Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

3:10 pm

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I move:

Tuesday's business shall be: - Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Planning and Development (Exempted Development) (No. 4) Regulations 2022 (back from Committee) (without debate)

- Motion re Twentieth Report of Committee of Selection (without debate)

- Social Welfare Bill 2022 (Second Stage) Private Members' Business shall be the Motion re Declaration of a Housing Emergency, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday’s business shall be: - Motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 32] (without debate)

- Social Welfare Bill 2022 (Second Stage, resumed) (if not previously concluded, to conclude at 5 p.m.)

- Finance Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages) (to be taken no earlier than 4 p.m. and to conclude within 5 hrs) Private Members' Business shall be the Motion re New Vision for Transport in Galway and Other Areas, selected by the Independent Group.

Thursday’s business shall be: - Statements on Abuse at Certain Educational Institutions (not to exceed 2 hrs and 25 mins)

- Statements on Forestry (not to exceed 2 hrs and 25 mins)

- Motion to Instruct the Committee on the Communications Regulation Bill 2022 (to conclude within 60 mins and any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Report Stage) Thursday evening business shall be Second Stage of the Dog Breeding Establishments (Amendment) Bill 2021.

Proposed Arrangements for this week's business:

In relation to Tuesday’s business, it is proposed that: 1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders is modified to the following extent:
(i)the Dáil shall sit later than 10.30 p.m.;

(ii)expressions of sympathy for Professor Brian Hillery shall be taken for not more than 30 minutes after oral Parliamentary Questions to the Taoiseach pursuant to Standing Order 46(1), and shall be followed by Government business; and

(iii) Government business shall be interrupted to take private members’ business, either at 6.45 p.m. or 2 hours and 25 minutes after the conclusion of the expressions of sympathy, whichever is the later, and shall not resume thereafter, with consequential effect on the time for Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and topical issues: Provided that in the event Second Stage of the Social Welfare Bill 2022 concludes before the 2 hours and 25 minutes have expired, private members' business shall be taken on the conclusion of that Second Stage;
2. the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Planning and Development (Exempted Development) (No. 4) Regulations 2022 shall be taken without debate; and

3. the Motion re Twentieth Report of the Committee of Selection shall be taken without debate. In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that: 1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the following extent:
(i)Government business may continue after 8.45 p.m. in order to allow the proceedings on the Finance Bill 2022 to conclude; and

(ii)the weekly division time may be taken later than 8.45 p.m. and shall, in any event, be taken on the conclusion of proceedings on the Finance Bill 2022, with consequential effect on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 9.30 p.m.;
2. the Motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 32] shall be taken without debate;

3. the proceedings on Second Stage of the Social Welfare Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m.; and

4. the proceedings on Report and Final Stages of the Finance Bill 2022 shall be taken no earlier than 4 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 5 hours by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance. In relation to Thursday’s business and in relation to the questions nominated for priority pursuant to Standing Order 49 to be taken on 1st December, 2022, it is proposed that: 1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the extent that topical issues may be taken later than 7.24 p.m., and shall in any event be taken on the conclusion of Government business, with consequential effect on the commencement time for Second Stage of the Dog Breeding Establishments (Amendment) Bill 2021 and on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 9.27 p.m.;

2. the Statements on Abuse at Certain Educational Institutions shall not exceed 145 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 135 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time;

3. the Statements on Forestry shall not exceed 145 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 135 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time;

4. the proceedings on the Motion to Instruct the Committee on the Communications Regulation Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply:
(i)order of speaking and allocation of time shall be as follows:
- opening speech by a Minister or Minister of State – 7.5 minutes; and

- speeches by representatives of Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Social Democrats, People-Before-Profit-Solidarity, the Regional Group, the Rural Independent Group and the Independent Group – 7.5 minutes per party or group;
(ii)members may share time; and

(iii) any division claimed shall be taken immediately prior to Report and Final Stages of the Communications Regulation Bill 2022; and
5. notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the number of Questions nominated for priority pursuant to Standing Order 49 that may be taken on Thursday 1st December, 2022, shall be increased to six, and the sixth question shall be allocated to the Social Democrats, with the time for Questions to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage accordingly extended for 6.5 minutes.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the Order of Business agreed?

