Adjournment Debate.

Community Enterprise Centres.

I call on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, to ensure that the funding application for a community enterprise centre in Farranfore be given priority in the interests of balanced regional development.

Farranfore is unique in that it is the only location in the country with access to an airport, national roads and a railway. Kerry County Council has designated it as being crucial to the development of the Tralee-Killarney hub under the national spatial strategy, but it is a CLÁR area due to its depopulation since the foundation of the State. Recently, a group of active stakeholders, including local community groups and the local development partnership with the support of the council, Kerry County Enterprise Board, Leader and many other actors, submitted an application for funding under the 2007 community enterprise scheme to Enterprise Ireland. It is imperative that the funding be secured during this round, as the window of opportunity is open for development. If the initiative gets support, it will be a catalyst for excellent enterprise development in County Kerry and the mid-Kerry area in particular. At full capacity, the centre will generate more than 60 jobs on site.

The initiative has the support of many local stakeholders, including the management of the airport, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years. As part of a local twinning project that has received local government and EU support, business development associations in Brittany have been consulted with to develop international trade links. Discussions to date have been positive in that regard.

Many areas of Kerry have good histories in terms of enterprise development, but Farranfore and mid-Kerry do not. Developing the facility in question would be timely. If funding is secured from Enterprise Ireland, it will ensure the development of employment opportunities in that strategic location.

The department of regional and urban planning at University College, Dublin, produced a comprehensive study on the period 2002 to 2022. Consultants developed and recommended the concept of an economic and development triangle between Tralee, Killarney and Castleisland centred on Farranfore and mid-Kerry. Quoting the economic spatial development perspective, the study claims that such a development centred on the Farranfore transportation hub would facilitate a more balanced system of urban-rural relationships utilising links between international, national, regional and local transport networks while promoting the role of gateway and hub towns. The study's summary recommendations outlined the objective of developing Farranfore as an industrial hub for the region by capitalising on road, air, rail and telecommunications infrastructure. The study recommended that the location and consequent advantages should be marketed as providing distinct advantages for businesses and industry. Current enterprise space in Tralee and Killarney is at full occupancy. While there is an adequate supply of large industrial units, especially in Tralee, there is a gap in facilities provision for companies seeking flexible space and the option of light industrial and, or, distribution centres.

I was a member of the Kerry County Enterprise Board for five years from 1999 to 2004 while a member of Kerry County Council. I am aware therefore of an obvious latent demand for space in the mid-Kerry area generally. Given the number of inquiries to existing centres and the continued growth in requests for support from the enterprise board and other development agencies, there is a clear need to ensure the enterprise centre initiative receives as much support as possible at this stage.

If and when new businesses locate in a facility, they will be given ongoing, positive support to help them grow and develop. Already, a number of new and growing enterprises have expressed great interest in Farranfore as a location. A great opportunity exists for all involved to demonstrate support for employment in the regions from Government and State agencies down to local level. I urge the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, to ensure in the interests of balanced regional development that the application for a community enterprise centre at Farranfore, County Kerry, is given due priority and consideration.

I thank Deputy McEllistrim for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I am well aware of his determination, commitment and support for the community enterprise centre at Farranfore, County Kerry.

Enterprise Ireland is administering, under section 7 of the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Act 1998, a community-led enterprise support programme called the community enterprise centre scheme 2007. I authorised the scheme some time ago. Enterprise Ireland will work in close co-operation with FÁS, local authorities, county and city enterprise boards and county and city development boards, where relevant, to implement the initiative. An additional CEC scheme is desirable on foot of the success of the previous schemes and the anticipated demand to establish new centres and expand existing ones. I concur with much of what Deputy McEllistrim said in this context. The availability of business space is a fundamental infrastructural requirement for businesses to establish and grow in any location. Community enterprise centres provide space in a supportive environment for budding entrepreneurs and serve to help the development of entrepreneurship locally in urban and rural locations.

