Adjournment Debate.

Flood Relief.

I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle choosing my motion for debate this evening. In recent weeks, we have experienced the worst floods in living memory. The south and west have been inundated and the Liffey burst its banks in County Kildare, flooding many areas. My constituency of Dublin Central has experienced widespread flooding during the past decade. The Ceann Comhairle will remember the former Taoiseach in wellingtons outside St. Luke's. The current Taoiseach did not get around to getting his wellingtons out in time, but the former Taoiseach was well supplied.

The flooding in that instance occurred around the Botanic Gardens and along the Tolka to East Wall, Ballybough and the Royal Canal, where there were many problems. As such, there have been substantial flood warnings, but the Government does not seem to have shown any sense or urgency in addressing the problems. In some areas of my constituency, getting home or property insurance is impossible because of the perception that they will be flooded again. Therefore, why insure the inevitable? Insurance is about the risk of something occurring, not its inevitability.

It is important that the Government addresses the issue and has a long-term strategy. It was not just today or yesterday that the warnings about climate change arrived. In January 2006, the European Commission drafted a directive, which was agreed by the Council at a summit and the European Parliament in 2007. It was passed on to the Government to enact. At this time last year, I asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about the legislation's status. He replied to the effect that, up until then, the Government had not considered it sufficiently even to determine which Minister would deal with it or whether it would be handled by primary or secondary legislation, namely, brought before the House or dealt with via statutory instrument. That was 12 months ago. Guess where we are now. The date of expiry for the directive's transposition has passed, but no answer has been given.

There is no sense of urgency about dealing with the matter. The directive was intended to ensure that each member state assessed the risk of flooding with a view to reducing the incidence of flooding and disasters within the EU as a whole. I would like definite information regarding the directive's status, as it impacts on the entirety of Ireland, not just my constituency.

Dublin was fortunate to escape the worst effects of the flooding, but the Liffey breached its banks. In the previous floodings, the Liffey did not do so. Had the Liffey breached its banks further down, closer to Dublin than to Kildare, there could have been substantial damage. Television images and photographs show the damage caused in Kildare, but it could have been more widespread, given the greater torrent of water close to the Liffey Estuary in the heart of Dublin. Does the Government know what it is doing and does it have a plan for flooding across the country and, more specifically, in Dublin?

While I am replying on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government,——

The Minister of State is eminently qualified.

——I also have responsibilities in this regard. To answer immediately, the directive will be transposed before the end of the year. It probably would have been transposed before the end of November had much of the country not been hit by the flooding crisis, which required everyone's concentration.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's role where there is serious flooding is to ensure that local authorities are prepared to respond promptly to ameliorate the worst effects in respect of those aspects within their direct responsibility and that they act in co-operation with the other principal response agencies — An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive, HSE — the voluntary agencies, the Defence Forces and the Office of Public Works, OPW, to limit the effects on individuals whose lives may be put at risk or who may be exposed to serious hardship and, where possible, to protect homes and business premises.

The local authorities are geared to respond promptly and effectively to offset the worst effects of flooding. In responding to the current flooding, local authorities have been using the procedures set out in the framework for major emergency management, which enables the three principal response agencies — An Garda Síochána, the HSE and major local authorities — together with the Defence Forces, Civil Defence and other voluntary agencies to make and co-ordinate the response to flooding. Reports from the areas experiencing major flooding in the past two weeks show that this interagency response has worked in a satisfactory manner. In the past year, I attended interagency meetings in Clonmel and, more recently, Ennis. Regarding the Dublin area, which escaped the severe flooding of the west and south, I understand that the authorities' crisis management teams were on stand-by last weekend, with the position being monitored during the heavy rainfall on Friday night and Saturday.

The OPW is the lead agency for purposes of devising and implementing measures to deal with flooding, including flood relief schemes. I understand from my office that it has provided Dublin City Council with advice, funding and direct labour, on an agency basis, for the carrying out of flood relief works, particularly on the Rivers Dodder and Tolka and elsewhere in the country. Dublin City Council has been the main contracting agency for flood relief works already completed or currently under construction in Dublin.

