Cllr. Avril Whitney

I am a twenty eight year old primary school teacher; co-opted onto Westmeath County Council for the Mullingar West area in May 2012. I have a keen interest in sport and physical activity. I am a member of the Clann Gaels Ladies intermediate team, the club registrar, a member of the finance committee and delegate to the Westmeath Ladies County Board. As a Bunbrosna club member I participated in Scór/Scór na nÓg winning an All Ireland title in 2002.

Since my co-option I have endeavoured to represent the interests of my constituents to the best of my abilities. As part of my role as Councillor I am a member of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee and a member of the Joint Policing Committee. I have worked with a number of voluntary groups to establish Community Alert Programmes and I am also a member of Rathowen and Ballinalack Tidy Towns Associations.

I co-founded “It’s Good 2 Talk Westmeath” a low cost counseling service for families or individuals struggling in the current economic climate. I hold a number of administrative roles in local voluntary groups such as; secretary of the Mullingar St. Patrick’s Day Committee, and Chairperson of the Rathowen Amateur Dramatic Society.

My professional and political roles allow me to interface with a significant cross section of society on a daily basis. In these capacities, I have gained an understanding of the difficulties and challenges faced by many families.

Priorities:

1. Promote & Encourage Volunteerism in the community and assist Voluntary groups to achieve their goals & ambitions.

2. Infrastructural Investment including – Roads, Footpaths, Community Playgrounds, Broadband, Safety Measures and Lighting.

3. Fairness and equity in the provision and future roll out of the School Book Rental Scheme.

4. Enhanced provision of community services in Early Childcare for Pre-School Children and After School care for children of school going age.

5. Maintenance and expansion of service provision at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar as part of the new hospital network group.

6. Continued Commitment to Mental Health and Wellbeing with the ongoing development of services such as “It’s Good 2 Talk – Westmeath.”

7. Community Policing including Community Alert Services and Neighbourhood Watch Programmes.

Latest News

Government blocking the elderly and disbaled from applying for Grants-Whitney

Friday 16th May 2014

Cllr. Avril Whitney has slammed the Government for the latest blockade that they have imposed on people with disabilities and the elderly. This comes after the Government introduced new guidelines to force housing grant applicants to obtain occupational therapists reports before applying for grant assistance from their local authority.

“An occupational therapists report is now a compulsory part of  the housing aid for the elderly and for people with disabilities. Whilst I appreciate this is no major issue for applicants already attending a occupational therapists, it is however, causing great stress for those who are not already seeing one. The waiting list for an appointment with a public OT is very long, causing incomplete applications to be put on hold indefinitely. Applicants may appoint an OT in a private capacity at a substantial cost which can be recouped, if and ONLY if, the grant is successful. Also I have been advised that this report may not necessarily be considered appropriate”.

“Deputy Robert Troy asked Minister Jan O’ Sullivan, through a recent Parliamentary Question, to release clarification on the matter as the new guideline are causing a significant backlog in the housing Department of Westmeath County Council. Minister O’ Sullivan simply replied saying the Local Authority may employ an OT on an hourly contract. There was no mention of additional funding to be allocated to the already stretched local authorities to carry out such an undertaking.”

Another problem applicants of Westmeath are facing is that there are very few occupational therapists operating privately who are able to facilitate this request in this area.

Therefore I am submitting a motion at the next Council area meeting calling on Westmeath County Council to negotiate with the Department and employ an OT to relieve the backlog and allow applicants who are in real need to receive funding.

Cllr. Whitney concluded, ultimately the Government has once again placed an additional expense and grievance on the most vulnerable in our society”.

Government Spin on Water Charging Regime ‘Simply Dishonest’ – Whitney 

– Working families set to pay more under revised scheme –

Fianna Fáil local election candidate Avril Whitney has criticised Government spin on its new water charging regime this week as ‘simply dishonest’.  Ahead of the Dáil Éireann vote on Fianna Fáil’s Private Members’ Motion opposing Irish Water, Cllr. Whitney detailed his personal circumstances to explain how, based on the information released to date, the Government’s charging regime will end up costing working families more.

