Free GP card will result in real savings for over 70s in Meath and Westmeath

Active Retirement, Health, Meath, Wesmeath


The start of registration for the Free GP Care service for people aged 70 and over is a great boost for the elderly in Meath and Westmeath and an important step towards universal healthcare.

Today’s announcement by Minister for Health Dr. Leo Varadkar means that from August 5th, all those aged 70 and over in Meath and Westmeath will be able to see their GP without paying fees. This is the second phase of universal GP care and applies to those who do not currently hold a medical or GP visit card.

A simple online registration system is available from today (Friday) on Alternatively people can locall 1890 252 919 to receive a copy by post and the registration form will also be available in pharmacies and local health offices. People should note that persons over 70 who already hold a medical or GP visit card do not need to register. If anyone needs help or guidance they can contact the helpline 1890 252 919 (weekdays 8am-8pm).

This is great news for families across Meath and Westmeath as now, for the first time in Ireland, the eldest and youngest in our society will be able to access GP care without being charged.

Free GP care was a key Fine Gael election commitment and this is just a step along that road. Already this year we have introduced free GP care for under 6s. Now just under 40,000 people over 70 who had to pay for visiting their GP will no longer have to and this will result in real savings for pensioners.

The free GP card for over 70s is an important step towards changing the health system from one that only treats sick people to one that keeps people well.

Minister English congratulates Liam Foley on Bronze Medal

Enfield, Meath, Special Olympics


After the Gold success yesterday with Francie Power from Navan Arch Club, it is brilliant to learn this morning of the Special Olympic success of 17-year-old Liam Foley from Enfield, who took a Bronze medal in the badminton singles.

Liam and Francie are doing Meath proud, and Team Ireland are doing Ireland proud again too in Los Angeles. It warms the heart and renews all our enthusiasm for sport and participation in something greater than ourselves.

25 new Apprenticeship proposals launched today

Apprenticeships, Skills

Delighted to  join Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Pat O’Doherty of ESB and the Apprentice Council in launching 25 new apprenticeships today.

Today I was delighted to join my Departmental colleague Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Pat O’Doherty of the ESB and Chair of the Apprenticeship Council in announcing 25 new apprenticeship offerings.

These new offerings will see an expansion of the existing range of programmes offered under the Apprenticeship system, and are part of ongoing work to ensure that the system remains responsive to economic and employment needs.

The new offerings which are now in the development phase are the result of an evaluation process undertaken by the Apprenticeship Council.

The 25 new Apprenticeships will focus on a wide range of skills and sectors, including Manufacturing and Engineering, Tourism and Sport, Financial Services, Information Technology, Transport Distribution and Logistics, and Business Administration and Management.

The new types of apprenticeships being proposed today are very flexible, ranging in duration from two to four years, and will be offered at Levels 5 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

My job in Government is to bring education and industry together to make sure we have the skills needed for industry to compete, and for our people to get decent jobs with good wages. Since becoming a Minister a year ago, I have made building a more effective Apprenticeship offering a key part of delivering both of these objectives.

Apprenticeships are not the educational equivalent of the Junior B Football Team for people not deemed bright enough for a college degree. They are a pathway to a fulfilling and profitable career. Apprenticeships are a tried and tested method of developing deep skills through a powerful mixture of working with and learning from experts on the job, and through structured coursework.

Apprenticeships are about learning by doing. Quite simply, they work.

The launch venue of Dublin restaurant Fallon & Byrne was a fitting one given the surge in demand for more skilled people to work in the restaurant and hospitality sectors which has been highlighted to me regularly by Stephen McNally, and Enfield native and President of the Irish Hotels Federation, as well as many local hotel and restaurant owners.

Among the 25 new apprenticeships I want to highlight the work of Ashbourne butcher of the Association of Craft Butchers in Ireland for advancing the new Butchery and Fresh Food Retail apprenticeship.

There are also  significant job opportunities in the HGV driver sector,  and the I.T. sector, which is again reflected amongst the 25 new apprenticeships that will be offered.

New classroom for St. Mary’s N.S., Collinstown, Co. Westmeath.

