivering the Narrow Water Bridge project. After so much progress has been made in terms of planning and securing funding from Europe, it is tragic that Project has been mothballed by this Government. For the people of the Cooley Peninsula and the Mourne region of south Down this project is of vital importance. This project is both hugely symbolic and vital to the economic interests of the area. My Party has demanded that the Government include this project in the Capital Plan. Unfortunately it has only been included as a vague aspiration with no clear funding allocation. Due to Fine Gael and Labour’s short-sightedness, the project is unlikely to be progressed for many years to come.
Extension of DART services
It is extremely disappointing that the Government does not have the foresight to proceed with the construction of DART Underground. The project offers enormous benefits, trebling rail capacity for commuters and businesses across the entire Greater Dublin Area. Commuters in Drogheda currently have to put up with a rail service to Dublin which is far from adequate. DART Underground would have helped solve this problem by enabling an extension of the DART to Drogheda in the future. However, this plan has been shelved by Fine Gael and Labour.
Mobile Phone Coverage and Broadband
Mobile phone coverage across many parts of Louth is clearly not fit for purpose. Frustration levels among customers and business users are widespread due to phone calls dropping and 3G/4G signals remaining non-existent in some areas.Fianna Fáil will launch a mobile phone coverage audit under the remit of Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). This audit will form the basis of our infrastructural plans for improving coverage levels and strength.
Broadband in Louth
Communities all over Louth need rapid high speed internet broadband access now. Roll out of fibre optic broadband is a primary way to bridging the digital divide especially in rural Ireland. Broadband can help alleviate rural areas facing a digital deficit and open up a global market for rural tourism and for small local producers.
In 2011, this government promised over the following four years to deliver fibre broadband to 90% of homes and business in the country. This is another broken promise that the government have not kept.
1 in every 4 Louth homes and businesses will have to wait up until 2021for broadband services under the government’s national broadband plan.This is kicking the can down the road for many communities and businesses in the county. High-speed fibre broadband connectivity must be fast tracked and all funding sources used to support this
Crime, in particular burglary, is causing great concern in our communities. The 12% reduction in Garda numbers in Louth over the past five years along with the dramatic cuts in general Garda resources is undermining community policing in Louth. Garda numbers in Meath have fallen from 313 in March 2010 to 281 in January 2015.
Fianna Fáil has proposed increased mandatory jail time of three years for people convicted of burglaries and seven years where they are convicted of the offence three times. We are committed to revitalising the neighbourhood watch programmes which complement the work on An Garda Síochána. We have also committed to raising Garda numbers to 14,000 so our police force has the necessary resources to tackle crime head on.
Health & Child Care
Fighting for Better Health Services in Louth and East Meath
1,582 people were waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment at the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in August 2015. That’s up a staggering 579 per cent in a year. Overall some 11,675 people are waiting for an appointment.
On top of this there were 606 on trolleys in the Lourdes during September. That’s almost three times as many as in September 2013. And older people at home are also losing out under the government too with 43,038 home help hours lost in Louth since 2010.
Fianna Fáil is committed to reviving the National Treatment Purchase Fund to tackle waiting lists and will restore the home help hours lost under Fine Gael / Labour
Louth and East Meath are great places to raise children but many families find childcare costs to be excessive and in many instances it costs as much as a second mortgage. I believe that failing to invest in early childcare short-changes children, families and the taxpayer because the return on investment is greater than almost all other economic development policies.
Fianna Fáil will introduce a progressive Childare Support Credit to cover 20 to 40 percent of the costs of childcare for working parents, so that good quality, affordable childcare is available to all. We will also invest substantially in quality, professional led pre-school education before introducing a Second Free Pre-school Year for all children aged 2 to 3 years old, to give all children and families access to early education and supports from the start of a child’s life.
Fianna Fáil is committed to giving all children the best possible start in life. We will support working parents to make childcare affordable and professionalise the childcare sector to the highest standard and work towards the following key measures:
- Childcare Tax Credit
- Universal Second Free Pre-School Year
- Expanding Community Childcare for Children from disadvantaged background
- Putting in place Special Needs Supports and SNAs in Preschools
- Expanding Maternity Leave
- Enhancing the Quality of Early Education in Preschool Sector
The housing crisis we are currently experiencing is one of the worst in our history. Government policy has failed to provide quality, affordable housing for our people and the construction of social housing has ground to a halt. They have presided over a housing crisis which has seen a five-fold increase in the number of homeless families since 2012 (70% from Jan to August 2015), who have been forced out of their homes due to the home repossession crisis and more especially the spiralling costs of rent around the county.
Rent supplement levels are totally inadequate to find basic accommodation in the private rental market in Louth and Meath especially in urban areas, according to the latest Daft Rental Report (Q1, 2015). For a couple with one child on rent supplement, looking for a 2 bed house or apartment, the maximum rent ceiling is €550 whereas average rent is €842, a 53% shortfall.
Overall there are 4,700 households on the social housing waiting list in Louth, which is about 12,000 (10% of total population), this represents a 25% increase in the waiting list since 2013. Against this background, the government has planned a paltry level of investment in social housing construction. His is despite having built only 95 housing units in four years (compared to 538 under Fianna Fáil 2007-2010).