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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It is not agreed.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach's statement that there must be consultation about housing asylum seekers in communities is a major change of Government policy. There has not been dialogue. There has not been planning. There have not been additional resources for communities that host vulnerable people seeking international protection.

East Wall is merely the latest example of this. East Wall, by the way, is a diverse and integrated community, yet now totally unnecessary division and anxiety has been driven by a lack of dialogue and a lack of basic planning. Communities know that those seeking international protection have to be catered for. That matter is not in dispute. They also know that communities such as East Wall have been treated with utter disrespect and that, in fact, asylum seekers themselves have been treated with utter disrespect. The Taoiseach needs to set out for the Dáil what he means by what he calls "consultation".

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

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Can I also say, a Cheann Comhairle,-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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No. The Deputy is out of time.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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We need the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, to come before the House, set out his stall and take questions because-----

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

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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-----we need a thoughtful, planned and united approach to this most important of issues.

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)
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A year and a half ago, the Joint Committee on Justice recommended a special committee on the issue of assisted dying. To my knowledge, there is no impediment to the establishment of that committee. Can the Taoiseach give a commitment to the many people who have been following this issue that the committee will be established before Christmas because it has gone on far too long? We need to have a national discussion about this issue.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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Over the past number of weeks, Deputies have been inundated by business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open throughout the country. If some of them are to survive, they need to get the energy subsidies for bars, cafes and restaurants released before Christmas. I even had an accountant on to me in the past few days who has quite a lot of these businesses on his books. He had to actually pay one of their energy bills this week to keep the door open. We need a proper discussion here in the Dáil this week. These subsidies are not supposed to be paid until 23 February next year. For many businesses, this will be too late. They will be gone for good. Can we have a debate here this week to release this money earlier?

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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I welcome the fact that we have a debate this week on Thursday on abuse in certain educational institutions. It is a debate I looked for last week and I am glad to see it is in the schedule. I am raising on the Order of Business a concern that the time allocated may not be sufficient given the issues that we have to debate, particularly around the format of a welcome inquiry that the Taoiseach and the Government have committed to holding into the scale of abuse that has taken place. I wanted to raise a concern that we may not have sufficient time this Thursday on those issues and that we might revisit that at a later date and continue the debate if necessary.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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On the matter raised by Deputy Gino Kenny, first, I apologise, as I should have gone back to him before now. The establishment of the committee is not really a matter for the Taoiseach. The Dáil reform committee will hear a report at its next meeting, which I think is due next week. If it agrees on that, the committee, which has been agreed in principle to be established, can proceed as soon as is humanly possible.

On the other matters, I call the Taoiseach.

3:20 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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On Deputy McDonald's issue I want to put on the record of the House my thanks to our public servants and my recognition of the work they do across government and the massive effort that has and continues to go into making sure those who have come to our country seeking refuge have speedy access to the shelter and support they need. We do not have an option but to avail of all offers of accommodation including those that in ordinary times we would not consider appropriate. This includes the use of repurposed office buildings, sports facilities and tented structures. We are not in ordinary times. We are doing all we can to provide shelter and to comply with our international obligations.

As of 13 November there were 17,192 people accommodated through the International Protection Accommodation System, IPAS. By comparison at this point last year there were approximately 7,250 in IPAS accommodation. This is just with regard to international protection alone, separate from the Ukraine war situation. Because of the brutal war that Putin is raging almost 60,000 people have arrived in Ireland. We saw the warnings this morning in respect of a freezing winter in Ukraine and the utter destruction of the infrastructure there. In my view this will accelerate further migration to Europe. Approximately 14 million people have been displaced. We need to consult and we also need to engage with the public on the horrible reality that war has brought upon the Continent of Europe. There are no easy solutions. We cannot suggest to people, unfortunately, that there are easy solutions. The Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, has been before the Dáil in respect of this issue. He has spoken and engaged. There is no magic solution. In the context of East Wall-----

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

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----the Deputy is familiar with it. Ultimately we have to be fairly straight with people. We have international obligations and with regard to fulfilling them the pressures are enormous because of a number of issues such as conflict, famine, drought, climate change and the war in Ukraine itself. The Minister and the Department are engaging with local representatives to provide the information. They will be providing more information directly to the community in the coming days. This is happening. The Minister wants to foster positive linkages with the local community for the new centre in East Wall. He is also committed to supporting those communities that are supporting refugees.

