Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

2:00 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I note that we are due to adjourn tonight at 11 o'clock. Unless we stick to our time, every minute that Leaders' Questions runs over will drive back the finishing time.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I will not go on until 11 o'clock, by way of reassurance.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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You are very good. Thank you very much.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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You are very welcome. People woke up this morning to the latest Daft.ie rental report. It confirms what everyone knows. The report shows the biggest hike in new rents since records began - a staggering surge of 14% in one year. It is a new, grim record achieved on the watch of the Taoiseach's Government. What does this mean for hard-pressed renters? Across the State it means an average monthly rent of over €1,600. In the Taoiseach's neck of the woods, renters in Cork city will fork out over €1,700 a month. Get this - in this city, Dublin, it means paying an average monthly rent of €2,258, or a staggering €28,000 a year. Has the Taoiseach read this report? It is just off the wall. Who can afford to pay these insane amounts of money? The answer is very few. Very soon, only the very well-off will be able to live in our cities.

The teaching unions today issued a statement. They say our education system is at risk because schools are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers because of this housing crisis. Working people cannot afford to rent. Working people cannot afford to buy. Social housing delivery is nowhere near what is needed. While this situation worsens, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, who is completely out of his depth, says we do not have a housing emergency and the Tánaiste wrongly tells young people that the grass is not greener and they will not find lower rents abroad. In fact, they will. The Taoiseach comes in here every week and tells us the Government's housing policy is working.

Well, it is not. The housing policy of this Government should be about delivery, but instead we get denial, delusion and desperation. The record rent hike was entirely foreseeable. The writing was on the wall. We told the Government the credit for renters included in its budget was not enough. We told the Government that to really protect renters it also needed to ban rent increases. Each time the Government's answer was "No".

We also repeatedly warned the Taoiseach that the Government's targets for the delivery of cost rental homes are too low, and it is not even meeting those low targets. Now, we hear that commencement rates for housing construction have dropped significantly, putting housing targets for next year in real jeopardy. If this was not bad enough, a Government memo has confirmed a housing underspend of almost half a billion euro in the middle of Ireland's worst ever housing crisis. It is scandalous.

Faoin Rialtas seo, tá an t-ardú cíosa is mó riamh againn ach fós deireann an tAire, an Teachta Darragh O’Brien, nach bhfuil éigeandáil tithíochta againn. Tá sé in am i gcomhair gnímh. Caithfidh an Rialtas cosc a chur ar arduithe cíosa ar feadh trí bliana.

The Taoiseach says housing is the number one priority for this Government, but the crisis in people's lives puts that claim to shame. The Government acts as if rip-off rents are a figment of people’s imagination. Now the chickens of its inaction have come home to roost and it is renters who pay a heavy price. What is the Taoiseach's answer to renters across Ireland who are fleeced by these outrageous rent hikes? Does this record rent increase now convince him that we do, in fact, have a housing emergency? Will he finally do what is necessary and ban rent increases for three years?

2:05 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I do not want to engage in semantics with the Deputy but she has seized on the word "emergency" in the past two weeks as if it is some sort of magic word that will transform our housing output. She is not the first to come up with the term "emergency". At the launch of Housing for All in September 2021, I made it clear that when I talked about and referenced a whole-of-government approach that, "[T]he fact is that the social emergency that is our housing crisis cannot and will not be solved by any one department on its own". The point is that we have treated this issue as an emergency from day one, in terms of the legislation we have passed and the initiatives that have been outlined. A lot of what we are doing is already bearing fruit.

While many people urgently need housing, many others have got housing. I refer to Laura, a new tenant in Stepaside, who was struggling to find accommodation and said that she had to get her dad to help her because it was so expensive. With the cost rental scheme things are now a lot more affordable and it has been a great opportunity for her to move into an apartment she can finally afford. Bernardo said that his family had been looking for housing since last November and it had not being going well. They wanted a two-bedroom apartment. He went on to say that he did not quite believe the price could be true because he knows the rent in Dublin for a two-bedroom apartment is about €2,000 per month and they were ready to go for a one-bedroom apartment that would cost at least €1,500 per month. The family is moving into a brand new apartment with two bedrooms for €1,264 per month and, unlike other rental properties, they can stay for the long term and it is their home for as long as they want which makes them really happy and secure. Courtney, who is moving to a cost rental home in Kilcarbery Grange, said it gives her security and has a beautiful home. Bernard was one of the first home scheme applicants. He said the first home process was easy, fast and has helped him, and that the first home scheme experience is definitely one of the best services he has received. What is significant about the first home and cost rental schemes?

