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Ministers’ Replies to Parliamentary Questions on Health & Children and Youth Affairs

For Written Answer on : 11/12/2018
Question Number(s): 275 Question Reference(s): 51511/18
Department: Health
Asked by: Joan Burton T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Health the length of time children are waiting for speech therapy and occupational therapy services after assessment for developmental language disorder a nationally; the comparable length of time for the Dublin 15 area; the number of children on such a waiting list nationally and in the Dublin 15 area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.
As the Deputy’s question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 11/12/2018
Question Number(s): 286 Question Reference(s): 51566/18
Department: Health
Asked by: Joan Burton T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Health the length of time  children are waiting for services in terms of speech and occupational therapy after assessment for a developmental language disorder at national level; the comparable length of time for the Dublin 15 area; and the number of children on such a waiting list nationally and in the Dublin 15 area, respectively.

REPLY

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy’s question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 11/12/2018
Question Number(s): 476,478 Question Reference(s): 51509/18, 51565/18
Department: Children and Youth Affairs
Asked by: Joan Burton T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

* To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average cost of childcare services for pre-school children nationally; the average cost of such services in Dublin city and county; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11 December, 2018.

* To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average cost of childcare services for pre-school children; and the average cost of such services in Dublin city and county.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11 December, 2018.

REPLY

The cost of childcare in Ireland is a major challenge for families in Ireland. In particular it is a challenge to mothers returning to work and single parent families. Due to decades of underinvestment , we have inherited one of the most expensive models of early learning and care in Europe. But this is changing.

Record numbers of families availed of government subsidies to reduce this cost for families; including more than 40,000 children registered for the universal, non means tested subsidy of up to €1,040 per year whilst tens of thousands of families that needed it most received subsidies of up to €145 per week deducted from their childcare fees. This year the rise in cost charged for childcare was 2%, half of what was experienced the previous year.

In addition the number of children participating in the ECCE (free pre-school) scheme has doubled; whilst the scheme itself has lengthened to 76 weeks per child.

Earlier this year the Oireachtas signed the Childcare Support Act; putting the entitlement to financial support for childcare on a legislative footing for the first time.

In 2019, we will launch the Affordable Childcare Scheme, a radical new approach to how families access financial support towards quality early learning and care.

It will take time to deliver the world class system of early learning and care that families deserve but I am confident that we are moving swiftly in the right direction to achieve this goal.

Table: Cost charged for childcare – County by County

CountyFull day carePart-time careSessional
Dublin – Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown€233.26€127.45€86.26
Cork City€206.67€104.27€68.68
Dublin – Fingal€206.25€115.23€71.44
Dublin – South Dublin€202.25€116.92€72.17
Wicklow€200.21€102.47€71.77
Dublin – Dublin City€195.79€115.71€71.90
Cork County€192.37€108.57€71.06
Meath€183.52€100.68€68.80
Kildare€181.39€113.42€73.59
Kerry€172.17€90.24€62.01
Louth€172.12€101.05€68.69
Westmeath€167.97€90.50€69.45
Donegal€167.22€100.98€59.92
Wexford€166.34€97.30€67.69
Laois€164.46€103.04€66.85
Offaly€162.00€102.33€68.01
Kilkenny€159.87€88.61€66.46
Galway€159.44€96.29€67.33
Limerick€159.00€90.12€67.98
Clare€157.72€90.54€67.50
Waterford€157.24€88.94€61.55
Cavan€156.94€91.13€63.21
Leitrim€156.54€75.00€62.14
Mayo€156.40€85.04€64.26
Tipperary€155.08€92.02€67.33
Sligo€153.48€98.47€74.11
Roscommon€151.00€85.55€63.69
Carlow€149.53€84.29€70.02
Monaghan€147.97€80.12€64.35
Longford€146.56€88.68€63.31
Total€177.92€101.82€68.95

Briefing Paper: Special Schools with Autism Spectrum Disorder designation

 

Introduction

Information directly related to the Deputy’s queries about educating students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Special Schools is front-loaded. Additional information had been inserted into Appendices.

A number of the Deputy’s queries are covered by sections in recent NCSE reports. Where directly relevant these sections have been repeated wholesale. The NCSE has a very clear position on evidence informed advice (page 18 Policy Advice Paper 5), and describes an approach that takes into account a wide range of studies and international evidence reviews. These include two peer-reviewed studies commissioned by the NCSE including a broad range of evidence brought to their attention during their consultation processes.

 

Background

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) – used interchangeably with the more colloquial term ‘autism’ – are lifelong conditions that generally result in difficulties in social communication, social interaction and social imagination.[1] In addition, many people with ASD have sensory difficulties and unusually restrictive and repetitive behaviours and interests. While the core deficits associated with ASD are present throughout life, the expression of these difficulties will vary with age and with the presence of other disabilities or the influence of life events.[2]

ASD can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are grouped into three broad categories:[3]

  1. Problems and difficulties with social interaction: such as a lack of understanding and awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings;
  2. Impaired language and communication skills: such as delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly; and,
  3. Unusual patterns of thought and physical behaviour: This includes making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting. The child develops set routines of behaviour, which can upset the child if the routines are broken.

Autistic disorder – sometimes referred to as ‘classic autism’ – is one of three broad types of ASD. The others are Asperger syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Children with Asperger syndrome have milder symptoms that affect social interaction and behaviour. Their language development is usually unaffected, although they often have problems in certain areas of language. (For example, understanding humour or figures of speech, such as ‘she’s got a chip on her shoulder’ or ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’.) Children with Asperger syndrome usually have above-average intelligence. Some children are skilled in fields requiring logic, memory and creativity, such as maths, computer science and music. (But only 1 in 200 children are exceptionally skilled, so-called ‘autistic savants’).[4]

PDD-NOS can be thought of as a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’. It is used for children who share some, but not all, of the traits of autistic disorder and/or Asperger syndrome. Most children with PDD-NOS have milder symptoms than children with autistic disorder, but they do not share the good language skills and above-average intelligence associated with Asperger syndrome.[5]

The term ‘spectrum’ is sometimes used to refer to the symptoms of ASD, which can vary from individual to individual and from mild to severe.[6]

There is currently no cure for ASD, but there are a range of treatments that can improve the symptoms listed above.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

All of the statistical data in this report was provided directly from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) at the request of the researcher. It includes the most up to date information available.

