Hundreds turn out for Mica Action Group public meeting as concerns are raised in Burt

first_imgHundreds of people packed into the An Grianan Hotel in Burt on Wednesday night for the first Mica Action Group (MAG) public meeting to discuss the controversial Mica redress scheme. Families and friends from around Donegal filled the hotel in Inishowen with kids of the affected families wearing Mica focused t-shirts to mark the event.Mica kids: The Homeowners’ kids sit in the front row of the public meeting in An Grianan Hotel, BurtThe meeting follows the allocation of €20million from the government for grants to cover remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. It is estimated that as many as 4,800 dwellings in Donegal and 345 in Mayo are affected by the Mica-defective blocks.The Donegal County Council also came under pressure from the group for their continued employment of the masonry supplier.What is known so far?Donegal County Council announced earlier this week that applications for the redress scheme will open this Autumn.Yesterday (Wednesday), members of MAG met with representatives from the Department of Housing (DOH) before the public meeting to seek clarity on keys issues surrounding the Mica scheme. It is understood that the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, Minister Joe McHugh, Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mica steering committee member, Councillor Bernard McGuinness, and senior figures from the DOH attended the meeting.Eileen Doherty, Press Officer for the MAG, told the packed hall on Wednesday: “We know that the government is going to pay 90% and that means homeowners will have to pay an additional 10% of the final bill.“It is important to note at this point that some of the criticism that we receive daily is that we negotiated that, we didn’t negotiate anything, and we still haven’t been given details to the scheme.“We lobbied for the best possible deal for the homeowners and I can assure you that we lobbied hard and the best possible deal was delivered.“There is also a lot of talk on social media on whether we should go back to the drawing board, should we look at legislation? If we don’t accept the deal that is currently on the table then we are in a position that we’d have to look at legislation, just like the pyrite situation. “Do we want to go down that road? As a group, the consensus is no, and as an individual homeowner, that is your choice and it is up to you whether you take the available deal.“We were never going to get the perfect scheme but, we are positively forward than we were six years ago.”In the private meeting between representatives from the Department of Housing and the MAG, members were told that the current €20million scheme will only cover the homeowners’ principal private residence – the homes that residents’ principally live in.Seeking clarity on the issue, Doherty explained the audience: “We sought clarity and asked whether a second home will be included and the answer was no, they won’t be included (in the current scheme). “It is unfortunate and it is not what we lobbied for but it what we were told.”It was also announced for those that have already fixed their homes will not be reimbursed from the government.“Retrospective payments will not be covered in the scheme,” Doherty said. “Payment will not be made for people who have fixed their homes, but we did seek clarity for people who made partial repairs and whether they are eligible and the answer to that was yes, so that is good news.”During the public meeting, Doherty outlined some constructive questions that had been answered during the private meeting with the public representatives on Wednesday.When will the application process open?Doherty explained: “They have promised that they will work through August and senior officials have been told that this is a priority and the Department of Housing is hopeful that the application will open in September, which may run into early October.” 2. What are the requirements for an application?“As I have explained, it must be a principal private residence, so it has to be the main home that you live in, however, there was a number of grey areas that we discussed today,” Doherty said.“For example, let’s say that there has been a marriage separation in the home. Those incidents they will look at fairly and it will be an exclusion to the principal residence rule.“For people who have had to leave their home due to it being unsafe, this will be another exclusion and they will be allowed to apply for the scheme.” 3. Which homes will get priority?Doherty continued: “We all want to know what homes are going to get priority over the others and how is that going to be worked out.“Is it going to be the houses that are the worst will get the priority? Or is there a different strategy? And the answer to that question is that they haven’t finalised those details at present.“But through a lengthy discussion today, they took note of our concerns.” 4. Who will have total responsibility for the scheme?“We had it confirmed today (Weds) that the Donegal County Council will have responsibility for the whole scheme,” Doherty confirmed at the public meeting.“We were told today that the entire process will be controlled by the Donegal County Council.“Where are they currently with that? We were told that the DOH are finalising the people that will be required, the skill sets that will be required, on the council to run a scheme such as this.