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LRC intervenes in row over Loughglynn ambulance base

The Labour Relations Commission (LRC) has intervened in a major dispute between Health Service Executive management and ambulance staff that has stalled the opening of the new ambulance base in Loughglynn.

In an attempt to resolve the long-running row, LRC conciliation talks have been scheduled to take place in Castlebar on September 1.

HSE management and SIPTU representatives, representing staff, will also attempt to break the deadlock in a face-to-face meeting on August 21.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) reveal the depth of divisions between both sides. The row – over the emergency blackspot in west Roscommon – can be traced back to last December, when construction work was completed on transforming the former Garda station in Loughglynn into an ambulance base.

On December 4, the HSE began consultative talks with staff on how to operate the new base. According to HSE proposals, they sought to make it operational by “the utilisation of existing resources”.

“No additional resources were received for the Loughglynn base,” wrote Padraig O’Riordan, the area operations manager of the National Ambulance Service, in a letter released under FoI. As a result, staff would move from other bases in the area.

No agreement was reached on this and the matter was eventually referred to the LRC, who held talks between both sides on April 16, in SIPTU’s offices in Castlebar.

Still, however, there was no resolution. Then, management attempted to order staff to operate the base. In a letter to ambulance staff on April 22, Mr O’Riordan wrote: “It is a matter of regret that discussions and conciliation failed to resolve the dispute. “It is no longer reasonable nor acceptable to the HSE, to further delay the management of crews by control from Loughglynn Ambulance Base.

“In order to optimise existing resources with the aim of improving patient care through the provision of a more timely response into the west Roscommon area, ambulance management, with effect from June 15, 2015, will be instructing ambulance control staff to utilise all available resources to maximum and efficient effect, to benefit patient wellbeing, inclusive of operating out of Loughglynn Ambulance Base.”

However, staff refused to accept this instruction and, on June 16, Mr O’Riordan wrote to the LRC seeking an “urgent conciliation conference” to once again attempt to find a resolution.

He also said that the staff’s “refusal to accept the request” to make the base operational on June 15 was “in management’s view, a contravention of the PSA” (Public Service Agreement).

On June 18, Damian Mullarkey, the HSE’s area corporate employee relations management, also wrote to the LRC and expressed similar views.

He said that management had “made numerous attempts to progress matters” and added: “However, the most worrying development concerns ambulance crews declining requests to operate from the Loughglynn base. “And I have been advised by ambulance management of their concerns regarding this latest development in the context of patient safety.”

He also said that SIPTU had previously “declined to agree a joint referral of the matter to the Labour Court”. The LRC have arranged for talks to be held at SIPTU’s offices in Castlebar September 1, a source said, as the impasse continues.

The SIPTU view

SIPTU said that the HSE’s plan to move resources from Roscommon town to Loughglynn to operate the new ambulance base, is at the heart of the dispute. Pat Flannery, an industrial organiser with the union’s health division, said that they welcomed the opening of the base.

“We believe that it will be beneficial to the people of that area of Roscommon and the surrounding area,” he said. However, they object to the HSE’s plan to make it operational.

“The difficulty that we have with its opening is that they are depleting existing resources in Roscommon town in order to provide staffing to open the base. We believe that that is counterproductive,” he added.

“What management are planning to do is to utilise the concept of dynamic deployment and that is by moving people from an existing base to that base.”

Meanwhile, a HSE spokesperson said: “There is no change to the situation in Loughglynn. “It is not yet operational and discussions with staff and SIPTU are ongoing.”

€60,000 needed for new Strokestown playground

A campaign to raise €60,000 to build a playground in Strokestown was recently launched at two premises in the town, the Percy French Hotel and Bank of Ireland.

  Significant progress has already been made: a site has been acquired, paid for by Strokestown Community Development Association, and planning permission has been granted.

  Tuam-based ‘Go Plan’ are lined up to undertake the construction work.

  However, €60,000 is now required to put the facility in place.

