Topical Issue Debate

Tourism Promotion

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this Topical Issue, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, for coming to the House to address the topic. I hope the Minister can give us a positive update today on the potential for investment by Bord Fáilte in tourism facilities on Malin Head. While the role of distributing investment is primarily for Bord Fáilte, the Minister allocates funding to it. He has stood four-square behind Bord Fáilte's Wild Atlantic Way initiative. I very much welcome the initiative, the Minister's support of it and the investment that has been provided to put facilities in place in different parts of the country. I encourage the Minister to continue it through further investment.

Donegal is already seeing the benefits of the Wild Atlantic Way. There has been an increase in visitor numbers which will continue. The initiative puts forward the very real merits of Donegal's tourist product, of which people are aware. Crucial to it, as the Minister knows, is ensuring the facilities are in place to match the concept. While we have the natural landscape, the people and the businesses that are willing to tap into it, we need the tourist infrastructure to be put in place. County Donegal is fortunate to have three of the 15 signature points along the Wild Atlantic Way, namely, the Slieve League cliffs, Fanad Head lighthouse and Malin Head. The county also has 30 of the 150 way points on the Wild Atlantic Way. Overall, Donegal has approximately one fifth of the signature points and way points of the Wild Atlantic Way. There has recently been investment in the Slieve League cliffs. There has also been a very welcome investment in Fanad Head lighthouse, where accommodation is due to open after investment through the Commissioners of Irish Lights working with Donegal County Council and Bord Fáilte. More investment needs to be allocated there to finish the product and deliver toilet and reception facilities there. I commend the participants for the progress made there.

However, today I wish to talk about Malin Head. The local community has been working very hard, along with Donegal County Council and its director of services, Michael Heaney, and Bord Fáilte through Joan Crawford in the county, on putting in place plans which can be brought forward. I commend the local councillor, Martin McDermott, who has worked very hard on this, along with Malin Head Community Association and the Malin Head working group under the auspices of Inishowen Development Partnership, IDP, which, along with the Loughs Agency, has already invested in phase one development at Malin Head, which includes walkways and a viewing platform. Today, I am asking the Minister for an update on funding for phase two, to include toilet facilities, of which there are none, and parking for buses and cars. Donegal County Council approved planning permission for the initiative last Monday and the way is clear for Bord Fáilte to come forward with funding. If it does so, work can begin very promptly. I hope the Minister will have some positive news for us today.

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland's first long distance touring route. It stretches along the Atlantic coast from the Deputy's county to west Cork. Funding was provided in 2014 and 2015 for capital investment for the development of the route. This funding was initially directed towards route signage and developing the 160 discovery points along the route. Last year, Fáilte Ireland and Donegal County Council completed the Wild Atlantic Way signage programme in the Inishowen area. Fáilte Ireland also worked with Donegal County Council on a programme of remedial works for Wild Atlantic Way discovery points. There are 36 of these in Donegal, including ten in Inishowen. This work is 90% complete in Donegal.

The next stage of infrastructural development which will be rolled out along the Wild Atlantic Way in 2015 is the installation of photo points and interpretation panels at all 188 discovery and embarkation points, of which there are 36 in Donegal. These panels are being fabricated and their installation will commence in Donegal in July. While the route is still being fully developed, the Wild Atlantic Way has already become a central part of our overseas promotion. That said, given how long it takes to get on the international travel map, I expect it will be this year and next before the route gets the recognition it needs and deserves among potential tourists. I am happy that the Wild Atlantic Way project will bring more overseas visitors to Donegal and in particular to Inishowen.

As the Deputy knows, Donegal is greatly renowned for its rugged coast and attractive beaches and is steeped in history and folklore. The area has something for all tastes, including walking, fishing, swimming and photography. It is also close to the splendid golf courses in Inishowen, such as Portsalon and Ballyliffin. Malin Head is a key signature point on the Wild Atlantic Way and a key stop on the route. While it is one of three signature points on the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, it is of the greatest importance, marking the most northerly signature point on the route and is already an iconic location.

