Tuesday, 12 March 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Mar Príomh-Aoire agus mar bhall den Choiste Gnó, déanaim comhghairdeas le Patricia as ucht an sárjab a rinne sí ar ár son. Go n-éirí an t-adh léi sa todchaí.
Is mar seo a leanas a bheidh an gnó Dé Máirt: Uimh.15, tairiscint maidir leis an 23ú tuarascáil ón gCoiste Roghnóireachta; Uimh. 16, tairiscint maidir leis an ordú um ghéilleadh a iarchur, iarchur chuig coiste; Uimh. 16a, tairiscint maidir le ceisteanna parlaiminte, malartú róta; Uimh. 34, ráitis maidir leis an nGaeilge; Uimh 1, An Bille um an Dlí Sibhialta (Toimhde Báis) 2016 [Seanad], arna athrú ón Bille um an Dlí Sibhialta (Daoine atá ar Iarraidh) 2016 - an Dara Céim; agus Uimh. 8, An Bille um an mBord um Athstruchtúrú Comhar Creidmheasa (Díscaoileadh) 2019 - Ordú don Dara Céim agus an Dara Céim. Is é a bheidh i nGnó Comhaltaí Príobháideacha Uimh 215, tairiscint maidir le hospidéal náisiúnta na leanaí, arna roghnú ag an nGrúpa Neamhspleách Tuaithe.
Is mar seo a leanas a bheidh an gnó Dé Céadaoin: Uimh 217, tairiscint maidir le bochtaineacht cúrsaí, arna roghnú ag cácas parlaiminte na mban de chuid an Oireachtais; Uimh. 34a, ráitis maidir le forbairtí le déanaí i dtaobh Brexit; Uimh. 35, ráitis maidir le hathbhreithniú cliniciúil neamhspleách seachtrach ar na seirbhísí máithreachais in Ospidéal Portiuncula, Béal Átha na Sluaighe (atógáil); agus Uimh. 8. Is é a bheidh i nGnó Comhaltaí Príobháideacha Uimh. 216, tairiscint maidir le hárachas, arna roghnú ag Fianna Fáil.
Maidir leis an ngnó Dé Máirt, beartaítear: (1) go dtógfar Uimh. 15, 16 agus 16a gan díospóireacht agus go ndéanfar aon vótáil a éilítear maidir le Uimh 16 agus 16a a thógáil láithreach; (2) go ndéanfar aon vótálacha a thógfaí tráth na vótála seachtainiúla Déardaoin, an 14 Márta, a thógáil tráth na vótála seachtainiúla Déardaoin, an 28 Márta 2019; agus (3) go gcríochnófar Uimh. 34 laistigh de 85 nóiméad agus go ndéanfar na ráitis a theorannú d’aon bhabhta amháin le haghaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit agus phríomhurlabhraithe na bpáirtithe agus na ngrúpaí, nó le haghaidh comhalta a bheidh ainmnithe ina n-ionad, nach rachaidh thar deich nóiméad i ngach cás, agus tabharfaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit freagra cúig nóiméad, agus féadfaidh gach comhalta am a roinnt.
