Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Grangegorman Development Agency Bill 2004: Report Stage (Resumed).
Before we commence I wish to bring to the attention of Members an error in the published list of amendments. In the Minister's amendment No. 66 the words "as far as reasonably practical" should not appear. It is a typographical error and should be removed.
Amendments Nos. 44, 45, 47 and 48 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 11, line 3, after "located" to insert "and on a website".
Deputy Enright raised the possibility of publishing details of the strategic plan on a website. I undertook on Committee Stage to examine the possibility of requiring the agency to publish information received on a website. I intend that the draft strategic plan and any submissions or observations on it will be published on the Internet. Amendments Nos. 44 and 47 are designed to reflect this. Following discussion on this part of the Bill on Committee Stage, I have included amendments to provide for the publication of the strategic plan and any observations or submissions received on the Internet. Therefore, I do not accept amendments Nos. 45 or 48.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 11, line 15, to delete "Authority" and substitute "Agency".
This amendment corrects a typographical error. It deletes "Authority" and substitutes "Agency".
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 11, line 22, after "appropriate" to insert the following:
(c) publish on a website any submissions or observations made to it under this subsection and not withdrawn".
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 11, line 26, after "plan" to insert the following:
"as well as any submissions or observations made to them".
This amendment seeks to ensure that any submissions or observations made with regard to the strategic plan will also be considered, as well as the plan itself.
All aspects of planning, together with the planning appeals from An Bord Pleanála, are provided for under the Planning Acts. That legislation also provides for the submission of observations to planning authorities and the board. Given that this is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I do not consider it necessary to provide for it here. It would be wrong to do so.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 14, to delete lines 37 and 38.
This amendment relates to whether the chief executive should also be a member of the authority. General precedent is that chief executives would attend meetings of the body of which they are chief executive, but that generally speaking they are not actually a member of the governing authority. There may be some exceptions to that general rule. This precedent is the reason I have submitted both of these amendments.
The chief executive is an essential member of the agency. In other legislation under the Department of Education and Science where other bodies have been set up, for example, the higher and further training awards councils, HETAC and FETAC, and the National Education Welfare Board, the chief executive is actually a member of the agency. I do not propose to accept this amendment.
On amendment No. 86, with regard to setting up statutory boards, there must be clear lines between policy functions and executive functions — between the functions that a Minister retains and the functions of officers such as a CEO. Policy determination is a matter for the Minister and the Government and not a matter for the CEO of a State board. Therefore, it follows that a CEO has no role in criticising Government or ministerial policy. I cannot accept the amendment.
There are differing practices with regard to whether chief executives are part of the governing authority. It would be more useful to have a separation between the executive and the body in charge so as not to blur responsibilities. I raised this amendment for the Minister's consideration, but will not press it.
With regard to amendment No. 86, I feel strongly there should be an opportunity to express an opinion. For example, if the Joint Committee on Education and Science calls in chief executives on issues dealt with by this or any other agency or body, such as the Education Welfare Board or the new body being set up on special needs, it is better for democracy and the public interest if they feel they can voice their concern on an issue within the organisation about which they are concerned. They should not be muzzled. I am concerned that this is the intention in this section, not specifically with regard to this body, but to general bodies under the aegis of a Department. It is healthy for a chief executive to be able to voice concerns on behalf of the agency.
It is important to differentiate between the policy and the implementation of the policy. This section will not prevent the chief executive from mentioning that it is difficult for him to implement the policy, for example because he is not being given enough money to implement it. It will prevent him from questioning the merit of the policy, however, which is important. Ministers and chief executives have very distinct roles. Policy is made by Ministers, as members of the Government, and implemented by chief executives. This section will not prevent a chief executive from talking about the manner in which he is able to implement policy.
As amendments Nos. 57, 58, 60 to 62, inclusive, 64, 71 and 92 are related to amendment No. 55, amendment No. 59 is an alternative to amendment No. 58 and amendment No. 72 is an alternative to amendment No. 71, amendments Nos. 55, 57 to 62, inclusive, 64, 71, 72 and 92 may be discussed together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 14, between lines 48 and 49, to insert the following:
"(a) one person nominated from Dublin Inner City Partnership,
(b) one person nominated from the North West Inner City Network,
(c) two persons representing local residents,
(d) one elected public representative being a member of Dublin City Council, nominated by Dublin City Council and who was elected as a member of Dublin City Council from the Grangegorman neighbourhood,
(e) one representative of trade unions/social partners whose members work within the DIT,".
