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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 5 Dec 2013

Vol. 823 No. 4

Topical Issue Debate

State Pathologists

I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue and I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for coming to the House to reply to it. Recent reports suggest that all is not well in the Office of the State Pathologist. I do not wish to refer the House to the intricacies of recent resignations but I would like to obtain some clarification from the Minister of State in respect of a number of issues pertaining to the office. In particular, I ask her to indicate that the office is working well and efficiently and that there is public confidence in it. I am of the view that it is important that we should consider the workload of the office and the fact that there are three State pathologists for the entire country and that the pattern of forensic evidence gathering has changed in recent years. Forensic evidence is vitally important and is used regularly in the criminal courts. Having regard to the fact that 200 or more relevant cases are dealt with on an annual basis, it is important that there be strong public confidence in the office. Post mortem examinations need to be carried out in emergency situations, suddenly and often without notice. It is essential, therefore, that there be optimal response times and that officials from the Office of the State Pathologist can get to far-flung parts of the island at very short notice. It is important that the regime in this regard be maintained.

I am somewhat concerned about the lack of service in cases in which there may not be an element of suspected foul play but the families of deceased persons experience extreme suffering and trauma. For example, a body might be discovered in my constituency on a Friday and there might not be anybody available to carry out an examination. In a very sad recent case, the body of a deceased person was not released to the family until four days after the death had occurred. That is simply not good enough.

If there are any doubts or issues in respect of the Office of the State Pathologist, I ask that the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, authorise a cross-departmental review. These are medico-legal issues. The office comes under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality but it also deals with matters relating to the Department of Health. By definition, the State pathologists are doctors and members of the medical profession. It is absolutely essential that both Departments be involved in the running of the office. I hope the issues surrounding the Office of the State Pathologist that are currently in the public domain will be dealt with in a way that ensures there is confidence in the system and that the office is operating satisfactorily and has access to adequate resources. I ask the Minister of State to address these issues in her reply.

Before I begin, I wish to express my admiration for Deputy Charles Flanagan. The way in which he spoke about this matter just shows how long years of involvement in a particular area can be used to one's benefit.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, is unable to take the matter as he is attending a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels.

As the Deputy will be aware, Dr. Khalid Jaber recently tendered his resignation from the post of deputy State Pathologist. His resignation has been accepted with immediate effect and he has been notified accordingly. The Minister fully appreciates that a number of issues arise at an operational level arising from the departure of Dr. Jaber. This is clearly the case because the functions undertaken by the Office of the State Pathologist are very important and can only be carried out by highly qualified and experienced medical personnel.

Following the resignation of Dr. Jaber, the primary service operated by the State Pathologist's office is being provided by the State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, and the deputy State Pathologist, Dr. Michael Curtis. This service is supplemented, as required, by Dr. Margot Bolster, assistant State Pathologist. In the overall context, it is a matter for the State Pathologist to determine how her office operates. In that regard, the Minister understands she is in the process of putting in place the necessary operational arrangements to take account of the resignation of Dr. Jaber.

In raising this Topical Issue the Deputy referred specifically to the service provided by the Office of the State Pathologist at weekends. This service operates on an on-call basis and is designed to ensure urgent requirements can be met. With particular reference to the circumstances to which the Deputy referred, the Minister has been informed by the State Pathologist that she has arranged for Dr. Bolster to assume on-call duties which would previously have fallen to be undertaken by Dr. Jaber.

The Minister has requested that I assure the Deputy and all Members that the question of finding a replacement for Dr. Jaber is being actively pursued by the Department. In this connection, the filling of the vacancy has been approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It will be necessary to have a high level competition to secure a suitable replacement for Dr. Jaber. This will be arranged in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service.

The Minister is also pleased that the provision of new accommodation for the State Pathologist's office at the former Whitehall Garda station is proceeding as a shared location project with the Dublin City Coroner. The current position is that the relevant architectural drawings are being finalised for the refurbishment of the building, with the necessary work to be undertaken and completed in 2014. It is the Minister's view that a professional and comprehensive pathology service will continue to be delivered by the Office of the State Pathologist and in that regard, he has full confidence in the State Pathologist, Professor Cassidy, and her staff.

