Thursday, 16 November 2023
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Ar fud an Stáit, inár gcathracha, ár mbailte agus ár sráidbhailte, tá daoine ró-eolach ar an bhfadhb ó thaobh tithíochta foilmhe agus tréigthe. Léiríonn sonraí atá eisithe ag an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta nach bhfuil ach 21 deontas tarraingthe anuas faoin deontas athchóirithe do thithe folmha le bliain go leith. Níl fiú amháin deontas amháin tarraingthe anuas i mo chontae féin i nDún na nGall agus is sampla eile é seo den dóigh ina láimhseálann an Rialtas an cheist seo. Tá go leor cainte ach níl na torthaí le feiceáil.
This week, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, published his housing progress report and he need not have bothered because the progress has been glacial. The reality is that the Minister’s party and Fine Gael have created the housing crisis, and the longer they remain in office, the worse things get for ordinary people. That is the reality of the situation. All of the schemes they have introduced are failing to meet their own targets.
The Minister's housing progress report was notable for the complete absence of information relating to one of the schemes in particular, the vacant property refurbishment grant. It is little wonder why. The details of this scheme, published separately by the Department, are staggering. In the past 18 months, only 21 grants have been drawn down from the Government's flagship scheme, that is, 21 grants in 18 months. Throughout the State, in our cities, towns and villages, people are all too aware of the scourge of dereliction and vacancy, something that grates all the more as people face a deepening housing crisis. Yet, despite this, despite the tens of thousands of vacant properties that blight our cities, towns and villages, this is a scheme that is completely failing to turn vacant properties into homes for workers and families.
When it was launched 18 months ago, the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, had not even engaged with mortgage lenders. As a result, applicants were not able to draw down mortgages on their grants until the issues with the banks were resolved one year later. The scheme has also been criticised by applicants as the grant is paid in arrears. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, has got the same type of correspondence that all of us in this House have got. Many of these applicants simply do not have the money or do not have the cash upfront to be able to pay for the works. The scheme is also chronically underfunded, with an annual target of bringing between 400 and 600 homes into use as a result of the money that the Government has allocated towards the scheme.
There is an alternative. Sinn Féin has put forward a more ambitious proposal that would bring vacant and derelict properties back into use. Through the increased use of capital funding to local authorities, we want to see up to 4,000 vacant and derelict properties a year brought into use for social and affordable housing.
The Government must be far more ambitious when it comes to tackling dereliction and vacancy. My own home county of Donegal is one of the worst affected by dereliction in the State yet not a single grant has been paid out there under the Government scheme, 18 months on. It is as if there is no crisis here. Eighteen months on, there has not been a single grant in Donegal and only 21 grants across the State. In the Minister for Finance's home county of Cork, not a single grant has been paid out in the city or county despite widespread dereliction in County Cork and Cork city and the very visible campaign to highlight and address that. As with so many of the Government's housing policies, it has been caught trying to pull the wool over people's eyes - launching a scheme with much fanfare, talking it up, but completely failing to deliver. That has been the hallmark of the tenure of the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien - all talk, no action and plenty of bluster.
Will the Government now accept that the vacant property grant as currently administered is not fit for purpose and is in need of review and overhaul? Will it take on board Sinn Féin's proposal to ensure that we have a proper plan to tackle vacancy and dereliction, and that it is put in place so it delivers not tens of homes, as is the Government’s plan, or hundreds of homes, but thousands of homes that are badly needed for workers and families throughout the State? That is what is needed. That is the level of ambition. That is the proposal we have put forward. That is the funding we have sought in the alternative budget. That is what is needed for families and workers across the State.
I thank Deputy Doherty for raising this issue. When it comes to the housing challenge that we face, we can all agree that the best way of making progress is to increase the supply of all types of homes - public homes in the form of social housing, cost rental and affordable purchase, and also private supply. Thankfully, when we look at the overall picture, we are making progress in terms of output. That is because the Government is prioritising investment in housing. Next year, we will provide about €5 billion of capital through direct Exchequer capital, lending by the Housing Finance Agency and also the contribution of the Land Development Agency.
