Lisa McDonald calls for proper catchment areas in Wexford – Wexford People, August 27 2016

‘Meaningful and proper catchment areas’ need to be introduced in order to resolve the problem concerning school transport according to Councillor Lisa McDonald.

Lisa, who has been campaigning over the difficulty to secure school places in Wexford, said that she has been speaking with several worried parents whose children have not been allocated a seat on the school bus. She said that this problem is directly linked to the fact that many students are being forced to attend school outside of their locality due to a lack of places.

‘If the government was to introduce meaningful and proper catchment areas, it would solve this problem,’ she said. ‘An awful lot of people want to send their children to schools in Wexford but they are being forced to send them to schools further afield.’

While Lisa believes that parents should have the choice on whether they send their child to school locally or elsewhere, she said that those residing within the vicinity of a school should get ‘first choice’ when it comes to school places, regardless of parental links.

In the meantime, she said that those who are being forced to travel outside of their area to attend school should have their transport funded by the government.

‘The TDs in the county need to get meeting with the Minister and Department and fund the buses for children who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to attend school outside of their area,’ she said.

‘To use a pun, Minister Bruton has missed the bus,’ she said. ‘There are no plans or joined up thinking in relation to this. If he wants to put his mark down, he should go and do what is right.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/lisa-mcdonald-calls-for-proper-catchment-areas-in-wexford-34986351.html)

Colm Neville on Brexit – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Chairperson of Visit Wexford Colm Neville believes that the recent Brexit decision is a source of huge concern for Wexford and the South East.

Exchange rates, economic uncertainty and the knock on effects of Brexit on the EU are three of the main concerns for Neville, who owns The Crown Bar, Riverside Park Hotel and the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel.

‘Possible recession in the British Economy would obviously affect the foreign travel choices of the British citizen and in turn potentially affect the number of British tourists coming to Ireland,’ he said.

‘There is nothing more disruptive and destabilising to markets and economics in general than uncertainty and the recent vote will have generated uncertainty in abundance. It’s impossible to know where this may lead and what the eventual ramifications it may have on the overall general Eurozone economy which is where our second biggest market comes from.’

According to Mr Neville, nobody can be certain what the outcome of Britain’s exit will be. He believes the most important thing to do is ‘stay calm’.

‘I believe that central Government should use the next couple of months as a cooling down period during which it should set up a dedicated taskforce of tourism industry and economic leaders with the express task of analysing the future and deciding how best to protect our tourism industry against the potential negative impact of Brexit,’ he said.

‘Losing our value for money is clearly one of our biggest threats and so we as an industry need to try and keep our costs of doing business under control and in turn remain price competitive.’

(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/business/chairperson-of-visit-wexford-colm-neville-34870373.html)

Frank is our new mayor – Wexford People, July 9 2016

From Wexford’s first rural mayor came Wexford’s first farming mayor as Cllr Ger Carthy handed over the rope and chains to new mayor Cllr Frank Staples last week.

‘I am deeply honoured to be elected mayor of this historic borough,’ Cllr Staples said in his acceptance speech following last week’s 5-4 vote at the Wexford Arts Centre. Cllr Tony Dempsey was elected as deputy mayor following a 5-4 vote.

The proud Mayglass-Ballymore man began his term of office by thanking his wife Trish, seven sons, friends, family and everyone who showed their support to him. He also thanked his aunts Eva (88) and Janie (90) for their support, along with his sister Mary who was unable to make it on the night.

Cllr Staples (58) outlined his main priorities for the coming year, of which he said mental health is a key focus.

‘We have a mental health crisis at the moment and the mental health services are struggling to deal with it. We need a dedicated 24/7 mental health facility to facilitate people in crisis.

‘We have a situation at the moment where people in desperate need of help are being turned away from hospitals because of lack of services.’

Cllr Staples said that from his own experience, he has learned that sometimes the little things can help.

‘Speaking from experience, sometimes it’s the little things that count.

‘So, don’t be afraid to ask, call or send someone a text if you know they are going through tough times, because you may be the person they open up to if you reach out to them.’

‘If you take nothing else from this evening but that you can make a positive impact on other people’s mental health, it will be worthwhile.’

