Noel Dempsey has been involved with the following community organistaions during the course of his public life:
PUBLIC LIFE - LOCAL LEVEL
- Tidy Towns,
- Chambers of Commerce,
- Tourist Co-Op
- Community Council
- Macra na Feirme
- Muintir na Tire (active member at local, county and national level and editor of their national journal)
- GAA (former player and official with Ballivor GFC and Killyon HC. The first Meath GAA Youth Officer)
- Founder member and secretary of Trim Housing Aid Society Limited – provided low rent accommodation for newly married couples.
PUBLIC LIFE – NATIONAL LEVEL
- Youngest ever Chairman of Meath County Council ’86-‘87
- Chairman of Trim UDC ’81-’82 and ’85-‘86
- Chairman of Meath Youth and Sport Committee
- Member and Chairman of Meath VEC
- Member of Meath Library Committee
- Member of Meath County Health Committee
- Director of Eastern Regional Development Organisation (ERDO)
- Director of Midland East Regional Tourism Organisation (MERTO)
- Member of Meath County Council sub-committees on employment, tourism and housing.
- First elected to Dáil Eireann in 1987.
- Member of the Public Accounts Committee 1987-1989 and 1990-1991.
- Appointed Government Chief Whip in 1991.
- Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence 1991-1992.
- Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach, Defence and Finance with responsibility for Office of Public Works (OPW) 1992-1994.
- Opposition Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government 1995-1997.
- Minister for the Environment and Local Government 1997-2002.
- Minister for Education and Science 2002-2004.
- Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 2004 to present.
- President of European Council Education Ministers from January – June 2004.
Noel Dempsey has been actively involved as a Member and an Officer of Fianna Fáil at all levels locally and nationally. He attended and spoke at the first ever Ogra National Youth Conference in 1975.
He won the Fianna Fáil Leinster Public Speaking Competition for the De Valera Cup in 1976. At various times he was Secretary of James Griffin Cumman and John Bird Comhairle Ceanntar. He served as PRO for Meath Dail Ceanntar for a number of years.
Noel served on many Parliamentary Party Committees including employment, tourism, education.
He is a member of the National Executive and current Honorary Treasurer of the Party. He has always been active in trying to advance the Party cause particularly in relation to candidate selection, development of policy and involving councillors.
Following the break up of the Fianna Fáil – Labour Government in 1994 he was specifically requested by the Party Leader to organise the councillors around the country to try to restore morale and to prepare for the General Election of 1997. During that two-year period he visited most constituencies at least three times and met will all of the councillors on a regular basis.
His talents as an organiser have been recognised since his appointment as Chief Whip. He has negotiated each Programme for Government since 1991. He has served on national election committees since that time also.
He was Director of Elections for the Dublin West by-election in 1996 and defied the odds by securing the seat for Brian Lenihan. This was the first by election victory for Fianna Fáil since 1985.
Noel was appointed Director of Elections for Mary McAleese successful Presidential Election in 1997.
As Director of Elections for the 1999 Local Elections he presided over the most successful local election campaign for Fianna Fáil. For the first time since 1967 a party in Government increased their vote, netting over 30 extra seats for the Party at local level.
NOEL DEMPSEY IN GOVERNMENT
All his political life Noel Dempsey has believed that politics is about making a difference so he has never hesitated to rock the political boat or take stances that may be unpopular or that upset the political establishment. The evidence of this is visible from his first election to Dáil Eireann nor did he change when he was appointed Chief Whip in 1991.
In that position he introduced the most comprehensive package of measures on Dáil reform which led to an enhanced Committee system, streamlined Dáil debates, made debates more topical and relevant and paved the way for electronic voting in the Dáil.
As Minister of State in the Department of Defence he took a special interest in the Civil Defence and was responsible for the Challenge 2000 Report which provided the blueprint for the modernisation of the Civil Defence throughout the country. He also had responsibility for initiating and implementing the report on the reform of the Defence Forces which has led to the current modernisation of the Forces.