 

The NCSE was set up to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs (SEN) arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children.[7] The Council was first established as an independent statutory body by order of the Minister for Education and Science in December 2003.

 

The NCSE’s local service is delivered through its national network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) who interact with parents and schools and liaise with the HSE in providing resources to support children with special educational needs.

Note on language use

The Department of Education (DoE) and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) do not use the terminology ‘Autism Specific Schools’ or ‘Autism Specific Units’ rather they refer to them respectably as special schools whose primary designation is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and special classes whose primary designation is ASD.

 

Continuum of Education

The Deputy’s query focuses on special schools with an ASD designation. In the Irish context these schools are understood within a broad continuum of supports for students with ASD.

In Ireland, students with special educational needs are served by a continuum of provision ranging from full-time enrolment in mainstream classes to full-time enrolment in special schools, with a variety of options in between. This means a range of placement options is available to them which includes:

  • A mainstream class, where the student with special educational needs receives additional attention from the class teacher through differentiation of the curriculum and/or additional teaching support provided by a resource/learning support teacher or through co-teaching, where required.
  • A special class in a mainstream school.
  • A special school which has been designated by the Department of Education and Skills for a particular category or categories of disability.

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are allocated to primary, post-primary and special schools to support students with a disability who also have significant care needs. [8]

 

Quantity of Special Schools in Ireland

While a presumption in favour of including students with special educational needs in mainstream education is enshrined in legislation, special school provision is also available for students aged four to 18 years.[9] There are currently 135 special schools, 116 of which are resourced with teachers and training by NCSE. There are 19 other special schools, categorised as special for different reasons such as those for the education of children in detention and care.

Of the 116 special schools resourced by NCSE 19 have Autism Spectrum Disorder as a primary designation. See Chart 1 below for the national picture. The Table for this data is included in Appendix 1.

Chart 1: Special Schools by primary designation

Source: NCSE data provided to researcher November 2018 (L&RS analysis)

 

 

Special Schools (ASD) in Dublin

The Deputy articulated a particular interest in the number of special schools with and ASD designation in Dublin. Table 1 below shows that of the 19 special schools with ASD as a primary designation 7 are in Dublin. Table 2 in the Appendix 1 describes the following details. The full table of all schools in the state with ASD as a primary designation are available should the Deputy require it.

  • The location of each of these schools
  • The number of teaching posts as of end of 2017
  • The number of SNA posts as of end 2017
  • The number of pupils as of end 2017

Table 2: Special Schools with ASD as primary designation in Dublin

Name of School DesignationTeaching Posts End 17.18SNA Posts End 17.18Pupils 17/18
BALLYOWEN MEADOWSLoughlinstown, Co. DublinASD824.6648
SETANTA SPECIAL SCHOOLStillorgan Road, Co. DublinASD123055
ST MICHAEL’S HOUSE SPECIAL NATIONAL SCHOOLKilbarrack, Dublin 5ASD82330
Saplings RathfarnhamRathfarnham, Dublin 14ASD41822
ABACAS KilbarrackKilbarrack Dublin 5ASD731.6626
ABACAS KilnamanaghKilnamanagh, Dublin 24ASD519.6625
Red Door MonkstownMonkstown, Co. DublinASD21013

Source: NCSE data provided to researcher November 2018 (L&RS analysis)

 

 

ASD Special Classes in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15

The Deputy expressed an interest in ASD resources within the Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 postal codes. Accordingly a list of special classes for those with ASD in that area have been provided. This information was obtained directly from the NCSE and is correct as of September 2018.

There are 30 special classes with ASD as a primary designation in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 as of September 2018. Five of these were in post primary and 25 were in primary schools.

Due to the length of this list, which includes the school name, school type, class type and number of teaching posts, the relevant table is presented in Appendix 2.

The full list of special schools in every postal code in the state are available should the Deputy be interested in them.

 

Education of Students with Challenging Behaviour

The Deputy has indicated that the parents she is liaising with are particularly concerned with meeting the needs of children with ASD with higher needs. Given that this may include those with challenging behaviour arising from ASD I include below relevant recommendations from the NCSE.

In NCSE briefing report number 5 it explicitly states that the following recommendations, taken from NCSE’s policy advice on the Education of Students with Challenging  Behaviour  Arising  from  Severe  Emotional Disturbance/Behaviour Disorder (EBD)  2012,  also  have  application  for  students with exceptionally challenging behaviour arising from ASD.

I include the text from that section of the report wholesale below as the evidence-led approach the NCSE takes to developing these positions is robust.

Staffing Levels for Children with Exceptionally Challenging Behaviour Arising from Severe EBD

When considering  the  education  of  students  with  challenging  behaviour  arising  from  a  severe   emotional and/or behavioural disorder, the NCSE advised that staffing levels in special  schools and classes for children exhibiting such behaviour must be sufficient to ensure the safety  of students and staff members. School boards of management should ensure that in classrooms where severely disturbing behaviours are being documented regularly and on an ongoing basis, no adult should be left in the room on their own at any time. This implies that if one adult leaves the room, for a break for example, two adults should be left to supervise the class. This rule should also apply to the supervision of break-time.

To provide  adequate  teaching  support  for  those  exceptional  cases  where  there  is  a  clear  and   documented history of repeated episodes of assault, violent behaviour or serious self-harm, special  schools  with  children  with  exceptionally  challenging  behaviour  arising  from  severe  EBD  should   be  allowed  to  set  up  one  class  with  a  reduced  pupil-teacher  ratio  of  4:1.  The  number  of  SNAs   allocated, for this class alone, should be sufficient to meet the requirement that no adult is left  alone in the classroom at any time.

Management of Challenging Behaviour

The NCSE advised that the DES should issue clear guidelines to schools on realistic and appropriate measures  to  be  taken  to  contain  children  during  episodes  of  violent  behaviour.  These  guidelines   should  be  based  on  evidence  of  international  best  practice  in  working  with  children  with  severe   emotional  and  behavioural  difficulties  and  should  specifically  address  when  it  is  appropriate  for   teachers and SNAs to use restraint and/or the use of a time-out room. The NCSE further advised that parents must be clearly informed of the school’s code of behaviour, including the practices in place for the containment and protection of the child during episodes of  violent behaviour.

