By Siobhan O’Neill White

While we are all still trying to get through Covid physically and emotionally, we have no real idea yet what the long-term economic impact will be. Sadly, some of the much-loved local businesses in our local area have closed their doors because they simply could not stay afloat. The creche our daughter attended, the café and bakery we loved; both gone for good because of Covid.There are ways we can help struggling local businesses keep going. If they are offering online sales, try to buy online from them. If your local hotel, café or restaurant is doing a take-away service, support them when you can. Shop local as much as possible, so when we do get through this – and we will get through this – these businesses will still be standing. We know how to support retailers but for service providers, like www.mams.ie, it is not as simple as ordering a take-away or making an online purchase. Due to Covid, we are unable to run our free monthly parent & baby coffee & movie mornings, organize goody bag giveaways or plan blogs & events. Most of our clients are closed due to lockdown and cannot advertise right now, which affects our income drastically. mams.ie has provided free chat forums & parenting support for 12 years. Our events, competitions and goody bags are always free too. It would break our hearts to go out of business. We want to bring back our coffee & movie mornings post-Covid and keep the mams.ie website & social channels going until then - but we need some help to stay afloat.Some of our members suggested we set up a Go Fund Me page; so that parents who use mams.ie and our social channels and/or attend our events can make a donation. If you would like to support, please see here: gofund.me/5c743c3b Stay safe, take care and we hope to see you again at mams.ie events sometime later this year. Until then, please go to mams.ie for chat, advice, support and our wonderful free competitions.

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Fingal County Council has commenced the review of the current Fingal Development Plan and preparing the new Fingal Development Plan 2023-2029 and is now looking for the public to take an active part in the process which will take two years to complete.The process has now begun of an eight-week public consultation on the Strategic Issues Paper, the first stage of the process, which sets out some of the key topics that may need to be addressed in the new Development Plan.The Council is seeking to encourage public debate among citizens, businesses, community groups and other interested parties on what broad issues should be considered in the new Plan and online submissions can made by citizens and organisations between now and May 12 on Fingal County Council’s Consultation Portal,www.consult.fingal.ie. An Information Booklet, summarising the seven themes contained in the Strategic Issues Paper, has been distributed to households across Fingal from March 22..The seven themes are: People and Place, Climate Action, Connectivity and Movement, Employment, Economy & Dublin Airport, Cultural Heritage, Green Infrastructure & Natural Heritage and Infrastructure & Utilities.Four online consultation seminars featuring a total of eight presentations on topics raised in the Strategic Issues Paper will be held in April and a Minecraft workshop is also being developed to encourage the participation of younger citizens. Links to these will be available in due course on the Development Plan website and the Council’s social media channels. The Council intends to use the hashtag #FingalDevPlan on social media posts in relation to the Development Plan.The Development Plan process is scheduled to run for the next two years and will involve three public consultation stages before the final plan is adopted by Councillors in February 2023. The current stage, which is known as the pre-draft, sets out the strategic direction for the Plan and will form the framework into which objectives and policies at the subsequent stages will sit. The Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, AnnMarie Farrelly, said: “The Development Plan review has come at a challenging and unprecedented time arising from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Climate Change and Brexit. However, these challenges also present opportunities to build on our vision to make Fingal the place to live, work, visit and do business. This first phase of consultation will play a very important role in the preparation and drafting of the Development Plan and we are inviting citizens, communities, organisations, businesses and stakeholders to become involved and to make their views known on the future development of our county.This will ensure that the next Development Plan responds to people’s aspirations for the county while also addressing any concerns that they may have.” Matthew McAleese, Fingal County Council’s Director of Planning and Strategic Infrastructure, said: “The publication of the Strategic Issues Paper is the first step in the Development Plan process and the document presents an overview of the strategic issues facing the County. It sets out, under seven themes, some of the key issues that may need to be addressed by the new Plan. At this early stage, we are looking for input on these broad ‘big picture’ issues. Specific proposals relating to the zoning of lands should not be made at this stage as they cannot be considered.”Submissions on the Strategic Issues Paper must be received by 11.59pm on May 12 and these can be made at www.consult.fingal.ie or by post to the Development Plan Team, Planning and Strategic Infrastructure Department, Fingal County Council, County Hall, Main St., Swords, Co. Dublin, K67X8Y2. The Development Plan process can be broken down into four phases:Phase 1:The Strategic Issues Paper is published. Following the receipt of submissions, a Chief Executive’s Report will be compiled and this will feed into the preparation of the Draft Development Plan.Phase 2:The Draft Development Plan will go out to public consultation in February 2022 after which another Chief Executive’s Report will be prepared on the submissions received and presented to councillors for consideration.Phase 3:There will be another public consultation on the Amended Draft Development Plan in November 2022 followed by a Chief Executive’s Report on the submissions received.Phase 4:Councillors will consider the Chief Executive’s Report in January 2023 and are expected to adopt the 2023-2029 Development Plan in February 2023. The new Development Plan will come into force six weeks after its adoption by the elected members.Further information on the Fingal Development Plan 2023-2029 is available at www.fingal.ie/developmentplan

