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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 9 Dec 2014

Vol. 861 No. 1

Topical Issue Debate

Passport Controls

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for accommodating me in raising this issue. I express an interest at the outset by acknowledging that civil engineering is my profession. In fact, I understand I am the only civil engineer in the House. The contact I have had with Engineers Ireland regarding the idea of allowing civil engineers to sign section 7 of passport applications comes in the wake of that body's previous contacts with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Passport Office on this issue. Having spoken to a number of chartered engineers, both in Ireland and the United Kingdom, I have noted the differences that exist between the two jurisdictions. In the UK, engineers can sign passport applications on behalf of other citizens, a right that is shared with other professions such as Members of Parliament, dentists, fire service officers and even chiropodists. In Ireland, on the other hand, only a garda can sign section 5 of a passport application. Given that more than 600,000 people apply for a passport each year and it takes a garda, on average, five minutes to complete the relevant paperwork, that is the equivalent of approximately 30 gardaí being tied up with this task. Those 30 gardaí might be better placed fighting crime in communities. It is time to review our arrangements for approving passport applications.

I will focus this evening on section 7 of the passport application form, which deals with minors. Everybody under the age of 18 must have the consent of his or her parent or guardian to obtain a passport, and this consent must be witnessed. Witnesses can come from a number of sectors of society, including members of the Garda Síochána, members of the clergy, medical doctors, lawyers, bank managers, elected public representatives, commissioners for oaths, peace commissioners, school principals and vice principals, and accountants. Thus far, the Department has rejected repeated requests from Engineers Ireland for the inclusion of chartered engineers in this category of persons. As Engineers Ireland has pointed out, engineers have an ethical and legal status that is well established in law. It is entirely reasonable to suggest that a profession whose integrity is perhaps more intact in the public mind at this time than that of bank managers, lawyers or even some members of the clergy should be allowed to perform this particular function. Their doing so would reduce the paperwork burden on other professions and, as such, I do not expect that members of those professions would object to chartered engineers being afforded the same status as them in this regard.

I understand the Department keeps this matter under review. Will the Minister of State give an update on the status of the most recent request by Engineers Ireland for the inclusion of chartered engineers?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. The Passports Act 2008 requires that before issuing a passport to a child, the passport service should be satisfied that each person who is a guardian of the child consents to the issue of a passport to that child. Section 7 of the passport application form addresses this issue by requiring all guardians to confirm their consent in writing in the presence of a witness. The witness, who may not be a relative, must come from a wide range of accepted signatories, including elected public representatives, notaries public or commissioners for oaths, peace commissioners, lawyers, school principals, police officers, accountants, bank managers, medical doctors and members of the clergy. Applicants are also advised that the passport service may undertake checks to validate the signatory for the purpose of ensuring that no attempts were made to apply falsely for a passport for a child.

The list of approved witnesses was prepared to provide generic categories which could be found not only in this State but also in other countries around the world. Whereas it might be possible within the State to identify those who are members of the profession of chartered engineers, as they are additionally members of Engineers Ireland, this would not be possible outside the State, where representative bodies vary from country to country. The passport service is of the view that the categories of approved witnesses who may sign section 7 of the passport application form are sufficiently broad. Accordingly, it is not intended to extend the list of witnesses further to include chartered engineers at this time. However, as the categories are kept under regular review, the question of extending further is something that can be considered again at a future date. For now, in the light of the sufficiently broad range of categories already covered, the Department is in agreement that there should not be an extension on this occasion.

I thank the Minister of State for his clarification, which is something we did not receive in the past.

The reasoning as to why recognition is not being provided could be extended to other professions, which also have different representative bodies in various countries. Those bodies vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We might consider the position with regard to the European engineer, EUR ING, professional qualification, for which chartered engineers in this country are entitled to apply, because it may provide a way forward. I will discuss the Minister of State's reply with my colleagues and the experts in the field. I will also ensure to forward a copy to Engineers Ireland because it may be of assistance in progressing matters. I thank the Minister of State for his time.

As already stated, no one would in any way suggest that civil engineers are not capable of fulfilling this very important function. I also indicated earlier that there is a need to have a generic or broad list of individuals from groups throughout the world who are clearly identifiable. It is not really intended that the list can never change. However, such a change is not envisaged at present. The list is kept under review. I again thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.