I will not pursue amendment No. 71, which lists the parts of Grangegorman in which local residents live, because the Minister clarified the matter by tabling an amendment and providing a map. The amendments before the House relate to the membership of the proposed Grangegorman development agency. Amendment No. 55 seeks to broaden its membership. I acknowledge that the Minister has successfully addressed some of our concerns about ensuring that residents are represented on the agency. She has provided that an elected member of Dublin City Council and a representative of the city manager will be on the agency. I will withdraw amendment No. 59 because that issue has been addressed.
I am concerned that the local area should have wider representation. It is important that residents and community development organisations such as the Dublin Inner City Partnership and the North West Inner City Network, both of which are doing excellent work in the Grangegorman area, are represented on the agency. I will pursue amendment No. 55 on that basis.
Amendment No. 62 seeks to ensure that residents of the Grangegorman neighbourhood will nominate candidates for membership of the agency, rather than that they are selected by the city manager or anybody else. All the amendments before the House relate to the representation of local interests on the agency. We need to ensure that public representatives, local residents and representatives of the agencies working in the locality adequately represent such interests.
I agree with Deputy O'Sullivan's argument on amendment No. 62. The city manager should not be able to choose who to nominate as a candidate for membership of the proposed agency. The people living in the local community should be allowed to select their own representatives. Fine Gael has proposed amendment No. 57 because it believes the Dublin Institute of Technology, as a major stakeholder in the Grangegorman development, should be represented properly. It should be able to nominate three members of the agency because it will be the driving force behind the project. I will pursue the amendment because I believe DIT, as the major stakeholder, should have proper representation on the agency.
I would like to speak about amendment No. 60, in my name, and the Minister's amendment No. 92, which seeks to introduce a new Fourth Schedule to the Bill. The Minister emphasised the role of residents yesterday. I fully support her argument that they be allowed to speak for themselves. The residents' associations, which have been discussing the redevelopment project at various meetings, are anxious to ensure they will be represented by two of the agency's 15 members. I will pursue amendment No. 60, which seeks to provide that two residents of the Grangegorman neighbourhood will be elected to the agency. The proposed Fourth Schedule to the Bill provides for a quite intricate manner of election of members of the agency. Given that the process of consultation with the many interested parties will be quite lengthy, it would be reasonable to allow for two residents' representatives.
When we discussed certain aspects of this matter yesterday, I said I felt that community development groups like the Dublin Inner City Partnership should have been consulted. The Minister responded by expressing her total opposition to such consultation. She emphasised the pre-eminence of the residents, which I fully support. In that context, I have some queries about the proposed Fourth Schedule. The Minister may intend that all the registered groups in the Grangegorman neighbourhood will be residents' groups, but the manner in which that is expressed in amendment No. 92 is quite vague. Under the proposed Fourth Schedule:
the chairperson of the Agency shall invite community groups and associations, including resident and tenants associations, parish and district associations and groups, sports clubs, and similar non-commercial groups in the Grangegorman neighbourhood, to register as an interested 'registered group'.
I am not sure what is meant by the use of the word "group" in each one of those instances. What are "similar non-commercial groups"? If I understand the logic of the Minister's comments yesterday correctly, the election of the residents' nominee will be arranged in co-operation with the residents' associations in the Grangegorman area. I do not suggest that anyone else should be excluded, but am simply trying to clarify what the Minister said. She is so interested in the residents that she proposes to exclude community development groups from the consultation process. Her amendment refers to a range of vague and badly defined groups that will be able to participate in the process of electing a person to the agency. It does not make any sense to me.
A Pandora's box may be opened when the unfortunate chairperson of the agency, following his or her appointment, has to try to make contact with a myriad of ill-defined groups. I ask the Minister to examine this matter again. She needs to define the precise nature of the groups that will be involved in this process. I appreciate that the Bill provides that the person who will be elected by the groups in question will have to be a resident of the Grangegorman neighbourhood and be on the electoral register in the Grangegorman area. I fully support that provision because it would be nonsense if it were not in place.
I support the general thrust of what the Minister is trying to do. I appreciate that the contents of the Fourth Schedule probably emerged from meetings called to ensure that the residents' representative on the agency will be elected in a democratic, transparent and open manner. I have no problem with the well thought-out, open and democratic arrangements decided on at such meetings. I do not think the provisions in question are entirely in line with the comments the Minister made yesterday, however.
