Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Tailte Éireann Bill 2022: Second Stage


3:45 pm

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)

I thank the Deputies for their contributions and their support for the Bill. I will go through some of the contributions and respond to them before I make some concluding remarks.

Deputy Gould raised the issue of staffing levels. I will not go into any details on that but I believe the staffing levels will be maintained. On increasing staffing, resources and the money-saving element, the Bill is not intended to do that. It is intended rather to achieve efficiency and a more streamlined approach. I believe all Members are agreed on this.

Deputy Gould also spoke of public land banks, managing data, and the role of Tailte Éireann with other agencies such as the Land Development Agency, LDA. The Deputy specifically and consistently speaks about dereliction, vacancy, and the registry of derelict sites, particularly as it pertains to Cork. Obviously, while the Bill is a technical Bill in the context of the establishment of Tailte Éireann and does not specifically deal with dereliction, Deputy Gould makes consistent points with regard to Cork and the dereliction that has been highlighted by Jude Sherry and others over recent years.

Deputy Ó Broin referred to staffing, savings and the regulatory impact analysis that was carried out. I will give a commitment on a number of the points raised by Deputy Ó Broin. I note that Deputies Ó Broin and Cian O'Callaghan raised the issues and the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I take those on board. Deputy O'Callaghan has signalled intent to bring forward amendments. I welcome the debates that will ensue on those amendments. I take on board absolutely the point on a briefing note. There was a question on the process of digitisation and a review of that. That is a worthwhile exercise. I certainly believe we can give a commitment to that. We can provide any additional briefing note the Deputy requires.

Deputy Ó Cuív welcomed the naming of the Tailte Éireann. The Deputy brought up interesting points around the Land Commission, the incorporation of records, the digitisation of those records and making them publicly available. That is a very valid point. These do have a huge social and cultural value and it is something we could consider. There is also the right of public representatives to direct access when representing the public. When public representatives have any interactions with State agencies, it is important we, collectively, have that access. It is vitally important.

Deputy O'Callaghan raised the issue around the Property Services Regulatory Authority, PSRA, and the land price register. The Deputy has made some very valid points in that regard. Deputy O'Callaghan has offered to work with the Government to improve his Bill. There is an opportunity to do that if those conversations should be had.

The Deputy also spoke about the role of the Valuation Office and gave the example of Clongriffin and the empty retail units. These issues in urban areas must be addressed. I believe it was a common practice in developments around 15 or 20 years ago to have retail units at the base and apartments for people living above. This never matched the demand that was there for retail and they could never be filled. It happened not just in Dublin but also in large urban centres throughout the State. It needs to be addressed.

I welcome the comments from Deputy Fitzmaurice on the Property Registration Authority in Roscommon and the idea of the one-stop shop. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Ó Snodaigh as na pointí maidir leis na seirbhísí a cheangal le chéile.

I thank all Deputies for their valuable contributions to the debate on the Bill today. The constructive debate we had today follows on from the detailed pre-legislative scrutiny given by the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage to the general scheme of the Bill a year ago. I fully appreciate the support that has been expressed for the Bill. I will now address some of the points raised.

On the pre-legislative scrutiny recommendations, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage recommended that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage engage with the Department of Justice to consider integrating the Property Services Regulatory Authority with Tailte Éireann. The primary role of the PSRA is to regulate property services providers, namely, auctioneers and estate agents, letting agents and property management agents.

Following consultation with the Department of Justice, it is considered that the functions of the PSRA are not sufficiently closely aligned with the functions of the bodies already identified for Tailte Éireann, being the registration of deeds and title, site surveying and the valuation of rateable property.

The joint committee further recommended that Tailte Éireann be given, as one of its statutory functions, responsibility for maintaining a publicly accessible, searchable, electronic register of land transactions that would include the price, location, size, zoning, date of sale and ownership details. This new register would operate on a similar basis to the existing residential property price register.

The supply of housing is inextricably linked to the supply of land and its capacity for development. Under action 28.2 of Housing for All, the Department is currently working with Ordnance Survey Ireland to develop a national zoned housing land register based on local authority development plans, including the potential housing yield or capacity, which can also form the basis for the associated calculation of land use values required for the land value sharing measures that are currently being developed. This is considered to be a more appropriate mechanism for dealing with the issues that the proposal seeks to address. I know Deputy Cian O'Callaghan will bring forward amendments so there will be further opportunity to debate these issues.

On the appointment process for the chief executive and the board, the chief executive will be appointed by the Minister following open competition through the Public Appointments Service and in accordance with the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. The Bill provides that where a competition to appoint a chief executive is held before the establishment day, the successful candidate shall be appointed by the Minister to be the first chief executive of Tailte Éireann on establishment day. Recruitment for the position of chief executive will be managed by the top level appointments committee, TLAC.

In relation to the board of Tailte Éireann it is intended that Board membership will consist of a chairperson and six ordinary members who will be appointed by the Minister following open competition through the Public Appointments Service and in line with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies.

The Bill provides that the Minister may, where he or she considers it necessary having regard to the volume of business coming before Tailte Éireann and the need to ensure the effective and efficient discharge by Tailte Éireann of its functions, by order, increase the number of members of the board to not more than 12 for such period as the Minister shall specify, up to a maximum period of two years. There is no provision in the Bill for certain nominees to the board.

I now turn to the benefits of Tailte Éireann. There is a broad understanding now that Tailte Éireann, as a single entity focused on the production and maintenance of core-reference data focused on land ownership and land value, will deliver benefits to the State. The provision of high quality, reliable, trusted and maintained geospatial information is essential for a wide range of critical State functions from environmental planning and management, to the effective administration of property and land use. Streamlining services into one entity with its own Vote of expenditure and headed by a single chief executive and board will allow Tailte Éireann to efficiently take advantage of the national geospatial data hub GeoHive that has been developed by Ordnance Survey Ireland, and will be able it to combine and integrate the wealth of authoritative land information held by the Property Registration Authority, the Valuation Office, the OSI and other public bodies, to provide citizens, business and policy makers with new land Information products and services. It will provide a single point of access for land and property information and related services such as property and title information, property valuation data, maps and aerial imagery. When established, Tailte Éireann will be staffed by more than 900 civil servants with a wide variety of quality management skills, technical skills and experience. Development is under way by the Commissioners of Public Works on a building, the Distillers Building in Smithfield, which will act as a Civil Service and Government accommodation hub, including providing office accommodation for the Dublin-based staff of Tailte Éireann.

The establishment of Tailte Éireann will bring savings in the short- to medium-term from the consolidation of common back-office functions such as HR, conventional ICT systems, financial management and from a potential reduction in costs such as software licensing. The establishment of Tailte Éireann will also provide for a less crowded administrative landscape by reducing the number of state bodies in line with Government policy. A project board has been put in place under the chairmanship of my Department to oversee the successful establishment of Tailte Éireann. Staff of the three agencies are being kept informed of developments.

At the beginning, I outlined the provisions of this Bill which is focused on the merging of the three bodies and the establishment of Tailte Éireann. As highlighted previously, this is largely technical legislation which is primarily designed to establish the merged Tailte Éireann organisation in the most efficient way. Accordingly, there are no significant new policy initiatives contained in this legislation. Rather, in line with similar legislation, the Bill is focused on the statutory provisions necessary to bring about the merger of the three existing organisations into the new Tailte Éireann organisation, the governance of the new organisation when it is established and the carrying out of its functions into the future. I hope that when we vote on this Bill it will continue to receive the support of the House. I thank all Deputies for their contributions.


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