Topical Issue Debate

Aviation Policy

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. The aviation sector is a critically important one for a small open economy such as Ireland's. Key to supporting this industry is ensuring that, as a nation and Government, we have sufficient airport capacity and sufficient infrastructure in place. We need to have our capacity right and our infrastructure in place to ensure we have sustainable development going forward. We need to have it in place to enable IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to attract foreign direct investment for the proper and sustainable development of the capital city and the eastern seaboard and all counties served by Dublin Airport, including my constituency of Longford-Westmeath. Increased connectivity is extremely important. The key to all of this is the roll out and construction of the second runway at Dublin Airport. I am thinking back to a Topical Issue debate initiated by my colleagues, Deputy Clare Daly and Deputy Broughan, in June 2016 about EU regulation and the need for a competent authority to deal with noise regulation at Dublin Airport. I refer to a priority question I tabled to the Minister on Wednesday, 2 November 2016. Key to this is that the residents who are affected want to know who is the competent authority dealing with noise regulations. When I raised this issue in November 2016, the Minister gave me an answer. He accused me of being alarmist.

The Deputy is being a little bit alarmist. There is one certainty. The runway will be built. What is uncertain, as the Deputy correctly said, is the exact timeframe because we are not certain that primary legislation will not be required. It is unlikely, but it is possible. If this is done by way of a statutory instrument, it will all be over by Christmas. If primary legislation is by any chance necessary, it will be done very early in the new year. Those are the certainties.

That is what the Minister said to me almost 12 months ago. We are 12 months on and we still have no certainties. The lack of progress on this is having a huge impact. Dublin Airport is at capacity. It will have severe negative economic impact on the wider area. Can the Minister confirm to the House when the second runway will be up and operational? Can he confirm it will be operational, as previously promised, by the first quarter in 2020? Will he confirm the Irish Aviation Authority remains the Government's choice as the competent authority to deal with noise regulation? If it is still the Government's choice to deal with it, can he confirm 18 months on whether a statutory instrument will be required? If so, when will it be published? If primary legislation is needed, when can we expect to debate it on the floor of the Dáil?

I thank Deputy Troy for raising this important matter. I share his frustration about the delay. It is something I regret enormously but it is very important that we get it right. We are dependent on legal advice wherever it is coming from but mostly from the Attorney General's office. We will take that legal advice. What is important to hear is that we get it right. I am sure if we got it wrong and there were consequences, Deputy Troy would rightly be the first person to come into the House and say the legislation was rushed and we were to blame for it. I assure the House we are still working extremely strenuously towards the objectives of which he spoke and that there is absolutely no intention to make any changes. The route whereby we get there is the matter that is being worked upon very intensely in the Attorney General's office and elsewhere. That route is slower than we expected but it will be finalised in good time so that the timetable is not in any way knocked.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. I have made a number of contributions in the House on this matter over the course of the past 12 months, which is too long. The Deputy mentioned November 2016 and he is absolutely correct; it is far too long and it is something I regret. I regret it was not finalised within the timetable which we intended but we are moving as hastily as we possibly can without damaging the chances of the final answer we will come to. It has also been raised in response to questions by Deputy Clare Daly who has a keen interest in this issue.

As Deputy Troy rightly said, the residents have a real interest in this issue as well and they have a right to a hearing. Deputy Troy will be aware I have met many delegations of residents to whom I have listened speak about the difficulties they are facing. I have every sympathy for them. That has been passed on to the DAA on every occasion. I will continue to meet delegations of the residents because people have a right to a certain tranquility and not to be disrupted too much by airlines. That is why we will have a noise regulator.

As the Deputy may know, the EU noise regulation, Regulation 598/2014, establishes a set of common rules and procedures to deal with noise issues at airports within all EU member states. The regulation which came into effect in June of last year, applies to airports of a certain size. In Ireland, it is only applicable to Dublin Airport.

