Dáil debates

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This morning, I met the directors of a number of aid agencies to discuss the question of clean drinking water in developing countries. On the morning the Government will launch its environmental programme, it is ironic that I raise the question of clean drinking water in one of the richest countries in the developed world.

According to the health services, the people of Galway face a health epidemic because of the contamination of their water supply. The Health Service Executive is now informing people — particularly the elderly, very young and vulnerable — that they could die from the contamination of water with cryptosporidium.

In response, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has given a juvenile and irresponsible performance and he has hived off blame to everyone except himself. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, there has been a €600 million underspend across the broader region. This means that places like Oughterard, Headford, Clonbur and Claregalway have completely insufficient sewerage systems.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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They have none.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In cases where sewage is not treated or where the lake is completely contaminated, the water supply of thousands of people is now causing the current problem. This was well known in advance. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with his smug approach to the problem, has hived off blame and responsibility to everyone else. The Government and its immediate predecessor did not have the political will to make the investment necessary to deal with this problem.

People in Galway now speak of having had a morning cryptosporidium shower. They are disgusted at the failure to invest in sewerage works.

Photo of Johnny BradyJohnny Brady (Meath, Fianna Fail)
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Is the water clean enough for Deputy Kenny to wash his hair?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If Deputy Brady were faced with the consequence of the Government's failure in the Galway area, he might not be so smart.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What do the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government intend to do about this matter, apart from giving glib answers to questions? There is great concern about the effect of a contaminated water supply on tourism in the area, the Galway economy and families with young babies and elderly members. Will the Taoiseach explain why this has happened and what he proposes to do about it?

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He has no answer.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Irish drinking water standards are very good. They now stand at 97.6% compliance with EU requirements, according to the latest report, and almost 99% of public supplies, countrywide, have been assessed by the EPA as complying with all the key microbiological standards.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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So, the water is grand. It is all an illusion.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Government's investment over the period of the national development plan has delivered additional drinking water for a population equivalent to 1 million people. The priority under the new national development plan is to finish that job.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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It is awful to have to listen to this.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We have provided almost €5 billion to build 900 new schemes for both drinking water and waste water.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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All is well.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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These schemes will address any remaining inadequacies in the current infrastructure.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The European Commission has identified Ireland and the United Kingdom as the two member states in which improvements in drinking water quality are significant and obvious. That is the overall position.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Would the Taoiseach drink the water in Galway?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I do not understand Deputy Kenny's complaint regarding what was said by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. A range of approximately six measures were agreed at the meetings. First, it was agreed that efforts by the engineers in the area to identify the source or sources of the outbreak will continue.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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They are human sources.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Second, the water supply from Tuam will be increased to augment the city supply and the additional supply from this source will come on stream incrementally during the next two months. It was agreed that the old water treatment plant in Galway will be phased out — we hope by the middle of June — as additional supplies are delivered from the Tuam system, and that the installation of a water treatment package plant at Terryland in Galway to provide 18 million litres per day will come on stream before the end of the year.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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That will only cure the source of the pollution in the long term.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Meanwhile, people will be poisoned.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is also a longer term commitment to fast-track the advancement of the new treatment plant in Galway at a cost of more than €21 million and to provide €27.4 million for increased storage of water and conservation measures in Tuam, which will allow for additional water to be made available to the city. A range of other issues is being considered but those are the main points.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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And the poisoning of the Corrib continues.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach's reply does not deal with the problem faced by the people of Galway and the greater Galway region. A similar problem exists in Ennis, where people are still on notice regarding water. The Department of the Environment and Local Government published a study of national urban waste water in April 2004, which contrasts with what the Taoiseach asserts.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Kenny is scaremongering. That study is three years old.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Considering the different levels of treatment, the study found that more than 50% of all plant and equipment at the eight primary treatment works was in condition grade 4 or 5 and 18% of the mechanical and electrical plant at the 82 secondary treatment works, excluding those with nutrient reduction factors, was in a similar condition. Grade 4 means serious structural deterioration and grade 5 means that the assets have collapsed or are derelict.