Further reading: Education of Students with Challenging  Behaviour  Arising  from  Severe  Emotional Disturbance/Behaviour Disorder (NCSE 2012)

 

Dealing with severe behavioural issues

The Deputy queried best practice for dealing with students with ASD who have severe behavioural difficulties including self-harm.

NCSE policy advice paper 5 deals with those issues under the heading ‘crisis intervention’ (page 13). I include the text from that section of the report wholesale below as the evidence-led approach the NCSE takes to developing these positions is robust.

Crisis intervention

It is important to realise that challenging and/or violent behaviour is not necessarily linked to special educational needs but is a broad, societal issue. While challenging behaviour can be associated with a diagnosis of ASD, it is inappropriate to consider that all students with ASD present with it. Only a minority of students who may or may not have special educational needs demonstrate serious, challenging or violent behaviours in school settings.

Schools have a duty of care to all their students and staff. Their management of challenging (and sometimes violent behaviour) must be consistent with a student’s right to be treated with dignity and to be free of abuse. Schools should make every effort to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion. School policies in this area should form part of overall policy on the positive management of behaviour which emphasises the importance of having: preventative strategies in place to avoid the emergence of challenging behaviour; good staff/student relationships to promote positive student behaviours; and early intervention to manage challenging behaviour if/ when it arises.

It is clear that some schools feel let down by the educational and health systems. They consider they are being asked to educate a small number of students who at times can exhibit extremely challenging and sometimes violent behaviours towards both themselves and others, without access to sufficient, necessary clinical and therapeutic advice and guidance. The reality is that staff members, including teachers and SNAs, are currently being injured in schools. While such incidents are few, they are nevertheless serious when they arise.

Views expressed on this issue were perhaps the most forceful, divisive and emotional heard during our consultation process. They ranged from: under no circumstances should separate rooms be used in schools for the management of behaviour to the absolute need for separate, lockable rooms for the safety of the student, other students and staff.

We found no evidence that the use of seclusion or restraint provided any educational or therapeutic benefit to students with ASD or that it reduced the recurrence of problem behaviours.

The literature is clear that many students with ASD can need time and space to self-regulate their behaviour and to avoid sensory overload.

In our view, the only legitimate rationale for use of seclusion and/or restraint is in an emergency situation to prevent injury or harm to the student concerned or to other students or staff members. Even then, as schools are not approved centres under the Mental Health Act, great care should betaken not to break this law in their use.

Schools therefore require guidelines, as a matter of priority from the DES on developing an appropriate policy for emergency procedures which details protocols that should be in place to deal with crisis situations that arise from incidences of challenging behaviours from any student in the school.

 

The DES should request the National Educational Psychological Service to prepare and issue clear guidelines to schools on: realistic and appropriate emergency procedures to be used in crisis situations, involving episodes of extremely challenging or violent behaviour, causing serious risk to the student him/herself, other students or staff members; and the supports that will be available to students, teachers, and parents following such incidents. The DES should seek legal advice to ensure the guidelines are lawful.

Schools should provide a ‘quiet space’ for students with ASD to meet their sensory needs but time-out rooms4 should not be available in schools specifically for students with ASD as there is no evidence basis to support their use with this group of students.

 

Teachers’ Professional Development

The Deputy queried best practice for dealing with students with ASD who have severe behavioural difficulties including self-harm. Concerns relating to teacher training were raised in the public consultation (NCSE policy document number 5, page 41). These were summarised as follows

There was a lot of concern about the level of training and knowledge of teachers working with students with ASD as they require knowledgeable and experienced teachers. There was also great concern about non-experienced teachers being given special classes and resource teaching hours and the practice in some post-primary schools where resource teaching hours were used to ‘fill’ subject teacher timetables. This resulted in a fragmented experience for the student.

NCSE policy advice paper 5 deals with those issues under the heading ‘Teacher’s Professional Development’ (page 109). I include the text from that section of the report wholesale below as the evidence-led approach the NCSE takes to developing these positions is robust.

Teachers’ Professional Development

The NCSE has previously advised that all professionals working with students with special educational needs should be required to develop and foster the skills necessary to meet the diverse needs of this population and should have in place protocols to share information, where appropriate. It is particularly important that all professionals working with this group of students adopt an inclusive philosophy towards their education.

The NCSE drew attention to research findings highlighting that the quality of teachers and their teaching are the factors most likely to have the greatest impact and influence on educational outcomes. Given the centrality of the teacher in the education of students with special educational needs, the NCSE considered that special education should form a mandatory part of every teacher’s initial training and ongoing continuous professional development. The development of a student’s organisational, social and communication skills should be viewed as part of every teacher’s responsibilities and should form part of the whole-school plan.

The NCSE recommended that the Teaching Council should establish standards of teaching in relation to the knowledge, understanding, skills and competence necessary for teaching students with special educational needs, including ASD in mainstream and special settings. The Teaching Council should develop a framework for initial and continuing professional development to ensure that teachers are provided with this knowledge, understanding, skills and competence. The framework should address both the requirements of newly qualified teachers and the upskilling of existing teachers. This should form part of an overall framework for teachers working with students with special educational needs.

The NCSE recommended that the Teaching Council and the DES should ensure that teachers are provided with the necessary knowledge, skills, understanding and competence to meet the diverse learning needs of students with special educational needs. The Teaching Council should stipulate mandatory levels and frequency of CPD that teachers are required to undertake for teaching this population within an overall framework of CPD for teachers. A framework for the professional development of teachers working with students with special educational needs was outlined in Appendix 3 of the report and addressed: what training should be in place as part of initial teacher education programmes; what training should be in place as part of ongoing continuing professional development for all teachers and for teachers in specialist roles and settings (learning support/resource teachers, visiting teachers, teachers in special schools and classes).

Given the importance of this aspect for the education of students with special educational needs,it is worth outlining the particular recommendations that the NCSE made for the ongoing CPD for teachers in specialist roles and settings (learning support/resource teachers, visiting teachers , teachers in special schools and classes).

The Teaching Council should stipulate mandatory levels and frequency of CPD for teachers in specialist roles/settings that include opportunities to develop skills appropriate to teaching particular groups of students and collaborative working skills for interaction with colleagues, parents and professionals.