Yesterday, I was at a Land Development Agency, LDA, development at Shanganagh where the sod was dug for 600 houses. Some 50% of the units will be a cost rental. Actions speak louder than words. Who opposed the LDA? Sinn Féin opposed it and voted against it in this House and the prospect of 600 homes. All councillors in the area, irrespective of party, yesterday celebrated the launch of the development and their role in making sure the site was available. Who opposed the first home scheme? The Sinn Féin Party opposed the first home scheme.

Time and again the Sinn Féin Party has voted against and opposed significant housing developments throughout Dublin and the country, from Oscar Traynor Road to Ballymastone in Donabate.

(Interruptions).

2:15 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy McDonald herself has opposed more than 1,600 homes on Clonliffe Road, about 177 apartments in Cabra and about 79 apartments on Moore Street as part of the broader Moore Street development. I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand how Sinn Féin reconciles its track record in this House and elsewhere in opposing such good initiatives that are now leading to cost rental and affordable homes and social homes. Sinn Féin opposed all of those. Yet, in opposing all of those it still declared the housing issue to be an emergency. The two positions do not reconcile.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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As the Taoiseach announced the latest Housing for All, there was an emergency and there is still an emergency - in fact, a more profound emergency. As we speak today, house prices and rents are up and, very sadly, we will hear again that the rates of homelessness are up. The way in which the Taoiseach tries to dodge and evade answering questions by pointing to others, as though he was not the Taoiseach - and I know he has limited time left but he is still the Head of Government - as though he was not the Government and did not carry the responsibility to tackle this emergency, is quite astounding. There will be fewer than 500 cost rental homes this year. That is all. It is good news for those who have those tenancies - let me state that plainly - but it is not enough. That is fact. The report published this morning says it all. The average cost of renting in this city this year is €28,000.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you, Deputy. The time is up.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I asked the Taoiseach whether he will ban rent increases-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Time is up, Deputy.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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-----for the next three years and he did not answer that question. I would appreciate it if he would answer that question.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We have limited rent increases to 2% in every rent pressure zone. We brought in a rent credit this year. Will the Deputy put down her documents and stop trying to create propaganda?

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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It is Daft.ie. I hardly think that is propagandist, in fairness.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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An award-winning journalist, Sam McBride, wrote a very good article recently on Sinn Féin's housing performance in the North. It is entitled "Housing Crisis will not be solved by Sinn Féin's cynical populism". In the last paragraph, he writes that Sinn Féin's Stormont record suggests that party populism is more fervently held than its grasp of the detail of what would actually improve the housing situation and it is prepared to be deeply cynical in this area.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Is Daft.ie cynical too?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The difference between the Sinn Féin Party which simply wants to exploit the issue and the Government side is that we have taken a range of initiatives and actions. The help to buy scheme, for example, has helped 35,000 people to own their own home.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Time is up. Thank you, Taoiseach.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Sinn Féin would have abolished that scheme. I referenced-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Time is up now, please.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----how a person felt the first home scheme was the best service they had ever got. Sinn Féin opposed that scheme and proposed its abolition.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you, Taoiseach. Time is up.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Sinn Féin also opposed the grants for restoring housing in rural areas. I do not understand why as between 700 and 800 people have availed or are availing of that scheme.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank the Taoiseach.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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You have no answer, Micheál. That is okay; I understand.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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All of those people would lose out if Sinn Féin had its way.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We must move on.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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I offer solidarity with the two gardaí who were badly injured in a vicious attack in Dublin last night. All Deputies will want to share their thoughts and sympathies with them and their families.

Each week brings more news of the Government’s failure on housing policy. Today in particular we see news about failed policy in regard to renters, with a report from Daft.ie showing that rents rose by 14% year on year and a record 4.3% increase between June and September this year. Rents in Dublin, including my own constituency, are now more than €2,200 per month on average. In Longford, Leitrim and Cavan rents rose by a staggering 20%. We are seeing that this is a widespread phenomenon.