Offshore Islands

I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter. I also thank the Minister, Deputy Kelly, for coming to the House to take it. I know he is aware of some of the issues which are affecting funding for the non-Gaeltacht islands. There has been a differentiation with regard to the funding for Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht islands. The former are primarily funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, while there is a patchwork of funding streams for the non-Gaeltacht islands which dates back to the time of the rainbow coalition which held power from 1994 to 1997. The latter was the first Administration to commit to provide funding for non-Gaeltacht islands. Funding was originally provided by the then Department of Social Welfare and was very modest in nature. From 2001 to 2009, funding was provided by the then Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs. Since 2009, funding for non-Gaeltacht islands has been delivered by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government via the local community development programme. Each of the islands in question would have service level agreements with Comhar na nOileán and Comhdáil Oileán na hÉireann, the Irish Islands Federation.

Much of the funding in question would have related to community development officers on a few of the islands. Some of those officers would have overseen multiple islands in the context of the provision of after-school services, play groups, services for the elderly, youth services, employment support, advocacy services, rural social schemes, rural transport and tourism projects. Such services are provided by a range of agencies on the mainland and tend to be taken for granted by citizens. The community development officers to whom I refer built up quite a track record in the context of delivery. In Civil Service speak, it might be stated that they had developed a competency or capacity in this regard. Essentially, this means that they were trusted by the relevant agencies and Government Departments to provide a one-stop-shop facility in the context of the delivery of State services. This has been the position on the non-Gaeltacht islands for some years. I recall stories to the effect that decades ago, before the funding to which I refer was put in place, the local national school teacher or parish priest would have been the go-to person in terms of getting what was required for a particular island. Those days are gone. The challenge for the islands is to obtain funding through the community development officers, who have done a fantastic job.

The Minister is aware of the difficulties being encountered by island residents, whether in terms of putting their children through national school, fighting for access to services and trying to obtain acknowledgement to the effect that life on offshore islands can be quite difficult and challenging. The maintenance of development funding, to be disbursed by community development officers, is critical not only in terms of the day-to-day running of the islands but also in the context of maintaining population levels and fighting to obtain additional services. Successive Governments have for too long seen the islands as being a burden on the State. That is not the case; they are a resource which should be funded.

I look forward to the Minister's reply. I am aware he has done a great deal of work on this matter. I thank him for facilitating dialogue in respect of it between his Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Progress has been made but there is more to be done.

I thank Deputy Harrington for raising this matter. I am aware that it is extremely important to him and to most of the Deputies who live in coastal constituencies. Along with Deputy McCarthy and a number of others, he has raised this matter on previous occasions.

My Department's local community development programme, LCDP, is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. The most recent programme officially ended at the end of 2013, having operated for four years and provided funding of €281 million during that period. It is being implemented on a transitional basis for 2014, with a budget of €47 million, pending the roll-out of the new social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, in April 2015. I believe it was the appropriate and necessary decision to make that intervention.

My Department currently provides LCDP funding to Comhar na nOileán Teoranta, the company with responsibility for delivering the programme to the offshore islands. In 2014 the Department allocated €527,272 to the company for the delivery of the LCDP to the offshore islands of Bere, Sherkin, Inishturk, Inishbofin and Clare. I am quite familiar with some of these islands and passed through the Deputy's constituency on my way to visit them. In terms of the successor programme, SICAP, the intention is that island areas will be eligible for inclusion in the tendering process, which is currently underway and is due to be completed in February 2015. The SICAP funding allocations are informed by a specific resource allocation model, RAM, which focuses on relative disadvantage of individual areas. Using this model brings logic and consistency to funding allocations and means each funded group receives a fair share of resources. The procurement process for SICAP was open to local development companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations that can provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new programme. In stage 1, joint applications were encouraged and organisations of varying sizes, for example smaller organisations working in consortia with larger ones, were invited to submit joint applications.