  • The DES should consider the possibility of requiring teachers in specialist roles and settings to hold a recognised postgraduate diploma in special education and/or a postgraduate diploma in a specific disability category. Opportunities for placement in a special education setting should be available as an integral part of postgraduate programmes in special education.
  • Further development of competences or standards that define the specific skills, knowledge and understanding required for teachers working with students within different categories of special educational needs, should underpin continuing professional development for these teachers.
  • Teacher Education Section should provide a strategic programme of professional development designed and delivered specifically to teachers in special schools to address, in an in-depth manner, the complex and diverse needs of students attending special schools.
  • The requirements of post-primary teachers should be taken into account in the design and delivery of programmes of continuing professional development.

Finally, the NCSE recommended that an ongoing programme of CPD should be designed and delivered for principals and deputy principals to focus on providing leadership for the education of students with special educational needs in schools.

Appendix 1

Table 1: Primary Designation of Special Schools

 Total
Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)19
Emotional Disturbance/Behaviour Disorder (EBD)1
Hearing Impairment2
Mild General Learning Disability (GLD) Schools30
Moderate General Learning Disability (GLD) Schools33
Multiple1
Physical6
Preschool1
Severe Emotional Disturbance/Behaviour Disorder (SEBD)8
Sev/Profound Learning Disability10
Specific Learning4
Visually Impaired1
Total116

Source: NCSE data provided to researcher November 2018 (L&RS analysis)

 

 

Appendix 2

ASD Classes in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15

NCSE list of special classes as of September 2018

The Deputy expressed interest in ASD resources within the Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 postal codes. Accordingly I have provided a list of special classes for those with ASD in that area. This information was obtained directly from the NCSE and is correct as of September 2018. The school name, school type, class type and number of teaching posts are presented below.

There are 30 special classes with ASD as a primary designation in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 as of September 2018. Five of these were in post primary and 25 were in primary schools. The full list of special schools in every postal code in the state are available should the Deputy be interested in them.

Table X: Special Schools with ASD as primary designation in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15

NameSRNSchool NameAddressSch TypeClass TypeTeaching PostsNew Class
Dublin 1519435QSt Francis Xavier J N SRoselawn RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1519470SSt Francis Xavier Senior N SRoselawn RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1519755LSacred Heart N SHuntstownPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1519755LSacred Heart N SHuntstownPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1519755LSacred Heart N SHuntstownPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520098ICastleknock Educate Together NsBeechpark AvenuePrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520098ICastleknock Educate Together NsBeechpark AvenuePrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520201VTyrrelstown Educate TogetherHollywood RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520201VTyrrelstown Educate TogetherHollywood RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520241KScoil Choilm Community National School Porterstown RdPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520241KScoil Choilm Community National School Porterstown RdPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520247WScoil GhráinnePhibblestownPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520247WScoil GhráinnePhibblestownPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520383HHansfield Educate Together NSBarnwell RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520383HHansfield Educate Together NSBarnwell RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520384JPowerstown Educate TogetherPowerstown RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520384JPowerstown Educate TogetherPowerstown RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1568083NLe Cheile Secondary SchoolTyrellstownPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50New
Dublin 1568101MHansfield Educate Together Secondary SchoolBarnwell rdPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50 
Dublin 1520383HHansfield Educate Together NSBarnwell RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520384JPowerstown Educate TogetherPowerstown RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1520384JPowerstown Educate TogetherPowerstown RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 1568083NLe Cheile Secondary SchoolTyrellstownPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50New
Dublin 1568101MHansfield Educate Together Secondary SchoolBarnwell rdPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50 
Dublin 1568101MHansfield Educate Together Secondary SchoolBarnwell rdPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50New
Dublin 1576098WColaiste Pobail SetantaPhibblestownPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50 
Dublin 1576098WColaiste Pobail SetantaPhibblestownPost PrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.50 
Dublin 716988TChrist the King Boys NSAnnaly RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 716988TChrist the King Boys NSAnnaly RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 717464NSt. Finbarrs Boys NSKilkieran RoadPrimaryASD Early Intervention1.00 
Dublin 717466RSt Catherine’s Infants’ SchoolRathoath RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 718632NSt. John Bosco Junior Boys NSNavan RdPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 720131DDublin 7 Educate Together NSFitzwilliam PlacePrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 720152LNorth Dublin Muslim NSRatoath RoadPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00 
Dublin 720502MScoil Sinead PelletstownC/O ETNSPrimaryAutism/Autistic Spectrum Disorders1.00New

Source: NCSE data provided to researcher November 2018 (L&RS analysis)

[1] Wing et al, 1979. Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: epidemiology and classification. J Autism Dev Disord. 1979 Mar; 9(1):11-29.

[2] http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

[3] https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/a/asperger-syndrome/causes-of-autistic-spectrum-disorder.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/a/asperger-syndrome/causes-of-autistic-spectrum-disorder.html

[7] http://ncse.ie/about-us

[8] National Council for Special Education, “Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools,” May 2013.

[9] Patricia Daly et al., “An Evaluation of Education Provision for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ireland,” National Council for Special Education, no. 21 (n.d.): 310.

BUS CONNECTS – BUS CORRIDOR INFORMATION SESSION

As you are aware, BusConnects is a major investment programme to improve public transport in Dublin. It aims to overhaul the current bus system through a 10 year integrated programme of integrated actions to deliver a more efficient, reliable and better bus system for more people.  As part of this programme, the Core Bus Corridors project focuses on bus lanes and aims to deliver 230kms of dedicated bus lanes and 200kms of cycle tracks along 16 of the busiest corridors in Dublin.

The NTA wants to include all interested parties in the development of the Core Bus Corridors Project at all times. Therefore, in addition to the normal public consultation communications which will include public information events in January, we are also establishing a community forum for each corridor, beginning with Clongriffin, Swords, Lucan and Blanchardstown.

  • Blanchardstown Community Forum will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wednesday 12th December from 6.30pm-8.00pm.

Membership of each forum will comprise of a single representative from resident and community associations, disability and special interest groups as well as business organisations on the corridors along with public representatives.

