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.
October was of course Budget month and what I was able to secure within my Department will have will have far-reaching consequences around the country - Carlow and Kilkenny certainly included.
The NPWS Budget funding announcement comes as part of a €133.5m overall Heritage package, which includes €24m for built and archaeological heritage, including funding for the popular Community Monuments Scheme and Built Heritage Investment Scheme.
This funding also recognises the value of the role our built and archaeological heritage plays in Irish life. It will support the enhanced protection of our much-loved built and archaeological heritage by:
- creating thousands of days’ employment for skilled conservation specialists + tradespeople across hundreds of projects nationwide;
- supporting conservation, health + safety, + visitor infrastructure projects across our 87,000-hectare network of National Parks + Reserves.
This funding delivers benefits to our most precious habitats and most vulnerable species, supports work to enhance our national parks + nature reserves, and provides financial assistance and employment opportunity to those who care for our natural, built, and archaeological heritage.
This Government recognises the value of nature and the importance of addressing the biodiversity emergency and has reflected that in its Budget allocation.
I worked closely with my colleagues across the Coalition to bring NPWS funding and allocated staffing back up to pre-financial crisis levels. Protecting, enhancing, and restoring nature in Ireland is my key priority as Minister for Heritage.
Nature has been a refuge for many people over the past 18 months and more of us than ever now understand that we need to take better care of it. This budget shows that there is a collective commitment at the highest levels to doing just that. This investment will:
- Strengthen capacity to restore + protect habitats + species (incl. peatlands)
- Greatly assist in investigation of wildlife crime
- Enhance management of our National Parks + Nature Reserves
- Facilitate establishment of an expanded habitats conservation programme, which will improve and enhance Ireland’s work under the EU Nature Directives and deliver supports at more than 400 Special Area of Conservation sites across the country.
Australian Ambassador to Ireland
It was wonderful to host the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Gary Gray, his partner Pippa, and their lovely dog Ted in Kilkenny. Kilkenny put on a show for them. First stop: Clifford Reid and a boat trip on the Nore. Then: on to Kilkenny Castle with a fantastic tour guide, John. Our final stop: the historic Home Rule Club where we were greeted by the sound of a didgeridoo! We trawled through some of the archives and sat by the fire for a chat with the committee.
Thanks to all who made Gary, Pippa, and Ted feel so welcome. They were deeply impressed and want to come back for more.
As a former Member of the Australian Parliament, Gary shares a strong interest in our proposed electoral commission, political institutions, and public participation in democratic decision making. We look forward to ongoing engagement over his term of office.
St Mary's Church, Callan
I dropped out to Callan in County Kilkenny with my colleagues Councillor Maria Dollard and Councillor Joe Lyons to view the (almost) completed works to conserve the wrought iron railings and stonework at St Mary's church.
The project was led by Kilkenny County Council via Conservation Officer Francis Coady, funded by the Heritage Council, and blacksmithing was carried out by Bushy Park iron works.
It's a really stunning restoration job, finished to the highest of conservation standards, and really lifts the street as well as the church and graveyard.
These funding schemes are hugely impactful in supporting skilled labour and inspiring local communities towards activation of further heritage projects.
Invasive Species at Silaire Wood (Graiguenamanagh) and Woodstock Estate (Inistioge).
Thanks to additional funding secured in our 2021 Budget, we were able to help fund worthwhile invasive species projects such as this one in County Kilkenny . . .
Kilkenny County Council have commissioned two plans to tackle invasive species at Silaire Wood (Graiguenamanagh) and Woodstock Estate (Inistioge). Invas Biosecurity and Flynn Furney will map the problem species (himalayan balsalm at Silaire Wood; cherry laurel at Woodstock) and propose long term management and control measures. Cooperation with other agencies such as Waterways Ireland, Coillte, and neighbouring local authorities will be key to the success of the projects. The project is funded by the NPWS of my Department under the National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund 2021.
Harvest Thanksgiving at St Lachtain's Church, Freshford
I was honoured to have been asked to speak at Harvest Thanksgiving in St Lachtain's in Freshford. My talk focused on the great challenges we have in addressing biodiversity loss and how farming can respond positively through the next Common Agricultural Policy. I read a passage from one of the greatest books ever written on low impact farming: 'The One-Straw Revolution - An Introduction to Natural Farming'. It was written by Masanobu Fukuoka in 1978 and is a real manifesto towards localisation, care of the soil, and high nature value farming. Thanks to the Kilkenny Union of Parishes for inviting me. Harvest Thanksgiving is such a lovely service celebrating food and thanking those who work in farming.
Smithwick's Visitor Experience
I was delighted to have received confirmation from Diageo that the Smithwick's Visitor Experience will re-open in 2022. I am most grateful to Diageo for their positive engagement and response to the people of Kilkenny and we look forward to working with them to help with the re-opening. A huge boost to our town centre, to tourism locally, and to the heritage of brewing and indeed the Smithwick's name in Kilkenny. I spoke with Diageo head of public affairs and the company is looking forward to sharing their plans for the centre soon.
Carlow Bus Service
Back in May, I was delighted to confirm details about the proposed Bus Service for Carlow Town following extensive communication with the National Transport Authority (see here: https://malcolmnoonan.com/.../update-on-proposed-bus...). In October, I was thrilled to be able to say that funding for the rollout of the Carlow Town Bus Service is included in #Budget2022! I will seek further clarification on a timeline and if this will be the first in a fleet of electric buses for our regional town services. This is positive news for Carlow Town and will make a huge difference to wider mobility initiatives in the town and its environs.