We see rising rents and unaffordable homes for people. Increasingly, I know all of us are hearing, as I am, stories from those seeking to rent who are simply unable to secure affordable accommodation. One student told me at the weekend of spending five months looking in Dublin for somewhere suitable to rent and is now paying €1,200 per month for one room in a shared house with a shared, communal bathroom facility. Another constituent told me that upon contacting her landlord to request necessary plumbing and heating repairs, she was then issued with a notice to quit because her landlord was selling her home. The Government’s very welcome U-turn on a temporary eviction ban means she will not be without a home this Christmas, but the notion that a landlord could even threaten someone with eviction merely for requesting necessary repairs to their home is an indictment of our housing system. Some of the stories I hear all of the time from constituents about their difficulties with securing housing are stories we might expect from a Seán O’Casey play, not from a wealthy, prosperous European capital city in the 21st century.

It is again an indictment of Government failings. I urge everyone to come out this Saturday, 26 November, for the Raise the Roof rally in Parnell Square, which we in the Labour Party and those across the Opposition are supporting. We know that policies are failing, that people are left without homes and that 11,000 people registered homeless last month. We see trade unions representing those in the education system saying the housing crisis is jeopardising education because teachers cannot afford homes and students at third level cannot afford to rent close to where they are going to college.

I ask the Taoiseach to commit to spending the time that has been bought through the winter eviction ban to ensure the reduction of red tape to facilitate the purchase of properties by local authorities, so at least we will see the tenant in situscheme ramped up and strengthened to ensure some protections are afforded to families beyond this winter, where otherwise they might be facing eviction. Will the Taoiseach heed our calls and adopt a policy of strengthening the tenant in situscheme to ensure we will not see a deluge of further evictions in the spring?

2:25 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have repeatedly made it clear in this House that housing is the single most urgent and important social issue facing our country. The Government has brought in a range of actions in terms of increasing housing supply, and it is about housing supply. The targets this year will be exceeded but we need to do far more. The Deputy used the phrase, and I will take her up on it because I have heard precious little on solutions from anyone in the House. I have had no comprehensive response to Housing for All from any party in this House. There is no alternative comprehensive policy position presented by any party in this House against Housing for All.

The strength of Housing for All is the diverse range of options, from cost rental to affordable and local authority affordable to the Land Development Agency, which is now looking, through Project Tosaigh, at about 5,000 new homes, and then right across the board to the local authorities themselves and the approved housing bodies. We will have a very high number of social housing units this year through building, acquisition and some leases, probably the highest in many a year, but we need solutions. When we come forward in the next couple of weeks, first, with an amendment of the An Bord Pleanála Bill, it will give us stronger powers, not just to cut red tape but to move much faster in the planning process for social and affordable houses.

I look forward to Deputy Bacik’s support when that is presented before the House. I look forward to the Sinn Fein Party’s support. The time for playing with words is over on the Opposition side. It is fine that people can raise issues and that is legitimate, of course, because this is a big issue, but I heard people this morning on radio and television but not one proposal, not one option to do anything other than to criticise an existing range of policies. Supply is the issue. Delivery is the issue.

Planning is also an issue. It will be a short measure that the Minister is bringing forward but there will be a far more comprehensive measure in terms of a new planning Act which consolidates and codifies the planning laws to streamline the planning process, so we can get housing proposals through faster, to be frank, and so we can build houses more rapidly than we currently are, using the best advanced manufacturing technology in their construction. This will be coming before the House in the next number of weeks.

I do not expect the entire planning Act to be done before Christmas. That will not happen. I accept there will have to be a full discussion but some of the earlier initiatives will be coming before the House and we will want the support of the Deputy's party in that respect so that we can get social housing built faster on publicly owned land, with some affordable as well. The Minister will be using powers to do that. I invite the Deputy to express and articulate her support for measures of that kind.

2:35 pm

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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The Taoiseach is absolutely right - the time to play with words is over and the time is now to build more houses. He is also right about supply being the issue. However, he is wrong to say the Opposition does not come up with constructive ideas and solutions. We in the Labour Party put forward a clear proposal in our alternative budget this year for an additional spend of €1.5 billion precisely to deal with that issue of supply and to build homes on public land.