“Following the finalising of this, the council will then start to put these positions in place.“We did express our concerns that the process could be a lengthy one, recruitment and things like that, and they confirmed that they will look to use existing staff on the council to make sure that this will get up and running as quickly as possible.” 5. How will the payment scheme work? “There was a lengthy discussion on this question and how it will work. Will it be a grant-based system? Do we have to pay money upfront? The key outcome of those discussions was that they would have to consider interim stage payments for that process.“There can not be a requirement that the owner has to pay the cost and then claim it back.“We were very firm and ensured that they understood that it wouldn’t work,” she added. “People don’t have the money to do that and the DOH told us that they would take that on board as a key issue. 6. What is the autonomy of the homeowner? “One of the keys things that I want to ensure for myself is that when someone comes in to fix my home as a contractor, that if they decide to use a particular supplier in the county then we cannot be obliged to use that supplier, even if they are the cheapest tender.“They agreed that we will have the right to choose a supplier as we so wish.” 7. What guarantee do Mica homeowners have that the work will be completed? “The guarantee effectively will rest with the engineers according to the DOH today,” Doherty added. “So they will adhere to the protocol for fixing each house and if they are confident that they have selected the correct repair then they should be no issue in the guarantee. “We also all need to be able to guarantee that our homes are insurable when they are fixed and the DOH agreed to have discussions with senior insurance bodies in Ireland as soon as possible, to ensure that they will accept the completion certification so that we can get the homes insured.” 8. How much money will be allocated for the budget next year and thereafter?Doherty explained: “This is a massive strategic detail to us as a group, if we don’t have enough money for the scheme it is not worth the paper it is written on.“So the budget is a huge issue for us over the next couple of months and the years thereafter,” she added. “And we expressed our concerns and we indicated that we would be expecting a significant increase in the budget.“We Illustrated the fact that if they take a figure of hundreds of millions then whatever allocation is given next year will be seen as a length of time they expect this scheme to roll out.“We asked that this is not something that goes on for ten years or more and it is done as quickly as possible.“We will continue to apply pressure and we have asked all of Donegal’s local and national representatives to keep the pressure on them as well.” 9. Cost of accommodation and storage for Mica homeowners“Funding (from the scheme) will not cover the cost of accommodation and storage, which is a negative from today’s meeting, there is no doubt about that.“The DOH said that the Department of Finance is very much squeezed and we will continue to keep the pressure on about that issue.“We highlighted that Pyrite did get that cost and we should be getting that today.“But the answer that we got today (Weds) is that it will not be covered to get as much funding as possible for the homes.”MICA public meeting panel at the An Grianan Hotel, BurtFrustration and anger remainsOnce questions had opened to the public gallery, it was clear that frustrations remained in some quarters, with one member of the audience sparking debate about the divisive nature the application process could cause within the Mica community, something they dubbed as ‘competition against thy neighbour’.The audience member said: “€20m is possibly 5% of what we are talking (about what is needed) overall, so how do you all feel that this makes competitors of everybody in the room?“That someone is going to have to put in a submission that makes a competitor out of a neighbour, how are we going to deal with that in our community?“It could be a really divisive moment for our community when people start to question why their neighbour got the grant and they didn’t”Opening the question up to the panel, which consisted of MAG Chairperson Ann Owen, Chartered Civil Engineer and MAG Adviser, Damien McKay, Cathaoirleach Cllr Nicholas Crossan, Cllr Martin McDermott, Cllr Albert Doherty, Cllr Martin Farren, Cllr Bernard McGuinness, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Senator), Charlie McConalogue (TD), Thomas Pringle (TD) and Mark O’Doherty, Special Advisor to Minister Joe McHugh, Mac Lochlainn responded.He said: “We cannot have that message going out here tonight, that it is going to be family against family.“Every family that wants to use this scheme must get the opportunity to make their homes safe for their families and that is the way it must be and that is the message.”The biggest cheer of the night, which led to a standing ovation from one of the main function rooms in the packed An Grianan Hotel, came following a direct question to the Donegal County Councillors over their accused continued employment of a certain block-making firm.A member of the audience on Wednesday night asked: “Why are Donegal County Council, not only still using the company that has caused this absolute crisis, but they are probably their biggest customer in the county, why is that still happening?”Responding to the question, Cllr Farren said: “I came here tonight to take on board peoples concerns and with the Mica Steering Group, which will have members from the Mica Action Group on that committee, then, as Eileen has already alluded tonight, we can bring that up at that meeting.