I ask the Minister to clarify what is meant by phrases in the proposed Fourth Schedule like"similar non-commercial groups", "community groups" and "associations and groups". Why has she decided to use such vague terms? We need to ensure that people who are resident in the Grangegorman neighbourhood, are on the electoral register in the area and have a record of involvement in the community take part in the process of election to the agency. I would have thought that the best way to achieve that would to ask the chairperson of the agency to call a meeting of local residents' associations. If we provide that such groups have to be registered with the community department of Dublin City Council, we can ensure they do not start sprouting up all over the place. I pay tribute to the outstanding established and active residents' groups in the Grangegorman area, which have won every competition in the book, such as tidy districts competitions and city council competitions. It would be a straightforward matter to ensure that residents are elected.
While I welcome the Minister's amendments Nos. 58 and 92, I would like her to go one step further. My amendment No. 61 seeks to have two persons nominated by the local residents as well as one elected public representative. Amendment No. 58 includes one elected public representative. The wording is better in that the person will be a resident of the Grangegorman neighbourhood. I thank her for the map which clarifies what constitutes the neighbourhood.
From the time I spent on the council, and as a Deputy, consultation still appears to be a case of telling people what will be done and going ahead with it anyway. In this context, when public consultation or whatever is being advertised, it is usually done in a local newspaper, the Irish Independent or some other medium. People can say they never saw the advertisement and they were not consulted, even though the effort was made. Is there a mechanism whereby there could be a leaflet drop advertising for the residents' nominee or nominees via the residents' associations or directly from the agency so every house in the area would be notified directly? If a leaflet was dropped through letterboxes, people could not say they did not hear about the nominations.
I echo Deputy Gregory's sentiments on amendment No. 58, namely, that two local representatives rather than one should be nominated to the agency. Two local residents would represent just 15% of the agency being represented by residents, which is relatively low and it would allow the main thrust of the development of the site to continue. It would be safer to include two local residents and I ask the Minister to take this on board during the Seanad debate. I will not press my amendment if the Minister will agree to give further consideration to paragraph (d) of amendment No. 58 and change it from one person to two persons. I welcome the remainder of the amendment, particularly where an elected public representative will be included.
The amendments are seeking to deal with balance in the agency. One must ask why the local residents' concept was omitted. It appears to be just an add-on which highlights the flaws in thinking relating to involving local people in many of these plans. The Minister may argue that it is more than just a community aspect and that it deals with education, training and so on. It is also about interaction educationally and culturally within the area, and there needs to be a balance in this regard. Having local residents on a board or agency does not detract from it, in fact, it can enhance it.
We spoke earlier about the consultation group and so on. It is important to clarify whether it will be established in tandem with the agency. It is important to have balance. The amendment proposing two local residents will help this balance. It will enhance the agency rather than detract from it. It may bring a modicum of sense to the agency in that these people will have a view of life just as many of the professionals who will be on the board of the agency. It would seal the pact with the local community and make them part of this proposal.
My amendment No. 58 seeks to ensure that the board of the agency will have balanced representation and direct input from all interested parties. It is important to reiterate that this is primarily a site which will be used by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the health authority. Therefore, it stands to reason that their representation on the agency should be greater than that of any other group. While the residents will be users of the campus, my amendment amplifies the co-operation between the agency and the residents and it enhances the consultative process outlined in other parts of the Bill.
Deputy Gregory referred to the Fourth Schedule, which provides an open and transparent manner in which to select the residents' representative. As he correctly pointed out, it is quite narrow in regard to the person who can sit on the board of the agency but quite broad in the manner in which it can be done. I would have no problem at a later stage narrowing the way in which it can be done and just making it the residents' associations, if the Deputy so wishes. However, the type of clubs I have in mind, and which would not be covered by a general term such as residents' association or sports club, would be a youth club for example. It would be an obvious user of such a campus, but it would not come under the category of a sports club or a residents' association for the purposes of legislation. It could be a chess club or any of these other groups we were trying to include in the process. I am sure the Deputy would like if they were included, but the important thing is that the representative is on the electoral register, a resident and is well supported by that group because, in the first instance, they would have to be nominated by two of the different groups or agencies. We are trying to reflect and include the wide body of groups, societies and organisations that exist in a neighbourhood. If we were to go down the road of including two residents, we would have to include four representatives of the Dublin Institute of Technology and four from the health service and we would end up doubling the membership, which would lead to an unwieldy agency. Proportionately, the balance is correct in this instance.
