Government extends TAMS 1 Farm Safety Scheme closing date for farmers where work has already started

Farming, Funding

I have received confirmation from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, my colleague Simon Coveney T.D., that there will a degree of flexibility to the time allowed to complete projects under the TAMS 1 Farm Safety Scheme. This will apply where work has already commenced and Minister Coveney has extended the closing date to the 14th September 2015.

The Government is aware that in certain cases where work has already started for the Safety Schemes, Dairy Equipment Scheme and Sheep handling Scheme, that farmers are experiencing severe difficulties meeting the deadline of the 31st August. The Minister has allowed extension in these cases to the 14th September 2015 to facilitate allow farmers to finish the work and submit their paperwork.

A new extensive TAMS scheme is now up and running which I strongly encourage all farmers in Meath and Westmeath to examine the possibilities it offers.

15,000 students in Ireland set to benefit from Amgen Foundation Science Education Investment

Biotech, Education, Funding, Research and Innovation, Science

Over 15,000 students in Ireland set to benefit from Amgen Foundation Science Education Investments during the coming academic year

Launch of Amgen Teach and Amgen Biotech Experience programmes, designed to equip secondary school teachers with the skills to increase students’ scientific literacy and interest in scientific careers More than 53,000 students and nearly 500 teachers across Ireland to be reached over the course of a three-year commitment Five undergraduate students from Ireland conduct cutting-edge research this summer at leading European universities as part of the Amgen Scholars Programme To date, the Amgen Foundation has invested almost €600,000 in science education in Ireland

Leading biotechnology company Amgen and its philanthropic arm, the Amgen Foundation, have announced two complementary science education programmes in Ireland – Amgen Teach and the Amgen Biotech Experience.

Designed to support the professional development of secondary school life science teachers, and increase students’ scientific literacy and interest in scientific careers, both programmes are expected to reach over 15,000 students and nearly 150 teachers across Ireland over the coming academic year.

Over the full three year commitment of the programmes, Amgen Teach and the Amgen Biotech Experience are expected to positively impact approximately 53,000 students and nearly 500 teachers in Ireland.

Amgen Teach and the Amgen Biotech Experience support the Irish science school curriculum, providing teachers with the skills and confidence to transform the student experience in learning science. Training is offered free of charge and emphasises hands-on, enquiry-based learning, providing teachers with practical tools they can replicate in the classroom and lab to motivate students. Additionally, the Amgen Biotech Experience provides molecular biology resources and research grade lab equipment, available on loan to participating schools. Amgen Teach is delivered by appointed training partner, Professional Development Service for Teachers, while the Amgen Biotech Experience is coordinated by leading Irish universities, University College Dublin and Dublin City University.

The Amgen Foundation also announced that five undergraduate students from Ireland were selected to participate in the 2015 Amgen Scholars Programme. Part of a $50 million, 12-year commitment, the Amgen Scholars Programme advances science education by providing undergraduates with a cutting-edge summer research experience at world-class third level educational institutions. 28 students from various Irish universities, including Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, Dublin City University, the Royal College of Surgeons and NUI Galway, have participated in Amgen Scholars since the programme was launched in Europe in 2008.

The participating Amgen Scholars from Ireland for 2015 are:

  • Ciana Diskin from Navan Road, Dublin. Third year Immunology (Biology) student at Trinity College. Amgen Scholars host institution: University of Cambridge.
  • Aaron Fleming from Celbridge, Co Kildare. Third year Immunology (Biology) student at Trinity College Dublin. Amgen Scholars host institution: Institut Pasteur, Paris
  • Conor Keogh from Portmarnock, Dublin. Third year Medical student in Trinity College. Amgen Scholars host institution: ETH Zurich.
  • Daniel Scott from Churchtown, Dublin. Third year Pharmacy student in Trinity College. Amgen Scholars host institution: University of Cambridge
  • Ciara Shortiss, from Cork. Fourth year Neuroscience student in University College Cork. Host University: ETH Zurich.