Maidir leis an ngnó Dé Céadaoin, beartaítear: (1) go dtógfar Uimh 217 in am Rialtais agus go gcríochnófar í laistigh de dhá uair an chloig, tabharfaidh tairgtheoir óráid tosaigh nach rachaidh thar 20 nóiméad agus, ina dhiaidh sin, beidh aon bhabhta amháin óráidí ann ó Aire nó ó Aire Stáit agus ó phríomhurlabhraithe na bpáirtithe agus na ngrúpaí, nó ó chomhalta a bheidh ainmnithe ina n-ionad, nach rachaidh thar deich nóiméad i ngach cás, agus cúig nóiméad le haghaidh gach comhalta eile agus tabharfaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit freagra cúig nóiméad agus féadfaidh gach comhalta am a roinnt; (2) go gcríochnófar ráitis maidir le Uimh. 34a laistigh de 110 nóiméad agus déanfar na ráitis sa bhabhta tosaigh a theorannú le haghaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit agus phríomhurlabhraithe na bpáirtithe agus na ngrúpaí, nó le haghaidh comhalta a bheidh ainmnithe ina n-ionad, nach rachaidh thar deich nóiméad i ngach cás, beidh an dara babhta de ráitis ann nach faide iad ná 25 nóiméad san iomlán le haghaidh chomhaltaí an Rialtais, Fhianna Fáil agus Shinn Féin a roinnfear i gcomhréir ar bhonn 40-40-20 faoi seach, agus tabharfaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit freagra cúig nóiméad agus féadfaidh gach comhalta am a roinnt; agus (3) go rachaidh an Dáil, ar éirí di, ar athló go dtí 2 p.m., Dé Máirt, an 26 Márta 2019.
The programme for Government indicates that the Government will ensure there are at least 9,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel and a full-strength Reserve, while also implementing the White Paper on Defence. There are currently 8,921 members of the Permanent Defence Force, of whom 440 are in training and cannot be deployed. The turnover rate is 8.1%, which means that we will not get to 9,500 personnel for well over 20 years. Did the Tánaiste see the report published yesterday by the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, which indicates that almost 80% of recently inducted Defence Forces officers are planning to leave early due to the lack of a viable career path as a consequence of Government policy? In short, morale in our Defence Forces is on the floor and the Government is non-responsive. I have raised this matter with the Taoiseach and the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Kehoe. It is appalling that members of the Defence Forces and officers who have pursued a vocation and spent years in training and education, making substantial personal and professional sacrifices to honourably serve our State, are so desperate to get out of our Defence Forces. What does the Government intend to do to fulfil its programme for Government commitments?
As the Deputy knows, we have asked the Public Service Pay Commission to have a look at the Defence Forces specifically and to return with recommendations to the Government on areas where we may be able to respond to some of the concerns relating to pay and working conditions. When we get that report, we will be able to make informed choices.
It has been reported that the Minister for Finance met officials from KBC Bank Ireland in January to reassure them of his and the Government's support in the wake of the forced eviction of a Roscommon family last year and the controversy that followed. A document released by thejournal.iesuggests that the Minister would "fully accept that repossessions are part of the normal financial services landscape and that it must be possible to enforce security as a final resort when all else has failed". I wonder if the Minister has met the victims of evictions. I would say that he did not. This demonstrates again that Fine Gael sides with banks and it will always side with the cosseted privileged class in this State. Time would have been better spent by the Minister and the Government if they had amended the Private Security Services Act 2004 to ensure proper regulation and oversight in the area. Of course, Fine Gael does not do this but instead it sends cosy letters and has cosy meetings with bank officials to reassure them that everything is okay as they try to brutally evict families from homes. It is wrong and the meeting should not have taken place in the way it did. Is the Government minded to amend the Private Security Services Act 2004?
On Friday, to mark International Women's Day, the Cabinet ratified the Istanbul Convention. A key requirement of that convention on sexual violence and domestic abuse is to have one refuge place for every 10,000 people.
The 2016 figures show that 16 women and children were being turned away from refuges every day. Ireland has fewer than one third of the places required. Tusla, which is the statutory agency responsible for the provision of domestic violence services, is claiming there is one place for every 10,000 women, which is not the same as one for every 10,000 members of the population. We have called for a dedicated capital fund to provide additional refuge places. Ten counties have no such places. In Dublin, there are no places in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown where Labour Party councillor, Deirdre Kingston, has been seeking funding for a refuge for a considerable period. Will the Tánaiste or Minister for Justice and Equality commit to providing a dedicated capital fund to ensure that all local authorities provide this vital service?
I acknowledge the support of all parties here in facilitating the ratification of the Istanbul Convention that involved four pieces of distinct legislation. Having regard to the fact that this Dáil has been dubbed the "do nothing Dáil", this is progress that is not only welcome but enduring.
