Statement on Facebook investment in Clonee, Co. Meath

Meath, Research and Innovation


Facebook’s decision today to place its second major European data centre in Clonee, Co. Meath, further confirms Ireland’s international reputation as a prime data centre location of choice, and firmly puts Meath on the map as a hub for future Foreign Direct Investment, and as a location that combines excellent quality of life with ease of access to Dublin, to the European Union and the wider world.

Facebook joins the long list of international companies who have faith and confidence in the enduring sustainable nature of the recovery underway in Ireland, and who see Ireland as an important bridge head between the USA, the UK and the European Union.

Locally in Meath, our flexible well educated labour force, who enjoy an excellent quality of life in the County, as well as easy access to city life, are also important attractions and factors for Foreign Direct Investment.

I want to congratulate the Council’s Chief Executive Jackie Maguire, recently retired Council Cathaoirleach Cllr. Jim Holloway and the Council’s Economic Director Kevin Stewart and their team of staff. They have landed the first big catch of their recently launched Economic Development Strategy for the County. They have started as they mean to go on. This news will now serve as a magnet and example to others.

This announcement not only brings vital Foreign Direct Investment into Meath, it also brings jobs in construction, in overall running and maintenance and in spin off and related services.

It will be a magnet for similar Foreign Direct Investment as well as an inspiration for local Meath entrepreneurs, who we are keen to support locally through the Local Enterprise Office of Meath County Council and nationally in Government as well.

Minister English and Bishop Smith officially open Killyon National School extension

Education, Green Flag, Killyon, School extension

Officially opening Killyon National School with Bishop Smith

School also raises 4th Green Flag


The first school in Killyon was a mud walled building without even the basic amenities – toilets or heating, local Fine Gael T.D. and Junior Education Minster Damien English told the large gathering of dignitaries and locals at the official blessing and opening of the extension of St. Finian’s National School in Killyon on Friday 12th June 2015. “But the pupils kept coming and this makes us think of the value people in this area placed on education, and still place on education” stated Minister English.

“But times change, and we must change with them. That’s why I am delighted to join the Bishop of Meath Michael Smith and Chairman of the BOM Rev. Fr. Patrick Kearney in the official opening and blessing of this new school extension. I hope it is a place of joy, friendships and learning for the whole community for many years to come” Minister English told the crowd of pupils, staff team led by Principal Jane Burke, parents and local politicians.

Minister English, who is Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, also highlighted the environmental innovation of students and staff in raising their 4th Green Flag at the official opening. The theme for this flag was ‘transport’ and for this pupils carried out a number of surveys about the means of transport used by pupils in Killyon NS and in other schools around the country. They also carried out projects on road and cycling safety, and show cased the results of their research to the local community.

The total grant-aid for the extension at St. Finian’s N.S. Killyon was €303,290. This grant facilitated the provision of 2 mainstream classrooms, en-suite toilets, WC for assisted users, furniture, ICT equipment, fencing, heating works and re-surfacing play areas.

The school were also awarded a grant of €137,831 under Summer Works Scheme 2014 for roof repairs. These works have now been completed.

Response to the BSE scare in Louth must be proportionate and bear in mind importance of Irish agri-food image


The news of a suspected case of BSE in Co. Louth is indeed worrying. Our first thoughts must be with the farmer concerned and their family at this stressful time as they await a second round of test results next week.

Our response, as politicians, as media, or whatever our role, must however be proportionate and evidence based. Our multi billion export driven agri-food sector, which is of such benefit to Counties like Louth, Meath and Westmeath is, after all, at stake.

Rather than scare mongering, the fact that this suspected case has been detected, and that the animal did not enter the food chain, are important facts to be highlighted and represent the robust nature of the ongoing monitoring systems we have in place which put public health and safety at the centre of all that we do, making Irish beef, and Irish food products generally, so desirable to an international buyer.

This week sees the conclusion of important negotiations between the Department and the main farming organisations on a new Farmers Charter. This again highlights the commitment to standards that underpins the approach taken both by the State and its farmers.

The Charter is an agreement between both parties on improving the standards, delivery targets, protocols and timelines for the Department’s schemes and services, including on-farm inspections, and brings clarity to the arrangements around inspections.

