Leaders' Questions

I wish to raise with the Taoiseach the behaviour of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, in relation to a number of key issues. His remarks on the Judiciary have been unacceptable. He is utilising his position as a Minister to undermine and attack the judicial pillar in a politically populist way. In short, he does not have respect for the judicial pillar which is so central to our democracy. He has made very inaccurate comments about the Judiciary and the attitude of judges to the reform of the judicial sector. The Chief Justice had to come out publicly and make the point that the Judiciary had been seeking reform of the appointment of judges based on merit for quite some time, including by way of making a submission in 2014 and joining in a European declaration in 2012. The Minister, Deputy Ross, has been very cavalier, untruthful and disingenuous on the judges. It may play well, but it is not right for a Minister to use his ministerial platform to engage in such behaviour.

Added to above is the failure to fill up to 34 vacancies on State boards under his remit as Minister. These include the Road Safety Authority, Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, the Dublin Airport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Sport Ireland, all of which are operating with depleted numbers simply because the Minister is refusing to appoint people. He has made various ridiculous comments to the effect that he cannot be expected to make decisions with so many names coming at him. I put it to the Taoiseach that there is a system in place on foot of the last Government's reforms, which is called the Public Appointments Service. It selects people to go forward for nomination by respective Ministers.

There are two vacancies in the Road Safety Authority, which is a very important authority. In the past decade we have made great progress in improving road safety, irrespective of who appointed who to boards. The authority needs more resources and so on and can make even further progress.

Ministers cannot go on solo runs on their own. The Minister has a responsibility under the collective Cabinet responsibility system to operate the rules as they currently apply, either in the appointment of judges or people to State boards. No Minister can set himself or herself up as a mini dictator and say no judges will be appointed unless he or she gets his or her way and that no one will be appointed to State boards within his or her remit unless he or she gets his or her way on the issue of reform. There are areas in which no one else has sought additional reform at this time.

Has the Taoiseach called in the Minister to inform him of his ministerial responsibilities? I am serious about this. The Minister needs to be spoken to because, in keeping within the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility, he has to operate the legal frameworks as they apply in the appointment of judges and the filling of vacant State board positions until they are changed. Will the Taoiseach speak to him about these issues? Does he think the Minister is right in his approach so far in the appointment of judges and his failure to fill vacancies on State boards?

I answered this question last week. The Constitution is very clear on the appointment of judges and members of the Judiciary. I made the point that the comments of the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, on judges and the oath they took were personal and did not reflect the view of the Government. I spoke to him about the matter.

The programme for Government 2016, as the Deputy knows, contains a commitment to significant reform of the judicial appointments process to make it transparent, fair and credible. The Department of Justice and Equality has undertaken extensive work on a judicial appointments Bill, including seeking all necessary legal advice. Serious changes are involved, underpinning the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, including the appointment of a lay chairperson, having a lay majority and a limitation of the number of candidates for posts to be filled by the Government. The Bill involves complex legal and constitutional questions on which detailed advice is necessary in order to proceed to finalising the general scheme of a new judicial appointments commission Bill. As the House is aware, the drafting, publication and enactment of the Bill cannot be completed overnight, especially in the current political context. It is the intention of the Tánaiste to submit legislative proposals to the Government in the next couple of weeks. Second Stage of a Private Members' Bill was passed on 26 October. The Bill was not opposed on the basis that the Tánaiste would very shortly bring forward a Government Bill on the matter.

Attention has been drawn to the increasing backlog in the new Court of Appeal and the stated requirement for additional judges to be available to the court. There is a preference in government for no further appointments being made until the new legislation is in place. There are existing vacancies in the courts and undoubtedly there will be more in the future. The requirements of the administration of justice will, of course, be taken into account by the Government on a continuous basis. There is no doubt that there is a necessity to legislate as quickly as possible for a judicial council and the Government is prioritising the Bill for publication in this session. It is firmly of the view that it is necessary to put in place a structure to deal with the allegations of judicial misconduct which fall below the level of what might warrant invoking Article 35.4 of the Constitution. It is also firmly of the view that it is necessary to provide a platform for the promotion of excellence and high standards of conduct by judges. As well as providing for the establishment of a judicial council and board that will promote excellence and high standards of conduct by judges, the proposed Bill will aim to provide a means by which allegations of judicial misconduct may be investigated by a judicial conduct committee. That model will provide for lay membership of the judicial conduct committee which will be an important and key element of the Bill.