The regulation is an important addition to the EU legal framework for effective environmental management and control. It seeks to ensure that airport capacity is developed in a measured and balanced way, with due regard to economic growth, jobs, prosperity and the mitigation of environmental impacts. The main purpose of the regulation is to provide member states with a common framework for applying internationally agreed best practices in the area of aviation noise management.

On the one hand, the regulation recognises the importance of aviation connectivity in supporting economic growth, social development and international trade. On the other hand, it also recognises the need for states to expand airport capacity in a controlled and sensible manner, especially in minimising the impact of aircraft noise in the vicinity of airport sites. Drawing on methodology agreed at the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is the global body responsible for co-ordinating and developing international aviation, the EU regulation provides a way of ensuring that aircraft noise is managed in a coherent and balanced manner.

Under the regulation, which came into effect last year and which is therefore law here, I am required to appoint a competent authority to be responsible for its application. Such a body shall be responsible for measuring noise and making decisions about how it should be managed by the airport in the context of current and future activity and expansion. Typically, this would be a relatively straightforward task involving a statutory instrument to nominate the competent authority. However, as the Deputy will know, it has proven very complex to transfer onto existing Irish planning and development arrangements, and my Department has had to work quite intensively with the Office of the Attorney General over an extended period to work through the best way to ensure Ireland is fully compliant.

The Minister did not answer any of my questions. Will he commit to the runway being operational by the first quarter of 2020? Will he confirm that the Irish Aviation Authority remains the Government's choice as the competent authority? Does it require a statutory instrument or primary legislation? Those are three very simple and basic questions.

The Minister said he met the residents - fair play. The residents have met representatives of the DAA on a number of occasions. They want an independent authority to regulate the noise. While he can correct me if I am wrong, as of today, the Minister seems unable to tell the House what the competent authority is. If he can, he should share the information with us. He said he sought legal advice, mostly coming from the Office of the Attorney General. What other legal advice has he sought? Has a senior counsel been brought on board? Has the DAA or the IAA given legal advice to the Department?

The Minister said he has no intention of making any changes, but the route to get there may change. He is trying to muddy the waters. I will ask some very straight questions and I would appreciate if he could answer them. Does the IAA remain the competent authority? Does it require a statutory instrument or primary legislation? Is the Minister committed to having the second runway in operation by the first quarter of 2020? If it is not the IAA, what body does the Minister consider as the competent authority? It started off as the EPA and changed to the IAA. The Minister has led us to believe he has worked on this for more than 18 months and now his reply has left uncertainty as to whether it is the IAA.

The Minister should not give us the balderdash that we would be critical of him because it would be rushed. It is far from rushed; it is operating at a snail's pace. Even the Minister has said he is embarrassed over the pace at which it is operating. I am not looking for rushed legislation, but detailed answers on the status of this issue. The airport management needs to know and the residents need to know. It is down to the Minister to inform us.

I thank the Deputy for his very specific questions. I will try to give him the answers as specifically as I possibly can. On the question of the route for getting there, it is quite simple; it is where the balance between the statutory instrument and primary legislation lies. That has not yet been decided and has not been fully recommended upon by the Attorney General. That is why I say the route may vary; the balance may move towards primary legislation and away from statutory instrument depending on the Attorney General's advice. That is what I mean when I refer to the route by which we get to the same objective.

Surely the Minister should just do the primary legislation.

The Deputy and I both know what the objective is. Whether we get there by primary legislation or statutory instrument or both and in which proportions is a matter we will address as soon as we get the advice from the Attorney General. The Deputy should recognise that the Attorney General's advice is important here. If we ignore that advice, we will, of course, be culpable. That will be a major factor in the decision about the route we take on legislation.

The Deputy asked about the other legal advice. The other legal advice has come, but I have not seen it. I know the Attorney General has certainly sought external advice as well, which is quite normal in the case of very complex legislation or a very complex matter which is of huge national importance. They sometimes-----

Is the IAA the competent authority?

Let me finish.

I am trying to get answers to the three questions I asked. The time is going to run out.