Regarding further development of Malin Head discovery point, while my Department provides funding to Fáilte Ireland for investment in tourism projects such as the Wild Atlantic Way, it is not, as the Deputy has acknowledged, involved in developing or managing these projects. The allocation of grant funding is a matter for the board of Fáilte Ireland. However, I am aware that planning permission was granted this week for some basic facilities at Malin. I am also aware that Fáilte Ireland is working closely with Donegal County Council on the development of a more comprehensive and integrated plan that will reflect the significance of the Malin Head signature point. It is hoped this will lead to an application by Donegal County Council for funding for the development of Malin Head. In taking this development forward, both Fáilte Ireland and the council must have regard to the sensitivity of the landscape. That said, both Fáilte Ireland and I fully appreciate the need for State investment in tourist facilities at Malin Head. Fáilte Ireland regards Malin as a priority location for investment.

I welcome that Bord Fáilte regards Malin Head as a priority location for investment but it is crucial that there is no delay in the development of tourist facilities there. Donegal County Council is working with Bord Fáilte to deliver the project in three phases. The first phase, which involves construction of the walkways and viewing platform, is complete. Planning permission was granted this week for phase two, which will provide toilets and car parking facilities. Phase three will involve the development of an iconic destination facility at Malin Head as a major attraction for tourists.

There should be no delay in providing basic facilities for tourists, including toilets and additional parking spaces for buses and cars. Currently, there are no toilet facilities on Malin Head even though it is visited by 100,000 people every year. Work also needs to continue on the iconic project. I ask the Minister to emphasise to Bord Fáilte the importance of backing financially the phase two development. The future is bright for Malin Head and tourism in County Donegal. It is time that Malin Head took its place as one of Ireland's key tourist attractions. That will require everyone to work together. I thank the local community, Malin Head community association, Inishowen Development Partnership, local representatives and, in particular, Councillor Martin McDermott for their efforts with Donegal County Council and Bord Fáilte to progress this project. I look forward to working with the Minister and other stakeholders to develop Malin Head to its full potential.

I have had an opportunity to spend some time in the Deputy's county. Counties Donegal and Kerry are the two counties where one can take either fork in a road and still be on the Wild Atlantic Way. That reflects the length and comprehensive nature of the route, as well as the great work that local authorities have done to take advantage of this initiative to rejuvenate local tourism. The projects to which the Deputy refers, including the Wild Atlantic Way and the great Irish lighthouse project, are funded by the Government. We are committed to tourism and balanced regional development and want to make the most of what every part of our country has to offer.

Bord Fáilte regards further development of Malin Head as an integral part of the future of the Wild Atlantic Way in terms of being its northernmost point. The area is already a strong attraction but I think it can do even better in the years to come as part of the Wild Atlantic Way. I will discuss the points raised by the Deputy with the board of Fáilte Ireland but it I think it is already aware of the matter. I always work within the Government to secure any funding that becomes available to develop facilities of this nature.

Road Projects Status

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for taking it. He has had a busy day and I am grateful that he remained in the Chamber for this discussion. As he will be aware from our previous conversations, the N22 project is vital for the south-west region. Upgrading the N22 would have major a social and economic impact for the region. My colleague, Deputy Michael Creed, who lives in Macroom, also views the project as a high priority.

I ask the Minister to treat the project as a priority for capital investment because it is badly needed in counties Cork and Kerry. The economic benefits of improving the N22 would be far-reaching for both counties. Killarney is only 50 miles from Cork but it feels like 100 miles when one is driving along the current road. It would open up a new jobs market to people living in County Kerry by making it viable to commute to Cork safely and in a timely manner. That would go a long way to solving Kerry's unemployment problem. It would also make County Kerry more easily accessible from Cork for short breaks and more attractive for investment. There would also be social benefits by, for example, making it easier to travel from County Kerry for medical treatment. It is an unfortunate feature of many people's lives that they have to travel to Cork for treatment along a road that is unsafe and difficult. Furthermore, Macroom is currently choked with traffic and a bypass would benefit the town.

In regard to safety issues, I was shocked to receive figures from the Minister for Justice and Equality which showed that 41 people lost their lives since 1990 on the stretch of road between Ballyvourney and Ovens, with a further 61 people being seriously injured. That equates to four people being killed or seriously injured every year along that section of the route. An upgraded road would be much safer.