As places are limited, only one representative per group or association can be accepted. We are now accepting requests to participate in the community forum where the name and contact details of the nominee as well as the name of their respective association can be sent to cbc@busconnects.ie. The name of the nominated representative must be sent to us by the close of business on Friday 7th December. Please be aware that places will be limited at the event so only registered attendees will be able to attend the forum on the night.

Speech by Joan Burton to the Oxford Union on Irish Unity

Speech by Joan Burton TD, addressing the Oxford Union on the motion ‘The House Believes Ireland is Ready for Reunification’. 22nd November 2018;

The United States has Mount Rushmore in the legendary Black Hills of Dakota where the sculptures of famous Presidents are carved into the rock face.

Perhaps in the future, Ireland will create its own Mount Rushmore to celebrate the pioneers of national reunification.

Perhaps some surprising figures from England might rank as worthy candidates for inclusion?

These are the people whose actions became victims of that notorious beast of political life, the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Step forward Mr. Nigel Farage the great Panjandrum of Brexit.

Today we witness how a narrow referendum result has set the different parts of the United Kingdom on an internal collision course and opened up the age-old argument that England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.

Surely too Mr. Boris Johnson, a former President of this august Union, has a good claim for inclusion as an architect of Ireland’s Reunification.

Is it not his overweening and bumptious ambition that fuelled the flames of English nationalism to the point that the word United would be excised from the name the United Kingdom only to be transferred across the Irish Sea to find a happy home in the name of Ireland United.

There is now a new factor in Anglo Irish politics, quietly but universally acknowledged.

England’s Brexiteers, all of them proud unionists in name, have done more to advance the case for a United Ireland than the IRA achieved in 3 decades of sordid terrorism.

In Ireland, we watch every day the unfolding of Brexit with a kind of macabre fascination.

The underlying dynamic seems to come from a resurgent English nationalism that blithely ignores and is insensitive to the concerns of other components of the United Kingdom.

We wonder about the scale of collateral damage that may be inflicted on us North and South.

And from that, there are inevitable repercussions among all sections of society in Northern Ireland who question the intrinsic value of participation in a Union that cannot offer the long-term assurance of respect let alone prosperity and stability.

Equally, we hear with apprehension the siren calls of nationalist extremists that England’s time of difficulty is their moment of opportunity.

I come from an Irish socialist tradition that despised the Partition of Ireland because, as James Connolly predicted, it would result in a ‘carnival of reaction’, a destructive division and sectarian hostility.

We know from tragic experience that this sectarian division continues to leave its unique trail of destruction.

So, let me say right that my own advocacy of a United Ireland has no truck with any crude sectarian headcount that forensically examines each census for evidence that a Catholic nationalist majority is gradually emerging in the population and will in time, perhaps sooner rather than later, will produce a voting majority to endorse a United Ireland.

In my view, that attitude comes from the same Boris Johnson school of political tactics that seeks a simple numerical majority for a political outcome with no care or consideration for its long-term consequences, intended or otherwise.

That latent sectarian calculation is both wrong-headed and irresponsible.

It is wrong-headed because the evidence that a Catholic population majority in the North of Ireland is self -evidently, a majority for unification is paltry, to say the least.

For one thing, religious allegiance is no barometer at all of the political outlook.

Nor indeed is family background indicative of continuing faith. The census numbers, both North and South, show declining adherence to the traditional faith allegiance.

Indeed, in the Irish Republic, a majority of voters in 2 recent referendums have delivered a stinging rebuke to Cardinals and Bishops on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

The days of Home Rule meaning Rome Rule are well and truly gone.

There is a time-worn political gag about a citizen’s reply to a census official.  The reply ‘’I’m an atheist” immediately produced  a supplementary question:

“Well, Are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?”

Sadly, that attitude is more deeply entrenched that is often admitted.

During one recent UK election, a Sinn Fein candidate made a shamefully sectarian pitch through a notorious leaflet declaring that Catholics are now in a majority in the constituency –

“Catholic 46.9 percent, Protestant 45.6 percent – Make the Change, Make History”.

That individual failed to get elected but his pitch does still reflect the underlying message of his party’s current campaign for an early border poll.

We have the numbers so we want the result no matter what it could mean in community discord or economic disruption.

Thankfully the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 offers us both safeguards and a roadmap to enable the delicate issues to be teased out and resolved.

It Is, I believe, important that people in the UK fully appreciate what is bluntly stated in that document.

There was derision in Ireland when Mr. Boris Johnson, yes him again, remarked that the border between the 2 parts of Ireland is no different to the border between Camden and Islington, an astonishing admission of ignorance from a former Foreign Secretary.

In fact, the Good Friday Agreement says the exact opposite which is why it offers the roadmap to a post Brexit settlement.

That agreement recognises ‘that it is for the people of Ireland alone, to exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland if that is their wish….”.

And it goes on to: “affirm that if in the future the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right to self-determination…to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish”.

 

That clause sets Northern Ireland miles apart from Camden, Islington or Oxford.

Moreover, it offers a clear peaceful mechanism to fundamentally change the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

What is at issue now is the manner by which that mechanism, that includes a so-called border poll, should be put to use.

I believe it would be destructive and premature to rush this in a manner that might deepen community divisions.

In Spielberg’s movie Abraham Lincoln there is a scene where Lincoln remarks that he well knows where his true north is, where he wants to bring his country.

But he has to have regard to the rivers, mountains, and swamps that have to be navigated on that journey.

We in Ireland have to be equally cognisant of how we navigate our way in the coming years.

An excess of zeal may well destroy the very thing we most desire.

The kind of unity Ireland needs is more the unity of people rather than the delusion of a united territory.

We amended our own constitution by a massive vote to set aside the claim to territorial unity and replace it with an ambition of a united people ‘’ in all the diversity of their identities and traditions”

Ulster has produced many fine poets among them the late John Hewitt

John confronted the issue of identity head-on in one famous declaration

“I am an Ulsterman, I am British, I am Irish and I am European. Anyone who demeans any one part of me demeans me as a person”

It is that sentiment that we need to keep in mind in these turbulent times.

Launch of BusConnects Core Corridor Project

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has today launched the Core Bus Corridor Project which involves the implementation of continuous bus lanes along 16 key radial bus corridors around Dublin.

