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 / occasions with which my team and I were involved over the past month that have Constituency relevance.
On 05/01, I had my first media engagement of 2022 and kept it local with Eimear Ní Bhraonáin on KCLR 96 FM. We discussed schools reopening, the pandemic, my family's COVID Christmas, my ministerial work, farming, and sightings of swallows in Ireland.
Funding for Landmark Regeneration Projects
I'm delighted to have worked with my Governmental colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys, and Kilkenny County Council to help secure substantial funding for Callan, #Kilkenny and the project: Callan Friary Complex/Upper Bridge St Regeneration & Masterplan for the historic core of Callan Town.
This project is focused on the regeneration of the historic core of Callan Town and will develop plans to redevelop existing historical buildings to provide a library, youth, community, arts space, and a remote working hub.
It aims to provide civic, cultural, enterprise, and community facilities in the centre of Callan that will drive economic activity and revitalise the town. #OurRuralFuture Further info: gov.ie - Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces €21.5 million for 27 landmark regeneration projects nationwide (www.gov.ie)
I'm also very happy to have worked with my Governmental colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys, and Carlow County Council to help secure substantial funding for Rathvilly, #Carlow and the project: Vision Rathvilly 2040.
This project involves the development of plans for a village regeneration project in Rathvilly, involving a multi-purpose hub in a former school premises that will provide social, cultural, economic, and community facilities and the development of a suite of public realm interventions.
It aims to re-establish social purpose and commercial function to an under-utilised public space and transform the physical environment in the village. #OurRuralFuture Further info: gov.ie - Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces €21.5 million for 27 landmark regeneration projects nationwide (www.gov.ie)
Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme I was delighted to announce the largest allocation of funding to date for the Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme. This year, for the first time, projects relating to fens are eligible for funding as well as raised and blanket bog areas.
Our peatlands play an important role in contributing to our biodiversity, sense of place, and well-being. I thank the community groups who've participated in this scheme so far and encourage all schools and peatland community and voluntary groups, particularly those in Carlow-Kilkenny, to look at the funding now available.
Further info: https://www.gov.ie/.../95cbd-community-peatlands.../
Closing Date Reminders for Departmental Funding Schemes
I was and am keen to remind my constituents that the closing date for the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2022 and for the Historic Structures Fund 2022 is fast approaching.
Owners are invited to make an application through their Local Authority (e.g., Carlow County Council, Kilkenny County Council), which must in turn be submitted to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage by 11/02/22. Partnership projects by state-funded organisations should submit applications directly to the Department. Details of the schemes and how to apply are available on all local authority websites and the Department’s website: www.housing.gov.ie Further info: https://www.gov.ie/.../07634-minister-noonan-announces.../
I was and am keen to remind my constituents that the closing date for the Community Monuments Fund 2022 is also fast approaching!
Applications for grants can be made by Local Authorities (e.g., Carlow County Council, Kilkenny County Council) for works to archaeological monuments in public ownership, where a clear heritage focus and community or public benefit has been demonstrated, and also projects proposed by Local Authorities on foot of applications from private applicants who are the owners or custodians of monuments. In addition, eligible applications with a strong community benefit may be sent direct to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage from State-funded organisations working in the heritage area. Further info: https://www.gov.ie/.../ddecc-minister-for-heritage.../
River Basin Management Plan
Our public consultation process is still open for the next cycle of a River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) for Ireland. We're hoping to get out in the next few weeks to meet communities to hear their views on how we can bring our rivers, lakes and estuaries up to good ecological condition. In the meantime you can use our online participation tool to put your ideas and views forward on this important plan: gov.ie - Public Consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022-2027 (www.gov.ie)
BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition
12/01 was the day for Loreto Secondary School Kilkenny, Castlecomer Community School, Coláiste Pobail Osraí, CBS Kilkenny, and St. Kierans College at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. A brilliant effort from all students and teachers / mentors. #BTYSTE2022 #BTYSTE #BeyondLimits Further info: https://btyoungscientist.com/
Remembering Aisling Murphy
On 13/01, the community of Kells in County Kilkenny was out in solidarity with the community of Tullamore as they came to terms with the loss of Aisling Murphy. Our thoughts and prayers were and are with Aisling's family, her pupils, teaching colleagues, and friends as we all grieve her tragic loss. Women and girls should feel safe and should be safe. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.