Here are two other constructive solutions. First, let us see the scaling up of the tenantin situscheme about which we have spoken and which I have raised before in the House to ensure that local authorities are given consistent rules to apply to prevent homelessness after the winter eviction ban has ceased. Second, let us see the Government spending the money allocated in the housing budget. Members have seen it reported in the Sunday Independentthat €476 million of the Government's housing budget for the first nine months of this year went unspent, including a €228 million underspend on council housing. That is not the level of expenditure one would expect or should see during what President Higgins has rightly described as a housing disaster. We will be constructive, we have welcomed the winter eviction ban and we will welcome constructive reforms to the planning legislation, but we also want to see urgent action from the Government in delivering the supply of new housing.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy knows well that, every year, every Department carries over 10% of its budget because schemes are not completed before the end of the December deadline. In addition, there will obviously be money allocated towards the end of the year again in terms of housing initiatives. The housing in situscheme is one the Minister himself initiated. It is up to 600 houses now that have been or are in the process of being purchased by local authorities, with tenants in situ. That scheme is happening as we speak. As I stated in the context of the social housing target, in terms of builds, acquisition and leasing we will be well above previous years in terms of social housing output. It is not an issue of funding; it is actually an issue of delivery through the various planning processes and so on and getting projects delivered in a much faster way, which will mean, in some respects, particularly on public land, rapidly accelerating housing, especially social housing, in terms of the planning process.

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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It is half time for this Government. I once asked the Taoiseach, perhaps unkindly, whether he is a Cork Taoiseach or a Taoiseach who happens to be from Cork. That remains an open question. Under his tenure, I have watched Cork flourish, finally putting to bed the sad days of Ford and Dunlop. I know this was an era from which the Taoiseach's political philosophy was hewn and from which he draws. As a son of Cork, he has undoubtedly delivered for the city. This delivery reminds me of Michael Noonan's stalwart ability to bend the nation's spending towards Limerick. Sure is that not politics after all?

When asked what matters to him, the Taoiseach always says it is community, kith and kin, and GAA jerseys. I have often admired the intrinsically Irish qualities he possesses, although they have not always worked to my advantage or that of Waterford. He has accomplishments to point to on the national stage. His statesmanship has restored an empathy and character to politics here. This lies in stark contrast to the political misfortunes being visited on our traditional friends in Britain and the USA. His focus on housing and health and his refusal to resile from attending to the most intractable and meaningful deficiencies of the Republic are commendable, although change comes slowly.

It is worth reflecting on what his term in office means for the people I represent. He has been kind enough to meet me on a number of occasions and to support my access to senior Ministers and leading public servants. I have pressed, using wide evidence, the Waterford and south-east regional agenda to him and to others. That agenda includes equal healthcare provision in the acute hospital in the region, as demonstrated by the need to deliver 24-7 cardiac care; equal access to a university education; airport access for the region to the UK and beyond; and urban and rural regeneration, with focused development of the North Quays, along with the Abbey quarter and Trinity Wharf projects.

These are all projects that continue to lie just beyond the funding horizon as yet invisible to the naked eye. I contrast the Taoiseach's visible delivery for Cork with my hope, which at this point is all I have to hang onto for my efforts to date, that the initiatives for our hospital, university, airport and north quays developments will commence soon. It seems somewhat paradoxical that this hope has suddenly arisen in the dog days of the Taoiseach's term. Quarter 1 2023 appears to be D-day, or delivery day, for the revision and the revised administration to deliver cardiac care, the airport, the public private partnership buildings of the South East Technological University, SETU, and the north quays projects. Expectations are huge and continue to be so. A people who have been failed by national politics for a generation wait with bated breath.

2:45 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. I also thank him for his initial kind comments, although I felt a sting was going to come at some stage towards the latter end of his contribution. I will make it very clear that the Government is absolutely committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all our citizens, regardless of geography or where people live. We are particularly committed to regional development because it is important we get regional, balanced development in the country, economically, socially, educationally and culturally.

It has to be acknowledged that the Government acted very early on the two calls for proposals under the urban regeneration and redevelopment fund, URDF. More than €110 million has been allocated for projects in Waterford city and county under those two calls. The Government recently approved a final business case for the URDF Waterford north quays public infrastructure project. As the Deputy knows, there were some early issues with that project that were not of the Government's making. That funding, however, enables the largest urban regeneration project in the country to begin. The Waterford north quays URDF public infrastructure project involves the provision of key, sustainable transport infrastructure. It will transform the city and regional access, and facilitate game-changing development on the north side of the River Suir. That has to be acknowledged. This is a big development that will leave a very important legacy to Waterford. The total Exchequer funding for it is approximately €170 million if local authority, URDF and National Transport Authority funding of about €70 million is included. Waterford City and County Council will proceed to the main construction contract.