It is part of the overall BusConnects programme to transform Dublin’s bus system to deliver a more efficient, reliable and better bus system for more people.

The first stage of the Core Bus Corridor Project is the public consultation process which will take place on a phased basis between now and next May.

Each phase will involve consultation on a set number of corridors over a period of months. Details of the phasing of the public consultation process are set out at the end of this statement.

At the outset of each phase, the NTA will issue information letters directly to any house or business whose garden or frontage may have to be acquired. These letters have already been sent in the case of the four corridors in Phase 1, which includes some residents in Dublin West.

A similar process of public consultation will be followed early next year for the remaining phases. Details of the public consultation process and a fact sheet regarding the public consultation are attached to this statement below. More detailed information on the Core Bus Corridor Project is available on the BusConnects website, www.busconnects.ie.

The NTA is fully committed to working with all interested parties in the development of the Core Bus Corridors Project. In that regard we will be establishing a community forum for each corridor to facilitate engagement with all parties including individuals, residents associations, community groups, etc.  Requests to participate in the community forum should be sent to cbc@busconnects.ie

 

The NTA looks vastly improve the bus experience for the growing number of passengers who wish to use sustainable transport modes in and around the city through collaboration with representatives and the public.

 

DETAILS OF PHASING

Phase 1 (14th November to 15th February 2019)

Ø  Clongriffin to City Centre

Ø  Swords to City Centre

Ø  Blanchardstown to City Centre

Ø  Lucan to City Centre

Phase 2 (Mid-January to End March 2019)

Ø  Liffey Valley to City Centre

Ø  Clondalkin to Drimnagh

Ø  Greenhills to City Centre

Ø  Tallaght to Terenure

Ø  Kimmage to City Centre

Ø  Rathfarnham to City Centre

Phase 3 (Mid-February to End April 2019)

Ø  Ballymun to City Centre

Ø  Finglas to Phibsborough

Ø  Bray to City Centre

Ø  Blackrock to Merrion

Ø  UCD Ballsbridge to City Centre

Ø  Ringsend to City Centre

BusConnects CBC Public Consultation Press Notice

Fact Sheet – BusConnects Core Bus Corridors Project FINAL

COLLEGE GREEN PLAZA DEBACLE

Dail Debates October 18th

Public Transport

Deputy Joan Burton

I want to raise this issue with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport because it is an indication of the mess that the future development of the centre of Dublin is in currently. The Minister has taken a hands-off approach to public transport in Ireland’s capital city, where a significant population lives and where people come in from the suburbs all around Dublin, including from my constituency of Dublin West, which includes Blanchardstown, Mulhuddart and Castleknock. If there was proper investment in public transport, those people would find their commute getting shorter; instead it is getting longer.

The BusConnects proposal has recently been developed. That proposal, which the Minister was involved in establishing, is seriously flawed. He said it had nothing to do with him and passed it on. Communities all over Dublin are left uncertain as to what will happen.

The central part of the BusConnects proposal was, in my view and that of many engineers, premised around the fact that College Green plaza would be implemented and significant numbers of major bus routes would be removed from the city centre. Those routes were to go down the quays and turn over the Rosie Hackett Bridge and, by other mechanisms, make their way to the south side of the city.

An Bord Pleanála, to which Dublin City Council decided to submit its plans and proposals, stated that the quays are too congested to take much more. That is clear to anyone who uses the buses daily going up and down the quays, as I do, and I know the Minister is also a bus user. An Bord Pleanála saw merit in the plan, but stated the impact, particularly on things like bus services, would be disastrous.

I got details of contracts for consultants relating to transport, presumably authorised in the Minister’s capital budget. For 2017, Jarrett Walker & Associates, the firm which designed BusConnects, is listed as having been paid €407,000. In 2018 to date, the same firm of consultants is listed as having been paid €208,000. That is a total of €615,000 in consultancy fees in two years, which is not an inconsiderable sum. We are now thrown into total confusion.

This relates to the Minister’s leadership of his Department. A hands-off approach is not good enough for Dublin city and the vast population it serves in terms of public transport. The Minister cannot, like Pontius Pilate, wash his hands of this because he is in the lofty and honourable position of being a Minister. He cannot say that Dublin city transport has nothing to do with him and refuse to get involved.

This decision of An Bord Pleanála simply adds to the confusion about what will happen in Dublin city centre. It is a grievous blow to the city, but so too is the Minister’s BusConnects programme, which is now out to public consultation. The topic has been discussed on many occasions in the House. I do not know what will come back after Christmas because now a central feature of the plan, fewer buses within College Green, has been thrown out by An Bord Pleanála for the very good reason that there is not enough bus transport and the quays are already too congested.

The proposals the Minister has been flying kites with simply cannot be implemented.

 

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross)

I thank Deputy Burton for raising an issue in terms I have heard before in the House and will no doubt hear again. I reject the premise of what she says but I will try to answer some of the more relevant questions as to whose responsibility this is.

The Deputy is aware that the planning application was brought by Dublin City Council.

The decision to refuse was made by An Bord Pleanála. The decision is being considered by the council and the National Transport Authority to determine the implications. From a transport perspective, the proposal was one of a number of measures developed as part of the Dublin City Centre Transport Study, which was a joint initiative by the Council and the National Transport Authority. The issue of congestion is one which formed the backdrop to that study and forms the backdrop to city centre transport today also. The measures proposed by the transport study were designed to address the transport issues facing the core city centre area, facilitate the implementation of the Council’s development plan and safeguard the future development of the city.

In line with those objectives, the study put forward a number of proposals around an improved public transport offering for the city. Since the study’s publication in 2015, the NTA also published its statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area and we have this year witnessed the publication of the national development plan and now have visibility of the proposed funding allocations over the next ten years.

A number of recently completed projects have already served to improve the capacity and quality of public transport in Dublin. Since 2015, Luas cross city has opened, heavy rail services have expanded through the re-opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel and ten-minute DART trains have been introduced.