National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022 - 2027
A key part of #HousingForAll is the provision of inclusive housing and creating inclusive communities for people with disabilities. On 13/01 my colleagues Ministers Darragh O'Brien TD and Peter Burke TD launched a five year strategy for housing for people with disabilities - an important enabler of co-designing sustainable homes and inclusive communities. Further info: gov.ie - New National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022 – 2027 launched (www.gov.ie)
Launch of The Missing Link: The value of energy storage in the All-Island market
A beautiful misty morning at Burrell hall in Kilkenny on 17/01 as I launched 'The Missing Link: The value of energy storage in the All-Island market. The report was commissioned by the Irish Energy Storage Association (IESA) of which 3CEA CEO and local Paddy Phelan is Chair. It's an important report which outlines the economic, environmental, and social advantages of developing a coherent policy and regulatory regime for storing surplus generated energy. Energy storage can reduce the equivalent amount of wasted renewable energy to power all households in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, and Drogheda combined. Next stop, we hope to take the report for consideration at the Oireachtas Climate Committee. Congratulations to IESA.
Remembering Patrick Lydon
On the evening of 18/01 we learned of the passing of Patrick Lydon in Westcourt, Callan, County Kilkenny. I had the privilege of presenting Patrick with the inaugural Nore Vision Community Activist of the Year award last year in the beautiful walled garden of Westcourt and in the presence of his wonderful family - a treasured encounter captured here on film.
Patrick had a great ability to see the bigger picture and localise and condense it all into interrelated projects that had a coherence and shape of what a sustainable, inclusive, creative, nature-rich, and climate-safe future might look like. Our paths first crossed through rock 'n' roll stories but over the years I grew to admire his thinking and his vision. It influenced me greatly in my work. Our family has fond memories of the annual open day in Camphill, Ballytobin, the second important September Sunday marked in many calendars in Kilkenny. Patrick was usually spinning the wheel of fortune. Even as his health declined he still held that spark and desire to finish out projects, to get Nore Vision up and running . . . Patrick leaves an important legacy, a life's work in inclusion and participation. My condolences to Gladys, Colum, Dominic, Ruth, Sara, and Patrick's wide network of friends across the world. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Safe journey, Patrick. X
Leave No Trace Ireland
Invasive species are a serious threat to our biodiversity and on 19/01, I was happy to support the efforts of Leave No Trace Ireland and their partners in their new campaign to raise awareness about Check, Clean, and Dry protocols.
CHECK boats, equipment, clothing and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
CLEAN and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any plants and animals, leave them at the water body where you found them.
DRY all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours – some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. (NOTE : If complete drying is not possible then disinfect everything).
I was delighted to see my Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage's strong engagement in this initiative through Waterways Ireland and the National Parks & Wildlife Service and hope that it will help to improve vital biosecurity measures all over this island’s waterways. #CheckCleanDryIrl Further info: https://bit.ly/3tGmMCG Resources: http://invasives.ie; http://invasivespeciesireland.com
Creative Ireland Local Authority Projects
I was happy to share the news of an important funding announcement for Creative Ireland Local Authority Projects! Further info: https://bit.ly/3qGlBkz
Collaborative Town Centre Health Check
Following a really positive and engaging meeting I attended with Kilkenny County Council, Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce, the LEO office, and Alison Harvey of the Heritage Council, I was delighted that Kilkenny City will be prioritised on phase one of the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC).