It is very important that we take cognisance of that advice when deciding on that balance. That will be a very important factor.

On the issue of the first quarter of 2020-----

The Irish Aviation Authority-----

We have absolutely no intention of diverting from that target. All other matters the Deputy raised are matters that will be influenced by the advice we will get, hopefully, in the coming days.

The Minister has wasted 12 months.

Air Services Provision

The chaos landed on hundreds of thousands of Ryanair passengers in the past week is really a case of chickens coming home to roost. The so-called magic of Ryanair and Mr. Michael O'Leary has been exposed as nothing more than the vulgar, bootboy tactics of vicious exploitation meted out on its crew and its pilots. I will not repeat the stories from the airwaves with which people are familiar - the charging of pilots €15 an hour to download an application form; the €30,000 to pay for their own training; and Ryanair taking on people with a couple of hundred hours' training experience. Is it any wonder that people are leaving it in droves? Is it any wonder that it is getting away with it given that it is facilitated by the operation of the State in this country?

Given the enormous safety risk for passengers of having pilots on zero-hour contracts, what is the Minister doing to tighten up the regulation in this area and improve collective bargaining? Ryanair carries 130 million passengers a year and employs tens of thousands of people under an Irish flag of convenience. The scam has been perpetuated - the myth, if one likes - by the pretence that crew based all over Europe are Irish crew on Irish contracts with recourse only to Irish courts. They get away with it because Ireland has no definition of what a self-employed person is. Therefore, we have agencies such as Brookfield, a tax haven in Gibraltar, and contracts that stipulate the services of a pilot are provided on a required and-or casual basis. There is no obligation on it to provide work. The European Cockpit Association blames these contracts for risks and for pilots turning up when sick when it is not safe for them to do so.

The European Court of Justice has blocked this. Ryanair is set to appeal. What is the Government's attitude to this because Ireland has for too long facilitated this appalling vista?

The pilots at Ryanair have mutinied against their pay and working conditions and I congratulate them on having done so.

The men and women who fly Ryanair aeroplanes, work to a Ryanair schedule and wear Ryanair uniforms operate under the fiction that they are self-employed. This is social dumping by Ryanair on a grand scale. There is a scandal in the context of sick pay, holiday pay and zero-hour contracts.

This summer, the Revenue, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, organised a joint raid on a building site at Dolphin's Barn to combat bogus self-employment, and rightly so. Why has that not been done with Ryanair? I put it to the Minister that it is because the company is protected by the establishment that fetes it, by the parties that invite Michael O'Leary to their think-ins and by the Government, which holds up Ryanair as a glittering symbol and shining example of neoliberal capitalism. I have two questions for the Minister. First, does he not feel that symbol has been somewhat tarnished as a result of the events of recent weeks? What does he say to the proposal I put to him that the State has turned a blind eye to Ryanair's social dumping and is, therefore, part of the problem? What is the Government going to do to change that?

I thank Deputies Clare Daly and Barry for raising this very important and topical matter, namely, the recent crisis relating to and the pay and conditions of pilots at Ryanair.

The ongoing events affecting Ryanair flights across Europe, and especially those affecting Irish travellers, are deeply regrettable. This is a very serious, pan-European service failing that seems to have arisen at very short notice. The scale of the Ryanair network has certainly exacerbated the impact. There is some solace in EU consumer protection provisions, which in Ireland are safeguarded by the Commission for Aviation Regulation. As the designated national body for the enforcement of air passenger rights under Regulation No. 261/2004, I assure the Deputies that as soon as the announcements were made by Ryanair, our aviation regulator was in contact with the company to make sure consumer protection issues were to the fore. I am advised that those contacts are ongoing.

The regulator has confirmed that, under EU consumer protections, the carrier is obligated to reroute passengers at the earliest possible opportunity and to provide care and assistance, namely: meals and refreshments; hotel accommodation in cases where an overnight stay becomes necessary; transport between the airport and place of accommodation; and two telephone calls, emails, faxes or telexes. The airline must also offer the choice of a full refund. Those are steadfast requirements with which Ryanair will have to comply for all of its affected customers in Ireland.