I understand the cost of phase one of the project, which involves the section from Ballyvourney to the Cork side of Macroom, is approximately €160 million, but it has a cost-benefit rating of three plus. I commend the Minister and his predecessor, Deputy Leo Varadkar, for progressing the project in recent years in order that it is shovel ready. When we are in a position to allocate funds, I urge the Minister to do all he can to bring this project to fruition.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue with me once again. He acknowledged the work that Deputy Michael Creed has done on this project. I am not being flippant when I say every time I see Deputy Brendan Griffin or Deputy Michael Creed I think of the Ballyvourney to Macroom project. Both Deputies are constantly raising the project with me. The fact that the road is not being progressed in the way the Deputies want is in no way due to a lack of advocacy or support on their part. The project is affected by the financial circumstances in which the country finds itself and which are now beginning to change. At some point in the future we will have the capacity to progress projects like this one. I am aware that the project was approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2011 and I acknowledge that it has considerable merit.

In recognition of this, we have tried to find ways to keep the project active. I have allocated €5 million to the National Roads Authority to continue with land acquisition for the project to allow progress to be made if and when we get to a point where the project in its entirely is capable of progression. There is limited funding available to advance such projects, but this is the kind of project I want to see being advanced. I am very much aware of its regional importance, apart from the benefit to the Deputy's county and constituency which I have had an opportunity to visit with both the Deputy and the Minister of State, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. The Deputy made me aware of how important the project was. I have travelled the route privately and I am aware of the acute need for the project.

The Deputy referred to collision cluster statistics for accident black spots. He has mentioned information that has emerged from the National Roads Authority which has analysed collision data for the past three years. This is called the network safety ranking and covered by the authority in compliance with the EU road infrastructure safety management directive. The national road network is broken up in 1 km stretches. The number of collisions involving injury on each 1 km stretch of road is identified, with traffic volumes on that stretch of road. An average collision rate is then calculated. Any section of road which is twice above the average collision rate and on which there are three or more collisions in a three-year period is identified as a collision cluster site. Using this methodology, the authority has identified between 150 and 200 such sites which meet the criteria on an annual basis. These sites are examined by NRA road safety engineers in consultation with the local authorities. The issues involved are broken up and dealt with under the headings of engineering, enforcement and education. The sites on which there is a potential engineering solution are examined further by the local authorities.

That is the background to the information mentioned by the Deputy. I acknowledge his persistent representations on behalf of the project, as well as those of Deputy Michael Creed. While I am not in a position to advance the project in its entirety, my Department is trying to find ways to keep the project active in order that it can be progressed when national circumstances improve.

I thank the Minister for his reply. It is fitting that the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, is also present. I thank both Ministers for devoting time and attention to this project in recent years. As the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, knows, it is crucially important for the reasons I have outlined. It needs to be seen as a priority on the national list. The economic benefits during the construction phase would be enormous. Like so many other parts of the country, counties Kerry and Cork have been hit by the recession and by the effects of the construction crash in particular. If the project were to progress, the construction jobs would be invaluable in the area and provide a massive stimulus in the Cork-Kerry region. If the opportunity arises, I ask the Minister to do everything he can to ensure the project will be considered for funding. The new N22 Cork-Kerry road should be prioritised. It would create and help to sustain jobs. In addition, it would be an economic game-changer in the Kerry south and Cork north-west region. It would benefit this and future generations and I am sure also lead to lives being saved also.

As I said, I absolutely acknowledge the need for the project. I also recognise the work the Deputy has put into progressing it. From the funds available to my Department, we have provided €5 million to try to ensure a way is found to keep the project active. That has led to the acquisition of land this year. I am working hard within the Government to try to secure a commitment to provide capital funding in the future. My overall priority is to maintain the roads we have which are under intense pressure because the maintenance budget has been cut in response to challenges the Government and the country have had to face. I hope as circumstances improve such projects can progress. I will certainly continue to do all I can to push the project.

Ambulance Service Provision

As a Government party Deputy, I have delivered on my promise to secure the future of Roscommon County Hospital through the roll-out of a substantial investment programme totalling €20 million. We can see the hard evidence in the state-of-the-art endoscopy unit set to be built by the summer and operational by September. When completed, the 14,000 sq. ft. unit will become a diagnostic centre for the western region and facilitate a range of scope procedures, including colonoscopies, for patients. It is also hoped the service will be widened to offer bronchoscopy, cystoscopy and a range of other scope services.

Apart from a range of new development services introduced at the hospital, I am continuing to work hard to progress the other two major capital developments - a 20-bed medical rehabilitation unit and a palliative care centre on the grounds of Roscommon County Hospital. I am delighted that only in the last week almost €8 million has been ring-fenced for the construction of the rehabilitation unit which will operate as a satellite centre for the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire to relieve pressure on existing services and waiting times. It will also allow patients to be treated in their own community.