All of that work is contributing to a situation where, by the end of this year, the Government will have delivered about 100,000 homes since 2020. Coming from where we have been in terms of the supply of new homes, we are definitively making progress. Nearly 30,000 new homes were completed last year, which was a 45% increase on the level of output in 2021. We had setbacks during Covid and we had shutdowns of the construction industry but, thankfully, we have recovered strongly from that. Last year's momentum has continued into this year. Over 22,000 homes were completed in the first nine months of 2023, which is a 9% increase year on year. When we look at the data around planning permissions, commencements and completions, we see the continuation of a positive trend. In the 12 months to the end of September, about 31,500 homes were completed, so we will achieve the Housing for All target of 29,000 units in the current year and we will probably come in north of 30,000 units for this year.
The State will be the central actor in terms of delivering the new homes that we need across our country. Of course, we always recognise the need to do more because we have a growing population. Ireland is an attractive country where people want to come to live and work. They see employment opportunities here and they see a very good quality of life as well.
The Croí Cónaithe towns fund and the two schemes the Deputy referred to - the vacant property refurbishment grant and the ready-to-build scheme - have proven to be very popular. When I look at the data so far, I see that over 4,800 applications have been submitted to date and over 2,200 have actually been approved, so there is a lot of activity under way. A lot of applications are in the system or have been approved and the work is under way. Of course, the Minister will be open to any opportunities to improve the operation of the scheme. This is a new scheme. It is definitely proving popular and many people are looking to it as a means of bringing vacant homes back into use or tackling dereliction. The Minister will be engaging with the local authorities and with applicants to get feedback and make sure any issues that have arisen in terms of the operation of the scheme are being addressed over the period ahead. It is important to acknowledge that he has already improved the scheme significantly, for example by changing the eligibility date of vacant and derelict properties from 1993 to include ones built up to and including 2007, and also by increasing the grants from €30,000 to €50,000 in the case of vacancy and from €50,000 to €70,000 in the case of dereliction. This is a good scheme. The Minister will ensure it works properly and has the desired effect of bringing vacant and derelict properties back into use to provide homes for individuals and families into the future.
This scheme was announced a year and a half ago in the middle of a housing crisis and, let me remind the Minister, at a time when house prices have continued to rise across the State, a time when rents in my own county and many other counties have increased by double digits - by 20% in my county - and a time when we have the highest ever levels of homelessness. A year and a half on, in the middle of a housing crisis, 21 grants have been drawn down, with none in the entire county of Cork or in Cork city, none in Donegal and none in many other counties across the board. Why? It is because the scheme is flawed in the way it is being implemented.
It is not just those targets the Government is missing. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, misses all the targets he is responsible for over and over again. He was supposed to deliver 3,500 affordable homes this year, but six months in the number delivered was 123. The target for social housing was 9,100, but six months the figure was 1,400. The Minister is likely to miss those targets again this year, as he has missed them every single year since becoming Minister. The vacant home refurbishment scheme is popular and people want this, but the administration of the scheme, just like the way the Government announced this without even talking to the banks, has meant people are not able to draw down the money in a timely manner.
Will the Minister, Deputy McGrath, accept the Government's targets are woefully inadequate? Will he accept it needs to do far more and listen to what Sinn Féin is saying? We are not talking about hundreds. We need 4,000 vacant and derelict homes brought back into housing stock every year for the next number of years.
I thank the Deputy. I think the evidence shows this scheme is not only popular but working. Consider that over 2,200 applications have been approved. That will lead to properties that are currently vacant or derelict coming back into use and being lived in by individuals and families. The Government will continue to support this scheme and to provide the necessary funding to ensure it meets its potential into the future. It is important that the issues - we hear the feedback - with the operation of this scheme will be taken on board and addressed to ensure it is as efficient as possible in its administration. The Deputy should have the good grace to acknowledge that this is a good scheme and will bring many homes that are currently empty back into use. It is only one part of a policy toolkit we have. We also have the vacant homes tax. We have just received the first set of returns from that tax and as soon as I have the data on it I will publish it, because it is another tool we have to bring vacant stock back into use.
It is good to see further debate on vacancy and dereliction. The Labour Party had a motion on it in the Seanad last night.