Fingal County Council celebrated the Irish Language and culture with a fantastic online programme for Seachtain na Gaeilge this year. In partnership with the Seamus Ennis Centre they hosted a celebration of traditional music, live on Facebook and Youtube on Saturday March 6, it featured a stellar line up of musicians. Throughout the festival which ran from March 1-17 the Council aimed to reawaken love for the language with a wide range of online content including music, storytelling, and sport and encouraged everyone to use whatever Irish they had.The online seisiún on March 6 featured Conal Ó Gráda, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh & Billy Mag Fhloinn, Róisin Chambers & Luke Ward, Caitlín Nic Gabhann & Ciarán Ó Maonaigh. The musicians zoomed into the session live from all over Ireland and a great night which began at 8.30pm was had by all. Antaine Ó Faracháin and Nollaig Mac Cárthaigh are old friends of Seachtain na Gaeilge in Fingal and the Council were delighted to welcome them again for an intimate Zoom musical get together on March 10 at 6.45. Fingal Libraries also had storytelling with traditional Irish story-teller Niall De Burca on March 13 as well as lots of other online content posted. Fingal Sports Office posted content everyday and were delighted to feature skills videos from laochra spóirt – sporting heroes - Ciaran Kilkenny Dublin GAA star and Irish Cricketer Lorcan Tucker. Their main focus of all the online content was to celebrate and promote the language and culture and there was plenty of content to enjoy on the Council’s social media including Logainm an Lae and Seanfhocal an Lae.

Businesses in Fingal are being encouraged to apply for funding under a new assistance scheme launched by the Department of Enterprise Trade & Employment. The Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC) is intended to target those businesses with operating costs that do not qualify for the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) operated by the Revenue Commissioners. Eligible applicants will be entitled to an initial payment of €4,000 for the period from January 1 to March 31, 2021 The Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC) is available to companies, self-employed, sole traders or partnerships and the eligibility criteria for the SBASC and the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) are similar. The main difference between SBASC and CRSS is the requirement, in the case of CRSS, for the public to have access to a business premises. SBASC also aligns with recently announced grant schemes for the tourism, arts and entertainment sectors.Speaking about this new funding announcement Mayor of Fingal Cllr David Healy said: “The survival of small business is vital for the towns and villages of Fingal and I encourage anyone eligible to apply this new SBASC funding which will be of great assistance in meeting some of their current costs so they can keep afloat until the pandemic restrictions can be loosened.” AnnMarie Farrelly Chief Executive of Fingal County Council said: “Fingal County Council have been providing a wide range of supports to local businesses and working with all stakeholders throughout the last year to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.The new funding provided under SBASC will be another important support for small businesses to ensure that they can reopen and continue to provide employment and vital services in communities across the county.”Emer O’Gorman Director of Economic, Enterprise, Tourism and Cultural Development said: “The new SBASC funding is a welcome addition to the range of financial supports available to Fingal businesses to enable them help keep afloat until they can fully reopen. It builds on previous supports such as the Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus and our initiatives such as Fingal In it Together and Shop Local campaigns as we work closely with local Chambers of Commerce and national agencies to provide much-needed support to businesses. I would encourage all qualifying businesses to apply.”The grant, which is available as a contribution towards fixed costs to assist a business to keep operational for an eventual re-opening, is only available to an applicant operating from a rateable property. The scheme covers the period 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. Each eligible applicant will receive a payment of €4,000 with an additional payment of €4,000 from May 2021 to applicants continuing to meet the scheme eligibility criteria. Full details and information on applying can be found on the Fingal County Council Website.The closing date for applications for the initial grant under SBASC is 21 April 2021.