  Cllr. Eugene Murphy, who is chairperson of the association, said that it would be a “big challenge” to raise the funds, but he was confident it could be done.

  “I have no doubt the people of this general Strokestown region are up to the challenge,” he said.

  “One thousand envelopes are being distributed throughout the region. People can place a donation in the envelope to support the project and, if they wish, put the name on the envelope.

  “All donations will be recorded and any member of the public will be able to view his/her contribution in our office.”

  Cllr. Murphy also said that it was hoped that Roscommon County Council and the Government would partly fund the project, which, provided it comes to fruition, would be a huge bonus to the area.

  He added: “We have a fantastic team on board: young couples with young families who are really looking forward to this project coming together.

  “When complete, this playground will be available to all the young people from the region and, most importantly, it will be the people’s playground.

  “If people do not wish to make a contribution to the envelope system, they can call to our development association office and arrange to make a payment our treasurer, Shane Lynskey.

  “A number of other fundraisers are set to be organised and I can tell you some of those will be most interesting.”

Irish Water still sending out inaccurate bills – Fitzmaurice

Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice, of Fianna Fáil, has claimed that Irish Water are still billing people incorrectly.

  The Roscommon Municipal District councillor said that, in the past week, he dealt with three cases where people had received an inaccurate bill.

  “Two of the cases related to areas where ‘boil water’ notices were in place during the billing period,” he said.

  “Irish Water send out a bill every quarter, January to March and April to June. In the case of the Castlerea urban and rural areas, a ‘boil water’ notice was in place until the end of June.

  “Now that people are getting their bills in August and Castlerea is off a boil water notice since June, some people are getting bills with a charge for water in the second quarter – April to June. This is incorrect.”

  Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that he also dealt with a water-related case in Williamstown.

  “I had to retrieve money paid by a pensioner who paid a wrong bill out of fear of being cut off,” he said.

  “Williamstown is on a ‘boil water’ notice and Irish Water should know their facts before sending out bills.”

  Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that, in other cases, he dealt with people who had been billed for ‘water removed’ even though they had a septic tank.

  “If you have a septic tank and are billed for water removed, you are entitled to a refund,” he said.

  “Finally, you can contact your local councillors if you are in doubt about your bill as they have a direct phone number to Irish Water.”


National Learning Network certificates presented

Councillor Paddy Kilduff, Mayor of Roscommon, presented certificates to over 80 students in National Learning Network in Castlerea recently in a graduation ceremony in The Hub in Castlerea.

  Students were presented with certificates in a range of programmes at the ceremony, including, Skills for Life (Rehabilitative Training), Employability Skills, Employer Based Training, IT by Blended Learning and Horticulture LTI (Local Training Initiative).

  National Learning Network in Castlerea provides high-quality training and employment services to over 50 people who may have limited access to further education and employment opportunities.

  Students who come to the centre can take time out to overcome the personal difficulties that they have experienced in their life with the support of National Learning Network’s staff.

  Currently, the centre offers training opportunities to people from County Roscommon and surrounding counties with the emphasis on addressing the individual needs of each learner.

  National Learning Network works on a continuous intake basis and if you are interested in accessing support towards further education, training and employment, please contact the centre directly at 094-9620374.

Frenchpark men wait in hope for extra Home Help and Meals on Wheels

Two elderly brothers living in Frenchpark have aired their frustration at the HSE for their lack of care and attention.

  One would think the least these men, aged 77 and 81, would be entitled to is a Meals on Wheels service to their home, but the HSE have advised that “the Home Help Department does not provide a Meals on Wheels service to new clients since 2009”. 

  “If we cannot look after our elderly we have made very little progress, and we can no longer call ourselves a social welfare state” said MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan. “Without the assistance of a kind and caring neighbour these men would probably starve.”

  MEP Flanagan added: “If this is what membership of the doomed Euro brings us well we are far better off out of it. This austerity regime is only for the benefit of the bankers and their shareholders. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the plight of these two brothers.”

  Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice has also been working to try and alleviate the dilemma faced by these men and by other elderly people around the county. 

