Topical Issue Debate

Bord na Móna

I thank the Minister for being here and for his time. I wish to raise an incredibly important issue for my constituents in the area of Kildare, in Kilberry and Athy. It concerns the Bord na Móna plant. Since 1933, when the idea of harvesting peat and turf came into being, and from 1946 when Bord na Móna started, Bord na Móna has historically been the sole main employer on very large tracts of land particularly around the midland counties and most particularly in my county of Kildare. It has provided a vital economic lifeline in Athy and indeed in Ballydermot, Timahoe and other areas.

My particular question concerns Kilberry, which started production in 1947, the year after Bord na Móna was established and which has provided a vibrant industry and presence in the area. At this time there are 53 full-time and six seasonal employees in the plant. Bord na Móna decided to purchase a horticultural peat plant called White Moss in the north of England which was signed off over Christmas. This poses a significant threat to the future of the Kilberry plant. It is hugely important that we protect our indigenous industries, especially in regions where employment levels are already low. There would be a huge impact on employment in the Kilberry-Athy area if anything was to happen. The workers themselves have received no pay rise since 2008 and were due to get a 6% raise. There is no sign of that. This is a very worrying time for the employees. The prospect of future rationalisation or indeed any type of consolidation has struck fear in the hearts and minds of the employees and their families. Bord na Móna is a semi-State organisation. The Government has a responsibility to oversee the policies of Bord na Móna and how they impact on employment. There has been no investment in Kilberry over the last long number of years. I put it to the Minister that the loss of any jobs in south Kildare, where employment is already a huge issue, would have a severe impact on the area. I would like an assurance from the Minister about the future of the plant in Kilberry and an assurance that no jobs will be lost. I would also like to ask about any conversations that occurred relating to the acquisition of this plant in England and the possibility of it having a negative impact on Kilberry or any other such plants, because surely in light of everything that is happening, including Brexit, we have a duty to preserve the jobs we have and not be buying plants elsewhere and providing employment in other countries which quite soon will not even be members of the EU.

I thank the Deputy for raising this specific issue, which is important and which was raised privately with me as well.

Bord na Móna is facing significant business challenges in the context of the deregulation of the electricity market and increasingly competitive and challenging environments across all its business areas, not least in its horticulture business. The framework for addressing the challenges facing Bord na Móna is its most recent five year corporate plan and the company's wider sustainability plan to move away from peat production for energy use. It should be noted that the company intends to cease the harvesting of energy peat by 2030. The harvesting of peat for horticultural purposes is expected to continue after that point.

In order to secure the most important market for its horticultural product range, Bord na Móna recently acquired White Moss Horticulture Limited, based in Kirkby, near Liverpool. The integration of White Moss into the horticultural division of Bord na Móna has implications for both Bord na Móna at Kilberry, County Kildare, and the Cúil na Móna plant in County Laois. The rationale for this particular acquisition is to secure the UK export market, which accounts for the majority of the company's horticultural sales. This in turn is intended to support the long term sustainability of Irish jobs in the horticultural and feedstock divisions of Bord na Móna. Additionally, the acquisition helps to sustain the horticulture business into the future by delivering security of non-peat feedstock supply - green waste - which is unavailable in sufficient quantities and geographic concentration in Ireland, and also a competitive supply chain model that drives value in operations and logistics.

This has become increasingly relevant, with constrained currency exchange margins in the immediate aftermath of the British vote to exit the European Union and the possibility of trade tariffs in the longer term.

Regarding the specific matter raised by Deputy O'Loughlin, namely, the future of the plant at Kilberry, while this is a matter of concern to me, I must point out that it is an operational matter for the company and one in which I, as Minister, have no direct role or function. Nonetheless, Bord na Móna has informed me that the majority of jobs based in Kilberry will be secure following the integration of the White Moss acquisition. I consented to the acquisition of White Moss Horticulture limited with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and following thorough analysis by Bord na Móna in the first instance, by NewERA, as the ministerial and commercial and financial advisors and by my own Department officials. My consent to the acquisition was conditional, however, on assurances provided by the management team at Bord na Móna that staff would be fully engaged with during the acquisition and integration process, that, where necessary, redeployments would be pursued and that any potential redundancies would be minimised and would be on a voluntary rather than a compulsory basis as far as possible.