I thank the Minister of State for the clarity with which she replied on behalf of the Minister. She has addressed many of my queries. However, two further issues arise. First, she has indicated that the move of the Office of the State Pathologist to the former Whitehall Garda station is proceeding as a shared location project with the Dublin City Coroner. Will she be more specific in terms of the timeframe for completion of the project? I hope the works will be undertaken in early 2014 as it is important that the project is completed in a timely manner. Second, speaking at a seminar last year, the State Pathologist, Dr. Marie Cassidy, reportedly warned that she and her colleagues, all of whom were in their 50s and had been trained abroad, were heading towards a time when they would be thinking of leaving the profession and that there was nobody being trained to replace them. She called for her profession to be officially recognised by the Medical Council in order that training could be established in Ireland. This is important in the context of the recent resignation from her office and the need to ensure a replacement, having regard to the fact that the entire country is covered by three officers who must deal with at least four cases per week. While I recognise and accept what the Minister of State said, I ask her to be more specific as to the type of recruitment competition that will take place. Is the Department resigned to having to recruit someone from abroad on the basis that we do not appear to have the necessary expertise at home? Is this a satisfactory position?

The works are due for completion in 2014. Given the type of work required when refurbishing an old building, I expect the project will be completed as quickly as possible next year. I fully accept the points the Deputy makes about people coming through the system in terms of training and expertise and the recruitment process will take place at a high level. We are prepared to offer a position to any person who is suitably qualified, irrespective of his or her location. It would be worthwhile examining the possibility of having someone appointed to the office on a training basis because academic and on-the-job training will be required and not everyone is suited to this type of work. I will raise the Deputy's concerns with the Minister.

Public Sector Allowances Payments

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the important issue of top-up payments made to senior executives of the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf in my Dublin constituency. I commend my colleague, Deputy Shane Ross, for highlighting issues of accounting and governance at the clinic at a recent meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts. When I first heard about these top-up payments, I was appalled and gutted. I speak as someone who has actively supported the Central Remedial Clinic for many years, both financially and politically in this House. I also felt let down and angry on behalf of the 4,000 families who use the clinic's services.

As part of the austerity measures, funding for the Central Remedial Clinic has been cut in recent years. We have now discovered that between €12 million and €14 million had been stashed away in an account. This is not an example of good practice.

Does the Minister agree that parents, service users and members of the public deserve clear answers on the top-up payments made to senior personnel in the Central Remedial Clinic? Who authorised these payments? Were the 4,000 families using the services of the clinic aware of them? Did the relevant authorities breach Government pay policy? What was the role of the Health Service Executive in the matter? Why does the Government lack the appetite to police voluntary organisations? Why has the Charities Act of 2009 not been implemented? While a charities regulator is to be established, it will not be effective until 2014.

Was there a cover-up in relation to the HSE and the CRC?

There is also a serious credibility issue here. The political advisers of both the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, got €35,000 over the pay cap with the special pay scale of €127,000.

I raise these issues because they are important. Parents and service users in the CRC are demanding answers and they want credible answers.

With the leaders' allowance, the previous speaker would know a great deal about top-ups. The Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, needs to be complimented-----

As Deputy O'Donovan will be aware, I am accountable.

The Minister needs to be complimented for initiating-----

It is up on my website for the past five years.

I cannot hear Deputy O'Donovan.

Deputy O'Donovan started it.

I thank the Acting Chairman. The truth hurts.

I use the money to employ staff.

I think I deserve a little time at the end.

Deputy O'Donovan should get his facts right.


At long last, the Minister is doing what we asked him to do.

I am finding it uncomfortable. Would Deputy Finian McGrath please desist?

The truth hurts. Deputy Finian McGrath knows that as well as I do.

Deputy O'Donovan would want to get his facts right.

There is 30 seconds gone and I presume the Acting Chairman will allocate me a little time.

Deputy O'Donovan is not to worry, I am a fair cathaoirleach.

I thank the Acting Chairman.

Deputy O'Donovan should get his facts right.

The Minister should be complimented for initiating the study which unearthed this in the first place. It strikes at the heart of the culture in these organisations. I am confident that this is not the only organisation in this position. I am also sure that this Department is not the only Department in this position either. What has been unearthed here is symptomatic of what was probably going on with a nod and a wink type culture which existed primarily under the previous Government of which the previous speaker was also a keen supporter.

One of the issues I want the Minister to address is the governance in many of the organisations that have been referred to, particularly the sections 38 and 39 ones. I refer to the holding of AGMs, the allowing of persons to become members of them, the accountability of board members and the suitability of board members. Also, there is a need for public-interest board members who can articulate the public's concerns but, more importantly, to be the eyes and ears for the Department in how its funding allocation has been spent.

