Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Tailte Éireann Bill 2022: Second Stage


3:25 pm

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

I am sharing time with Deputy Ó Snodaigh. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I do not have an objection to what the Minister of State is doing but there are a few issues on which we need clarification. Regarding the PRA, everything used to be based in Dublin but it now has a branch in Roscommon. In fairness, the work it does in Roscommon is mighty for people in the west of Ireland. That is the first thing to say.

I want to get my head around how the merger is to be done. Will the three bodies work from the same place and will there be more expertise? It has happened many a time over the years, especially at the time of the building boom, that a boundary line was put in the wrong spot. If one has to go to the PRA and try to have co-ordination between all the bodies involved to get the issue resolved, it can be a massive problem. Letters go over and back and up and down. It would be great to have a type of one-stop shop in which someone could grab the bull by the horns and say that section over there will work with this section here to make sure issues are resolved. I am trying to get my head around a scenario where there may be different offices in different places. I presume and hope there is no plan to close any offices in the west of Ireland. It is invaluable to have a PRA office in Roscommon, compared with the situation at one time where people had to go to the Phoenix Park, if I recall it right, to do some of their business.

In the case of the Land Commission, there are two offices, one of which is in Cavan and the other in Portlaoise. It depends on the era one is inquiring about as to which location one needs to go to get the particular materials that are needed. There is another part of the Land Commission located in Dublin, which I understand is under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. That body is pretty good, in fairness to it, but there is the question of knowing where to go. I would be all for a one-stop shop to which people could go if there is a problem. In Roscommon, people can go into the PRA office and someone will sit down with them and go through their problem. If we had that type of co-ordination between the three bodies, it would be a great system for resolving issues that crop up. If there is a lot of building going on, mistakes will happen and there is no point saying they will not, but it is about being able to rectify those mistakes.

The previous speaker referred to buildings lying idle and said we should be pulling rates out of them. Some people might not remember but in 2008 or 2009, we had a bit of a crash and for ten or 11 years afterwards, there were a lot of buildings around the country for which there was no pick-up. That is the reality. Thankfully, we now have things like town and village renewal schemes, more rural regeneration, digital hubs and people working from home.

That gives some of them the opportunity to get back into action. In fairness, most people who have a building, especially in rural areas - I cannot talk about Dublin because I am not qualified to do that - if they can get someone to rent it or make use of it they will be damn glad to do it. Thankfully, a lot of them are getting up and running again, which is good. It brings in more rates.

Valuations are fairly contentious. A valuation might be done in places that may not be as affluent as other areas and people will say it is a high valuation.

The Minister of State or his Department might pick up on this for areas around the country that might be in difficulty. Some councils have brought this in but it was not uniform. That is the problem. If someone set up a new business, and this was a massive idea in Roscommon County Council, and there was no one doing the same thing within 10 km, they would get the rates off the first year and 80% off the next year. That would go on over a five-year period and was an incentive to get that person up and running in business. That is a good thing. If more councils around the country did that, it would encourage entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, the more businesses in an area, the more people will be working locally and it will put less pressure on the likes of Dublin.

The document and the summary document use the word "decentralisation". That word was thrown around the place years ago. In fairness, there is nothing wrong with the idea of decentralisation. How it was done was the problem. The services have to be brought closer to the people. Years ago, people in the west would have to try to get to Dublin if there was a problem with the property registration and at that time it was a long road through all the small towns. Now there is a great service in Roscommon and great staff in there to help people.

I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for giving me the opportunity to speak ahead of him. I do not oppose the Bill but I ask the Minister of State to set out the vision for how things will be. Will there be a one-stop shop? There are many places that are invaluable, especially in the west of Ireland for people with property on the other side of the River Shannon. I ask the Minister to expand on that and give us an idea of it.


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