Mercy Secondary School initiative welcomed

A new initiative whereby students at Longford Mercy Secondary School can purchase iPads through a credit union loan, was welcomed by Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon in the Dáil during a debate on the new Credit Union Bill.

A new initiative whereby students at Longford Mercy Secondary School can purchase iPads through a credit union loan, was welcomed by Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon in the Dáil during a debate on the new Credit Union Bill.

From next September first year students at Mercy Secondary School - which Deputy Bannon himself attended - will have the option of replacing heavy textbooks with iPads. Prior to the start of the school year the cost of this initiative was a concern for parents, but they are now hopeful of purchasing the iPads by way of a loan from the local credit union to be repaid in installments of €5 per week, he said.

The elimination of heavy schoolbags would be a huge benefit to the well-being of students, said Deputy Bannon. Such community activity was a demonstration of the small but powerful benefit of a credit union presence in local areas.

While the current economic downturn ensures that disadvantaged individuals are still well served by credit unions, the credit unions also have a strong role to play in the funding of small and medium businesses, added the Deputy.

“It is my strong contention that the Credit Guarantee Scheme, which facilitates €450 million of additional bank lending, should be operated through the credit union network,” he said. “This scheme empowers the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to give loan guarantees to a designated lending institution, and the obvious candidate in terms of facilitating local small and medium size businesses would be the credit unions. As enterprise boards and the Minister’s own Department oversee the progress of the scheme, this should be more than possible.”

Midlands snubbed by Tourism Ireland, claims Troy

Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil Deputy Robert Troy accused Tourism Ireland of “snubbing” the Midlands in its current promotional campaign in the USA during a Dáil debate on tourism promotion.

“Why did the Government let Tourism Ireland leave the Midlands blank when advertising in the second biggest market?” asked Deputy Troy. The Midlands had plenty to offer any tourist.

“This is a critical issue for the tourism industry in the Midlands,” he said. “It is said there are 44 million people in the US who claim Irish ancestry. In 2012, the advertisement that was run in the United States vacation planner published by Tourism Ireland and distributed throughout the USA, with a circulation of 175,000, made no reference to the Midlands

“ The map that was published left the Midlands completely blank and indicated tourists coming to Ireland could tour from Dublin to Dublin along the coastline in ten days doing 122 miles per day,” pointed out the Deputy.

In the advertising material in the same publication in 2010, three pages were dedicated to the Midlands that highlighted the mix of amenities on offer, from Mullingar to Athlone, Longford, Enniskillen, Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon and Tullamore.

“It is not just an issue affecting my constituency; it affects the entire Midlands region,” he said. “The only advertisement run in the 2012 publication was organised by Belvedere House and Gardens itself, with the tag line “Your President did it, you can too” making a play on the fact President Obama visited the Midlands when he came to Ireland in 2011.”

Tourism has been highlighted as a central plank of the jobs creation strategy, added Deputy Troy. The statistics used by Fáilte Ireland for The Gathering suggest that for every 70 overseas visitors who come to Ireland, a job is created.

“In my constituency, Westmeath County Council developed Belvedere House and Gardens at a cost of more than €10 million. Athlone Castle was recently renovated. There is the Hill of Uisneach, Kilbeggan Distillery, one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the world, Kilbeggan Race Course, the Royal Canal, the Grand Canal, the River Shannon, huge numbers of lakes and Abbeyshrule, just down the road from my own home, which is the tidiest town in Ireland.”

Tourism Ireland, however, had still chosen to leave the Midlands out of its advertising in the United States. It was very disappointing the Government had let this happen and showed its neglect of the midlands, said the Deputy.

“The Midlands have plenty to offer and I want to ensure we get an equal amount of advertising by Tourism Ireland,” he added.