I am a man in a hurry. I like to get things done for people. I first entered local politics in 1999 and now, 17 years later, I have the honour and privilege to serve the people of Longford & Westmeath in Dail Eireann. I live in Cornamagh, Athlone, I am married to Michelle Fagg and we have two children.
My involvement in politics is driven by one simple aim – to improve the quality of life for people from all sections of the community, from those seeking work to the self-employed trying to run a business in difficult times. I have never been found wanting in trying to make the lives of ordinary people better.
I have a real passion for working on projects that bring communities together and making them stronger, from delivering funding for Greenways in Athlone and Ballymahon, to supporting large scale job opportunities such as the Longford Forest Center Parcs Holiday Village.
I also believe in fairness for everyone and righting wrongs such as making sure that the brave soldiers of Jadotville were finally honoured.
When the shout went out for help during last winter’s major flooding, I was not found wanting. And together with my Independent Alliance colleague, Junior Minister Sean Canney, I am determined to find workable solutions to the flooding problems that have so badly affected families in so many parts of Longford & Westmeath.
I am also an avid sports enthusiast and a long-time supporter of the League of Ireland, GAA and Rugby. Longford & Westmeath is blessed with some great sportspeople who are dedicated to achieving great things at national and international level.
The Independent Alliance has described the Budget as a ‘fair and progressive step forward’ for all sectors of Irish society – but stressed that more needs to be achieved to ensure the recovery benefits all.
Since forming a government in May of 2016, the Independent Alliance has been focused on ensuring that everybody – especially the most vulnerable in Irish society – benefits from the steady recovery that is taking place in the Irish economy.
The political group is proud that its input into the Budget negotiations can be clearly seen, with increases to the Home Assistance Payment (HAP), further reductions in Prescription Charges for the elderly, a reduction in the ceiling for the Drug Payment Scheme, new incentives to help Over 55s get back into the workplace and significant increases in services to the disabled.
“Last year, we committed to and achieved a reduction in Prescription Charges for the Over 70s and we vowed that we would continue to push for further reductions. We have followed through on this promise and the result can be seen in this year’s Budget.”
Delivering for people and communities across Ireland – especially the sick, the elderly and those living in disadvantaged rural areas – has always been a priority for the Independent Alliance.
“We are happy to see the introduction of a new Telephone Support Allowance to assist older people and people with disabilities who live alone and are of limited means.”
“We are particularly proud to see a €149m increase in the Home Assistance Payment (HAP) in this year’s Budget as well as an expansion of the Place Finder Scheme outside of Dublin, starting in Waterford. The increase in the HAP Scheme will benefit 17,000 extra households next year. Ireland is in the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis and this increase will fundamentally help stop people from becoming homeless in the first place.”
One of the most pressing issues of the past year for the group has been the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This Budget has put in place the necessary funding to ensure that this is done without any further delays.
“The establishment of an Assisted Decision Making Unit will be the engine room that will drive the ratification process.”
The input of the Independent Alliance on this year’s Budget has been wide-ranging. Among the many initiatives we are proud of include an expansion in the Rural Social Scheme, an increase in respite care hours and more money for Speech and Language Therapists.
“We are particularly proud to bring forward special incentives to help those aged over 55 find employment. Following the last recession, there were a lot of people who found that they could not find new employment because of their age. This is something that we have been engaging with Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe on for some time.”
Another Budget measure which has been driven forward by the Independent Alliance is the establishment of a disaster contingency fund, which can be built on year-on-year to ensure that there is a financial war-chest in place in the event of a natural disaster.
The Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran T.D. today announced that all children under 12 will be admitted for free to all Heritage Sites managed by the OPW Heritage Service. This initiative will commence on Saturday the 1st of July and will ensure that all children under 12 will have an opportunity to visit these sites for free with their families during the holiday period.
“I have set out to do this as one of my first acts as Minister for the OPW because I think there is a huge
opportunity here to encourage our children to experience some of the best cultural and heritage sites in the country,” the Minister said today.
“We have some wonderful places to visit like Clonmacnoise, Kilkenny Castle, Newgrange and the Rock of Cashel and I want every child to have an opportunity to visit them with their families during the summer holidays and up to the end of the year.”
