Farming, Meath, Wesmeath

€6 million annual saving to farmers in testing costs

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has welcomed the ending of pre-movement Brucellosis testing on both sides of the Border with effect from 28th September this year as good news for farmers in Counties Meath and Westmeath.

“Following the effective eradication of Brucellosis on the island, I am delighted that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and his Northern Irish counterpart have decided to remove the legislative requirement for pre-movement testing for Brucellosis. This is a major landmark in the history of disease eradication in Ireland” Minister English stated.

Following the progressive and incremental removal of compulsory controls over the last number of years, the most recent of which was the ending of Annual Round testing from the beginning of 2015, the cessation of compulsory pre-movement testing means that routine on-farm brucellosis testing will no longer be required in the Irish State.

This, according to the Department of Agriculture, will result in significant savings for livestock farmers in testing costs, estimated at €6m per annum.

Remarks on the Motion of Confidence in An Taoiseach and the Government

Meath, Wesmeath

Ceann Comhairle,

The Leader of Fianna Fáil constantly talks about Government Spin I wish to deal with facts.  

Firstly, The central charge made against the Taoiseach by the opposition was that he sacked the Garda Commissioner.  The conclusions of the Fennelly Report show that this charge does not stand up.

The facts of the report finds:
· There was no question at the meeting on the 24th March of any proposal being made that the Government consider the removal of the Commissioner from office.  

· The Commission accepts that the Taoiseach did not intend to put pressure on the Garda Commissioner to retire.

· The Commissioner decided to retire; he could have decided otherwise but he did not wish to become embroiled in legal or other conflict with the Government.
When I turn to the motion of confidence in the Government, let’s first remember where we were before taking office in 2011?

– Dark clouds

– On the brink of bankruptcy

– facing mass unemployment

– a nation gripped by despair.

There was no hope.

Four and a half years under the leadership of Enda Kenny, this Fine Gael/ Labour government has brought back hope to people. Confidence has been restored.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are facing tough times. Importantly – they believe things will get better. In believe things will get better.

This hope is backed up by facts

The facts are:

Unemployment was heading to at 15% and projected to go to 20%.

The Budgetary deficit was at €22bn in 2011, it will be down to €5bn this year.

The cost of Government Borrowings was almost 15%, it is now down to 1.63%

The economy has recovered to the same size as before the crash – but this time it’s real, not based on a property bubble

These are facts.  There is no spin. We do not need to spin the recovery. It is real.

It is real, sustainable and most importantly delivering jobs.

This is an enterprise led recovery built on exports.

This sustainable recovery will give us the ability to pay for improved services that the people deserve.

Now we have to futureproof the economy by investing in Skills, Research and Innovation. And this charge is being led by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Minister English officially opens new Athboy Alpha Learning Centre

Athboy, Education, Skills

State of the art new facilities in old St. James’ Vocational School Athboy

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innvoation Damien English T.D. has today Monday 21st September officially opened Louth and Meath ETB’s new Alpha Learning Centre in Athboy.  The new further education training centre has state of the art facilities at the old St. James’ Vocational School in Athboy.

Minister English was guest of honour at the event which also included Members of the LMETB Board, local Councillors, local clergy, Principals of the local primary and secondary schools, staff of LMETB and representatives from local community groups and organisations in Athboy and surrounding areas.

The centre is a new addition to the 8 existing Alpha Learning Centres already in operation in Co. Meath. It will provide a wide range of programmes across a variety of areas, from numeracy and literacy to Leaving Certificate programmes and Advanced and Higher Certificates. These programmes will provide a pathway to further and higher education, and will help to transform the lives of those who study there.

Minister English paid tribute to the work of Peter Kierans the CEO of Louth and Meath Education and Training Board, Sadie Ward McDermott the Adult Education Officer, and Shauna Doherty the Community Education Facilitator in delivering such a fantastic project for the people of Athboy and surrounding areas.

Taster courses were available for guests at the official opening to sample what will be on offer in the centre. It was also an opportunity for potential leaners to speak with tutors and existing learners and the Adult Education Guidance Service Team of Louth and Meath ETB.

“2014 saw 18,600 learners partaking in Further Education courses with Louth and Meath ETB. 70% of these learners received QQI awards ranging from Level 1 up to Level 6.   With the addition of the Athboy centre it is hoped to build on this success and hopefully open up employment and further educational opportunities for the people of Athboy and surrounding areas” Minister English stated.

