As well as my important Departmental / Ministerial duties necessitating a significant amount of effort and time, so too do my equally important Constituency commitments, of which there are many. Below you will find some of the events / meetings with which my team and I were involved over the past month.
Update from Tynan's Bridge Bar House in Kilkenny
I was delighted to see that joinery works to Tynan's Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny are coming along nicely - superb traditional skills at work there.
Our built heritage grant programmes for 2022 are still open (see here: 2022 Historic Structures Fund and Built Heritage Investment Scheme launched by Minister Noonan (malcolmnoonan.com) and see here: 2022 Community Monuments Fund opening call announced by Minister Noonan (malcolmnoonan.com)) and a dedicated funding stream for shopfronts was opened in December too (more of which below).
Additional staffing resources for housing delivery to both Carlow and Kilkenny
I was very happy to announce additional staffing resources for housing delivery to both Carlow and Kilkenny County Councils.
Our Department is funding five additional posts in Carlow and six in Kilkenny County Council to add to the wonderful housing delivery teams in both counties.
I, along with my Departmental colleagues, are committed to providing resources to councils to help meet their targets under Housing for All - Government Plan for Housing.
We are working with councils to assess their needs across all of their functions as we value their vital role in delivering for communities, on climate, biodiversity, and across all of the services they provide.
Lighting in Loughboy Park in Kilkenny
A welcome gain from my time on Kilkenny County Council . . . A number of years ago, I sought budget support for a lighting scheme in Loughboy Park in Kilkenny and it was worth the wait as the lights were turned on in December! They make a big difference to safety for walkers and cyclists particularly on these dark mornings and evenings.
Thanks to the crew who carried out the site works and the local authority city engineering department.
I have also proposed that Kilkenny County Council would embark on a collaborative planning process with the local community to develop a plan for the park given its central location surrounding so many estates, schools, and amenities.
Biodiversity funding increased to €2.1m as Kilkenny Project highlights success of initiative
I announced €2.1m for the 2022 local biodiversity action fund, which includes the rollout of additional local authority biodiversity officers.
€1.5m will be allocated towards local implantation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan and €600k towards putting in place more biodiversity officers in councils across the country.
This was a key programme for government commitment, the details of which we are in the process of finalising.
Highlighted as a successful project in 2021 under this funding is Kilkenny County Council's Barn Owl Project, which carried out surveys which showed that barn owl populations are faring well in the county, after decades of declines.
Town Centres First News
Town Centres First has been a top priority of mine for some time now and I was delighted to see an important Programme for Government commitment coming to fruition in December . . .
Government announced significant investment in funding to support 26 towns map out their future development with a focus on tackling dereliction, vacant properties, and making town centres more attractive places to live, work, socialise, and run a business.
This is all part of the Government's and my Department's forthcoming Town Centres First policy. Further info: gov.ie - Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces €2.6 million for the development of the first ever Town Centre First Plans (www.gov.ie)
A Living Tradition launched in Kilkenny
An important day for Ireland's built vernacular heritage came in December as I formally launched 'A Living Tradition - A Strategy to Enhance the Understanding, Minding and Handing on of Our Built Vernacular Heritage'.
We gathered in Mooncoin parish hall in County Kilkenny and then travelled on to the hamlet of Luffany to meet the owners of homes in a unique and historic settlement.
The strategy was a real labour of love for Barry O'Reilly and Jane Wales in our built heritage department and we now have a plan to conserve these wonderful structures, support those who care for them, and to foster the skills needed for their conservation.
We were joined by conservation officers, heritage officers, thatchers, and stone masons as well as Ian Doyle from the Heritage Council. Thanks so much to Cllr Pat Dunphy for introducing us to residents and to the great folk at Mooncoin parish hall for the hospitality.
Carlow-Kilkenny Green Party Christmas walk
I had the opportunity to go on the Carlow-Kilkenny Green Party Christmas walk by the river Nore in Kilkenny. It was a really lovely morning of chat, walking, and coffee at the market as we broke up for 2021 and looked forward to Christmas and the year ahead. Thanks to all members for their hard work!
#HousingForAll trip to Carlow
First up, Carlow Build in Milltown, Garryhill, #Carlow to see their quality and sustainable modular homes that can be assembled on site in just one day!
Next up an official opening with Túath Housing Association and Carlow County Council in Cois Dara, Chaplestown in #Carlow where 31 families will enjoy new homes early in 2022!
Last of all, an official opening of age-friendly houses with Tinteán - Carlow Voluntary Housing Association Ltd and Carlow County Council in Pollerton, #Carlow. Note the reserved seating for some! #HousingForAll
Pandemic-related investment in schools in Carlow and Kilkenny
I welcomed a timely pandemic-related €2.34m investment from my Governmental colleague, Minister Norma Foley, and the Department of Education for schools in Carlow and Kilkenny for: improved ventilation, enhancement of outdoor learning environments, and maintenance and improvements. Further info: https://www.gov.ie/.../15e7d-minister-foley-announces.../
Carlow and Kilkenny news from Irish Water
I was happy to be able to share the following welcome update for Carlow and Kilkenny from Irish Water.
Irish Water are investing €65 million to upgrade and standardise disinfection systems across the country. The programme involves over 864 water treatment plants, pumping stations, and reservoirs across the country.