In the Office of Public Works Noel Dempsey provided over what was then the largest ever programme of conservation and restoration of our built heritage.
Reform and modernisation was very much the theme of Noel Dempsey’s time in Environment and Local Government. In his time there he initiated and saw through a complete reform of the local Government system including:
- Putting a dedicated Local Government Fund in place which guaranteed that motor tax was completely dedicated to local authorities.
- Ensuring new Value For Money procedures for Local Authorities including a new financial management system.
- Pioneering the ‘one stop shop’ concept bringing local government and national services together in local areas.
- Securing constitutional recognition for Local Government.
- Removing the power of Government to postpone local elections.
- Developing Strategic Policy Committees which give Councillors and local groups more say in local Government. The Corporate Policy Groups also give Councillors more say.
- Establishing County Development Boards to bring local Government and local development closer together.
- Introducing representational payments to Councillors thereby ensuring a widening of the membership of local authorities.
- Introducing an ethical framework for local Government members and officials.
- The Local Government Act 2000 was described as the “most comprehensive reform of Local Government since its foundation 100 years ago.”
The proposal to end the “dual mandate”was one of the best known reforms proposed but it had to be abandoned when the four independent TDs, who were vital to the survival of the Government refused to support it. They were the only TDs who opposed the measure, Noel Dempsey took the pragmatic approach and agreed to defer the reform confident that it would pass in a subsequent Dáil. The dual mandate was abolished by his successor.
Major problems were caused by the fact that outdoor concerts in venues like Slane had to undergo full planning application before they could take place. Noel Dempsey resolved these problems by introducing legislation for the licensing of outdoor concerts.
Frank McDonald, noted Irish Times Environment Editor, summed up Noel Dempsey’s time in environment by stating that he was the best Minister for the Environment since that position was created.
Noel’s innovative thinking led to the introduction of the levy on plastic shopping bags which led to an immediate reduction of over 90% usage of plastic shopping bags in this country. This in turn led to a dramatic decrease in the serious litter problem related to plastic bags. Equally importantly it convinced the public that they could make a difference in the fight against litter.
Other major achievements for the environment during Noel’s tenure were:
- The establishment of the Environment Fund which has meant a dedicated ringfenced fund for environmental projects. The money for this fund comes directly from the plastic bag and landfill levies.
- There was a major improvement in our water quality between 1997 and 2002 as a result of the major funding secured for water and sewerage works throughout the country.
- Extended the ban on bituminous solid fuel to 14 additional towns and cities.
- A major drive to properly manage our waste was initiated during his term in office with the publication of “Changing our Ways”. This policy set targets for the reduction of waste going to landfill for recycling of domestic, commercial and construction waste.
- Regional waste management plans were put in place which provided for door to door collection of waste and dry recyclables. This meant that 33% of households had this service within 5 years.
- Increased the number of bring banks from 850 in 1998 to 1,800 in 2002.
- Increased the number of civic amenity recycling centres from single figures to over fifty.
- Achieved the 25% packaging waste recovery target in 2001.
- Established the National Construction and Demolition Waste Council in June 2002.
- Introduced the concept of pay by weight for waste to encourage recycling and reduction in waste production.
- Increased rate of recycling of municipal waste be 50% between 1998 and 2001.
- Initiated moves to establish the Office of Environmental Enforcement
- Established Comhar, a sustainable development partnership.
- Successfully negotiated the 13% growth limitation target for Ireland under Kyoto Agreement.
- Phased out leaded petrol five years ahead of schedule.
- National consultation process on GMOs.
- Introduced an eco-audit system.
- Published the National Climate Change Strategy.
- Enshrined the concept of sustainable development in planning law for the first time ever.
- Secured voluntary agreement to phase out phosphate based laundry detergents to protect our water systems.
- Published the National Climate Change Strategy.
- Introduced a farm waste management scheme.
- Initiated and completed the most comprehensive review of the Irish planning system since the first Planning Act of 1963.