I have dealt with the issue raised by Deputy Gino Kenny. To respond to Deputy Michael Collins, five hours debate are provided for the Finance Bill. He should support the Finance Bill because under the temporary business energy support scheme it will provide supports to many businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, in respect of the shocking increases in energy prices brought about by the war.

To respond to Deputy Bacik, the Minister for Education has met victims' groups in recent days and will continue to do so this week. The Minister intends to meet spokespersons on education from various parties in the House, the idea being to see how we can progress this issue in a victim-led way.

Order of Business agreed to.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is incredible that the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, was aware of the proposal to hike toll charges and he failed to stop them immediately. He said yesterday morning he was reluctant to tackle toll rises if it would come at a cost to other priorities. I have to put it that the priority now should be to support workers and businesses facing a cost-of-living crisis and certainly the Government should not be worsening that crisis by hiking the cost of getting to work. Last night the Minister, Deputy Ryan, said he was examining the matter. We have heard that before. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment today in the Dáil that the proposed hike in toll charges will not go ahead as planned?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is examining the situation. The tolls for private cars on most toll roads, if the increase is to go ahead, would increase by 10 cent. Some of these tolls are collected by private companies. What Deputy Carthy is asking is that we would subsidise private companies in this respect to deal with the issue.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
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Nationalise them.

3:25 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is examining these issues in terms of how best we can deal with that situation. Toll revenue is generally used for motorway maintenance and maintenance of the wider national road network. The Minister told me this morning that many Deputies have requested an increase in resources for roads in Cavan-Monaghan and the entire country. It is a balancing of that. The other point is that we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and we get that. The Minister is examining the situation.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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Over decades, we have seen neglect of national childcare policies, producing a piecemeal system with the highest proportion of private providers in the OECD and childcare costs continuing to rise. Despite the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme and core funding model, parents in Dublin are still paying as much as €1,000 per child per month, if they can find a crèche place. We know providers are closing crèches because many are also struggling and skilled early-years educators are still not being paid enough, despite the welcome changes with the employment regulation order. We are failing parents, staff, providers and, most of all, children by failing to deliver a proper, State-funded, universal childcare scheme.

The Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality called for Ireland to move to a publicly-funded, accessible and regulated model of affordable early-years childcare over the next decade. We are working on the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly but we are conscious the clock is ticking and we are one tenth of the way through that decade. The Government must take action now to ensure, by 2030, we move to the model of childcare to which the Citizens' Assembly aspired.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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This Government is not neglecting childcare. We are investing approximately €1.25 billion in childcare. This means the first of five investment targets, €1 billion by 2028, has been achieved five years ahead of schedule. This year's budget allocation will support a reduction of up to 25% in childcare fees. This measure will put close to €2,100 every year back in the pockets of parents from next year. This follows last year's budgets that provided funding for a new employment regulation order, which was agreed between employee representative bodies and the employers. This will result in increases in wages and better conditions for those working in the childcare sector.

The Deputy stated that childcare has evolved on a piecemeal basis. I take her point but that has been the case for over 30 years in terms of community-based, private sector and State-based childcare. The issue now is how we build on that and make it affordable for parents.

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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Last year, at least 206 women were forced to seek abortion care in the UK, the vast majority of whom were over 12 weeks pregnant, with foetal anomaly cases being the leading reason. It is beyond disgraceful that our laws, after repeal, are still forcing people enduring the pain of complicated pregnancies and foetal anomalies to go overseas for healthcare. There is also the unnecessary three-day mandatory waiting period, a barrier that has no evidence basis. In addition, only 11 of the 19 maternity hospitals provide these services and many rural areas have no provision, forcing women to travel for hours. The review of abortion services is due to be completed soon. Will the Taoiseach guarantee that it will address both the operational and legislative issues that are restricting abortion care in Ireland?