Fingal Co Co hosted virtual celebration of International Women’s Day

Fingal County Council hosted a virtual celebration of International Women’s Day which took place on Monday, March 8, 2021. As physical events are not possible under current government restrictions, virtual celebrations featuring contributions from Community, Sports, Local Enterprise Office and Communications will be held this year. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.To mark the occasion, the Fingal County Council Communications Unit posted short videos throughout the day on their social media channels with contributions from female Fingal County Councillors, Fingal County Council Chief Executive AnnMarie Farrelly and female members of the Fingal County Council Executive Management Team.The participants were asked to give an insight into why they decided to pursue their chosen career, what achievements they are most proud of and what women inspire them. It is part of a Fingal County Council initiative to build awareness of Local Government among women.Fingal County Council Chief Executive AnnMarie Farrelly said: “International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and encourage women to embrace their part in leadership and change. It is important to celebrate the occasion even though we cannot do so in a physical capacity under current restrictions. I am delighted to be part of this virtual event which will give people an insight into the invaluable role of women in politics, sport, the public and voluntary sector and all aspects of life.” The Council’s Sports Office devised a series of events to mark International Women’s Day, including holding female-only FAI Player Development Plan and Safeguarding workshops, and focussing on various projects and initiatives taking place under the pillars of the Women in Sport Policy.Well-known TV personality and business woman Gráinne Seoige was the keynote speaker at the Fingal Enterprising Women Network event which took place online on March 5. This online event, hosted by LEO Fingal, was opened by Fingal County Council Chief Executive AnnMarie Farrelly and was an excellent opportunity for women in business to share insights and lessons learned in their chosen fields. Fingal County Council’s Community Development Office celebrated International Women’s Day with a series of online conversations with women active in leadership in Fingal.

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Our ‘Tap to Donate €3’ machine has arrived in Specsavers, Millfield Shopping Centre, Balbriggan.A small countertop device which allows a contactless donation of €3. Displayed on the welcome desk it is simple to use, just ‘Tap to Donate’.Thank you Brian and Paul.2020 was a very difficult year for fundraising but with your help we raised €22,787.56 for Guide Dogs. Restrictions are still in place but when allowed we will be out in the community again.In January we received a cheque for €333.33 from Tesco’s community fund initiative. Thank you Tesco and especially Lisa from the local Millfield store.The annual Balbriggan Feis couldn’t be held in February but Damien, Ann and committee raised €966 for us through their Facebook fundraiser, thank you all.Thomas O’Grady, from Skerries, gave off-road dirt track motorbike lessons to some youngsters and raised €300, thank you Thomas. Anne and Yarrow raised €200 with their photo taken beside the large collecting dog in Millfield.Please view our videos on Facebook made by volunteers, Zoe, Anne, Andy, Tom, and Adele, with Guide dogs Nico and Qeb and puppies Yarrow and Lola.Please donate if you can at our facebook page Balbriggan Branch of Guide Dogs page.Do you have an idea for a fundraising event? We’d love to hear from you.Contact us by phone or text 085 7663107 or email guidedogsbalbriggan@gmail.com.A number of Transition Year students from Loreto Balbriggan participated in a virtual programme with IGDB in March.The 5 day programme is aimed to inspire students by raising awareness of the difference a Guide or Assistance Dog can make to others and how they can change lives. Guide Dog Day will be on Friday 7th May and we hope to be out with our new contactless machine which accepts donations in line with payment limits.Up to €50 by tap, over €50 you insert your card and enter your Pin.Yarrow remains with Anne but when he goes to Cork for training we will keep you informed on his progress as he hopefully becomes a Guide or Assistance Dog.

Fingal County Council Sports Office will be adding to the Fingal HomeFit live series by facilitating a free yoga programme. Erica from Yoga Sanctuary will be teaching a 4-week online yoga course aimed at beginners, but all are welcome. She will guide you through a 1-hour class each week aimed at introducing you to the benefits of yoga through breathwork, yoga postures and relaxation. If you are interested in starting something new for yourself or would like to join in to stretch out and feel good in your body, then join Erica from Wednesday, March 3rd at 6 pm.The Mayor of Fingal, Cllr David Healy said: “Another excellent online programme from Fingal County Council Sports Office. The Fingal HomeFit programme has been an important exercise option for many people during the current government restrictions. The inclusion of a 4-week Yoga programme is fantastic news and will give people an extra activity to participate in the evenings.” Margaret Geraghty, Director of Housing and Community Development for Fingal County Council said: “The Fingal Sports Office HomeFit live sessions have been a great success. Adding a new class to the already popular programme will give participants the chance to try a new physical activity from the comfort of their home.” For more information contact Noel McManus, Fingal County Council Community Sports Development Officer