Since 1989, Enterprise Ireland and its predecessors have administered four schemes supporting community enterprise centres. A total of €44 million has been approved for 147 such projects nationally. The last approvals were made in June 2006. To date, 105 centres have been built and 32 are either under construction or have been recently approved. In 2005, Enterprise Ireland carried out a survey of the 95 community enterprise centres then operating. The top line results of the survey show a very positive use of the investment as reflected in occupancy rates, numbers employed and the number of manufacturing and traded service enterprises. The survey revealed that the centres have been successful in achieving an average occupancy rate of 86% with over 840 businesses employing more than 3,800 people in the centres. The survey also found that 15% of the tenants who responded were involved in export markets to some degree.

Funding of €21 million will be provided over three years for the community enterprise scheme. There will be a minimum of three calls for applications in the period 2007 to 2009. Due to the limited funding available, applications will be competitive and it may not be possible to award aid to all eligible projects. The selection of successful projects will be based solely on the ranking of the projects as set out in the community enterprise centre scheme outline. The inclusion of a number of tranches in the scheme gives communities the opportunity to put together a strong plan or application. Therefore, Enterprise Ireland strongly recommends that the fund be serialised into a number of calls for proposals and we scheduled three.

Achieving balanced regional development is a key aim of the enterprise development agencies under the remit of my Department. The scheme forms part of the regional strategy. I appeal to the Deputy to work with his local community to ensure their submission is a good one. It would be useful to examine previous successful community enterprise applications nationally in that context. Partnership with local authorities is vital. New job gains associated with Enterprise Ireland clients have been very strong in the regions. In 1998, 62% of employment gains were in client companies located in all regions outside Dublin with this proportion climbing by 2006 to 68%. Many of Ireland's high potential start-up companies and those involving research and development investment have originated at enterprise incubation facilities at enterprise centres.

I appreciate the Deputy's concerns. The closing date in respect of the last call for proposals was August 2007. The assessment process is under way and the Farranfore application is being considered with all others. A decision is expected shortly.

Industrial Development.

The two Deputies raising this matter will have two and a half minutes each to speak.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter. The announcement by Amgen has come as a body-blow to the east Cork region. The economic loss to Carrigtwohill and surrounding areas is unquantifiable. I empathise with those people who have lost their jobs in the company. While global corporate entities like Amgen are subject to the vagaries of international markets, the people of the region accepted in good faith statements made by the company in April that a delay of two years in the project would not amount to a complete cessation of it. I put it to the Minister that a second announcement yesterday to the effect that the project is indefinitely postponed is nothing more than spin and a deliberate attempt to play down the decision not to proceed. Anyone with common sense must conclude that two postponements in six months is tantamount to a cessation.

The Government has serious questions to answer. Questions arise as to whether Amgen or IDA Ireland is the beneficial owner of the site at which the project was to proceed. We must also ask what will happen to the site in the event of a further postponement or acknowledgement of cessation. The project was to be the mainstay of the region and Middleton, Youghal and other centres of population had placed their bets on it. Many young people invested in housing in the region on foot of the promise of foreign direct investment by Amgen. I put it to the Minister that we have been dealt a hammer blow and that people are extremely disappointed. Expectation in this context has not been managed well by the Government, which now has a serious case to answer. The Minister has a responsibility to deliver to the people of the region.

I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to speak on this matter. An €800 million investment has been lost to Cork in particular and Munster and Ireland in general. One of the largest factories ever to be established in Ireland seems now to be gone. It is a disgrace, therefore, that we can only spend two and a half minutes talking about it in the House. It is no wonder the House is being lampooned across the country when we are not allowed to talk about something as important as this for more than two and a half minutes.

