General Election 2020

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Declan Breathnach

Six questions for Louth's general election candidates

Donard McCabe

Reporter:

Donard McCabe

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Declan Breathnach

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Declan Breathnach

The Dundalk Democrat put six questions to all 15 candidates standing in the Louth constituency for General Election 2020.

Two specific questions in each of the three categories, crime, healthcare and climate change were put to the candidates.

Seven out of the 15 candidates responded. Over the next seven articles we share their responses.

The questions were as follows and the responses from Fianna Fáil candidate Declan Breathnach are below:

Crime

  • What resources would you provide for people in Louth to keep them from drifting into criminality?
  • Do you favour decriminalisation of drugs as part of a range of measures to combat addiction? 

Environment

  • Would you support the idea of making school buses mandatory for all school goers who do not cycle of walk to school - as a means of combating climate change, promote healthy lifestyles and cutting down on rush hour traffic?
  • What public transport measures would you implement in Louth to combat climate change? - would it include free public transport for all? What investment would you make towards electric buses and when would it happen?

Healthcare

  • Would you end the use of agency healthcare workers, including nurses? Timeline?
  • What facilities would you make available in Louth to help fight mental illness and help promote good mental health?

Declan Breathnach's responses:

Crime

Q1 I have spoken in the Dáil many times over the past four years on the escalation of crime in Louth, and in particular, Drogheda.  I have requested Commissioner Drew Harris on more than one occasion to hold a meeting with public representatives in Louth to discuss resolutions, but this never happened.

Fianna Fáil will:

  • Increase Garda numbers nationally to 16,000 and the Garda reserve to 2,500
  • Smash gangland crime with new special anti-terror laws
  • Introduce mandatory sentences on knife crime attacks
  • Tackle antisocial behaviour with new laws including eviction powers
  • Establish an independent gambling regulator
  • Establish a new Community Investment Fund to build new facilities and amenities.

Q2 I believe that more research needs to be done on whether the decriminalisation of drugs would contribute to combatting addiction.  I attended a briefing and meeting recently where the Drugs Taskforces, the HSE Drug Addiction Services and other voluntary groups in the North East presented a bleak future all due to lack of funding.

Fianna Fáil will:

  • Introduce legislation that will severely punish those who purchase drugs from children and those who use minors as cogs in their distribution network.
  • Increase funding to drugs taskforces by €6m over the next two years and then review the situation further.
  • Undertake a major education campaign on the hazards of casual drug use for which we will allocate €3m.
  • Appoint representation at a senior level from the Department of the Taoiseach to the National Oversight Committee (NOC) of the National Drugs Strategy.
  • Review the methadone treatment protocol as more than 10,000 people are currently on a methadone treatment programme.
  • Fully implement the National Drugs strategy.
  • Ensure additional Garda resources are targeted at key areas.

Environment

Q1 This would be great if it could be achieved.  At present, school transport has been a huge problem in some parts of rural Louth with not enough capacity and students who had a seat on the local service being cut off this year. 

I would support more collective or supervised walking initiatives, to stop local traffic around schools for those within walking distances. I am not sure it would be achievable to have school transport for all school goers from every corner of rural Ireland.

Fianna Fáil are planning to introduce a “Kids go Free” scheme on public transport for U.18 at a cost of €27m.

Q2 I don’t think free public transport for all will happen.  People would be more interested in having a decent transport system and improving connectivity. I would support incentives to bus companies to purchase electric buses when replacing or enhancing their fleet. 

I have brought up transport issues many times over the past four years through asking Parliamentary Questions on extending the Dublin Suburban “short hop zone” to areas such as Laytown, Bettystown and Drogheda and supporting the use of leap cards on all public transport to avail of discounts.

I am committed to seeing an expansion of rural transport.  This government has all but closed rural Ireland. People living outside of the M50 have no public transport options, and it is harming quality of life. Fianna Fáil will:

  • Provide subsidies to rural hackney drivers to help them meet insurance costs at a capped cost of €6.5m.
  • Introduce a “Kids go Free” scheme on public transport for U.18 at a cost of €27m.
  • We will prioritize the electrification of rail lines around the country, particularly on commuter services as part of rail investment within the capital spending envelope;
  • Revise Ireland’s legislation to support car-pooling;
  • Pilot Bus Lanes on Motorways and National roads with an initial €1m investment;
  • Roll out new Park and Ride facilities with a competitive €10m fund for transport companies to avail of.

Healthcare

Q1: In our Manifesto Document Fianna Fáil are committing to:

  • Recruit 4,000 additional nursing staff over the next five years.
  • Within this number we will ensure that GP’s practice nurse numbers are increased by 300 and Public Health Nurses by 350.
  • Implement the safe staffing framework in all hospitals plan.
  • Target increased numbers to decrease the overreliance on agency staff. This measure has been costed at €212m.

Q2: Mental health services for children and adolescents and adults remain well short of what is required with long waiting times for services. 

There have been shameful instances of children being admitted to A & E in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital suffering acute episodes through having no access to children’s mental health services. 

I would like to see a large increase in funding for Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health to build on their existing network of early intervention and prevention services and supports.  Early intervention is key. 

I am committed to increasing community services and ensuring access, quality and integration in mental health services. 

Fianna Fáil wish to see “Vision for Change” implemented fully and have allocated the €200m in additional spending required by that policy to finance the specific measures included.