“We will be asking those questions and as I said we are here tonight to listen to concerns and we need to get an answer for yourself.”That response sparked a flurry off off-microphone calls, with one responder shouting: “It doesn’t take that forum or future forums for that question to be asked.“There have been plenty of forums over the past seven years were that question could’ve been addressed.“The anguish it causes people in this room when they have to pass one of those lorries on the road is unmeasurable.“(That point) has been made for seven years and nothing has been done about it.“As I said, when you are one of the people in this room, and you pass those lorries on the road, the feeling that you get in your gut…” rapturous applause in support of the statement filled the room before the audience member could finish their sentence.The organisers of the public meeting told attendees that regular meetings will be held in the upcoming months to keep them updated with what is going on with the upcoming scheme.Chairperson of Mica Action Group, Ann Owen, concluded the meeting, she said: “I want to thank all of you for turning out tonight. I can assure you we will keep this scheme moving along.“Each and everyone one of us has a part to play to keep the pressure on your elected representatives to ensure funding is delivered year on year,” she added.“Finally. I owe it to my colleagues in the Mica Action Group, they have homes that have been affected as well and their continued dedication to this process has been commendable.”Hundreds turn out for Mica Action Group public meeting as concerns are raised in Burt  was last modified: August 1st, 2019 by Shaun KeenanShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Vaccine hope for SA women

first_imgKhanyi Magubane A revolutionary new vaccine aimed at protecting women and girls as young as nine from cervical cancer has been launched in South Africa. The cancer preventing-vaccine Gardasil protects against diseases caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) 6, 11, 16 and 18.In laymen’s terms, these include cervical cancer, abnormal and pre-cancerous cervical lesions, genital warts, vaginal and vulva cancer.The vaccine was launched in early April in South Africa and although it is not yet available for free at public health institutions, it is available at private clinics and hospitals.Treatment is administered in three doses, at R770 (US$ 97) per injection. Beverley Cowper, the medical director at Merck Sharp & Dohme, the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the vaccine, says: “Clinical trials conducted over the years have showed that the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing vaginal cancer and genital warts.”The vaccine is launched in South Africa amid worrying statistics. According to health website Health24, in South Africa approximately 6 700 women per year will develop cervical cancer while an estimated 3 700 will die from the disease.The Cancer Association of South Africa’s Martha Molete says cervical cancer is the main cancer affecting South African women, “One in every 31 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime.”In March 2008, the Medicines Control Council also approved another cancer-preventing vaccine in South Africa. Following approval from the regulatory board, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline launched a product called Cervarix. It is available in the private and public sectors.Cervarix is already in use in the UK and the US, and is recommended for use in girls and women from the age of 10 upwards.Both Gardasil and Cervarix will work in the same way to protect the cervix against absorbing HPV.What is cervical cancer?Cancer of the cervix is associated with the cancer-producing HPV, which is transmitted during intercourse as a sexually transmitted disease. HPV can also be passed on from mother to child during birth, when the infant passes through the cervix.Just like all other parts of the body, the cervix is made up of different tissues. When cancer-producing agents disturb the genetic coding of the cervix, abnormal cells develop which, after some time, can form a malignant tumour (cancerous growth). If abnormal cells are found only within the epithelium (the outer surface of the cervix), the condition is called a pre-cancerous lesion. Once malignant cells penetrate through the basement membrane into the deeper tissue, the condition is then called cervical cancer as it may be spread to the rest of the body.SymptomsA pap smear can usually pick up abnormal tissue cells within the cervix. Bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods, or it may occur after sexual intercourse, douching or during a gynaecological examination.Menstrual bleeding may last longer and be heavier than usual. Bleeding after menopause may also be an indicator of cervical cancer. This symptom may also point to cancer from the endometrium (inner lining of the womb). Increased vaginal discharge can be another symptom of cervical cancer.These symptoms may point to cancer or to other health problems. Smoking increases the risk