Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Order of Business
I wish everybody a happy new year, the best of luck in terms of their work over the next few weeks and varying degrees of success in that regard.
I raise with the Leader the issue of the rate of pay for new Garda recruits, which issue the Leader has also raised in the past. According to a recently published report, the starting salary for a garda is €23,171 per annum. The comparable rate of pay for a PSNI trainee, in euro terms, is €32,000. As Members will be aware, the rent allowance for gardaí of up to €4,000 per annum, along with 29 other allowances, has been abolished. Some of our best and brightest are joining the Garda Síochána, within which a two-tier system in terms of pay now operates. This issue needs to be addressed. The Government, rather continuing to reduce taxes for the highest paid workers in this country, needs to ensure protection of our front-line services, particularly in this instance An Garda Síochána. The starting salary for a member of the London Metropolitan Police Service is €35,000, which means pay scales here are way out of kilter.
Garda numbers also need to be increased significantly. Fianna Fáil, if returned to government after the next general election, is committed to increasing Garda numbers to 14,000 over the lifetime of the next Government. It is important there is pay equality in this area. Will the Leader raise this matter directly with the Minister for Justice and Equality? It needs to be addressed and the Government needs to make a statement in this regard. It is not equitable that a garda protecting our State would be paid significantly less than another garda doing the same job. Reform in this regard needs to start with Garda recruits. I do not think anybody would agree that it is right that the starting salary for a Garda, on completion of his or her training in Templemore, would be just over €23,000.
I note the Leader's comment that a debate on flooding is being held in the Dáil today and that a similar debate will be held in this House next week. I welcome that. I am not sure if Members are aware of the OPW's catchment flood risk and management, CFRAM, study of flood risk areas throughout the country, which was commenced prior to the recent flood events and seeks to determine whether particular areas are flood plains. My concern in this regard is the lack of notice given to householders or landowners living in those areas. The deadline for observations on this study was 23 December 2015, which was the day before Christmas Eve. I understand that in the case of the Leinster region, only 12 submissions were made by the public to the Office of Public Works.The reason for that was that people were not aware that this study was taking place.
I have further found out that the OPW in its draft report did not even use its own flood maps. They are desk surveys and it has been proven in a number of instances that it is not even using its own data. While we need to ensure that we protect areas from flooding and that we map where future areas at risk of flooding may be, surely to God the OPW should be basing its study on its own maps and, more importantly, it should seek submissions from the public who have that information. Something has gone desperately wrong if only 12 submissions have been made in the whole of Leinster. That is because people do not know about it.
I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, to pause this process right now and to republicise what the OPW is doing in order to let people have their say and to let home owners and landowners make their submissions. They have the local knowledge. The CFRAM started in 2009 and we are now in 2016.