The question that arose was how to maintain the long-term sustainability of the horticulture business and secure as many jobs as possible here in Ireland. It was a very difficult choice. It is not Government policy to invest in operations outside of this country unless there is a clear economic dividend within the State. A lot of thought and consideration went into this proposal by NewERA before it came to me. I discussed and considered it thoroughly before I made any decision on it, with the sole intention being to secure as many jobs as possible in Kilberry and in the horticulture operation as a whole.

I accept that a review is under way, which is very important. I also accept the Minister's bona fides in terms of sustaining Irish jobs. The Minister said that this is a matter of concern for him but it is a matter of huge concern for me in light of his response. He said that this is the responsibility of Bord na Móna but the Government has a responsibility to oversee the policies of Bord na Móna and how they impact on employment.

The Minister gave an assurance that there will be full engagement with the employees, that, where necessary, redeployment will be pursued and that any redundancies will, hopefully, be voluntary. That will not give confidence to any employees who may be listening in now or who may hear of this debate later. Commitments were made previously to invest more money in the plant and to award pay increases. Not alone have the workers not seen any of that, they are now seeing investment going out of the country and into another plant. I ask the Minister to ensure that not one job is lost. I also urge him to go back to Bord na Móna and ask it to look again at Kilberry and to consider the possibility of re-investing in that plant.

I have met members of the workforce who are afraid of their lives to speak out. That is wrong. They would only meet me on condition that those meetings would be confidential and their names would not be used, which I absolutely respect. It is wrong that an environment has been fostered where they are afraid to ask questions of management about the future of the plant and are afraid to have their names mentioned. That is absolutely wrong. On behalf of more than 60 workers, I ask the Minister to go back to Bord na Móna and try to renegotiate with the company.

I thank Deputy O'Louglin for her questions. I want to make it quite clear that I could have kicked this can down the road, not made a decision and told Bord na Móna not to invest in the UK operation. Had I done that, within 12 to 18 months, Deputy O'Loughlin and her colleagues would be asking why I did not take any action to try to save the Kilberry plant and the horticulture operation. I would be criticised for not supporting Bord na Móna when it put a proposal forward that would retain as many Irish jobs as possible. My priority is to retain as many Irish jobs as possible. It is not Government policy to invest in operations outside of this jurisdiction unless there is a clear economic and employment dividend within this State. It is not my job, as Minister, to allow investments like that to take place within the semi-State companies that are under my control. NewERA, on my behalf and that of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, looked thoroughly at this proposal and scrutinised it carefully, as it does with any proposal, particularly where it involves investment outside of this jurisdiction. It found that the best way to retain the maximum number of jobs possible was to take the approach that is being taken by the company.

I am disappointed to hear the Deputy's comment regarding employees being afraid to put legitimate questions forward. That should not be the case and I am quite happy to facilitate a meeting between management at Bord na Móna and the Deputies from the constituency so that the latter can relay the worker's questions to management and get clear answers.

I wish to make one final, important point, which is that we do not have the availability of green waste here. It is a condition now for selling these products in the UK that they must contain a certain percentage of green waste. Part of the problem is that when people are using their brown and green bins, they are contaminating them. A substantial amount of the brown and green bins in this country are being contaminated. That has an impact on employment, not just in the Kilberry operation but in terms of other potential operations across the country.

Cycling Policy

Approximately 25 years ago, Mike Curtis died on Merrion Square in Dublin. He was on his bike, was flattened and killed. A lot of us started campaigning then to try to make Dublin a cycling city. It is deeply shocking for anyone with a keen interest in cycling to look at what has happened here in the last few months. On 12 February, Ms Tonya McEvoy, a member of the Orwell Wheelers cycling club was knocked down and killed in Kildare. On 12 March, Daragh Ryan was knocked off his bike and killed on Conyngham Road, a well recognised black spot - we have been talking about these black spots for a long time - near the Phoenix Park. Last Friday, Paul Hannon was knocked down and killed on Patrick Street, while last Sunday, Des Butler, was killed on his bike in Bunratty. Last Monday, a young woman was knocked down at the roundabout on Templeville Road and flattened under a truck.