Deputy Ned O'Keeffe is suggesting the Government knew or should have known that this announcement would be made. I would like the Minister to comment on that. I would also like to know what will happen to the infrastructure. The situation in the vicinity of the site is a mess with a 60 km/h speed limit on a main, arterial dual carriageway route. It is dangerous and it should never have been permitted. I want the Minister to indicate that the Government will ensure the necessary roadworks, which should have been completed years ago, will be carried out at the site.

Will the Minister tell the House what will happen at the site now? Will it be left to become a weed-grown eyesore at the side of the road? What discussions will he enter into with Amgen? Will the Government make available time to allow a proper debate on this most urgent, serious issue? Does the Minister not agree that it is a disgrace to provide Opposition Deputies with only two and a half minutes each to speak? After ten years as a Member, I am given two and a half minutes in which to raise the matter and I cannot even question the Minister on it. It is no wonder the House is lampooned and laughed at across the country.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue and to put on record the situation regarding Amgen, which involves no mystery or secrecy whatsoever. In fact, I contacted Deputies yesterday to inform them in advance that Amgen would make a public announcement to the workforce at 2 p.m. We all share the fundamental objective of wanting to bring investment into the country and we work through IDA Ireland to attract that investment. We do not control the boardrooms of the companies concerned or how events play out among regulatory authorities in the United States. We do everything we can to advance employment in the interest of the people of this country. That reality must be taken on board.

I am deeply disappointed by the announcement by Amgen that it is postponing its planned investment in the plant at Carrigtwohill, County Cork, because my Department and the IDA put a lot of work into the matter. Ireland won this project from the largest biotechnology company in the world in the face of strong competition from Singapore and Switzerland. Amgen received planning permission from Cork County Council in September 2006 for site development and ancillary road works on a significant and expensive application. These activities commenced in November 2006.

The company has already invested over $100 million in site acquisition, conceptual design and site clearance and preparation. The decision by Amgen does not reflect in any way on the business environment here. Amgen has been laudatory of the responsiveness of all the public authorities in Ireland, including county councils, IDA Ireland and the Government. The decision has been made as a result of a review of its own operations and is based purely on developments related to the company's global business. It is in no way related to the economic or competitive environment in Ireland.

This decision follows from a substantial drop in its share price. The company commenced a global production capacity review in August 2007 which resulted in the announcement of job cuts and the closure of some facilities including manufacturing. Following a further assessment of manufacturing capacity by the company, IDA Ireland and I learned only yesterday that Amgen has decided to indefinitely postpone its planned design and build of its bulk manufacturing facility in County Cork. The decision was communicated directly to us by Amgen through a conference call. We had already arranged to meet Amgen within the next fortnight but there was no anticipation of the decision. With the IDA, we go on various trade missions and meet a range of companies.

That is what Deputy Ned O'Keeffe said.

We will be making a week-long trip to the west coast, where we will meet a number of companies. This decision is disappointing for the region and the country, and particularly for the 79 staff directly affected. I am conscious that many of the employees left good jobs to work with Amgen because the company was seen as a significant opportunity for career advancement.

Amgen has informed us that it wants to maintain ownership of the site. We were not disappointed the company articulated that position because this is a volatile sector with a cyclical nature. In terms of the site issues raised by Deputy Stanton, consultations are ongoing between the county council and the company. We will tease out that issue further in our forthcoming meetings with Amgen.

Am I allowed to make a point of order?

All Deputies are allowed to make points of order.

On a point of order, the Minister said he is teasing out the ownership of the site.

Amgen has told us it wants to retain ownership.

That needs to be a distinguished comment.

The company has said that.

For the record, Deputy Sherlock did not make a point of order.

People have asked about the medium and long term. I was trying to respond to the issues raised by Deputy Stanton and others and I am conscious that a significant investment has been made in infrastructure. The east County Cork region has been identified as an area of significant growth and the site has significant utilities attached to it, so it clearly has the potential to house a similar type of enterprise.