Obviously the views of local representatives are important. I hope that when it comes to selecting the local councillor — I know that councils tend to deal with issues on a rotation basis — they will appoint someone who equally represents and reflects the views of the local area, not someone who happens to represent the ward three miles down the road but still within the catchment area.
Amendment No. 72 incorporates the selection process for the residents' nominee. I need to make an oral amendment to amendment No. 92. In the second line of subsection (2) of section 3 to the schedule the amendment should read, "21 days prior to the election meeting" rather than 14 days prior to the election meeting. The section should now read, "Not earlier than 14 days after the expiry of the registration period and not later than 21 days prior to the election meeting, the chairperson of the agency shall call for nominations for appointment to the agency and to the consultative group." This is required to ensure the election procedure can be achieved in practice. The final date for receipt of nominations will coincide with the final date when the chairperson must notify registered groups of all the nominations received. The oral amendment provides additional time so that the required notification will be achieved.
It is amendment No. 92, which will be in page 30 after line 32. It refers to the Fourth Schedule and the second line of subsection (2). It currently reads, "The register shall remain open for not less than 21 days." I propose that it should read, "Not earlier than 14 days after the expiry of the registration period and not later than 21 days prior to the election meeting, the chairperson of the Agency shall call for nominations for appointment to the Agency and to the Consultative Group."
I am sorry, it is in the later version. With regard to the Fourth Schedule, it is recognised by all Members that the development will benefit from having a resident of the neighbourhood on the agency. It needs to be ensured that the interests of the residents are represented and that the agency will be democratic, inclusive and transparent. My proposal recognises that, as did the contributions of Members. It sounds like a complicated consultation process but the election will be simple because it will be first past the post. During the term of the agency, which could be ten years, three elections could be held and, therefore, the legislation provides for a process that can be reactivated relatively easily, and that will leave enough time between stages for consultation.
I refer to amendments Nos. 55 and 57. Given the number of members of the agency in the interest of efficiency and workability, the DIT has adequate representation, particularly vis-á-vis the other main users of the campus. Amendments Nos. 55, 60 and 61 do not add to the legislation. I do not propose to accept amendment No. 62 because my amendments to the Schedule cover the election of the residents' representative. Deputy Crowe asked when the agency will commence its work. It will be when we stop talking about it.
I accept the Minister's amendment No. 90 addresses the issue raised in my amendment No. 62. I acknowledge the Minister has travelled quite a distance to address our concerns but, ultimately, the various organisations in the area will still only have one representative on the agency. Will the Minister consider increasing the number, as has been sought by every Member who has contributed? One representative is insufficient considering the variety of organisations and the number of active residents' associations in the area. Will the Minister re-examine this issue and consider providing for at least a second representative of the various interests in the area?
The Minister needs to define which groups have a right to nominate because it makes common sense to do so. Giving the chairperson of an agency a vague, descriptive outline of various groups is not helpful. I seek clarity and I hope the Minister does so as well.
The Minister hit the nail on the head when she referred to youth clubs because there is a need for two representatives on the agency, given the range of groups in the area. Perhaps it would be useful if a representative of a youth club, which uses the campus, was elected to the agency but, equally, it is most important, as the Minister stated yesterday, that a resident from a residents'association, who has been active on this issue for years, should be on the agency.
Under the Minister's proposal, it is unlikely that a resident will be elected to the agency as he or she would be swamped and, therefore, to ensure the Minister's wish that a resident of a residents' association be on the agency, at least two representatives of non-commercial groups must be elected to the agency. That is the view of the residents' groups. They are anxious that they should have two representatives on the basis of gender balance and the range of groups active in the neighbourhood. To achieve the Minister's aim, it will be essential to provide for two representatives to emerge from the elaborate election process, which, according to the Minister, is a simple procedure involving first past the post. If the Minister accepted the amendments, perhaps the second past the post could be appointed to the agency or a representative of the residents' associations together with a representative of other community interests.
It is intriguing that the Minister would not countenance consulting community development groups in the area yesterday but she is quite happy for them to elect somebody to the agency. That does not make sense. I do not wish to exclude anyone and the purpose of my amendment is to include all the various groups by electing two representatives to the agency from the neighbourhood.