When the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Roche, visited Galway, his answers were far from satisfactory. The water and sewerage services capital budget has declined in recent years. Investment totalled €506 million in 2001, €487 million in 2002, €449 million in 2003, €439 million in 2004, €417 million in 2005 and €399 million in 2006. A significant proportion, over 50%, of these plants were in a seriously deteriorated condition or had collapsed, which was well known to the Department and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The capital injection for sewage treatment services was declining. The pictures shown on television last night of a polluted lake of the scale of Lough Corrib were a national scandal.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The fact that people in the region have to take their daily shower in cryptosporidium has not been dealt with. The Minister, Deputy Roche, might find that funny, but it is not funny to the people in Galway.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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We have had more baloney and false promises.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If this had happened in a large area in Dublin, what would the response have been? Would the problem have been sorted out? What would have been the emergency response? Are the people in Galway, especially those suffering financial hardship, entitled to free water while the matter is being addressed? Does the Taoiseach agree that the response from Government should be much stronger? While there are water tankers, people in Galway cannot use the water in their taps. They are compliant taxpayers.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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What about the local authority?

Photo of Frank FaheyFrank Fahey (Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What about the Green Party?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, knows, Galway taxpayers contribute to the Exchequer.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That was a cheap shot and a cop-out.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Minister of State to allow Deputy Kenny to conclude.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Government has had ten years——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It is Government incompetence.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The absent Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is to launch a programme today which he says will be in the top five in the world.

Photo of Frank FaheyFrank Fahey (Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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You were given the money and you did not spend it.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Let the Minister go back down to Galway with his programme and explain to the 100,000 people there what the Government intends to do about the problem, in view of the fact, which the Taoiseach did not mention, that there has been a €600 million underspend in the region of the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Kenny to give way to the Taoiseach.

Photo of Frank FaheyFrank Fahey (Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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You spent three years in control of Galway City Council and fought among yourselves.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, sat at the Cabinet table and knew what was going on in Lough Corrib. Those people have been let down by the Government.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny should conclude.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry to be disobedient, a Cheann Comhairle, but this is a matter of very serious concern to the people concerned.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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One would not give the water in Galway to one's cattle.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach should be allowed to reply without interruption. Deputy Kenny submitted a question and is entitled to the courtesy of his own party to facilitate him in hearing the answer.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It is hard to put up with the Government members.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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A man in Galway told me it would be better if his cattle were drinking milk and making water. He would be a richer man.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy McCormack will have to leave the House if he continues to interrupt.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will try to reply to Deputy Kenny's questions. Since 2000, we have invested €1.75 billion in more than 100 waste water treatment schemes, including major new treatment plants in Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Drogheda, Dundalk and Westport.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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It has not worked.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The water services investment programme for the period 2005-07 contained 899 projects at various stages of development, the full cost of which was €5 billion. I do not believe there was a lack of investment.

The answer to Deputy Kenny on the decline in the figures is that Ringsend, the most significant single water scheme carried out in Europe, was included in the base figures. When that scheme was finished, it came out of the base figures. The first ever concerted programme to address the quality of water in group water schemes is nearing completion. We introduced a Water Services Bill four years ago which is now finishing in this House. Work has gone on to consolidate and modernise the existing codes of water schemes.

I will not get myself into the middle of local Galway politics, but it is a fact that €21 million was provided over three years ago to allow the local authority to implement the scheme.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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No resources were provided for the local authority.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy McCormack is not the leader of his party.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I want to give a factual answer to Deputy McCormack's party leader. A sum of €21 million was given to Galway City Council to deal with the scheme and it could not agree on it.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The Government put an embargo on staff recruitment.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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The Department was waiting for and encouraging a private scheme.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Department cannot be blamed because the money was allocated but was not spent. I am more interested in helping people in Galway than in talking. I do not want to get into that.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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It is too late now.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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What about the past ten years?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have outlined that the water supply from Tuam will be increased to augment the city supply, and that can be done fairly quickly. The old water treatment plant will be phased out fairly quickly. I hope the Tuam system will deliver more supply from the summer.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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What about finding the source of the pollution?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is being worked on. We are aware of all the issues surrounding that too. The installation of a water treatment package plant at Terryland will provide 18 million litres per day and should come on stream towards the end of the year. We can fast-track on two issues. These are the new treatment plant in Galway, which will now cost €21 million — that money has been allocated for a long time — and the provision of €27.4 million for increased storage and water conservation in Tuam, which will allow additional water to be made available to the city. The Minister and the Department have fast-tracked that project.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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If the Government gets another five years, the whole country will be gone.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach tell the House if there will be an audit of the Government's waste of taxpayers' money? How many hundreds of millions of euro does the Government reckon it has wasted in the past five years?

