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 the events / meetings with which my team and I were involved over the past month.
Significant update on the Technological University of the South East (TUSE)
At a meeting on 02/11/21 with Oireachtas members for the South East, Minister Simon Harris announced / confirmed that there will be a Technological University of the South East in 2022, with doors opening on the 1st of May.
I agreed with Minister Harris that it was a 'flagship day' and a 'major milestone'. I'm excited to see what the future holds now for the Institute of Technology Carlow and Carlow College, St. Patrick's with respect to this project.
As acknowledged at the meeting, there is work to be done with respect to the role that Kilkenny might have / play in TUSE and I certainly look forward to further discussions on this.
A great day for the South East!
Kilkenny farmer convicted and fined for removing 400m hedgerow during nesting season
There were more successful prosecutions for wildlife crime being reported in November such as in the case of a Kilkenny farmer convicted and fined for removing a 400m hedgerow during nesting season. Great credit to our NPWS ranger Jimi Conroy, here.
I have established a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit to support our staff on the ground, to work closely with An Garda Síochána in bringing such cases to court, and in education and awareness of wildlife crime. Find out more about this here: gov.ie - Launch of Joint Protocol Between National Parks & Wildlife Service & An Garda Síochána on Wildlife Crime (www.gov.ie)
Launch of 2022 Historic Structures Fund (HSF) and Built Heritage Investment (BHI) Schemes at Tynan's Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny
550 projects were awarded funding under the Historic Structures Fund (HSF) and the Built Heritage Investment (BHI) Schemes last year - ranging from minor but essential repairs of rainwater goods to large-scale roof repairs.
One such project is the restoration of the shopfront of Tynan's Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny, where this year’s funding announcement was made. An award of €15,000 from the Historic Structures Fund, along with investment by the owner, is helping to save the shopfront from decay and to restore some of the classic detailing which has been lost over the years. Works include timber repairs, stained glass repairs, and reinstating missing cast iron crest grills over the shopfront. The preservation of Tynan’s distinctive character helps preserve its historic identity and brings wider benefits to John’s Bridge and Kilkenny City.
For more information on the schemes, visit here: gov.ie - Minister Noonan announces €8m in funding for built heritage projects (www.gov.ie)
Remembering John Bradley
07/11/21 marked the seventh anniversary of the late John Bradley - one of the most gifted archaeologists and academics. His studies on the evolution of Irish towns was so important and of course he used his beloved Kilkenny as a template. He firmly believed that Kilkenny was of such significance as a medieval town that any encroachment on its integrity was unacceptable. He was a welcome voice in the campaign to complete the ring road. The above photo was taken on a memorable night in the town hall when I launched John's wonderful book on the 1609 Charter of Kilkenny, marking the 400th anniversary of the King James charter conferring city status on Kilkenny.
Visit to Windgap in Kilkenny
My visit to Windgap in County Kilkenny reaffirmed my view that local activism, volunteering, and a collective will and vision is the bedrock of vibrant rural communities.
I visited Scoil San Nioclás and heard of all the great work being done for biodiversity by the whole school. Parents were outside, busy putting finishing touches to the Pollinator ground cover area. What a wonderful school!
In the community hall and café we were treated to delicious home baking and looked at plans to expand activities in the hall and bring it towards carbon neutrality.
I walked around the grotto, looped walk, and upper village. The grotto is truly unique - lots of work completed to manage invasive species.
The old dispensary has been deep retrofitted to become a family home; an exemplar of repurposing and adding to the population
Windgap has the very last land league house remaining in the country. In our discussions we considered potential uses such as a local information centre / museum for the wider Linguan Valley heritage trail.
This is a thriving and resilient rural community, constantly innovating and adapting to new challenges and opportunities. Míle buíochas leis an pobail go léir.
Architecture Master Prize for Butler Gallery in Kilkenny
I was delighted to see Butler Gallery in Kilkenny win an Architecture Master Prize in the Restoration + Renovation category for the work undertaken by McCullough Mulvin Architects! This is a wonderful and richly deserved achievement for Butler Gallery and posthumous recognition to the vision of the late Niall McCullough.
Carlow Town Bus Service Update
As I wrote in October, and as the National Transport Authority confirmed to me in November, we will finally see movement on the Carlow Town Bus Service in 2022!
Here is what the NTA have said:
"The NTA will be commencing the tender process to procure an operator for the Carlow Town bus services in the coming weeks by inviting suitable candidates to prequalify for the tender. Prequalified candidates will be subsequently invited to tender, with the contract expected to be awarded in the middle of 2022. Following contract award, there will be a mobilisation period to enable the successful tenderer to recruit and train staff, take ownership of and fit out the depot and take delivery of the buses being provided by the Authority to operate the services. It is anticipated that services will commence operating in late Q3 / early Q4 2022.
