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Autumn Newsletter 2013

Senator Catherine Noone

Seanad spokesperson on European Affairs Seanad Éireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 618 3127 Email: catherine.noone@oireachtas.ie Web: www.catherinenoone.ie

Senator Catherine Noone listening to your concerns and acting on your behalf.

THE PARCHMENT

DEFIBRILLATORS IN PHONEBOXES COULD SAVE LIVES

I recently proposed that (City) Councils consider working with Eircom to retrofit existing telephone boxes with defibrillator machines in towns and villages around the country, instead of simply destroying the boxes. My proposal, which appeared in the Irish Daily Mail, would be a sensible move from two perspectives. Firstly, it would allow us to find a useful purpose for the existing boxes, many of which are due to be demolished in the coming years as part of Eircom’s plans. Secondly, it would allow the public to know exactly where their nearest defibrillator is. People in towns and villages know where phone boxes are as they’re very visible, stand-alone structures in central locations which are open 24 hours a day. This approach is already underway in Northern Ireland and in towns and villages across the water in Britain. In order to prevent vandalism, anyone ringing 999 from the village regarding an individual with a potential heart problem will be given an access code for the vandal-proof steel box. I believe we could follow this example. Naturally this measure could incur some costs, but I believe that it could be helped by moving some existing defibrillators in particular towns or cities to these more obvious locations. In a bygone era, people used to say that phone boxes were – for them – a lifesaver. With this change, that could literally be the case.

I was interviews for this quarter’s Parchment magazine. The article discussed the work of the Seanad and my contribution to it. I was happy to recently be interviewed for this quarter’s issue of The Parchment, the Solicitor’s magazine. The article comes ahead of the upcoming Seanad referendum and hopefully will provide an insight into the Seanad, the work that it does and my own contribution to it. The articles goes into detail about my background, political motivations and aspirations and I was very happy to set forth why I believe Fine Gael are doing a good job both locally and nationally. You can read the article on the DSPA’s website at http://www.dspa.ie

Ireland-U.S. Council’s 2013 Spring Corporate Lunch was held in Dublin South-East this year. Pictured are Council Board member Alan T. Ennis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Revlon, Inc.; Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform and Minister for Defence; Senator Catherine Noone; and the Council’s Dublin-based Executive Director, Roddy Feely.


Senator Catherine Noone listening to your concerns and acting on your behalf.

EUROPEAN UNION SPOKESPERSON IN THE SEANAD

In July, I was happy to be appointed as the new Seanad Spokesperson on European Affairs. European affairs, as we can see from our recent hosting of the EU Presidency, are as important today as they have ever been. The European agenda affects all of our lives in far reaching ways, from food safety to mobile phone roaming fees. In my role as European Affairs Spokesperson in the Seanad, I will be working with a number of stakeholders in order to raise issues of importance regularly. As we face into European elections in 2014, there is no question that European issues will begin to move to the forefront of people’s minds as we think about what the EU is doing right now, and what it can do, in order to effect economic, social and political change. I look forward to working hard in this role and to raising European issues and topics regularly in the Seanad. I will be attempting to get debates around the many issues emerging from Europe which will have a serious impact on our own laws over the coming years. Recent research carried out by Dóchas shows that more than half of Irish people think the EU is a force for good in Ireland and I intend to highlight the positives and also the challenges on the horizon.

IRELAND FOURTH HIGHEST DREAM HOLIDAY DESTINATION A recent survey of 8,000 readers of travel magazine Virtuoso Life which ranks Ireland as fourth in a list of dream holiday destinations, coming in only behind only Australia, New Zealand and Italy. To be ranked fourth best in the world and second best in Europe is quite a feat and yet another key indicator that, when it comes to tourism, a great many things are in Ireland’s favour in 2013. We need to keep pushing to make sure that this remains the case in 2014. I am delighted that Ireland is the number four