- Introduced the concept of Strategic Development Zones.
- Protection and grant scheme initiated for our architectural heritage.
- Introduced Town Renewal Scheme.
- Ensured the future of small to medium size towns by introducing the retail planning guidelines.
- Introduced the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme which has led to a revitalisation of that area.
- Initiated and developed the National Spatial Strategy
- Introduced the first ever national car testing system.
- First Minister ever to set targets for reduction in the number of deaths and injuries on our roads.
- Introduced the legislation which paved the way for the penalty points system.
- Secured record amounts of funding for our national roads programme and for non-national roads fundamentally changed the policy in relation to national roads by ensuring that roads were designed and planned on a national basis rather than on the basis of a series of bypasses of individual towns.
- Introduced many measures to tackle the housing shortages and to deal with spiralling house prices.
- Increased funding for local authority housing programmes,
- revised many schemes for loans and grants for social housing,
- Introduced the concepts of affordable sites and improved provision for affordable housing.
- In the private housing sector many measures were taken to improve the number of new houses being built such as the changes to residential densities to allow more houses to be built in urban areas.
- Streamlined the planning system to speed up the planning process and to allow for zoning of more land for housing.
- The Serviced Land Initiative (SLI) providing water and sewerage for zoned land accelerated the availability of land for housing.
- Successfully introduced the concept of private developers providing land or houses for social and affordable housing with part 5 of the Planning and Development Act. The importance of this part of the Act was that it settled for once and for all the arguments about whether the State had the right to “interfere” with private property rights for the “common good”. This argument had been used as an excuse by governments of all hues since in 1970 Kenny Report.
- Established Referendum Commission
- Introduced legislation regarding donations to political parties,
- Successfully initiated and piloted electronic voting.
- Introduced photographs and party logos on ballot papers to facilitate those with reading difficulties.
- Initiated, completed and implemented a total review of the library service including a 500% increase in funding.
At the time of the General Election 2002 a complete review of our laws in relation to water services and our rates system was almost complete.
Noel Dempsey, T.D. – Just over two years as Minister for Education and Science and ……
Q. Who was responsible for engaging the Irish public in the largest consultation on our education system in our history?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for the highly-acclaimed OECD evaluation of our third level system designed to improve the quality of the system?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for ending the industrial relations chaos that had poisoned our schools
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for achieving out of school hours parent/teacher meetings?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for standardisation of the school year?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who put the needs of the learner back at the centre of the education debate
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for major new initiatives in delivery of school projects, and record levels of investment in schools
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for bringing coherence to the internationalisation of Irish education?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who was responsible for the major review of education disadvantage programmes and the rationalisation of the approach?
A. Noel Dempsey
Q. Who supported the teaching profession when Fine Gael sought to prevent payment of benchmarking increases to teachers?
A. Noel Dempsey
SUPPORTS PROVIDED FOR STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
- Learning Support Teachers
The Minister increased the number of learning support teachers in the primary school system from 1,302 in 1998 to 1,531 at present, at an annual cost of EUR54m.
- Resource Teachers
The Minister increased the number of resource teachers from 104 in 1998 to more than 2,300 currently, allocating EUR70m.
- Special Needs Assistants
The Minister increased the number of full time Special Needs Assistants from 300 in 1998 to 4,239 full-time and created a further 1,264 part-time posts. The annual salary cost of this service is estimated at EURI00m for 2003.
- Part-time Tuition Services
The Minister increased the allocation for part-time tuition services for children with special needs from EUR12m in 2002 to EUR19m in 2003.
- Special Schools
There are 108 special schools catering for approximately 6,000 pupils. These schools employ an estimated 1,090 teachers at an annual salary cost of EUR43.6m.
EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH A DISABILITY BILL
This Bill, published in July 2003, guarantees the right of education to children with educational disabilities. It’s a right enforceable in law.
