Breen highlights Clare problems during Debate on the Economy

July 9th, 2008 - Pat Breen

The same problems are reflected in Deputy Deenihan’s neighbouring county, Clare.  Prior to the general election, Fianna Fáil published its manifesto, The Next Steps Forward.  It claimed Fianna Fáil in Government has led the transformation of Ireland’s economy.  What a transformation it has been.  Yesterday, €2 billion was wiped off the ISEQ and a €1.5 billion shortfall in tax revenue for the first half of the year was announced.  An extra 10,100 people have joined the live register in June, the second highest increase on record, and the construction industry is in serious decline.

  In Clare, an extra 469 people, or 9.3%, signed on last month.  For the past 12 months, jobs have been haemorrhaging from my county.  Last week, redundancy announcements were made by Advocent Limited with 57 job losses and Sykes Engineering with 83 job losses, with another 20 jobs lost at Laser Cut Technology.  The warning signs were ignored and now belatedly the Government has woken up to realise the economy is in a recession.  This has all happened under the stewardship of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, when he was the Minister for Finance.

  What is needed now is leadership and vision to restore confidence in our economy.  A Government plan has been presented but it lacks vision and clarity.  Fine Gael’s spokesperson, Deputy Bruton, stated there was no evidence of a clearly thought-out plan and that it was just a cobbled together response to the Government’s self-generated recession.  We are told this package of measures will involve savings of €440 million and that cutbacks will not affect health and education, yet there are no specifics.

  However, we have already established that €85 million is to be cut from the most vulnerable, the elderly, as the fair deal falls by the wayside.  A further €38 million saving is to be achieved from the slower rolling out of projects and €21 million from what are termed “other savings”.

  What will happen to the commitment given by the Minister for Health and Children for the €39 million redevelopment of Ennis General Hospital?  At a meeting with the Minister in May, she informed us an announcement on capital projects would be made before the June bank holiday weekend. We were told a visit to Ennis General Hospital was imminent.  However, nothing has happened.  What has happened this project?  Will it go ahead as planned?  The Minister gave a commitment it would be a priority.

  The same may be said of the slowdown in the roll out of cancer screening projects in the mid-west region.  There are 746 women on the waiting list for mammograms in the mid-western hospital area and the only procedures being carried out are in symptomatic cases.

  How long more will we have to wait for the roll out of broadband?  The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Cullen, spoke about tourism.  The loss of the Shannon-Heathrow service took place last August, nearly a year ago and has had a major impact on connectivity and industry and tourism in the region.  I hope there will be no cutbacks in the tourism development plan, which was funded last year by his Department.  These matters are very important because the tourism season all over the western region is back, particularly American and European business.  I know there are other speakers but these are a few of the things I wanted to ask about, particularly the hospital situation and the development plan, which are of major importance for the people of Clare.