End of Term Report

END OF TERM REPORT

Since my election to the Seanad in 2011, I have worked hard to represent you effectively.

This ‘end of term report’ will give you a brief summary of some of the issues I have been working on.

If you would like more information, or if I can help with anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

SOME OF THE MAIN ISSUES I HAVE WORKED ON

 

Santa Sabina LH visit Nov 2015EDUCATION:

As the first person in my family to finish school and a former President of Trinity College Students Union, I am passionate about education. Since my election to the Seanad, I have consistently highlighted the need to prioritize education – from pre-school to third level – as an investment in our future.

I have also helped many schools protect their staffing levels and secure funding for vital building projects.

 

CHILDCARE:

Lack of affordable childcare is placing a huge burden on many families. I have repeatedly highlighted the need for greater State investment in this area. The second free pre-school year is welcome but more needs to be done, including afterschool care.

HEALTH AND THE A&E CRISIS:                

Overcrowding in our A&E departments robs patients of their dignity and creates an intolerable working environment for staff. Waiting times for scans and treatments is also putting lives at risk.

I have raised this issue many times in the Seanad and am campaigning for a National Development Plan for our health service which would be developed on a cross-party basis and implemented regardless of who is in government. Health should be above party-politics.

SERVICES FOR OLDER PEOPLE & PENSIONS

I have consistently championed the need for better services for older people. I have pointed out that extra charges such as the property tax are particularly unfair to pensioners and others on fixed incomes. I voted against the pension levy in the Seanad as I believe it was an unacceptable raid on people’s pension savings. I opposed the cuts to State pension entitlements for women and to the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme.

JOBS & SMALL BUSINESSES

I have consistently championed measures to create jobs and protect employees’ rights. I have also argued for fairer taxation and social protection entitlements for the self-employed.

MENTAL HEALTH:

Mental health is a personal priority of mine. I have worked with young people, teachers and mental health advocates to develop an action plan for promoting positive youth mental health. I was also delighted to support the Seechange ‘Stamp Out Stigma’ campaign to promote a national conversation about mental health and encourage people to seek support if they need it.

At the marriage equality results with Leo & Colm

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

I was honoured to play a major role in the marriage equality campaign. I was one of the main national spokespersons in the campaign and also knocked on over 30,000 doors canvassing for a Yes vote.

 

HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS

Over the past few years, lack of supply has led to huge increases in house prices and rents. As a result, housing has become unaffordable even for those on good wages.

People on variable rate mortgages have also seen their mortgage payments increase, despite the banks benefiting from cuts in European Central Bank interest rates.

The housing situation is now so bad that increasing numbers of families are becoming homeless.

I have proposed a number of sensible initiatives to address the housing crisis and I am continuing to push for them to be implemented.

JUSTICE AND POLICING:

I have a Diploma in Law from the Kings Inns and frequently speak on justice issues in the Seanad. For example, I have proposed tougher penalties for sex offenders and greater cooperation on tackling cross-border crime such as drug trafficking. I have highlighted the impact that cuts in Garda numbers and closing Garda stations has had on urban and rural communities.

SUPPORTING LOCAL SPORTS CLUBS

I am passionate about sport and its potential to improve not only our physical health but also our mental health. As a member of the ‘Oireachtas Friends of Irish Sport’ group, I have championed greater investment in sport at the national level.

MY ADOPTION INFORMATION BILL:

My Adoption Information Bill was widely welcomed by groups representing both adopted people and natural parents. Philomena Lee, on whose life the movie ‘Philomena’ was based also encouraged the Government to support it, arguing that if it had been in place earlier she would have met her son before he died.

AP with Philomena Lee & Martin Sixsmith higher def croppedThe bill would make a huge difference to 50,000 adopted people and their families. It would give adoptees and natural parents access to information and assist them in reuniting if they both wish to do so. Those who would prefer not to be contacted may opt to have their contact details withheld. Each adoptee and natural parent would therefore be able to proceed in a way that suits their individual needs and sensitivities.

The bill passed through the Seanad in 2015 with unanimous support. The Government later indicated its intention to follow through on it by bringing legislation through the Dáil. However, this did not happen before the general election. I hope I will be re-elected to the Senate so I can secure the bill’s passage through the next Dáil.

SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:

Children and adults with disabilities have been very badly hit by Government cuts in recent years. I have spoken out strongly about this issue at the national level, while also helping individual families fight for their entitlements.

JUSTICE FOR PALESTINE:

AP addressing UN conference on Palestine 21-11-14

Averil addressing UN conference on Palestine

I visited the West Bank and Gaza in 2013 and saw firsthand the impact Israel’s illegal occupation and blockade are having on ordinary Palestinians. I also met Israeli groups who oppose their government’s actions and are working for peace. Since then, I have consistently spoken out on the need for Israel to end its aggression and sign up to a proper peace agreement. I also secured all-party support for a Seanad motion calling on the Irish Government to formally recognise the State of Palestine, as Sweden has done. On foot of this work, I was invited by the United Nations to address a special UN conference on Palestine in New York.

 

RAISING MONEY FOR CHARITY:

Over the past four years, I have helped raise thousands of Euro for some great charities. I sang live on the ‘Late Late Show’ for Pieta House. I took part in a charity fashion show for motor neuron disease research. I also competed in a white-collar boxing competition for Down Syndrome Ireland. I am always happy to embarrass myself for a good cause!

 

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT AVERIL

Averil has “strong ideals” and an “excellent work ethic” – The Irish Times

She is “respected across the political divide for her empathy and skill at tackling some of the trickiest political issues” – Image magazine

She has “worked tirelessly on the ground” – Irish Independent

Averil is “a social progressive delivering change on the ground” – TV3

Averil has also been named ‘Woman of the Year’ by Tatler Magazine and ‘Politician of the Year’ by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation. Previous winners of these awards include Katie Taylor and Mary McAleese.