NATIONAL COUNCILFOR SPECIAL EDUCATION
The Minister appoint the Council this year and the Civil Service Commission is interviewing for 80 new special education needs organisers (SENO).
These will be based throughout the country and are a major plank of the Minister's strategy to improve delivery of special education. The Council
will be fully operational next year.
SCHOOL BUILDING PROGRAMME
2004 BUILDING PROGRAMME
The 2004 building programme will be announced shortly. For the first time ever the primary programme will exceed EUR200m. In total EUR287m has been committed to school building in 2004. Innovations such as the pilot project to allow small primary schools to undertake building and modernisation work
MULTI ANNUAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME
To allow for better long-term planning of school building, Budget 2004 announced that 5-year multi annual capital envelopes (will be agreed in future years for the school building programme.
PRIMARY SCIENCE CURRICULUM
The primary Science curriculum is being introduced to primary schools in the 2003/2004 school year. If I knew the benefit of this, it would help. Otherwise it’s as interesting as a tombstone.
INCREASED CAPITATION FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS
The Minister increased the capitation grant to primary schools by EUR10 per pupil, bringing the annual capitation grant to EURI21.68. All schools will receive a minimum payment of EUR7,300.
STANDARDISATION OF THE SCHOOL YEAR
The Social Partnership Agreement 2003-2005 Sustaining Progress, provided for modernisation of the education sector. One of the key developments is co-ordinated opening and closing times for primary schools for mid-term breaks and Christmas and Easter holidays. This is the first time all schools will have co-ordinated opening and closing times, and will also apply to post primary schools.
NEW PRIMARY TEACHER TRAINING COURSE
Recognition was granted to a new primary teacher training course in August. The new course will be delivered by Hibernia College, an on-line third level educational company, using innovative on- line e-learning technology and will lead to a Graduate Diploma in Primary Education. The course will be open to graduates and in addition to its on-line component will involve face-to-face tuition delivered at regional locations.
In 2003, approximately 1,460 primary teachers graduated from primary teacher training courses.
The Minister, setting out to address the lack of adequate teaching materials for use in all-Irish schools , published a comprehensive multi-media range of language materials for use in infant classes and received enthusiastically by schools and teachers. Work on extending the range is continuing.
The standards of Irish required of primary teachers who were trained abroad was reviewed during the year and proposals for the revision of the related examinations finalised. Initial changes have already been implemented in the most recent round of theses examinations the Scrudu na hAghaidh Caillocht Gaelige and further changes will occur in 2004.
NEW JUNIOR CERTIFICATE SCIENCE SYLLABUS
The new syllabus, announced in June 2003, will be available for schools wishing to provide it with effect from the 2003/04 school year, for examination for the first time in 2006. The revised syllabus in Junior Certificate Science is predicated on a hands-on investigative approach to science teaching and learning, with 35% of the available marks allocated directly to practical work.
ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR SECOND LEVEL SCHOOLS.
At second level we are providing an additional EUR8 per student capitation as announced in the v estimates. This will bring the annual capitation grant to EUR274. Significantly additional funding of EUR4 per capita to voluntary secondary schools as a further equalisation measure and in recognition of the particular financial pressures (e.g. insurance) on that sector.
SCHOOL TRANSPORT APPEALS BOARD
The Minister launched this Appeals Board to increase transparency and to demonstrate to our customers that such appeals are efficiently and objectively treated. This also operates at primary level.
EDUCATIONAL DISADVANTAGE COMMITTEE
The Educational Disadvantage Committee is undertaking a root and branch review of educational . disadvantage programmes in order to ensure optimum synergy and integration between them. The review will be completed in 2004.