I would also like to see the publication of reports of audits that have been carried out. The assignment of auditors is also important. While I would agree that the Committee of Public Accounts has a role in the matter, the role of other Oireachtas committees also needs to be looked at because, as I said at the start, I do not believe the Department of Health is the only Department that will unearth issues of this nature. The Minister's Cabinet colleagues need to be encouraged to initiate investigations across all organisations that are in receipt of funding from their respective Departments because what has been unearthed in the Central Remedial Clinic is symptomatic of what was wrong with this country for the previous 14 years in the type of cronyism and nepotism that has destroyed the country.

Support needs to be given to the Minister for Health but, in addition, space needs to be given to ensure the investigation is proper.

Deputy O'Donovan got an extra 30 seconds there.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity of addressing this issue briefly and I thank the Minister for Health and the two Ministers of State for coming into the Dáil today.

Shock waves have been sent down the spines of the Irish people in recent days and weeks and one of the reasons is that Irish people have shown themselves, time and again down through the years, to be the most generous people on this earth, supporting local, national and international deserving causes.

One of the issues I have concern about is the reports of the recent top-up payments to the chief executive and senior officials in Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross. It is one of Dublin's most famous charities and has been supported generously by the Irish people for many decades. It has been reported that a top-up payment of over €21,000 has been paid to the chief executive and two senior officials. Over a five-year period, that amounts to over €100,000. As far as I am concerned, that is a serious issue. It shows an absence of transparency. It shows an absence of accountability. It shows an absence of respect to the Irish people. My understanding is that this is funded by interest on an investment of over €2 million. The Irish people did not know about that. They deserve to know about that.

I ask the Minister to comment on that issue and state what we can do to ensure that confidence is restored to those charitable organisations to allow the people to continue to provide the generous support that they have been giving for many decades.

I thank Deputies Keating, O'Donovan and Finian McGrath for raising this issue.

As Minister for Health and a member of a Government that is currently trying to address an unprecedented financial crisis, I reiterate my commitment to ensuring that scarce public funds are expended on services, not on unsanctioned payments to senior managers.

Front-line staff in the health services are subject to the Government's pay policy and are also playing their part in the reform of the health services through new working practices and rosters. The same rules must be applied to senior managers as to those on the front line.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who work in the health services on the front line for the sterling work that they have done. Despite a reduction of 10% in staffing numbers and a 20% reduction in the budgets, they have improved the service, as is evident from the reduction of 34% in the number of those who must endure long trolley waits and meeting the one-year inpatient target in 2011 and the nine-month target in 2012, and they will meet the eight-month target for inpatient treatment this years and it is a significant credit to them.

In the light of the 2012 HIQA report on Tallaght Hospital, at my request the Secretary General of my Department wrote to the then CEO of the HSE in May 2012, asking him to take steps to ensure that senior managers in other section 38 agencies were not in receipt of remuneration in addition to the approved rates. On foot of this, the CEO of the HSE requested the HSE's internal audit directorate to undertake a review of remuneration in section 38 agencies. This exercise identified a significant number of cases in which senior personnel were in receipt of additional remuneration outside the terms of the approved pay scales.

In the light of these findings and having consulted with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, on 27 September 2013 my Department issued to the HSE a detailed pay policy for the health service, in particular organisations funded under section 38 of the Health Act 2004 to provide services on behalf of the executive. The pay policy makes clear that bodies funded under section 38 of the Health Act 2004 may not supplement approved rates of remuneration with either Exchequer funding or non-Exchequer sources of funding.

On 30 September 2013 the HSE wrote to each of the service providers concerned, providing them with the internal audit report and the pay policy, seeking confirmation that remuneration arrangements are in full compliance with this policy.

I met the Director General of the HSE earlier this week to receive an update on these matters. The HSE has a team of senior managers engaged in a detailed process, involving verification of the current position in each agency and the taking of all necessary follow-up steps to ensure compliance with Government pay policy. Meetings are currently being arranged with the organisations concerned.

In regard to the Central Remedial Clinic, the HSE has advised me that the unsanctioned payments arrangements entered into by CRC with its former CEO and other senior staff at the organisation were not at any stage agreed to or sanctioned by the HSE.

I will be monitoring this process closely and am satisfied that the HSE will take whatever action is necessary to achieve full compliance with Government pay policy from the agencies concerned and to ensure that any governance deficits identified are comprehensively rectified immediately.

