Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Tailte Éireann Bill 2022: Second Stage


3:05 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Bill. It is a good idea to bring various offices together that deal with property. I also welcome the name of new body, Tailte Éireann, outlined in the Bill. It is appropriate. It is very much in line with the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 that we name our bodies in Irish. I have noticed over the years, when bodies are named in Irish, especially when they are simple, effective names, that people use them. Nobody has any difficulty with "Bus Éireann", for example, or other bodies with Irish language names. I have never found that new Irish people who come to our country have any particular difficulty with them either.

I am surprised that the residue of the Land Commission has not been incorporated into the provisions of the Bill because many Land Registry documents originated in the dealings of the commission. As recently as today, I received a query where issues involving the PRA were raised that referred back to commission dealings. The inquirer now has to contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which can be quite a challenge, to try to get these old Land Commission records. Residual functions of the commission are land functions. It divided a lot of land in its time and many people have reason to have recourse to its database. I am also sure that, for historical purposes, which I raised previously, it would be interesting if those records could be digitised and made publicly available because there is a wealth of social history involved in the enormous work that was carried out by the Land Commission. It was totally revolutionary in respect of land ownership in this country. There are still current issues that arise again and again, when looking at land documents that go back to the commission. It would be much handier if all of these documents relating to ownership and division of land, etc., resided in the one place.

My experience of the PRA, and the Land Registry before it, has been good. Its staff are generally helpful. Sometimes, people are frustrated, especially in issues of possessory claims and so on, by the delays involved, but many of these are caused by the fact that people are being given a valuable asset. PRA staff have to make sure that, as far as they can, it cannot be successfully contested in a court and that it is robust and so on. This often means going back, when people die intestate and so on, quite a period. One issue, however, is that we are great at setting up the bodies and creating the work, but, in many circumstances, we do not fully staff these bodies to continue to provide the expanded services they are being asked to provide and queues build up as a result. Bad public services are inexcusable.

We must provide Tailte Éireann staff with cutting edge technology and, as that technology evolves, they must be able to keep to the best standards of technology. They must also organise themselves in such a way that they use the best work processes available. Too often, there is a big, good idea, but there is bad execution of it. We then get the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform being unwilling to provide the necessary staff to cut the queues. If that Department thinks the current staffing level is sufficient to do a job, it should then do something about perceived inefficiency because bad public services are inexcusable and should not be allowed. On the other hand, if staff make their case and are doing their jobs efficiently, but cannot keep up with the new demands being created by the Government all the time, and by new circumstances, staff should be provided to do the job. The other point is that when you start falling behind, and all of us experience this challenge, the queues and delays in dealing with issues create more work. Ever more resources have to be devoted to deal with the queue rather than the work so it becomes a vortex of inefficiency. It is important, and we would all support the Government in this, to make sure that this is an efficient service, properly staffed, with well-motivated staff who believe they can do their jobs.

There is one thing I would like to see that should be in every Bill. I do not know if the Minister of State would consider putting in explicit provision for the right of public representatives to make inquiries. The Land Registry, and the PRA subsequently, have traditionally been good about dealing with public representatives regarding queries raised that relate to dealings or other Land Registry issues. Its staff respond very fast.

That is a good tradition because we are not doing it for ourselves but on behalf of members of the public who are encountering difficulties or delays in getting information. It is very important that public representatives be entitled, not on a personal level but on a public service level, to get information on behalf of constituents or, as often happens, members of the legal profession who are seeking our assistance to expedite urgent matters. Where a case is made and when there is a genuine reason for urgency, those matters should be expedited.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Creidim gur céim chun tosaigh é ach tá súil agam go mbeidh an cur chuige éifeachtach agus go bhfeicfimid seirbhísí feabhsaithe seachas an rud a chonaic muid i gcásanna eile, is é sin, seirbhísí feabhsaithe a théann ar gcúl.


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