The new Charter will now come into immediate effect and will be published.  It will remain in place until 2020 coinciding with the lifetime of the current Pillar I and Pillar II schemes, and will be overseen by a Monitoring Committee involving both the Department and the main farming organizations.

Minister English keynote speaker at Active Retirement Regional AGM

Active Retirement, Meath


Today I was the keynote speaker at the Active Retirement Ireland Regional AGM for the North East.

The AGM, which also featured an Activity Day and Information Stands was sponsored by homecare for older people providers Home Instead. Former RTE Newsreader Anne Doyle officially opened the event.

It was an honour to address the Regional ARI AGM in the Ardboyne Hotel: As a Meath man, I am particularly pleased at the fact that Meath alone houses 30 of the 50 local branches in the region. An active healthy retirement is something which all of us hope and pray for. Retirement is a time in life to do the things that might not have been possible in the decades of balancing work and family. Keeping active – both in body and mind – not just means that you can fully participate in your community, but it also provides potential for huge social benefit.

My address touched on a number of issues

Gender and Mental Health

It’s notable that more women than men seem to engage with Active Retirement, and this represents a challenge for all of us: rural isolation and less social contact can contribute to poor mental health. Getting out and about and socialising can play a significant role in improving our well-being

Life long learning and mentoring

In my role as Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, I am acutely aware of the role which learning and education play in everyone’s life. Life-long learning is something which everyone can benefit from, especially during retirement.

It is a way of defining any learning that we engage in from cradle to grave.

As Minister with responsibility for Lifelong Learning, I know that there is growing awareness that education is a lifelong process and that learning should occur at all stages of life, in line with the concept of lifelong learning.

Nowadays, all of us have to continually develop our skills and further our knowledge to keep pace with a fast-changing world. But we also have a duty to share our skills and our experiences formally and informally with the younger generation, and to act as guides and mentors.

This is an opportunity for older people and for Active Retirement Ireland that I asked them to think about and act on.

Social Inclusion Monitor

I am very aware of the negative impact which our severe economic recession has had on many communities, and indeed on many personal incomes. However, it is worth noting that the State’s latest Social Inclusion Monitor, which reports on progress towards the national social target for poverty reduction, shows the at-risk-of-poverty rate at its lowest level since 2010. Ireland continues to have one of the best-performing social protection systems in the EU in terms of reducing poverty through social transfers.

Budget 2015

In the most recent Budget 2015 the Living Alone Allowance was increased from €7.70 to €9.00 per week at a cost of €12 million a year – 177,500 pensioners and people with disabilities benefited from this.

Role of Grandparents in Childcare

I know as the father of 4 children under 5 that Grandparents are playing a greater role than ever before as childminders, and in some cases raring a 2nd family all over again. This can be a really special and joyous experience, but I know too that the novelty can wear off. Some grandparents are older than others and not in great health. The views of Active Retirement volunteers regarding our childcare system and ways to reform and expand it are something I would also like to hear about so I can take them on board and pass them on to colleagues in Government.

Unemployment down in Meath and Westmeath

Jobs, Meath, Wesmeath

Meath unemployment down 1,244 people or 12% in 12 months, and Westmeath unemployment down 935 people or 10% in 12 months

Today readers I want to highlight new figures from the Central Statistics Office on the monthly unemployment rate which now stands at 9.8% for the first time since 2009.

The seasonally adjusted number of people who are unemployed fell to a total of 209,700 nationally in May – the lowest level recorded since 2009.

In Westmeath the number stands at 8,725 in April 2015, a fall of 935 people since April 2014 or almost 10%.

In the Castlepollard Social Welfare District covering North East Westmeath 962 people were unemployed in April 2015, down 163 people on April 2014 or 14.5%.

In Meath the number stands at 8,394 in April 2015, a fall of 1,244 people since April 2014 or 12%, one of the highest in the country.

One year ago the unemployment rate stood at 11.7% nationally so it is clear that our plans to tackle unemployment are working.

Through the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work, people are returning to the workforce. Every one of those new jobs in the last 12 months is a life back on track, it is a family supported, it is human potential fulfilled. We want more of this to happen.