It is solely the prerogative of the Taoiseach to decide when the election is called — we all accept that — but whenever that happens, will we use electronic voting? If the answer is "no", why did we spend €62 million of taxpayers' money on electronic voting machines that we do not propose to use? We have them now, we tested them in the last general election and they have been in storage since then. If we will not use them this time, when will we use them? How much is it costing us to store them?

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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It is very dear in Waterford.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Comptroller and Auditor General reckons it costs approximately €1 million per year to store them, but I read that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, has now relocated most of them to a central location. Did we have to buy out the leases on the premises where the machines are being stored?

I saw the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, emerge sheepishly at a breakfast he bought for the esteemed members of the press last week in an attempt to induce them to accept his Ladybird fictional guide to the policies on this side of the House and to lecture us on economic competence. This is the same Minister who spent €62 million on machines that only Robert Mugabe would be interested in purchasing.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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An excellent analogy.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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This is the same Minister who seeks to lecture us on economic credibility. He was succeeded by my friend, the Minister, Deputy Cullen, who could not wait to get his hands on the machines either. The Government spent €62 million of taxpayers' money when there are people waiting for home help hours.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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And clean water.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The €62 million would have provided the entire population of Galway with an excellent water service.

Photo of John CreganJohn Cregan (Limerick West, Fianna Fail)
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They would not be able to spend it.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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One would think that in 2007 the people of Galway would be entitled to clean water. That could have been provided with the €62 million. There are so many things which could have been done, for example, for children with autism, the employment of child psychologists and to address the needs of people desperate for home help hours. We wasted €62 million on machines which the Taoiseach will tell me will not be used on 17 May. When, if ever, will they be used? We did not use them in the local or the European elections. The Commission on Electronic Voting found that the software was unreliable and that the machines were not adequately tested. Despite these findings, the Ministers, Deputy Noel Dempsey, Deputy Cullen and Deputy Roche, the storage Minister, will go before the people again and ask them seriously to vote for them. What kind of country is this?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I would like to put them in storage.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What kind of country is this?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy's time has concluded.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It is time to put them in storage.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps we could recycle them.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We will have to use the peann luaidhe.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to respond without interruption, please.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is right. I felt embarrassed a few evenings ago when I watched a country with a population of more than 60 million people receive the results of its highest poll ever — 85% of the population — within two hours.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Voting on a Sunday.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption, please.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That was only a few hours behind the timeframe in India with its population of 1.2 million.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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At least they held the election——

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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They are lucky the Taoiseach was not in charge.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I had to apologise to the people of Meath a few days ago that, despite this being a modern technologically driven country, with one of the biggest exporters of software in the world, we are reverting to the peann luaidhe.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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An 85% turnout — the Taoiseach should be ashamed of himself.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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If the Taoiseach is that good he should order that the machines be used; he is in charge.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Stagg, please allow your leader the courtesy of hearing the response to his question.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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With a bit of luck our election results will be available within about five days——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The people will not vote at all.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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How does the Taoiseach propose to get it right?

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Feel the tips of the Galway races.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——as we count and check the bins and buckets to see if a vote blew off the file. It is an embarrassment. I hope that in the next Dáil we will be able to rid ourselves of the horrendous difficulties we experience in trying to be a modern country.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ring is not the leader of the Labour Party.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No, I am not.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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He might be.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach, without interruption, please.

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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That would be of real benefit to Mayo.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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He is a man for all seasons.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am getting confused——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach has been confused for a long time.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——with Deputy Rabbitte who said this morning that he would like the election to be held on 17 May, but I note all his constituency offices have issued letters stating they are reliably informed that the election will be held on 24 May. I will have a word with him later to find out on which date he would like it, but we can work that out.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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We have been ready for a year.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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On a serious note, we are spending more than €50 billion. I genuinely believe that, in terms of staff, health, education and infrastructure, this money is spent as efficiently as possible. There is always room for improvement, as is often highlighted by the Comptroller and Auditor General and internal audit departments.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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That is an understatement.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There has been an enormous increase in spending on essential services in recent years, be it in respect of the elderly, health, education or improved infrastructure.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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What about the machines?