The three Deputies have a minute each - three minutes in total - for supplementary statements.

I thank the Minister for his reply, particularly where he stated his commitment to ensuring scarce public funds are expended on services, not on unsanctioned payments to senior managers. That is what we all agree on.

My colleague, Deputy O'Donovan, should get his facts right. The dogs in the street know that the Independent Deputies use their allowances to employ extra staff.

I remind Deputy O'Donovan that the type of cronyism he is talking about has been going on under his Government's watch for the past two years. That is a fact. That cuts to services for people with disabilities are occurring is another fact. The Government cut the respite care grant, another fact. I will not take any lectures on that issue.

To return to the core issue, it is very important that people have confidence in the senior management of organisations that provide services for people with disabilities. It is important also that people know that the few extra bob that they give is going to services on the ground. That is what the families want and that is what the vast majority of citizens in this State want.

I welcome the Minister's statement but I urge him to ask his Cabinet colleagues to examine their own Departments because I am certain this issue is not confined to the Department of Health and I do not believe he should be carrying the can for it on his own. I ask him to examine issues within these section 38 and 39 organisations such as cars, bonuses and the pension arrangements in place for these people. Some people leading these so-called organisations are earning multiples of the Minister's salary and the Taoiseach's salary. There is a morality issue here for the service users, the parents of these children in many cases and the people who go out collecting the money. Those people are annoyed and distraught by what has been unearthed in the past week and to restore confidence and ensure that the charitable donations are not affected, this issue must be addressed head-on. Steps must be taken either through legislation or regulations to ensure it does not happen again and that there is proper governance in these organisations.

As someone who has spent many years on various boards of charitable organisations during my adult life, I am aware, as I am sure is the Minister, that there are more than 8,000 registered charities in Ireland. Given the news we have about these top-up payments, it is important to state that every member of every board has equal responsibility. It should not come down only to the chairperson, the financial director or controller, or the secretary. Every board member of every charitable organisation has a responsibility. We must ensure that a proper registry of charitable organisations is put in place. I have spoken to the Minister of this and he indicated that it would cost money to do that but we cannot afford to wait any longer given the news that we now know. Every charitable organisation must ensure that it has adequate transparency in its financial dealings, proper accountability, and in the times we are living in there must be proper corporate governance in every charitable organisation in this country. The Irish people deserve nothing less.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions. Obviously, this is a very disturbing development for people, especially people who have given so generously during these straitened times. They will be particularly disturbed to think that money they have given for a specific charitable purpose to look after those with disabilities could be used for other purposes.

I must remind Deputy Finian McGrath that these practices developed during previous Fianna Fáil-led Government regimes which he was happy to support.

I have instructed the HSE to write to the section 39 agencies also to ensure that those who are in receipt of large amounts of taxpayers' money be made compliant with public pay policy. I am sure my Government Cabinet colleagues will be examining the issue from their own perspective and that of their Departments. I would remind people that the HSE has engaged in a very careful process, one that will yield the result that we all want, which is total transparency, because transparency brings accountability and when one has accountability one can get fairness. That has been a core value of what we have been at in the Department of Health in terms of all our reforms.

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue. I appeal to people not to in any way lose faith with the long-held tradition of giving of themselves for the benefit of others who find themselves in more difficult situations.

Job Losses

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for the opportunity to raise this matter. Yesterday morning 150 staff from Pfizer's Newbridge plant were called in by management to be told that there would be 150 redundancies. The unions have expressed concern about the scale of the proposed redundancy and the shortness of the notice, and I agree with them on that. I understand a meeting is to take place tomorrow between management and the unions in an effort to save some of those jobs. I ask the Minister of State if any State agency has made contact with the company in advance of that meeting.

The Minister of State will be aware that these proposed redundancies are coming on the back of another redundancy scheme that started in 2010 and has just finished. It involved 275 people being made redundant. He will also be aware of the fact that when this new redundancy round takes place, if the 150 target is met, it will mean that a company that was employing 1,500 people two years ago will now be employing just over 500.

As Members will know, Pfizer is employing, very gainfully, more than 3,200 people in this country. It recently made 177 people redundant in its plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, expressed confidence that this does not reflect any wider problem within the pharmaceutical industry. Nevertheless, management gives as its reason for this particular round of redundancies the fact that the drug Lipitor is coming off patent. Can the Minister of State advise on what exactly the Minister, Deputy Varadkar's optimism is based? Can he give us an assurance that we are not going to see a constant drip-drip of fallout in the pharmaceutical industry as a result of the so-called patent cliff?