I wish to focus on transport, specifically the lack of funding and the systemic issues with have with our infrastructure with respect to both capacity and the supply of services. We have packed buses, packed train carriages, chronic delays and congestion and poor driver behaviour on the road as a result. This crisis is felt countrywide. I experience it and see it every day of the week, living in and representing a commuter constituency in Dublin. Since the return of full-capacity public transport routes after Covid-19 we have seen growing demand for public transport, but the Government is failing those who want to choose the sustainable option. The NTA's statistics show us that in September alone there was 10% growth in the number of people using bus services, which went from 800,000 to 900,000. The public are clamouring for green, climate-friendly and affordable transport routes. One of the key drivers for Ireland to achieve our climate targets will be how we can implement a comprehensive public transport system not just in Dublin and Cork, but across the entire country. We have heard in the past weeks statements from the RSA about how many people in rural Ireland are being pushed to learn to drive not just because they want to but because they have no other option. This Government is failing to deliver on transport infrastructure and this has resulted in people in rural Ireland knowing that if they want to go to work, socialise or do something as simple as going to their nearest shop they need to have a car, as there is no public transport option.
It is deeply concerning to me that when we have finally got to a stage where the plans are there to provide big transport infrastructure, we heard from Anne Graham, chief executive of the NTA, on Tuesday of increasing delays due to a huge hole in the transport infrastructure budget caused by inflation. For example, she said the real value of the active travel programme has been reduced in real terms from €290 million to €190 million. Meanwhile, Exchequer figures to the end of October also show the Department of Transport has failed to spend €209 million in approved capital expenditure, so the budget committed for projects has not kept pace with inflation and the pressures of our growing population and economy, while the Department is not spending the money it already has. The Government is dragging its heels on delivering the type of transport infrastructure projects we need by failing to commit enough spending and the hole in the accounts will build year on year if this is not addressed. It will affect critical transport projects such as MetroLink, which my constituents have been waiting decades for, not to mention the millions of passengers using Dublin Airport. It will also affect a Luas for Cork and BusConnects.
Will the Government admit there is now simply not enough long-term funding for transport projects in the current national development plan? What plans are there to account for inflation so projects will not be needlessly killed off in favour of adding another few million euro to the Minister's rainy day fund? What is the Government doing about this and will the Minister now commit there will not be any further delays to MetroLink, BusConnects or the many active travel projects across the country waiting for spending commitments?
I thank Deputy Smith for raising these important transport issues. I am happy to defend the Government's record on investment in all forms of transport across the country over the last number of years. That is evident for anyone to see when looking at the investment in active travel, the expansion of public transport services and the investment in our road network to name a few examples. In the budget we provided an overall allocation to the Department of Transport of over €3.5 billion to provide vital services to the public across next year. That represents an increase of €90 million on gross expenditure levels in 2023. The Deputy will be well aware of what the Government has done so far with the 20% reduction in average public transport fares and the 50% reduction for younger people. In the recent budget we have expanded the eligibility cohort that will be in a position to avail of that. That has resulted in a very significant increase in the number of people using our public transport services, and that is a good thing. It shows that where services are provided and fares are reasonable the public will respond because they want to be able to avail of a good-quality, efficient service and get away from the gridlock we have seen and continue to see on some of our road networks. We are investing €360 million a year in active travel and I think all of us as constituency Teachtaí Dála have seen examples of fantastic greenway projects, improved pedestrian facilities, cycling facilities and infrastructure in our communities which have given a huge tourism boost as well and enhanced the leisure amenities available in communities throughout the country.
We are fully committed to a wide range of major public capital transport projects. Many of them are going through the approval process in the planning system. We await the outcome of that, but the Government has signalled its full commitment to the implementation of those projects, because our population is growing and our economy is growing. The need is clear and we need to invest further in public transport in Dublin and indeed around the country in the form of sustainable transport corridors, the BusConnects project, the major MetroLink project and the DART projects we have. The Government is committed to them.
We have made the decision, as the Deputy will be aware, to increase the overall public capital programme using some of the windfall corporation tax receipts of €2.25 billion. One of the funds we are going to set up provides for a dedicated infrastructure, climate and nature fund whereby over €3 billion of additional funding is earmarked for projects, including public transport, that will help us achieve our emissions reduction targets. We are fully committed to implementing the ambitious plans we have for public transport.