We were on the road in the constituency. An interview at the outside broadcasting unit of KCLR re Budget 2022 was our first call and we then made a pit stop in Glasraí and Goodies on the way to meet the good folk of the Banner project in Drummond County Carlow.
Blackstairs Nature Gathering, Huntington Castle
I opened and took part in the Blackstairs Nature gathering on biodiversity in the beautiful surroundings of Huntington Castle. It was a really interesting and engaging set of panel discussions on high nature value farming, water, community participation, forestry, and lots more. Moderated ably by Ella McSweeney, it was such a useful and timely event as the convergence of many big policy decisions and actions come to the fore. It was a really inspiring day led by an inspirational group of committed people in this wonderful place.
I dropped in to Rothe House to view progress on the conservation of 28 sash windows. Rothe House was a recipient of our Historic Structures Fund 2021 and main contractors Tallis are doing a really great job. The work will conserve energy in the houses and prolong the life of these beautifully crafted windows and frames. Thanks to Kilkenny Archaeological Society and Rothe House Trust for such care of this hugely important renaissance family home as part of our shared built heritage. Thanks also to Kilkenny County Council Conservation Officer; Francis Coady. I will be announcing our 2022 round of grants soon.
Outdoor Funding for Carlow and Kilkenny
I was very happy to see that really worthwhile Carlow and Kilkenny projects were included in a €3.5m investment in Outdoor Funding from my Governmental colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys. Find county by county details in images below. #OurRuralFuture
More Constituency Trips
Back to local engagements and the first stop for Jennie and me was a Wolfwalkers exhibition reception for funding supporters in Butler Gallery. Later I addressed the awards night of Community Radio Forum of Ireland, celebrating all of the wonderful people who make content, produce, and manage community radio across Ireland. Congratulations to all recipients and in particular to our friends at Community Radio Kilkenny City.
A Woman's Culm, Coon
There was a great sense of local pride in Coon parish hall in County Kilkenny for the launch of 'A woman's Culm-keep the home fires burning' - a cine-poem by Kilkenny based artist, Pauline O'Connell. This beautiful short film honours the women who literally kept the home fires burning and played a critical role supporting the over six hundred men who served in the Castlecomer battalion during in the War of Independence era. In my address, I spoke of the broader contribution of women during the war of independence and of the struggle for equality. Pauline has really honoured these women. Thanks to the community of Coon for the warm welcome, to Willie Joe Meally for the exhibition and culm bumb, and to Pauline and all who took part in this important collaboration for the Local Legacies 1921-2021 programme.
Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce
I held the last quarterly meeting of the year with Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce. We discussed and provided updates on recurring agenda items as well as talking about the implications for Kilkenny re the National Development Plan and the 2022 Budget. I get a lot out of these meetings with the members of the Chamber. They do great work. I look forward to more of the same in the New Year.
Petition to access and extend city bus service routes
Míle buíochas, Maureen O'Dwyer! Maureen collected over 4,000 signatures in her petition to have the city bus service routes extended and to improve access for all to our city bus. Maureen presented the petition to Councillor Maria Dollard and me. Thanks to all who signed it. We'll now take it to Kilkenny County Council and the National Transport Authority for further consideration. Maureen is an inspirational campaigner . . . Greta Thunberg would be as proud of her as we are!
Tynan's Bridge House Bar
I was on location at Tynan's Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny recording a video for the launch of next year's Built Heritage grants programmes from my Department. Tynan's was one of this year's recipients of the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and craft joiners were on site on the day to begin conserving and restoring this beautiful shopfront. It's so rewarding to see the impact of these grant schemes on our our built heritage, particularly in our town and village centres. Thanks to the owners, the conservation team, and to Francis Coady the Conservation Officer with Kilkenny County Council.
At our Constituency Office in the heart of Kilkenny City the windows were all set for Halloween with a special focus on our beautiful bats!
Carlow, Kilkenny, and Connecting Ireland
The Connecting Ireland plan was announced this month by my Party colleague Minister Eamon Ryan and the difference it will make to those of us in rural villages – the local transport issues of which we are all well aware – will be significant. I very much look forward to the public consultation process bearing such fruit. You can Have your say at the NTA here: https://www.nationaltransport.ie/.../connecting-ireland.../
The Carlow details of the Connecting Ireland plan are:
The Kilkenny details of the Connecting Ireland plan are:
Young Irish Filmmakers in Kilkenny
I attended the 30th birthday celebrations for Young Irish Film Makers in Kilkenny with colleagues Minister Roderic O'Gorman TD and Councillor Maria Dollard. What a wonderful achievement for one of the most innovative and creative projects for young people in the country. Well done to all who have led YIFM down the years, supporting personal development and nurturing creative talent in so many young people, many of whom have gone on to work in film and creative industries including Cartoon Saloon.
Launching Johnny Renko's book The Last Beekeeper
We are facing an immense global challenge in tackling biodiversity loss. In this decade of ecosystem restoration, it is important that we restore our relationship with nature – specifically with the living creatures with whom we share this planet. The first step in this process is acknowledging that human beings, non-human animals, and plants are all one and the same – each playing a non-hierarchical part in the drama called: the rich tapestry of life. Johnny Renko's book will inspire young people to be a part of and indeed to lead the important conversations that are an essential starting point in bringing about such restoration, but more than that it will also motivate them further to really want to engage with this process of change and become ecologists, marine biologists, entomologists, etc. His book is a timely piece of writing and I was delighted to be associated with its launch.
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.