Decisions on Petitions Received

The next item on the agenda is consideration of public petitions. We have six petitions for consideration today: P00009/21 and P000023/21, P000018/21, P000019/21, P000034/21 and P000037/21. Summary notes and replies from Departments and other bodies were circulated to members. Is it agreed that the petitions considered by the committee at this meeting and at the previous meeting be published? Is it agreed that the replies from Departments and other bodies be published? Agreed.

The first two petitions are P00009/21 and P000023/21 and they are being taken together. They were submitted by Mr. Michael Barrett and Mr. Jamie Forde Kelly and pertain to the unauthorised development on the River Shannon. The updated recommendation as of 19 November 2021 is that, first, the Joint Committee on Public Petitions invite the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Westmeath County Council to appear before the committee to discuss the matter, second, the petitioners be invited before the committee to discuss the matter and, third, on reviewing the files, it appears that Waterways Ireland has a major role in licensing marinas and should also be invited in. Do members have any views on this? I call Deputy Buckley.

I would like to thank the secretariat and the case manager. As we, in Cork, would say, your head has to be absolutely wrecked because I can understand the amount of paperwork that went with this. Going through the correspondence, I was struck that in my constituency, even in the town council and urban district council, we have problems with developments on rivers and seaways. We are going back to more than 400 years ago when King James I bequeathed something in Youghal. We cannot even develop a marina there, believe it or not. We are still backing that today.

I looked at the two cases here and I remember the case of Mr. Barrett which was before the last committee meeting. There was substantial information in it. Even in the midst of a Covid pandemic - the dogs in the street would know this - there is photographic evidence showing that there was development on the estuary between 31 August and 28 October. It is from a greenfield site to what looks like the base of another jetty. I do not know if members can see that. Certainly, if this is ongoing, and these two petitioners in particular have mentioned it, I very strongly welcome the recommendations from the committee on this. When we were setting the committee up again, we wanted to adjust the rules, regulations and powers. That is proper order. I agree that Westmeath County Council, Waterways Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government should be invited in to help answer these questions. I certainly support that.

Thank you Deputy Buckley. I support your call there. To correct you, I think it was Mr. Jamie Forde Kelly's petition that was before the previous committee, and not Mr. Barrett's. This has been going on since the last Government was in office and, as you said, concerns were raised that work is still going on. Despite the work the secretariat and others have put into this, I find it very disingenuous of Westmeath County Council that it has not even responded to the committee.

It will have to answer for the likes of that as well when it comes in. I fully support what the secretariat is recommending, that is, that we bring these bodies and the petitioners in to ask these questions and to let them answer them. Does anybody else have anything they would like to add?

I mentioned the case manager. The record states that the petitions case manager corresponded with the Department of Rural and Community Development on 14 July. The case manager then corresponded with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on 29 September 2021 and again on 27 October 2021, outlining that the Joint Committee on Public Petitions was still waiting on a response to the previous letter. The petitions case manager also corresponded with Westmeath County Council on 29 September and on 27 October, outlining, again, that the Joint Committee on Public Petitions was still awaiting responses to the previous letters.

I refer to the amount of work done. The Chair is right. With any committee, it is about accountability and responsibility. I reiterate that I am very disappointed with the way these authorities have treated staff and members of this committee. I want to put that on the record as well.

I agree with Deputy Buckley. This committee and the staff have been very lenient with these authorities because the European practise is that if you have not heard anything back after three months, you start an investigation. We are four months down the road, trying to get information or even a response from them. We will get the secretariat to write to them, inviting them in. We will take it from there.

That is agreed, Chair.

Agreed.

The third petition is P000018/21, submitted by Mrs. Alexandra Koster, on prioritising urgent environmental issues and enforcing actions against non-adherence to environmental laws and regulations. The updated recommendation as of 19 November 2021 is that, first, permission be sought for Mrs. Koster to borrow the response of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for comment and, second, that this petition be raised with Department of Education as the petitioner specifically mentioned schools in her response. Do members have views on this matter? Is that agreed? Agreed.

Our fourth petition is P000019/21, submitted by Mr. Cormac McKay, on banning all fossil fuel and hybrid vehicles advertising on all Irish media. The updated recommendation as of 19 November 2021 is that the petition's case manager will engage further with Mr. McKay to seek additional information in relation to the petition. Do members have views on this matter? Is that agreed? Agreed.

Our fifth and sixth petitions are P000034/21 and P000037/21 propose that foreign-trained doctors conduct the pre-registration examination system, PRES, 3 exam or give an exemption. I will not try to pronounce the two names of those who submitted the petition. The updated recommendation is that, first, the correspondence from the Irish Medical Council be forwarded to the petitioners and, second, that the committee decide to close these petitions as the actual PRES 3 exams are to resume on 14 November 2021. Do members have any views on this?

I have no views to add, Chair. I would like to thank the secretariat and the case manager for getting the information for these people. I welcome the fact that everything is resuming on 14 November.

The recommendations are agreed.

That concludes our consideration of public petitions this afternoon. I invite members of the public to submit petitions via our online portal. A petition may be addressed to the Houses of the Oireachtas on a matter of general public concern or interest or on an issue of public policy. Next on our agenda is any other business. Would members like to make any final comments? No.

The committee is adjourned until 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 November 2021 for a virtual private meeting which will be followed by a public meeting at 1.30 p.m.

The joint committee adjourned at 3.04 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, 25 November 2021.