We have invested in improved cycle routes and expanded public bike-sharing schemes. We have also invested in new bus services and a new fleet and improved passenger experiences through the roll-out of real time passenger information and the continued development of the Leap card. These are positive developments. We know that we need to continue to increase our levels of investment in public transport and active travel measures, which we plan to do under the national development plan. The Deputy will be well aware of the substantial investments planned to improve the bus network and infrastructure through the BusConnects programme to which she referred disparagingly. The NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland are continuing to plan for MetroLink with a view to construction commencing in 2021 and services being ready to start by 2027. The NTA is continuing to work with Iarnród Éireann on the expansion of the DART, which will see the network electrified as far as Drogheda to the north, Maynooth to the west and Hazelhatch to the south west. The issues underlying the development of the 2015 study remain and the NTA will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the council, to improve public and sustainable transport options in the city centre.

The Deputy should note that the Government and the Minister set policy, but we also allocate funds. Not to acknowledge the progress made in the expansion of the DART, with ten minute DART services, the Luas cross-city service, the proposals for BusConnects and the increases in public service obligation, PSO, funding is disingenuous. This is mainly a matter between Dublin City Council which made the application and An Bord Pleanála, the planning authority, which made the judgment.

Deputy Joan Burton

I thank the Minister for his reply. It is good of him to come into the House to talk about this vital issue for everybody in the city of Dublin. The achievements the lists include the study commissioned in 2014 and 2015, the opening of the Luas cross-city service, the expanded heavy rail services as a result of the reopening of the Phoenix Park tunnel and the introduction of ten minute DART services. I was one of the people who lobbied for for many years for the new Luas service to Broombridge and was particularly involved, as the Acting Chairman knows, in lobbying to have the tunnel under the Phoenix Park reopened. For the Minister in some way to claim that he has some relationship with these achievements is rather grandiose and history does not support it. I am delighted that they have all been made and about the real time information application for Dublin Bus. It precedes the Minister’s time in the Department. I am talking about his time in it, the fact that he seems to have no time at all to get involved in dealing with the slow strangulation happening in Dublin city centre which has a serious impact in places other than Dublin city in Fingal, south Dublin and Dún-Laoghaire Rathdown. Each of these council areas has seen huge population growth. They require more buses and train carriages, particularly on the Maynooth line, electrification to happen much earlier and the College Green issue to be addressed. The Minister has not told us what his response is as Minister to An Bord Pleanála’s decision. I said the application had been made by Dublin City Council. What does the Minister propose to do about the mess that has become infinitely more complex as a result of An Bord Pleanála’s decision? An Bord Pleanála states the plan has merit but talks about a lack of public transport services. We have added into this the issue of the BusConnects programme, a deeply flawed proposal, with the astonishing information that Jarrett Walker has been paid €615,000.

 

Edmund Rice Trust School site selection

DAIL DEBATES OCTOBER 18TH

Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made in identifying a site for the new regionally based secondary school for Carpenterstown, Castleknock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42126/18]

Deputy Joan Burton

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well. What progress, if any, has been made in identifying a site for the new regionally based secondary school for Carpenterstown, Castleknock? Can the Minister tell parents who are suffering major anxiety where exactly the school will be located?

Minister Joe McHugh

As the Deputy is aware, the school to which she refers is included in my Department’s six-year construction programme. The acquisition of a suitable site is required to facilitate the project. With the assistance of officials in Fingal County Council under the memorandum of understanding for the acquisition of school sites, a number of site options were identified. They were comprehensively assessed and a preferred site option has been identified. Negotiations with the landowner on the proposed acquisition of the site are ongoing. The Deputy will appreciate that negotiations on school site acquisitions can be complex and price is only one of multiple aspects which need to be agreed. Nonetheless, officials are working to bring matters to a conclusion at the earliest possible date. Owing to commercial sensitivities in site acquisitions generally, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to provide further details at this time, but I can confirm that the school patron is being kept apprised of developments in the site acquisition process. In the interim, since September the school has been based on a temporary basis at the former Institute of Horology property on Mill Road, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.

Deputy Joan Burton

I have raised this school site issue with the Minister’s predecessor repeatedly in the past two years and, essentially, he has given me the same explanation again, namely, that it is all secret because of the negotiations taking place. Parents are very anxious. Those involved in the feeder schools in the area, including the staff and the boards of management, are also very anxious and deserve a better answer than what the Minister’s officials have given him today. To quote his Department, this new secondary school was identified as a regional solution in second level provision in Dublin West. That meant that two school planning areas were combined, namely, Carpenterstown and Castleknock, in providing an additional much-needed second level school. It is a huge area which stretches from the Phoenix Park to the border with County Meath and County Kildare. The selected patron is the Edmund Rice Trust. The new Edmund Rice Trust co-educational college is now in its second year of operation in premises at the old watchmaker school – the Institute of Horology – located beside Connolly hospital. It was hosted last year by Le Chéile secondary school and now has 60 students. Without progress in identifying a permanent site and location for the school, it may be inhibited in its development.

Minister Joe McHugh

Unfortunately, as the Deputy rightly pointed out, I am not in a position to offer the clarity the parents want. However, we have a new system in place under a memorandum of understanding between the Department and local authorities which act on behalf of the Department in negotiations. I have no doubt that that the Deputy raising the matter publicly in the House will focus the minds of officials in Fingal to ensure a speedy resolution of this matter. I reiterate that the local authorities act on behalf of the Department in negotiations on the acquisition and purchase of land.

Deputy Joan Burton

I again emphasise that provision of the school is very welcome. It will be a very good school. I have met many of the first-year students and know many of the students who have enrolled in second year. By and large, the parents would like the school to be located in Castleknock. We know that there is a site which was earmarked originally for the provision of a primary school at the old Phoenix Park race course. There are potential sites in other parts of Castleknock. The population of the area is expanding rapidly. Therefore, this is a critical issue for parents.

As the principal outlined to me, the number of applications received for next year has increased dramatically compared with the first two years. If this were to continue, we would have to seriously restrict numbers for 2020 if the school was still on the institute of horology site on the Mill Road beside Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. This school was created to ease the numbers situation in Dublin 15 for secondary schools. We just need to get on with it.

Minister Joe McHugh

I am sorry for repeating myself but the site acquisition process is complex, as the Deputy knows. It is subject to completion of successful negotiation and conveyancing processes. Given the complexities involved, I am not able to give a timeframe for the completion of acquisition today and I would be disingenuous in doing so. I and my officials will endeavour to bring the process to a conclusion as soon as possible. I understand the frustration on the part of parents, young teenagers and younger children who are looking forward to a new school. This is something that I am very conscious of.