  “It is my belief that every effort should be made to provide whatever assistance is needed to allow elderly people to live independently in their own homes. Every euro spent to achieve this aim is money well spent” he said.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice stated “When one thinks of their advancing years and accompanying health problems it would appear that any additional help they could be given would be worthwhile and would allow them to continue to reside in their own homes for as long as possible.” 

  He concluded: “We will be seeking further clarification on the issue of ‘Meals on Wheels’ as I sincerely hope that this service remains available to those who need it.”


Senator to contest FG Convention?

Ballinasloe-based Senator Michael Mullins is seriously considering contesting Fine Gael’s upcoming Selection Convention for the General Election.

  At present, Cllr. Maura Hopkins, who represents Boyle Municipal District, is the only party member who has confirmed that she will contest the event, to be held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon town, on Friday, September 11.

  Fine Gael have yet to decide whether they will run one or two candidates in the Roscommon-Galway constituency.

  However, Senator Mullins has indicated that, if a two-candidate strategy is adopted, he will throw his hat in the ring.

  “I will certainly give it serious consideration,” he said. “Nothing is ruled out.”

  Senator Mullins said: “Two-thirds of the votes are on the Roscommon side of the constituency, but there is a feeling that the best strategy would to be have two candidates.

  “If we have just Maura Hopkins as a candidate, can we guarantee that the Galway votes will travel, or would it make sense to have a Galway candidate?”

  Senator Mullins (62), is a political veteran. A long-time member of Galway County Council, he was elected to the Seanad on the cultural and educational panel in April 2011.

150 social care workers set to strike

Up to 150 social care workers in Co. Roscommon are set to go on strike after the breakdown of talks on their ongoing dispute with the Health Service Executive.

  They will meet in Hannon’s Hotel, Roscommon town, on Friday, August 28, to finalise their plans for industrial action.

  The Brothers of Charity employees are among 400 social care workers across counties Roscommon and Galway who are owed a total of €7.5 million in unpaid wages, the Impact Trade Union said.

  They said that, since 2004, they had been entitled to ‘twilight premium payments’ – time and a sixth for working between 6 pm and midnight – but had never received them.

  The Labour Relations Commission (LRC) were drafted in to mediate, but Impact, which represents the social care workers, said that these talks had failed.

  The union’s assistant general secretary, Padraig Mulligan, said: “The LRC came up with a proposal that meant the employees would get three years of the ten owed, and the HSE would pay them in the first two quarters of 2016.

  “But the HSE have refused to go ahead with that. That created a situation where industrial action is now inevitable.

  “The HSE have reneged on the LRC recommendations. Our members are absolutely incensed over it – that they would be treated with such contempt.”

  Mr Mulligan said that the union would now be seeking to get “every penny” of the money owed to them.

  He said that meetings would be held with the 250 Galway employees next Thursday, and the Roscommon members the following day, over the matter.

  A HSE spokesperson said that the executive agreed to begin making the payment for ‘unsocial hours’ on January 1 last, but that no agreement was made in relation to arrears.

  The spokesperson added: “Currently the issue of a backdated claim for arrears is being reviewed by the State’s industrial relations processes and the claim is currently before the Labour Relations Commission. 

  “The HSE cannot comment further whilst this process is underway.”


Ballyfarnon man dies in accident while hedge-cutting

Ballyfarnon man Padraig Noone was killed after being struck by a heavy goods vehicle while he was working on a roadside at Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, last Thursday.

  Mr Noone was hedge-cutting for Sligo County Council on the N4 Sligo to Dublin road, one mile south of Castlebaldwin, ten miles from Boyle.

  He was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was removed to Sligo Regional Hospital. He was aged in his 60s.

  Three of his colleagues were also seriously injured in the collision, which took place as they were cutting hedges, at 11.40 am.

  One man was airlifted to University Hospital, Galway, and two other men were taken to Sligo Regional Hospital.

  The road between Boyle and Castlebaldwin was closed for a time.