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I expect to receive the review in the coming weeks. It has been a wide-ranging review. I cannot commit to what may be in the report because it is an independent review. However, all the issues raised by the Deputy are actively being considered by me and the Department. I look forward to seeing what is in the review and discussing it with the House.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
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Over 150 people gathered for a major public conference at the weekend as part of the Not Our Fault campaign. These people, who are affected by apartment and duplex defects, are facing huge bills of up to €68,000 for defects caused through no fault of theirs. They are the fault of Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael legislation which allowed self-certification and builders who abused that measure. The people in question were very disappointed that no Government representatives attended, despite repeated invitations. They had a clear message. We understand the Minister is due to bring a proposal to Government before the end of the year. If it is anything less than 100% redress, with full retrospection, it will not be accepted.

The Minister will have a mica-style major protest movement on his hands. Is there a date for the scheme the Minister will propose coming into effect?

3:30 pm

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Government committed to working with stakeholders such as the Apartment Owners' Network and the Construction Defects Alliance to do the most comprehensive report that has ever been done with regard to the scale of apartment defects. Some 28,000 homes were included in those surveys. We have a very good handle on the types of issues that have arisen and what needs to be done. The Taoiseach and I have said we need to grasp this nettle and that is what we are doing. I intend to bring recommendations to Government in advance of Christmas. The Deputy should also know that any scheme that is brought forward will have to be underpinned by legislation. I hope the Deputy will support it at that time because we are very serious about dealing with this issue. I engage with families all over the country on a weekly basis and keep in regular contact with the Construction Defects Alliance and its input into the work we have done has been most constructive. I will bring recommendations to Government in advance of Christmas.

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent)
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One of the health priorities of this Government is to tackle hospital waiting lists. Last weekend's Fine Gael Ard-Fheis included promises to tackle lengthy waits. Although the winter plan 2022-23 makes significant promises on additional capacity and improved pathways to care, I wish to raise the terrible situation of one of my constituents in County Louth. On 4 October, I emailed the Minister for Health about my constituent, John Evans from Dundalk, who, having previously undergone a kidney transplant and a leg amputation in 2020, has been waiting for months for urgent surgery to remove his fingers as a result of dry gangrene. Due to the long waiting times, the gangrene has spread to his other fingers. This man is in constant pain. He presented at the accident and emergency department in Drogheda numerous weeks ago and was sent home. Last week, he presented at an accident and emergency department in Dublin from which he was also sent home. I acknowledge the Minister for Health and his team helped to get the original date for Mr. Evans's surgery. However, surgery has since been postponed twice. This is inhumane. If admission is determined in accordance with medical needs, are this man's limbs not critical? He urgently needs care.

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

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent)
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Next Tuesday, 29 November, John Evans has an appointment to see Dr. Sullivan, a plastic surgeon in Beaumont hospital.

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

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent)
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His appointment is only to be seen. Will the Government help John Evans?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The matter would be more suitably raised as a Topical Issue matter.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this case with which I am familiar. The Deputy and I have discussed it. The gentleman he references is in need of urgent care. I am glad that things progressed. I am not satisfied to hear they have paused and I will ask the HSE for an update later today and revert to the Deputy.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I had a meeting with concerned interested parties yesterday where a serious concern hangs over the future of the driving test centre in Skibbereen. I have been informed that at least one of the two driving testers will move on at the end of December, which will leave the driving centre with skeleton staff. People who booked the driving test in Skibbereen two weeks ago were informed they would have a test three months from now. Those who try to book this week are told it will be at least six months. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, has clarified it is not closing the centre but, as of yet and in spite of queries, it has not quelled speculation that the centre may only open one week in the month.

The Skibbereen driving test centre is the only such centre in west Cork serving people as far east as Innishannon, Bandon and Clonakilty and west as far as Castletownbere, Goleen and Kilcrohane. Parents and young people alike cannot wait six months for a test and nor can they be expected to travel to Cork or Killarney for a driving test. Not alone would this be a disaster for them but also for the local economy in Skibbereen and the excellent driving instructors there. Will the Taoiseach help the many thousands who will be affected by this and step in to get clarity from the Department of Transport on whether the Skibbereen driving test centre is to stay open five days per week from January 2022 onwards?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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This is a bit confusing because the Deputy just said the RSA stated it was not closing the centre but then asked me to clarify the matter.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I said it could go down to opening for only week in a month.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The RSA is not closing the centre. Does the Deputy accept that?