This is becoming a bit of a habit. Two weeks ago I unfortunately tabled a Topical Issue to deal with hundreds of job losses in the aircraft aviation maintenance sector and now 1,000 jobs in the pharmaceutical sector are on the line. Some 570 of those jobs are in Swords in my constituency. I know that plant well. It is an operation that has been in existence for well over ten years. It provides decent employment. If one was to read its website today one would think matters are great. It lauds the fact of recent investment in the plant, how the site was selected to manufacture a range of new products which were due to be launched in the next few years. It also lauds the fact that it has made a lot of recent investment in the accommodation in that area.

The announcement of the loss of 570 jobs in Swords in MSD Pharmaceuticals comes just after the announcement of the loss of 280 jobs by the same company in its plant in Wicklow that produces one of the active ingredients of its products. In essence, the second biggest pharmaceutical company in the world is axing its workforce in Ireland by one third. It claims that it has 9,000 indirect jobs based on these jobs, therefore, presumably we can say that another 3,000 jobs are also on the line. That is an almighty blow which undermines much of the great talk from the Government.

I have a few specific questions for the Minister of State. When the announcements were made about job losses in MSD, the IDA chief executive was unfortunate enough to say that we should not worry about this, that the organisation has a great track record in finding alternative buyers. He said it has facilitated the purchase of the site of MSD from global pharma companies such as Pfizer and Wyeth. Then a few days later Pfizer announced its job losses. Can the Minister of State tell us how many supports and grants have been given by the IDA to these industries? Are there problems in the pension funds in that plant? What meetings arranged by the IDA or other Government organisations have taken place with the employer and the unions? Have the Minister or his agencies given any attention to the idea of the plant continuing to operate as a going concern?

I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, who is out of the country on Government business.

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue and share their concern about the 570 jobs lost at the Merck Sharp and Dohme, MSD, site at Swords and the 150 jobs lost at the Pfizer site in Newbridge, County Kildare. I express my sympathy on the loss of the jobs and the impact on individuals and their families. Pfizer, like so many companies competing internationally, undertook a review of its operations with a view to reducing costs to ensure the future viability of the plant. This has resulted in 150 jobs losses in Newbridge. The global pharmaceutical industry is experiencing a number of challenges owing to patent expiry and over-capacity within manufacturing and, in this context, Pfizer is no exception. Greater efficiencies and competitiveness are continually being sought across all Pfizer sites in order to compete on the changing landscape. Pfizer is a leading pharmaceutical employer, with 3,200 employees across seven operations in Ireland. The company's capital investment in Ireland since its inception exceeds $7 billion. Pfizer has a key manufacturing presence here in active pharmaceutical ingredients, solid dose pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals. It also has shared services and commercial operations here. The Irish operations manufacture some of its best-selling medicines for arthritis, infectious disease, high cholesterol and cancer.

Pfizer has indicated that its other operations in Ireland will not be affected by the decision. In the past two years the company has made two significant investments in Ireland, most recently of €130 million in the Clondalkin and Ringaskiddy sites. Over 600 staff will still be employed in Newbridge. IDA Ireland is working closely with the company to ensure the best result for the site.

With regard to the MSD site at Swords, the company is a valued pharmaceutical investor in Ireland. While it announced some time ago the closure of the Rathdrum plant by 2015 - there is now this news about the site at Swords - it continues to employ over 1,100 staff in its other facilities in Ireland, located in Carlow, Cork, Tipperary and Leopardstown in Dublin. Significant investments have been made in these plants. Unfortunately, the company has had to undertake a review of its worldwide manufacturing capabilities to improve overall operational effectiveness. Following the merger of MSD with Schering Plough, the combined operation has excess manufacturing capacity worldwide. Accordingly, the company decided to close the Swords operation by 2017 and transfer production to other factories in the group located in countries abroad. The gradual shutdown of the plant gives a valuable space to seek a new operation for the factory. It is not anticipated that any staff will have to leave before mid-2014 at the earliest and that 130 jobs will be lost in the second half of 2014. The remaining positions will be phased out in the following three years up to the end of 2017.