We have been campaigning for 25 years to try to make this city safe for cycling. It should be one of the best cycling cities in the world because it is flat and relatively dry. Cycling is the quickest, best, most social and healthiest way of getting around. Dublin should be like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. My party and others have been working on this matter for all of that time, making very little progress but continuing to push the idea. We set out the smarter travel plan in 2009 and a plan for the overall network in 2011. We are at a point now where we really are ready to go and make this a safe cycling city. This is achievable, doable and it is a decision for here and now.

There are some significant routes ready to be built, including the Clontarf cycle route, which is a two way route from Clontarf all the way into town. Huge numbers of cyclists use that route every morning but it is lethally dangerous at present. The Liffey cycle route is a two-way cycle track right along the river which would transform how this city works. There is another project ready to go for College Green that will create a safe civic space and turn the whole city centre around in terms of how it works. We have greenway routes that would not only work as commuting routes but would also provide incredible benefits for the city. One such route runs along the seafront from Sutton to Sandycove. It is ready to go but investment is required. We need big money to make this happen, although not big in comparison to the money needed for a motorway. It would cost the equivalent of 1 km of motorway to develop most of these projects. The funding requirement is big in the context of what we have spent on cycling to date. Other projects include the Dodder greenway, the Royal Canal greenway and the Santry river greenway. These are all projects that we have been working on for 20 years.

We have the designs ready to go but the shocking reality at this time, when we need capacity solutions to our transport system and cycling infrastructure to be provided more quickly to cater for the significant volume of cyclists just trying to get back on their bikes, which could really tackle Dublin's traffic problems and, more than anything else, make the city safe, the capital budget for cycling is being slashed year in, year out. It fell by 21% last year. There is a projected 18% fall this year.

The Minister has a responsibility in this regard. After 25 years of campaigning, the Minister must realise this investment is more important and significant than any other transport investment we could make. In the first instance, it would protect and save lives. There was a recent spike, involving three deaths in three weeks. We have to respond to that by making the city safe.

Second, to make the city work, we have no capacity solutions equivalent to those cycling can provide for the same expenditure. In this regard, one should consider the numbers. When we provide high-quality facilities, as on the Grand Canal route, thousands of people take to cycling. We should really go for it now and make a decision on the six or seven key routes. They have to be funded now. The money has to be provided now or else we will face 25 more years of not having what we could have in Dublin. Dublin could be a safe, an efficient and a brilliant city in which to cycle. Will the Minister provide the money? Will he allocate the money that the Dublin Cycling Campaign and others are calling for to make the city safe and to make it work?

I thank Deputy Eamon Ryan for raising this important issue. I share his dismay over the number of cyclists and pedestrians who died in recent weeks. The number this year is now five. It is absolutely unacceptable and demands action.

What Deputy Ryan is saying is correct but we should consider the matter in a somewhat wider context also. When he says our roads are not safe for cyclists, he is right. Our roads are not safe for anyone at the moment. Forty-six people have lost their lives on our roads so far this year, including five cyclists, who account for 10.8% of the total number of road fatalities.

Every death is one too many, and my Department and I, together with the Road Safety Authority, RSA, the Tánaiste, An Garda Síochána and local authorities, work together to implement measures to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. As a result of what is a crisis of fatalities on our roads, we have doubled the number of those meetings per annum in recent times. My Department is tackling the issue of cyclist-related deaths and serious injuries through a multifaceted approach. This involves targeting cyclist and motorist attitudes and behaviour, an education programme, the provision of cycle tracks and the rolling out of the Cycle Right campaign.

The current road safety strategy, which runs from 2013 to 2020, contains measures to promote the use of personal protection equipment and high-visibility clothing, in addition to the development of a standardised road safety cycling proficiency training programme for schools, the Cycle Right programme. Arising from the work of a steering group comprising the RSA, An Garda Síochána, Coaching Ireland, An Taisce, the local authorities and my Department, Cycling Ireland, which is funded by my Department, has developed the new Cycle Right cycling training standard. Cycle Right was launched in January this year and will be rolled out during 2017 to as many primary schools as funding allows. I am confident that this new cycle training, which includes an on-road element, will result over time in an increase in the number of children choosing to cycle to and from school safely. It is expected that between 12,000 and 15,000 children will avail of the training in 2017. Cycling Ireland will administer and manage the Cycle Right scheme registration and will maintain an Internet-based public register of qualified and approved Cycle Right trainers. My Department has allocated €350,000 to subsidise participating schools for the cost of the training, which will also be funded by parental and local authority contributions. The RSA is also contributing significant funding towards this initiative.