The need to deal in a proactive manner with the issue of flood risk was recognised by the review of flood policy agreed by the Government in September 2004. In this regard, the OPW has begun pilot studies for the River Dodder and the Fingal-east County Meath area. Procurement of flood risk studies for the additional river catchments will commence in late 2010. The end result of each study will be a catchment flood risk assessment and management plan to meet the dates set out in the EU floods directive, which will be transposed before the end of this year.

The Department has asked the local authorities for reports on the effects of the flooding on individuals and businesses in their areas and proposals that could be pursued to reduce the risk of further flooding. The reports, when received, will be sent to the OPW and other relevant Departments for consideration and necessary remedial works required. I also understand that the county enterprise board network is being used to collate reports from affected businesses, which will be sent to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Job Protection.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to raise this important matter in the House tonight. I have raised the long-term future of Dell in Limerick on a number of occasions since the closure of company's manufacturing plant there was announced. Dell is a great employer in Limerick. It continues to employ more than 1,000 people in high-end manufacturing there. The 1,900 jobs that will soon have been lost at the Dell manufacturing plant in Limerick are, in effect, being moved to the Dell plant in Lodz. It appears that the ownership of the plant in Poland is to transfer to Foxconn, a large global company that is taking over the manufacture of computers for Dell. My understanding is that Dell will become a customer of Foxconn's manufacturing services in Poland. I would like the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to confirm that transfer of the ownership of the Polish plant to Foxconn will not have negative or adverse implications on the sustainability of the Dell plant in Limerick. There is a great relationship between the plants in Limerick and Lodz.

We need to be assured that Dell has a viable future in Limerick and that the 1,000 remaining jobs will be preserved. It is extremely important for the Tánaiste to confirm that funding under the European globalisation fund will be made available to the 2,500 workers — I refer to Dell workers and their counterparts in related companies like Banta and Flextronics, who have been made redundant as a result of the closure of the Dell manufacturing plant in Limerick. Further, I would like the Tánaiste to confirm that the mid-west region, which includes Limerick, will become IDA Ireland's priority region as it tries to attract foreign direct investment. IDA Ireland has not brought any foreign direct investment into Limerick since Dell announced the closure of the manufacturing plant in early January of this year. In that time, Cork has get 850 IDA Ireland-backed jobs and Galway has got 164 such jobs. Although Limerick has had a higher rate of loss of foreign direct investment jobs than anywhere else in the country, not a single job has been delivered to Limerick by IDA Ireland this year. In the run-up to the Dell announcement, I called for a jobs task force to be established. IDA Ireland took no part in the task force even though it was established as a direct result of the loss of IDA Ireland jobs.

It is critical for the Tánaiste to confirm that she has made direct contact with Dell to ascertain whether the Limerick plant has a sustainable future. Can she say whether the 1,000 remaining jobs will be retained? Will the Government support Dell so that it can grow in Limerick, as Apple did in Cork, by means of the creation and development of high-end value jobs? Can the Tánaiste confirm when the €23 million of vital funding under the European globalisation fund will come on stream, in a practical way, in Limerick and the mid-west? People are entitled to benefit from the funding, €15 million of which will come from the EU and €8 million of which will come from the Government. They have been waiting for it for many months. It will enable people who have lost manufacturing jobs in Dell and related companies, through no fault of their own, to get on their lives by finding jobs, becoming self-employed or getting properly retrained. Further, it is extremely important for the Tánaiste to clarify whether she will discuss with the European Commission the grant of €54.5 million that was given by the Polish Government to Dell to encourage it to establish its Lodz plant. The ownership of the plant in question has been transferred, in effect, from Dell to the Foxconn enterprise. Was the European Commission aware at the time of the possibility of Dell not remaining in Poland? If that had been known, some of the manufacturing plant in Limerick might still be functioning and vitally needed jobs might have been retained in the region. I want my questions to be answered so that we can ensure that the 1,000 remaining jobs at the Dell facility in Limerick have a sustainable future.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I will reply on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The matter is of some interest in west Tipperary, where a number of Dell employees live. I am advised that IDA Ireland is aware of recent developments at the Dell plant in Poland. IDA Ireland has been in constant contact with Dell at local and corporate levels. I understand that the planned transfer and alignment of its Lodz manufacturing operation to Foxconn Technology Group is in line with Dell's strategic plan. The company has said that this announcement will not affect any of the 2,000 remaining Dell employees in Ireland. Dell's employees in Limerick and Dublin are engaged in a wide range of high-end functions. They support the company's global operations, particularly in its Europe, Middle East and Africa area. IDA Ireland's strategy for the mid-west region, which includes Limerick, involves facilitating the transition to a knowledge economy, by winning new foreign direct investment in innovation-driven, high-value and high-skill sectors; working with the existing company base to expand its presence, by increasing the number and scale of functions being carried out and adding further strategic functions; to promote balanced regional development; to provide modern properties with supporting infrastructure; and to work with local authorities and other partners to influence the creation of the right infrastructural environment in which new foreign direct investment can be won throughout the region.