The introduction of the air ambulance service in the summer of 2012 has resulted in many lives being saved. In County Roscommon alone, one emergency a week has been dealt with since the service commenced operations almost two years ago. I am delighted by the great reaction of staff and management who understand these developments have safeguarded the future of Roscommon County Hospital. In the past four years I have attended hundreds of meetings about the hospital. Through sheer persistence, I have succeeded in securing a multi-million euro investment programme to develop and extend a range of services on an enhanced hospital campus. I assured staff in the hospital at all times that their jobs were safe and this multi-faceted investment confirms it. There is capacity in the hospital; the theatres are in place and excellent staff are available.

Like all smaller hospitals in the country, Roscommon County Hospital has a future in serving the community as part of a wider hospital network. It ensures patients who require specialist and complex care receive it in the most appropriate setting, while allowing the majority of patients to be diagnosed and treated locally. However, the fight goes on to improve the ambulance service for the county and clear challenges remain. A new ambulance base is planned for Loughglynn in west Roscommon. Despite continuous pressure on the HSE to advance work on this facility, I am disappointed that it is still not operational. The HSE has simply not delivered in ensuring the ambulance black spot in west Roscommon will be addressed; therefore, I am asking the Minister to expedite the matter. The OPW has agreed a five-year lease with the National Ambulance Service to use the former Garda station in Loughglynn as a regional ambulance base. A year and a half ago Roscommon County Council gave the go-ahead for its development. However, it seems that there has been very little progress on the project since. What is even more disappointing is that the timeline was for the base to be operational last summer.

Last year, in correspondence with the then Minister of Health, Deputy James Reilly, I highlighted the position on the ambulance service in County Roscommon. I made clear the importance of ensuring a sufficient level of ambulance cover across the county. The ambulance base in Loughglynn will be a vital facility for communities in west Roscommon and east Mayo.

It will significantly help to improve the emergency response time in areas that heretofore were ambulance black spots. There is a need to progress the Loughglynn ambulance base and address issues around the entire ambulance service in the county. That must be an absolute priority for all stakeholders. The future of Roscommon hospital is undoubtedly safe and patients are safer but it is imperative that improvements in the ambulance service can be expedited as a matter of urgency.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I am very pleased to outline the current developments in pre-hospital services, both nationally and in Roscommon. The national ambulance service is working to ensure high-quality and timely emergency pre-hospital care, using all available resources as effectively and as efficiently as possible. As with any pre-hospital service, development and modernisation is a continuous process, as technology and clinical standards change. A significant and ongoing reform programme has been under way in recent years. In 2015 an additional €5.4 million has been provided to improve technology and clinical audit and to address service gaps, particularly in the west.

It is important to acknowledge that progress is being made. The single national control system, now almost fully operational, is improving our control and dispatch performance. We are continuing to develop the intermediate care service, ICS, which transports patients between facilities, thus allowing emergency vehicles to focus on emergency calls. The ICS now carries three quarters of the non-emergency workload. We are also moving to more efficient on-duty rostering and developing a national rostering system, with 50 additional paramedics being allocated in the west this year to achieve this.

Services in Roscommon have been enhanced significantly since 2011. Roscommon town currently has three emergency ambulances during the day and two at night, as well as a 24/7 rapid response vehicle crewed by an advanced paramedic. It is important to say that we are changing our model of service delivery. We are moving away from the model of care where services are provided locally from a fixed ambulance base in that area and we are moving towards dynamic deployment, where all resources are deployed as a fleet across a region. Within the wider region, the Roscommon area is supported from the north by Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon, from the east by Longford and Mullingar and from the south by Athlone. New service capacity in Tuam and Mulranny stations will enhance the coverage across north Galway, west Roscommon and east Mayo.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that refurbishment of the ambulance station in Loughglynn, where ambulances can be based during shifts, is now complete and staffing issues are being progressed. The ambulance service expects the station will be operational in the coming months. For Roscommon and the surrounding region, we also have the emergency aeromedical service, EAS, based in Athlone. The EAS allows swift transfers of seriously ill or injured patients to the most appropriate hospital. Over 1,000 missions have been completed since it began in June 2012. Counties Roscommon and Mayo have among the highest numbers of EAS transfers.