dream destination of the readers of Virtuoso and I know that our Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism, Leo Varadkar TD, as well as Tourism Ireland, has left no stone unturned as we bid to bring American visitors over here and show them a great time. Indeed, the multiple cost-effective strategies that have been deployed, such as The Gathering, have resulted in the CSO showing out strongest ever first-half performance from North America, despite its challenging economic climate. There has been a 20%

increase in tourism figures since this Government came to power. In this year alone there has been an increase of more than 15% in visitors from North America. With the addition of new airline routes from the US to Ireland, this figure may well continue to grow, but now is not the time to be complacent and we need to continue to show why Ireland is deserving of this great ranking as fourth best dream holiday destination, but also continue to push up the table and reach the number one spot. I have no doubt that we can achieve that.

CARD FEES CAP GOOD FOR CONSUMERS

I recently welcomed the measures taken at European level which will see a European-wide cap being imposed on card fees of between 0.2% and 0.3% of a given transaction value. These proposals are most welcome by both consumers and businesses alike, many of whom believe that these fees can often be over the top and can lead to transactional barriers. What we need right now is more demand in the economy and, as we know, any barrier which is quashed will help us in that goal. The proposals, which will see an update to the Payment Services Directive, is necessary following judgements by the European Court of Justice, which have put limits in place on the fees which can be applied by Visa Europe. As such, it is practical to review this whole area and see what solutions can be reached”. This is a move which is pro-consumer and pro-business. According to the European consumer group BEUC this should work as a catalyst for the entry of new market players and increase consumers’ access to cheaper and more secure payment means, which I entirely agree with. There are a great many reasons why this is a good idea, and I am glad to see Europe once again putting forward smart regulations which will make consumers lives better.

SEAMUS HEANEY Senator Catherine Noone following a productive meeting with the Greek Ambassador to Ireland, Mrs. Constantina Zagorianou-Prifti

I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Seamus Heaney – the most globally lauded of Irish poets, who despite receiving the highest accolades by critics, never lost his humility, his decency nor his compassion. Seamus Heaney used his work to reflect upon the troubles and was undoubtedly a symbol of hope and inspiration to many during the troubles. He had the rare ability to transcend ages and speak to all of us, he was a true national treasure, and one who will be missed greatly. Ní Bheidh a Leithéid Arís Ann.

Senator Catherine Noone - Seanad Éireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 618 3


Senator Catherine Noone listening to your concerns and acting on your behalf.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Senator Noone and other participants from the Oireachtas and Northern Ireland Assembly in advance of the Annual Oireachtas walk in the Mourne Mountains.

KEEP VAT 9%

Over the last two and a half years, I have raised the issue of the 9% special rate of VAT for the tourism sector in that I ran a campaign to ensure that businesses embraced the initiative by naming and shaming businesses which weren’t giving the benefit back to the consumer. I have been calling for the 9% rate to be continued or, at the very least, gradually phased out. There is no doubting the success of the reduced VAT rate scheme. If it cannot be retained, and I would hope every avenue is explored

Catherine Noone with Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland supporting the Keep Vat 9% campaign

in attempting to retain it, then it should be gradually phased out over two or three years. The estimates for the impact this measure has had on job creation go up as high as 25,000 new jobs having been created. In addition, tourist numbers have been consistently up since we took office, with most recent figures showing that visitors to Ireland are up by 7% this year. There has been much talk that this 9% VAT rate would be restored to its original rate of 13.5% in this budget, which is understandable given it costs the exchequer approximately €350 million per annum. However, instead of doing it in one big jump, I think it would be advisable to phase the rate back in over two, or maybe three, years. In previous years, one of the greatest complaints of tourists has been that Ireland, and Dublin in particular, wasn’t seen as good value for money. The reduced rate of VAT has helped to counter that, and the percentage of tourists who have mentioned price as a negative has consistently gone down since 2011. We need to take that into account I believe, if we wish to capitalise on our success and increase the numbers of visitors who return. Employment has gone up by as much as 25,000 people in the effected sectors since this measure was introduced. We need to make sure that these jobs aren’t at risk if the rate of VAT is brought back up to its original level.