Collinstown, Education, School extension, Wesmeath

Councilor Frank McDermott

Along with local Councillor Frank McDermott I am delighted to announce that the Department of Education and Skills has sanctioned a devolved grant to provide for additional accommodation at St. Mary’s National School in Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. The additional accommodation will comprise a mainstream classroom with en-suite toilets together with toilet facilities for assisted users. The School Board of Management has been notified of the grant sanction and I commend them on their voluntary work in running the school, as well as the work of Principal Proinsias Ó Fearghail. Cllr. McDermott joins me in wishing St. Mary’s N.S. well with their new project.

Minister English congratulates local man Francie Power on Gold Medal win

Navan, Special Olympics

Francie Power

Navan Arch Club member wins Gold in Table Tennis in the Special Olympics in Los Angeles

Great news this morning as learn that Navan Arch Club member Francie Power had a Gold Medal win in Table Tennis at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

I join with all of Navan and Meath in congratulating Francie on his achievement for himself personally, his family and friends, and for Ireland. Francie’s victory highlights all that is best about the competitive hard working spirit of Meath people.

It is a great honour for the Navan Arch Club, and its many hard working volunteers and supporters who can and will be so proud of their colleague.

€123,866 granted to early years services in Co. Meath

Athboy, Childcare

“Athboy Community Childcare Centre Ltd.  to receive over €40,000 for vital roof works”

I was delighted to learn this evening Wednesday, 29th July 2015 from my colleague Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. James Reilly T.D. that Co. Meath will receive €123,866 in grant funding for early years childcare services.

This funding will be distributed to childcare services, in support of this vital sector in Co. Meath.  This capital programme demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the ongoing development of the childcare sector.

The investment is being directed towards making the greatest impact by addressing the most urgent works and supporting the quality of services making the greatest impact for disadvantaged children and communities here in Co. Meath.
Nationally grant funding was made available specifically for community/not for profit childcare services while additional money was made available to both private and community/not for profit childcare facilities to access grants for quality improvement measures, specifically in the area of upgrading IT facilities. In total €123,866 will go to 143 local services in Co. Meath.

The largest grant in Co. Meath is to Athboy Community Childcare Centre Ltd. which receives €42,587 for insulation and refurbishment of their roof.

This news follows last week’s proposals for strategic investment in childcare which aims to improve affordability, quality and accessibility for parents and children across Ireland.

Ireland ahead of target with €127 million in EU Research funding

Funding, Research and Innovation

Minister English calls on Industry to collaborate and innovate under Horizon 2020

Target under Action Plan for Jobs 2014 exceeded by €27 million

Mr. Damien English T.D., Minister for Skills Research and Innovation, today (28 July 2015) congratulated Ireland’s researchers and companies for their €127 million success in the first year of Horizon 2020, the current EU programme funding research and innovation. Ireland’s success exceeded the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 national target for 2014 by 27%

Speaking at a Horizon 2020 Industry Leadership Day at University College Cork (UCC) in Cork, the Minister commended Ireland’s researchers and companies for the outcome of their efforts: ‘In the particularly competitive environment for EU research and innovation funding, surpassing our national target by 27% and achieving €127 million is a great achievement.’

The Minister went on to say that: ‘85% of funding won in 2014 came from ICT, research grants from the European Research Council (ERC) and training grants for researchers (‘Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions’), Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Biotechnology, Health and Agrifood.

‘I welcome this financial success but I am also equally conscious of the importance of Irish researchers and companies participating in the Horizon 2020 programme so that they get to collaborate and innovate with the best and brightest that Europe has to offer therefore resulting in further excellence in our national system.’

The Industry Leadership Day in Cork is one of the many events and activities which support Irish endeavours in Horizon 2020. This event today is aimed at increasing awareness of the industry related opportunities in Horizon 2020 as this programme is more innovation focussed than previous programmes. Ireland’s companies have achieved over €35 Million of the total won in 2014, of which almost three quarters went to SMEs.

Enterprise Ireland leads the National Support Network for Horizon 2020 and organised today’s event with the UCC Research Office. Dr Sergio Fernandez-Caballos, one of Enterprise Ireland’s EU advisors said: ‘Information days are a key step in positioning researchers and companies for success in future Horizon 2020 calls. By facilitating networking between these communities, and providing critical information, these days can lead to the development of quality, strong and successful funding proposals.’