 

Growing Risk of No Deal Brexit

Speaking in reaction to the EU summit and the speech by British Prime Minster Theresa May, Leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD said that the risk of a damaging conclusion to the talks is growing larger.

Deputy Howlin said

“Ireland now faces into a potential lose-lose Brexit scenario.

“Labour warned the Government repeatedly that we must not allow the Irish backstop to be part of the final horse-trading between the EU and UK about the Withdrawal Agreement. Leo Varadkar’s approach has failed to resolve the Irish border issue in advance of these final summits. He naively promised that it was ‘bulletproof, rock solid and cast iron’ this time last year. This is quite obviously not the case, as the backstop is the single major issue left to be resolved in the negotiations and deadlines for an agreed legal text have been repeatedly missed.

“Theresa May’s address to the EU Council yesterday offered nothing new, other than a willingness to consider the offer of an extended transition period. This must be seen as either a negotiation tactic or else a genuine admission of the limits of her room for manoeuvre. In either case, she is saying that she cannot give any more concessions and she has called on the EU to offer some innovative solution to the backstop issue.

“I have no doubt about the firm commitment of Michel Barnier’s negotiation team to Ireland’s concerns, as well as the solidarity of the 26 other EU member state governments for our insistence on no hard border. But that is not the point. The potential lose-lose scenario is one where the British Government cannot or will not fulfil their December promise to agree a permanent backstop. If that happens, we would be presented with a ‘no deal’ outcome from the talks.

“At that point, all eyes would turn to Leo Varadkar. Our allies across the EU will ask him what Ireland wants to do next. He will have to choose between no deal – and therefore border controls – or no backstop, and the risk that the future EU-UK relationship will require border controls after all.

“I welcome that Theresa May has apparently acknowledged that the backstop must be permanent, but there is no guarantee that she can deliver it. It is uncertain that a Withdrawal Agreement that includes a permanent backstop would pass through the House of Commons as the DUP will not only oppose it but would withdraw their support from the May government.

“Faced with the choice of a definite hard border or the risk of a hard border, pressure from business may well come on the Taoiseach to avoid the worst case ‘no deal’ outcome and to take the gamble that the future EU-UK relationship will be a close one.

“We need to be crystal clear that the risks associated with the backstop cannot be shared. Either Ireland takes the risk of no backstop agreement, in the hope that the future relationship with the UK will be so close that no border controls will be needed, or else the UK agrees a permanent backstop arrangement and takes the risk that this will be called into use if the talks on the future relationship break down, with all that implies for unionist dismay in Northern Ireland. The binary nature of this risk reduces the scope for us to produce any ‘innovative’ solution to the dilemma facing Theresa May.

“As a point of fact, the UK Government agreed in December 2017 to ensure no hard border and I welcome Theresa May’s recent reiteration of her Government’s ‘profound responsibility’ to preserve the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. However, they have not yet formally accepted a legal text to guarantee a permanent backstop, and the influence of the DUP in Westminster is clearly a reason for their hesitation.

“The instability in current British politics gives no reason to believe that the UK Government will be able to deliver the permanent backstop that they promised. The risk of ‘no deal’ is growing.

“Ireland must stand firm on the requirement for Theresa May’s government to fulfil its commitment. If she can’t deliver, then we must await the successor government to do so.”

 

VOTE YES ON OCTOBER 26th

Labour is calling for a Yes vote on October 26th to remove the criminal offence of Blasphemy from the Constitution.

If you are still making up your mind, or are working to convey to friends and family why their Yes vote matters, here are six reasons to vote Yes on the 26th.

It is outdated
The continued presence of the blasphemy offence in our Constitution is not tenable in a modern, democratic state. There is no place in modern law for this sort of offence, in either our Constitution or in statute. Its retention sends out an unfortunate and outdated signal about the kind of society we are.

The Constitution is no place for a crime
As a criminal lawyer, I know that the Constitution is NOT an appropriate place for us to define criminal offences. The Constitution is not a criminal code, nor should it be. Instead, like any constitution, it represents a broad statement about the fundamental aspirations and principles of governance for our State.

It undermines freedom of speech
Blasphemy offences represent an undue encroachment on the right of free speech; a key reason why they no longer exist in most European countries. In 1991, the Law Reform Commission recommended removal of the offence, stating ‘there is no place for the offence of blasphemous libel in a society which respects freedom of speech’.

Removal is widely recommended
Removal of the blasphemy offence has been recommended for a long time and by a range of experts and groups. The Law Reform Commission recommended removal in 1991. The expert Constitution Review Group made the same recommendation in 1996. In 2013, the Constitutional Convention again considered in great detail, with expert opinion and advice, the existence of the offence, and recommended by a strong majority that it be removed from the Constitution.

International Impact
Because we introduced a new statutory version of blasphemy into our law relatively recently (in section 36 of the 2009 Defamation Act), it has had an international impact and has been referred to by states outside Europe in justifying retention of blasphemy laws there. It has also been used as a stick with which to beat us when we have been critical of regimes that have, for example, discriminated against religious minorities, including Christian minorities that are repressed in some countries.

Affecting Minorities
We know from the history of blasphemy offences that they have typically been used by individual religions or members of one religion against those of other faiths, often those of minority religions in particular countries. Blasphemy offences tend to be used not against non-religious people but rather to pursue ideological battles between different religious belief systems.

Labour will legislate to ban house viewing fees

Labour Party Housing spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has said she is bringing forward legislation to ban the practice of landlords and letting agents charging potential tenants fees for viewing their property.

Deputy O’Sullivan said:

“I was shocked to read over the weekend that some landlords and letting agencies are beginning to charge fees of up to €500 to allow potential tenants to view their property.

“Rents are rising at a rapid rate across the country and so many people are already priced out of the rental market. The idea that landlords are charging viewing fees is taking advantage of people who find themselves at the centre of the precarious housing crisis.

“Responding to calls from Threshold, the Labour Party has produced legislation to ban this unscrupulous practice. There are already many barriers and stresses for renters, we don’t need this kind of carry on to become a trend. It is just another example of people using the housing crisis to make a quick buck and exploit the precariousness of the housing crisis.”