10th December 2020 | Green Gazette

Oireachtas briefing: Extended Parent’s Leave and funding for charities, community groups and cycling

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Green Party leader and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD, has announced a fund of €50m to be made available to local authorities for investment in walking and cycling projects.

The aim of this funding is to support the development of high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure outside of our cities.  Local authorities in the Greater Dublin Area along with regional cities are already eligible for Active Travel funding from the NTA, and so this investment is specifically targeted at towns and villages across the country.

“Since Covid we have seen an increase in cycling and walking, and a reconnection to our local areas as well as some inspired ideas from our local councils,” Minister Ryan said.

“Now is the time to build on that by providing this specific funding for 2021 for high quality cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in towns and villages across the country.

“We want to facilitate people cycling and walking as part of their daily routine, connecting residential areas with schools, public transport, workplaces and public amenities. We’re looking forward to exciting projects from our local authorities which deliver the kind of segregated paths and other facilities that will encourage more people to walk and cycle.”

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, has secured Cabinet approval to extend paid Parent’s Leave from two to five weeks, to be taken in the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.

“We’re committed to ensuring every child gets the best possible start in life and supporting parents to spend more time with their kids is a big part of that. I hope this five-week paid parent’s leave will help mothers and fathers take that time in those precious first couple of years with their child”, Minister O’Gorman said.

“I am happy to be in a position to advance these important amendments to the Adoptive Leave Act 1995. Addressing the access to adoptive leave and benefit by married male same-sex couples is an important commitment in the Programme for Government which is of great importance for couples seeking to adopt.

“Allowing couples to choose who avails of adoptive leave is also important for all couples, as it allows us to move past the gender norms which place the burden of childcare disproportionately on women.”

Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, this week announced funding of €254,000 to support the work of the All Ireland Endorsement Body for Community Work Education and Training (AIEB) between 2020 and 2022.

“I am happy to announce funding of €254,000 to AIEB, an all-Ireland body supporting the quality education of community development workers. I would like to see grassroots community work in Ireland growing, I think the AIEB can play a key role in this regard and I hope this funding helps”, Minister O’Brien said.

Minister O’Brien also announced that an additional €1.7 million is being provided by the Government to support community and voluntary groups to deal with Covid-19. The funding, under the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, is in recognition of the important role played by community and voluntary organisations across the country as we head towards the Christmas period.

“2020 has been the most difficult year imaginable. And yet, every step of the way, our community and voluntary groups have gone above and beyond to show their true colours. These individual grants will generally be modest in nature however it is expected that higher amounts will be provided where the need is greatest.’’

Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, this week welcomed the launch of the National ‘Climate & Air Roadmap’ for the Agriculture Sector entitled Ag Climatise. The roadmap sets an ambitious vision for a ‘climate neutral agriculture sector by 2050’ and includes 29 actions with specific and challenging targets aimed at reducing the environmental footprint and further building on the strong credentials of Irish Agriculture.

Senator Hackett stated this is the beginning of the action needed to ensure the sustainable development of the agriculture and land-use sector:

“The roadmap includes some ambitious actions on reducing emissions and puts a focus on alternative land uses, sequestration, and renewable energy. Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Emissions from the sector have been going in the wrong direction. We need a clear pathway to reverse this trend, and this roadmap sets us on that path.’’

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, has announced new provisions to the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will create a new media regulator, the Media Commission, and establish a new framework for online safety.

“This is a crucial piece of legislation that will put an end to the era of soft-regulation of online platforms. It will ensure Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to do so in a systemic way.  Ireland will now be regulating many of the significant online companies on behalf of all EU member states with major European headquarters set up here”, Minister Martin stated.