On having a register of interests, an issue to which the Deputy has referred, the proposed judicial council Bill will provide for the establishment of a judicial conduct committee which will consider all of these matters. The Bill is expected to be published very shortly and the Minister will bring it before the House.

The Taoiseach did not mention in his reply the vacancies to State boards.

I will come to that in my supplementary answer. The boss man is here.

I asked the Taoiseach a basic question on vacancies to State boards, which was if he had spoken to the Minister about them, but he flatly ignored the question and refused to reply to it. On judicial appointments, the Taoiseach has announced a new departure today. In the past he said there was no such edict in terms of appointing judges, or failing to appoint judges. It seems the Taoiseach met the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, on the matter and the Taoiseach blinked, because he is now using new language to the effect that the Government has a preference now that it would not appoint any new judges until the new legislation is enacted in a couple of months' time. It is the combined behaviour of the Minister, Deputy Ross, including what he has said about the Judiciary, that I put to the Taoiseach. We have the separation of powers, but the Minister has in a cavalier way gone out to undermine it and the Taoiseach knows it. The Minister is doing it because he thinks it is popular and a nice message, but he is a Minister and he should not be doing it. The Legislature owes some respect to the judicial pillar and vice versa.

Deputy Martin's time is up.

Does the Taoiseach agree with the Minister's refusal to appoint people to State boards, including the Road Safety Authority and the others I mentioned? Has the Taoiseach spoken to the Minister on the need and his obligation to do so? Has the Taoiseach spoken to him about his collective Cabinet responsibility and how he should appoint people in accordance with the framework that has been laid down by the Government?

Jobs for the boys.

There is no blinking here. I answered Deputy Martin's questions on this before. There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but the Chief Justice has not requested it be filled. There is no vacancy on the Court of Appeal. I think there are two or three vacancies between the Circuit Court and the District Court.

There are three at Circuit Court level.

That is true. Obviously-----

Obviously they will not be filled.

Obviously, the preference of Government is to proceed with the Judicial Council Bill. Deputy Martin mentioned State boards. What happens now is that people apply online to the Public Appointments Service. Ministers of the day do not know who applies.

They might encourage a few people.

The purpose of the Public Appointments Service is to determine if people are qualified and eligible to serve on particular boards. It is important for Deputy Martin to bear in mind that the Minister sets down the criteria required by him or her for service on those State boards so that the Public Appointments Service can see whether the applicants meet those criteria.

He should be able to pick a person.

I do not need to realise that. It is the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, who needs to realise it.

Long before Deputy Martin's time, it was a matter of just filling lists as they were received.

There are 36 vacancies that are not being filled.

It was normally done during the intermediate stage-----

Deal with the issue of the Minister, Deputy Ross.

-----between a Government going out and a Government coming in. In any event, I understand that the Minister, Deputy Ross, is now looking at the issue of the number of applicants who have been deemed to be eligible and qualified for the different State boards under his remit. The conditions and criteria for those are set down by individual Ministers. That is where the authority lies to set out the criteria and qualifications that are necessary.

Will the Taoiseach explain why they have not been filled?

(Interruptions).

I call Deputy Gerry Adams.

I am wondering if Fianna Fáil has lost confidence in the Taoiseach's Government-----

Not at all.

-----or is it just in the Aire, Deputy Ross. One would not know.

I have lost confidence in Deputy Adams.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party introduced water charges during the lifetime of the last Government, despite their opposition to it before they were in government. Water charges were, of course, Fianna Fáil's idea, but that Government soon made it its own. It paid consultants €86 million and awarded bonuses of almost 20% to senior management and it threatened to reduce citizens' water supplies to a trickle if they did not pay. After the last election, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ignored the reality that a majority of Deputies were elected to abolish water charges.

Sinn Féin ran away. Sinn Féin ran away for four months.

Instead of the Taoiseach allowing the Dáil to decide the issue, he and Teachta Martin kicked the can down the road. In June, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, published the draft terms of reference for the so-called expert commission on water charges. He said he would not expect or accept any amendments to the draft. We then had the debacle surrounding the appointment of the former Senator Joe O'Toole as its chairperson. He took aim at those of us who were part of the campaign to scrap unjust charges and described us as completely and utterly wrong. He went on to say, “People voted a certain way, Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down.”