The ultimate decision in both cases is made by the parent company on strictly commercial grounds and what is seen by the companies as being in the best interests of the group as a whole. We keep in close contact with key foreign companies about their operations in Ireland. My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, met senior US-based management in MSD last month. The Government has strategies for job creation that are now starting to bear fruit. Unemployment levels have started to reduce and we have had a number of good wins for the country in recent months. While it is of little immediate consolation to the employees of Pfizer and MSD, the macroeconomic indicators show jobs growth. In terms of foreign direct investment, Ireland continues to be attractive because of our corporation tax and research and development tax rates. Over 1,000 multinational corporations have chosen Ireland and they employ 146,000 people directly.

How many of the 150 redundancies in Pfizer will be compulsory? What training support will be given to those who find themselves out of a job as a result of these redundancies? The Government has been well aware of the potential difficulties associated with the patent cliff. Has it had discussions with pharmaceutical employers in the country about the possible implications in this regard and what has been the outcome of these discussions?

I refer to the MSD operation. The Minister of State has made the point that the company continues to employ staff and has made a substantial investment in other locations. As a substantial investment was made relatively recently in Swords, it is no guarantee of protection. The Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, met MSD management over one month ago. Was the issue discussed? Did management announce it would be shutting the Swords plant? What steps did the Minister take to cushion the blow? Workers only found out about it in the past ten days. Did the Minister ask why this was happening in Ireland? This is becoming a habit and multinational companies are gradually being chipped away. I appreciate that considerable numbers are employed in the multinational sector, on which we have a reliance for new jobs, but we are losing jobs that have been based here for decades. This has a lasting effect and the figures given by the Minister of State show that multinationals are small employers by comparison with small and medium-sized enterprises and the State and semi-State sectors. We must also look at these elements.

I cannot answer the questions about whether specific meetings have been held. Perhaps we might revert to the Deputies on that point.

I do not have the information sought in Deputy Willie O'Dea's first question, but we can find it for him. It is important to note that this is a vital sector in Ireland. We must acknowledge that if some of the entities are facing the patent cliff or are cost centres or profit centres, decisions are taken at corporate and headquarters level and that they have implications for sites such as those in Swords and Newbridge. These are private entities and we are at the mercy of decisions taken at corporate level. That does not mean, however, that we are not trying to anticipate global trends in the pharma sector. In the constituency of Deputy Willie O'Dea we announced the establishment of the SSPC research cluster. It brings the pharmaceutical industry together to look at future trends. While the State may be moving away from investment in research and drug discovery, not that we are taking the eye off the ball, and moving strategically towards manufacturing from the molecule to medicine, these investments, in which we partner the industry, will ensure the sustainability of the industry in this country. The industry has been located here for a long time, part of the reason for which is the current corporation tax rate. If we are to have a debate about trends in the sector, such companies are located here because of the corporation tax rate, the availability of human capital, access to research and development tax rates and research facilities such as the Niberg facility which opened over a year ago.

It is a bioprocessing facility.

It is important to put this on the record of the House, because quite a number of questions have been asked of me.

It is now on the record and the time is up.

The Minister of State has not answered any of the questions.

NAMA Operations

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this topic for debate. The statement yesterday from NAMA announcing senior bond redemptions totalling €700 million will have caught the attention of most of us. We may have had reservations about the establishment of NAMA - a unique body set up in what were unique times when the economy and banking system collapsed - and although we would have hoped such things would not happen, that was not the case. Unfortunately, questions must be dealt with, including the rebuilding of banks and the economy, and whatever our reservations about NAMA, it has a role to play. I had great reservations about NAMA, particularly when the progress that it would make was first indicated. I was not a Member at the time but I took some interest in the issue because I had just lost my job and NAMA was dealing with properties. As taxpayers, we contributed to the process of taking such properties into NAMA's ownership.

It is worth noting some of yesterday's statement from Mr. Frank Daly of NAMA. He said:

Three years ago, the board decided it would aim to reduce NAMA's debt by 25% by the end of 2013. We are very pleased that this first crucial milestone has now been met, despite the difficult market conditions that have prevailed in Ireland during the intervening period. The milestone attained today is an important one[.]

It is interesting that this achievement is exactly what was targeted three years ago. I will put my hands up and admit I thought it was a lot to ask, but factors have changed, although that has unfortunately not happened at the rate all of us would wish. We have a recovery, despite its limitations, which I welcome.