These are all significant achievements but we intend further improve the service. In the next few months I expect to receive the independent capacity review to determine current and future service needs. Areas being examined include staff numbers and skill mix, as well as resources and deployment locations. I am confident these reforms and reviews will lead to further improvements in our pre-hospital emergency care services to the benefit of the people of Roscommon and the rest of Ireland.

I thank the Minister for his response. What has gone on in the area has been incredible. The emergency aeromedical service is doing sorties every day and at every Gaelic football pitch, local field or by the side of a road, the service has undoubtedly saved many lives. At one time if a person was in an accident or had a cardiac arrest, he or she would be brought by ambulance to an accident and emergency department to be stabilised before being brought to another accident and emergency department. We are now able to utilise services and modern communications in this way.

This issue has gone on for a long time, but I am not blaming the fact that sometimes more funding is required. Have elements been agreed under the Haddington Road agreement or is there some issue of staff refusing to go to Loughglynn? I have raised the matter on many occasions and I am very concerned about the safety of patients in the Castlerea, Ballaghaderreen, Loughglynn and Ballyhaunis areas. As I stated, when I became involved with politics, I was often told that the fight is never what the fight is about. Now is the time to get all the stakeholders together, including members of the ambulance service, personnel from the HSE and the unions in order to try to address this very difficult issue. For too long, there has not been a service in west Roscommon and for too long I have been the Deputy bringing this to people's attention. We have delivered the ambulance service but I want the ambulance base to be staffed by personnel in the area. Will the Minister ensure that he brings on board all the stakeholders in order that we can try, once and for all, to get through this logjam that is effectively stopping an ambulance service in west Roscommon? The people of west Roscommon want and deserve it, and they will be much safer when the ambulance base is open in Loughglynn.

I am not au fait with the details of the staffing arrangements for that particular ambulance base and those matters are dealt with by the director of the national ambulance service and his team. Under the Haddington Road agreement, any public servant can be redeployed to a new site within 40 km of a previous base. Those rules apply to all public servants and it certainly would not be possible to make exceptions for any one group or county. That is not being proposed. The base has been renovated and the national ambulance service and I are very keen to get it open. We will do anything we can within the rules to do so.

I echo the Deputy's comments about the air ambulance service, which has been an enormous success. He is absolutely right as in the past, an ambulance would have come to a person's house, picked him or her up and treatment would have started in a local accident and emergency department. Often, a patient had to be transferred to another department, leading to a delay in treatment. Treatment now begins in the back of the ambulance, which would be staffed by paramedics or advanced paramedics. Where needed, a patient may be taken by helicopter to a specialist centre right away, thereby cutting out the kinds of delay that occurred in the past. This is much better for patient survival and mortality rates.

Credit Availability

I thank the Minister for his presence for this Topical Issue. I presume he is familiar with the report carried by the UCD Geary Institute, published a week or so ago, under the title Creating Credit, Not Debt. Essentially, it is about the idea of moving towards a personal micro-loan scheme in Ireland. It is a very impressive blueprint and a very valuable piece of work that focuses very much on the position in which many working families find themselves as we crawl out of this recession. In some cases, nobody is working in these families and, in other cases, there may be one or two people working on low wages.

Most of us in the House are familiar with how people have been "set aside", for want of a better term, because of what happened in the recession. With many working or poorer people, access to banking institutions no longer exists and people who heretofore would have had bank accounts may not necessarily still have them. They are in a precarious position when they require some borrowing requirement, as most people do at one stage or another in life. This could be as small as €100 or as large as €1,000 or €2,000. One of the highlights of the report should be a concern for all of us, and it came about because of what happened as a result of the recession. I supported section 35 of the credit union legislation as there was a necessity for it at the time.