This is one of the central issues in the workings of the new agency and whether an adequate delivery mechanism will be provided for the local community. Other amendments have been tabled and dealt with on this issue. However, the Fourth Schedule deals with the composition of the agency. There is not much sense in electing a token representative of the community or the residents. A critical mass is needed and it must include two residents. A representative of the residents could be easily isolated and it would be easy to put the needs of the residents on the back boiler. A chairman of an agency such as this who is worth his or her salt should be able to channel the activities and discussions of the agency to the "important issues" such as implementing structures and addressing development, procurement and so on. The residents' needs would then be dealt with under any other business.
It is important that at least one other representative of the residents is elected to the agency to support the representative provided for in the legislation. That is how business is conducted by such agencies. This will be a high powered body which will make decisions. Generally, residents are in difficulty in such circumstances and, therefore, the representative provided for should be supported by another representative of the community.
Deputy O'Sullivan proposed that representatives of the North West Inner City Network and the Dublin Inner City Partnership should be elected. That would involve the residents and the broader local community and would provide that educational, training, employment and environmental matters could be addressed through interaction with the local authority and local development groups.
This encompasses the totality of social activity in the area, involving residents and the broader local community, educational matters, training, employment, the environment, the local authority, local developments taking place in the area, the input from the Dublin Inner City Partnership and the network of approximately 50 organisations representing a variety of groups and residents' associations, particularly developmental groups. That their voices are heard on a continuous basis is important and they must be at the table where decisions are made.
The trade unions and social partners whose members work within the DIT are also involved. This addresses partnership. The Government is involved in a partnership with the trade union movement, employers, farmers and the business sector. Including this partnership is important for the trade union movement. Employers are certainly represented, as is the body corporate. There are no farmers in the area to the best of my knowledge. Trade unions should be represented for the large numbers of staff working in the area.
Will the Minister clarify one or two points about the Fourth Schedule? The Agency will determine the body that can apply to register as an interested registered group, whether it is a community group, a residents' association or a tenants' group. What criteria will be used? Will all the organisations comprising the North West Inner City Network be included as registered groups for the purpose of these elections? Who will vote in the elections? It is not clear that this will be a plebiscite of the residents of the area but simply an election of two representatives from each registered group. If that is the case, it is important to determine the criteria for registering the groups. Paragraph 3(6) of the Fourth Schedule states:
Each registered group may be represented by not more than 2 persons at the election meeting. Each of these persons shall be entitled to one vote at the meeting.
Depending on the criteria, there could be as many as 100 people from these groups or as few as a dozen or two dozen. Will the Minister clarify whether it will be a plebiscite in the sense that everyone in the area can exercise their votes or whether only two representatives from each registered group can vote?
I reiterate the requirement for an additional resident on the board. The agency is to have 15 members, including the city manager, a councillor, two persons nominated by the Minister for Health and Children and two nominated by the DIT president. If there are two residents, which is what we are seeking, that means another six persons would be appointed by the Minister. Of these, there could be an additional DIT or Department of Health and Children input as the health ethos of the site must be maintained. I do not accept the argument that placing an extra resident on the agency would mean doubling the number of other members.
The Minister for Education and Science might be one of the first to argue that during this Government's term of office, the Progressive Democrats tail did not wag the Fianna Fáil dog. If one examines the composition of the Government in terms of the ratio of Progressive Democrats to Fianna Fáil members, there are more Progressive Democrats members to Fianna Fáil members than there would be residents to other agency members. No doubt the Minister would argue — I am saying this semi-facetiously——
The Progressive Democrats comprise approximately 9% of the Government, which is more than the ratio of residents to other agency members. The Minister and her Fianna Fáil colleagues would argue that the Progressive Democrats Party has not exerted a disproportionate influence over the composition of the Government or the implementation of its policies. I do not see, therefore, how adding an additional resident would upset the ethos of the site's development.
One would certainly be a token in light of what Deputy Gregory said, that the community groups who were disenfranchised from consultation yesterday now have an opportunity to possibly have a representative on the agency. In turn, the residents could be disenfranchised. There are distinct and disparate groupings involved. I cannot make a visual speech but, on the latest map supplied by the Government, the large scale of the neighbourhood shows the Grangegorman site as slap-bang in the middle of it. The site is being integrated into an existing community and the integration must be carried out in an effective way.