If the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader had allowed the Oireachtas to deal with the issue, water charges would be long gone.

Last weekend, the comedy of errors continued when the Fianna Fáil leader said he did not envisage a return of water charges, Fine Gael criticised him for doing so and the Fianna Fáil spokesperson, Teachta Barry Cowen, then said something completely different and refused to rule out a return of charges. To top it all, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, declared, without any consultation with the Dáil, that Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh would be appointed Chairman of the yet to be established Oireachtas committee on water. I have nothing against Seanadóir Ó Ceidigh. Tá meas agam air, go háirithe ar an obair ar son chúis na Gaeilge atá déanta aige. However, the issue is that the Minister has no authority to appoint the chairperson of an Oireachtas committee as such appointments are a matter for the Dáil. To intervene, as the Minister did, and to seek to appoint a Chair is a serious departure from normal Oireachtas procedure. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether he agreed this appointment with the Fianna Fáil leader at the meeting they are reported to have held last week? Will he commit to following normal procedure and have the Chair of the committee, once established, decided by its members without interference from the Minister?

My, my, how the Deputy's memory has faded. I remember him saying he would pay his water charges. I also remember Sinn Féin being very responsible and saying it would make the necessary contributions. Then when it heard the sound of marching feet out in Tallaght it decided to reverse engines. Far be it for Deputy Adams to say the Fine Gael Party and Fianna Fáil Party are out of line here.

The Fine Gael Party had a very clear view on water charges all along. We wanted a national utility, a fair contribution regime and a metering process to adjudicate on that. However, in order to make the Government work, we sat down with the Fianna Fáil Party and put in place a very clear, deliberative process to deal with the question of water. This was to be done in three stages. First, an expert commission was to be appointed to look at the entire range of issues completely objectively over a period of six months and report by the end of November. Second, a special Oireachtas committee was to be set up to consider the commission's report, which it will do. Third, we were to have a vote in the Oireachtas within a month of the special Oireachtas committee completing its consideration of the report. That vote is due to take place at the end of March 2017.

As this was a deliberative process between the two parties and part of the confidence and supply arrangement and agreement between the Fine Gael Party and Fianna Fáil Party, it is obviously necessary to have somebody who is competent, objective and capable of chairing deliberations on a complex issue such as this as Chairman of the Oireachtas committee. An Seanadóir Ó Céidigh is an outstanding person, a businessman who is used to seeing clearly through complex issues and making decisions. I am sure he will fulfil his remit in this regard in a very clear, objective and fulfilling way. In that sense, the Minister and his opposite number in the Fianna Fáil Party discussed who would be appropriate to chair the committee. This arose from the deliberative process between the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parties established as part of the confidence and supply arrangement.

The committee will have 20 members, 16 of whom will be Deputies and four of whom will be Senators. The 16 Deputies will include five Government, four Fianna Fáil and two Sinn Fein Deputies and one Deputy each from the Labour Party, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit, the Rural Alliance, Independents 4 Change and the Green Party-Social Democrats group. While the committee is larger than what we are accustomed to, the intention is to try to achieve as broad a consensus as possible on this important issue. The number of members reflects the aim of everyone to ensure that every party and group is involved in the deliberations. That is the position.

The Taoiseach has confirmed what I suspected, namely, that this appointment was the result of deliberations between the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party. What about the Dáil? Has everything been reduced to the supply and confidence arrangement, which was all about getting Fianna Fáil off the hook on this issue and getting Fine Gael back into power? The expert commission was nothing other than a fig leaf to do just that.

In three separate sections in its manifesto, Fianna Fáil gave clear commitments to scrap water charges and Irish Water. The Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader do not admit to that. Instead, they call it new politics. It is all about expediency. The fact is the Minister, no matter about whatever arrangement he has with Fianna Fáil, stepped entirely beyond his remit when he announced this appointment to the chair of this committee. I have asked the Taoiseach a hundred times over the past six years will he stop this comedy of errors and simply establish the fact that water charges need to be scrapped. That is what Sinn Féin has done in the North and is what the Taoiseach should do here. He should put an end to this perpetual ongoing farce and scrap the water charges.

Sinn Féin here supported water charges very much.

No, we did not.

Deputies

We never did.

Deputy Gerry Adams himself is on record, as a good citizen, saying he will pay his water charges. He then reversed engines for his own reasons.