We all appreciate this, given the position some of the credit unions were in. However, we are now in a situation where a lot of poor people who had no access to banks find credit unions face restrictions in providing emergency loans. There is a staggering figure of 360,000 people who are borrowing from moneylenders, the highest number in the history of the State. This research presents an opportunity for the Minister and his Department. If it is not the ideal solution, it can be tweaked. We can come up with a solution that will take the poorest people away from moneylenders.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. He is referring to the report published last week entitled, Creating Credit, not Debt, by Mr. Georges Gloukoviezoff, UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy. It was jointly funded by the Social Finance Foundation and the Central Bank of Ireland. It proposes the establishment of a new personal micro-loan service, operated through the credit union movement, to assist people who have no access to loan finance through current mainstream banking and credit union loans. Access throughout the country to appropriate credit is a very important issue, one that the Government has worked hard to address. It has focused, in particular, on access by SMEs to micro-credit, including through the establishment of Microfinance Ireland. Microfinance Ireland is making it easier for businesses to start up, expand, succeed and create jobs by lending through the microenterprise loan fund which is targeted at start-up or growing microenterprises across all industry sectors. Such initiatives are bearing fruit, impacting on real jobs and providing vital support for business people and their families who are entrepreneurs. My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for business and employment, Deputy Gerald Nash, recently announced a revised scheme to allow more businessesto avail of this initiative.

Of course, there are also issues for families accessing appropriate levels of credit, many of whom are dependent on moneylenders at times of need. That is why the report is an important addition to the debate. It provides useful material on how a scheme could work and presents examples of such schemes in other countries. In considering the issue care must be taken that this is done in a way that addresses the real needs of those concerned, does not inadvertently pull people into further debt and does not expose financial institutions such as credit unions to unsustainable risk. It is a key issue with availability of any credit that the risk is appropriately assessed. On a number of occasions I have highlighted the Government's recognition of the important role of credit unions as a volunteer co-operative movement and also the importance of getting lending going in the economy. However, the issue of lending must be constructively considered in order to ensure a viable credit union sector into the future. As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions, while the registrar of credit unions at the Central Bank is responsible for administering the system of regulation and supervision of credit unions. The registrar has recently highlighted that while the valuable role of credit unions within their communities and, of course, the demand for credit from many members are fully accepted, it is important from a regulatory perspective that credit unions are prudent in how they lend money, particularly as it is the money of the saving members of credit unions that is ultimately lent to borrowing members. Ensuring these borrowers can repay is paramount in the protection of those savings.

Credit unions are undergoing a period of significant change with the implementation of new legislation and regulations and restructuring within the sector. The Government recognises that credit unions have played and continue to play a crucial and prominent role in meeting the financial, economic and social needs of communities. While credit unions have shown a willingness to embrace change, while staying true to their core values, the safety of members' savings and the security of the credit union sector as a whole remain priorities for the Government. The financial system in Ireland has undergone much change in recent years and we want to ensure all of society has access to the system. Tackling financial exclusion is essential. One element of this is access to banking facilities. In this context, my Department is looking at the development of a basic bank account. This will be featured in the transposition of the payment accounts directive which must completed by September 2016. The report from the Geary Institute for Public Policy at UCD is another useful addition to the debate on the best strategies to tackle financial exclusion. I note that the Citizens Information Board and the Social Finance Foundation both commented on the value of the report and I expect that there will be further work on the issue in the coming months. My Department will obviously carefully consider any proposal made.

I am encouraged by the Minister's closing remarks to the effect that his Department will evaluate the report. Perhaps we might have a solution to this very serious problem as an outcome of it. I acknowledge that the Minister has previously praised the credit union movement in Ireland, which he was quite right to do. This has been widely acknowledged by the credit union movement. There are five separate credit union branches in my constituency and I keep communications open with them. As parliamentarians, we all accept the need for regulation and section 35. However, I hope I am not misquoting the Minister when I recall that at one stage he said he would consider a review of the section as the economic climate changed. I hope I am right in saying this. That is why I am encouraged by his final remarks and hope something will come out of this. We must take people away from loan sharks. It is not specifically an urban problem; it is widespread in rural Ireland where families also fall to the mercy of moneylenders. I go back to the point that within the scope of the research there is an opportunity for the Department to operate within the parameters of such a scheme to solve the problem. The number of people I cited is phenomenal and the issue is causing a great deal of misery for many poor working families. As legislators, we should work to ease the pressures they are under. I thank the Minister for taking this matter and look forward to something more substantial emerging in the next couple of months to initiate something in this field.

I again thank the Deputy. The report was jointly funded by the Social Finance Foundation and the Central Bank of Ireland. As the foundation is not widely known, I note that it is a wholesale lender of social finance, providing finance for social lending organisations in order that they, in turn, can lend to borrowers seeking funding primarily for the purposes of community development and social enterprise. I assume that both the Central Bank of Ireland and the Social Finance Foundation will examine the report. I would welcome any proposal they might wish to make arising from it.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 June 2015.