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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What will the Government do with the voting machines?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I asked the Taoiseach whether people will vote by way of electronic voting on this occasion, but I did not hear his reply. I heard him say he is embarrassed——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Rightly so.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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On the last day of this Dáil, it is the first time I have ever heard the Taoiseach admitting to being embarrassed, and he ought to be embarrassed. Some €162 million has gone down the drain, and that is symptomatic of the waste we have witnessed. The Taoiseach appears to be suggesting that because we are spending €50 billion we can afford to waste those millions. That is what the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, said when asked about PPARS.

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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He did not say that.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Some €162 million was wasted on PPARS and the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, responded that in the context of things, it is a very small amount of money. Many needs could have been addressed by these moneys which have been frittered away, yet the Taoiseach can only admit to being embarrassed and revert to his "give up your ould pencils" raiméis that he goes on with.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy's time has concluded.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Here we are at the end of ten years of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in government and it has taken them until now to build 10 km of road without going dramatically over budget.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy must be joking.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What the people do not realise is that they have paid twice what they were told they would pay for three lines on the Luas and that they have received only two lines that do not connect up.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The only bad connection around here is Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The record——

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Cullen, needs to have a cigarette.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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He should keep his head down.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Enough done, time to go.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil's No. 1 candidate, the Minister, Deputy Cullen, is top of the pops for incompetence.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption, please. I remind Deputy Rabbitte that on Leaders' Questions he is confined to one issue.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Waste.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte cannot go on about this at length. The Deputy has gone well over time.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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My opening sentence related to waste.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The Ceann Comhairle is looking at waste.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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No matter where I look on the other side, I see it looking back at me, waste.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Waste.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte's time has concluded.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is a waste of taxpayers' money.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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They are a waste of space in government.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister, Deputy Cullen, should allow Deputy Rabbitte to conclude.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is remarkable that the Minister, Deputy Cullen, has the neck to put his head above the parapet.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Everything about me is remarkable.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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He is the main architect of waste.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister should please allow Deputy Rabbitte to conclude.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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This is followed by consultants, consultants, consultants. The Government cannot make a decision about anything but employing as many consultants as it can.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Rabbitte to conclude.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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How many consultants' reports have been implemented?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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How many of them have been read?

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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We are going to——

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Deputy Keaveney should not pick the last day of this Dáil to make her maiden speech.

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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I made my first speech on my first day here.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Are we to have electronic voting and, if not, what will be done with those infernal machines?

Ollie Wilkinson (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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We will use them to print money.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach apologise to the Irish people for the waste of money involved? There are many other areas in which the Government has distinguished itself by wasting money. We are entitled to know, if this is the last day of this Dáil, whether we will vote by way of electronic voting. I ask the Taoiseach to tell us if that is the case. If not, what will be done with the machines?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Johnny has been affected by them already.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Rabbitte knows the answer to that question. A comprehensive report produced by an independent group highlights what needs to be done to make the machines workable. We can do that only through agreement in this House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption, please.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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If the House did not want to play politics with it, we would not be the laughing stock of Europe and have 2 million people vote in an election using pencils.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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That is an admission.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is ridiculous. As I stated, I was embarrassed the other night when I watched how the French——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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More consultants.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It was the Opposition's fault because it objected to using it.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach, without interruption, please.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Opposition should have taken a mature attitude to a voting system that worked particularly well in the last two elections. The voting worked perfectly. All the analysis showed the voting system worked perfectly, but politically the Opposition would not agree to it and it took off on a political exercise engaging people from around the world to find flaws with it. That is a disgrace. Any waste of money on the voting system lies at the Opposition's door.

Deputy Rabbitte raised some other issues. I do not accept his remarks in respect of the €50 billion that is being spent. The vast majority of that money goes to the approximately one million people in receipt of welfare payments, the 130,000 people employed in the health service, the 100,000 teachers and the Garda Síochána, the Army and others involved in a range of services. I do not believe, subject to there always being room for improvement, that this money is in any way wasted.

On transport, we have done an excellent job right across a range of infrastructural issues.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We have spent vast amounts of money on improving our road and rail network and on the Luas.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The M50 is a good example.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Let us be honest, Deputy Rabbitte and a group of his party members protested in Merrion Square a few years ago when we put the Luas on show.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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On stilts.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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All day long.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy said then that we would never see Luas on the streets of this city.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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We nearly did not.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That was his campaign. Some 26 million people have travelled on Luas. I predicted in this House that as soon as Luas was introduced everyone would stop giving out about it and ask for more lines and so on, and that is precisely what has happened.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Luas is being extended, a new metro system is being planned and carriageways are being built all over the country.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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More promises.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are becoming a modern country with modern infrastructure thanks to the excellent programmes introduced by this Government.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Joe Higgins. I ask members to allow Deputy Higgins to contribute without interruption, please.

