Dáil debates

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

3:05 pm

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Tuesday's business shall be:

- Motion reProposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (without debate)

- Motion rePresentation and Circulation of Further Revised Estimate 2023 [Vote 42] (without debate)

- Motion reReport of the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform entitled "Orders of Reference for Special Committee on Assisted Dying" (without debate)

- Statements and Q&A by the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform (not to exceed 57 mins)

- Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill 2022 (Second Stage) (to adjourn, if not previously concluded, after 2 hrs and 23 mins)

Private members' business shall be the Motion reForestry, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday's business shall be:

- Motion reAppointment of Ordinary Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (without debate)

- Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill 2022 (Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded) (to adjourn, if not previously concluded, after 2 hrs 10 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 of the Bill)

- Communications Regulation Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages) (if not previously concluded, to adjourn after 2 hrs and 30 mins or at 8.30 p.m., whichever is the later)

Private members' business shall be the Motion reInshore Fishing, selected by the Rural Independent Group.

Thursday's business shall be:

- Statements on Ireland's Forestry Strategy (not to exceed 210 mins)

- Statements on Interim Report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (not to exceed 210 mins)

Thursday evening business shall be Second Stage of the Parental Bereavement Leave (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by Deputy Réada Cronin.

Announcement of 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 shall be modified to the following extent: (i) the Dáil shall sit later than 10.30 p.m.;

(ii) the time at which Government business is interrupted shall be in accordance with the arrangements for the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill 2022, which shall have consequential effect on the commencement time for private members' business and oral Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Finance; and

(iii) the time for Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Finance shall be extended by six minutes, with consequential effect on the commencement time for topical issues; 2. the Motion reProposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity shall be taken without debate;

3. the Motion rePresentation and Circulation of Further Revised Estimate [Vote 42] shall be taken without debate;

4. the Motion reReport of the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform entitled "Orders of Reference for Special Committee on Assisted Dying" shall be taken without debate;

5. the Statements and Q&A by the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform shall not exceed 57 minutes, and the contributions shall consist of an opening statement by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform which shall not exceed 10 minutes, followed by 6 minutes each for Opposition parties and groups for questions and answers, and the Minister shall be called upon to make a statement in response which shall not exceed 5 minutes; and

6. in relation to the proceedings on the second reading motion on the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill 2022, the following arrangements shall apply: (i) if not previously concluded, the proceedings shall be interrupted and stand adjourned either at 7.10 p.m. or after 2 hours and 23 minutes of debate, whichever is the later; and

(ii) the proceedings shall not be resumed on Tuesday. In relation to Wednesday's business:

1. it is proposed that the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the extent that the weekly division time shall be taken on the adjournment or conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Communications Regulation Bill 2022, whichever is the earlier, with consequential effect on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil;

2. the Motion reAppointment of Ordinary Member to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission shall be taken without debate;

3. the proceedings on the resumed second reading motion of the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, stand adjourned either at 5 p.m. or after 2 hours and 10 minutes of debate, whichever is the later, and shall not be resumed on Wednesday;

4. 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 shall be confined to a single speaking round, with the contributions of a Minister and of a spokesperson for Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Social Democrats, People-Before-Profit Solidarity, the Regional Group, the Rural Independent Group, and the Independent Group (which shall be taken in that order) not exceeding 7.5 minutes each, and members may share time; Provided that any division claimed shall be taken immediately prior to Report Stage of the Bill, but in any event, no earlier than 5.30 p.m.; and

5. the proceedings on Report and Final Stages of the Communications Regulation Bill 2022 shall— (i) be taken on the conclusion of proceedings on the motion to instruct the Committee on the Bill, but in any event, no earlier than 5.30 p.m.,

(ii) if not previously concluded, be interrupted at either 8.30 p.m. or 2 hours and 30 minutes after the conclusion of proceedings on the motion to instruct the Committee, whichever is the later, and

(iii) shall not be resumed on Wednesday. In relation to Thursday's business:

1. the ordinary of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the following extent: (i) the Dáil shall meet at 8.54 a.m.;