Ireland continues to win substantial pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical investments. There are currently 133 IDA supported enterprises in Cork city and county. Since 2002, five IDA assisted life sciences companies have invested in Carrigtwohill and have increased their employment there from 943 to 1726. This net increase of 783 jobs in Carrigtwohill is very significant and underlines the potential of the area for further job creation.

Recent announcements in Cork include IBM, GSK, Allen Vanguard, VMware, Eli Lilly and PepsiCo, Blizzard Entertainment, Apex Funds and SolarWinds. Direct employment in IDA supported companies in Cork city and county has grown from 12,449 in 1997 to 19,977 in 2006. That is the positive backdrop to the situation in terms of inward investment. We have more work to do and I am aware people want increased investment. Clearly, people are disappointed as a result of the Amgen decision. I appreciate the articulation of that concern by the Deputies representing the people of the area. We will do everything we can to win further investment.

The Minister might provide Government time next week for a debate on the issue.

Visa Applications.

The self-styled Irish Anti-War Movement, which is involved in the troops out of Shannon campaign, is scheduled to hold what it describes as an international anti-war conference in Dublin on Saturday, 13 October. According to the pamphlet published to advertise the conference, one of the objectives of the organisations is:

how we can build the movement of resistance to war and occupation over the coming months, including the threat of attack on Iran. Unity of the anti war movement across organisational and territorial boundaries and solidarity with those who fight the illegal occupation of their country is what we seek.

For a group which calls itself an anti-war movement, it has invited some curious people to its conference. It is worth noting one particular individual, Ibrahim Mussawi, who is associated with the Hizbollah run Al-Manar television station in Beirut. The other interesting person among the invitees is a member of the Al-Sadr group, which is directly involved in much of the murder, bombing and mayhem taking place in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.

I raise this issue because it is important that well intentioned members of the public and the Members of this House are not misled into believing the agenda of this movement is worth following. This is not a peace organisation. The persons invited to the conference starkly illustrate its distorted perspective on international politics. It is not so much an anti-war movement as a strident anti-American one. Rather than an organisation which wishes to see the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world through discussion and compromise, it is a collection of misty-eyed old Soviet Union sympathisers who have now befriended Islamic fundamentalists.

Al-Manar is basically a Hizbollah propaganda television station, spouting anti-American and anti-Semitic diatribes on a regular basis. The type of broadcast for which it has been responsible resulted in 2005 in a call by the European Parliament for Hizbollah to be labelled a terrorist organisation. France closed down Al-Manar channel following a decision by the country's highest administrative court, the Council of State. The court ruled the station had violated France's laws against incitement and was endangering public order. The United States has long labelled Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation and has since taken the unique step of labelling a television station as a terrorist organisation.

Hizbollah has been opposed to every reasonable attempt to resolve the Middle East conflicts between Israel and Arab states and Israelis and Palestinians through peace processes. It has opposed every reasonable attempt to put in place an effective and workable peace process and has been involved in kidnappings, bombings, murder and mayhem. It is essentially an Iranian and Syrian proxy group intent on sabotaging all attempts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which fall short of the total destruction of the Israeli State.

In violation of an existing United Nations resolution, a very significant amount of armaments are being shipped back into southern Lebanon, paid for by the Iranians with Syrian assistance, for the benefit of Hizbollah. Essentially, a Syrian proxy has done everything possible to destabilise the integrity and political democracy of Lebanon.

It is extraordinary that a member of a group such as Hizbollah should address a meeting designed to oppose occupations, as theraison d’être of that group is to support the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Most of the violence Hizbollah has been responsible for since the Syrians left Lebanon has been designed to encourage them to re-occupy the country. I ask the Minister not to grant a visa to this individual to address a meeting in this State and put down a marker that it is unacceptable for people representing terrorist organisations to have a platform here.

I think it is a disgrace that some Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, including a member of a party that is in Government, will, according to the leaflet published by the Irish Anti-War Movement, share a platform with a member of Hizbollah at this meeting. If we have no other duty, Members of this House must uphold democracy and oppose terrorism. In the context of the tragedies that have befallen the state of Lebanon we have a duty to ensure that we do not give succour to groups or individuals intent on destabilising Lebanese democracy and which are committed to having Syria occupy the country again.