Discussions have taken place and are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, which has lead responsibility for the islands, in response to the issues raised regarding the continuation of funding for the development offices on a number of non-Gaeltacht Islands. This reflected the fact that the issues involved are broader than just those relating to SICAP, which I acknowledge. I assure the Deputy that both Departments fully understand the importance of the community development infrastructure on these islands. I and my colleagues, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, who has a particular responsibility in this area, will be ensuring that both our Departments continue to collaborate to agree a workable solution into the future. In the meantime, LCDP funding for the groups concerned will continue until the end of March 2015.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I note the work that has been done in this area by the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy McHugh, and Deputy McCarthy. As the Minister indicated, there is an uncertainty with regard to funding for Bere Island, Sherkin Island, Dursey Island, Whiddy Island, Long Island, Hare Island, Inishbofin, Inisturk and Clare Island because they are non-Gaeltacht islands.

I encourage the Minister to consider a more long-term solution to copperfasten funding for the non-Gaeltacht islands. The work the federation does is invaluable and it is under pressure. The population on each of the islands, bar none, is under severe pressure. Various censuses over the years show a very worrying trend. The loss of services results in a vicious downward spiral. Since this country is an island at the periphery of the European continent, we should look after our inhabited offshore islands and go a bit further to support them and recognise that they comprise a resource. They have tremendous tourism appeal. The Government has recognised the difficulties island farmers have in terms of access, and they are to get an extra payment owing to islands being areas of natural constraint. The islanders get increases in capital funding, also for access. The funding for the development offices and officers will provide continuing comfort for island inhabitants and ensure their health, welfare and education. It will enhance tourism and employment prospects.

As I stated, the advocacy group is a one-stop shop for liaising with the State agencies and Departments and highlights the difficulties island people have. These difficulties are not very well understood unless one has spent time and lived on islands. I thank the Minister and look forward to further discussions and agreement on how the funding will be copperfastened over the coming weeks.

I understand the issues facing many of these islands. I have been on them, particularly when I was an MEP or, more appropriately, when trying to become an MEP. The islands are fantastic places and there is general acceptance that the vital infrastructure already put in place needs to be maintained. Subject to available funding, we will do everything we can, working with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to ensure the structures and services that are in place will be maintained in the coming years. Whatever discussions and negotiations are necessary to ensure appropriate services are maintained will be engaged in. I have given this assurance previously, as I stated to Deputy Michael McCarthy, and I am offering assurance to Deputy Harrington this evening. I certainly believe that, through working with the other Department, we will be able to find enough resources to ensure services will be maintained within existing funding constraints. I am quietly confident, given the initial and ongoing discussions between the Departments, that we will be able to get there. I certainly believe the services on the islands need to be maintained. It is certainly the intention of the Government to maintain them.

Local Authority Housing Rents

Over the past three years, there has been much austerity coming from the Government. This has made life harder for struggling people on low and middle incomes. Some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable in society are tenants of local authorities. This is because of the very narrow parameters one has to fit between in order to be able to apply for social housing and the even more narrow parameters required for a person to actually be housed. People who fit into the first set of parameters almost always end up in private accommodation, receiving rent supplement that costs the State nearly €350 million annually. Recent rent increases in the private sector have pushed rent supplement to the limit and have done massive harm to many families. Far too many people have been made homeless due to these rent increases, so much so that there are record numbers in need of emergency accommodation. This kind of accommodation is bursting at the seams due to the failure of the Government to protect tenants from rent increases by implementing rent controls.

In the case of local authority homes, rent is controlled and it is much less likely that a tenant will lose his home. This is welcome, but the Government needs to strike a balance by having rent that is both fair and affordable. This balance has been struck in many ways, but we are dealing with people who live on extremely tight budgets and who have been the victims of many cuts over the past three years. The cut to the dole for young people was particularly hard. Increases in utility costs and the cuts to the household benefit, in addition to all the supplementary payments that must be made, took their toll on people living in council housing. The impending water charges loom large in the minds of these people. They will not pay, simply because they cannot pay.

Next summer a new rent scheme will come into place that will set base levels and thresholds for rent, in addition to bands. These may not change much, but there are some projections indicating that rents could increase for some people who really cannot afford to pay anything more. It may be an indictment of our economy and many other factors, but it is a reality that must be considered when setting the basic criteria for how local authority rent is charged.