Cllr Staples said his other priorities include job creation and advancing projects such as the development of Min Ryan People’s Park, Trinity Wharf Development and the Technological University for the South East. He also spoke about the Local Economic and Community Plan, which he said is ‘crucial’ for growth in the Southeast.

A tribute was also paid by Cllr Staples to his friend and colleague the late Cllr Fergie Kehoe.

‘A lot has been said about Fergie and I suppose if I was to pay him a compliment, it was hard not to be his friend, because once Fergie got to know you he would be your friend.’

Outgoing mayor Cllr Ger Carthy received unanimous praise from his colleagues for his year in office, with many paying reference to the more difficult tasks he has taken on over the past 12 months.

All of the councillors paid their best wishes to the new mayor, including Cllr George Lawlor, who joked that he was Wexford’s first farming mayor.

Following the election of deputy mayor Tony Dempsey, Cllr Staples said that he was delighted to have him on board.

‘I look forward to working for Wexford Borough and District with you in 2016 and 2017.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/frank-is-our-new-mayor-34870319.html)

Oylegate bypass may not go ahead despite earlier indications – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Plans to extend the M11 south of Oylegate after the completion of the Enniscorthy bypass appear to be ‘dead in the water’ according to Fianna Fail TD James Browne.

But the County Council remain hopeful that the project can proceed, despite the Fianna Fail deputy’s concerns.

Work on the proposed four km extension to the southern end of the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass was expected to begin at the end of 2018. However, in a letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Deputy Browne was informed that the proposed Oylegate to Enniscorthy bypass road improvement scheme is not included in the Government’s capital investment plan from 2016 to 2021. It went on to say that ‘the further advancement of the proposed scheme cannot be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.’

‘The letter doesn’t just seem to be saying it won’t be advanced. It seems to be saying it’s not going in ahead. To me, it looks like it’s dead in the water,’ explained Deputy Browne, who received the letter after he put a parliamentary question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.

‘I was under the impression that it was to go ahead following announcements during the General Election and articles I have read. However, the government have decided that it’s not part of their plans.’

Director of Services with Wexford County Council’s Road Department Eamonn Hore said that the extension was never part of the government plan but said that they are ‘quietly confident’ that it is still going ahead.

‘It never was part of the government plan. The contract is for the bypass of Enniscorthy but we have made the case that it doesn’t make sense to stop there. At the very least, it should stop after Oylegate,’ he said.

‘The TII agreed to fund the exploration if it,’ he continued. ‘On foot of the recommendations made by Wexford County Council, they have decided to look at it.

‘It’s definitely going to happen at some stage but we can’t put the money in place until we have examined the different routes.’

Mr Hore said that they are taking the process in steps and still hope to have the design and funding secured so that work will commence at the end of 2018.

Mr Hore said that it was not in their view that the extension had been scrapped, adding that he thinks wires have been crossed.

‘From every point of view it makes sense not to bring the dual carriageway to a halt north of Oylegate and we are being listened to. It was never in the programme.’

In February, County Manager Tom Enright announced that approval had been received from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that the M11 project could proceed beyond Oylegate. Speaking to this newspaper in June, he said he hoped that the proposed extension would get underway at the end of 2018. He went on to say that the county council was currently arranging the procurement of consultants to carry out the detailed design work for the extension, which will cost around €30 mn.

However, Deputy Browne was not hopeful following the TII response.

‘The bypass is necessary. If it doesn’t go ahead, Oylegate will be the only village or residential area between Belfast and the Rosslare Europort. This will mean a lot of cars and heavy goods vehicles will continue to travel through Oylegate.’

‘The village will effectively come to a standstill,’ added Deputy Browne, who said that he expects traffic jams similar to those in Enniscorthy to hit the village.

According to him, the village is already dealing with heavy traffic at certain times.

However, Oylegate-based councillor Willie Kavanagh doesn’t view the current traffic situation as an issue and said that he has not witnessed any traffic jams during his 40 years in the village. He said that, if the bypass doesn’t go ahead, he doesn’t expect traffic to increase.

As owner of The Slaney Inn, Cllr Kavanagh said the bypass will not affect his business whether or not it goes ahead, saying that most of his customers are local. However, he said it could have a huge hit on the local supermarket, restaurants and filling station in the village, which rely on visitors and passing motorists for trade.