I welcome the establishment of the conflict resolution section within the Department of Foreign Affairs. It should help us examine how we approach conflicts and our treatment of those who wish to be guests in our country but are resolutely opposed to reasonable initiatives seeking to solve a major problem in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be addressed in a constructive way.

I am, of course, very conscious that the matter raised by Deputy Shatter gives rise to serious issues. On the one hand we all have the responsibility to ensure that those freedoms which we cherish so dearly, such as the right to peaceful assembly and the right to voice one's opinions, are upheld. These rights must undoubtedly be accompanied by a corresponding obligation to respect the rights of others who hold a contrary view. I would add, and I say this without in any way wanting to prejudge consideration of any application, that in circumstances where the State uses its discretion to allow an individual to enter the State there should be no abuse of this privilege.

In addition to the rights and obligations I have already mentioned I, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, have additional obligations, not least the obligation to protect the citizens of this State. Therefore, in deciding on any application for a visa to enter the State I will take into account various factors, such as concerns about national security or danger to individuals, before making a final decision. Naturally I will also consult with the Garda Síochána before arriving at a final determination in any such case.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be consistent with the legal duties I have with regard to deciding on visa applications made by individuals to debate the merits or otherwise of particular cases across the floor of this House. I am not in any way diminishing any of the concerns expressed by Deputy Shatter and I assure him any decision I reach will be based on my discharging my responsibilities in line with legal requirements and taking into account all the factors to which I must have regard.

I can also say that, while on one hand I have no desire to stifle public debate on the war on Iraq or any other matter, I must also have due regard to the requirements of public order in its widest sense. Inevitably conflicting considerations can arise in dealing with issues such as these. I again assure the Deputy I will balance them in accordance with the law and in the overall public interest.

The fundamental purpose of immigration laws generally, of which the visa system is a part, is to regulate and control the entry of non-nationals to the jurisdiction. There is international recognition that regulation, in accordance with law, is necessary to achieve a number of important objectives in the interests of the common good. These include, for example, ensuring that the economy is not undermined by unsustainable migration flows, ensuring that persons who are permitted to enter the State with stated objectives actually pursue those objectives, and the prevention of abuse by criminal or terrorist elements.

The purpose of the visa system is to authenticate potential travellers prior to their departure for the State with a view to obviating difficulties that arise when a person arrives in the State whose entry has to be refused on legal grounds. Credibility is central to the visa determination process. In assessing visa applications, the visa officer will consider a number of factors including the following: whether the applicant's stated purpose for the visit is the real purpose of the visit; whether the applicant is likely to overstay the length of time applied for; whether the applicant is likely to breach the conditions of the visa; whether the applicant is likely to breach the common travel area without an appropriate UK entry visa; whether the applicant is in a position to fully support himself or herself without any recourse to public funds or resources; and whether the person is likely to present a threat to the public order or security of the State. Any previous immigration history, either positive or negative, of the applicant will have a bearing on the decision.

I am informed that the person in question was invited to come to Ireland by the Irish Anti-War Movement to participate in a debate organised by that movement. The visa application is currently under consideration and no decision has been made.

Building Regulations.

Just after this Dáil completed its first sitting in July, the news about the pyrite infill disaster broke in north County Dublin. Residents in Drynam Hall in Kinsealy were informed by Menolly Homes that many households would have to be rehoused for ten or 12 weeks while the ground floor of homes with a high content of pyrite infill were excavated and removed down to a depth of 3 m.

I am not briefed with the reply to the Deputy's statement.

Could the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, come into the House?

The Deputy put down his Adjournment notice and it was granted. If the Deputy wishes to wait we can adjourn for a short time to give the Minister the opportunity to arrive.