This site will be a large educational campus with a health element and, I hope, community facilities. To ensure adequate integration, residents must be proper stakeholders and have a proper input. Having two residents on the 15 member board will not upset the agency's ethos but would give residents a real stake in what is happening. The perception is important as well as the reality. I urge the Minister to consider putting a second resident on the agency. In addition to the resident mentioned, the Minister can appoint six members, including the chairperson so there is plenty of scope for appointing more educational people. There are an additional six places which the Minister can play around with.
I am astonished that an elected representative would imply that any member who would be duly elected by the bodies, residents' associations and other groups in a constituency would only be a token member or would simmer on the backboiler. I would have every confidence in the person who would be elected from the constituency, which is well represented in this House by a number of the Deputies present——
——that he or she would be very capable of representing validly the views of the residents in the area. The proportionate representation in this Bill is correct. Deputy Gogarty referred to the flexibility that I will have on the appointment of members and takes for granted that I will favour the education sector, but there is nothing to stop me appointing a local resident either.
The flexibility to do so exists but, for the purposes of specifying who the members are, the proportion is correct and I have every confidence in the groups that will be involved. I do not believe that the developmental groups, networks and partnerships that constantly tell people how to do their work should be the people who should continue to tell them how to do it. It should be left to the resident, who is a voter in the area and is elected by the people in the area, to do the work.
These groups constantly talk about empowerment, and they are well capable of doing this work. Regarding Deputy Gregory's point about clarity, perhaps the easiest way to bring this about would be to remove those groups. I accept what the Deputy has said about the wording being vague in connection with similar non-commercial groups. The wording was phrased with a view to being inclusive of these groups that are there not just to make money but that provide a service for the community.
If it comes to deleting that provision and restricting it to the residents and tenants associations, parish and district associations and groups and sports clubs, that can be done. However, it is important to include the youth groups, for example, who would not be included in those categories. If there is a better way of doing it, I am willing to examine it in the Seanad. Another way of doing it would be if Deputy Gregory would give me a list of the people he thinks should qualify, but I am quite sure that he will not do that.
Whatever about the number of groups that will be able to participate in the process, the crucial point is that the person to be elected will be resident in the neighbourhood and registered on the Register of Electors. Only such a person can stand for election. Many different groups will be registered and they are the only ones entitled to vote.
It is not intended to have a plebiscite of all those living in the area to select a representative. We are talking about three people — two people for the consultantative group and one person for the agency. The more efficient way of doing this — and the election process will have to take place three times in a ten year period — is by working directly with the groups in the area. The aim is to be inclusive, while narrowing the scope to ensure that the representative elected is a genuine representative of the area. I have the utmost confidence that the local community will be able to do this.
The registered group and the person who can vote will be as is stated in section 3, subsection (5) of the Fourth Schedule, that is, only persons resident in the Grangegorman neighbourhood and listed in the Register of Electors may stand for election or vote in the election.
The chairperson sets up a process and the group notifies him or her that it is a registered group. The chairperson might decide to conduct a session with the various groups, so that groups could be challenged on their eligibility. We do not want a situation where there are thousands of groups claiming to be legitimate. Some level of protection against that is afforded by the requirement that a person must be a resident and registered on the Electoral Register in order to vote. In that way, a person who is from Dún Laoghaire cannot claim to be legitimate in the Grangegorman area.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 34 (Dan Boyle, James Breen, Tommy Broughan, Joan Burton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Tony Gregory, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Finian McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Arthur Morgan, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, Pat Rabbitte, Seán Ryan, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, Mary Upton)
Against the motion: 66 (Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Tony Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Pat Gallagher, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Stagg and Gregory; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 15, lines 1 and 2, to delete all words from and including "Eastern" in line 1 down to and including "Board" in line 2 and substitute "Health Service Executive".
I move amendment No. 58:
In page 15, lines 4 and 5, to delete all words from and including "and" in line 4 down to and including "of" in line 5 and substitute the following:
"(c) one person nominated by the City Manager of Dublin City Council,
(d) one person being a resident of the Grangegorman neighbourhood who was selected in accordance with the Fourth Schedule, and
(e) one elected public representative being a member of Dublin City Council and nominated by".
I move amendment No. 63:
In page 15, line 23, to delete "appears" and substitute "can be demonstrated".
This and the related amendments deal with the removal of a person from the agency, the committees of the agency and the consultative group. My amendments are designed to make the procedure for removal fairer. It should not simply be based on the opinion of the Minister or because their removal appears to the Minister to be necessary. The amendments provide that there must be due cause if a person is to be removed. Amendment No. 63 deletes "appears" and substitutes "can be demonstrated".
