Recently I announced the European Commission’s clearance for the restrictions on microbeads contained in our Microbeads Bill 2019. I made the announcement at An Taisce’s Clean Coasts “Love Your Coast” Photography Awards (here).
The Bill will provide for a prohibition of the manufacture, import, export or sale of products containing intentionally added plastic microbeads, to include “rinse-off” personal care products, detergents, and domestic and industrial abrasive cleaning products and scouring agents. While several States legislated to prohibit personal care products containing plastic microbeads Ireland will be the first EU Member State to extend such prohibition to detergents, abrasive scouring agents and other cleaning products.
I am increasingly concerned about the potential risk posed to our aquatic ecosystems by microplastic litter, including plastic microbeads. I know this concern is shared widely, across all parties in the Oireachtas and throughout broader society. While this is an important step, it is only one of many measures we will have to introduce over the coming years to reduce the level of litter and plastic pollution entering our seas and oceans.
Continue reading here.
I also announced further measures to protect our marine environment, here.
This week is National Fire Safety Week. It is jointly run with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and it’s about enhancing fire safety, particularly in the home. I launched the event yesterday in Belfast, you can see pictures here.
This year’s theme, ‘Safer Together’, is a welcome reminder that we all have a part to play to keep ourselves, and each other, safe from the dangers of fire. The campaign not only encourages people to have smoke alarms and test them but also for the wider community to look out for each other – especially those most vulnerable and at risk. This year’s theme asks that communities check in with vulnerable relatives, neighbours and friends and ensure they are mindful of fire safety, have working smoke alarms and have an escape plan in the event of a fire. We can all be ‘safer together’.
The TV and radio advertisement campaign for Fire Safety Week is the beginning of an intensive media advertising campaign, which will run throughout the winter months until spring.
For further information, go here.
Recently I launched the pilot phase of the “BFireSafe@School Programme” at the Custom House. I was delighted to launch and support this very worthwhile project to increase fire safety education among post primary students. The project complements the primary school “Safety Team” fire education programme run by my Department in conjunction with fire services nationwide.
Pupils from 16 schools in Ireland will be given the opportunity to learn about protecting themselves, their families and communities from fire. The project will also provide learning opportunities in fire science and potential careers in the fire service and other related industries. It is anticipated that, following this pilot run during the academic year 2019/20, the programme will be rolled out nationally and made available to all post-primary schools.
Find out more about the programme here.
Last week I visited London to meet with meeting with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
It was a great first meeting, we discussed common challenges in housing and homelessness, and the importance of putting community at the core of our solutions.
In Derry last week I launched a major cross-border project which aims to improve water quality through enhanced wastewater treatment.
The Shared Waters Enhancement & Loughs Legacy (SWELL) project, which has been awarded €35m under the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, will see the construction of new wastewater treatment works as well as upgrades to sewerage networks on both sides of the border to address wastewater pollution.
Without safe and reliable water and wastewater infrastructure, social and economic development cannot happen. So I was pleased to officially launch the SWELL project which will play an important role in improving water quality in Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle through cross-border partnership working.
Continue reading here.
Recently I brought forward proposals to change the laws around renting to improve tenant protections and provide greater housing security; Cabinet approved the proposals and they have started being debated in the Oireachtas.
These reforms are the most significant rental sector reforms in a number of years. They will bring greater affordability and security for people who are renting. Not only are we now extending rent controls out to the end of 2021, we are also changing the criteria to capture more areas experiencing high rent inflation, and closing down avenues that allowed some landlords to escape rent controls.
In addition, we are strengthening security of tenure provisions for tenants, and also extending notice to quit periods. This will help those in housing insecurity while also giving more time for people to find new accommodation where necessary.
You can continue reading here.
On Friday I made an order appointing Friday 24 May, 2019 as the polling day for the referendum on the proposal for the amendment of the Constitution contained in the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016.
Whatever your views are on the proposals in the referendum, I would like to encourage voters to go to their polling station during this 15 hour period on 24 May and have your say in the outcome of the referendum.
Polling will take place between the hours of 7 am and 10 pm. The total electorate currently stands at some 3.3 million. Are you registered to vote? If not, you can be added to the supplementary register – check here.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday the Government gave its approval to publish my Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill, which gives greater power to the RTB; brings transparency around rents; allows for quicker & anonymous investigations; increases sanctions for criminal landlords; and significantly extends notice periods.
These measures will go a long way to protect tenants and their rights.
You can read the full details here.
On Monday the Taoiseach and I announced that 88 projects are to be allocated a total of €100 million under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), launched in July this year as part of Project Ireland 2040.
As a key part of Project Ireland 2040 – the Government’s National Planning Framework and National Development Plan – the fund will help to rejuvenate significant but underused areas in Ireland’s five cities and other large towns.
It’s one of four funds set up under the National Development Plan 2018-2027, and is being implemented by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. A total of €2 billion has been allocated to the URDF up to 2027, with €550 million available for between now and 2022.
I am hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity demonstrated by all those involved throughout this process and am delighted to allocate €100 million in funding for 2019 to some very worthwhile projects.
Continue reading here.
To watch a short video about the fund, go here.
On Saturday I spoke at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.
I talked about increasing housing supply, prioritising affordability, removing people from emergency accommodation, sustainability & learning from past mistakes.
You can watch a video of my speech here.