The Minister may be on his bike somewhere.

The Minister is in the precincts of the House.

We will adjourn for ten minutes if the Deputy so wishes.

Sitting suspended at 5.17 p.m. and resumed at 5.27 p.m.

We have been the victim of a severe discourtesy by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who is not practising what he preached when he was in opposition.

Just after the Dáil completed its first sitting in July the news about the pyrite infill disaster broke in north County Dublin. Residents in Drynam Hall in Kinsealy were informed by Menolly Homes that many households would have to be rehoused for up to ten or 12 weeks while the ground floor of homes with a high content of pyrite infill were excavated and removed down to a depth of 3 m.

A few weeks later my new constituents in Menolly Homes developments at The Coast estate in Baldoyle and in Beauparc, Clongriffin were devastated to learn that their homes would also have to be tested to discover if a similar problem was emerging from flooring infill also used at those locations. Since then I have had a steady stream of telephone calls and e-mails from other areas of north Dublin and Meath from householders who are intensely anxious to know if a defective underfloor infill was also used in their estates.

Media reports indicate that at least eight builders other than Menolly Homes have reported the problem to Homebond and that houses at the vast Castlecurragh Estate in Dublin 15 built by Shannon Homes have also tested positive for a high pyrite infill content. At a recent meeting of the North Fringe Forum, a consultative group on the huge urban region being built from Baldoyle to Dublin Airport, the unfolding construction problem was described as a catastrophe. Young householders and mortgage payers are dismayed at this incredible development and there is extreme anxiety at the reconstruction and insurance implications of the news from Menollys.

Pyrite or iron pyrite was formerly known as "fool's gold" because of its appearance and is an iron sulphide which expands if it is exposed to air or water. It reacts with oxygen and water to form sulphuric acid. I was informed in July that the quarry which supplied the defective infill is located near Ballycoolin in Dublin 15 and is owned by the Irish Asphalt division of the Lagan Group.

I have learned that between early 2003 and February 2007, approximately 2 million tonnes of infill stone was produced by this suspect quarry with a high pyrite content of 1% to 3%. Yet due to the total inaction of the Minister, Deputy Gormley, and his Department, only 100,000 tonnes, or 5%, has so far been traced, to the Menolly sites. It has been put to me that the other defective infill was used in perhaps thousands of new homes in north and west Dublin, Meath and Leinster. It is alleged that this infill was also used in many key infrastructural projects and it is known, for example, that the Lagan Construction Group was involved in the construction of projects like the Dublin Port tunnel. I am also informed that at least three other quarries in the Leinster region have a high pyrite content.

I reported to the 29th Dáil that the Dublin-Fingal north fringe is facing many key infrastructural deficiencies including a lack of public transport, schools, health centres, child care and youth facilities and Garda stations due to terrible developer-led planning aided and abetted by successive Fianna Fáil-PD Governments. The last thing that the area needed was this appalling news about pyrite infill. In the many contacts I have had with the Department, with city manager, John Tierney, and county manager, David O'Connor, on this matter, I am repeatedly told that the implementation of the building regulations is "largely self-regulatory." Likewise the invigilation of planning permissions, often for vast new urban projects, is paltry or non-existent.

I now call on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Fingal and Dublin county managers to address their responsibilities which they have shamefully shirked in the past. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, must immediately establish a ministerial task force with the Fingal County and Dublin city managers to, first, carry out a full traceability audit of all building sites supplied by the Irish Asphalt quarry near Blanchardstown; second, investigate the location of any other quarries with a high pyrite content and arrange a traceability audit of each of them; third, in conjunction with the National Standards Authority for Ireland set up a national pyrite investigation and monitoring agency to guarantee the handback of fully repaired and rebuilt homes to householders; and, fourth, liaise closely with the governments of Quebec and Ontario in Canada which have faced a similar pyrite disaster and have developed protocols for compulsory chemical analysis of all construction infill and overseen appropriate compensation mechanisms for affected householders and public bodies. On the last request I refer the Minister to the valuable publication,Pyrite and Your Home by the Association Des Consommateurs Pour La Qualite Dans La Construction in Quebec. Hundreds of my constituents and perhaps thousands of others living in newly built estates and people who have built large infrastructural projects want the Minister to restore the status quo, to ensure houses and infrastructural projects are rebuilt if necessary and to ensure people are fully compensated, not just for the damage done to properties for which they are paying through the nose, but for the significant inconvenience and stress caused to them. I urge the Minister to take immediate action on the matter.