The fare reduction is welcome and we need to see more, but it is useless if the public transport does not exist or is bringing people on a route that is already congested so they are missing buses or being left behind. Giving increased funding to the Department of Transport when it is not spending the money it already has is more or less pointless. It is not just us saying this, as the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has warned capital spending will need to be on average €2.7 billion higher than it is now from 2024 to 2030. The Minister mentioned the infrastructure, climate and nature fund. Is it going to be like a bailout fund for these infrastructure projects? It is not going to be drawn down until after 2026 either, so there is a massive incongruity to the Government's entire transport capital project plan.
The Minister says the Government is committed to MetroLink. Is it going to commit the funding to deliver MetroLink, the funding to deliver BusConnects and the funding to deliver the Luas connections in Dublin and Cork?
The answer is, yes we are. We stand behind the public transport projects that are a fundamental part of the NDP that I prepared on behalf of the Government and got the approval of the Government for.
That sets out a plan worth €160 billion to the end of the decade. Of course, we acknowledge the impact of inflation in recent years. The Deputy is right to highlight that. We have all seen the inflation in tender prices and we are well aware of the impact of the war in Ukraine on inflation in the cost of construction materials. That has had an impact. We are seeing that working through in some of the tender prices coming in. That is why the Government has made the decision to allocate additional funding, using some of the windfall corporation tax receipts, to ensure we fully stand behind our national development plan objectives and priorities. The infrastructure, climate and nature fund will provide real funding for projects once they come through the statutory planning process. The Government is fully committed to the projects the Deputy has highlighted and looks forward to implementing them as soon as they are fully approved and have gone through the necessary procurement processes.
I hope and expect that there will be tens of thousands of people assembling in Parnell Square this Saturday at 1 p.m. to march in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine as they face the horror being inflicted on them by the State of Israel. I will ask the Minister one of the questions they are going to be asking this Saturday. How many Palestinians does Israel have to massacre, how many atrocities does it have to commit and how much evidence that Israel is engaged in a genocidal attack on the people of Gaza and, increasingly, people in the West Bank does the Government need before it will do something and take any action whatsoever to sanction this murderous regime for the slaughter it is inflicting on thousands and thousands of Palestinians?
On 18 October, the Government proposed a motion talking about Israel's right to self-defence. At the time, we proposed an amendment and argued that Israel was not engaged in anything like self-defence but rather was continuing and accelerating a genocidal attack to reinforce its system of apartheid and occupation and its ongoing war crimes against, and ethnic cleansing of, the Palestinian people. At the time, we called for the expulsion of the ambassador, the prosecution of Israel for war crimes and other sanctions. We got seven votes. Last night, 55 Deputies voted to expel the Israeli ambassador, to sanction Israel and to refer it to the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide but the Government still voted against that motion.
Will the Minister explain to me what level of atrocity Israel has to commit, how many babies it has to murder, how many hospitals and houses it has to bomb and how many people it has to ethnically cleanse before the Government will think it is time to impose the sort of sanctions it was very quick to impose on Russia in response to Putin's invasion of Ukraine? Are Palestinian babies and lives less valuable than those of Ukrainians? Is that why the Government does not feel sanctioning Israel for the crimes it is committing is justified in the face of this slaughter? Will he please explain to me and to the thousands who have been on the streets and who will be on the streets again this Saturday how the Government can justify inaction in the face of slaughter and massacre?
I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. We can all agree that the scenes we are witnessing on television and on our social media feeds are simply shocking. To be frank, I find it very hard to watch the news these days. Tomorrow is the ninth birthday of Emily Hand, a beautiful young child we believe is being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. As the Deputy will know, our Tánaiste is in the Middle East right now, putting in the hard yards and the hard work of international diplomacy. He is trying to make progress in securing the passage of the remaining Irish citizens in Gaza, advocating for peace and having many difficult conversations with those he needs to talk to on behalf of the Irish Government to advocate for peace and for a ceasefire because the humanitarian situation we are witnessing in Gaza is simply appalling.
Israel has a right to defend itself. What Hamas did on 7 October is unspeakable. The Tánaiste is visiting some of the sites where those massacres by Hamas took place. However, in defending itself, Israel has to act in accordance with international humanitarian law. Ireland, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the entire Government have been very consistent and clear on that.