The CTCHC programme is a really useful means of town teams and all partners establishing baseline data on issues such as footfall, vacancy (both retail and above-shop), mobility, transport, and other issues impacting on the vibrancy of town centres.
It's an important time for our town centres with the imminent launch of our Town Centres First policy, a range of grant and incentive programmes on heritage-led regeneration and mobility, and a whole rethink of our historic urban centres post COVID.
Thanks to Councillor Maria Dollard, Marion Acerman, Pat Crotty of Paris Texas, Kilkenny County Council, Kilkenny Chamber, and to Ali Harvey. Exciting times ahead!
Meeting with Nuncio Road Residents
On 21/01, my colleague, Councillor Maria Dollard and I, along with city engineers, met with the residents of Nuncio Road, Kilkenny to discuss traffic and pedestrian and cycle safety. All are agreed that this important route is in need of a complete re-design to improve cycle and pedestrian safety, reduce speed, and regulate parking around estates and on the road. A petition was handed over to us and we agreed that a public consultation process and a scheme for the area was required. This would be carried out as part of wider plans for cycling and walking, reducing car dependency, and enhancing public transport routes across the city.
This is an important route for schools and with cycling on the increase, we need to think big. We also discussed improving public lighting. Thanks to all for such a positive engagement.
Two Years of Public Health Restrictions Eased
I think this picture of Kitty and Stephen captures how we all felt on 22/01 when two years of public health restrictions eased. Nonetheless, we were and are mindful of the immense toll that the pandemic has taken - on those we lost, on mental health, on young people, on domestic violence victims, on the economy, and on society.
We were and are conscious too that there are many people with health issues who are very nervous about the scrapping of social distancing and other measures. Also the pandemic is not yet over . . . COVID-19 cases are still high across the world and vaccine equity remains an issue.
But this was a good day and we got here through the collaborative and collective effort of frontline workers and of all society. Springtime will arrive full of hope . . .
Active Travel Funding
Really welcome news on 24/01 for the country with the Green Party Ireland announcement of a substantial €289m investment in active travel - a clear message by this Government that we are committed to creating safer walking and cycling routes for those of all ages, to improving urban air quality, and to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
I was delighted to work with Carlow County Council, Kilkenny County Council, and Minister Eamon Ryan to help secure this funding for both counties and I look forward to seeing these projects making an impact on the ground.
€2.5m for #Carlow
€3m for #Kilkenny
Carlow County Council projects:
River Burren Walking & Cycle Track - €200,000 Hanover to Tyndall Pedestrian and Cycle Scheme - €180,000 Green Lane/Railway Road Junction Improvement Scheme - €40,000 Tullow Road Pedestrian and Cycle Scheme, Carlow - €200,000 Dublin Road Pedestrian and Cycle Scheme, Carlow - €140,000 Staplestown Rd/Pollerton Rd Permeability Link, Carlow - €48,000 River Barrow Walk Permeability Link, Carlow - €80,000 Tullow Town Orbital Walking & Cycling Scheme - €150,000 New Footpath Schemes - Grange, Kildavin, Borris - €50,000 Transport Studies / Mobility Plans - including Carlow Town - €200,000 Muinebheag Railway Crossings Study - €52,000 Light Segregation Cycle Schemes - €50,000 Low Cost Junction Tightening/Pedestrian Crossing Schemes - €120,000 Low-Cost Permeability Measures - €80,000 Safe Routes to Schools Programme - Support Infrastructure - €100,000 George Semple Bridge, Tinnahinch - €20,000 Mountain View Link, Hackettstown - €60,000 Rathoe Road, Tullow - €100,000 Fenagh Rd, Borris - €60,000 Springfield Park to Green Road Walking & Cycle Track - €20,000 Royal Oak Road, Bagnalstown - €20,000 Church Street, Graiguecullen - €100,000 Ashgrove, Carlow - €150,000 Cycle Parking - €25,000 Carlow County Council Active Travel Office - Staff Costs - €270,000 Total: €2,515,000