(ii) the Dáil shall sit later than 9.27 p.m.;

(iii) the time for Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage shall be extended by six minutes; and

(iv) in order to allow the Statements on the Interim Report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to conclude, Government business shall not be interrupted at 7.24 p.m., and topical issues shall be taken on the conclusion of those statements, with consequential effect on the commencement time for Second Stage of the Parental Bereavement Leave (Amendment) Bill 2021; 2. the Statements on Ireland's Forestry Strategy shall not exceed 210 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30thJuly 2020, for 200 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; and

3. the Statements on the Interim Report on Child Adolescent Mental Health Services shall not exceed 210 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30thJuly 2020, for 200 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.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed to?

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I repeatedly raised with the HSE the case of a ten-year-old child with ADHD who has expressed on a number of occasions the wish to die but yet cannot access the child and adult mental health services, CAMHS. This is just one of the thousands of cases across the country. I thank the Cheap Whip for facilitating a debate on this important issue on Thursday. It is important that the report be thoroughly debated in the House.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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We in the Rural Independents are very concerned when we see advertisements from Go Vegan World on Dublin Bus and Galway city buses. This is a rural country, after all. The misleading advertisements are damaging to what has been good farming practice and husbandry over decades, and to our food chain, food supply and thousands of jobs. Who allowed for these? We are told it lies with Dublin Bus. Is the Minister for Transport or National Transport Authority responsible? Where is this craziness going to stop? Who is paying for these advertisements? Is it some of the well-funded NGOs, which are costing us nearly €6 billion per year? This attack on rural Ireland, our way of life and our primary industry, agriculture, has to be stopped. We must not have false information spread maliciously, as is happening. I salute Deputy Nolan for raising this here and indeed Councillor Geraldine Donohue from Galway for raising it. It must stop. We must find out where it came from. Fair play is fine play with us, but this kind of carry-on, demonising farmers and good animal husbandry, is not acceptable. We need a debate on it.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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I have written to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, and others over a number of months seeking an answer about the better co-ordination by the Government of services for those who come here seeking protection or refugee status, including those who come here from Ukraine. I am very concerned about today's report that Citywest transit hub is to pause the entry of new international protection arrivals to emergency accommodation. I ask that the Taoiseach facilitate statements, a debate or some response on the co-ordination of services for those who come here seeking protection. I ask this particularly given that so many people in my constituency, in an exercise of "yimbyism" – yes in my backyardism – are asking me to put to the Taoiseach and other Ministers that a huge hotel in Ballsbridge, Jurys, is sitting vacant. Baggot Street hospital, which I have also raised on numerous occasions, and other major centres also have the potential to be used for accommodation, yet we are not being given any co-ordinated response by the Government as to where we should go with these very positive and constructive suggestions on the provision of emergency accommodation to those who come here seeking refugee status. We ask that this be put on the Government's agenda.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy. I will have to consult the Whip on this but we will certainly be happy to provide time to discuss the issue. The response to Ukraine and the migrant crisis we are dealing with across Europe, including Ireland, is co-ordinated by a Cabinet subcommittee led by the Department of the Taoiseach. It involves many different agencies, not just the Department responsible for integration. The Departments responsible for housing, social protection and community development are also involved. I will be happy to have a further debate about this if it can be agreed by the Business Committee.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Are the proposals agreed to?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I had no answer.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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What about Deputy Mattie McGrath's question?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Was it the question about the advertisements?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Something about the advertisements on the buses.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am afraid I do not know.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach does not know. The Deputy should table a Topical Issue matter.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The Taoiseach should ask the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy wants to table a Topical Issue matter, we will look favourably on it.

I take it that the proposed arrangements for the week's business are agreed to.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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They are not agreed to. We could never agree when the Taoiseach will not give an answer. It was all over the news and everything.

Question put: "That the proposed arrangements for this week's business be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 88; Níl, 38; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hildegarde Naughton and Cormac Devlin; Níl, Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Carol Nolan.