On the calls to expel the Israeli ambassador, international diplomacy and maintaining channels of communication is not about staying close to your friends or endorsing policies. It is about keeping channels open for when you need them and we need them now because, in trying to secure the safe passage out of Gaza of the remaining Irish citizens there and in trying to be heard in advocating for peace, it is important that we continue to communicate and have dialogue with all of those in the region. We have approximately 400 peacekeepers, Irish men and women, in the region so Ireland has to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. However, when we see the need, we will also call Israel out. In our view, the level of force that has been used is completely disproportionate. Civilians should be protected. Gaza and Hamas are not the same thing. The civilians in Gaza should not be subjected to collective punishment by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Ireland is an important actor. We have a voice and we are being listened to. Our Tánaiste, who is there at the moment, deserves the steadfast and fulsome support of everyone in this House in what he is seeking to achieve. He is advocating for peace and trying to secure the release of all hostages and secure passage for the remaining Irish citizens from Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt. He is having those difficult conversations right now in the Middle East.
The Minister is still doing it. He is still talking about Israel's self-defence. Apartheid, which is what the Israeli system is based on, has no more right to defend itself than apartheid in South Africa did. Illegal occupation does not have the right to defend itself, nor does ethnic cleansing or a state built on ethnic cleansing. The people who have a right to defend themselves are the people who are victims of those things. Who are the victims and the oppressed here? The Palestinians are. They are the ones being ethnically cleansed. They are the people at the wrong end of apartheid, the ones under illegal occupation and the ones who have been killed with impunity for years and years. They are being killed in the West Bank, where there is no Hamas. Why does the Government continue to peddle the notion that Israel is interested in peace when everything it is doing makes it clear that it is involved in a massive programme of terrorist ethnic cleansing to drive the Palestinians out of Gaza and out of the West Bank in order to expand the borders of Israel, as it has been doing every single year since 1948? When is the world going to wake up to this? The Minister did not answer me. Setting aside the issue of the ambassador, why are there sanctions on Putin for his war crimes when no sanction whatsoever has ever been imposed on Israel, even now as it is slaughtering thousands of children?
The Government is supporting the people of Palestine. We are providing funding. This week, the Government announced additional funding for the International Criminal Court and the Tánaiste has announced €13 million in humanitarian assistance funding for the Palestinian people, comprising €10 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and €3 million for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. We are providing direct practical support for the people of Palestine. For some time now, we have been very clear in what we have been calling for. We are seeing more and more EU countries and other jurisdictions coming to the view that Ireland has been espousing, which is that there should be a complete and immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The guns and the bombs should stop. Ultimately, the only way to achieve peace is through dialogue.
We know about this on our own island. We know our history. Ireland is a respected voice on this issue because of our own historical experience on this island. We are continuing to work through all of those channels and we are glad that 23 Irish citizens left Gaza yesterday through the Rafah Border Crossing and we expect that more will be in a position to do so today. We want to see the release of all of the hostages, including little Emily Hand, and all of the others.
The number of homeless people in Louth and the north east continues to climb, with 185 people accessing emergency accommodation in this region, 163 of them are in Louth. Along with investment in housing, we must further invest in our homeless charities through both Government and local authority supports. Homeless charities have picked up the pieces where insufficient Government funding has failed, providing crucial services to the community.
For example, the Save our Homeless Dundalk charity is dedicated to helping people who are experiencing homelessness and aiding people and families who are experiencing financial hardship. It does amazing work within my constituency yet it is dependent on the generosity of the public and local businesses to do its work. Three in ten charities, 31%, did not receive any State funding in 2021. Over half of these charities has an annual income of less than €50,000 and 72% are volunteers only, meaning that they have no paid staff.
Pobal administers and manages Government and EU funding through the community service programme to address disadvantage and to support social inclusion and equality. It currently supports 400 charities in the Republic. This is commendable but the number of charities is growing to meet the growing needs of our people.
This year, after a lengthy community service programme application process by 197 charities, those volunteers jumped through the hoops to make the application. Less than half successfully progressed to the second stage, which means that only a handful charities will likely access much needed wage funding for the first time. There is an urgent need to provide adequate an sustainable multi-annual funding to the homelessness sector. This funding should reflect the full cost of service delivery, including wage funding for charity management and governance management, as well as flexible funding to meet increasing needs and inflation. Wage funding is important because in 2022, 648,000 people volunteered with an Irish charity and contributed at least €1 billion worth of time. About 76,000 people volunteered also as charity trustees and are directly responsible for overseeing the operation and governance of a charity.