The Amgen Teach and Amgen Biotech Experience programmes, together with details of the Amgen Scholars 2015 Ireland recipients, were announced at an event to mark the opening of the new $300 million Amgen facility in Dun Laoghaire.

Commenting on the programmes, Kerry Ingalls, Amgen Vice President of Regional Manufacturing said, “Amgen is committed to fostering the scientific potential of a new generation. Ireland is currently the only European country to offer all three science education programmes. I believe that despite increased demand for a science-based workforce, many teachers do not have sufficient access to the impactful training, resources and materials to deliver a high-quality experience to their students. As a result, too few young people are opting for a career in science. Our programmes are designed to change that and to inspire students in Ireland to pursue further education, and possibly even a career, in science.”

He continued, “All three programmes remind us that innovation to improve the lives of patients’ demands partnership between industry, government, public services and academia.”

Congratulating Amgen for its support of science education, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said, “Globally, Ireland now ranks in the top 20 countries for science excellence. Developing collaborative partnerships with leading companies, such as Amgen, to support science education and world–class research will ensure we continue to nurture the next generation of Irish scientists and researchers, enhancing collaboration with enterprise and providing a strong voice for the promotion and support of science, biotechnology and research in Ireland.”

Minister English welcomes investment at St. Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School, Navan

Education, Funding, Navan, School extension

I welcome the news that my Department has sanctioned additional accommodation for St. Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School in Navan.

The school will benefit from 2 new 15m2 Resource Rooms via the devolved grant scheme.

Over the last number of years St. Joseph’s has received €614,030 in Summer Works and other capital grants towards roof works, window replacement, car parking and other works.

With an enrolment of over 700 girls, which has grown steadily in recent years, St. Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School is at the very heart of the community of Navan. I commend the Principal Ms. Mulligan and her Board of Management on their leadership is seeking this additional accommodation for their school, and I am willing to work with them to seek further improvements in the years ahead.

Naming of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in Lonely Planet’s Top 500 World Sites a vote of confidence in Meath tourism

Heritage, Tourism

The news that 6 attractions on the island of Ireland have made it on to the prestigious travel guide Lonely Planet’s list of top 500 ‘must see’ sites globally is great news for Irish tourism – which is really booming again, and great news too for Co. Meath, with Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth featuring on the list alongside the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the Great Barrier Reef.

The World Heritage site of Brú na Bóinne in Meath is placed at 224, and is the highest ranking site in the Republic of Ireland.

On the island of Ireland, the highest entry is the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim at 103. Other sites on the island listed include; the spectacular Cliffs of Moher at 224, with the Titanic Belfast at 424.

Trinity College Dublin, which includes Meath’s iconic Book of Kells is 468th, while Tipperary’s Rock of Cashel squeezes in at number 497.

The description of the Neolithic monuments at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth as ‘a mind-boggling achievement of prehistoric humankind’ is excellent publicity from the renowned Lonely Planet guide, which is the ‘go to’ publication for global travellers. I know that Meath’s hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, coach operators and tour guides are well equipped to make good use of, and capitalise upon, the growing interest this endorsement will bring.

Submission by Damien English TD to file ref. PL02.VA0017 – Applicant EirGrid Plc

Meath, Pylons

19th August 2015

Submission by Damien English TD to file ref. PL02.VA0017 – Applicant EirGrid Plc

North – South 400kV Interconnector

Dear Secretary,

Firstly, I recognise and support the need for the National Electricity Grid to be upgraded and expanded to international best standards as soon as is possible.

I am aware of the public concern surrounding the extensive use of pylons in the roll out of any new grid infrastructure.  As a result some National Grid projects are being seriously delayed by legitimate public objection and concern; including concerns relating to health, tourism and tourism related business, devaluation of property, impact on the natural landscape, heritage & farming activity.