Ivana Bacik, Mick Barry, Cathal Berry, Richard Boyd Barrett, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Holly Cairns, Dara Calleary, Seán Canney, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Joan Collins, Niall Collins, Patrick Costello, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Alan Dillon, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Norma Foley, Gary Gannon, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Marian Harkin, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Paul Kehoe, Alan Kelly, Brian Leddin, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Michael McGrath, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Catherine Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Joe O'Brien, Cian O'Callaghan, Jim O'Callaghan, James O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, Roderic O'Gorman, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Duncan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Ossian Smyth, David Stanton, Leo Varadkar, Jennifer Whitmore.

Níl

Chris Andrews, John Brady, Martin Browne, Pat Buckley, Matt Carthy, Michael Collins, Rose Conway-Walsh, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Mairead Farrell, Thomas Gould, Johnny Guirke, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Carol Nolan, Louise O'Reilly, Darren O'Rourke, Eoin Ó Broin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Maurice Quinlivan, Patricia Ryan, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Pauline Tully, Mark Ward.

Question declared carried.

3:25 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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When launching Croí Cónaithe last year, the then Taoiseach described the scheme to advance the delivery of new apartments as a crucial strand in the Government's housing response. A Department of Public Expenditure and Reform document tells a very different story. It warns that the size of the initiative is too small, too complex, and has had a low take-up from developers. It also reveals a staggering capital underspend of €1 billion in the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage's 2022 budget, with social and affordable housing output well below target. Just 6,500 of the 9,000 social homes promised will be delivered and the affordable homes delivered will be 78% short of the 4,100 promised. This is the third year the Government has missed its public housing targets and failed to spend capital budget allocations. When will we see the very necessary emergency response to the housing crisis?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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We do not have the exact figures in yet for 2022, but we will have them in the next few weeks. They will show that we met, and in fact exceeded, our overall housing target for last year, with more new homes being built in Ireland since probably 2010 or 2011. In relation to social housing, we have not built perhaps as many as we would have liked or as many as we had intended, but we will have built and provided more new social housing last year than any year in decades, and perhaps even since the foundation of the State.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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I want to raise the proposed €200 million deal between Coillte and UK investment fund, Gresham House. It is incomprehensible to us in the Labour Party why a State body is going to do all the work while foreign investors will be able to reap financial profits. We have seen across other sectors, including housing, healthcare and education, our society suffering the consequences of an over-reliance on the private sector. Childcare is another case in point. The Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss recently made clear that State-owned woodlands should be recognised and managed as a strategic long-term national asset for the benefit of the common good. We think the State should take control of planting biodiverse forests and put an end to the expanse of clear-fell monoculture across the island of Ireland. Will we see some move from Government to halt the sell-off and to ensure Coillte will be able to make use of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine forestry payments? I understand the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Ryan, has indicated a belief that the rules will be changed, but will we see the rules on state aid change to ensure that aim of the Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss will be carried out?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy knows, state aid rules are a European matter, but we are examining the state aid rules to see what can and cannot be done. It is 20 years since the particular court judgment was handed down. The State is, and will be, planting trees on public land for all sorts of purposes. We need trees for timber to build all those houses we need. We also need trees to act as a carbon sink, for biodiversity and leisure. We need different types of tress for different purposes. The mainstay of our forestry programme will be Irish farmers choosing to plant trees and more trees. We are going to incentivise them to do so.

To pick up on something the Deputy said, there is no sell-off when it comes to the Irish strategic forest fund. No public land will be privatised. This is a fund part-owned by the State through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, which is a minority investor in the fund, that will buy private land. It is not the case that there is any sell-off here. That is just incorrect.

3:30 pm

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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The Taoiseach's office oversees the north inner city programme. As such, I hope he will agree that dereliction has long contributed to the decline of the north-east inner city, which in turn creates the conditions for antisocial behaviour and crime. The north inner city programme was established to address dereliction as a root cause of antisocial behaviour and is dedicated to the regeneration of the north inner city area. Therefore, I find it bizarre that a chairperson appointed by Fine Gael - by this Government and the previous Government of which Deputy Varadkar was Taoiseach - to oversee this programme was, in fact, the owner of a derelict property in Dublin 1.