The Minister concluded by commending the Horizon 2020 National Support Network for their work  and said: ‘I want to encourage industry in particular to build on the success to date and engage further. Horizon 2020, with its focus on competitiveness and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs, offers more opportunity for industry participation than ever before.’

€1,063,400 extra for Meath roads

North Meath, Roads, Transport


I have consistently said that the roads money raised locally by Meath County Council and allocated nationally to Meath County Council needs topping up by National Government. This is most evident in North Meath, but there are problems that need attention County wide too.  I am delighted to say myself and my Oireachtas colleagues in Government in Meath have achieved extra funding for a 3rd year running.

€1,063,400 has been allocated.  I hope that work can begin promptly to put this extra money to its most appropriate and maximum use.  As I have said before, like any household or business we will not get all the money to fix our problems in one go. This is however the 3rd year that the Council’ resources have been topped up.  With a few more years of consistent investment this is a problem we can get on top of.

We need solid, steady economic growth nationally to continue so we have the resources to spread around to areas in need like North Meath.

Minister English urges Meath towns to apply for Artisan food opportunities

Farming, Food, Funding

New fund also available for Social Farming


Today I want to welcome a new community based competitive funding process for local and artisan food markets. The funding under the Department of Agriculture is one of the delivered actions of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas Report chaired by noted GAA pundit and player Pat Spillane.

The funding, which is being allocated on a competitive basis, is open to all rural towns and villages with populations of up to 10,000 and offers potential funding of between €5,000-10,000 for development of existing or start-up local food and artisan markets.

Meath is a becoming a player in the national and international food markets. We have some of the best restaurants in the country, along with quality natural producers of increasing prominence locally, nationally and internationally. The Boyne Valley Tourism Conference earlier this year gave a major insight into how our food reputation was a major part of the County’s Tourism offering and attraction to visitors. Gary O’Meara and his team at Meath Enterprise are also highlighting Meath’s potential to become the Boyne Valley Food Hub – a food innovation and research centre of national standing.

The development or expansion of local food and artisan markets in Meath will compliment all of this work, and supports rural development in its own right too as it helps stimulate commercial and retail activity in rural high streets as well as developing a strong sense of community involvement and achievement. That is why I am urging Meath towns to apply.

In a separate delivered action of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas Report funding is now available for Social Farming initiatives in Meath. Social farming is the practice of offering, on a voluntary basis, farming, horticultural and animal related work experience as a choice to people who avail of a range of day support services. This CEDRA fund will provide up to 75% grant aid for initiatives that support social farming operations on family farms or in institutional settings. A funding range of €10,000-20,000 is envisaged for approved projects.

Both schemes have limited funding, so proposals will be selected on a competitive basis against the other proposals received and the funds stated objectives. These schemes are being advertised nationally and in local papers. Application forms and fuller schemes details can be found on the Department’s website at the following links: and

The closing date for applications under both schemes is Friday 14th August 2015. Online applications only are being accepted.

Young Meath businesswomen honoured by Horse Racing Ireland and Leopardstown Racecourse

Meath, Research and Innovation, Summerhill

Madden_Damien Leopardstown_July 2015

It was great to make a brief visit to Leopardstown Racecourse this evening Thursday 9th July 2015 to congratulate Meath young businesswomen Annie (13) and Kate Madden (14) on their continued business success which was honoured by Horse Racing Ireland at the South Dublin racecourse.

Katie and Annie were asked to judge the best turned out horse in each race at the recent evening meeting in Leopardstown, a great honour for them personally, and great publicity for their company Fenuhealth.

The Madden sisters, who hail from Summerhill are the force behind Fenuhealth, an additive for horse meal company which took the BT Young Scientist Competition by storm earlier this year, and who the Irish Independent have named as one of Ireland’s 30 hottest new start up companies.

The girls’ research showed that 70% of horses preferred horse feed flavoured with their product, compared to unflavoured feed, leading to an immediate market for their product. The girls have a delivery of 2,000 units due to them this week, of which 1,000 are already presold, mostly to the export market. Their product has been tested to Olympic Council, Turf Club, Jockey Club and FEI standards meaning it is safe for competitive horses to use.

Michael Connolly of Connolly’s Red Mills has been a big supporter of the increasingly well stocked and distributed product and he accompanied the two girls to the German equine fair, Equitana, two weeks ago.