Topical Issue Matters

The following are the matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case:(1) Deputy Michelle Mulherin — to ask the Minister (a) to clarify and define as envisaged by the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations 2011 "drainage or reclamation of wetlands above 0.1 hectares" and (b) if there is any compensation envisaged for farmers who have lands designated as wetlands or with Natura 2000 designation; (2) Deputies Ciara Conway, Paudie Coffey and John Halligan — the job losses sustained at TalkTalk in Waterford; (3) Deputy Dan Neville — deaths from suicide in 2010; (4) Deputy Joanna Tuffy — to ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider changing the qualification period for eligibility for a JobBridge place from three months signing on the live register to a shorter period of time to ensure that people who are unemployed and anxious to apply for current vacancies will be enabled to do so; (5) Deputy Tom Hayes — can the Minister for Health outline the impact the closure of St. Michael's psychiatric unit in Clonmel will have on south Tipperary and the health service as a whole in the constituency? Concerns exist around the quality of the community-based services that will take its place; (6) Deputy Joe Costello — to ask the Minister if he intends to review the licensing regime for gas and oil exploration during this Government's term of office; (7) Deputy James Bannon — the need for the Minister for Education and Skills to review the decision which has led to the suppression of the posts of resource teacher for Travellers, RTT, and the rural co-ordinator for disadvantage at St Mary's national school, Edgeworthstown, County Longford, the loss of which is detrimental to the continued successful provision of education to the children of Edgeworthstown and leaves the most vulnerable children in the school without essential supports, and further, given the population explosion in Edgeworthstown — +68.4% in 2006 census — the urgent need for an increase in the built environment provision; (8) Deputy Michael McCarthy — ambulance service cover in the west Cork area, in particular the intention to reduce ambulance services in Skibbereen; (9) Deputy Dara Murphy — to ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the following question which I believe is of national importance. My question concerns the operation of An Bord Pleanála. The Minister will be aware that guidelines about the granting of planning permission for local authorities are strictly adhered to, with three months to access a planning application and a further month for consideration. Currently An Bord Pleanála is not bound by any time delay with respect to the processing of appeals that come before it. I suggest that the Minister consider enacting legislation that would require An Bord Pleanála to issue judgments within a similar or at the very least a restricted timeframe. It is imperative in my opinion in the current economic climate that businesses or persons who are keen to proceed with developments are allowed to have the planning process they enter into completed in a reasonably expeditious manner. I would further like to ask the Minister if there is any reason precluding him from introducing such a time restriction and if there is not, if he would consider it reasonable particularly given the fewer numbers of planning applications which are now being processed and consequently which are now being sent to An Bord Pleanála. It is also my opinion that given the competitive nature with respect to the choices when identifying a geographical location in which they may invest and consequently employ, that factors including how long a planning process may take will be taken into account in some cases. This measure in my opinion will give a defined time period to include planning at local authority level and also at the appeals stage and therefore afford potential investors a finite date during which they know whether they will or will not secure planning permission. On a related matter I would also like to ask the Minster if he is satisfied with the current membership of the board, how they are qualified and how the board is composed. I would also like to know who is responsible for the composition of the board and how often the board is replaced. The reason for this is that I think it would be advantageous to be aware what external forces may impact on the decision-making process of the board if any. I am aware of recent objections by groups such as the National Roads Authority and An Taisce, however I wonder if the Minister would concede that for projects involving significant employment capacity that there may be some means of including a socially advantageous job creation objective within the framework of An Bord Pleanála. In other words, if the National Roads Authority is in a position to outline to An Bord Pleanála the potential traffic difficulties that any project may have on the road infrastructure it is my view that there should also be the opportunity for some method of equal advocacy from within the appeals process to identify the social benefits that would accrue by virtue of new and increased job creation. I would be interested if the Minister had some further observations on that point. For example can ministerial orders impact on the process and what are the current guidelines in approving projects, for example, for job creation?; (10) Deputy Joe Higgins — waiting lists for colonoscopies in 2011 compared to last year; (11) Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin — the need for the Minister for Health to address the delay in the employment of junior hospital doctors which persists in spite of the HSE recruitment abroad of such doctors and the passage of enabling legislation before the Dáil recess; (12) Deputy Jerry Buttimer — the need to reassure the public of steps being taken by the Government to restrict the continuation of excessive pension entitlements of certain high-paid civil servants; (13) Deputy Thomas Pringle — the need for the Department to act immediately to ensure that the rural transport in the Gaeltacht areas of County Donegal is re-instated and the people of the area including the islands of Aranmore and Tory have a vital transport service restored that has been lost since the decision of Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta to wind up its operations last week; (14) Deputy David Stanton — to ask the Minister for Education and Skills to debate the urgent need to provide primary and second level school accommodation in Carrigtwohill, County Cork; (15) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív — an phráinn a bhaineann le teacht ar shocrú maidir le soláthar an clár LEADER, an clár LCDP agus seirbhísí eile a bhíodh á chur ar fáil ag Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta; and (16) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett — the Government's new social housing policy, its affects on housing applicants and its costs to the Exchequer.

The matters raised by Deputies Ciara Conway, Paudie Coffey and John Halligan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Dan Neville and Joe Higgins have been selected for discussion.