I acknowledge what Deputy Howlin said about refuges. This is a challenge. I have been speaking to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on the issue. He faces challenges in this area as well. I hope to be in a position to report progress on the matter. I would like an opportunity to interrogate further the proposal made by Deputy Howlin and I would be happy to report on this issue in a few months' time.
I want to ask the Tánaiste about the new nursing contract the Government is negotiating with the INMO. News has broken in the past 24 hours that not only is nursing one of the toughest jobs in society but now the Government wants to make it one of the most insecure. It is unbelievable. As it was, this was a modest pay offer to nurses but the Government seems to want to extract a pound of flesh to get them to vote for it. If the nurses and midwives decide to return to the picket line, which is a much more likely prospect thanks to the Government's shenanigans over the past while, they will get even support from members of the public when they see that what the Government tried to do to the nurses was introduce a Trojan horse of a contract to make their lives even more difficult than they were before the strike. We heard about International Women's Day. If the Government wants equality for women, it should pay the nurses. It should not just talk about education and so on. If it paid the nurses and closed the gender pay gap, that would be the best service it could do for women.
I think the industrial relations infrastructure of the State will be called upon again here. There is likely to be a Labour Court hearing on this matter next week. From the perspective of management, the Government and the nursing union, we want to get this issue resolved in a way that is consistent with the agreement that was the basis for the ending of industrial action by nurses. Everybody wants to work to that end. I suspect that the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court will help us to get there.
An independent commission was set up to examine boundaries for local electoral areas. The commission reported and we all accepted it apart from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Cahir has been put into the electoral area of Cashel-Tipperary. The Galtee Mountains are in between. The Tánaiste must travel past these mountains on his way home to Cork. There is no road through them. A person must go into counties Cork and Limerick to get into Tipperary or back into Bansha. The council recently voted by an overwhelming majority against what has happened. It is totally dissatisfied. Aside from the council, the public is being discommoded. This decision is blatant interference with the report of an independent commission. Is this what this Government will be proud of - going back to the heavy days of Jim Tully gerrymandering, messing and trying to organise things to suit the Government? It is outrageous. The Government interfered with an independent commission. Can the Tánaiste tell me that the Government will reverse this decision as soon as possible?
I understand that the Government approved the appointment of a judge for the independent assessment for the CervicalCheck non-disclosure ex gratiapayment last week and that the decision was to be finalised at the Cabinet meeting this week. Did this happen? When will the details be made known to the women in question?
Furthermore, what are the timelines for the assessment and for the tribunal to deal with CervicalCheck claims in the event that women wants to opt for this process rather than the court option?
I thank the Deputy for asking that question because it allows me to put on the record that the Government approved yesterday the terms of the CervicalCheck non-disclosure ex gratiascheme, including an independent assessment panel comprising a retired High Court judge, who will act as chair, an independent clinician and a person of good standing. The chair of the independent assessment panel is retired High Court judge Aindrias Ó Caoimh, and the Minister, Deputy Harris, will appoint the other two members of the panel shortly. The scheme will be open to all women in the cohort of 221 identified from the retrospective clinical audit as having been involved in the smear test controversies or to their next of kin. The decision was made yesterday.
Under the Water Framework Directive, Ireland has obligations to follow. Throughout the past few years, small towns and communities have been able to get together to source funding for community sewerage schemes. In recent days directors of services have received letters from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government stating that it cannot give funding to community groups unless there is an Irish Water scheme in the town which can be tapped into. They are not let to be stand alone. A three-year contract or programme has been put in place. What will it mean if small rural towns throughout the country, where people want to carry out works themselves voluntarily and where the allocation they got per house was about €6,500, will no longer be able to carry out these works? It will leave small villages around Ireland that have sewage going into rivers not able to do the works. The closing date for this is 14 March. Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to put it back by two weeks?
