Topical Issue Debate

Medical Card Eligibility

I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for selecting for discussion the issue of discretionary medical cards. This important issue has surfaced during Leaders' Questions and in the Topical Issue Debate, most recently in May when Deputy Michael McNamara raised it with the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White. While I welcome the presence of the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, I would be much more appreciative if the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, or the Minister of State with responsibility for medical cards, Deputy Alex White, were before the House.

I contacted the office of the Minister of State, Deputy White, today to discuss a specific case which illustrates the difficulty experienced by people applying for discretionary medical cards. While I am not sure if the Minister of State is aware of the circumstances, the case involves a young married man who is in employment, as is his wife, and has two progressive and incurable conditions, namely, multiple sclerosis and kidney failure. He was diagnosed with the conditions in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and thereafter granted, as was appropriate, a discretionary medical card by the Health Service Executive. His medical card was renewed in each of the subsequent years until 2012 when, under the administration of this Government, the HSE cancelled his card.

Having pursued this matter through parliamentary questions and direct correspondence with the HSE and Minister, I am informed the criteria for granting discretionary medical cards have not changed. While I am loth to raise on the floor of the House the details of an individual case, in this instance it demonstrates the problem many people are experiencing. The household income of the couple in question has declined because the sufferer of chronic illness and his wife have both had their wages cut. As both of the conditions from which he suffers are incurable and progressive, his condition has not improved. Despite this, the Government, through the Health Service Executive, has withdrawn his discretionary medical card. This is wrong and inhumane and I doubt very much the Minister would stand over the decision. I ask that the Minister review the individual case and ensure a proper and effective review is done of discretionary medical cards as they apply nationwide.

Earlier in the week, Deputy Gerry Adams referred to a case of a man of 102 years who had his medical card withdrawn. We also heard about the plight of cancer sufferers who consider themselves entitled to a discretionary medical card but have not been granted one. I have direct experience of small children, many of them under the care of the Jack and Jill Foundation, who have had medical cards withdrawn or experienced inordinate difficulties in having them awarded in the first instance.

We are all aware of the pressures and difficulties faced by the Department of Health. Something is wrong, however, if, on the one hand, the regulations governing discretionary medical cards have not changed and, on the other, discretionary medical cards are being withdrawn and applications from people who meet the criteria are being refused.

I thank Deputy Ó Fearghaíl for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly.

I advise the Deputy that, overall, nearly 44% of the national population has free access to general practitioner services under the general medical services, GMS, scheme. The HSE continues to issue medical and GP visit cards, with 2 million people currently having access to free GP care. This reflects an incremental annual increase and is 15% higher than the number at the end of end 2010. Far from cutting medical cards, the Government has provided funding to ensure an additional 250,000 people have been covered by the GMS scheme since it entered office.

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Health Act 1970, the assessment for a medical card is determined primarily by reference to the means, including the income and expenditure, of the applicant and his or her partner and dependants. While people with specific illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or the other condition to which the Deputy referred are not automatically entitled to medical cards, the legislation provides for discretion by the HSE to grant a medical card where a person's income exceeds the income guidelines. The HSE takes into account a person's social and medical issues when determining whether there is undue hardship for a person in providing a health service for himself or herself or his or her dependants.

It is important to stress that the medical card system is founded on the undue hardship test. The basic infrastructure of the medical card system provides that medical cards are allocated to persons on the basis of their material circumstances as opposed to a particular illness.

The discretionary system is an exception to the general rule.

The HSE set up a clinical panel to assist in the processing of applications for such discretionary medical cards, where there are difficult personal circumstances. This approach recognises the need to have in place a standard process for considering applications in respect of people who, while over the income guidelines, require a discretionary assessment on the basis of illness or undue financial hardship. If the applicant's means are in excess of the medical card income guidelines, the deciding officer will consider whether to refuse would cause undue hardship. If the applicant fails to qualify for a medical card, the deciding officer will consider the applicant for a GP visit card. If the applicant's means are in excess of the GP visit card guidelines, the deciding officer will consider whether it would be unduly burdensome for the applicant to provide for GP services for himself or herself from his or her own resources.

The HSE, in exercising discretion, takes account of all the circumstances of an individual case - the nature and extent of personal, medical or social circumstances of the applicant and-or dependants. If granted, the card may also cover dependants. The HSE ensures that the system responds to the variety of circumstances and complexities faced by individuals in these difficult circumstances.