This is about fairness. Nobody should be removed from an organisation simply because it appears that it might be necessary to remove them or because it is the Minister's opinion that they are incapable of performing their functions or have committed stated misbehaviour. That is offensive to people who serve on an agency, body or committee. Due cause must be shown as to why a person should be removed. It is a big step to remove somebody from a responsibility they have been given and removal is certainly a reflection on their character. That should not be done to a person unless due cause has been demonstrated.
I wish to speak to amendment No. 81 in my name. It seeks to delete lines 4 and 5 which read: "The Agency may at any time dissolve the Consultative Group appointed under subsection (3)." No qualification or explanation is given. The provision is pointless. I cannot envisage circumstances where it would be required but if it is considered necessary to give that power to the agency, it should be subject to criteria for the dissolution of the consultative group. To do it in such a bald way is a slap on the face for the people in the consultative group. The provision diminishes the Bill and I do not see the point of including it.
I support the amendment. Section 16 provides that a member of the agency may be removed if it appears to the Minister to be necessary for the effective performance of the agency. Strengthening the provision by using the phrase "can be demonstrated" would be beneficial for all concerned, including the Minister. It might obviate the need for legal action later on.
I also wholeheartedly support amendment No. 81. How the consultative group is treated in this section leaves much to be desired. Subsection (4) states: "A member of the Consultative Group appointed under subsection (3) may be removed from such membership at any time by the Agency." The agency may also dissolve the consultative group without any caveat or condition. The two subsections are high handed in their treatment of the consultative group. That group is supposed to be part of the more generous approach in the legislation to involving people. It is intended to be proactive legislation that will ensure various opinions are taken into consideration. However, if the agency can dispense with the consultative group in this high handed fashion, it leaves much to be desired. It would be better if both subsections were deleted.
I undertook on Committee Stage to examine the wording of this section. The Parliamentary Counsel indicated that this is a standard provision and that it would be inappropriate to change it. The reason is that the agency is bound by the rules of administrative law and the principles of natural and constitutional justice. It need not be included in the Bill. These rules and principles already require that adequate grounds must exist for the removal or dissolution and that the reasons for the removal or dissolution must be stated. The agency must act reasonably if it is removing a person, a member of the consultative group or if a committee or consultative group is to be dissolved. There must be a good, stated reason. That is already established under the principles of natural and constitutional justice and the rules of administrative law.
The Parliamentary Counsel advised that it is undesirable to amend this provision further. The Members' concerns are already covered. For that reason, I do not propose to accept the amendments. Obviously, when the work of the consultative group is finished, it is important that the agency has the power to dissolve it. Equally, if a member of the consultative group is not doing their work, there should be a power to remove them from the group. However, under the legal principles I have mentioned, good reason would have to be given for that action. I do not believe it is necessary to be more prescriptive.
It should still be possible to state this in the legislation. If it is not stated in legislation, it is difficult for a person to argue that they should not have been dismissed under the rules of natural, constitutional or administrative law. It usually does not reach that point. Nobody wishes to involve the courts if they are dismissed from an agency, consultative group or a committee. Perhaps the Minister will re-examine this before the Seanad debate and see if it can be incorporated into the legislation.
I move amendment No. 65:
In page 15, to delete lines 46 and 47 and in page 16, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:
"(15) The Minister shall ensure that at least 40 per cent of the members of the Agency are men and that 40 per cent are women.".
On the basis of the clarification the Minister offered earlier, I will withdraw the amendment. Will she confirm that she will remove the words "as far as reasonably practicable" from amendment No. 66?
I move amendment No. 66:
In page 16, lines 1 and 2, to delete all words from and including "an" in line 1 down to and including "Agency" in line 2 and substitute the following:
", as far as reasonably practicable, that at least 40 per cent of the members appointed to the Agency are men and at least 40 per cent of the members appointed to the Agency are women".
The words "as far as reasonably practicable" is a typographical error and should be removed.
I move amendment No. 67:
In page 16, line 42, after "section 19" to insert the following:
"or any Project Working Team established under section 20".
The project working teams will be established to carry out work on behalf of the agency so it is reasonable to extend the agency's powers to regulate the business and procedure of the project working teams. Amendments Nos. 67 and 70 are designed to facilitate this.