Deputy Gerry Adams asks about the House's involvement in this matter. The expert commission's report will be sent to the specific Oireachtas committee on dealing with this matter. This was discussed at the Dáil Business Committee on 17 November. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, has been in touch with all of the parties since. It is intended to move motions in the Dáil and the Seanad this week to establish the all-party committee on the funding of domestic public water services, as well as to receive, to consider and to make recommendations to the Oireachtas on the commission's report. The Dáil and the Seanad have to approve the special Oireachtas committee. That takes into account everybody's wishes.

The broad make-up of the committee was discussed on 17 November. The Minister has been in touch with all of the different parties. Everybody will have the opportunity to have their say. Seanadóir Pádraig Ó Céidigh will chair this committee in a really objective and professional manner. I will point out to Deputy Gerry Adams that this is the commission's report, not a Government report. It is going straight to a special all-party committee to investigate.

Last week in an interview with "Morning Ireland", Dr. Fergal Hickey pointed out that 300 to 350 people die every single year as a result of having been placed on hospital trolleys. He referred to the excessive mortality rate because of the warehousing of people on trolleys. He said the system was sending out a message that the abnormal has become normal. He said the system has been run down consistently since 1997 and a shortage of beds kills people.

The previous day, on Wednesday, less than a week ago, 528 people could not get a hospital bed and there were 545 delayed discharges from hospitals. Dr. Fergal Hickey suspected the figure was greater. Remember, he pointed out, it is only November and winter comes every year, although it seems to take each Government by surprise. Leaving an over-75 year old patient on a hospital trolley for more than 12 hours leads to a longer stay in hospital, a number of medical complications and a much less likely chance of going home. Dr. Fergal Hickey said between 50 and 60 people are regularly on trolleys in Galway and Limerick hospitals.

In that context, the nurses are planning to go on strike because of intolerable conditions. University Hospital Galway is, supposedly, a centre of excellence, serving a region of 1 million people but it has only one MRI scanner. It has extraordinary lists for outpatients. The clinical director has said the hospital is not fit for purpose. This is the same hospital that the Taoiseach could not find time to visit on his two recent visits to Galway. Instead, he visited a private establishment. Prior to the general election, he visited the hospital's accident and emergency department, as did the leader of Fianna Fáil, and said it was not fit for purpose.

The accident and emergency department, a report on which was never published, is simply a symptom of a malfunctioning system. A review is under way at University Hospital Galway into an amputation performed in a general ward recently.

It has just completed a review of approximately 200 patients that raises most serious concerns over the surgery carried out. Patients died in two cases and most serious concerns were raised regarding four. It is stated that in two cases of the four that caused great concern, the course of action by the surgeon led to the need for further surgery and caused untold suffering and hastened and the demise of both patients. There are references to a lack of care, a lack of basic care, and a lack of follow-up care. The system is malfunctioning because it is being constantly run down. I ask the Taoiseach not to waffle to me. He should please hear what I am saying and tell me he will visit the hospital, unplanned, as a matter of urgency and that he will take immediate action on operational issues concerning resources and the need for a new hospital, for which the clinical director has asked at a meeting of an Oireachtas committee last week and last year.

It is unacceptable to have on trolleys the number of patients about which the Deputy spoke. This has been a recurring issue in this House on so many occasions over the past two decades. It is not acceptable that this happens. It is because of the system that has evolved over the years and the attempts over many years to rectify the position. This morning, 22 November, there were 18 on trolleys at 8 a.m. in Galway University Hospital.

There were 54 in Cork.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, had 19, and the national total was 421, which is unacceptable. In response to a question on this a week ago, I stated there were no trolleys in Beaumont Hospital on the day. This was a particular advance on the position that always applied in that Beaumont. Today in Wexford, there are three. This is a case where a new emergency department has been put in place.

The Deputy asked me not to waffle to her. I will not but I do not like to answer questions on when I will visit the hospital. I will visit University Hospital Galway but I will not tell anybody when I do so. I would be very happy to do that.

He has to tell somebody, surely.

Every time I announce a visit to a hospital, I always hear it alleged that patients were moved out or on so they could not be seen. That is not waffle. I will visit Galway hospital and do so in my own time when I choose to do so. I will be very happy to engage with the nurses and the staff.

A number of significant projects have been completed at University Hospital Galway in recent years. These include the clinical research facility, the upgrade to the maternity unit and the cystic fibrosis outpatient department, which was completed in 2014 and is now operational. Thirty additional beds were opened in early 2016 as part of the Minister's winter initiative for 2015-16.