Cllr. Whitney commented, “Like many people across the country, I have watched and listened over recent days as the Government PR machine has bombarded us with claims about how much fairer their revised water charges scheme is.  The Fine Gael / Labour partnership has managed, we’ve been asked to believe, to eliminate standing charges and protect the most vulnerable while still keeping everyone else’s bill at the same level.

“It was clear immediately that the claim of protecting the most vulnerable was bogus.  By insisting on funding any supports from the existing Social Protection budget, without putting any extra resources into that budget, the Government is perpetrating a confidence trick on the people which rely on its support the most.

“However, the claim to have protected working families by maintaining the average cost of bills is perhaps the most dishonest element of the Government’s presentation over recent days.  To try to understand the effect of these changes, I have tried to apply the charging plan to my own family.

“The removal of the standing charge and the maintenance of the same average cost means only one thing – a significantly higher cost per litre.  Using the Government’s published projections, this moves from 0.016 cent per litre to 0.027 cent per litre.

“With a higher cost per litre, the simple fact is that working families across the country will now pay significantly more than they were going to be paying just a few weeks ago.  The most vulnerable will have some short term relief in their water bills, but will pay for this relief through other cuts to the Social Protection budget.

“This entire re-packaging of water charges appears to have been no more than a complicated Public Relations exercise designed to spare the blushes of the Labour Party and allow Fine Gael look like they’re listening. Fianna Fáil is calling on the Government to immediately publish the cost per litre detail so that families can have some clarity about how much they will actually pay and we can all have an honest discussion.

Government confirms worryingly high youth unemployment figure – Whitney

Tuesday 25th April 2014

Local Fianna Fáil Councillor and national school teacher Avril Whitney has expressed her horror after it was revealed that more than 85,000 people under 26 are neither earning nor learning.

“The figures, released in response to a parliamentary question placed by Fianna Fáil reveal that 85,200 young people are not in work or education programmes, while more than 56,000 describe themselves as unemployed. Not only are these young people left in an effective limbo, they’ve also seen their dole payments slashed from €190 to €100 euro a week. The Minister tried to claim that the rationale behind the cutting of the benefit was to encourage people off the welfare system, however there are not enough training and education places to cater for the number of people out of work.

“One in six young people are now caught in this system whereby they have no job and no place on a training or education course. 26,100 of these people are in the border, midlands and west region. According to the Minister herself, there are fewer than 10,000 young people currently participating in education schemes like SOLAS, VTOS, and Youthreach. What about the other 75,000? Why should they be forced to accept reduced benefits because of Government’s failure to fulfil its promises and provide education and training places for them? Young people who want to take up a third level course are also being hit, following a series of registration fee hikes over the past three years, a move that is alienating thousands of students from continuing on in education.

“The Government’s record on tackling youth unemployment has been extremely poor. Ministers have created much fanfare about the Youth Guarantee scheme, yet other than a pilot scheme in Ballymun, there has been no sense of urgency in rolling out the programme. There has been much backslapping in recent weeks about signs of an economic recovery, however that positivity is in stark contrast with the reality that we see down here in Mullingar and surrounding towns. The Government’s job creation plan is simply not working, young people are continuing to emigrate and those who decide to stay behind are being left with limited education opportunities and reduced jobseeker’s payments.

“It’s imperative that the Government begins to create real, tangible jobs for these young people instead of schemes like Gateway, JobBridge and Pathways to work, which merely massage the Live Register figures and hide the real unemployment figures”.

Ard Fheis

Monday 24th of March 2014

Whitney makes national address slamming the closure of garda stations

Local Fianna Fáil Councillor Avril Whitney took to the stage at the weekend during the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis calling on the delegates present to support her motion to ensure the retention of rural garda stations and reverse recent closures.

The speech which went out to the nation live on RTE was direct, powerful and caught the mood of the audience perfectly. Councillor Whitney, who is a native of Rathowen spoke of the fear that has been placed in people especially rurally due to the closure of their garda stations. She referred to her home village and her disgust with the Government for encouraging and supporting criminals and failing in its duty to protect people.