The Minister of State said the system responds, but the problem is that the system does not respond. The particular instance I have outlined is one in which the system accepted that undue hardship existed in 2009, 2010 and again in 2011. The person was subject to the same assessment in 2012 but under this Administration the medical card was withdrawn. The Minister for Health has told me that the criteria have not changed. If the criteria have not changed, then the person should have their medical card restored and I appeal to the Minister to do that.

At a broader level, I also appeal to the Minister to read the reports coming from across the country, raised here last by Deputy McNamara in May. He made it clear he was experiencing difficulties in County Clare. We are certainly experiencing difficulties in County Kildare. I believe it is not too much to expect that the Government should make the system work. If it worked in 2009, 2010 and 2011, it can work in 2012, 2013 and into the future. I ask the Minister to please make it work and ensure that those who are entitled to discretion get it and that some sort of humanity is demonstrated by the HSE and Government in these cases.

It is certainly not the intention of the Government to restrict access to the medical card system for people who are genuinely in need of it. On that basis, as I confirmed earlier, some 250,000 more people now have access to that sort of support than had such access when we came into government. In my personal experience, in my constituency office in Galway East we have actively engaged in the process of trying to assist people in securing discretionary medical cards. We have found that in most instances when strong medical evidence is provided of a person's unique circumstances, more often than not these discretionary cards are granted by the HSE. I suggest to the Deputy that he should re-engage with the Minister of State, Deputy White, on the case he mentioned to see if it can be progressed. In my experience we have had considerable success in this area and I hope the same might apply to the case the Deputy referred to.

School Curriculum

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this important matter today. Much has been made of the plans to scrap the junior certificate. Instinctively, people are inclined to support reform, change and what is perceived to be progress. However, the possible denigration of history in the new junior cycle curriculum is deeply retrograde and will potentially have a damaging effect not just on our education system, but on our democracy.

It is far from clear that the plans released by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will be good for education. Under those plans, students entering first year in all schools will be required to study mathematics, English and Irish as core subjects. Schools will then be free to offer a menu of other subjects to study and the number of core subjects studied at junior level will reduce to eight.

There will be casualties in this new system. For example, science and languages will not be core. However, we know that a language is a compulsory requirement for entry into the NUI group of universities. We know also that science is an increasingly important aspect of our economic life. Therefore, the downgrading of history into an option for schools is of particular concern for me. It is vital that young citizens have an understanding of history. The commodification of education is creeping further into the tertiary education sector and the secondary sector. While scientific knowledge is crucial, so too is an understanding of history and culture. After all, history is far too important to be left to the historians.

How can we hope to comprehend how Ireland has evolved into what it is today without a thorough knowledge of the events, people and movements that have shaped the development of our island? Our interests are formed when we are young. The huge interest in local history and heritage is a fantastic community resource. All over the country, vibrant local history groups play a community development role offering recreation and often an economic resource through attracting tourists. Why risk losing the next generation of local historians at such an early age and for no good reason?

Most educational experts favour reducing the number of subjects studied intensely at secondary level. Most also favour reducing the focus on big set piece exams, but the downgrading of history within this framework would be a retrograde and disastrous step. Every child regardless of socio-economic background has a right to understand history. Knowledge of the past is crucial in questioning the present and never before has there been a greater need to question what is happening in the present.

The good news is that this is not a done deal. While the first change will come on stream in 2014, it will be 2016 by the time the changes are fully rolled out. What a terrible indictment it would be of our country that 100 years after the Easter Rising would see the final nail in the coffin of history as a compulsory subject in the junior cycle.

Ms Catriona Crowe, from the National Archives, recently made an excellent presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection. The History Teachers Association of Ireland and eminent commentators such as Professor Diarmaid Ferriter and Mr. Fintan O'Toole have also made their views known publicly. These voices are diverse and come from different points of view. The importance of studying history in developing analytical skills and critical thinking is clear. I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, to listen to those voices in civil society. We need more time to debate these changes and we need a broader discussion of a holistic education for young people.

A willingness to challenge the status quo is important, but change without regard to the consequences of certain so-called reforms is a myopic and dangerous approach to public policy. History should remain a central element of the junior cycle and the campaign to prevent this proposal from being imposed on the next generation of students is only beginning.