In parallel, the NTA is progressing with the delivery of all necessary bus stop infrastructure and turning / layover facilities will be delivered during the first half of 2022."
This is such welcome news for Carlow!
KCLR interview from COP26
It was great to be able to check in with local radio station KCLR from the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow. I discussed with them my involvement in the international conference: speaking about peatland restoration as a nature-based solution to tackling carbon emission and hosting an event on dialogues towards a European peatlands initiative.
You can find my first COP26 contribution here: My first COP26 speech: Peatland restoration - a nature-based solution (malcolmnoonan.com)
You can read my second COP26 contribution here: My second COP26 speech: Dialogues towards a European peatlands initiative (malcolmnoonan.com)
You can see my concluding remarks at COP26 here: My COP26 concluding remarks and panel session response (malcolmnoonan.com)
Update from St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny
It was really fantastic to receive the news from Professor Garry Courtney - Clinical Lead at St Luke's Hospital #Kilkenny - that their new MRI has finally arrived and been installed into their new MRI Suite! Congratulations to all responsible for this wonderful achievement!
Professor Courtney was telling me that the hospital opened on the 18th of December 1941 at a complete cost of £180,000 and that the new wing will open this year around, if not on, the same date at a total cost of €50m.
I look forward very much to visiting Professor Courtney and meeting his staff when possible. They have, of course, been on the frontline of the pandemic, with 260 staff contracting the virus and, very unfortunately, 2 losing their life to it. RiP.
The good news about the MRI (and Suite) is much needed and much deserved.
One Future Carlow-Kilkenny Town Hall online event
I attended a One Future Town Hall (online) event with my fellow Carlow-Kilkenny TDs to discuss Climate Action. I get a lot from these types of events - really engaging conversation on climate action with lots of excellent questions! You can find out more about One Future here: The People's Campaign for Faster and Fairer Climate Action (onefuture.ie)
LGBT+ Community Services funding awarded to the Twilight Community Group in Kilkenny
I was delighted to see LGBT+ Community Services funding announced by my Green Party colleague, Minister Roderic O'Gorman, for a Kilkenny project called Diversity Awareness Visibility Inclusion Development (DAVID). I've been in touch with the awardee - the Twilight Community Group - to congratulate them and to express my enthusiasm in being updated on the progress of such worthwhile work. You can find more information on the funding here: https://bit.ly/30nUpgl
Launch of Community Monuments Fund 2022
I was delighted to announce the opening of the hugely popular Community Monuments Fund (CMF) for 2022. Our National Monuments Service introduced this scheme in 2020 with a fund of 900k. Last year I increased the fund to €4.2m and this year I was able to increase it again to €5m.
CMF has been truly transformative in creating thousands of hours of traditional skilled work, conserving beautiful monuments, and in turn being a catalyst to wider urban and rural development.
I have been so impressed by the work we have seen around the country so far (see here: Community Monuments Fund awards 2021 announced by Minister Noonan (malcolmnoonan.com))
I look forward to the applications rolling in . . . particularly from Carlow and Kilkenny! Go n-eirí an tádh leis na pobail go léir.
Carlow and Kilkenny included in the 2022 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme
It was great to share the news that Carlow and Kilkenny were included in the 2022 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.
Carlow Clashganney Amenity Improvements - €180,000 Borris Village Link - €246,600
Kilkenny Castlecomer Discovery Park - €50,000 Woodstock Estate - €189,045 Castlecomer Ardra Loop - €195,945 Kilkenny Countryside Park - €499,500
This is a welcome investment in outdoor recreation, cycling, and walking for the Constituency, highlighting this Government's commitment towards sustainable, healthy communities. Our outdoor spaces have been a lifeline throughout the course of this pandemic and local authorities are responding by showing ambition and leadership in making more use of this important funding stream. Further information on the scheme can be found here: gov.ie - Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces €15.5 million in funding to develop 84 outdoor adventure projects (www.gov.ie)
I attended the AGMs of both the Barnstorm Theatre Company and the Carlow-Kilkenny Green Party to review the past year and to plan for the coming year.
Meeting with Carlow-Kilkenny members of the Irish Farmers' Association
I met with Carlow-Kilkenny members of the Irish Farmers' Association to discuss with them (among many other things) their concerns around the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan.
Launch of Heritage Keepers with Burrenbeo Trust and the Heritage Council at St Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny.
I launched 'Heritage Keepers' with Burrenbeo Trust and the Heritage Council - a free programme for schools or communities that will enable them to work together to explore the built, natural, and cultural heritage of their local place and then plan action or actions to enhance their place. More info on this extremely worthwhile initiative can be found here: Discover Your Place: Become A Heritage Keeper - Heritage Council
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.