Limerick's foreign direct investment base is mainly concentrated in the city environs of the national technology park and in Raheen. According to the Forfás employment survey of November 2008, 40 companies with State-supported foreign direct investment were employing 8,601 people in permanent jobs, and a further 595 in temporary and contract employment, at the date of the survey. Since then, however, it has been announced that over 2,500 job cuts, including approximately 2,000 in Dell, will be implemented by the end of 2009. The magnitude of the job losses, and the ongoing fallout from the Dell decision, led to the establishment by the Tánaiste of a mid-west task force to address the future development of the mid-west region with a particular emphasis on supporting sustainable employment. The investment projects that IDA Ireland is seeking to attract to Limerick are different from those of the past. IDA Ireland is relying principally on the skills of the people and the strong business and educational infrastructure to attract investment to the county. IDA Ireland's strategy is to re-position the region as a hotspot for knowledge-based industry, while focusing on marketing Limerick as a key location for investment by building on the strengths that are already evident in the county. To support this strategy, IDA Ireland works closely with educational institutions in the region to develop the skill sets necessary to attract high value-added employment to the county. IDA Ireland is working closely with the existing base of employers to encourage additional investment, particularly in activities such as research and development, customer support and back office functions. IDA Ireland is working closely with Shannon Development to provide suitable property solutions for potential investors to the county. I suggest that Deputy O'Donnell should submit parliamentary questions to the Tánaiste if he feels that some of his queries were not answered in my reply.

I suggest that the Minister of State might refer my questions to the Tánaiste, and she might reply to them.

Schools Building Projects.

Listeners to "Morning Ireland" today may have heard an item towards the end of the programme featuring parents from the suburb of Tyrellstown who were very upset. Tyrellstown is a very large area in Blanchardstown-Castleknock where there are more than 2,000 homes, most of which are occupied by families with young children. It is serviced by two local primary schools, both excellent, Mulhuddart national school and Tyrellstown Educate Together school.

For the past seven years those schools have been endlessly and fruitlessly in search of a permanent site. We are coming again to crunch time where parents will seek to enrol their children in January for a place next September. As many parents explained at a packed public meeting held some weeks ago — one of many — they do not know what to do or where to go. It seems extraordinary that this Government can give the go ahead for 2,000 houses to be built in a new suburb of Dublin 15. They are very nice houses and it is a lovely population. All the bases for long-term prosperity and happiness are there for these families and their children except they have no school places and are being educated in pre-fabs.

This situation has gone on for years. When the estate was planned more than 12 years ago there were three school sites. Between them, the Department of Education and Science and the developer managed to lose or magick away all those school sites that would have accommodated two primary schools and one second level school. In a way, the people who bought their houses, paying high mortgages and high management company fees, are the victims of Fianna Fáil's vision of proper management and development in which developers make the fortunes and schoolchildren and their parents are left waiting.

We were told some time ago by no less a figure than the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that the cheque had been written for the acquisition of the school site. We were told by the developers they were prepared to give the school site for free. Now we have been told that the contracts are ready between the two parties and still we have no idea what is happening. We are coming to the end of the financial year and no funds have been allocated by the Department of Education and Science for the construction and commencement of the permanent buildings of these schools. We are in a recession and there are builders and construction workers queueing up for work in such projects.