The courts (establishment and constitution) (amendment) Bill is promised legislation. The Bill proposes to increase the number of Appeal Court judges from nine to 15. It is scheduled for pre-legislative scrutiny. When is it likely to be referred and when is it likely to come before the House?
Following on from commitments in the programme for Government, I have raised here for a long time the issue of University Hospital Kerry with the Minister. I was concerned that our hospital was being downgraded by stealth. We have a serious problem with recruitment and retention of staff. Recently we have had the resignation of a consultant oncologist. Other senior staff are resigning at alarming rates. I want an assurance from this Government and from the Minister for Health that our university hospital in County Kerry will receive every assistance possible from the HSE, that we will not play second fiddle to County Cork or anywhere else and that our hospital will retain the services it has and have adequate budgets made available to the hospital, its management team and the workers in the accident and emergency department, including the nurses. We need support, we need backup and we need this hospital to continue to provide the invaluable service it provides in our county.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as an cheist. I assure the Deputy that the smaller, more rural hospitals will have an increasing role to play in the future delivery of healthcare under the Sláintecare plan as it is rolled out and implemented over the coming years and that there is no threat to the future of Kerry hospital. We are well aware that recruitment is a challenge in Kerry hospital, as it is in Bantry General Hospital and many other similar hospitals. We are undertaking a number of measures at present to try to address this, but I can assure the Deputy that there is no threat to the future of the hospital. It will play a very central role in the delivery of healthcare to his constituents for many years to come.
The Government made a number of announcements on International Women's Day on ratifying the Istanbul Convention and related issues. That is welcome and we need delivery on those announcements. My question concerns the six sexual assault treatment units, which treat men and women, aged 14 and over, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Despite a 20% increase in the number of people seeking treatment in recent years, all of the units are understaffed. We have heard stories of men and women having to go to units elsewhere in the country because the unit closest to them has closed or cannot deal with them. At a minimum, the only such unit in Dublin, at the Rotunda Hospital, should be open 24-7. Are there any plans to improve the badly needed services in these units?
Yes, is the direct answer to that question. The Government has committed to a 25% increase in funding. We are also examining the possibility of making some of those units mobile so they can be taken to areas where they are needed rather than expecting people to travel long distances to attend them.
In response to many queries from constituents, and further afield, I ask the Tánaiste to indicate when the new tenant purchase scheme will be introduced or the current scheme changed. I have asked this question six times already. I was told initially this would happen in the second half of 2017. It then moved to the first half of 2018 and subsequently to the second half of 2018. The most recent promise I was given was that this would happen in the first quarter of 2019, which is rapidly expiring. Will this be a case of fourth time lucky?
It is now clear the debacle of the national children's hospital spending overrun is having a devastating affect on many projects around the country. Kerry has already been hit. A sewerage scheme requested and promised for 15 years has again been put back until next year. The problem is that the scheme is to be laid along the road from Kilcummin to Killarney and the road cannot be reinstated until that has been done. Thousands of cars use this road daily. Does the Government have any shame for blackguarding the people of Kilcummin? This is clearly happening because the Government was asleep at the wheel in controlling spending at the national children's hospital.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has outlined on many occasions how the increased spending planned for next year will be accommodated. I do not think it has anything to do with a sewerage scheme in County Kerry.
The Government established the Land Development Agency six or more months ago. According to a recent reply to a parliamentary question I submitted, not one property identified has been transferred to the new agency. That is generating great uncertainty in respect of Columb Barracks in Mullingar. Community groups utilising the barracks do not know what will happen or if they will be able to use the facility in the long term. They have made inquiries of the Department of Defence, which then refers them to the Land Development Agency. The agency, in turn, refers them back to the Department of Defence because the property has not yet been transferred. I do not expect the Tánaiste to be able to give a reply today but will he ask the relevant Minister to respond to me on the timeframe for the transfer of Columb Barracks in Mullingar to the Land Development Agency and the long-term plans for that property?