This is not an ideological question. People with a range of different opinions in society will coalesce around the issue. The idea that every child might not get an understanding and knowledge of history at least up to the junior cycle is deeply worrying for our democratic system and our knowledge of our society. We need the ability to question and comprehend the world about us as it becomes ever more complex. I appeal to the Minister of State, in the most non-partisan fashion I can, not to proceed with this deeply dangerous proposal, which has no public support.

Where did this notion originate? Who is driving it and why? Education is not just about the murder machine as Padraig Pearse called it, but is about knowledge, culture and learning. I urge the Minister not to proceed with this proposal.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn. Currently, only 52% or just over half of all post-primary schools are obliged to provide history as a core subject. Although that is the case, it is great to acknowledge that over 90% of the students who sit the junior certificate enter the examination for history. However, there are currently over 5,500 students who do not present for history in the junior certificate examination.

In October 2012, the Minister, Deputy Quinn, published A Framework for Junior Cycle. The framework will be implemented on a phased basis from September 2014. While they are designing new junior cycle programmes, those responsible in schools will have to be mindful that there will be a change in how junior cycle programmes will be developed. They must be mindful not only of the principles and key skills, but also of the 24 statements of learning specified in the framework. These statements describe what all students should know, understand, value and be able to do at the end of the junior cycle process. The key statement of learning for history declares that every student "values local, national and international heritage, understands the importance of the relationship between past and current events and the forces that drive change". For all schools, teachers and students, the reality of that statement will mean a study of history predominantly as a full subject while some may have the option of studying history as a short course. The revised history specification, developed in consultation with stakeholders, will be available for implementation in schools from September 2017. Teachers will be provided with continual professional development in advance of that date.

History is one of 21 subjects available to schools for inclusion in the new junior cycle programme. Of those 21 subjects, only Irish, English and mathematics have mandatory status. Advocates of geography, modern languages, science and the arts have also sought additional time or mandatory status for their subjects. The more subjects that are made mandatory or compulsory, the less choice there is for our junior certificate students. Curriculum choice is an important factor in motivating students to learn and in encouraging them to remain in school to the completion of the senior cycle. It is important that the focus of the educational experience for our students is on the totality and the quality of learning throughout the three years of the junior cycle. The minimum time allocated for subjects such as history will be 200 hours or the equivalent of three 45 minute periods per week over three years. For many schools, this will actually lead to an increased provision rather than a decreased provision in history. This will allow not only for a deepening of the student's historical knowledge but, more important, for the deepening of the student's ability to analyse, interpret, write and develop historical skills more thoroughly. Neither I nor the Minister, Deputy Quinn, is questioning the role of history in education as the framework is delivered. In fact, we are affirming its role.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Let us consider the senior cycle, for example. Subjects such as applied mathematics and classics are on the curriculum, but how many children get the opportunity to study them in school in practice? Very few. By and large, they are only taught in schools with significant external resources, with some exceptions. I call on the Minister of State to engage with this question directly. If the Minister's reforms proceed, does the Minister of State believe that ten years from now there will be more or fewer students in the junior cycle taking history? As the Minister of State has said, the overwhelming majority of students do history at the moment, so why tamper with that?

History is unique and critical. It goes to the core of who we are and what we are. Every child has a right to know about the history of this island, given what we have been through in recent years and during several tumultuous decades. People have all sorts of analyses, opinions and interpretations of that. The study of history allows people to think critically.

The Minister of State has not explained why we should not continue with history as a compulsory subject. What will happen - I guarantee it - is that over time fewer schools will offer history and fewer students will have the option to study it. The schools with the greatest resources offer the greatest subject choice. That is a fact. However, a knowledge of history is a crucial element of democracy. This is why I am calling on the Minister of State to reconsider this proposal.

History is different from other subjects referred to by the Minister of State. English, Irish and mathematics are compulsory for good reason. The Minister of State would not suggest that they should be optional subjects. Why not retain history? What is the problem with it? I imagine the history curriculum requires reform over time, as do the curricula of all subjects, but I hear no great clamour for reform like that we have heard for the Irish curriculum. This is a crucial issue and the legacy of the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Quinn, in the Department of Education and Science will be judged by decisions such as this. I genuinely believe that if the Minister proceeds by undermining history further it will damage our democracy and our education system. The vast majority of citizens I speak to - I imagine it is the same for the Minister of State - want their children to have a knowledge of history and want it to be taught in school. Otherwise, it will become elitist.