Work has commenced on the development of a strategic framework for Traveller education. The framework will be completed in summer 2004 and will provide recommendations on the way forward in relation to Traveller education on a phased implementation basis
THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL WELFARE BOARD
In December Minister Dempsey launched the new National Educational Welfare Service and officially opened its new offices in Green St, Dublin. The new service will address the problems of early school leaving and absenteeism. Fifty-eight Educational Welfare staff have been appointed , including 31 former school attendance officers. Ongoing recruitment will bring the total number of staff to 84 by the end of the year
ACCESS AT THIRD LEVEL
THE ESF-AIDED FUND FOR THIRD LEVEL STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
The fund was increased significantly by the Minister with over 1,050 students receiving allocations for services and equipment at a cost of EUR3. 1m. The total allocation in 2003 for access measures targeted at students in further and higher education was EUR26m.
THE NATIONAL OFFICE FOR EQUITY OF ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION
The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education has been established within the HEA in line with the key recommendation of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education that a single co-ordinating body was essential to improve access to third-level.
The Minister announced a package of measures, costing EUR42m in a full year, to address the problem of disadvantage in third-level education in May 2003. The package included: -
- Increased Grant levels by 15% Approximately 56,000 students will benefit.
- Extended thresholds and increase gradations. An extra 5,000 students will qualify for full maintenance grant. Overall, 11,000 students will receive some benefit for the first time.
- Increased the amount of the "Top-up" grant to the maximum personal rate of Unemployment Assistance. 8,000 students will benefit.
- Extended threshold for the EUR610 Student Service Charge from EUR36,891 to EUR40,000. This will benefit up to 4,000 students from households with moderate incomes.
REVIEW OF HIGHER EDUCATION
An independent review of higher education in Ireland will be conducted this year by a high level team appointed by the OECD that includes former Dutch, Australian and US Ministers as well as senior international officials and academics. It will review all aspects of higher education in Ireland and compare Irish performance with that of other OECD countries.
PROGRAMME OF RESEARCH IN THIRD LEVEL INSTITUTIONS - CYCLE 3 (PRTLI)
In November 2003, the Minister lifted a previously announced 'pause' on capital funding for cycle 3 of the PRTLI.
. EUR25m has been allocated as the first instalment on a EUR140m capital investment to ensure that Cycle 3 of the Programme for Research at Third Level (PRTLI) progresses rapidly.
REVIEW OF THIRD LEVEL CAPITAL PROJECTS
The Higher Education Authority is reviewing all third level capital projects to establish priorities in the funding of third level institutions. Decisions on individual capital projects at third level institutions will be taken when the review is complete.
EXPERT GROUP ON FUTURE SKILLS NEEDS
The fourth report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs was launched in October 2003. Progress continued in the implementation of previous expert skills group recommendations, including through the provision of a dedicated ICT skills fund amounting to EUR2.5m.
Early in 2004 the Minister launched a public discussion on the future development of education in Ireland. The purpose of this process was to achieve consensus on a number of the big issues facing education. It was the first time an Irish Government set out to find and register the opinions of ordinary people, as opposed to professional educators.
Under the special initiative Tackling Educational Disadvantage in Sustaining Progress,specify what and when to improve literacy attainment levels, address the problem of early school leaving, pilot initiatives in workplace education and learning and provide adult learning opportunities for those in disadvantaged communities.
This began in January 2004 with the publication and launch of a discussion paper.
INSTITUTES OF TECHNOLOGY
In 2003, the recurrent funding provided for the Institutes of Technology expenditure in the sector increased from EUR369.37 million to EUR391.36 million: a percentage increase of 5.95% over the figure for 2002.
Research is a core element of the mission of higher education. A provision ofEUR698 million has been allocated in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for Research, Technological Development and Innovation in the Education sector. A specific allocation of EUR3 8.10 million .has been assigned to support and strengthen the research capabilities of the technological sector by enabling institutes to focus on core strengths at both national and individual institute level.
Since 1997, the total apprentice population has increased from 13,978 to 25,910. The growth in apprenticeship provision in the education sector (phases 4 and 6) has increased from approximately 4,000 places in the 1997/98 academic-year to 10,400 places for 2003/04. The Department increased provision in a number of trades for the academic year 2003/04, including electrical, plumbing, and brickwork.