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 →

Meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

I had the opportunity to meet Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his visit to Dublin. I discussed my Online Advertising and Social Media Transparency Bill to address electoral integrity issues as well as how to moderate harmful content to make the internet a safer place.

Facebook have recently introduced new regulations seeking to provide greater transparency in political advertising, which is welcome in the run up to the EU elections but myself and Mr Zuckerberg agreed that Governments need to set the agenda here.

I also raised my concerns in relation to Facebook’s recent appeal against their fine in the UK for data breaches and the 1.5 billion data sets which left Ireland on the eve of the GDPR. It was a very useful exchange which I hope to continue when attending the international parliamentary committee on disinformation in Canada in May.

Progress on Greenway Welcomed

The plan to develop a 221km greenway all the way from Dublin city centre to Shannon harbour and right across County Kildare progressed today. The Chief Executive of Kildare County Council published his report following the submissions process, during which both Deputy Lawless and his colleague Cllr. Carmel Kelly had assisted a number of local groups and residents in participating in the consultation.

The publication of the report is great news for the entire county, but particularly for all of the towns and villages along the greenway route including Ardclough, Sallins, Naas, Prosperous, Robertstown and beyond. This will compliment the great success of the Royal Canal Greenway through Maynooth, Leixlip and Kilcock in the northern part of Kildare. The boost to tourism, recreation and the local economy that greenway’s such as these bring to an area is significant.

James and Cllr Carmel Kelly pictured at their information event on the public consultation

Commenting, Deputy Lawless thanked all of the stakeholders for bringing it to this stage and all those who made submissions. He congratulated the council on moving quickly through the planning process and taking on board feedback from local residents.

The changes made after the consultation phase are as follows:

  • Sallins village – following significant local feedback the route will now not go down Chapel Lane and across the main square. Instead it will more closely follow the path of the canal past Lock13 & Bridgewater. This will enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety while better integrating with local business and hospitality premises. A Village Centre Traffic Management Plan will also be developed to compliment the new routes.
  • The spike of the route from Sallins into Naas harbour is covered under a separate planning proposal which is at an advanced stage and will go on display in April. This will allow the Naas section to be integrated into the full route.
  • All signage will be bilingual and will also contain heritage information packs.
  • The route will be fully wheelchair and buggy accessible.
  • Marker distance posts will be positioned at 5k intervals along the route.
  • The proposed pedestrian bridge at Sallins will be a high level fixed bridge. The width of the canal will not be reduced at this location and the proposed bridge will have a width and clearance sufficient to permit passage of boats with larger wheel houses.
  • The proposed new swing bridge to the west of Landenstown may be replaced by a mechanically operated lifting bridge (similar to that at Levitstown on the Barrow Navigation) subject to consultation with Waterways Ireland and Canal user groups.
The planned route of the new greenway.

Pressure ramped up on new Minister to progress Naas Community College build

I have increased pressure on the new Minister for Education to ensure the tendering process is progressed quickly for the new school build in Millennium Park, Naas. I have asked the Minister to detail the construction timeline for Naas Community College. You can read his reponse here.

It was important to put the new Minister for Education on notice. This is a vital piece of infrastructure for Naas and the wider area. Anymore delays are completely unacceptable. I asked the Minister to detail a timeline for the build.

We need to move to find a tender so construction can be built. This is the next step. I will continue to work with the school, parents, and lobby the Minister and his Department to ensure the project moves to the next stage without delay.

Kildare tourism businesses must receive additional supports in light of VAT increase

kildare-townAdditional funding allocated to the tourism sector must be targeted to support areas of the industry potentially affected by the increase in the VAT rate in Budget 19.

This increase in VAT will be devastating to those small hoteliers in Kildare. Places like Leixlip, Naas, and Johnstownbridge all have fantastically successful hotels who will see a significant increase in their tax bill. However, unlikely the surge in booked up hotel rooms in Dublin this has not extended to Kildare at the same level. The increase in VAT for hotels across the country is unwise. Continue Reading →