I have every reason to expect that in ten years' time we may have a similar if not an increased number of students studying history. I do not see any facet of the new junior certificate framework that in any way threatens that proposition. The implementation of the framework provides an opportunity to recast history as a vibrant student-centred subject with a significant emphasis on the relevance of past experiences to our lives today and in future. Deputy Nulty has referred to this aspect. The role of history in the new junior cycle will be balanced against the contribution of the other subjects in enabling students to engage with a new broad and enriched junior cycle programme that meets the requirements of the principal statements of learning and key skills.

History teachers currently attract some 90% of students to study history although in fact only 50% are obliged to do so. That is taking place because of the love of the subject and the fact that history teachers are engaging students' interest. The teaching of the subject allows them to delve, analyse and critique historical people and events and thereby develop an empathy and understanding that may inform their perspectives of events today and, hopefully, enhance their wisdom in terms of decision-making in future. That is the essence and the spirit of the reform that is being carried out. That should continue to be the case as the framework is implemented in the coming years. I am sorry but I do not share the fears of Deputy Nulty to the effect that this will in any way undermine the teaching of history. In fact, I believe it will enhance the teaching of history in future.

Disposal of Hazardous Waste

I assume Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science is taking this issue. Is that the case?

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for choosing this topic. With no disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, it is a pity that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is not here. This arises all too often. This issue was recently brought to my attention and it has raised several unsettling facts. Coincidentally, this week has seen the welcome publication of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, a Bill which will protect whistleblowers who courageously speak out about wrongdoing, malpractice or carelessness. Regrettably, the Bill comes too late for the person who has raised the issue, as I will outline presently.

While absolute privilege is available to me and other Members of the Oireachtas, for obvious reasons, I have no wish to engage in any sort of kangaroo court by naming individuals who are not here to defend themselves. Everyone is entitled to their good name and should be able to defend it. However, the person who approached me has lost his job at a health facility merely because he raised concerns that proper and safe procedures were not being followed in respect of the disposal of hazardous medical waste. I emphasise that safety is at the core of this issue, in particular the safety of patients, workers and the public.

As we all know, some hospital waste is hazardous and, unfortunately, there have been times in this country when such waste was not properly disposed of. Sensibly, there are procedures in place which are to be followed to protect the safety of all concerned. For example, any procedure which involves radiation must be registered with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Hazardous waste must always be correctly labelled in order that waste disposal staff can take active steps.

In addition, the radioactive hazardous waste must be both correctly labelled and stored in a special lead-lined room. Such waste must also be transported safely, with much material of this type being exported for safe disposal. Furthermore, out of responsibility and duty, relevant persons regularly are appointed to ensure procedures are followed correctly.

I am certain that to any reasonably-minded person, it would make complete sense that a person tasked with investigating shortcomings or a complaint would not be connected in any way to the individual or organisation under investigation. This clearly is for reasons of independence, impartiality and transparency. I regret to note that the case which has been brought to my attention does not have these vital hallmarks. It appears as though the person tasked by the independent State agency with investigating the complaint against the organisation in question is actually an employee of that organisation, which constitutes a clear conflict of interest. Adherence to rules and regulations that are put in place for sensible safety reasons, not pedantic ones, frequently depends on the observance by relevant persons and the assurance that unacceptable, unethical and on sound behaviour will be reported and identified. It takes courage and commitment to speak out in the full knowledge of the consequences and ramifications of one's actions. The individual in question no longer works for the facility. However, remaining staff have the same concerns and are concerned about public health issues in respect of whether practices are continuing. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply and will speak further thereafter.

I thank Deputy Kyne for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan. Functions relating to the environmental planning, licensing and control of hazardous waste are the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and local authorities. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, is precluded from exercising any power or control regarding the performance by the agency or a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it. Under section 26 of the Waste Management Act 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency is mandated to publish a hazardous waste management plan with regard to the prevention and minimisation of hazardous waste, its recovery, collection and movement, as well as the disposal of such hazardous waste as cannot be prevented or recovered. The National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012 is available for download on the agency's website,

The supervision and control of movements of hazardous waste within Ireland is the responsibility of the National Transfrontier Shipments Office in Dublin City Council. In accordance with the European Communities hazardous waste regulations of 2011, Dublin City Council is designated, with effect from 1 July 2011, as the sole competent authority responsible for supervising and controlling internal shipments of hazardous waste. In addition, these regulations provided for the replacement of the existing paper-based forms with a waste transfer form available via an online electronic system.