With an expectation that every euro raised should go into the delivery of frontline services, this puts board members at a serious disadvantage, especially with regard to time and resources when it comes to regulatory, governance and compliance requirements. There are no supports to maintain such governance skill sets and, on top of this, charities often hold no reserve or carry unfunded deficits from one year to the next.
Will the Minister recognise the centrality of funding concerns across the community and voluntary sector with the precarious financial situation in various charity organisations? There is an urgent need to provide adequate and sustainable multi-annual funding to the homelessness sector reflecting the full cost of delivery, including wage funds and inflation.
I thank Deputy Fitzpatrick very much and I join with him and take the opportunity to thank all of the volunteers who work with homeless charities and the services they provide. We thank them for their work. They provide a very valuable service and support.
When it comes to public funding and the State's response to homelessness, it is important that we ensure there is proper co-ordination of the response of different bodies which are operating throughout the country. While responsibility for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities, the administration of homeless services is organised on a regional basis throughout the country. We have nine administrative regions currently in place and County Louth is included in the north-east region for the purpose of homelessness administration, with Louth County Council designated as the lead authority for the region. If there are particular charities which feel they should be getting some or more support from the State, it is best that that case be made through the relevant administrative region which is in place. In the case of the Deputy's own county, his own local authority is the designated body in that respect.
In overall terms, the budget a few weeks ago provided funding of €242 million to be made available for the delivery of homeless services in 2024. That is a 12% increase on 2023. It will ensure that local authorities can provide essential emergency accommodation, homeless prevention, and tenancy sustainment services also, including Housing First, which I know has been very successful. I have seen many examples of it myself in practice. Other services are provided to households experiencing or, indeed, who are at risk of homelessness and that work is so important.
The total number in emergency accommodation in Deputy Fitzpatrick's own north-east region is 185 adults, with 34 families and 83 children. During the third quarter of this year, a total of 41 households exited emergency accommodation in County Louth, which is an increase of 95% exiting homelessness on the previous quarter. During the same period 40 households were prevented from entering emergency accommodation by way of a tenancy being created, which is an increase of 25% on the previous quarter. Much good work is being done by the local authority and indeed by the other homeless service providers in the region and I want to acknowledge that work and thank them for it.
If we can improve on the services, on the level of co-ordination, or on the level of support available for those who are on the front line engaging with homeless people, then I am sure that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, will be very open to that proposal.
It is not the first time I have said to the Minister that I have good time for him. He listens to people and he does react. He came to County Louth last week over the flooding. I am a wee bit concerned with the Minister's answers. I thought, perhaps, that he might give me more of a personal answer.
We have Save our Homeless Dundalk doing an absolutely fantastic job and I will put my hands up to say that the homelessness section in Louth County Council is also doing a fantastic job. We have concerns. I ask the Minister the following questions. How are charities supposed to meet the very high bar set by the charity regulator in terms of governance and compliance reliance, as well as combat the rise in demand, if the funding for staff and resources is not there? How are volunteers to engage and assist people in financial poverty if the charity holds no reserves, or how can it carry unfunded deficits from one year to another? How are charities to help people get back to work via the community employment schemes?
I know first-hand the number of homeless people who come into me. These are people who fell on bad times. Only for the likes of the Save our Homeless Dundalk charity and Louth County Council we would have serious problems.
Would the Minister consider coming to Dundalk to meet our Save our Homeless Dundalk people and he can then see the amount of work that they are doing? We are not looking for big money. Most of these people are volunteers and all they are looking for is some kind of assistance from the Government. One more time, I ask the Minister please to come to Dundalk and have a look at the Save our Homeless Dundalk charity. I would be delighted to show him what a fantastic job it is doing.
I think the Deputy and myself should have a chat off-line with regard to the organisation he has referred to, Save our Homeless Dundalk. The information I have is that there is not any record of an application for funding. Certainly, the Department is not aware of any application for funding so perhaps we can engage off-line. I will be happy to discuss it with the Deputy and to provide any assistance that I can.
On the broader issue, I know it is not related to the organisation the Deputy has mentioned, but we can all agree on the importance of good governance and good financial controls wherever people in organisations are engaging with very vulnerable people and where taxpayers' money is being used. I know that has no relation to the organisation mentioned by the Deputy. I would be happy to discuss the issue with the Deputy off-line and to be of whatever assistance we can to him.