I thank Deputy Broughan for raising this matter and assure him no discourtesy was intended.

Pyrite is a mineral found in broken stone that oxidizes upon contact with moisture and oxygen to produce sulphuric acid. The sulphuric acid causes the broken stone to swell, which in turn causes the floor slabs in buildings to lift and crack. Laboratory tests have found that pyrite exists in the infill stone material used beneath the houses in a number of housing estates in the Dublin-North fringe. This mineral has the effect of making the infill stone defective.

I understand from Fingal County Council that the builders or developers of the houses in question have undertaken tests and other investigations to establish the extent of the houses affected. I further understand that HomeBond, the national house building guarantee company, a private company which provides a ten year structural guarantee for new houses, of which the builders concerned are members, have also carried out investigations.

The national building regulations set out the legal requirements for the construction of new buildings, including houses, and extensions to and material alterations of existing buildings. The related technical guidance documents, TGDs, provide technical guidance on how to comply with the regulations.

For example, Part C and TGD-C set the legal requirements and technical guidance for site preparation and resistance to moisture. Regulation C3 stipulates:

The floors, walls and roof of a building shall be so designed and constructed as to prevent the passage of moisture to the inside of the building or damage to the fabric of the building.

TGD-C also requires:

The hardcore bed should be at least 150 mm thick and should be of broken stones, broken brick or similar suitable material well compacted and clean and free from matter liable to cause damage to the concrete.

Under the provisions of the Building Control Act 1990, responsibility for compliance with the building regulations rests with the builder and the owner of a building.

Enforcement is a matter for the local building control authorities which are empowered to carry out inspections and initiate enforcement proceedings, when considered necessary. In this regard, I understand that the local building control authority, Fingal County Council, has been in direct contact with the builders and the quarry concerned to ascertain the full extent of the problem and to ensure there is no further use of this material for house building.

Having consulted the statutory building regulations advisory body on the matter, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, on 16 August 2007, issued a circular letter, BC 6/2007, to each county manager and local building control authority with a view to bringing the issue to their notice and requesting their co-operation in the enforcement of the relevant requirements. This circular letter also brings to their attention a notice issued by Fingal County Council on 26 July 2007 on the matter.

I also understand that the National Standards Authority of Ireland is giving urgent consideration to publication of additional guidance on the issue of pyrite. This will, by way of a new national standard, amend an existing standard or a standard recommendation, whichever is considered most appropriate. It is my intention to adopt any recommendation of the NSAI in this regard, when available, in the relevant technical guidance document to the building regulations.

The Deputy suggested that a ministerial task force be set up to carry out a full traceability audit and establish a national pyrite investigation and monitoring agency. The actions I have outlined are designed to avoid any recurrence of the problem which has arisen in Fingal. Compensation is a matter between a homeowner, the relevant developer and the builder's insurer, whether that is HomeBond or another insurer. Consequently, the Minister has no function in this regard.

I accept fully the Minister did not intend any discourtesy to Deputy Broughan or the House. However, he will appreciate that it is incumbent on me, as Ceann Comhairle, to ensure that Members' rights are jealously guarded. Among those rights is the right to raise a matter on the Adjournment and to have a Minister or his or her representative present. It is incumbent on the Minister to ensure that he or a representative is present. I must request that this be adhered to across all Departments.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.40 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 October 2007.