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. I do not doubt the presence of plenty of paper safeguards, regulations and rules that can be quoted, many of which have been mentioned by the Minister of State. Unfortunately, as it happens in this case, those rules and regulations are not being followed or at least that is the concern. In this case, radioactive material is not being labelled or disposed of correctly and the individual charged with its supervision on behalf of the State agency is an employee of the organisation being investigated. These are serious issues and it also is a public health issue. While I do not believe this practice to be widespread, if it were it would be an extremely serious public health issue. However, it is a matter of concern. If the Minister has no statutory function, I will take up the matter directly with the EPA to ascertain whether a better response can be elicited.

As I noted, the whistleblowers legislation will be an important step for other individuals who might come across similar cases. It will be too late for this individual however, as I do not expect such legislation to be made retrospective. Unfortunately for the individual in question, because he was standing up for his own health and that of others, he is in a position whereby he has lost his job.

For the information of the Deputy, the EPA is reviewing the national hazardous waste management plan at present for the period from 2013 to 2017, as it is so obliged under section 26 of the Waste Management Act. The Deputy might make a submission to that review process. As I pointed out earlier, functions relating to the environmental planning, licensing and control of hazardous waste are solely the responsibility of the EPA and local authorities. The Minister is actually legally precluded from exercising any power or control with regard to the performance by the agency of a statutory function vested in it. As Deputy Kyne suggested, his only port of call in this instance is the EPA and I suggest he takes up the issue with that agency directly.

Smarter Transport

At the outset, I congratulate the Minister of State on the Dáil dojo he hosted yesterday in the AV room. I know Bill Liao and James Whelton myself and the work they are doing with this, that is, teaching computer coding skills to children is fantastic fun. I again congratulate the Minister of State and note this was the second dojo to take place in Leinster House thanks to his initiative.

The issue I wish to raise today is one I first brought to the attention of Dublin City Council when I was elected to it in 2009. Following my election to the Dáil, it formed the content of the first legislative item I published, namely, the Smarter Transport Bill 2011. It was a simple, technical Bill but its enactment would pave the way for two great ideas in Dublin city's transport infrastructure. The first concerns electric cars and electric car charging points. At present, the installation of electric charging points is being rolled out around the city. However, as matters stand, the spaces are not reserved solely for electric vehicles and other cars can park at the charging points. This makes absolutely no sense because it involves blocking the infrastructure for those who wish to use it. If one wishes to have people using this infrastructure and starting to drive electric cars, if one wishes to incentivise them with the provision of parking spaces with electric charging points, then these strands must be brought together. It is common sense and unless there is common sense in the infrastructure, people will not use it.

The second aspect of the Bill pertains to car-sharing car clubs. Essentially, this could be understood as being akin to the dublinbikes scheme but with cars. One would book a car online, go around to the nearest car, use one's personal swipe card to get into the car and then drive off for the designated amount of time for which one wishes to use it. One would pay a standard annual charge of perhaps €50 and then an additional charge of €3 to €5 per each hour one uses the car. It takes away all the hassle of actually owning a car, including the cost of maintenance, the NCT and insurance, as well as all these additional things that make it so expensive. It is a fantastic idea for people living in high-density areas such as Dublin city. It also is a great idea for families who may need a second car only on occasion but who cannot afford to have one. The introduction of what one might call a "dublin cars" scheme would mean fewer cars and less congestion on the streets, more parking bays and cheaper transport for those who needed to use it. In addition, it would be better for the environment.