For this reason I will continue to take the policy debate around the construction of high voltage power transmission very seriously; I have put a lot of time and work into understanding the challenges and potential solutions that may exist through new technology and new approaches for the undergrounding of power lines.

I object to the proposal as it stands as I believe that the alternative methods of power transmission by underground cables (UGC’s) have not been fully investigated.

Overhead lines have many perceived negative effects therefore there is a duty to fully investigate the use of all the alternatives & where possible to use these alternatives to protect our communities from such negative effects.  Also there is the need to ensure that exchequer funds will not be wasted.  Reports have shown that although UGC’s may cost more in the short term, over the long term it is my view that they can be more cost effective.

It is my belief that EirGrid have not fulfilled to fully investigate the undergrounding of this project, the reason being that EirGrid started this project with the intention to use overhead power lines (OHL’s).

Therefore I am convinced that EirGrid entered into this project with the preconception that it would be done with OHL’s without fully investigating the option of using UGC’s.  The well documented failings of EirGrid to properly engage with the people of the North East at the start of this project are a result of not having an open mind on this.

In my opinion EirGrid a State Body, has a duty to follow international best practice, to use the most up to date technologies available in the delivery of their projects and where possible to avoid the use of pylons to carry its infrastructure, which are undoubtedly a blight on our natural landscape.

I object to this proposal by EirGrid in its current form and I would ask that the following points are considered by An Bord Pleanala in your deliberations on the matter:

The real cost of potential planning delays & consequences for the power supply of the North East and Ireland has not been factored in to this project.  Indeed delays to projects in Europe are also common.

This project’s original date of completion was 2012.  It has already been significantly delayed.  Whereas the East West interconnector, which used UGC’s, was delivered on schedule, having completed the planning process in less than 10 months.

In my opinion the same DC UGC being used in the East West project should be used for this proposed project.  I do not believe that this option has not been fully investigated for this project.  There has been no clear, convincing argument why this cannot be done.

The PB Power Report, which is used by EirGrid to unfavorably claim that UGC is not cost effective, in my view is not credible.  I believe there are a lot of questions hanging over this report that needs to be independently assessed.

This BP Power report is used by EirGrid to claim that it is not cost effective to use UGC for this project.  I have reservations with the assumptions made in the report to costings especially as the use of outdated technology was used.  The most up to date cabling options were not used in their costings at the time

The TEPCO Report and the PB Power Report deal with this project as one 140km power line.  Their calculations and assumptions are based on this.  This is wrong.  The project is 3 separate lengths, the longest being 57 kms.  This unfairly skews the argument unfavourably towards the use of OHL’s as it is difficult to find a comparable completed project of similar length.  But there are comparable projects of similar length between 10 and 50 kms.

On costs; there is a need arising from this process for a greater scrutiny of the costs of pursuing this project through the use of UGC’s.  An analysis of the savings both in the time lag and in the cost of potential future legal proceedings by pursuing this project by way of OHL’s needs to be factored in to the total cost of the delivery of this project. This will close the difference in cost of OHL’s V UGC.

On reliability; EirGrid put forward the argument that the use of UGC’s is not an option for the North-South Interconnector due to technical and reliability matters.    I am of the view that EirGrid have not shown the proof that would discount the use of UGC’s for this project.  I would urge An Bord Pleanala to address this matter by seeking independent expert advice on this aspect of the project delivery.

EirGrid maintain that it is not possible to underground this project. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources appointed an international expert commission to review the case for and cost of undergrounding the Meath-Tyrone 400 kV power line. On 21st February 2012 they presented to the Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture hearing in the Oireachtas.  At this hearing the international expert commission representative stated “If the option is to underground the connection along the whole or main part of the route with today’s technology, the best solution is a VSC HVDC solution combined with XLPE cable”.  In essence it was confirmed that the project, using technology available in 2012, could be pursued by UGC.

I would ask that An Bord Pleanala seek the opinion and views of those who authored this report.

