Thursday, 22 October 2015
Order of Business
I support the many comments that have been made about the housing crisis, in particular those made by Senators Hayden and Barrett. As a further contribution to the debate, this morning we all received a document from the Irish League of Credit Unions. It has substantial resources available and would like to contribute to alleviating the housing crisis. The ILCU has proposed that the Government should examine how it could use the league's significant resources in an off-balance sheet way through the establishment of a special purpose vehicle to fund the development of social housing. The proposal is worthy of a debate in this House. We are trying to address a significant housing crisis and I welcome the provision of 500 modular housing units announced yesterday by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly. We have a very large hill to climb so every contribution and source of funding should be looked at. Will the Acting Leader organise for such a debate when we return after the break?
I welcome the Garda Síochána building and refurbishment programme 2016-2021 announced by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Simon Harris. The programme contains a number of elements, including public private partnerships to deliver new Garda stations in key areas, including Galway city. There will be essential remedial works done to existing stations and there will be an upgrading of cells and provision of improved custody management facilities. This will have an impact on 30 facilities around the country.
I am particularly pleased that Ballinasloe Garda station has been earmarked for station refurbishment and custody management facilities, a move which is long overdue. I recently visited the station and was appalled at its primitive conditions. As well as poor working conditions for the gardaí, there is little privacy for the general public who wish to conduct routine business at the station. The custody management facilities were atrocious, with only one holding cell meeting health and safety requirements. Such facilities are totally inadequate for a busy urban station that covers a large divisional area. If people want gardaí to work effectively and efficiently, then they must be provided with the appropriate facilities and resources. I am pleased that the Government will make significant investments. This forms part of a major plan that is being put in place, including the recruitment of additional gardaí and the provision of extra resources for patrol cars. I welcome the announcement made by the Government this week which will effectively deal with the very serious criminal elements that roam the countryside.