Does the Taoiseach agree that the appointment of that person to the position of chair to oversee this task force was appropriate given the fact that he oversaw a property that was in dereliction in Dublin 1? When did the Taoiseach become aware that this person was the owner of a derelict site? Was he aware at the time of the appointment?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I only became aware of that matter in the last couple of days whenever the story appeared online. I do not know if it is fully accurate. I would not necessarily assume that it is and I do not want to comment on it further. I do not know Michael Stone but I met him once or twice in the context of his chairmanship of the north-east city project. I must say that the vast majority of people I met, especially in the north-east inner city, felt that he was very dedicated to the work he did and that he did very good job.

We have a system of taxation on derelict sites. There is a Derelict Sites Act and derelict sites levy. I do not know if the city council imposed that tax or if it declared it to be a derelict site at all. These are things to which I just do not know the answers. One thing I would say, however, is that we need to do much better in Ireland and in this city when it comes to meantime use. There are many plots of land around the city that are being brought together and waiting to be built on and developed, and that will happen. We should be more open to meantime use and using these as cultural spaces, community spaces or for whatever purpose, at least until development happens.

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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Matthew Healy was killed in a violent attack in Mercy University Hospital in Cork in the early hours of Sunday morning. I want to extend sympathy to his family and friends. In the past five years, there have been more than 50,000 assaults on staff alone in our hospitals according to the HSE, of which 274 were sexual assaults.

The last time there was a security audit across the hospital system was seven years ago in 2016. I am calling for a security audit to be organised across the hospital service now. I am also calling for monies to be set aside for measures to improve security for patients and staff alike in our hospitals. I would like to hear the Taoiseach's response to these two proposals.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am deeply saddened and was quite shocked to hear about what happened to Mr. Healy only a few days ago. My heart and my thoughts go out to his family and friends and to his community. It is particularly sad that this happened to him only a few weeks after he buried his own wife.

Sadly, as we all know, assaults can happen anywhere. Hospitals should be safe places, however, and we should do everything we can to minimise the number of assaults that happen in our hospitals. We will certainly give the idea of a security audit consideration. I know it has been called for by some of the professional groups and trade unions. I will need to speak to the Minister for Health about that and perhaps on foot of that audit, find out if there are additional measures we can put in place in our hospitals to make sure incidents like this do not happen again, or if they do happen that they can be responded to more quickly and perhaps prevent further injury.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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I wish to raise the issue of housing and delays in the planning process but more importantly, the number of one-off houses or estates that are tied up with An Bord Pleanála. I know the Government is very much aware of this, but what types of measures are being put in immediately to provide the resources to make sure decisions are made?

I know people who have one-off houses who have been waiting for a decision from An Bord Pleanála for up to ten and 12 months and they are being deferred all the time. These people want to build houses and the cost is rising all the time.

If we are to build houses in a reasonable way, we need to make sure there is a process in An Bord Pleanála that gets us through that. In its statutory timeframe, we should introduce that to make sure the required houses are delivered.

3:40 pm

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for the question. On overdue decisions within the board, I met with the new board of An Bord Pleanála last week and have asked it to come forward with a plan for the backlog, particularly but not exclusively in areas of residential development. We have provided over the past 12 months sanction for an additional 59 staff so far.

This Thursday I will publish the consolidated planning Bill, the most significant reform of planning legislation embarked on since at least 2000. It will continue our reform of An Bord Pleanála, which is urgently required. I have sought a plan from the board to tackle the backlog. We had a good meeting last week with all the new board members and the new interim chair. I will keep the Deputy informed of progress.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Corman Miloko announced on Friday that they were closing the company. This was formerly owned by south Tipperary farmers, Avonmore and Glanbia. It is now a consortium involving a Belgian group and Tirlán, an Irish company, and 31 jobs remain at the plant. They are excellent jobs and it has been an excellent workforce over the half century I have known it.