  Mr Noone lived at Annagh, Riverstown, Co. Sligo, and worked for the Ballymote branch of the council, but he was from Alderford, Ballyfarnon. He is mourned by his widow, Colette, and two daughters, Elaine and Linda.

  His remains reposed at Shivnan’s Funeral Home, Ballyfarnon, last Saturday afternoon, and were removed to St Patrick’s Church, Ballyrush, Co. Sligo, on Sunday, when the funeral Mass took place.

  He was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.

Pride of Place judges to visit local nominees

The judges for the Pride of Place competition will visit the four Co. Roscommon nominees next week.

  Pride of Place is an all-island competition, organised by Co-Operation Ireland and the Local Authorities Steering Committee.

  It provides an opportunity for community groups to demonstrate their pride in the achievements of their own local community.

  Roscommon has nominated four projects for the competition: Kilteevan Community Development Association; Kilgefin Parish, under Ballyleague Village Renewal; the Quad Youth Centre, Roscommon; and Cavetown Residents Development Co. Ltd.

  Judging for the competition will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Pride of Place judges will conduct a two and a half hour site visit to each community group, during which time they will meet with community representatives.

  The visit will consist of a formal presentation by representatives of the local community, highlighting their achievement and the reasons why they deserve a Pride of Place award.

  The judges will start their adjudication of the Kilteevan Community Development Association at Kilteevan Community Centre on Tuesday at 10 am.

  Later that day, at 1 pm, they will visit St Faithleach’s GAA club to assess Kilgefin Parish’s nomination.

  On Wednesday, at 9.30 am, they will visit the Quad Youth Centre in Roscommon town while, at 1 pm, they will visit Croghan Community Hall to judge Cavetown Residents Development Co. Ltd. 

The results are in!

Emma Callaghan, from Behy, Castlerea, achieved 610 points in the Leaving Cert, the results of which were released on Wednesday.

  A total of 543 students in Co. Roscommon waited anxiously to receive their results.

  As usual, there were some notable high achievers.

  Emma, from Castlerea Community School, was one of them. She received six A1s and a B1 in honours maths, which includes a bonus of 25 points.

  Eileen Ryan, the school principal, said a number of the other 76 students also excelled. “28.5 per cent achieved 400 points or more,” she said.

  “Four students achieve over 500 points. Altogether, we are delighted. Whether the students got 200 points or 500 points, if they are happy with what they get, their work has been justified and that is a good result.”

  There were also scenes of celebration in St Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, on Wednesday, where there were also exceptional results.  

  Fr Tomás Surlis, the principal, said: “St Nathy’s had some exceptionally fine individual results, with two students attaining six As.

  “A significant number of students came very close to attaining maximum CAO points.

  “Students who actively sought such high grades were, by and large, successful in achieving the desired results and corresponding high points.

  “Accordingly, most students should gain their top CAO preferences.”

  Fiona Gallagher, the principal of Roscommon CBS, said that her school’s students did “exceptionally well”.

  Five boys received over 550 points: Brendan Mullen, Mark Kearney, David Finnerty, Jamie Granahan and Aidan Duignan.

  Ms Gallagher said: “It was down to their own hard work. Those candidates would be looking at studying physiotherapy, engineering and business.”

  In the northeast of the county, 72 boys and girls sat the Leaving Cert at Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown. The results were an improvement on previous years, principal Eamon Corrigan said.

  “The results were absolutely brilliant,” he said. “They were a good group, who worked extremely hard.”

  Though reluctant to highlight individual students, he said that a “sizeable number” of sudents got over 550 points.

* Local Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan congratulated everyone who sat the exams and wished all them the best in their future careers.

  “Those who achieved the top grades are to be commended for their hard work,” he said. “For the students who are disappointed today, I would advise them to talk to family, friends and teachers.

  “It is important to remember that the Leaving Certificate only examines a particular set of skills, and that there are many options open to them.”

  * Other schools contacted by the Roscommon People on Wednesday morning weren’t in a position to provide feedback prior to our deadline.  


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