“I have no doubt the skills that will be obtained here will enhance  participants’ prospects of obtaining employment in their chosen area, or use these training programmes as a stepping stone to progress to Higher Education.  A well-qualified local workforce is key to keeping our economic recovery on a sustainable and regional footing” Minister English said.


Meath economy moving in right direction with construction and motoring boost – English

Business, Meath

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innvoation Damien English T.D. has welcomed recent figures which show an increase of 18.5% in the number of jobs in the construction sector since this time last year, as well as figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) which confirm a 30% rise in Meath of 151 new car registrations from January to June 2015, equating to 2,490 new Meath cars on the road in that 6 month period.

“With one of the fastest drops in unemployment nationally too, under the Action Plans for Jobs launched in February 2012, aided also by Meath County Council’s new Economic Development Plan, it is clear that Meath’s economy is moving in the right direction.  We now need stability of Government nationally and sensible economic and taxation policies to keep it moving that way” Minister English said.

Amongst other positive economic indicators from both the CSO and SIMI highlighted by Minister English were the 56% rise in new sales of light goods vehicles, another sign of economic development and demand.  The cost of motoring  is now 6% lower for petrol vehicle drivers, and 9% lower for diesel drivers.  The average price of a new car has dropped by 3%.  5,600 exta  people are now employed in the motor industry nationally than in 2014, and 75% of SIMI members have a positive outlook for 2016.  Overall, concumer confidence is at a 9 year high according to the CSO.

“The latest CSO figures show that 126,000 people are now employed in the construction sector, that’s an increase of almost 20,000 in twelve months. These are national figures but the jobs are distributed across the country, including here in Co. Meath” the Meath West Fine Gael T.D. said.

“The construction sector suffered a massive decline when the economy collapsed in 2008.  At that time, 280,000 people were employed in the sector and this dropped to below 100,000 by 2012. A healthy economy must have a vibrant and sustainable construction sector, and that is what we are now rebuilding”

“Here in Meath we have many highly skilled construction workers who for too many years have struggled to find work. We have also lost many to emigration due to the property fuelled bubble propped up by the last Fianna Fail Government. Now we are starting to see growth again in this area and opportunities for Meath workers.”

“I am confident that there is plenty of room for the construction sector in Meath to grow, but we must do this in a sensible sustainable way.  We don’t want any more bubbles. We must guard against returning to the boom and bust model that failed Meath and its people in the past” concluded Minister English.

Irish Times Op Ed: Degree not the only path to a decent job

Apprenticeships, Business, Education, I.T., Jobs, Research and Innovation, Science, Skills, Startups

In the past prejudice stopped many Irish people getting good jobs. We are all familiar with stories of job notices with “No Irish need apply”. Today prejudice is still stopping Irish people getting good jobs, but now it’s our own. There is a widespread but ill-informed attitude in Ireland that sees a university qualification as the only passport to a decent job, and apprenticeships and vocational training as a poor alternative.

In reality there is a very high and growing demand for people with vocational skills. For example, 48,000 people now work in the logistics sector, and over the next five years they will be joined by another 13,500 to 15,500 workers as the sector expands.

The skill levels needed to work in the sector are increasing. Complex computer management systems and highly automated warehouses are all leading to a demand for skilled staff.

Ireland now has one of the highest proportions of people with a third-level degree in the EU. According to Eurostat, more than half of 30- to 34-year-olds (51.1 per cent) in Ireland have completed third level compared to a European average of 35.8 per cent of 30- to 34-year-olds who had completed tertiary education.

The third-level system and the graduates it produces have been key to our economic success. However, problems are beginning to emerge with the current system. The overemphasis on university is stopping thousands of young people from learning saleable skills and building worthwhile careers. Instead they are being encouraged into courses for which they are ill-suited.

One result is that on average 15 per cent of students drop out after first year (22 per cent from ITs, 9 per cent from universities and 4 per cent from teacher-training colleges). This is a waste both of the students’ time, and taxpayers’ and parents’ money.


In addition, a recent OECD report suggests 42 per cent of people in Ireland work in an area that does not match their qualification. This is above the OECD average; more importantly, about half of these people are also defined as overqualified for the jobs they are actually doing. The report estimates the cost of this mismatch to the economy at about €1.5 billion.

There are also growing concerns, among employers, about skill shortages in key areas and graduates who are sometimes not prepared for the real world of work.

We have a very good education system but there are significant gaps in how we build skills in Ireland. Academic ability is not the only valuable talent and not every profession is best learnt in an academic setting. Business needs people with strong practical skills, and apprenticeships and vocational training are key to delivering these.