The regulator has already advised affected customers to submit claims for refunds and compensation directly to the airline in the first instance. If consumers are not satisfied with the response of Ryanair, they may make a complaint to the regulator in cases where the cancelled flight was from Ireland. Similarly, if a flight was due to depart from another EU member state, the complaint will be handled by the national enforcement body in that jurisdiction. Further information is available on the regulator's website, www.flightrights.ie.

As to the causes of this disruption, that is a matter for Ryanair to clarify and explain. I have no wish to speculate as to the inner workings of a private company. I note that a number of factors have been attributed by the company, including adverse weather conditions. However, in so far as the company has pointed to changes to EU regulations affecting leave arrangements for staff as a factor, I can advise the following: The Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, is the independent regulator in Ireland responsible for safety regulation, oversight and inspection. In that role, the IAA is responsible for ensuring that all Irish registered airlines comply with European aviation safety regulations, including those governing so-called flight time limitations.

Revised European flight time limitations came into effect last year, and Ryanair has transitioned to them. The limitations restrict the number of pilot and cabin crew hours that are permissible during a 12-month period. I am advised by the IAA that all Irish airlines have always been and continue to be fully compliant with the regulations governing flight time limitations. While I appreciate that the Deputies would very much like to instigate a broader debate on pay and conditions of workers, we are talking about a private, commercial company. I have no remit in this regard. Matters of staff relations, rosters, remuneration rates and terms and conditions of employment are a matter for the company and its employees. As I have explained, there are EU laws limiting annual flight times by pilots and crew, and I understand that Ryanair complies with those.

I appreciate that the Minister has recognised the seriousness of the issue and I agree with him that it is Ryanair that is primarily responsible. The company will pay a heavy price for its treachery. It is a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

There has never been a better time for pilots at Ryanair to organise. I am shocked when I think back that it is nearly 20 years ago since we stood outside the white house, the Ryanair headquarters at Dublin Airport, to watch Michael O'Leary give the finger to trade unionists who had assembled in support of the right of Ryanair workers to organise. I am not asking the Minister about the things he cannot control but, rather, about the things he can control. The Government and that which preceded it have facilitated a process whereby the lack of employment regulation in Ireland has facilitated a European-wide situation whereby Ryanair bases in France and Denmark have been shut down and people have been employed on Irish contracts - bogus self-employment Irish contracts. We have a responsibility to that end. We have a responsibility in the context of the European Court of Justice ruling that Ryanair is going to appeal. What I want to know, in the interest of decent workers' rights and safe pilot conditions, is what the Government is doing in order to protect that scenario?

Ryanair is not only a non-union company, it is an explicitly anti-union company. It is run like a corporate dictatorship. Any worker in Ryanair who stood up and announced that he or she planned to try to unionise his or her fellow workers faced immediate sacking. I put it to the Minister that the absence of trade union organisation is part of the problem, as is the absence of trade union rights. If trade unions existed in Ryanair, there would be better wages and better conditions, and, perhaps, this crisis might have been averted. I hope that part of the legacy of this dispute is that Ryanair pilots - and also cabin crew, baggage handlers and other staff - win trade union rights and recognition. My question to the Minister is whether he has any comment to make on trade union rights for Ryanair pilots and whether he is willing to meet the Irish Airline Pilots Association to discuss a section 32 examination of the IAA, in other words, issues relating to public safety arising from the way Ryanair operates.

I will take Deputy Barry's question first. I will meet the Irish Airline Pilots Association. I would be delighted to meet the pilots. I will discuss all issues which arise as a result of this situation. It would be perfectly fair to do that. I met the pilots already but not in recent weeks. We had a meeting that was extremely enlightening and interesting. We agreed to meet again. I will meet them and discuss any issues they think are relevant. We may not agree but I think it would be a useful exchange.