Delivering clean, safe drinking water is their top priority. Disinfection is an important part of the water treatment process. The disinfection progress kills disease-causing organisms in water.
The National Disinfection Programme ensures #Carlow will continue to have safe and secure drinking water.
Irish Water have been working with Carlow County Council to assess the water treatment plants in Carlow.
Disinfection systems at 12 plants are being upgraded and standardised. These sites include: The Parade (Bagenalstown), Royal Oak (Bagenalstown), Ballinkillin, Borris, Raheenleigh, Rathvilly, Oak Park (Carlow Town), Sion Cross (Carlow Town), Leighlinbridge, Old Leighlin, Tullow, and Bilboa Water Treatment Plants.
Irish Water have been working with Kilkenny County Council to complete a detailed assessment of the water treatment plants in Kilkenny.
The Kilkenny programme is now complete. Disinfection systems at 12 water treatment plants (WTP), pumping stations and reservoirs have been upgraded and standardised. Irish Water have also finished operational upgrades to public water supplies and pumping stations.
Sites include: Ballyragget WTP, Callan WTP (Mallaunglass), Love Lane WTP, Clogh Castlecomer WTP (Loon WTP), Gowran Goresbridge Paulstown WTP, Graiguenamanagh WTP (Coolroe WTP), Mooncoin WTP (Clonassy WTP ), Mountfinn WTP , Gorteen WTP (Gorteen Springs ), Kilmaganny WTP, Mullinabro WTP and Bawntamaneenagh (Freshford).
2022 Historic Structures Fund Irish-Language Shopfronts Stream announced
The conservation of historic shopfronts is a cause close to my heart and I was delighted to announce that a dedicated stream for Irish-language shopfronts will run again under the Historic Structures Fund in 2022.
It is my hope that the scheme will encourage and incentivise projects which preserve both our built and linguistic heritage, not only in Gaeltacht regions but across the whole country - particularly in Carlow and Kilkenny.
- Structures must be included, or eligible for inclusion, in the Record of Protected Structures;
- Grants of between €15,000 and €50,000 available;
- Fund increases visibility of the Irish language on streetscapes.
Further info: https://bit.ly/3GPnRve
Winter Solstice at Knockroe in Kilkenny
Although I'd been on many occasions, the morning of 21/12/21 was my first time to attend the solstice as Minister with responsibility for this hugely important Neolithic site.
Thanks to the local Linguan Valley community group for their care and passion for the whole landscape around this part of Kilkenny/Tipperary.
It was lovely to meet my team from National Monuments Service, Dr Muiris O'Sullivan, members of Kilkenny County Council, Heritage Council, and the wider community.
Knockroe is unique among Neolithic passage tombs in that it has two separate passageways aligned to both the rising and setting sun.
As we were guided towards dawn by tea lights set in the hedgerow, I was aware of these challenging days for us all, now being brightened slowly and my hope is that we all emerge safe and well and that we care for each other.
Details of Microgeneration Support Scheme (MSS) announced
The public consultation on the scheme (MSS) opened back in January (see here: https://malcolmnoonan.com/.../exciting-new...) and this was a part of a broader movement towards greater citizen involvement in energy policy, committed to in our Programme for Government. On 21/12/21, details of the MSS were announced.
I would encourage Carlow and Kilkenny farmers, business owners, and community organisations to look into how they will be allowed to generate their own renewable electricity and receive a fair price when they sell the excess into the grid; providing a route to market for citizens and communities.
Another big win for the Green Party in Government.
COVID-19 Stability Fudning for St Lazerian's House in Carlow
It was great to share the news that Carlow's St Lazerian's House, and their essential services for older people, were included in a timely COVID-19 Stability Funding for community and voluntary groups.
Further info: https://bit.ly/32xFXmF
A Christmas / New Year Message
We began 2021 with the rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccinations and an associated optimism that the virus would soon not have as much power over us as it had had the previous twelve months. Almost one year on and that hope remains, but, although that might appear to some as a lack of progress, there is no doubt that the reason we still have hope is due to the science underpinning the quite frankly incredible effort to assuage the negative effects of this pandemic.
I contracted COVID-19 over the Christmas period and I firmly believe that were I not vaccinated and ‘boostered’, my symptoms, which were mild, would have been much worse. We of course mourn those dear to us that we have lost along this trying way – and, unfortunately, the majority of us have had someone close to us succumb to the virus – but we do so while also daring to believe that the future holds the promise of a return to normality.
It is important that in times of uncertainty like this that we have something in which we can place our trust and right now, especially, that ought to be the scientifically supported public health measures.
I am lucky enough to have kept working throughout the last two years and it’s not at all lost on me that this has not been the case for everyone. I’m genuinely honoured to be representing the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny during these strange times. So many of you have put your faith in me and my team to help you over the past two years – welcomingly sharing with us your concerns and vulnerabilities, both pandemic-related and personal – and it has been so fulfilling to be able to come through for you. We will continue to proudly work on your behalf.
I’d like to wish each of you a Happy New Year – a year of optimism, promise, and trust.
All of the above events / meetings along with regular weekly clinics with my constituents (and with my fantastic team making representations on behalf of our constituents) about the issues that matter most to them has made for a thoroughly satisfying and worthwhile month of work here in Carlow-Kilkenny.