We need to recalibrate the third-level educational system to focus more on learning by doing and on-the-job training if we are to address these issues.

I believe we have a lot to learn from the German and Swiss models of education. German high-school students have a choice of 344 trades where they do an apprenticeship. In Switzerland 70 percent of all 15- to 19-year-olds participate in an apprenticeship, with a 91 per cent completion rate. Moreover, in the Swiss system apprentices are also able to leapfrog to a degree and about 10 per cent do a baccalaureate or top up their training academically.

As a result both countries have lower levels of youth unemployment and large pools of talented, skilled workers.

I would like to see major moves to strengthen our dual-track third-level education in Ireland: moves designed to develop the talents of all our people, providing students with the skills to thrive in a rapidly changing environment and the opportunity to easily switch tracks as appropriate during their careers.

I want a system where both tracks are equally valued and respected, where a talented student with academic ability may well choose to go down the vocational route because it offers as good, or a better, way to develop their career as the university route does. I would like to see a much more enterprise-responsive education system to provide the skills that students and industry require.

Harmful prejudice

The establishment of Solas, the further education and training authority, has provided a foundation stone on which we can build a real dual system. It is charged with planning, funding, and championing the sector.

For Solas to succeed it needs to focus on talent, excellence and impact. Solas is in the talent business, and Ireland needs skilled workers just as much as it needs skilled graduates. The courses and training it funds must be world class, to persuade students to invest their time, and industry to invest its money in training.

Solas also needs demonstrate, with hard data and case studies, to the market, to students, and not least of all to parents, the impact of its work and the value (and affordability) of vocational training.

This summer, with my colleague Minister Jan O’Sullivan, I announced plans to double the number of apprenticeship schemes by next spring. It will, I hope, be both a first step in the journey to a truly dual system of third-level education and the first nail in the coffin of an outdated and harmful prejudice.

Damien English is Minister of State with special responsibility for skills, research and innovation

Minister English appoints Professor Jane Ohlmeyer as Chair of the Irish Research Council

Research and Innovation

The Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English, TD has announced the appointment of Professor Jane Ohlmeyer as the new Chair of the Irish Research Council. Professor Ohlmeyer is the Erasmus Smith Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin and the Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub.  She was a driving force behind the establishment of the Long Room Hub, which promotes multi-disciplinary research, and of the 1641 Depositions Project, which is now a European flagship initiative. She was also the first Vice-President for Global Relations ever appointed in TCD.

Minister English also announced five other appointments to the Council –

  • Dr. Felicity Kelliher, Senior Lecturer in Management and Co-Chair of the RIKON research group, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)
  • Professor Rob Kitchin, the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, Maynooth University (MU)
  • Professor Eithne McCabe, School of Physics, Faculty of Engineering and Mathematics, Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
  • Professor Emma Teeling, School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin (UCD)
  • Dr. Yvonne Traynor, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Kerry Group.

Welcoming the appointment of Professor Ohlmeyer, Minister English said: “Professor Ohlmeyer has an extensive and internationally renowned research track record. I am confident that the Council’s researchers will continue to make a vital contribution not alone to Ireland’s knowledge economy, but their excellent research across all disciplines impacts in so many different ways on our lives and society. I would like to thank the outgoing Chair, Professor Orla Feely, for her dedication in the role and wish Professor Ohlmeyer and the other appointees every success”.

Speaking about her appointment, Professor Ohlmeyer said: “I am honoured to be appointed Chair of the Irish Research Council. I relish the opportunity to promote research excellence in Ireland, to advocate for innovation and creativity in research, along with its relevance to Irish society, and to serve as an ambassador for all disciplines, from archaeology to zoology”.

Professor Ohlmeyer and the new members join the five re-appointed members of the Council.

€500 million EU aid package will benefit farmers in Meath & Westmeath – Minister English

Farming, Food, Funding, Meath, Wesmeath

Minister Coveney working to negotiate a positive outcome for Irish farmers

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has said that a €500 million EU aid package for farmers will be of significant benefit for farmers in Counties Meath and Westmeath.

“The announcement of this €500 million EU aid package is good news for Meath West farmers. We are waiting to find out how much will be allocated to Irish farmers.

“This fund will be used to ensure the provision of a 70% rate of advance payment payable under the direct payment schemes. The package will also enable the introduction of APS (Aids to Private Storage) for cheese and pigmeat, with better conditions for APS for other products and the introduction of additional promotional measures. I also welcome the separate announcement by the European Commission that it will re-engage in discussions with the Russian authorities concerning the restrictions imposed on certain pigmeat products.