I ask the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to engage with the company to see if the jobs can be saved and what other uses the plant can be put to. It is in a good location on the N24. The town of Carrick-on-Suir and that area of Tipperary has been decimated with job losses over the years and this is the final straw. The people in Carrick-on-Suir Business Association are doing their best to develop the town but we need these flagship industries that have been there for decades. We need intervention. It has been announced for June. Can it be staved off?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry to hear about that closure and the loss of jobs in Carrick-on-Suir. The Deputy’s colleague, Senator Ahearn, has been on to me about this too. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to engage with the company to see what can be done perhaps to save the jobs, to make sure a package is put in place for the staff if possible and if an alternative use can be found for the site.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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I raise the unique, or at least very special, case of a constituent of mine who suffers from a most painful congenital condition and other illnesses. When this person has to attend essential medical appointments or scans, they have to travel by car as there is never a HSE ambulance available. As a consequence, the person is in absolute agony. It is a cruel situation. The private ambulance services are not just prohibitively expensive but also impossible to source. I ask that, in this instance, an ambulance transfer be provided for these necessary medical scans or interventions. The Order of Malta has assisted on one occasion and the family is very grateful but it is a voluntary organisation. If the HSE cannot provide the service, could further resources be provided to the Order of Malta?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry to hear about that case. Without knowing the details, I cannot comment on it much further but if the Deputy sends the details to my office, we will look into it on her behalf.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Taoiseach for his attendance at a recent meeting concerning University Hospital Limerick. It was much appreciated. Arising from the proceedings of that meeting, will the Taoiseach provide an approximate timescale within which the 303 beds which have been deemed necessary to stabilise the hospital will be in use? When will the elective hub committed to by the Government become operational? Has a building been secured to house that facility or has one been identified? What is the up-to-date situation on a section 38 application by UPMC to build a hospital on the north side of Limerick city with elective capabilities, which will considerably reduce the pressure on the main hospital?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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It was a very useful meeting and I was glad to be able to attend for at least an hour of it. I hope to visit the hospital soon. I do not have the exact answers to all the Deputy’s questions. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, to come back to him directly but I understand the 96-bed block is under construction and might be open some time next year. I will double-check that. We accept another bed block is required and will try to progress that. There is no date for the surgical hub yet, unfortunately. We need to look at different options for that but it could help a lot with elective waiting lists.

I understand construction is to begin on the new Bon Secours hospital in Limerick quite soon and I encourage the UL Hospitals Group to begin early discussions with them. We know how effectively Waterford hospital uses the Whitfield and it makes sense for Limerick hospitals to get in early to see if they can make use of the new private hospital when it is build and engage with UPMC on their ideas.

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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In recent times a number of towns across County Galway have experienced complete water outages or boiled water notices. Irish Water, in engaging with public representatives at national and local level to inform us why the issues have arisen and what is being done to resolve them and to assure us these issues will be avoided in the future, has not been forthcoming. I know from talking to colleagues here that the experience is similar across the country. I urge the Taoiseach to contact the CEO of Irish Water and ask him to put in place a formal protocol of engagement with public representatives at local and national level when such issues arise. It is important we are able to inform our constituents of what exactly is happening and what work is being done to resolve issues in the shortest possible timeframe.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for his question. The issue of outages in Galway has been raised by the Deputy and by some of his Dáil colleagues. I will contact Niall Gleeson, the chief executive of Irish Water. I am in regular contact with him. It is important Deputies are aware that Irish Water now has a €6 billion capital programme to deal with legacy issues we have had for decades. Having said that, communication is key and Oireachtas Members should be contacted and kept informed when issues arise. Following the Deputy’s intervention today, I will speak to the chief executive and revert to the Deputy.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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On Christmas Eve, Midoc, a private company which provides out-of-hours GP services in the midlands, ceased trading. The company was paid nearly €8 million last year. HSE management has had to rush in and put a temporary service in place. I give them credit for that but it is a day-to-day service in place until 15 January. Since then, they have been trying to tie up a contract with an agency for a temporary solution but that is still not in place. The public and the HSE had the rug pulled from under them by this company in terms of out-of-hours GP services in the midlands.