The RSA has produced a new 60-second advert focusing on cycling safety, particularly on the need for drivers to take extra care when sharing the road with cyclists. Cyclists are entitled to road space as much as cars, vans, goods vehicles or any other vehicle on the road. The advert aims to educate drivers on sharing the road safely with cyclists, and on motorists' responsibility to cyclists as vulnerable road users. The general message is the need for drivers to observe the road property at all times for the presence of cyclists.

In regard to funding for cycle tracks, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that under the sustainable transport measures grants, STMG, programme, my Department provides funding to the National Transport Authority, NTA, for the seven local authorities in the greater Dublin area for the implementation of sustainable transport measures, including cycling infrastructure. Funding of €23.2 million was allocated to this programme alone in 2016. The NTA also manages a similar sustainable transport grants programme - the regional cities programme - in the four regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Overall funding for these two programmes in 2016 was €36.7 million. That is addressing the issue that the Deputy raised. He has raised the general issue of cycling, which I will address in response to his supplementary question.

The Minister has come to the nub of it. We are spending €36 million on trying to create safe cycling spaces. We absolutely need to do this in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Dublin. The expenditure is out of a total budget of €1.8 billion, however. Therefore, 0.02% of our overall budget is being spent on cycling. I am sorry but we need to be spending something like 10% of our transport budget to be taking seriously the issue of road safety of vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.

The measures the Minister has listed, including educational programmes and encouraging people to wear helmets, are all to no avail if we do not take the first fundamental step, namely, create safe conditions on the street. Instead of pouring all our money into new motorways, dual carriageways and big roads programmes, which we are doing, we need, as a matter of urgency because people are dying owing to the lack of investment, to start creating safe space on our streets so we will not be crushed by trucks or knocked down by cars. The authorities say they are really keen to do what I propose. They are able to do it but they have no budget. They cannot allocate staff to this. If, instead of just spending the money on an educational programme for children, we actually made the roads safe for our children, we could reduce by 30% the morning peak-hour traffic, which involves us driving our children to school. We could be creating a safe space where they could get to school in a healthy way. Everyone benefits.

The nub of the problem is that €36 million is not adequate or right. We need a multiple of that. We need an increase in expenditure next year of €100 million at the very least in Dublin alone to build the six or seven key projects that are ready to go. The most important reason for them, in addition to the safety reason, is that if the Government does not do what I describe, it will result in gridlock anyway. The infrastructure would give us capacity. Dublin can work as a cycling city. The Government should give the money, not the 0.02% that we are spending on cycling infrastructure at the moment.

I fully understand the Deputy's request for more investment. I take his point. He is correct in that we do not spend enough money on cycling. We would like to spend more and we will spend more. There is no doubt about that. The Deputy will probably be aware that there are commitments in the programme for Government on this. More important, for the capital review that is coming up shortly, I have made a special application. I have prioritised cycling in my Department's application. It is very important and it should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Cycling is underfunded. I take the Deputy's point in that regard and I intend to address it in the mid-term capital review application.

The issue is not just one of cycling; it is also an issue of safety. All five fatalities this year involved crashes with motor vehicles. The point that the road should be made safe for cyclists is very important but it is even more important to make sure the roads are not peopled by dangerous drivers, who are the source of most cycling accidents. We are taking many measures on that basis from which cyclists should benefit. One cannot blame cyclists for the cycling accidents - far from it; one blames the infrastructure. To some extent, I blame the fact the roads are not safe because we have dangerous drivers on them. We have addressed that. That should benefit cyclists and also pedestrians, who are tragically being killed by reckless motorists on our roads. I will list some of the things we have done. It is only fair to note them because cyclists will be beneficiaries, as will drivers.

The 2016 Road Traffic Act has just come in which addresses the issue of taking drug-drivers off the road. We are addressing the issue of naming and shaming and taking all sorts of measures to improve the roads as a matter of urgency. We recognise this is a crisis for everyone. Next week, I will bring another Bill dealing with road safety measures to pre-legislative scrutiny. I hope cyclists will benefit as much from it as will innocent drivers and pedestrians.