The OPW offers free access to all school-going children under their Free Schools Visits programme and about 80,000 children availed of this during 2016. This Programme is intended to support the educational curriculum and children can, with their teachers, engage with many relevant aspects of their learning including art,history and social science at these historic & heritage locations throughout the country.
“We are already very active in the OPW in terms of facilitating children through the Free Schools Visits programme”said the Minister “and I want to extend that positive approach throughout the summer holiday period and beyond so that kids will learn to enjoy coming to these sites and see them as fun places to visit.”
OPW already offers free entry for children under 6 years of age and the Minister said he was anxious to reinforce the message that a visit to a Heritage site can be a great family day out for all ages: “I’d like to spread the message to families that wouldn’t normally think of coming to a heritage site and encourage them to make a visit. Admission fees at OPW sites are very reasonable and as the under 12’s are now to go free it will make for a very attractive and reasonably-priced day out for the whole family.”
The initiative will apply to all paid-admission sites operated by the OPW from Saturday the 1st of July 2017.
A significant new Bill aimed at keeping people in their homes is to be introduced to the Dáil later today by the Independent Alliance.
The Keeping People In Their Homes Bill 2017 provides protection to home owners facing repossession and provides clarity to Irish courts on examining the proportionality of granting or executing repossession orders on people’s homes.
Longford-Westmeath TD, Deputy, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran TD, of the Independent Alliance, who will introduce the Bill to the Dáil, says the legislation aims to change the way in which home repossession cases are decided upon in the Courts.
The Bill allows courts to consider the circumstances and impact of home loss on dependents and children in the household, Deputy Moran said. This means that courts can take into consideration the whole household’s circumstances and the impact that granting, adjourning, varying, postponing or executing an order for possession of a home would have on their lives.
The Bill has been drafted with the support of a group of concerned lawyers and housing law experts who have been working with home-owners at risk of home loss.
“This Bill can immediately help bring clarity and full and fair legal process to a devastating situation being faced by families every day,” Deputy Moran said. “It also provides a common sense and legal based solution that can help us meet the Independent Alliance’s commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government which states that we want to keep families in their homes and to avoid repossessions.”
“The loss of a home can be one of the most serious breaches of the right to respect for the home,” he continued. “Research shows that people who lose their homes are also at risk of a range of serious psychological difficulties, such as depression, frequent symptoms of psychological, social or somatic distress, feelings of painful loss, a continued longing and sense of helplessness.”
Some 30,000 households are at real and immediate risk of home loss in Ireland. Deputy Moran said that, at a minimum, this means that at least 100,000 people, including thousands of children, could be at risk of homelessness.
Dr. Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, said that the inspiration for this Bill comes from European consumer, human rights and family law. The Bill will provide Irish courts with a clear Irish statutory basis to conduct a “proportionality assessment” in relation to possession orders.
“It seeks to humanise possession proceedings so that people and families who have no money, who have no choice, who have nowhere to go and who are facing the dire prospect of losing their family home, can be protected and supported,” Dr. Kenna said.
“Essentially, it means that when there is a choice between several appropriate measures to achieve the objectives legitimately pursued by legislation, then the court must adopt the least onerous one, and the disadvantages caused must not be disproportionate to the aims pursued.”
This Bill will enable Courts to consider the effect of the loss of a home on all the household members, in particular the impact on their physical and mental health. Courts will be able to examine any alternative arrangements that could prevent home loss; the effect of the loss of a home on children; or the availability of suitable alternative accommodation that will allow the household to live together. In addition, the Courts can consider the cost to the State of providing emergency accommodation and support services to the household in the event of home loss.
Julie Sadlier, a solicitor who has been representing people facing possession orders since the economic crash a decade ago, said that this legislation was long overdue.
“Most defendants before the Possession Courts are already prejudiced by the fact that they cannot afford representation,” she said. “The people I represent are ordinary people from every walk of life, who, though hard working, do not qualify for Personal Insolvency or Bank Restructure. They are couples in their fifties or sixties; they are young parents, who paid huge sums of money for very ordinary houses.
It is because of the fate of these ordinary people – our neighbours and friends – that the changes proposed in this Bill are so important. They will enable County Registrars and Judges to balance the interests of corporate lenders with the fundamental human rights of individual borrowers and their households, who face loss of home,” she concluded.
The Bill is an amendment to the existing Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, which enables a lender to apply to the courts for an order of possession.