On Committee Stage I accepted an amendment to extend the immunity to the consultative groups. The provision providing for the project working teams was also introduced on Committee Stage, so it is appropriate the same immunity should extend to members of the project working teams. Therefore, I will also move to recommit the Bill in respect of amendment No. 88.
I move amendment No. 70:
In page 17, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
"(6) The Agency may at any time dissolve a Project Working Team established under this section.
(7) The Agency may at any time remove a member of a Project Working Team from membership of the Project Working Team.".
I move amendment No. 73:
In page 17, line 37, after "site," to insert "Dublin Inner City Partnership,".
The amendment refers to the consultative group and to our earlier discussion during which the Minister was a little unfair in trying to saddle me with responsibility for the shortcomings of those who drafted the Bill in the first instance. The Minister stated that if I wanted to draw up a list, she would let me do so. However, she was probably joking in saying that because I would be happy to redraft the Bill in its entirety, if the Minister were to let me do so.
It is unfair to suggest I was attempting to keep youth groups out of the agency when youth groups are not even mentioned by the Minister. I am sure she will withdraw that implication when she responds.
The only way to include youth groups and residents groups on the agency is to have two members from the neighbourhood on the agency, one of whom would be a member of a residents group. That is my position. I want to be inclusive and to include all bona fide groups. I want to ensure that the residents groups have a representative on the agency as well there being a second representative from the neighbourhood. My point is as simple as that. This cannot be done by redrafting or narrowing the Bill, as the Minister suggests. However, it can be done if the Minister considers this matter between now and the Bill's arrival in the Seanad. She should make provision to have two people from the neighbourhood on the agency.
I ask that one of the stakeholders on the consultative group, rather than the agency, would be the major community development grouping in the area, the Dublin Inner City Partnership. A range of groups is listed in section 21(2), although it would waste time to mention them all. The Dublin Inner City Partnership should be included in the list of stakeholders. An interesting point in this regard is that I presume the partnership is included in the Fourth Schedule and can nominate people as members of the consultative group, although it cannot be listed as a stakeholder in this section. This does not make sense, no more than the reluctance to consult community development groups, to which I referred.
With respect, the Bill has been messed about and contains a number of conflicting sections. While the Dublin Inner City Partnership can nominate people to go forward for election to the consultative group, as it can under the Bill as worded at present, section 21(2) does not list it or community development groups of any sort in the list of stakeholders. Having listened to the Minister's contributions, I cannot understand why the major community development group in this area, which would have a significant interest in the redevelopment of this site, cannot be considered a stakeholder for the purposes of the consultative group. I ask the Minister to reconsider this before the Bill reaches the Seanad.
Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 relate to this issue. Amendment No. 77 is similar to Deputy Gregory's amendment No. 73, except that I want to include the North West Inner City Area Network as a stakeholder in addition to the Dublin Inner City Partnership. I wish to make a similar point to that of Deputy Gregory, namely, that these organisations are clearly involved in what goes on in this area. It is incongruous that they should not be considered to be stakeholders, particularly as in the Schedules they are, if their members live in the area, allowed to participate in the selection of representatives for the agency or its sub-groups.
I hope the Minister will accept amendment No. 77 on the basis that it is based on the same concept as the one she has inserted in the Schedule, namely, that instead of the agency selecting the stakeholders, these should select themselves. In other words, the stakeholders should nominate the members of the consultative group. The Bill should state: "The Consultative Group shall consist of no more than 2 members nominated by each of the stakeholders appointed by the Agency", rather than "The Consultative Group shall consist of no more than 2 members from each of the stakeholders appointed by the Agency". This is in accordance with the Minister's proposal for the Schedule in regard to the membership of the agency.
I support the three amendments. This section deals with the establishment by the agency of a group of stakeholders for the purposes of consultation and communication. Who are the stakeholders? What are the criteria for including some and excluding others? While I am delighted that public representatives are regarded as stakeholders, the section also refers to "patients and providers of healthcare services". Why should the providers of health care services be included while the providers of other services are not? Why should the providers of all services in the locality not be included as stakeholders? Many other services are provided, including educational, health care and employment services.
My interpretation is that the stakeholders will be in the vicinity — on the site or off the site, but in the neighbourhood. The Dublin Inner City Partnership and the North West Inner City Area Network are off-campus but in the general vicinity. Would it be better for the Minister to adjust this section to delete "healthcare" and insert the phrase "services located on or near the site"?