11:00 am

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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If somebody dropped in from Mars they would think there was an election coming. How does one explain that in west Dublin, east Meath, Kildare and many other areas of rapidly expanding population in this State hundreds of children wanting to start primary school this September have no classrooms to go to? The Government made no provision for them, leaving hard-working parents angry and frustrated and in crisis. That has been a staggering feature of the current Government for more than ten years. It gave complete freedom to developers to construct tens of thousands of houses and apartments in new areas but did not oblige them to provide social infrastructure at the same time, schools being one of the most vital. In some cases the Government allowed them to use their control of school sites to blackmail the Department of Education and Science and the local authority for millions of euro extra or for planning concessions. It allowed developers to hold children's education to ransom and they walked away with billions, leaving communities bereft. When one looks at the list of donations to Ministers and others by developers one might conclude that, perhaps, that is the explanation.

Since last September, 60 children in the Laytown and Bettystown area have been going to school in a gymnasium. Last June Deputy Cowley and I, representing the independent Deputies, made strong representations to the Minister for Education and Science on their behalf. We were promised that classrooms would be available for the new school year 2006-07. The children moved last week from the gym to the prefabricated buildings that were provided. Now 103 children in that area have nowhere to go in September. There are two schools with 630 children on one site of 2.5 acres. In Littlepace, Ongar in west Dublin we have three schools, one permanent and two temporary, cramped on to one site of 3.5 acres and dozens of children are now being excluded from schools in the area because there is no place in Clonsilla and Castleknock. The position is similar in Kildare. Pupils wanting to start secondary school face a similar crisis.

The Minister for Education and Science has been parading herself around teachers' conferences with an air of it being her first communion day, but she has dismally failed to make provision for new communities and secure school places for children, as would be normal. Will the Taoiseach set up a special unit, a schools emergency response unit, in the Department of Education and Science to address this crisis instantly, to go into talks with teachers, principals and parents in the area to ensure that each child will have a place this September in his or her local community and that there will be permanent provision from September 2008? That is what is desperately required. I want a commitment from the Taoiseach that that will happen.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I visited the Deputy's area on a few occasions recently and attended the opening of the new school in Hartstown. I spoke to teachers from a number of schools in the area and am aware of the pressures and the school needs of communities in rapidly developing areas, particularly Dublin West and mid-west where the population is growing dramatically.

Whatever about setting up a special unit, I assure the Deputy that priority is being given to school building projects in the area. I spoke to some of the officials concerned after my recent visit. A new school for Mary Mother of Hope national school in Littlepace is ahead of schedule and is due to open in September. There are two new schools, the Educate Together national school in Castleheaney and St. Benedict's national school on the site in Ongar. Extension projects for schools in Castleknock and Corduff in Blanchardstown are being progressed. A site has been secured for a new Educate Together national school in Tyrrellstown and that building will be provided as soon as possible.

Several extra new primary schools for the area are being developed and are at various stages of planning. Is there a particular one the Deputy wants to ask me about? I was given a long list of schools. There is a permanent building for a new 1,000 student post-primary school in Phibblestown. That will not be ready until the start of the academic year in two years' time. The Department is considering enabling the school to open before then in temporary accommodation because two years is a long time in that context.

A site has been reserved for a further post-primary school in Tyrrellstown and the Department, with the local authority, is examining site possibilities for a new post-primary school in the Castleknock area. The education reservation in the Hansfield SDZs allows for the development of a post-primary school for up to 1,000 pupils. A project manager has recently been appointed to oversee the development of education provision on the Hansfield site. There is spare capacity in two post-primary schools in the Dublin 15 area and the Department is satisfied that there are sufficient places to cater for current demand, even though every pupil may not secure a place in their school of first choice, which is a difficulty in the area. Enormous attention is being given to the area and new schools will be provided because of growing class sizes.

On the question of developers, I and a number of Members of the House were in Adamstown, where a few hundred people are living, to open a railway station in advance of the development of the area. I also saw the final stages of the school building, to be opened in September, in advance of people coming to live in the area. Building schools side by side with houses or in advance of houses, as in this case, is the proper approach. Politicians on all sides congratulated the developer in Adamstown on his initiative in driving ahead and exceeding the commitments into which he had entered to provide educational facilities. If more developers took that approach we would not have to play catch-up as we do in some areas.