In order to get such a scheme to work, one must be able to provide such cars in clusters of parking spaces on public streets, like one sees with the dublinbikes scheme and to do this, the laws must be changed. When I first raised the idea in 2009 at Dublin City Council, I was informed that primary legislation was required. Thereafter, once elected to this House and when drafting the legislation in 2011 to introduce it myself, I was still told that primary legislation was needed. Moreover, such legislation was meant to be transposed into the road traffic legislation being introduced by the Minister in 2013. However, in the course of that process, I was then informed that primary legislation was not needed and that one could move forward with regulations only. While I appreciate the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, is unable to be present today, my question to the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, on his behalf is what brought about this sudden change in legal thinking? Why was there a four-year wait before people suddenly realised one could proceed with regulation and the time-consuming process of enacting legislation was not necessary? Second, how soon can such regulations be made? This would be an important transport innovation for Dublin city. People have been waiting for long enough and given its title and function, one would think the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport would be more concerned with getting this through as it is such a simple matter

I thank Deputy Eoghan Murphy for attending the Dáil dojo yesterday. He has been a strong and articulate advocate of the CoderDojo movement, which we both agree is one of the most exciting movements to emerge from within the community sector in Ireland for many years.

I am taking this Topical Issue on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, who is unable to attend the Chamber today. He would like to thank the Deputy for raising the issue. Deputy Murphy's Smarter Travel Bill 2012, which he introduced as a Private Members' Bill, proposed to provide in law for the reservation of parking spaces for recharging electric vehicles and for the reservation of spaces on-street for car clubs. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, discussed this Bill with Deputy Murphy at the time and indicated he supported the proposals. He therefore asked his officials to ensure the measures proposed were included in the new road traffic Bill which was then being prepared in his Department.

During preparation of the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill, which the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, published last week, legal advice was received that the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, already had the power to provide in secondary legislation for the matters covered by the Smarter Travel Bill. The Minister is happy to re-emphasise that he strongly supports measures to promote sustainable travel and that, in this context, he is keen to facilitate both growth in the use of electric cars and the development of car clubs. Both electric vehicles and car clubs represent important environmental and sustainable travel initiatives. Both will help to reduce emissions, and they all constitute creative solutions to the ongoing problems of environmental pollution in our cities. Work is, therefore, now under way in the Minister's Department on preparing the necessary regulations, and he intends to bring in these regulations as soon as possible.

The Government has set a target of ensuring that 10% of the nation's passenger car and light commercial vehicle fleet will be electrically powered by 2020. Action 47 of Maximising Ireland's Energy Efficiency: The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan provides for that. The aim is to reduce average vehicle energy consumption, and hence CO2 emissions, air pollutants and noise.

The Minister's Department has also made a commitment, under the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan, STTAP, to support private and public sector initiatives to operate car clubs. These are organisations which own a pool of cars and members can book their use for a specified period. The intention to legislate to enable on-road parking spaces to be designated for car clubs through appropriate signage was made clear in action 19, supported by action 37, of the plan.

The regulations now in preparation will address these matters by providing for designation of spaces for electric vehicle recharging, car clubs, and specific signage for these spaces.

While road traffic legislation falls within the area of responsibility of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, there will also be a need to look at other issues to ensure that recharging points for electric vehicles and spaces for car clubs can be provided on a sound legal basis. It will be necessary, for example, for local authorities to ensure that they have the appropriate powers to enter into arrangements with electricity providers and car clubs. Local authorities will also need to consider the revenue implications of changing the use of these spaces, and to agree on costs with electricity providers and car clubs. These are matters which are under the remit of the Minister's colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, wishes to thank the Deputy again for raising the matter and assure him that the required regulations will be in place as quickly as possible.

I thank the Minister of State. I am aware of the support of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, because we have spoken about this on a number of occasions. In fact, in anticipation of either primary or secondary legislation coming before the House this year, in November last year I called on Dublin City Council to initiate the public consultation for the new by-laws that will be needed. Dublin City Council, therefore, is already working to make sure it is ready to go when the secondary legislation has been published. I hope the Department of Transport is talking to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on the important issues the Minister of State pointed out, and that they are both talking to Dublin City Council. It should not take us to raise them here by way of the Topical Issue Debate to spur on greater efforts. It is a very simple proposal but one that could deliver a big win for the people of Dublin. I look forward to the secondary legislation coming in as soon as possible.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Deputy and congratulate him on his initiative in promoting these new travel and transport opportunities for those living within the greater Dublin area. They are innovative and will provide for new and interesting opportunities for transport within the city.

The commitment given by the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, judging from the response I read out for the Deputy, is a serious one. It is one he intends to follow through on and I expect that there is ongoing and significant consultation between the Minister, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and Dublin City Council and that those consultations will result in securing the change the Deputy strongly supports as quickly as possible.