Speech on the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016

This is not my first time speaking in the House but it is my first time to speak on a Bill and it is an honour to do so. I begin by congratulating the Minister on her appointment. I am not sure if she is aware that she is a constituency neighbour of mine as the steps of Killinarden run up to the hills of Kilteel as Kildare North and Dublin South-West border each other. As such, I extend my best wishes to her on her appointment and wish her continued success in the role.

In terms of the matter before us, Fianna Fáil as an opposition party will freely oppose the Government on issues when merited but equally, as a constructive party and mindful of the minority Government framework which can only work when all sides play their part, agree on areas of common ground. Continue Reading →

University rankings highlights need for greater emphasis on research

As Fianna Fáil Science, Technologyh, Innovation and Research I beleive the publication of the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings highlights the need for a greater emphasis to be placed on developing Ireland’s third level research sector.

It’s important to note that there are multiple parameters driving these figures and no league table should be the primary focus of university activity. However these rankings nonetheless offer a good insight into how Irish universities are perceived internationally.

It’s positive to see TCD moving back inside the top 200 ranked universities in the world while three other Irish universities, namely UCD, RCS and NUIG, have made it into the top 250. However Ireland should be aiming to have multiple universities placed within the top 200 universities worldwide.

Ireland should be aiming to emulate the success of our near neighbour Scotland which has five universities in the top 200. Questions have to be asked as to why Irish universities are not, as a bloc, punching to that weight internationally. While the Taoiseach is busy opening SFI centres, his Government continues to underfund the third level research sector. This is preventing Irish universities from achieving their true potential.

Previous Fianna Fáil led Governments launched several successful funding initiatives for high end research, however this commitment has not continued under Fine Gael. The research sector has experienced a retrenchment under Fine Gael as there is an unhealthy focus on promoting commercial activity. This is preventing universities from focusing on progressing important research that does not necessarily have an immediate commercial application.

It’s imperative that this shift in emphasis is reversed and rebalanced in order for Ireland to continue its great tradition of pioneering research and academic excellence.

With Brexit on the horizon there is a huge opportunity for an open, welcoming nation like Ireland to attract world class researchers who are seeking a new academic home.

Sallins Playground – Planning Application Underway

The Sallins playground has taken a step closer to construction with the publication today of the planning documents by which the council seeks a “Part 8” approval to proceed with the project.

Outline location for the Sallins community playground.

Location for the Sallins community playground.

These documents are quite technical in nature but show the exact location of the proposed playground and deal with all the environmental and planning considerations that may be relevant. These proposals are on display both in the council offices and in Café Grange and any interested parties can make a submission up to the 29th September. If you support the playground I would encourage you to email a supporting submission, details how to do so are at the end. Note these documents do not get into the detailed design of the playground itself, but if you had any thoughts on that, this would also be a good time to send them to the council. I attach here all the relevant documentation. I also want to again acknowledge that the proposed playground is to be built on land owned by Sallins parish and I want to thank them for their very decent and generous accommodation in enabling this project to happen. The below image indicates the exact location where the playground is intended to sit between the church, community centre and national school. sallins_playground_location

You can review the various documentation at these links sallins-playground-part-8-application-report, sallins-playground-part-8-final-location-map-a3l-1, sallins-playground-part-8-final-a1-l-1.

The detailed design of the playground is subject to a tender process and will come after this. However it will satisfy the following high level specification:

    • The playground will cater for 1-12 years old.
    • It will contain a range of equipment for children from 1-6 and 6-12 years. The equipment may include the following. Swings, Slides, Rockers, Seesaw, Play Panels, Multi Play Units, Sand & Water Play & landscaping.
    • It is envisaged that the grass contained within the existing site will be retained where possible.
    • Additional surfaces which may be used in the design of the playground are rubber surfacing, woodchip and sand.
    • The design may also contain landscape features such as mounding, sand pit, planting and living willow structures and tree and shrub planting.
    • It is likely the construction of the playground will take 12-16weeks from starting on site to completion and opening. This timeframe is dependent on weather and ground conditions.
    • Equipment with  varying heights will be used throughout the playground to a maximum height of 5.5m
    • any surface water drainage which may be necessary will be attenuated on site.

The relevant contact is Simon Wallace, Senior Executive Parks Superintendent, Kildare County Council, Devoy Park, Naas, Co. Kildare before 4.00 p.m. on Friday 29th  September 2017.  Submissions should be clearly headed “Sallins Community Playground”  and you can send them by post or email them to swallace@kildarecoco.ie.

Telescope Switch On in Offaly

20476417_10155364678036047_5891420325048509082_nI was in Birr Castle recently for the switch-on of the I-LOFAR radio telescope which is Ireland’s part of a giant European telescope which can scan deep space. It works as a set of distributed nodes which each send data back to a central supercomputer.

The Castle has been a home for astronomers for centuries since the original Lord Rosse built the world’s biggest telescope there in the 1800s. The technology has changed but the intention remains the same and the current Lord Rosse was on hand to send the latest model live with us last week. Continue Reading →

Drones Bill Introduced in Dáil

droneI was delighted to introduce my second Bill at first stage in the Dáil yesterday. The Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) Bill 2017, which you can read in full here, aims to legislate for the use of Drones. You can also read the transcript of my speech introducing the Bill here. I have met many organisations, hobbists and other stakeholders to ensure the Bill provides saftey and best pracitises without taking away the enjoyment of Drone use. Continue Reading →

Motion to evolve Community Employment Schemes

Today I penned a motion to improve the working of Community Employment Schemes. Please see the motion to support Community Employment Schemes here.

The motion aims to ensure the social element of CE Schemes, review the impact Jobpath is having on CE Schemes, allow more employees to stay on the their scheme, and to review the participation limits of older people on the scheme. Continue Reading →