On behalf of my constituents, I am proud of my record and what I have achieved over the last 8 years at a local and national level. Since my election to Dail Eireann in 2011 and now in Seanad Eireann my goal has been to listen to and collaborate with constituents and get results on their behalf. Many of their issues reflect the national concerns and in this regard, I have been very active in areas including job creation, housing reform, living costs, childcare and crime.
Since 2012, this Government has created over 135,000 jobs and our unemployment figures are now at 5.6%, from a high of 15.1%. Employment in Kildare has increased by 55%. 11,000 people are employed in Naas alone. I will continue to work on building a solid economic base by attracting international companies and devising incentive schemes for start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Together with investment in infrastructure, this will offer a sustainable pattern of growth.
Fine Gael have changed the way childcare is funded. Budget 2017 announced a radical redesign of how we deliver support to make quality childcare accessible and affordable for families in Ireland. Currently, parents receive up to €1,040 per year for children under three, up to €145 per week for children up to 15 years of age in families returning to work or study.
Parents can now avail of free GP access for all children under 6 years of age and for the first time ever from September 2016, fathers can avail of 2 weeks paternity benefit. An additional 89 million euro was announced for childcare in Budget 2019.
Increases in the minimum wage to 9.80 euro and old age pensions together with a reduction of the USC and restoration of 100% of the Christmas bonus for all social welfare recipients have resulted in more money in people pockets and a reduction of the tax burden on earned income. These measures reduce the cost of living, increasingly make work pay and recognise the contribution older people have made to Irish society.
I have proven that I am capable of successfully representing you at the national level and as your local candidate, I now ask that you give me your Number 1 vote in the next General Election and place your trust in me again to continue this work.
JOBS AND ENTERPRISE
Unemployment is now at 5.6%, from a high of 15% and we need to maintain and build on these figures. In Kildare, the number of people on the Live Register has declined 55% since Fine Gael launched its Action Plan for Jobs in 2012.
It is extremely important to nurture local small enterprises, such as the Kelly Mountain Brewery in Clane, Young Entrepreneurs in Kildare and provide funding and guidance for expansion. I was delighted when over 1,000 jobs were created by the Kerry Group in Naas. Their contribution is vital, both in terms of direct employment and indirectly for the buoyancy of the local economy. It is vitally important that we continue to attract multi-national companies and I will continue working to attract potential investors to Kildare North.
We are at a crucial point in the economic cycle and the choices that we make now will set the tone for the coming years. Fine Gael in Government has put the right policies in place to allow our economy and society to grow in a way that builds our resilience and ensures we are well positioned for what lies ahead.
Housing is a particular priority as many of the problems my constituents are experiencing are reflected across the country. I will continue to work on behalf of those in mortgage arrears, paying high rents or struggling to buy a home. We must increase housing supply to reduce rents and give people a chance to save for and buy a house they can afford in the location they want.
Furthermore, I have fought for amendments to the rent allowance in areas of Kildare North. Rent allowance must keep pace with the rents charged in these areas.
In September 2018 the Government announced the Land Development Agency to build 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years, the next step of Project Ireland 2040.
The new Agency has an immediate focus on managing the State’s own lands to develop new homes and regenerate under-utilised sites. In the longer-term it will assemble strategic landbanks from a mix of public and private lands, making these available for housing in a controlled manner which brings essential long-term stability to the Irish housing market.
Fine Gael also launched the Housing First National Implementation Plan 2018-2021 which will see the highly effective programme to reduce and end rough sleeping and long-term homelessness extended to every county in Ireland.
CRIME & GARDA PRESENCE
With the re-opening of Templemore in 2014, the first of the graduate Gardai have been attested nationally and Co. Kildare was assigned the highest number outside of Dublin. 800 more Garda trainees entered the Garda College in 2018. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Garda Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every division.
The Garda Commissioner ultimately decides on how many and where Gardai are assigned and to this end, I have had several meetings to impress the need for a larger Garda presence in Kildare North.
The plan to reach 15,000 Garda members nationally is well on track with a continuous pipeline of candidates in place to ensure that the projected increases for 2018 and beyond can be achieved.
I also firmly believe that Gardai should be very visible and known in the community. More isolated rural constituents, in particular, need a crime-deterring Garda presence. To this end, I have spoken with relevant Government Ministers regarding an increase in civilian staff to relieve Gardai of many of their administrative duties allowing them to concentrate their efforts where they are needed in the community.
We have also strengthened the law, getting tougher on serious and repeat offenders by introducing a bail bill allowing Gardai greater scope to arrest convicted criminals who have re-offended.