I understand from EirGrid that if the project was to proceed by way of UGC’s that a convertor station would need to be constructed at each end of the line – therefore greatly adding to the cost of pursuing this option.  I would put forward that the convertor station currently positioned and operational at Woodlands in Co. Meath could be used for the southern end of the project, therefore significantly reducing the costs of undergrounding and making the project more affordable.  

In conclusion as a public representative I object to this proposal as it stands as I believe that the alternative methods of power transmission by underground cables has not been fully investigated or considered.

I believe that with a project of this scale there is a duty to use the most up to date technology available to protect people, their health and their community.  Other countries have made great strides in putting new regulations in place for transmission of power.  Some countries are clearly pursuing the undergrounding of cables for new comparable projects, notably in Denmark.

I wish An Bord Pleanala the very best in their deliberations on this matter.



Minister English congratulates new Rose of Tralee



“A fantastic Ambassador for her County, her Country, and her Generation”

I want to congratulate the new Rose of Tralee, Bettystown native and medical student Elysha Brennan on her victory at the Kerry festival this week.

Elisha’s personal courage and bravery in fighting cancer in her teens whilst completing her Leaving Certificate, and going on to do her medical studies, coupled with becoming the Meath Rose, and her brilliant performance on the first night of the festival which put her in pole position, combine to make her a fantastic Ambassador for her County, her Country, and her Generation.

Elisha’s victory is one that all of us in Meath can be proud of.  Like our recent victories in the Special Olympics in Los Angeles and the World Skills games in Brazil, it says a lot about the resilient, talented and innovative nature of Meath people, both at home and abroad. Best wishes to Elisha for a busy year ahead.

Enfield’s Andrew Bushe wins Medal of Excellence at World Skills Competition in Brazil

Enfield, Skills

Andrew Bushe from Enfield

I want to congratulate local man Andrew Bushe, of Enfield, on his Medal of Execellence for Automobile Technology at the World Skills Competition in Brazil last week. He has done Enfield, Meath and Ireland proud.

Andrew Bushe was part of a wider Irish team, including David Morgan from Rathmoylan, and 12 others, who ranked 11th out of 60 countries overall. This was a great achievement. Two Irish team members won gold medals, and eight other competitors including Andrew Bushe were awarded Medals of Excellence.

It was my pleasure to see our Irish World Skills team off to Brazil, and I am so proud now to hear of Team Ireland’s brilliant results, especially Andrew at a local level. These talented young people represent the fantastic skills and talent that our Irish apprentices and trainees have to offer.  I congratulate them all, and would like to thank their trainers and mentors for their important roles in these excellent results. With an increased offering of apprenticeships announced in recent weeks, I have no doubt that future teams will build on this year’s success, and I look forward to seeing Ireland increase our national ranking when following in the footsteps of this brilliant team.

Local food processors urged to apply for new Organic grant aid scheme

Farming, Food, Funding

I wish to welcome the opening of the new Grant Aid Scheme for the Development of the Organic off-farm Processing Sector, and urge Meath based processors, who have shown a great interest in innovation and expansion, to apply.

The new scheme, which is wholly exchequer-funded, runs for the lifetime of the Rural Development Programme and will support investments for off-farm projects. Processors can apply for grants of up to €500,000 for investment in facilities for the processing, preparation, grading, packing and storage of organic products with minimum level of investment in excess of €3,000. €5m has been earmarked for the new scheme over its lifetime.

This Government is committed to developing the organic sector as an opportunity for the Irish agri-food sector in general and this Scheme is a further initiative to help existing organic processors meet the growing demand for organic food, both in Ireland and abroad.

Furthermore I am aware that many Meath companies have already made strides in this area, and will wish to continue to do so. Many Meath food companies have shown a flair for innovation in their enterprises, which as well as leading to new, local and sustainable jobs has resulted in Meath Enterprise, Meath County Council and industry partners seeking to make the County a Food Innovation and Research Hub of national and indeed international standing. I fully support these stakeholders in their efforts to create the Boyne Valley Food Hub.

