Covid and climate change to top agenda at Fianna Fáil think-in

The local TD confirmed that he will be chairing the broad-ranging discussions.

Covid concerns, the economy, housing and climate change are issues set to top the agenda at the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party think-in at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell next Thursday and Friday, September 9 and 10.

Party chair Brendan Smith said he is looking forward to the two-day, pre-Dáil conference in the Slieve Russell, which he says has excellent large rooms and multi-media conference facilities to host the event in line with Covid regulations and public health advice.

The conference will commence just after lunch time on Thursday. “There is an open ended format and it could well go on late into the night, if necessary,” said Deputy Smith.

The local TD confirmed that he will be chairing the broad-ranging discussions.

“I am looking forward to a good debate on the issues and where we need to improve in our party workings and appeal. There are lessons to be learned from the General Election in regard to policy issues and also in relation to social media. I think that is accepted by everybody in the party,” he said.

That first day, according to Deputy Smith, will be devoted to party and electoral issues. “That will include a review of the 2020 General Election and also a review of the recent Dublin Bay South by-election,” he added.

The focus on Friday will be a discussion on policy issues and the forthcoming Dáil and Seanad term.

“The issues that will be featured will be Covid and Health in general; the major housing plan, which will have been announced; climate challenges; the economy; the new Shared Island initiative and investment on an all island basis and North/South matters,” Deputy Smith gave a summary of the top items on the agenda.

In relation to the Share Island Initiative, Deputy Smith pointed out that the Taoiseach recently announced €500 million for North/South and All Ireland projects over the next few years.

The general manager of the Slieve Russell Hotel, Tony Walker, confirmed the think-in will take place in the spacious Cranaghan Suite and social distancing measures will be employed.

“It is very welcome business and we are delighted that we have the capacity to host this event to conform to the current Covid guidelines. We have the number of bedrooms they were looking for – it is great to get it,” said Mr Walker.

“The media exposure will promote the county, Ballyconnell and West Cavan and of course the hotel. It is not everyday we have the Taoiseach down here. Hopefully we will be able to host more events, akin to this Fianna Fáil think-in,” said the delighted hotel boss.

Staycation boost

In relation to how business is going generally since the hotel reopened to the wider public, Mr Walker revealed: “We had a very busy summer staycation wise and the business was almost a 50/50 split between here and the North of Ireland. Forward bookings are very strong for September and right into October.”

The news in relation to the further easing of restrictions to permit live entertainment is also welcome. “Hopefully we will now get to see bands and live music being played at wedding receptions,” said Mr Walker.

He revealed that staffing remains an issue across the hotel and hospitality industry, which has been hit by a drain on resources, knowledge and a lot of experience and skills, caused by the start-stop nature of lockdowns and people been furloughed.

“They went off and found jobs in other sectors and they just did not return to hospitality. We will also be losing students who had been working for the summer and they will be returning to college. However, they will be available at weekends,” remarked the GM.

“We will be running a few recruitment days over the next week or 10 days,” added Mr Walker.

* Check out the hotel’s social media channels for details.