The new South East Technological University was formally opened in October by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Harris. Its first president, Professor Veronica Campbell, is a former bursar of Trinity College Dublin. It is a very strong technological university. The Minister and Department are committed to expanding the footprint of the university in Waterford. The engineering, computing and general teaching building in Waterford is being advanced through the higher education public private partnership programme. Additionally, construction is scheduled to commence next year on significant energy retrofit projects in Waterford. The Minister recently confirmed approval was given to the technological university for negotiations with the vendor of a site in Waterford within agreed parameters, again to expand the footprint of the university in the city. On 11 November, the Minister, Deputy Harris, announced €23 million in funding for technological universities, including a further €5.25 million for the South East Technological University. That brings the full funding to that university close to €20 million, if the €10.6 million of the previous fund is taken into account.

University Hospital Waterford is currently progressing the development of the second cardiac cath lab. The construction, completion and handover of the second cath lab is now expected the week beginning 28 November, which is next week. We then have to equip and commission it, which will take 12 to 16 weeks. That is good progress on that front.

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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I certainly acknowledge that delivery is on the way. I thank the Taoiseach for that. I point out, however, that the south east still cannot see whether it is getting a fair share of capital funding. In fact, Deputies essentially vote on a black box when it comes to the €10 billion capital allocation. It is a message for the Government that people throughout the country need to see this fairness and transparency, especially those regions that have not enjoyed the same recovery as Dublin, the south west, mid-west and west.

Above all, for me and the people of the south east, cardiac care will tell the tale of the performance of this Government. I again wrote to Professor Philip Nolan at the weekend outlining both the cardiac transfer data over the past three years out of University Hospital Waterford and the findings of the National Office of Clinical Audit report, which shows only 5% of patients are getting out of the south-east region when the Waterford cath lab centre is closed.

As his final gift in his tenure, will the Taoiseach deliver on foot of Professor Nolan's report? All the evidence points to the south east needing to be brought in line with other regions. We need 24-7 care delivered as per the promise given in 2016. If that happens, I will say, maith thú

2:55 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy referenced my geographic origins earlier. I did acquire that land for Waterford Institute of Technology back in the late 1990s. This was the land that made all the development on the campus possible in Carriganore. At the time, a lot of people questioned the wisdom of that but in the long term, it proved to be a fairly far-sighted measure that facilitated the expansion of the university, which is key to economic growth. Why do I say this? Employment in the south east has grown by 8.6% in the past year. There are now 79 IDA Ireland companies employing approximately 15,000 people. A number of significant investments were made. I do not think this is separate from the investment in the college.

Likewise in terms of healthcare facilities, the Deputy is correct that this is very important. The Minister for Health has pushed strongly for the completion of the second cardiac cath lab because, again, that is key to the ultimate objective set by the Deputy. We need to get that project physically completed and staffed, and we need to get additional beds into the hospital and additional recovery beds in respect of that second cath lab.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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In my 20-plus years in politics, I have never experienced anything like the tsunami of emails from consultants across all disciplines. So far, I have received emails from 34 consultants at Sligo University Hospital, SUH, highlighting the completely unacceptable and unsafe conditions for patients and staff, the consistent underinvestment in the hospital and the unfair and unjust sharing out of resources within the Saolta University Health Care Group. This action is unprecedented, which tells you that this is an emergency that needs immediate and ongoing attention at the highest level. This situation did not arise overnight. I do not have time to go into the historic underfunding at SUH, but nothing less than a complete refocusing of resources is needed to address the historic under-resourcing at SUH.

I have raised this issue with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the Tánaiste many times on the floor of this House because the hospital is in crisis and not for political reasons. The Taoiseach has received all the emails so I am sure he is well briefed on the issues raised but in the minute or two I have left, I will highlight in the words of the various consultants the most pressing issues. Perhaps one phrase from one consultant sums it up: "I have worked as a consultant at SUH for over 17 years and I have never seen the demand on our services so high nor the morale of our staff so low." Another consultant backed this up by saying: "We are haemorrhaging staff and cannot recruit. SUH is in my opinion at a tipping point."

SUH has one CT scanner and when it is serviced or breaks down, as it did for three days last September, Sligo cannot provide the absolute basic requirement of an acute hospital. A new CT scanner is promised for 2024 yet Saolta has prioritised a third CT scanner for Galway University Hospital where there are five other CT scanners within a five-mile radius rather than a second one in SUH where there is a much greater clinical risk. SUH has one ageing MRI scanner providing imaging services for a population of 250,000.

Time and again, I have raised the issue of trolley numbers. The Taoiseach will be well aware that this number compared to the number of beds in the hospital is the worst in the country. I know there was an emergency meeting with the Minister for Health last night, which is great. Any meeting is a start but that is all it is. There have been many false starts. We are well used to them in Sligo. I want to hear real commitments today.