We have had real success in the past 25 years with a whole range of different measures we needed to introduce. The reason we need to invest in Dublin particularly-----

If I can just finish, the reason we need to invest in the cycling space in Dublin is not just for the safety issue but also to make the city work. Dublin is facing gridlock. I am on the Committee on Budgetary Oversight to which various agencies and organisations come every week calling for more motorways to be built. There is no one championing investment in cycling except for the likes of the Dublin Cycling Campaign. It is the Minister’s decision. Whatever we do on the safety issue is one matter. As for designing for Dublin city, however, there is a once in a lifetime chance to build a Dodder greenway, the Sutton to Sandycove cycle route, as well as the Liffey, Clontarf, Santry, Royal Canal and College Green cycle routes. We need to forget about the capital review into the distance. If we do not see significant budgets going into these projects next year, it will mean we do not really take cycling safety seriously and we do not know how to save the city from the gridlock that will otherwise ensue.

I reject the Deputy’s claim we are not taking safety seriously. That is completely and utterly wrong. It is unfair and there is no evidence to back that up. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I have introduced several measures for road safety through Bills since I have come into office from which cyclists will be, I hope, the chief beneficiaries. That is just nonsense from the Deputy.

There are calls for motorways-----

What the Deputy said about cycling facilities being underfunded is fair. I intend to address that after the mid-term capital review and, if possible, before that.

Disability Services Provision

Before we proceed, I apologise to Deputy Thomas Byrne that the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, cannot be here and I will take this matter. If he would prefer for the Minister of State to take it another time, I have no problem.

I will go ahead with the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. I was not going to raise that as an issue.

In my submission I referred to the facility in question as a training centre, but an assisted and supported living centre would be more appropriate for what is planned in Dunboyne, County Meath. In fairness, the Health Service Executive is engaging with local families to put in place a full facility for 25 citizens with intellectual disabilities who need assisted living and support as they go into adulthood from second level education. Praxis Care, on behalf of the HSE, is already doing it for one adult in Dunboyne. There are many other families who want that support, however. Families have to fight and fight again to get the support and services that their children or brothers and sisters need as citizens of this State. I acknowledge the tremendous work and efforts that some families put in on behalf of their family members, which ultimately benefits the rest of society, particularly regarding intellectual disabilities. Services have been put in place through the efforts of these pioneers which benefit everyone else.

The main issue about the particular service in Dunboyne is uncertainty about the venue. A particular family in the locality has sourced a site for the HSE and already Praxis Care is operating out of it. However, a little spanner seems to have been put in the works. Due to the demand which the HSE has acknowledged, it is now looking for a permanent space for this facility which will be run by Praxis Care. There is a bit of uncertainty as to the future for this particular facility.

Parents, as the Minister of State will understand, are concerned. As well as acknowledging families, some staff members in the HSE - they know who they are - go beyond the call of duty in these matters. However, they are constrained by their bosses, funding considerations and Government policy. We are looking for some clarity as to the service which will be provided from September when more adults come on board, when they have essentially left secondary school, to get the service offered. At the moment, the HSE cannot tell anybody where and how that service will take place. It is important clarity is given in that regard.

Post-school supports and assisted living services for adults with intellectual disabilities are a problematic issue across society. It is not just an issue in Dunboyne but throughout the country. These services help them be good citizens in society. It is an ongoing difficulty with many changes to services. Some have had difficulties with these changes. There is an ever greater demand for these services. There has been a well-documented rise in the number of autism and autism spectrum disorder, ASD, diagnoses. Many of these citizens with ASD are going through the school system and coming to the end of it. With these large numbers, we need provision for them into the future. I know families stay awake at night worrying for the future of their child, brother or sister. We need to give as much certainty as possible, recognising they are citizens and that society has an obligation to ensure they can participate in civic society in as normal a fashion as possible.

Looking at the reply from the Minister of State, I do not think Deputy Thomas Byrne will be happy with it.

I wish to thank the Deputy for raising this important issue today and I am pleased to outline the position on services for young people with disabilities who need continuing supports from the health service upon leaving school. In the time permitted, my colleague the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, was unable to clarify the nature of the Deputy’s question. I understand that contacts to the Deputy’s office were unsuccessful.

That was not the case.