01 618 3127 Email: catherine.noone@oireachtas.ie Web: www.catherinenoone.ie


Senator Catherine Noone listening to your concerns and acting on your behalf.

VAT ADJUSTMENT: REDUCE HEALTHY FOODS?

PUBLIC SERVICE NEEDS TO LEARN FROM NTMAS ENERGY SAVINGS

NTMA shows public sector how it is done by cutting energy usage by 22% I recently welcomed the news that the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has decreased its energy usage by 22% per employee in just one year. Senator Noone added that the public sector could take a leaf out of the NTMA’s book, as it seeks to reduce energy consumption by a third by 2020. The NTMA has shown what a difference a year can make. This is a positive development, as it saves money for the taxpayer while also highlighting that the goal of reducing energy usage in the entire public sector by 33% before 2020 is entirely possible. If we reach our goal, €195 million per year will be saved without reducing a single salary or cutting a single member of staff. Cutting energy usage by a third by 2020 is a laudable goal and one which I believe can be achieved. A database of over 30,000 meters will be used to gather accurate information on energy use in the public sector, with a report on public sector consumption due to be published later this year. This report will set out progress made on public sector energy reduction and give us an idea of what needs to be done between now and 2020 in other areas. The NTMA took seven specific steps in order to achieve its rapid decrease in energy usage, and I have written to other State agencies to find out whether they have implemented these seven energy reducing steps themselves. They included installing electronic sensors on water supplies, switching to new light fittings and installing default double-sided printing. This shows how small measures can add up in a big way. The rest of the public service should definitely take a leaf out of the NTMA’s book. Saving almost €200 million a year by reduced energy consumption by a third is something that we must strive to achieve. This is money that could be much better spent elsewhere within our public service.

Senator Noone with Paul Cadden of Saba Restaurant endorsing a recent VAT Campaign I have recently called on the Department of Finance to consider reviewing the VAT rate on certain unhealthy foods. I highlighted an anomaly which means bottled water and fruit juice is taxed at the higher rate, while no VAT is levied on products like cooking fat and potato waffles.

We know that at least 300,000 children and 50% of adults are now classified as overweight or obese in Ireland; which represents an alarming increase of 6% in the last decade alone. This figure is constantly on the up too. It’s estimated that obesity is currently costing the State more than €1 billion a year. Being severely overweight also increases your chances of developing a long list of serious diseases. In other words, this is a problem that isn’t going away, and cannot be ignored. These statistics make it all the more incomprehensible that healthy produce such as fruit juice and bottled water are subject to 23% VAT, whilst things like cooking fat and potato waffles are subject to zero tax. Surely, we should be striving to ensure that healthy foods are as affordable as possible, whilst discouraging the consumption of less healthy foods. By increasing the VAT on food high in salt, sugar and trans-fats by a very modest amount, significant revenue could be generated for the State each year; revenue that could be channelled back into health services and healthy eating initiatives. This would go some way in encouraging more people to engage in a healthier lifestyle, helping prevent ill health down the line and significantly reduce the cost to the Exchequer of obesity-related diseases. In turn, by protecting the 0% VAT on healthy foods and by reducing the overall cost of a healthy shopping basket, we would help families to stick to a healthy diet within their budgets.

YOUR FINE GAEL TEAM IN DUBLIN BAY SOUTH WORKING WITH SENATOR CATHERINE NOONE

Eoghan murphy TD

Cllr. Edie Wynne

Cllr. Kieran Binchy

Cllr. Paddy McCartan

Gay Mitchell MEP 0612

VISIT MY WEBSITE WWW.CATHERINENOONE.IE

Senator Catherine Noone Seanad spokesperson on European Affairs

Seanad Éireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 618 3127 Email: catherine.noone@oireachtas.ie Web: www.catherinenoone.ie


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