Kilkenny County Council projects:
City Centre Traffic Management Plan - €15,000 Cootes Lane to Ring Road - €150,000 Public Lighting Improvements along footpaths, walkways and cycleways - €100,000 Laneway & Street Network to West of City Centre - €100,000 Safe School Zones - €100,000 City Demarcation & Gateways - €250,000 Greensbridge Upgrade - €100,000 Ring Road Cycle Facility Upgrade - €100,000 Ancillary Cycling Facilities - €100,000 Bridge Street Callan, One Way System - €500,000 Flaggy Lane Callan footpath and cycleway - €70,000 Footpath development (various locations) - €100,000 Safe to Schools Programme - Support Infrastructure - €100,000 Low Cost Junction Tightening/Pedestrian Crossing Schemes in Kilkenny City - €200,000 Light Segregation Cycle Schemes - €50,000 Low-Cost Permeability Measures in Kilkenny City - €100,000 North Western Environs Cycle Routes Improvements - €150,000 North Eastern Environs Cycle Routes Improvements - €125,000 Southern Environ Cycle Routes Improvements - €100,000 Kilkenny City Inner Orbital Route and Pedestrian Improvement Scheme - €100,000 Footpath development (various locations) - €80,000 Vicar Street Improvement Study - €25,000 Watergate Urban Park Study - €25,000 George Semple Bridge Improvement Works Study - €25,000 Goresbridge - Bridge Improvement Works Study - €20,000 Kilkenny County Council Active Travel Office - Staff Costs - €215,000 Total: €3,000,000
Summer Works Programme 2022
€330,000 (total) to the following Carlow schools:
- S N Treasa Naomha (Primary) for Mechanical Works - Coláiste Eoin (Post-Primary) for Roofs Works
€780,000 (total) to the following Kilkenny schools:
- St Michael's National School (Primary) for Mechanical Works - S N Naomh Chiarain (Primary) for External Environment - Kilkenny College (Post Primary) for Mechanical Works - Loreto Secondary School (Post Primary) for Windows - Scoil Aireagail (Post Primary) for Electrical Works - Coláiste Cois Siúire (Post Primary) for Roofs Works - Castlecomer Community School (Post Primary) for Science Labs (including Gas Works)
Launch of Biodiversity and Heritage webinar series
I was excited on 27/01 to launch a fantastic Biodiversity and Heritage webinar series from the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network
You can still register for the remaining webinars in the series here:
Webinar 3 on 10/02 @ 09:30 - NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/.../reg.../WN_bubSvO8cTDm2vfCNI91beA
Webinar 4 on 17/02 @ 09:30 - PEOPLE, HERITAGE AND CLIMATE. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/.../reg.../WN_5JfdZ_PLRMmBEtM81Riq8g
Statement on Youth Mental Health
Some local meetings
Three important local meetings on the morning of 28/01: firstly, with the Lions Club environment committee to discuss their environmental charter; later, I met with Lisa and Naoimh from Amber Women's Refuge to discuss funding and services . . . demand has increased throughout the pandemic; finally, I attended a briefing of the HSE South East Community Healthcare team . . . we were briefed on the work within the region to manage the pandemic and rollout the vaccination programme as well as enhancing services for community-based healthcare across the region as we emerge from this phase of the pandemic.
Two school visits
I ended January with two school visits . . . the first to my old Alma Mater, St John of God in Kilkenny, where I met both junior infants and sixth class pupils to talk about polar bears, eagles, natterjack toads, corncrakes, and cycling (not necessarily in that order). Then on to Moneenroe NS, where I met the whole school and was treated to beautiful music, singing, and an update on their green schools programme and environmental issues. A tough Q&A followed but I was rewarded with a really lovely St Brigid's Cross. It's such a joy to meet so many enthusiastic pupils and teachers. It just gives me so much hope! Míle buíochas leis na daltaí agus muinteoirí go léir!
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.