I wish to ask the Minister about voluntary housing bodies and their rent levels. We recently saw the obscene set of circumstances in which a property that the State helped to develop was left idle because a Catholic housing association in Dublin was refusing to accept rents in line with the reality of what people could pay. Instead, it wanted market prices. Of course, most approved housing bodies charge a fair level of rent, give good service and are always eager to have their homes occupied, but a lesson must be learned from that. Common sense eventually did prevail.

Councils and approved bodies must continue to allow people to rent at a fair and affordable price. Will the Minister commit to not changing the rent scheme in any way that would result in higher rents? Senior citizens and such people who pay a certain rent could be affected if the proposals are implemented. I have examined some of the rent levels and am extremely worried that the new rent scheme will be much more disadvantageous. I ask the Minister to consider it very carefully. I realise we will be debating it thoroughly in 2015, but I just believe we need to examine it carefully now. I am worried about the bands that are being proposed.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. With regard to the issue he raised about the housing body, I know what he was referring to. As he is aware, discussions took place last night in order to solve the problem. I am happy that it is certainly moving in the right direction. Having said that, I share some of the Deputy's concerns and attitudes in respect of ensuring common sense prevails.

Consistency and fairness are at the heart of the new differential rent framework. Responsibility for setting local authority rents has been devolved as an executive function to individual local authorities since 1986. Under the new scheme, this will become a reserved function. While all housing authorities charge rents known as differential rents, related to the income of tenant households, the amount of rent varies from local authority to local authority across the country. This has led to a situation whereby similar households in comparable accommodation are charged varying amounts of differential rent depending on where they live and the local authority letting the accommodation. The rent regimes in individual local authority areas also differ on issues such as the types and amounts of income that are reckonable for differential rent purposes. There is no justification for this disparate and inconsistent approach to rent setting for accommodation that is funded wholly by the Exchequer. There are many cases that cause great concern, so this needs to be addressed.

Section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 facilitates significant harmonisation of local authority rent levels while retaining the principle of having rents related to household income and leaving some discretion to individual authorities to determine rent policies in their areas. The new system, however, will be more equitable, transparent and consistent, with regulations providing for a base charge for each household member, amounting to €30 per week in the case of single-person households, which is identical to the rent contribution paid by single persons in receipt of rent supplement, and €45 per week for couples. Households with incomes in excess of thresholds to be set in regulation, which will be related to household composition, will also be required to pay a differential charge of a proportion of their income above the threshold.

Individual housing authorities are already empowered under the Housing Acts to include charges in the rent relating to the costs of works and services provided to dwellings.

The Government's Social Housing Strategy 2020, published a few weeks ago, indicated that the necessary statutory instruments will be made in the first quarter of next year to commence the process of introducing the new rents framework. The elected members of each local authority will then have a number of months to make their first rent scheme under the 2009 Act within the parameters laid down in the regulations.

A further commencement order will be made later in 2015 introducing rent charging under section 31. On the introduction of section 31 rents, housing authorities will have a two-year transitional period during which they will continue to set rents at their own discretion thus affording them the opportunity to move in incremental steps towards the rent levels that will apply on expiry of the transitional period.

Under an amendment of section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, the new rent framework will apply also to rent contributions payable by beneficiaries under the new scheme of housing assistance currently being piloted by seven housing authorities. In the new year, I will prescribe the rent contributions payable in respect of housing assistance during the two-year transitional period for the introduction of the new rent framework.

I agree that the practice in local authorities varies. That needs to be sorted out because it has been a hindrance and certainly has not been fair. I am totally in agreement with the Minister on that.

I am worried that in some ways this may cost a bit more. I mentioned the senior citizens and those who made financial contributions. Many of them made considerable contributions and ended up paying rent on top of that. In some cases in the past, I found tenants passed away within a short period and were still paying rent. Often they also pay, on top of their rent, for a boiler service and other matters.

There has also been a situation where differential rents, which has been used by Dublin City Council, have put the rents up so high. If a tenant's income increases, his or her rent goes as high, in some cases, as €200 or €300 per week. That does not make sense. Some voluntary housing bodies place caps on the maximum rent payable. We should be looking at providing for such a maximum and what that should be. It is ridiculous. I hold a local authority tenancy and I was paying €80 per week. Since I became a Deputy, I have been paying nearly €300 per week. It is wrong. We should be encouraging social housing, not discouraging it.