In a broader sense, those of us honoured enough to be elected to the Parliament have seen different things happening as we have come here at a time of deep recession. All of us were here the night the former Anglo Irish Bank was closed down, which was an important action. It was not just symbolic. In a week we will exit the bailout and kiss the troika goodbye, although they will still eye us up. Nevertheless, they are on the way.

Perhaps the Minister of State will clarify whether NAMA's lifespan extends to 2020, which is six years away. I have tried to determine whether, depending on the market, this period can be shortened, which would be very good news for all of us as taxpayers. The money invested by NAMA is our money. I have always said that we should not celebrate or crow about the closure of Anglo Irish Bank or exiting the bailout and that we should be reserved, but although I am sure there is a fine group in NAMA, the end of that body will be something to celebrate.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Finance. As Deputy Maloney knows, the Minister is otherwise engaged, but he has given me an extremely comprehensive answer to his question. The Deputy is correct; we were very dubious and cynical about NAMA, but it is seldom that we see an organisation set up to do a specific task hitting all its targets. That comes from a combination of factors.

The primary mandate given to NAMA by the Oireachtas is to recover, on behalf of the taxpayer, the consideration paid for the loans acquired from the five participating institutions in 2010 and 2011. Yesterday, NAMA announced that it had met its first major milestone in this regard, the redemption of €7.5 billion, or a quarter of its senior debt, by the end of 2013. The milestone attained yesterday is very significant not only for NAMA in terms of its own progress but also because it was a key troika target and it reinforces, at a critical time in our recovery, the very positive international perception of Ireland as a country that is resolutely addressing its difficulties and meeting its targets.

NAMA issued a total of €30.2 billion in senior bonds and yesterday's redemption leaves €22.7 billion outstanding. The NAMA board has set a target of redeeming another €7.5 billion in senior bonds by the end of 2016 and its expectation is that all senior debt will be redeemed by 2020, with the effect of removing this contingent liability of the Irish taxpayer. In order to meet its debt redemption targets, cash generation is key for NAMA. As of last Friday, NAMA had generated €15 billion in cashflows, including €10 billion in disposal receipts from property and loans sales and €5 billion in other income, mainly rental income from assets controlled by its debtors and receivers. NAMA has also secured over €800 million in additional security for debtors' loans by taking charges over previously unencumbered assets and by reversing transfers. Much of the cash generated has been applied towards repaying NAMA's senior debt and meeting its €7.5 billion target.

NAMA has also generated sufficient cash reserves to cover its costs, including debt interest and loan servicing fees. As the Deputy noted, that is a significant feat. It is important also to note that NAMA is self-funding, is not a draw on the Exchequer and therefore is not a burden for the Government in the context of its annual budgetary arithmetic. NAMA is also in a position, as a result of its strong performance, to invest in various commercial and residential projects which, when completed, are expected to yield returns to assist the economy. NAMA's strong cash performance is a result of its market activities and initiatives, which in turn are helping to stimulate transactions in the Irish property market and support investment and employment in the Irish economy.

I will set out some examples of NAMA's activities and initiatives and the impact these are having in the Irish economy. By approving asset sales by debtors and receivers, NAMA is releasing a substantial flow of properties into the market. Its debtors and receivers have sold more than 3,000 individual properties in Ireland to date and currently have over €2 billion of Irish residential and commercial property on the market.

There is a substantial amount of script remaining. Does the Minister of State wish to read it into the record?

Perhaps I can finish the paragraph. I can give what I have to the Deputy. It is a substantial response and this is a matter of extraordinary importance.

This includes a number of significant property and loan portfolio sales recently brought to the market in response to the increasing absorption capacity of the market here. These portfolios are attracting interest from large institutional buyers, including the promoters of recently established REITs.

This is a substantial reply.

This is an extraordinary success story. It points out to me, as somebody in the Government, the talent we have in Ireland for managing these issues. I will give the rest of the reply to the Deputy.

Does the Deputy have a copy?

Yes. The statement is very comprehensive and any queries I have are answered, particularly my question about the property market. It is the most comprehensive reply I have received in almost three years here.

The Deputy raised a very good question.

I thank the Acting Chairman, who is also very good. There is no need to take up any more time. It is worth repeating - this should not be taken as being disrespectful - that I look forward to NAMA completing its work. I also look forward to the end of dole queues and forced emigration from this country. I also look forward to an end in sight for people who are feeling stressed about their mortgages, etc. I hope we can move to a post-recession period, and part of getting there is the work of NAMA.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 December 2013.