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I hope it is not.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know who is creating the speculation. The Deputy could be creating it himself.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I ask the Taoiseach to listen to the question.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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God forbid, I would suggest the Deputy is doing so.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I ask the Taoiseach not to play antics with the people of west Cork.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is happening in Killarney as well.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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How many people work in the centre at present?

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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Two.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is one person gone?

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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It will go down to one person in December.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Okay, but the centre will get a second person. We will talk to the RSA about that. It is a two-person centre at present and one person has moved on for other reasons. The more critical issue the Deputy has raised is of whether we can get the tests accelerated. We do not want people to wait that length of time for tests.

3:40 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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Dublin City Council's annual budget meeting was held last night. Six councillors voted against it, including Councillors Pat Dunne and Sophie Nicoullaud. I support their position. Between amendments and variations on vacancy refunds, the fundamental baseline of the budget is wrong. When the local property tax was introduced, it was clearly stated by the Government that the tax would assist in funding better services and that people in Dublin city and all over the country would see better services in their local authority areas. Despite that, Dublin City Council has taken in €94.5 million in local property tax, which is €12.5 million more than last year. This is due to a review of valuations and the equalisation fund being done away with. When that was announced, it was said there would be additional funding for local authorities. In reality, virtually all of that €27 million extra-----

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

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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-----went to housing and roads, which were previously funded by central government. There is only €3 million left for the local authority in the city of Dublin, which is €2 per person. Will the Government bring back central funding to local authorities?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot negotiate local authority estimates here on the Order of Business.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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It is to do with central funding.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I take it that the six councillors that Deputy Collins referred to probably opposed the local property tax in the first place.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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They did.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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There you go. Now the Deputy is bemoaning the fact that Dublin City Council does not have enough property tax, yet those councillors opposed the local property tax in the first instance.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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No, I am talking about central government funding for local authorities. There was a rise in the local property tax.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I advise the Deputy that this Government has given more funding to local government in the last three years than it has received in decades. This week, we will supply further funding of €5 million to Dublin City Council to assist it with additional energy costs. We have already dealt with the rates revaluation with Dublin City Council and filled that gap. For councillors who opposed the local property tax through their Deputies to complain that they do not believe they are getting enough is a contradiction in itself.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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The Government is so insulting.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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Many children will be in a more vulnerable position because of the cost-of-living crisis. A Barnardos survey recently revealed that 26% of parents felt they did not have enough food to feed their children over the past year and that the cost-of-living crisis had led to 41% of parents cutting back on food spending. I welcome our budget. In July 2022, the Government report, Food Poverty: Government Programmes, Schemes and Supports, told of €89 million spent directly to address food poverty, with €400 million spent on schemes that include food and poverty aspects. With the way things are at the moment, I wonder why we do not have a specific budget for food provision. I know we have done a lot. I welcome that many schools have DEIS status. However, people are not spending as much on food. I ask that the Government look at food provision and at soup kitchens, or food kitchens as we call them. St. Clare's Hospitality Kitchen in Carlow feeds more than 100 people a day, including children, women and men. There is no Government funding for it. Will the Government look at once-off funding for such kitchens?

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 the issue. I know she has been a great supporter of St. Clare's food kitchen and has worked to highlight the service it provides in Carlow on a continuing basis. The Minister and the Department of Social Protection have provided significant additional expenditure in respect of the school food and meal programme. We will continue to do that. We have expanded the number of schools that are eligible for that programme. The Deputy's suggestion that additional supports may be needed for such centres, particularly over the Christmas period, is something we can look at.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I strongly welcome the proposal from the Minister, Deputy McEntee, to reform the family law courts. There is an outstanding issue whereby a mechanism is applied, allegedly to prevent parental alienation, to such an extent that women who are mothers of children are being excluded from due process and natural justice. I ask the Taoiseach to consider the possibility of a public inquiry into the prevailing situation.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has raised this issue for quite some time. I will talk to the Minister for Justice and get her response.