I have found out since there are six different models of providing out-of-hours GP services across the State. This is no way to provide emergency health services. It is at the whim of private companies which can provide the services or pull the rug. Will the Taoiseach ensure the Minister for Health deals with out-of-hours GP services in the midlands and gives some certainty? Can we move collectively towards building a proper public health service, as envisaged in Sláintecare?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I will let the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, know that the Deputy raised Midoc and out-of-hours services in the midlands. Out-of-hours GP services, which are really important, have evolved on an ad hocbasis. Back in the day when my dad was a GP, GPs did their own calls and were out every night. Nobody would expect anyone to do that any more. When I was a GP, the co-ops started being set up but it is ad hoc. Sometimes they are run by GPs, sometimes by the HSE and sometimes by private companies. That means an inconsistent type and level of service across the country, and it is not cheap either. We need to look at it in the round and come up with a model of care that works for urban Ireland, as well as for rural Ireland where the needs are different.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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How many sections of the European directive 2019/944 on the common rules for the Internal Market for electricity have been transposed into Irish law? Will the Taoiseach confirm or check that the community elements of the directive have been so transposed? I am anxious to ensure there is potential for large-scale community projects which would, for example, be catered for in the event of Bord na Móna lands being returned to communities which provided those lands to Bord na Móna when that opportunity arose in the 1940s.

Now that the community gain is not what it was then and not what had been envisaged in the intervening period, this now offers an opportunity of that magnitude and that nature. It is imperative that the relative directives are transposed into Irish law to cater for a pilot scheme of that nature being allowed to proceed.

3:50 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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We support community energy projects. There have not been all that many in Ireland and I would like to see a lot more happen. I do not know the situation with the particular directive or with European law, but I will get my office to liaise with the Minister, Deputy Ryan’s, office and come back to the Deputy once we have an answer.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
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The new runway at Dublin Airport has been operational using a 70° northward turn since August 2022. This is an unexpected flight path that has caused months of misery for an unsuspecting public in very rural parts of my constituency and indeed of the Taoiseach's. These are communities that were assured over almost two decades of planning that they would not be affected, but they have since found that they are directly impacted by flight operations. Having been approved for planning in 2007, all aircraft movements have been planned for in a straight-out departure path. The Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, Fingal County Council and the aircraft noise competent authority, ANCA, have based their county development plans and noise insulation programmes on these plans. What reassurances can the Taoiseach provide to our communities that have been so adversely affected? What role can the Government plan to ensure accountability on the part of the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, towards a transparent planning process for aircraft departures at Dublin Airport?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank Deputy Farrell for raising this important question, which I know is of great concern to his constituents and indeed to constituents not too far from my own place, where there was a well-attended public meeting recently.

I am advised the DAA holds statutory responsibility for the airport. Noise mitigation at Dublin Airport is subject to substantial regulation and oversight as well as best practice mitigation measures. Following the opening of the north runway in August, an issue regarding the runway’s departure flight paths was identified which resulted in some local communities being unexpectedly overflown. Once it was identified, the DAA advised local communities and elected representatives that they had commenced a review with the aim of resolving the issue. When the review was complete, the DAA reverted to these stakeholders, advising that the current standard instrument departures would be updated, resulting in flight paths aligning more closely with those previously consulted on and used as part of the planning process. All flight paths are governed by international safety standards, so the revised departure procedure required a regulatory review and approval before being implemented. The DAA has confirmed that the new flight path will be operational from 23 February and aircraft will operate the revised departure procedure from that date.