of developing cancer cells in the cervix. The risk is dose-related – if a woman is a heavy smoker, the risk is higher.Immunity-lowering conditions like AIDS and certain medications for transplant patients may also increase the risk for cervical cancer.TreatmentCervical cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, where different types of drugs are used to treat primary or recurrent cervical cancer. If diagnosis takes place when a woman is already pregnant, a decision must be made if the pregnancy will be carried to full term. Treatment for cervical cancer cannot be administered during pregnancy and if the cancer has advanced, immediate treatment is required.Other forms of treatment for early stage cancer include cryosurgery, which freezes the pre-invasive cancer cells with a metal probe that has been cooled with liquid nitrogen. Laser surgery is also used to burn off abnormal cells or remove tissue to be studied further. A patient may also decide to have a hysterectomy. The uterus and cervix are removed either through the vagina or the abdominal wall. This results in infertility.Useful linksMSD South AfricaHealth 24Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Cancer Quest – educational information on cancerlast_img read more

Pioneer Field Report: Spring weather brings renewed wheat, soybean considerations

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Troy Putnam, field agronomist with Pioneer, talks with Ohio Ag Net’s Joel Penhorwood about this year’s wheat activity in fields while farmers gear up for corn and soybean planting. Considerations with regard to wheat growth stages are important to remember this time of year. Putnam also encourages farmers to take an active approach to what they’re spraying as burndowns and what inoculants are on seed, with seed quality being an ever-present concern after an extremely wet harvest all around.last_img read more

BTC to Provide Prepaid Electricity Empowered to Manage Power Usage

first_imgFacebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsAppNASSAU, BS, April 13, 2016 — Metered and prepaid electricity will soon become a reality as the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has started testing the service in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. Prepaid metering allows customers to better manage their electricity use and bills via BTC’s 4G LTE data network.BTC CEO Leon Williams said, “With this accomplishment, BTC will become the first Telecommunications Provider in the Caribbean region to leverage its network to provide smart-grid services to the utility industry. BTC’s prepaid service eliminates monthly bills, disconnections, and visits to the utility office, while providing the tools necessary to save money on utilities. It’s also a step ahead for utility companies who can reduce accounts receivable and transition the management of accounts to the customer.”CEO at St. George’s Cay Power Limited, Morris Pinder said, “We have been using the BTC prepaid metering solution for about a month now, and thus far everything is going well. In Spanish Wells we have several business owners that operate rental units and prepaid metering will be beneficial as renters will be responsible for their power usage. I’m certain that it will also be beneficial for persons that may have problems paying for electricity.”Prepaid metering provides an added layer of flexibility for customers. This tech-savvy solution will use BTC’s 4G LTE data network, and will allow customers to top up their accounts using their existing mobile wallet, wherever BTC top-up is available, online and via the BTC Call Center. Consumers will have the ability of monitoring their usage using their smart devices. ​​The prepaid metering system provides notifications, letting customers know when their balances are low and prompting them to top up again. The system can also be customized to allow customers to also pay down on their existing bills.Over the next several months, BTC expects to complete its POC and extend the opportunity to local utility providers. Later this year, BTC will also work with a provider to spearhead a prepaid metering concept for water usage.​​​​Caption: Prepaid Meters installed in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera​About BTCBTC is the national leader in communications services in The Bahamas. The Company offers a full suite of landline, broadband and mobile solutions for residential and enterprise customers.BTC is the 2015 winner of the globally renowned sales and business development Stevie Awards. The Company captured the Silver Award for the National Sales Executive of the Year and the Bronze Award for Sales Team of the Year.BTC is also the 2015 winner of the Gold and Silver medals in the regional Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) Awards. BTC won two First Place Gold Medals for ‘Excellence in Cover Design & Art – Product Branding’ and ‘Excellence in Cover Design & Art – Print’. The company captured the Second Place Silver Medal for ‘Excellence in Print Directories’.The Company is also committed to community building and in 2015 alone has been title sponsor of several national initiatives including One Bahamas, The High School Nationals, CARIFTA Swim and Track & Field Teams, IAAF/BTC World Relays and the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.Media Contacts:Indira [email protected] Eldri [email protected] Related Items:last_img read more