Photo of Johnny MythenJohnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
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I am inundated with inquiries from people with medical cards who cannot access dental services in County Wexford. The scheme is collapsing and is clearly in a state of decline. In 2020, there were 33 dentists participating in the dental treatment service scheme in the county. Now there are only 14. The people of Bunclody and Rosslare have no dentists at all operating under the scheme.

New Ross has only two. In other areas such as Enniscorthy people are left in desperate pain as the dentists on the scheme in their areas are not taking on any new patients. In reply to a question I asked last week the Minister said "The HSE will assist patients who are still having difficulties accessing services and may provide emergency dental services directly to patients where necessary". When I rang the HSE about this I was told this was not the case. Has the Government contacted the Irish Dental Association, IDA, regarding this serious situation and is there a comprehensive plan to deal with it?

3:50 pm

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy. We are aware there is an issue in Wexford, and indeed in many parts of the country, where more and more private dentists have withdrawn from the public scheme. Through the budget for this year and next we are significantly increasing the funding. It includes an increase in fees for dentists. We are engaged with the IDA. What it is looking for and what we have agreed to is a discussion about the entire scheme and the entire provision. The additional funding we are putting in is aimed at helping in the short term but it is not a long-term fix. A more comprehensive approach is required and is something we will be kicking off next year with the IDA.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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The recent Supreme Court ruling in the Ruth Morrissey case held that women who are suffering from terminal cancer as part of the CervicalCheck fiasco can no longer seek financial provision for their children during their lifetime. They can seek it for themselves but not for their children. The children must bring a separate case after the parent has died. The difficulty lies in section 48(2) of the Civil Liability Act 1961, which provides that in fatal injury cases - the Morrissey case falls into this category - only one claim for compensation can be made. This has created an agony of uncertainty for families who have already been badly let down by this State. The Supreme Court has recommended we legislate to rectify the situation.

I listened to many fulsome verbal tributes to Vicky Phelan in the Chamber last week. Bringing this legislation forward immediately would be a tangible tribute.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Attorney General has advised on this particular issue and perhaps has a different legal perspective to the legal person the Deputy referenced in his contribution, and it would have a far wider range of application than just specific cases. The argument would be that any initial case would encompass the wider issues of family as well. I will seek further legal advice in respect of it and come back to the Deputy.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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It could be amended to be specific to these types of cases.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will come back to the Deputy on it.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to deal with the issue of junk food marketing and the dangers to children's health. Safefood research estimates one in 20 children on this island will die prematurely due to problems caused by being overweight. The biggest junk food brands are designing online games for young children to promote their products. Research in Britain shows children aged under 16 years there are exposed to 15.1 billion online junk ads per year. Nearly three out of four people want a ban on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. When will the Government act and publish the public health obesity Bill promised in the programme for Government? We need an online ban on the marketing of unhealthy food, a 9 p.m. watershed and a ban on unhealthy food and drinks advertising on State-owned infrastructure and transport.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The Government needs to rein in the junk food brands-----

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I thank the Deputy but we are over time.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy. I agree with many of the sentiments he has put forward. We are tackling it in various ways. One is a very significant increase in funding for Healthy Ireland to encourage healthy eating, healthy habits and supports for parents raising their children and forming good habits. The Deputy raises a programme for Government issue that is being looked at, and that we are exploring, about going further and bringing in curbs on some of the targeting of children for some of these foods, which are obviously very high in certain fats, salts and sugars, which we know are contributing to obesity in Ireland which we are tackling and are very open to doing more on it.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Something has come to my attention over the past month.