Vocational training services for people with disabilities, including training for the open labour market, comes under the aegis of the Minister for Education and Skills. Many young people with intellectual disabilities avail of this option. Life skills training for people with disabilities who have continuing support needs are the responsibility of the HSE. If the Deputy has any specific information regarding the training centre in Dunboyne, he is welcome to contact the Minister of State’s office with further details. The Minister of State will undertake to get back to him with an early response.

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with all levels of disabilities, whether they require education-funded training services or health-funded life skills training, which will empower them to live independent lives, provide them with greater independence in accessing the services they choose, as well as enhancing their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. The commitment to disability services is outlined in the programme for partnership Government, which is guided by two principles, namely, equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

With regard to the provision of day services for school leavers with disabilities, the Programme for a Partnership Government states the Government is committed to ensuring all 18 year old school leavers with disabilities have continued education or training opportunities. These opportunities may be provided through the education sector or the health sector depending on the nature of the individual’s needs and abilities.

My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities, Deputy Finian McGrath, identifies the needs of school leavers as one of the priorities for HSE funded disability services. The Government fully recognises that the transition phase from school life to early adulthood is a time of worry for many families. In 2016, all school leavers received the quantum of service requested. To build on this success and to ensure the needs of school leavers are met in 2017, including the need for life skills training, additional funding of €10 million is being allocated by the HSE to provide appropriate services and supports. Based on the funding provided in regard to 2017 school leavers, it is expected that all young people with disabilities who have a requirement for a HSE funded day service after leaving school in 2017 will be facilitated with a day placement to meet their needs.

I fully agree with Deputy Thomas Byrne. As public representatives, we are contacted by the parents of children with intellectual disabilities asking that we facilitate their needs as best we can. Ensuring that those people are looked after should be a central policy of Government. I agree entirely with the Deputy that many families and many parents and grandparents are very worried about what the future holds for many of these young people with disabilities. They may have to continue to depend on a life-long service provided by the HSE. I agree with the Deputy that I have not been specific in the reply I gave but I only received it a few minutes ago. I will relay his concerns to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath.

It is not the fault of the Minister of State present but that is possibly the worst answer ever given by a Department. It is no wonder the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, did not come into the Chamber. I am not blaming the Minister of State present. The Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, met me today. He was presumably in the Chamber for the full hour during which the votes were taken today. The idea that he could not contact me is outrageous and ludicrous. The idea that he does not know what the HSE is planning in Dunboyne is also ludicrous because it is not a big town. Four or five HSE centres will not be created to provide for adults with intellectual disabilities who are under discussion at a high level in the HSE at present.

The Minister of State could do me favour by requesting the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, to meet me, together with senior HSE officials and with representatives of Praxis Care and that might be a way to make up for this. The idea that I was not contactable is offensive. I was sitting here opposite the Minister of State for a full hour at lunchtime while the votes were being taken and he briefly spoke to me before that. I do not accept the assertion that I was uncontactable. I will leave it at that. I do not expect the Minister of State to respond further but I ask that she request that we would have such a meeting. I do not know what this section in the Department of Health is at. It is outrageous.

I will reply as I should to the Deputy. I agree entirely with him. He was told in the reply that he was uncontactable but I am sure there were plenty of occasions to speak to him today and, as the Deputy said, he met the Minister of State face to face. I reiterate that I have just received the reply to this Topical Issue.

I am not blaming the Minister of State.

I will go back to the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, and request that he meets the Deputy and discusses fully with him what is happening in Dunboyne. I am not familiar with the service there that he raised. I will convey to the Minister of State a stern message from the Deputy pointing out that he is very distressed with the reply he received, and I do not blame him.

Medical Products Supply

The next Topical Issue is in the name of Deputy Joan Collins.

I wish to advise Deputy Collins that I am taking this Topical Issue on behalf of the Minister. If she wishes to withdraw the matter she may do so, but it is up to herself. I have a reply for her.

I was going to say I was annoyed the Minister was not present to take this matter. I spoke to him briefly about this matter yesterday. Parents are very concerned that Vertex was able to contact them to tell them that it had not been contacted by the HSE regarding negotiations on the supply of Orkambi. I would like to defer this Topical Issue until next week, as I would like the Minister to come into the Chamber to take it because it is a very important issue concerning people with cystic fibrosis and parents who have been contacted by Vertex. I hope they will not be too anxious about this over the weekend.

That matter can be deferred until next week and, hopefully, the Ceann Comhairle will facilitate the taking of it again.