My question is on the old chestnut of the roll-out of the national broadband plan, NBP. I am constantly asked by people in my constituency when broadband will come. Farmers, small businesses and residential houses are waiting for broadband. We were promised broadband would be rolled out by 2020, yet the plan is still not being implemented. We are being told it will commence in a month or before Easter. What is the status of that plan? It is of great importance to the people of rural Ireland and will allow them catch up with urban areas such as Dublin, Cork and Galway. We badly need the national broadband plan.
We have seen a large increase in the number of homes getting access to broadband under the NBP. There has been an increase from about 50% to 75%. There are a number of ways of dealing with this issue. There is a remaining issue, as the Deputy knows, with what is called the intervention area. That is the area where it is not commercially viable to provide a service. A tender has been received and is under intense examination in my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. As the Taoiseach indicated to the House, he hopes that we can bring forward proposals for consideration before Easter.
When the Government was formed three years ago, it made a major budgetary commitment on the provision of respite care. A sum of €10 million was allocated in the first budget. Now, in the early stages of 2019, respite care is in a serious crisis, with parents of people with intellectual disabilities unable to access respite care. They have been told, through their service providers, that funding is not coming through from the Health Service Executive. The HSE seems to be centralising power and making decisions concerning all parts of the country, rather than having decisions made by the service providers as was the case previously. This is a major crisis. Already, in the early months of 2019, parents are being told there is no money for respite care this year.
I am aware of the issue the Deputy raises. I spoke yesterday with Mr. Ger Reaney, the CEO of the community healthcare organisation, CHO, in the area Deputy Michael Moynihan and I represent. This matter falls within the direct remit of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. This is a challenge and a large budget will be needed to meet existing demand in full. There has been some progress and some significant successes in the area. The €10 million provided has resulted in the opening of a number of new respite facilities. While we cannot take from the progress that has been made, we are certainly not yet close to where we would like to be. That will remain a challenge for some years.
Page 28 of A Programme for a Partnership Government features a commitment to a State-wide review of building standards and improving fire safety standards. It was worrying to read in a report by Barry Whyte in The Sunday Business Postthis weekend that 75% of Dublin Fire Brigade planning conditions have been overturned or significantly changed on appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Equally worrying was an article by Jack Horgan-Jones in The Irish Timesyesterday highlighting a report which shows that approximately 60 apartment developments owned by one management company in Dublin have inadequate fire alarm systems and a lack of fire stopping. Will the Minister commit to conducting this review and updating the fire safety regulations as a matter of urgency? Will he also seriously consider a latent defects redress scheme and a risk audit of Celtic tiger-era developments?
We all acknowledge the importance of forensics and evidence in crime detection and solving and prosecuting crime. I recognise the work of the Garda National Technical Bureau in this area. It has won a number of awards over many decades. Investment was planned to advance work on a new forensic science laboratory to be located in Celbridge. I attended the turning of the sod for the project about a year ago. I understand, however, that it is now in jeopardy and that it is a casualty of the overrun at the national children's hospital. Reports suggest it is part of the reprofiling exercise arising from the overspending. Will the Tánaiste clarify what investment will continue in the forensic science laboratory? Will it go ahead? If not, what is the plan? Where does the Garda National Technical Bureau fit into the new structure? I understand there are also some questions concerning that alignment as well.
It is absolutely not the case that there has been any delay in the forensic science laboratory due to overruns at the national children's hospital, as the Deputy alleged. I assure him and the House that the forensic science laboratory is one of the major capital priorities of the Government.
It is proceeding in accordance with the funds available.
Page 19 of the programme for Government concerns housing and increasing the supply thereof. I have learned through my own research with Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council that when councils go to draw moneys from the Department for particular housing voids they must do so under various sections and headings. So much of the money is allocated under different headings. These headings provide for insulation, cavity blocks or whatever. In practice, however, the moneys a council actually requires for a specific house may supersede the amount of money given under a certain heading. It is becoming an increasingly bureaucratic process, as opposed to one that determines €20,000 is required to fix a house and enables a council to draw down €20,000. Eradicating that would be a simple solution to get voids back into our housing stock. I ask the Government to take this on board or investigate this issue and come back to me on it.