The Programme for a Partnership Government states a new emergency department for University Hospital Galway is currently being designed with a view to funding for construction being provided as part of the 2017 capital plan review. As it stands and as the Deputy is well aware, a number of design plans have been completed and they are at the cost-benefit analysis stage in the HSE. The Minister will visit the hospital shortly and further update staff and the management.

Construction of a 75-bed clinical ward block, with additional capacity, is under way. This project will provide 75 single en suite bedrooms, including six isolation rooms, which will result in a significant improvement in bed quality and infection control within University Hospital Galway. The projected date for the completion of construction is the end of this month, 2016, followed by commissioning and equipping. The Department understands that once this development is completed, it will enable other wards at University Hospital Galway to be closed for refurbishment, and approval is being sought to keep one of the old wards open in an escalation capacity for approximately 30 beds to support hospital activity this winter. That is being considered by the HSE as part of the service plan estimates for 2017 and also as part of its winter planning submission.

The Deputy says there is a need for a new hospital. The population of Galway and the region, which now caters for the greater expanded region, is an issue that certainly warrants consideration for the time ahead.

It seems as if some people imagine, or some people perceive, that one can provide a new hospital overnight. Such is not the case.

I despair, but I do not have the luxury of giving in to it because I have a voice in this Chamber. The Taoiseach is presiding over the deaths of people. I do not know whether he heard a single word that I said. Galway has been operating on code black, which is the highest emergency code, for months. A full capacity protocol is in operation due to overcrowding. The accident and emergency situation is a symptom.

I have not asked for a new hospital. The clinical director has asked for a new hospital to be planned. I do not know whether the Taoiseach heard me say that an audit was conducted regarding an amputation on a ward and that 198 surgical patient cases had been reviewed. The review covered January 2013 to November 2014, but we only heard about it in 2016. Unfortunately, I know about it intimately.

I will repeat what I said. The Taoiseach might do me the courtesy of hearing what I say, stepping out of his bland rhetoric and apologising to those who have suffered or died. Let me repeat-----

I thank the Deputy.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but this is my last point. The review covered four cases in particular and, separately, 30 other cases. Of the four, two caused great concern. In each, the course of action taken by the surgeon led to the need for further surgery, caused untold suffering and hastened the demise of the patient. There are many other cases in the hospital, which has only one MRI machine, yet the Taoiseach does not apologise.

I thank the Deputy, but she must conclude.

I have every empathy with people who are pressurised in patient situations in every hospital. These issues have arisen not just in University Hospital Galway, but in other locations around the country from time to time. Deputy Connolly is well aware of this. Obviously, as somebody who has been a visitor to Galway on many occasions to see patients there in different stages of distress, one would like to think that we were in a position to have facilities that would provide the very best level of attention for everybody at all times, and that is the reason there is also work under way on the construction of the acute mental health department, on the radiation oncology project, which is under way, on the blood and tissue laboratory, which is at design stage, on the replacement of a cath lab, on the appointment of a design team to work on the accommodation reconfiguration and on the replacement of the current CT radiotherapy and radiology facilities.

Yes, I visited the Bon Secours Hospital in Galway the other day. I was there five years ago also. The process of building the new cath lab is well under way, and I think that is going to provide extra facilities for Galway and for patients who need them.

I will visit the hospital.

The Taoiseach did not visit it. He said that he did not have the time. He had time to go to the private hospital.

Deputy, please.

I empathise completely-----

You are an absolute disgrace.

Deputy, that is not in order.

I empathise completely with the points that the Deputy makes and I have heard other people call for the provision of a new hospital-----

The clinical director of the hospital-----

-----to be located on the Merlin Park site, but obviously there are serious pressures in University Hospital Galway.

The Taoiseach must conclude.

Many of these are being addressed and I hope that those improvements will bring about a better situation for people who have to undergo treatment in University Hospital Galway. Of course, I offer my condolences, no more than anyone else would, for people who unfortunately die in hospital, as happens all over the country.

Around this time last year, the then Government introduced the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill to much fanfare. Among its provisions, rent certainty measures were introduced on 4 December 2015. They were not perfect by any means, but they were something. Their effect was that landlords could not increase rents for a two-year period.