Substantial support for organic farmers already exists through the new TAMS Organic Capital Investment Scheme which was launched recently and this new off-farm scheme now offers similar support for the organic processing sector.

Copies of the terms and conditions of the new Grant Scheme, together with application forms, are available from the Organic Farming Unit, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. Email: Phone: 053-9163400

Local companies should use Trading Online Voucher Scheme

Business, Funding, I.T., Research and Innovation, Startups

Online firms experience an 85% boost in customer inquiries and a 21% average increase in sales according to new report

I urge Meath and Westmeath businesses to avail of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. It was launched by the Government in 2014 to boost the number of small firms that exploit the growing digital economy. It offers small businesses a grant of up to €2,500 – subject to matching funding – as well as training, mentoring and networking support to help them develop their online trading capability.

Over 70% of small businesses that have participated in the Government’s Trading Online Voucher Scheme so far expect to recruit more staff, according to a recent survey published by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. On average, the small firms that expect to take on extra workers predict a jobs-dividend of almost 15%. I want to see more Meath and Westmeath businesses being part of this growing commercial and digital revolution.

The report, Growing Small Businesses Through Online Trade, also shows that small firms which start to trade online, or develop their existing online presence, experience an 85% boost in customer inquiries and a 21% average increase in sales.

The digital economy is predicted to grow to some €21 billion by 2020. It is estimated that Irish consumers spend €700,000 online every hour of the day, 365 days a year. Up to 70% of this spend goes to companies based abroad, and fewer than one in four small Irish businesses currently have an online capacity. They are also unable to compete in the international market where it is estimated that over 3 billion people buy online.

The digital economy represents 5% of Ireland’s GDP, a figure that is growing by around 20% a year. This is significantly higher than the overall economic growth rate. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme aims to get 2,000 more small Irish traditional businesses trading online by the end of 2015.

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices nationally, including in Co. Meath, distribute the vouchers, as well as provide training, mentoring and networking support for the businesses in question. They can be contacted at or 046 9078400.

Or if living in Co. Westmeath: or 044-9338945.

Minister English Welcomes the Leaving Certificate Examination results


Congratulations to the 57,929 candidates who sat their Leaving Certificate in June and who received their results today. 

I am delighted with the continuing increasing trends in uptake in the sciences and mathematics, particularly in Physics, Chemistry and Applied Mathematics. A significant number of candidates, at 27.4%, chose to sit the Higher Level Maths paper. This is up from 15.8% in 2011 but reflects a similar percentage to last year.
The number of candidates in Chemistry has increased to 8,938 this year up from 8,156 in 2013 – an increase of 9.6%; for physics the increase was even better at 16.4 % from 6,448 candidates in 2013 to 7,508 in 2015. The number of candidates taking Applied Mathematics has risen from 1,599 in 2013 to 1,919 this year. This increasing trend is also to be seen in Agricultural Science where totals have risen from 7,414 in 2013 to 7,672 in 2015.
Similar increases are evident in the engineering and technology suite of subjects. For Engineering the number of candidates has increased from 4,881 in 2013 to 5,376 this year. For Construction Studies the increase is small but it is moving in a positive direction from 8,113 in 2013 to 8,268 this year. In addition, the number presenting for Technology has also increased from 1,074 in 2013 to 1,327 in 2015.
As the Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, it is great to see the increasing numbers of candidates presenting in Leaving Certificate subjects related to the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The trends are very positive. I hope a significant number of those receiving their Leaving Certificate results today will consider a career in this very important area for Ireland’s continued economic growth.
There are so many opportunities awaiting young people in the Further Education and Higher Education sectors and thereafter in these growing sectors of our economy, and I encourage young people to give the STEM sector serious consideration now and in the future.
Congratulations to everyone receiving their Leaving Certificate result; I hope you celebrate your achievements with your family and friends in an enjoyable and responsible way.