Photo of Claire KerraneClaire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein)
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Hundreds of people in Roscommon and Galway remain on waiting lists for home care. Some wait for up to 18 months. With the recent loss of step-down beds, nursing home closures and a lack of respite available in both counties generally, home care is even more essential. There have been clear issues around the recruitment and retention of home care workers for a long time. A report was published by the Minister last November which had 16 recommendations. Of course, there were no surprises in the findings of that report. Has there been any progress on those 16 recommendations? I also urge greater urgency from the Government on home care. We want to see older people and our most vulnerable being able to be cared for at home. We want to see them able to leave the hospital, go home and be looked after. That is very important, and I ask for a greater sense of urgency on these waiting lists.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for raising the important issue of home care. It is so important, as we all know. It keeps people out of hospital, gets people out of hospital more quickly, keeps people out of nursing homes and makes sure they are safe. We have dramatically increased the budget for home care in recent years. The problem is no longer a matter of money but of finding staff who are available to be home carers. To help deal with that, we have relaxed the work permit rules so that up to 1,000 people can come in from outside the European Union and outside the EEA to work here as home carers. We are examining the possibility of an employment regulation order to put in place better pay, terms and conditions to make it more attractive, as we have done in childcare. We are also making progress on the statutory home care scheme so that there is a statutory right to home care in the way there is for nursing home care at the moment but that is not currently in place for home care.

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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There has been much discussion on the Coillte and Gresham House deal. Many of the issues have been aired already, but I will focus on the policy around it, namely, the policy to favour the State sector over the private sector. In terms of licences achieved, in 2022, Coillte achieved 110% of licences whereas private felling achieved only 80% for private afforestation. In other words, farm afforestation only achieved 60%. In fact, from 2020 to 2022, even by the Department’s own target figures, only 67% of licences were achieved for the domestic sector. Can we look at this bias into the future surrounding this policy?

I have two questions around this. First, in terms of future fund management, has the Government considered any private investment vehicle that could do the job of Gresham House into the future to allow for domestic investors to take part in the afforestation programme? Second, is it time now to establish a forestry agency to oversee the important work, to try to hit these targets and to ensure rural and domestic growers will not be disadvantaged?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Our objective is to go from a situation whereby only approximately 10% of the country is under forest to get up to 18%, which will almost double the amount of the country that is afforested. That will require the State, through Coillte, to plant more forests, particularly on public land. It will require farmers to plant more trees. It will require private investment, which can of course come from anywhere, including from domestic Irish investment funds. That said, the people who can make the biggest difference here are farmers. They own most of the land in the country. By getting involved in forestry they can make the biggest difference. That is why, under our new forestry programme, we are trying to make it much more attractive for farmers to do so by keeping the single farm payment, providing 20 years of premiums instead of 15, providing tax-free income at the end of it in many cases, and a 33% increase in premiums.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are over time and almost out of time. There are just two speakers left, so I will take the two speakers together, and they will have 30 seconds each.

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offaly, Independent)
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As the Taoiseach will be aware, scenes emerged last week of horrific animal cruelty to a defenceless donkey in my county of Offaly. Since then, I understand the animal, along with others, has been rescued. This clearly shows our animal welfare laws are not being obeyed and that we need a more robust regime to deal with animal welfare. We also saw the case of a sheep farmer who had 50 lambs destroyed by dogs in Moneygall in County Offaly. Will the Taoiseach commit the Government to setting up a regime that will be funded and will enforce the animal welfare laws to ensure people obey them?

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
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I return to the issue of the meeting at University Hospital Limerick, UHL, which the Taoiseach attended, at which the HSE acknowledged that the model 2 hospitals, such as those at Ennis and Nenagh, are underutilised. The CEO of UHL undertook to carry out a review of additional resources required at Ennis Hospital pursuant to the change in the ambulance protocol. Does the Taoiseach know the result of that review and what additional resources, if any, have been provided to Ennis as a result?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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On Deputy Nolan’s question, I saw the footage the other day. It was very upsetting to think anyone would treat an innocent animal such as a donkey in that way and then take pleasure in videoing it and putting it online. It was appalling. I agree we need to step up enforcement when it comes to dogs and dangerous dog laws as well as the wider issue of animal welfare, which the Deputy raised. I will certainly take that up with my colleagues.

In response to Deputy McNamara’s question, I have not seen the outcome of that review. I have been told the decision to bring stable patients to Ennis Hospital rather than to the main emergency department in Limerick has made a difference. It is a small difference-----

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
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Minuscule.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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-----but it has made a difference, and I think it is the right thing to do. I agree that if Ennis is to take more patients, even if they are stable patients, it will need the resources to do that. Otherwise, it will just move the problem to somewhere else, and we do not want that to happen.