Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
I want to raise several issues. The first concerns the duration of planning permissions. I am looking for an extension to existing planning permissions for the length of time for which the construction industry has been closed. I know a number of one-off sites and developments that are coming close to their existing five-year permission, or ten-year permission where there was an extension. Construction has been closed for almost five months and many people are going to run into difficulties in the context of getting developments up and running. Rather than having them go to the cost, expense and delay of applying again for planning permission, it is only fair that an extension would be given, especially in the current climate.
I welcome the funding announced in the last week by the Minister for Education for a number of schools, including Ardscoil Phádraig, Ballymahon Vocational School and St. Mel’s College, in regard to advanced projects for additional classrooms within County Longford. I want to raise one issue that I have brought up previously in the House, which was a commitment I gave prior to the election. It concerns Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford town, a convent with over 600 pupils that has no playing facilities at the school, which is over 100 years old. I ask for comment from the Minister for Education as to the situation in respect of a new school premises for those 600 students in Longford town. I ask that this issue be highlighted.
I concur with the comments on Ulster Bank and, in particular, the 2,500 employees whose job security is not good at present. I ask that they are looked after and that alternative employment is found. We will also have a situation in a number of years where many towns will have no banking facilities at all. Speaking as a postmaster, I suggest that there is an opportunity for engagement with regard to reinforcing the post office network. If we do not support that, we are going to lose it in every town in the country. An opportunity exists here and I ask people, if they are moving their accounts, to consider moving them to the post office in order to maintain that facility within their community.