We cannot pause for one second until everyone in Meath, in Westmeath and Ireland who wants a jobs has a job.

My job as a local T.D. and Minister in Government is to ensure we have the right environment for business and employment to thrive, that will remain my priority.

19 rural areas in Meath and Westmeath to benefit from high speed fibre broadband expansion

Meath, Wesmeath


Today I want to welcome Eircom’s announcement that they are to significantly expand access to high speed fibre broadband in rural Ireland benefiting 19 rural areas in Counties Meath and Westmeath. It is an important start.

Lack of broadband has been a long standing issue in rural Ireland and one that had not been addressed by previous Governments. Today’s news is an important progression.

Eircom’s announcement means the element of the National Broadband Plan that requires State intervention is likely to reduce significantly. The State will be intervening to plug the gaps elsewhere. The Minister for Communications, Alex White is expected to publish the State intervention strategy in July with a view to moving to formal procurement by the end of this year.  Roll-out will commence in 2016.

In Westmeath Eircom’s high speed fibre broadband will be expanded to Ballynacargy, Ballymore, Castletowngeoghan, Collinstown, Finea, Glassan, Rosemount and Rathowen.

In Meath Eircom’s high speed fibre broadband will be expanded to Beauparc, Castlejordan, Dunderry, Fordstown, Kilbride, Killeen Castle, Kilsharvan, Lobinstown, Newtown, Robinstown and Tara.

This expanded footprint means Eircom will invest €400 million in fibre nationally over the next five years, hugely benefiting families and business in rural Ireland.

Launch of new Meath Economic Development Plan today

Jobs, Meath
Delighted to b joined by fellow Meath TD's Helen McEntee and Regina Doherty at the Meath Economic Development Plan launch today

Delighted to be joined by fellow Meath TD’s Helen McEntee and Regina Doherty at the Meath Economic Development Plan launch

I want to commend Meath County Council, its Cathaoirleach Cllr. Jim Holloway, Chief Executive Jackie Maguire, Economic Director Kevin Stewart and all their hard working staff for the launch of the new Meath Economic Strategy 2014-2022.

Those who contributed their practical experience and expertise to this strategy as part of the Meath Economic Forum under former Taoiseach John Bruton must also be thanked.

As I told the launch event today, only a positive, unified, consistent and evidence based approach will win new jobs, new business and new investment for Co. Meath.

Through the Strategy Launch, and the work feeding into it, Meath is announcing proudly to Ireland and the World that it has the people, skills, location infrastructure and native business ‘know how’ and success to greatly enhance and expand any outside enterprise that wants to make its home here.

The New Stone Age monuments of Newgrane, Knowth, Dowth and Loughcrew are often cited from a tourism point of view, and rightly so. But they also represent Meath’s proud history of innovation and invention established over 5000 years ago right up until the present day. That is the spirit and the energy we must channel into in the years ahead.

Meath County Council’s approach in putting itself front and centre at the heart of enterprise promotion in the County is one of the most progressive in the country. It represents a true embracing of the potential of last year’s Local Government reforms.

County Councils are about improving the quality of life of a County’s citizens. Good quality sustainable jobs are the best guarantee of quality of life. New sustainable locally based jobs are also the best guarantee that Meath County Council has the resources it needs to keep Meath at the forefront in enterprise, in tourism and in overall quality of life indicators.

The boom years were symbolised by excess and wasted opportunities. Whilst Meath got a legacy of excellent motorways it missed out on FDI and became a dormitory County for Dublin. Now as recovery takes hold, Meath must be aggressive and unapologetic in promoting its own interests to the country, and to the World.

All of us, no matter our political loyalties or personal ambitions, must go out and sell a message of positivity and hope about Meath’s future and potential. It is time for us all to don the  Royal jersey and work together.

This issue transcends politics. It is about parish and place. It’s about jobs to keep people at home, and jobs to bring people back home. The massively successful Tayto Park adorns the Meath jersey, and its ‘can do’ and ‘never say never’ approach and achievements should inspire us as Meath people in both sport and in business.

Launching Meath's new 2020 Economic Plan

Launching Meath’s new 2020 Economic Plan