I have spoken to some of my colleagues and this is not just an issue in County Wexford. I am talking about accommodation being provided for Ukrainians and for the refugee crisis in both hotels and other accommodation centres. These places have been awaiting payment from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth for quite some time. I know of two providers, one being a hotel and the other a centre, that are owed over €400,000. This is not an isolated incident. The hotelier I spoke to this morning said he is considering his own position in hosting Ukrainians because of the lack of payment coming from the Department. I have been in contact with the Department about another case and I can get no reply whatsoever from it except for an acknowledgment. An acknowledgment will not pay the bills for these centres. This is very serious. I ask the Taoiseach and his officials to intervene here. It is a pay issue within the Department-----

4:00 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are out of time, Deputy. The Taoiseach to respond.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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They need to get this issue sorted out.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will engage with the Minister on that. I ask the Deputy to send on the details of the specific cases to the Minister's Department and to copy it to me as well. We will certainly follow up. We have raised issues of this kind and the Minister is very clear that every effort is being made to accelerate payments on a timely basis. That is obviously very important for those providing these services.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are almost out of time. There are four contributors left, so with Members' co-operation I will let the four in but with reduced time because we are already over time.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I would like the Taoiseach to look at the promised cost-of-living reduction of €1,000 in third level fees. There is a cohort that is not going to get this reduction, namely, students who have to repeat a year. In many cases, these students are more economically vulnerable and may have to work part-time to keep themselves in college. Can the Taoiseach explain why this extraordinary step has been taken to exclude this cohort from the promised €1,000 reduction as a cost-of-living measure? Can he please look at granting this cohort that small amount of funding?

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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I wish to highlight the great work being done by Leitrim Volunteer Centre in providing a community car scheme to assist isolated and vulnerable people to attend hospital appointments, go to the pharmacy and pick up shopping etc. In fact, about 90% of all these trips are hospital appointments. It has become a go-to support system for the HSE with referrals from public health nurses and so on. The centre gets no funding of any kind. Could the Taoiseach bring this to the attention of the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, and the HSE, to see if any support could be provided?

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for her indulgence. In the name of God and holy sense, will the Taoiseach look at what the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is proposing to do in January? He says that he will not sign the derogation with regard to farmyard burning and that farmers will not be able to burn gorse and wood material, clippings and material like that, which they have to burn-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is this in the yard?

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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-----on a yearly basis. This has been the case for many years. It is going to detrimentally affect family farms. The Minister's answer is that the farmers should mulch it. A mulcher needs diesel or petrol. I ask the Taoiseach to please look at this. How Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael backbenchers could support this is beyond me.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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An Teachta Costello to conclude.

Photo of Patrick CostelloPatrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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The energy charter treaty has proved itself to be a block to meaningful climate action. Country after country has either threatened to pull out or has pulled out of it. It is time Ireland did the same. Will the Government pull out of the energy charter treaty?

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I thank the Deputy for his brevity.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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With regard to Deputy Smith's question, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is examining the situation of repeat students. This is a cost-of-living measure. We are examining that and will come back to the House in respect of it.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Government is looking at it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, that is what I am saying. I will talk to the Minister about it again. He raised it over a week ago.

The community car scheme is a very commendable scheme. Many community schemes are doing great work like that. There is a variety of localised funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development that people could tap into. We will follow up with both Ministers to see what can be done. The danger is that once you start formalising grants and so on there is all sorts of bureaucracy and stuff. Whatever can be done speedily and quickly would be of interest.

Is Deputy Healy-Rae's question talking about burning in the farmyard or on the general farm?

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is scrub and brush that needs to be burned.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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You should not be burning at all in the yard anymore.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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There was a derogation-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is bad for you.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Do not be trying to make fun of me.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am not; I am serious about this.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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This is a derogation. The Taoiseach should know that there is a derogation signed every January.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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The Taoiseach to respond.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will talk to the Minister in respect of the issue the Deputy has raised. I just want to get clarity as to what-----

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is scrub. If you use a machine to clean out scrub there will be a heap of briars, bushes and branches that need to be burned.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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The question has been put.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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That is how you have to dispose of it - by burning it

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are not having an interaction on this.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is well aware of it. Maybe the Taoiseach is not; I am sorry if that is the case.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Some fine day the Deputy will stand up and raise biodiversity and the need to restore it with me. I await that day.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is no wonder you have lost rural Ireland.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We will come back to Deputy Costello on the energy charter treaty.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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You lost rural Ireland.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are putting more money into rural Ireland than ever. The Deputy knows that-----

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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You lost it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----and he welcomed it as well.