Our Housing Plan
Fianna Fáil has published a national housing roadmap which aims to address the housing crisis in our country. Our 4 step roadmap will build 150,000 new homes, support 80,000 first time buyers, create 80,000 jobs, empower 20,000 new local authority homeowners, and secure homes for our elderly.
There are at least 300,000 households on standard variable rate mortgages. These families have benefited least from the current low interest rate environment in Europe. For a typical €200,000 mortgage, a standard variable rate customer will pay approximately €4,000 a year more in interest than a comparable borrower in another European country
It is my firm belief that the rates being charged are not justified based on banks’ cost of funds. Banks which operate both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are also charging customers in the Republic 2% more for a standard variable rate mortgage. This is unacceptable.
The Government are simply wrong to say that they cannot intervene. They must directly engage with the banks to ensure that this rip-off is brought to an end. They must also ensure that the banks open up the market for switcher mortgages. We need a competitive mortgage market to meet the needs of customers.
There has been a massive drop off in road maintenance spending in Louth over the past few years. Since 2012, the spend on regional and local roads has been almost 60% less than what is needed to keep the roads in good condition – the Department of Transport estimates that €12m is required to keep Louth roads in their steady state condition, however the Government has spent an average of €5m a year since 2013.
Motor tax, which should be pumped back into local authorities to pay for roads and local infrastructure upgrades is being spent on bulking up Irish Water. Around €10 million of the total €28 motor tax receipts collected from Louth will be used to fund the €324m subvention going towards the establishment of Irish Water in 2015. This money is purely to set up the Irish Water corporation, not a cent of it will be spent on improving water infrastructure.
Communities in Louth and Meath are being left behind by a two tier recovery that is concentrating growth unequally across Ireland. Last year there were only 10 visits made by the IDA to Louth and 2 in Meath. This is in contrast to over 200 made to Dublin. Our counties are just not a priority for job creation for Fine Gael or Labour with Louth only seeing 3% of IDA visits in 2015 so far. There is still huge potential for Drogheda and Dundalk to attract top level multinational investment.
Fianna Fáil has proposed establishing a new specialist unit within the IDA and Enterprise Ireland for regional cities and towns targeting foreign direct investment. Fianna Fáil launched “Streets Ahead”, a detailed policy document setting out measures to help Irish towns fight back. Reduced commercial rates for businesses, new town teams that bring together community groups and a specialist IDA unit for the regions will all help boost business across Louth.
Irish towns face a series of fundamental challenges to their future.Rising vacancy rates, expanding out of town shopping centres, changing shopping habits and crippling commercial rates and rents are damaging businesses and destroying jobs. A vibrant town with strong businesses, high employment and a dynamic cultural life forms the bedrock of vibrant communities.
Fianna Fáil proposes a fresh, multifaceted approach to tackle these problems and encourage greater numbers into our towns by making them lively social and economic hubs for the entire community.
Our measures include:
- Revamping the Commercial Rates System,
- New Urban Design, Strong Public Transport Links and Building Usage Strategy “Empty Shops Initiative”
- Changes Planning Laws to encourage Town centre development
- Expanded Use of Business Improvement Districts and new financial tools for Local Authorities to invest in urban renewal
- New specialist IDA, Enterprise Ireland unit for rural town foreign direct investment
- New Measures to protect and maintain local post offices
Protect Rural Services
This Fine Gael/Labour government has gone about systematically attacking rural Ireland and family farmers over the past four years. With Garda station closures, farm assist cuts and small schools under threat, rural Ireland has been singled out by the government for cutbacks across a number of areas. The government’s decisions are ultimately damaging the attraction of living and working in rural areas.
Fianna Fáil remains firmly committed in government to introduce a community services guarantee that will ensure specific targets on the availability of schools, health services, sports and recreational facilities, as well as public transport.
Increase LEADER Funding
The LEADER programme supports small rural business, providing supports across a wide range of areas such as childcare, rural recreation and youth development. These programmes form a central part of the fabric of rural communities across Ireland providing core services that would otherwise be unavailable to these areas.
Under this government, LEADER has seen a massive cut of over 40% with Louth having a €6 million cut in funding. Fianna Fáil is fully committed to restoring LEADER funding for this vital rural development facility in government.
Revenue from overseas visitors grew by nearly 9 per cent between January and June of this year which is an additional €123 million compared to the same six-month period in 2013. However while the tourism experience offered in Ireland is unrivalled, we cannot rest on our laurels. Since The Gathering, the government has neglected tourism product development and domestic and overseas marketing. This is reflected in a 17.5% reduction in funding since 2012. While recent trends in tourism are encouraging, there is a risk that a proportion of the increases in visitors’ numbers are due to the euro devaluation against the dollar and sterling.
Therefore we cannot afford to neglect the overall quality of the tourism offering in the country. The government has a key role in supporting tourism product development, regional balance and domestic and overseas marketing. Further innovative projects, such as the Wild Atlantic Way are required with the goal of increasing tourism numbers overall, and more especially to promote a more even distribution of tourism across regions. Fianna Fáil will take tourism promotion seriously, as a major plank of our rural development policy. Undertaking targeted initiatives to promote a more balanced regional distribution of visitors is a key plank of our tourism policy.