“Delegates, I believe this is one of the most important motions before the Ard Fheis here today.  Since this Government have come to office they have continuously undermined the long term sustainability of life in rural Ireland.  The ideology of this government is to centralise all services – which we fundamentally disagree with.  They have threatened to take our schools.  They have threatened to take our post offices. They have already taken away our Garda Stations”.  stated Councillor Whitney.

The whole speech plus other speeches from the weekend can be watched at

http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10265527/

Evelyn O’Rourke and Kathy Sheridan to speak at Mullingar’s Womens Evening

Following her magnificent appearance on the Late Late Show, Evelyn O’Rourke, RTE Broadcaster and author is set to speak in the Greville Arms Hotel on the 2nd of May, accompanied by Mullingar native and acclaimed Irish Times journalist Ms. Kathy Sheridan and Dr. Patricia Heavy A.I.T, for an evening of celebration, inspiration and enjoyment.

Councillor Avril Whitney and a group of local ladies have come together to host a women’s wellbeing evening in the Greville Arms Hotel on the 2nd of May. The evening which is titled a ‘Celebration of Life’ has been designed to embrace the talents and achievements of women. Fittingly, all proceeds of the event are going to the Women’s Refuge Centre, Mullingar (TEAM) and Westmeath Support, which is an advocacy service for suffers of domestic violence.

“The theme of the evening is empowerment and celebration as we aim to highlight what women can achieve and encourage self-belief. I believe this event is hugely important as it will promote women whilst also raising much needed funds for both vital services in the locality. I am absolutely thrilled with the calibre of our speakers, and speaking as one of the only female public representative on Westmeath County Council, I appreciate the need and desire that we have every so often to celebrate all that is wonderful about us women. “Stated Whitney.

The evening will begin with a wine reception at 7pm where attendees will be able to peruse and admire local talents as tables will be on display during the reception showcasing the finest products, activities and organisations that Westmeath has to offer women.

Councillor Whitney concluded, “I am inviting any local business, organisation or sports club tailored for women to set up a table on the evening and showcase what they have to offer. If interested please contact me on 0879533590. Please note spaces may be limited so make contact as soon as possible.”

Avril and the ladies

 Launch of Event

 

 

Whitney alarmed at expected jump in one teacher schools

52 two teacher schools to be downgraded as a result of Govt cuts

Fianna Fáil Local Election Candidate for Mullingar-Kilbeggan Cllr Avril Whitney has expressed her alarm at revelations that an additional 52 two-teacher schools across the country are on course to lose a teacher in September.

In reply to questions from Fianna Fáil in the Dáil, the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said there are currently 8 one teacher schools in the country, but that this could jump to 60 in September based on current enrollment figures.

“These figures show the impact that the Government’s attack on small schools is having on the ground. Minister Quinn announced rolling increases in the pupil teacher ratio at small schools in his first budget in office. Already, a number of schools in this region have seen their staffing levels cut as a result. And now it seems that more are in the firing line,” said Cllr Whitney.

“As it stands, 52 two teacher schools are on course to be downgraded to one teacher schools because their pupil numbers are below the new threshold of 20 required by Minister Quinn to retain two teachers. In addition, 61 three teacher schools have fallen below the new threshold for retaining all of their teachers, and have already lost a teacher or are at risk of losing a teacher in the future. Similarly, 50 four teacher schools have been caught by the new pupil teacher ratio and have already been hit with cuts or are on course for future cuts to staffing levels.

“This is real evidence of the Government’s targeted campaign against small schools, particularly in the border region. The burden of Minister Quinn’s changes to the pupil teacher ratio has fallen on rural schools in this region. It’s an extremely blunt policy introduced by a Dublin-based Minister who is failing to consider the geography of an area, a school’s particular ethos or the school’s position on the community.

“The sheer numbers of schools affected is further proof that this an underhand campaign to eventually force schools in more rural areas to amalgamate. Too many communities in Westmeath have seen their local services reduced in recent years. Any attempt to force local schools to close must be resisted,” said Cllr Whitney.