If the Deputy wants to know about any other area, I will have it checked out. The officials gave me a long list of advancements and developments. There are probably more in this area than anywhere else in the country, not that they are not necessary given the enormous number of new houses in west and mid-west Dublin. The ones I mentioned are the main ones.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Schools, railway stations etc. should be in place before the people arrive to take up residence in new communities. We knew that 15 or 20 years ago, and the fact that it is being done in the dying days of this Administration in one area is no vindication of the ten years the Government has been in power. The list the Taoiseach gave me in regard to west Dublin refers to catch-up provision of facilities. Hundreds of children will still have no classrooms to go to in September and that is the issue I want addressed.

Spare capacity in the area means spare capacity in a primary school miles away from where the children live. Given the traffic crisis and gridlock in Dublin West, and the pressure parents are under to get to work, crèches etc., it is not viable for them to cart their children around the area. The same applies to Meath and Kildare. The pressure on school places has some very negative features. It can set parent against parent on the basis of geography, length of time residing in an area and whether people are renting or have bought, and even, perhaps, on the basis of national origins. That is very worrying.

The 29th Dáil is in its swan song days. The Taoiseach's reply will, perhaps, be his swan song, as far as Leaders' Questions go. Will he give me an assurance that this September in the areas I have mentioned there will be a classroom in their local community for every child in primary school and a place in secondary school in their community for every pupil needing to start there next September? Nothing less is required.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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First, to correct the Deputy on a factual point, we currently have the largest school building programme in the history of the State. If one looks back on recent years, in the 1994 to 1999 period, €659 million was spent on the school capital programme, whereas in the past six years we have spent more than €2 billion.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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That is meaningless. The population has increased by 25% or 30%.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Please, Deputy.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Joe Higgins should allow the Taoiseach to reply.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The population has increased——

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The population has quadrupled.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——by 16%.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Labour Party built the two post-primary schools in this area when we were in Government. That is the reality.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party did nothing in education.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Labour Party built the two post-primary schools in the area. Fianna Fáil did not build any schools.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Burton is not a member of Deputy Joe Higgins's Socialist Party.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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It is a minority party.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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In the six-year period to which I referred, €659 million was spent, while under my watch we have increased that to more than €2 billion.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The score is 2:0.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That represents more than 6,500 new and modernised school buildings. We used to build——

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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There are still not enough.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I know Deputies do not want to hear this——

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Government has not delivered. Vote it out.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——but we moved from completing approximately 30 projects a year to a position where in the 2000 to 2005 period we spent €2 billion——

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The score in favour of the Labour Party is 2:0.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——on 6,500 school buildings, which is historically high compared to anything that was ever achieved previously.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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It is not enough.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Nothing is ever enough but I am just giving the factual position that spending was increased by 400%. Under the 2006 budget we have provided just short of €4 billion to be invested in capital projects over the next five years.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That does not mean anything to a child who does not have a school place. The Taoiseach should meet the parents and tell them.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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This Government has achieved a major success and nobody can argue with that.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy does not wish to listen, she can leave the House.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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On Deputy Joe Higgins's second point, I have given the schools and I have said the——

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Taoiseach did not give us the schools. That is the problem.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to answer Deputy Joe Higgins's question. If Deputy Burton wanted to ask this question she should have asked her leader to ask it instead of the one he asked about voting machines. Unfortunately, her party is opposed to technology. As it did in 2006, the Department conducted a survey of——

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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One does not need technology to work out the score on this; it is Fianna Fáil zero, the Labour Party, two.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Burton to allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——all the primary schools in Dublin 15 to determine the number of junior infants who had enrolled from September 2007. This survey indicates a considerable number of children enrolled in more than one school. While I understand this from the parents' point of view, it also resulted in inflating the number of children seeking school places. Notwithstanding this, the Department of Education and Science is aware that extra accommodation is needed for September and it will make this available.

I assure Deputy Joe Higgins that all of the options he has raised will be considered to ensure there are enough school places in September. This will include the provision of school transport if necessary. The Department has assured me it is well aware of the difficulties and problems, notwithstanding what I said. I assure Deputy Joe Higgins the Department is doing its best to resolve the matter.