I note the Minister plans to reintroduce the tenant-purchase scheme. We should also include in it that the proceeds of the scheme should be ringfenced for social housing. In the past, it ended up in a pile and did not go where it should have gone.

I have reservations about this scheme. We need to look much more carefully at some of the band levels the Minister has set and discussed. He is setting them a little lower and that will cause serious problems.

This is something on which Deputy Ellis has considered views. In fairness, we are not a million miles apart on it. We agree. The two-year interim period is the period that we will use to sort out any issues that may arise. That is why I wanted it to be a two-year period. We need something consistent and fair and that shows tenants in the same bands are treated in the same way. Over the local authorities, if one analyses some of the rents that are being paid in various different local authorities, they do not stack up side by side as regards being fair and equitable.

We outlined the process by which we will do this. The two-year interim period will iron out any issues. I do not expect there to be many issues but that period can be used in that regard. I also point out that this is something that local authorities and many local authority members have requested. Of course, there will be a change in rents as a result of this. These changes will not be significant. I might also add that in some cases the rents will reduce. There will be an equilibrium.

In my time, which predates my time in this role, many local authority members across all political parties and none, and many local authority housing representatives, officials and CEOs, have requested that this be looked at. The framework, which leverages on previous legislation, including that introduced by previous Administrations, is welcome and is something that should be introduced.

I agree with Deputy Ellis on the tenant-purchase scheme. The tenant-purchase scheme is something I am initiating as part of the social housing strategy. I want to do so because it is critically important that we give tenants an opportunity to purchase their own homes. I also want to ensure the scheme is fair and equitable and that it will work. That is why a lot of energy will go in to ensure that happens. It is necessary because tenants should aspire to be able to purchase their own homes. I hope the scheme will operate in various different ways in order to facilitate tenants of different circumstances to be able to purchase their own home which is something we all desire.

National Car Test

At the outset, I am disappointed by the way Topical Issues has been put to the end of the day's business. The introduction of the Topical Issue Debate was about improving this House's communication with the public. Topical Issues was about identifying issues of real concern to people that would be tabled at a time of the day that would allow it fit in to the regular news cycle, and be used as a methodology of communicating with the people. I am disappointed with the way the business has been ordered today, but that is as an aside.

I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, for being here. I appreciate his presence for what I believe to be an important issue.

The Minister is correctly dealing with the issues around death and injury on the road. He correctly decided, in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority, to introduce increased penalty points and the introduction of penalty points for the first time for a number of offences that heretofore were dealt with differently. It is part of a progressive and multilayered approach in this House to dealing with death and injury on the road.

There is some difficulty with the choreography. It is putting the cart before the horse. In my experience, across quite a number of NCT test centres, a delay exists in scheduling such tests. It can vary. In some instances, the delay can be up to four months. In others, it can be three months. Of course, there are areas where it is not quite so difficult to schedule a test.

The fact is, though, that there are drivers today who find themselves not having an NCT. They attempted to book a test a number of weeks ago and, because of the backlog of delays, now find themselves not only outside the law as they always would have been, but in a position where there is a potential to gain penalty points. That is particularly worrying and disturbing. I accept that discretion can be exercised by gardaí but the introduction of these penalty points offences should not have taken place until such time as there was a relatively quick turnaround in providing citizens with access to an appropriate test. That is the first point.

In addition, the Minister will be aware of an issue that has arisen in relation to penalty points. We read with concern about it today on the front page of the Irish Independent, where the journalist, Mr. Niall O'Connor, has a story which seems to emanate from within the Department. It is irrelevant where it emanated from. It seems to be a serious issue. The Minister indicated he has referred this issue to the Attorney General and that in due course he will have some information.

Before the Attorney General comes back to the Minister, can Deputy Donohoe tell the House tonight what is the genesis of the problem that has raised his concerns? What is the extent of the problem? What is the scale of it? How many penalty points are involved here? How many drivers potentially have issues, either positive or negative from their perspective?

How many drivers are affected? What is the Minister's perception of the impact of such a problem, if it exists? I accept and understand that the Minister is waiting for the advice of the Attorney General to establish whether there is an issue in the first instance, but pending that, could he answer some of the questions I have raised in that regard?