However, according to Deputy Browne, scrapping the extension will have an impact on Oylegate and the wider community.

‘It is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wexford town. if there are serious transport problems for those travelling from Wexford to the airport and other places, it is going to have an impact on business.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/oylegate-bypass-may-not-go-ahead-despite-earlier-indications-34870325.html)

Arts officer seat remains vacant – Wexford People, June 23 2016

The seat for an Arts Officer in Wexford has been vacant since July 2015, despite an advertisement for the position last July and again in March 2016.

Following the departure of Arts Officer Rosaleen Molloy in June 2010, Sinead Barden was chosen as a replacement as the result of a competition. However, due to an employment embargo in public sector recruitment, this position was only temporary.

The post became vacant again in July 2015 and a call for applications was put out soon after. When no candidate was found, the position was readvertised on March 29 2016 but the position still remains unfilled.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne drew attention to the vacancy at the recent Wexford County Council meeting and later, highlighted the need to have it resolved as soon as possible.

‘It is a matter of emergency that we need an Arts Officer so that he or she can begin to develop a strategic arts development plan for the county,’ he said.

‘Wexford has always had the lead on the arts and it provides huge social and economic opportunities in the county. Given that we are bidding for the position to host the European Capital of Culture, it would be very unfortunate for one of the Three Sisters not to have an Arts Officer in place,’ he said.

Since July 2015, staff at the arts office have taken on some of the tasks that are usually carried out by the Arts Officer. Cllr Byrne commended them for their work.

‘I have to compliment the arts office staff who have been putting in trojan work over the last period. They haven’t let the side down.’

Cllr Byrne said that he understands that interviews will take place within the next fortnight and expects an announcement on a new officer to be made within the next four weeks.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/arts-officer-seat-remains-vacant-34824182.html)

New park to honour Min Ryan – Wexford People, April 28 2016

A new 18-acre park at Killeens is to be named in honour of local woman Min Ryan who played a key role in the 1916 Rising.

At a meeting of Wexford Borough District yesterday (Monday), the members welcomes and unanimously approved the proposal to name the neighbourhood park after Mary Josephine (Min) Ryan of Tomcoole.

They were joined by Min Ryan’s son Professor Risteárd Mulcahy and her grandson, businessman Richard Mulcahy and granddaughter Lisa, who offered a generous donation of €200,00 towards the new park. Wexford Credit Union will also support the new development.

Planning approval was recently granted for the €1.2m park by Wexford County Council. It’s expected that construction will commence later this year and be completed by Autumn 2017.

A qualified teacher, Min and her family were deeply involved with the Rising. She established the London brand of Cumann na mBan. During the Rising, Min and her sister Phyllis acted as couriers to the GPO garrison. Min became romantically involved with one of the signatories of the proclamation, Seán McDermott, and visited him in his cell shortly before his execution.

In 1919 Min married Richard Mulcahy, who was second-in-command to Thomas Ashe in the defeat of the armed Royal Irish Constabulary at Ashbourne during the Easter Rising. Following a period at the Frongoch internment camp, Mulcahy took command in the pro-Treaty forces in the Civil War. He was leader of Fine Gael from 1944-48.

Richard Mulcahy and his sister Lisa, and their father Risteárd attended the Borough Council meeting where they presented an account of Min’s life.

‘Our family is delighted to have the opportunity to support Wexford’s newest neighbourhood park and in doing so, pay tribute to a dynamic and progressive-thinking woman who played such a prominent role in Irish politics,’ said Richard.

Risteárd added: ‘My mother Min always maintained a keen sense of pride in her county of birth throughout through her life and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to her than to have her name associated with this wonderful public amenity located only a short distance from where she was born and grew up.’

Mayor of Wexford Councillor Ger Carthy spoke of the Ryan family’s legacy and on behalf of Wexford County Council, thanked the Mulcahy family.

‘The Min Ryan Park will be a lasting testimony to Min, her husband Richard, her siblings and wider family and will be a fantastic public amenity to be enjoyed by all for decades to come,’ he said.

Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright described the naming of the park as a ‘timely acknowledgement’ of Min Ryan and her siblings as one of Wexford’s most illustrious families.

(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/new-park-to-honour-min-ryan-34661836.html)