My name is Anne Mulligan and I am a Puppy Raiser for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. I also volunteer with the local Balbriggan/North Co Dublin branch. I’ve been a Puppy Raiser since March 2011 and have taken care of a number of puppies. In no particular order I have looked after Zack, Cinders, Gabby, Oscar, William, Genna, Zabbie and Coby. All were Labradors except Oscar who was a Retriever. Zabbie was part of the breeding programme and Mother to the “G” litter. All pups born are named using a letter from the alphabet. Cinders, Gabby, Oscar and Genna all qualified as Assistance Dogs. Unfortunately, not all pups make the grade required to become a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog. In such cases they can become a Companion Dog or an Ambassador Dog or sometimes be rehomed as a pet. Zack, William and Coby are all happily settled in home environments.My current pup is Yarrow, a golden Lab/Retriever who arrived late November 2019 when he was 8 weeks old. My role has been to help Yarrow become well-mannered and socialised. The early training team from Cork provided support throughout the time Yarrow has been with me. All veterinary fees and feeding costs are covered by IGDB. Now at 14 months old Yarrow will shortly go to Cork for his formal training where he will hopefully become a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog. I will miss Yarrow but I know that he has the potential to change the life of a person who is visually impaired or the life of a family of a child with autism. I will follow Yarrow’s progress in Cork with interest.I have something to look forward to in 2021 as I am on the waiting list for another puppy once Yarrow leaves. If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser Contact us by text or phone 085 7663107. Email GuideDogsBalbriggan@gmail.com

Fingal County Council invites applications for the Artists’ Support Scheme 2021. This strand of funding allows professional artists to avail of an award up to €4,000 towards travel/professional development opportunities, a residency or towards the development of work.The objective of the Artists’ Support Scheme is to support individual professional artists from Fingal to develop their artistic practice. The award, with a total combined fund of €100,000, is open to practising artists at all stages in their professional careers working in music, visual art, drama, literature & dance. To be eligible to apply, applicants must have been born, have studied, or currently reside in the Fingal administrative area. The Mayor of Fingal, Cllr David Healy commented “The arts have a positive effect on our wellbeing which was particularly evident in 2020 through the online entertainment they provided as they, like us, adapted to Covid-19 restrictions. Fingal is proud of its rich and vibrant art and cultural sector. The 2021 scheme will greatly benefit our artists so they can produce work and continue to enhance our lives.” Among the 65 artists awarded under the Artists’ Support Scheme in 2020 were Odd Morris, a four-piece band from Swords. Funding was allocated for the recording of their new EP, Cityscape the ballet. Since their inception in late 2017, Odd Morris have earned a reputable name through their brooding live performances across Ireland, and recently the UK. They released their debut single in March 2019 and have played shows with the likes of Ezra Furman and Fat White Family and performed on two of Ireland’s biggest music festivals Electric Picnic and All Together Now. The funding is for projects/initiatives which will take place from 1 May – 31 December 2021. Closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 26 February 2021 at 4pm. For further information contact Nicole Kelly on 087 9266727

Fingal County Council announced in November that it was inviting applications under a number of schemes for works to be done in 2021 for small, medium or large-scale repairs or conservation projects to Protected Structures and in certain circumstances to buildings that enhance Architectural Conservation Areas within the Fingal area. The initial closing date for applications was the end of January. Due to current restrictions in place the closing date for this funding has been extended.

The closing date for the submission of completed applications for the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund has been extended to 5PM FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2021. For the Stitch in Time Grant a specific closing date is not being set, instead it will remain open until the budget it fully allocated so applications will be dealt with on a first come first served basis.

Conservation Officer Helena Bergin said “Despite the significant disruptions to contractors and business by the localised and national Covid 19 restrictions in 2020 it was possible to complete most of the conservation projects that received funding approval. With the experience of working through 2020 there is an understanding of the need for some flexibility to timelines and so the closing dates for applications to the funding schemes for conservation repairs have been extended to give additional time to obtain quotations from contractors.”Funding is available under the following schemes: Architectural Heritage Fund’s “Stitch in Time Grant” 2021,Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2021, Historic Structures Fund 2021,Pilot Stream for Historic Shopfronts & Traditional Irish Language Shopfronts under Historic Structures Fund 2021, Pilot Stream for Vernacular .Structures under Historic Structures Fund 2021.For owners carrying out routine maintenance or small repairs to the historic fabric of their homes Fingal County Council’s own Stitch in Time scheme offers grants between €100 to €2,500 For more substantial works funding is available through the Built Heritage Investment Scheme or the Historic Structures Fund. The Historic Structures Fund has been expanded in 2021 to allow applications for a pilot scheme for the conservation of a vernacular structure that is not a Protected Structure and another pilot scheme for the refurbishment of a historic shopfront and traditional Irish Language shopfronts. Application forms for all three schemes are available on Fingal County Council website.Please note that applicants cannot avail of funding under both the Historic Structures Fund and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme in the same year and so should only apply for one scheme.