I thank Deputy Dooley for raising this matter. He is correct that the entire objective of the session is to raise topical issues. The original issue raised related to the national car test, NCT, but I will also respond to the questions he has asked regarding the events of today.

First, I wish to refer to changes to the penalty points regime which came into effect yesterday, and the particular change to which Deputy Dooley referred with regard to the NCT system and the need for a certificate. The Deputy referred accurately to the history of the matter, but I wish to highlight one point for the record. Deputy Dooley correctly stated that it has for some years been an offence to use a vehicle on public roads without a valid NCT certificate. The only point I would add is that in the past this offence always involved a direct summons to court and the assignment of five penalty points on conviction. What has now changed is the introduction of a fixed charge notice system. If someone is charged with an offence, he or she will now be issued with a fixed charge notice and, on payment of the €60 charge, will have three penalty points assigned to his or her licence. The driver will continue to have the option of going to court, where five points will still apply on conviction. The key change is the option of compliance with a fixed charge notice and the assignment of three penalty points instead of going directly to court.

In response to the Deputy's point about current waiting times for NCT tests, I have been in constant contact with the Road Safety Authority, RSA, on the matter, and it has informed me that the best way for people to get their appointment is to call the NCTS call centre directly on 01 4135992 rather than booking a test on the website. I am currently examining regional waiting times. I have been in contact with the RSA and it is already aware of the issue. It has put extra staff in place for the period during which most of the tests are likely to be carried out. An additional 50 staff will be in place across the centres. I will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that as many people as possible get the NCT test as required.

The most up-to-date statistics indicate that for the week commencing 24 November, a total of approximately 25,000 NCT tests were carried out. Of those, 9,000 were late or very late - meaning their due test date was in the past; a further 1,450 related to tests that should have been carried out in 2013; and 13,200 were early compliant requests - that is, taking advantage of the facility that was instituted in September to avail of early tests up to 90 days prior to the test due date. Additional staff are now in place. It is my information that 200,000 cars in the State currently do not have a valid NCT certificate. The change has been advertised since the start of September and additional staff are in place. I will continue to closely examine regional waiting times. I responded to the issue raised by the Deputy, but if he has further questions he wishes to raise with me on the other matter, I will respond to him.

I appreciate the Minister's approach to dealing with the matter on a regional basis and I welcome his announcement of additional testing staff. I recognise that the Minister is not in a position to encourage the Garda to exercise discretion, but I hope that until such time as the backlog has been addressed, the penalty by way of fixed notice will not be enforced. I hope common sense will prevail, particularly in cases in which a test has already been scheduled. Perhaps some direction could be given to the Garda or a statutory instrument might be required to ensure that pending the alleviation of the backlog, having a test scheduled would ensure the certificate is valid until such time as a test has taken place and at such time the car would either pass or fail. I would prefer if the Minister would use the available time to address the other issue I raised.

I will continue to monitor the situation. The average waiting time for tests currently is 11 days nationally. I am looking at how it stacks up per centre to address the very point to which Deputy Dooley referred.

On the earlier point regarding the concerns aired today on the operation of the penalty points system - the Deputy also asked me questions on the matter at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications earlier today - I received notification from my Department that an issue had arisen with the implementation of some penalty points. Upon receipt of the information, I immediately contacted the Attorney General to find out the necessary course of action I would need to take to deal with the matter. I expect to receive formal advice on the matter tomorrow. Deputy Dooley inquired whether I could tell him what the specific offences are, but I cannot do that at the moment because if a potential issue needs to be dealt with, given that it relates directly to road safety and the integrity of our road safety system, I wish to be sure I know exactly what the issue is and how the matter could be addressed. In order to do that, I will require the advice of the Attorney General, which I expect to receive tomorrow morning. I absolutely understand how central the credibility of our penalty points system is and the need to deal openly with any points or concerns people have in that regard. When I have received the advice and it becomes apparent that I need to take a certain course of action, be it legislative or otherwise, I will organise a briefing on the matter for Deputy Dooley and also for Deputy Ellis so that people are aware of the issue. I will answer any questions on the matter before it comes to the Dáil, if that is the course of action required.