“Clarity is now needed on how this €500 million aid package will be disbursed between EU states. We also need to know full details of the measures the European Commission is envisaging to support the market In that respect.

“I welcome the commitment of my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney to negotiate a positive outcome for Irish farmers. I am glad that the European Commission has addressed most of the points made by Ireland in the six-point plan that Minister Coveney presented to the Commission and the Council last week.

“Fine Gael is standing up for rural Ireland and working hard to spread the fruits of the economic recovery across the country. The Party’s “Standing up for Rural Ireland” is focused on ensuring that the benefits of the economic recovery are felt in every town, village, parish and home across rural Meath and Westmeath.”


Letter to the Editor of the Meath Chronicle: Jobs growth is putting lives back on track locally and nationally

Business, Jobs, Meath, Navan, Startups, Tourism

Friday, 11th September 2015

Jobs growth is putting lives back on track locally and nationally

Dear Editor,

Much of the recent commentary on jobs growth in Ireland ignores the findings of the Central Statistics Office which is independent of Government. There are many myths out there that must be challenged for the sake of fairness. Firstly though I want to say unemployment is still far too high. Whilst much progress has been made, this Government will continue to prioritise job creation until we return to full employment.

The CSO tells us we have had 11 consecutive quarters of jobs growth in Ireland. Total employment is up 126,000 since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched in February 2012. Locally here in Meath the Live Register has dropped by 27.7% or 3,229 people since the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs in 2012, one of the biggest drops in the country.

Of the extra people now at work, 91% of them are full time.  Many of these people have good conditions and prospects. Over 70% are in occupations described as management, professional, technical or skilled tradespersons according to the CSO

Over 52,000 new jobs are in the IDA and EI supported companies where pay is above average.

Commendably, 35,000 people have had the courage to set up new businesses of their own, and we must encourage more of this.

The hospitality sector, which is up 15,000 jobs, does have a higher percentage of lower paid workers. However, this sector also has a really important regional spread of new jobs.

The total number of unemployed now stands at 211,000, or 9.5%, down from a high of 15.1%. The number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 81,000, down almost 60%.

Again, despite the myths, the CSO tells us that 64% of new jobs are outside Dublin.  Employment in IDA companies and in EI companies is growing in every region.

Young people were most severely impacted by the crash. Net emigration among young people peaked at 20,000, but is now down by 56%. In 2015, of the young people who emigrated, only 14% were unemployed before they left, 48% were at work and 30% were students according to the CSO.

The value of education is underlined by the CSO. Those who study beyond 2nd-level have half the unemployment rate of early school leavers.  With 25 new Apprenticeships unveiled by my Department for roll out by 2016, there are now more training options for young and old than ever before, especially for those with a more vocational skillset.

My target as a local T.D., and Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, is that everyone who wants a job should have one, and that by 2018, all of the jobs lost in the downturn should be replaced. Every new job means a life, a family and our wider community is back on track.

Yours sincerely,

Damien English T.D.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation,

20, Watergate St.,


Minister English welcomes new law to clamp down on burglary

Law and Order, Meath, Wesmeath

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has said that a new law, which will clampdown on repeat burglary offenders, will make a significant difference in tackling crime in Counties Meath and Westmeath. Minister English was speaking following the publication of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 by his colleague Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.

“Garda Síochána data shows that 75% of burglaries are committed by the same 25% of burglars. It is clear that it is the same few who are causing trauma for many, and that the deterrents in place up until now were not enough. This new Bill is targeted at those repeat burglars who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences.

“The new Bill will mean that where a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences, the District Court will impose consecutive jail sentences. This new law will also allow the courts to refuse bail for offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary, coupled with two or more pending charges.

“I am confident that targeting repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed here in Meath West and across the country.

“Home is the place where we should all feel most safe and secure. This is why Minister Fitzgerald undertook a review of how the criminal justice system treats burglaries.

“This Bill is designed to keep repeat burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities. “In addition to the new legislation €700,000 has also been allocated to An Garda Síochána for the purchase of specialist vehicles to support the Gardaí in tacking highly-mobile criminal gangs, including those involved in burglaries.

“I hope that the Bill will be passed by the Dáil and Seanad as early as possible, so that this law can be implemented to tackle burglars affecting homes and families in Meath and Westmeath” concluded Minister English.