However, there was a retrospective element to this measure. For tenancies that were in existence in December 2014, the clock started ticking from then.

Those tenants had protection for a two-year period but the two years are up next week on 3 December. If rent certainty measures are not extended urgently for those very tenants many more families will face massive hikes in their rent, particularly in the case of property controlled by the institutional landlords and by vulture funds. The longer we go without an extension, the more tenants will be affected and the numbers will increase week by week and month by month. It is inevitable that the crisis in homelessness will become even more acute if the Government does not act urgently. Even with the limited controls rents generally went up by about 12% in the past year and they are forecast to go up by at least the same amount in the coming year. Those families who lose their rent certainty next week and in the coming weeks will likely face huge rent hikes in excess of 20%. The Taoiseach needs to act urgently on this matter. For those families whose rent protection expires on 3 December, next week, he must extend their rent freeze to prevent them facing huge hikes in their rent, which will inevitably lead to many more families facing homelessness.

Does the Taoiseach realise that a couple of nights ago, on a very cold winter night, there were 210 people sleeping rough in the Dublin area alone? Those shameful numbers are set to increase exponentially from next week on unless he takes urgent action. Will the Taoiseach act now to prevent the situation becoming even worse? If he does not, it is inevitable that we will see more families on our streets in the coming weeks and months.

I am aware of the figure Deputy Shortall mentioned of homeless people on the streets. It is to be welcomed that an extra 200 beds are now being provided, which brings the total number of beds available in Dublin city to approximately 1,800. It is a short-term measure dealing with the supply issue. As part of the Housing Action Plan the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, has already set out the five pillars and the money to back them by which the question of supply is being dealt with. Clearly, the issue Deputy Shortall raised about rent certainty coming to an end is a matter of concern to the Minister. I have already said that he will very shortly bring before the House a comprehensive rental strategy dealing with rents, the opportunity to have longer leases in respect of tenanted dwellings whereby people can rent for a longer period and a number of other measures that he hopes to bring before the House.

I was not aware the rent certainty issue raised by Deputy Shortall is fading out on 3 December. I will bring that immediately to the attention of the Minister.

It is extraordinary that the Taoiseach was not aware of that, or that his Cabinet colleagues were not aware of it and were not planning action to avoid a greater catastrophe in terms of the homelessness situation. The Taoiseach needs to act urgently in the coming days to address the matter.

Last week it was reported in The Irish Times that David Ehrlich of the IRES Real Estate Investment Trust, REIT, made the following comments in talking about the Irish rental situation. He said, "It’s a great market" and "We’ve never seen rental increases like this in any jurisdiction that we’re aware of". He went on to say, "I truly feel badly for the Irish people". Of course he is answerable to the REIT's investors not to the tenants that are in his properties. The Government is making assumptions based on a functional market when it is in fact a completely abnormal market, and it is abnormally good for investors like IRES REIT.

I thank Deputy Shortall.

We are told a comprehensive strategy is due to be introduced for the rental market. We do not know when that will happen but it will not come quickly enough to address the imminent dangers renters will face from next week.

The Taoiseach must commit to addressing this looming problem for so many families in the coming weeks and months. Will he give such a commitment?

I have already given the Deputy a commitment. Sometimes when you tell the truth here, you are also pilloried for it. I said I would bring the matter to the attention of the Minister forthwith. I have made the point to the Deputy that part of the Minister's action plan is the provision of 1,500 rapid build units and 1,600 vacant units sourced by the Housing Agency, as well as providing for an expanded number of housing assistance payment, HAP, homeless tenancies - 550 this year and 1,200 in 2017.

(Interruptions).

I heard the Deputy. I said I would bring the matter to the attention to the Minister forthwith and that means immediately. I said the Minister intended to bring a comprehensive rental strategy to the House within a very short period and I am quite sure this will be a part of it. We have pointed to the extra emergency beds that are being made available which will bring the number up to 1,800 in the city. I gave the same count as the Deputy gave the other night. Obviously, we would like to think that this year, no more than last year, unless somebody wants to be on the streets, he or she will have a roof over his or her head and a bed in which to survive.

(Interruptions).

There are some people who do not want to come off the street, as the Deputy is well aware. She has mentioned the need for certainty for those tenants for whom the rent freeze will come to an end on 3 December. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister directly after I leave the Chamber.

I note that we have run over time on Leaders' Questions. Perhaps tomorrow we might have more regard to the time allowed.