I will happily pass that on. We have made huge progress in bringing voids back into use, including in Limerick. However, this is clearly an issue if the Deputy is rasing it so I will pass it on and make sure it gets a response.
Ar an 11 Feabhra seo caite, dúirt an Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, go bhfuil sé "go hiomlán míshásúil" go bhfuil pobal na Gaeilge fós ag brath ar Acht teanga nach bhfuil "sách láidir". Tá breis is seacht mbliana caite ó cuireadh tús leis an bpróiseas leasú a dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Tá sár-obair déanta ag Conradh na Gaeilge, ach go háirithe, moltaí a chur le chéile ar scéim ghinearálta agus ar cheannteidil Bille na dteangacha 2019. Cén uair a bheidh an Bille sin críochnaithe agus curtha chun cinn? An mbuailfidh an tAire le pobal na Gaeilge chun an Bhille a fheabhsú? Is í seo Seachtain na Gaeilge 2019 agus fós tá ríomhairí ag an Státseirbhís nach bhfuil in ann síneadh fada a chur ar ainm duine, fiú i liostaí de chuid an CSO. Tuigim an brú atá ar an Rialtas mar gheall ar an mBreatimeacht. Dúradh leis an Dáil seo nach raibh aon ghá ann Roinn na Gaeilge nó Údarás na Gaeltachta a lua sa reachtaíocht atá á tabhairt isteach chun déileáil leis an mBreatimeacht. Is beag an t-iontas go bhfuil imní ar an gCoimisinéir Teanga go gcaillfidh lucht labhartha na Gaeilge muinín as an bpróiseas reachtaíochta.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as ucht na ceiste tábhachtaí seo a ardú, go mórmhór i rith Seachtain na Gaeilge. Tá mé ar an eolas faoi na smaointí atá ag an gCoimisinéir Teanga sa chomhthéacs seo. Aontaím leis go bhfuil frustrachas ar lucht na Gaeilge maidir leis an moill atá ar an mBille atá luaite ag an Teachta. Tá sé ar bharr an liosta sa Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta. Mar is eol don Teachta, bhí a lán oibre le déanamh ag na dréachtóirí in Oifig an Ard-Aighne ar an reachtaíocht atá curtha le chéile i dtaobh na Breatimeachta. Cé go bhfuil an próiseas reachtaíochta sin beagnach críochnaithe anois, tá na dréachtóirí ag obair ar na hionstraimí reachtúla faoi láthair. Ina dhiaidh sin, sílim go mbeidh siad ag obair ar a lán Billí cosúil leis an mBille maidir le hAcht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Tá sé ar bharr mo liosta agus ar bharr liosta na Roinne.
This is a query for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the expansion of the usage of electric vehicles. It is a big issue on the agenda for tackling climate change. In my constituency in County Limerick there are only four charging stations, in Adare, Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale and Foynes. Looking at a map one sees that the entire rest of the county, its south and east, is bereft of them. What are the Government's plans to roll out significantly more charging stations? If we are to promote the use of these vehicles for good reasons, we need more charging stations.
Has the Minister consulted with his colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on this issue? A parking requirement is attached to applications for commercial planning permission. Making sure we have more chargers is something we are going to have to look at in this country. If we do not have charging stations, people will not use these vehicles.
I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. Just a couple of months ago I allocated €10 million to ESB, which will be 50% of the cost of extending the electric vehicle charger network. The network the ESB proposes to put in place will support 40,000 vehicles. We currently have about 10,000. We are planning to have headroom, and in the plan I will be looking beyond that.
There is a planning requirement to the effect that by 2025 all employers with more than 20 parking spaces will have to have an electric vehicle charging facility. There are also planning requirements for new builds. I will check the details on that point.