Why is Fianna Fáil denying the children of Tyrellstown their proper school sites and their permanent schools?

In many ways, the Tyrellstown area is a case study of disintegrated planning in this country. The estate is nearing completion but the original houses are ten years old at this stage. There are 2,500 houses and the area is home to 8,000 people, most of whom are families with young children, paying very large mortgages. They should not have to worry about basic matters such as whether there will be a school which their children can attend next year. There is no park, no community centre and no secondary school site, which will be needed soon.

There are two excellent primary schools, both in temporary buildings on an inappropriate temporary site owned by the council. For a very long time we have been promised that a site will be acquired for permanent schools. The site has been identified. The owner has sought and received planning permission for a school and community centre on the site and has offered to sell it for €1 to the Department of Education and Science, or to the council, as the need may be, but for the past number of years there has been a triangle of denial and disinterest, with the council, the developer and the Department passing the buck among themselves as to whose responsibility it is to acquire the site and whose fault it is that matters are not progressing at this time. I do not know whose fault it is at this stage and I do not care.

The Minister for Finance, who is a local Deputy, promised people in both the run up to the last general election and during the recent local elections that the acquisition of the site was imminent and that school buildings would be there in time for the following September. On both occasions he reneged on those promises which clearly were made in bad faith in the run-up to electoral contest.

The situation is a disgrace and is an indictment of this Government. It is an embarrassment to all of us who are involved in politics that people have been let down in this way. I ask the Minister of State to give us some good news this evening, some real evidence of progress and at least allow the parents of these young children, coming towards Christmas, the security of knowing that progress is being made, the site will be acquired and the new buildings will be there in time for next September so their children will have a school to attend.

I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the Government's strategy for capital investment in education projects and to outline the current position with regard to the future plans for the schools in question.

As the House will be aware, in the past few years the Government has increased dramatically investment in the school building programme to an unprecedented level of capital investment which reflects the commitment of the Government to continue its programme of sustained investment in primary and post primary schools. Notwithstanding the financial challenges facing our country in the years ahead, I am confident the Government will continue to prioritise investment in the school building programme.

With regard to the specific matter, the Minister wishes to advise the House that earlier this year the Department requested Fingal County Council to acquire a number of sites for schools in the council's administrative area, including an already identified site for the two schools in question, under the terms of the Fingal memorandum agreement. While the Department had been in the process, through the Chief State Solicitor's Office, of exchanging contracts for the sale of the site, it became apparent at that time there was a high possibility of further ongoing delays in securing the site. As a result, the Department requested the local authority to acquire the site under the Fingal model agreement. The Department has maintained ongoing liaison with the local authority in relation to the acquisition of this and the other requested school sites and understands the negotiations for the acquisition of the Tyrellstown site are ongoing.

In the circumstances, the House will appreciate that as the Department is not a direct party to the negotiations, the Minister cannot comment further. That said, the House can be assured that the Department is fully aware of the rapidly developing nature of the Dublin 15 area and the associated demands on school places. In this regard, the Minister can confirm that the Department has recently received correspondence from the board of management of the Tyrellstown Educate Together school to the effect that it intends to limit its junior infants intake to one class for the forthcoming school year. The Department has written to the school authorities advising them of the latest position and will keep them informed of any progress. In order to address any short-term deficit, pending closure on the site and the delivery of the school building, the Department has recently written to the county council requesting its permission to use neighbouring lands under its ownership for the purposes of locating, on a short-term basis, temporary accommodation if required as a last resort.

The Minister is hopeful the council will respond in a positive fashion to this request, particularly as it has been of invaluable assistance to the Department in helping to address such unprecedented demand for school places in their functional area.

Department officials recently met with senior officials from the local authority and in particular discussed the need to close on the Tyrellstown site as a matter of urgency. The Minister is satisfied that the local authority shares the Department's sense of urgency. The Minister would also like to confirm to the House that the required building project will receive top priority in the Department and has instructed Department officials to consider the scope for providing the schools under its modular building programme, which should result in the schools being completed earlier than normally would be expected.

I thank the Deputy once again for affording me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position in relation to the future plans for the area in question.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 December 2009.