Obviously, I cannot intervene in issues that are before the European Court of Justice or that are being appealed to same. I do not wish to address that issue here as it would be inappropriate to do so. In the circumstances, I do not really want to say anything about the absence of trade unions in Ryanair but I have been in touch with Michael O'Leary in the past week and I will be in touch with him again this week. I expressed the views of the Government and the views of the travelling public that the events of last week should have been foreseen, that we could not understand why they were not foreseen and that what happened was unacceptable. My Department has been in touch with the Commission on Aviation Regulation and the IAA to ensure that Ryanair is complying with every necessary rule and regulation and that it is compensating passengers accordingly. Those organisations are satisfied that this is being done down to the last cent.

If the Deputies wish, I will report back to the House as soon as possible, maybe next week under Priority Questions or Topical Issues. Mr. O'Leary told me that he would get in touch with me again this week, when he has produced what he believes to be a comprehensive solution to the problem. I think he will announce that very shortly. My interest is to ensure that something as unacceptable as this should never happen again and to do so without interfering in the affairs of a private company.

Schools Building Projects

I apologise on behalf of Deputy Lahart who wished to contribute but, due to a clash of times, cannot make it. Scoil Mochua is a relatively small school located in Clondalkin, with about 74 pupils. The children have multiple disabilities including physical and other severe disabilities. Recently, Deputy Ó Broin and I had an opportunity to visit the school and meet the pupils and their teachers. We saw the physical condition of the school. More importantly, we saw the difficulty posed for the children in carrying out their daily activities. The school's conditions are poor and the accommodations are not appropriately planned. All of these children have physical disabilities, with walkers, wheelchairs and so forth. The physical space to manoeuvre is simply not sufficient. This causes severe hardship on an ongoing and daily basis. The school is also in a very poor condition in respect of toilet and sanitary facilities and so forth. It is not fit for purpose.

I emphasise that this is not a constituency matter. While the school is located in Clondalkin, the pupils come from Clondalkin, Lucan, Ballyfermot, Tallaght, Naas and other areas. It is a very particular issue. Having looked at the facilities in the school, we believe they are grossly inadequate for the needs of the children. They are children with significant challenges and although the physical condition of the school should not be adding to their daily challenge, unfortunately it is.

I am delighted that colleagues from other parties are joining to appeal to the Minister that this school simply cannot wait. The teachers have indicated to us that the Department has informed them that, in the future, there will be a new school building. We are asking the Minister to consider advancing the date for this specific school. There is a very significant, immediate adverse impact on the children. We believe the refurbishments should be advanced more quickly.

As Deputy Curran said, this issue has cross-party support. Scoil Mochua in Clondalkin is probably unique. As Deputy Curran said, there are 74 students, most of whom are wheelchair users. They come from 19 different localities including Clondalkin, Ballyfermot and Lucan, as well as counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. It is unique in offering preschool, primary and post-primary facilities. As Deputy Curran described, the school is very dilapidated and is not fit for purpose in its present form.

Many good schools have been built in Dublin Mid-West. The management and students of Scoil Mochua are looking for equality on that basis. They are in the schools building programme for 2019 to 2021. The management and students are saying this work cannot wait but needs to be fast-tracked and undertaken as soon as possible. I could read out a list of issues that the school has. Some of them are very basic, for example corridors in which two wheelchairs cannot pass each other. The school building has outlived its purpose and it is time a new school is built.

As the Minister knows, Scoil Mochua is a Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, school in Clondalkin. It is unique in that not only is it a school but also has on-site therapeutic support and interventions provided by the CRC. There are 74 pupils from a wide range of localities, electoral constituencies and counties. The pupils are children with special needs including those with multiple disabilities. I visited the school three times over the last months. The quality of the effort by the teachers, board and parents is just remarkable. Deputy Curran and I met three of the pupils, who gave a presentation. These are remarkable children who are overcoming all sorts of obstacles placed in their way in their everyday lives. In addition, they are in a school in which the conditions are frankly Dickensian. Not only is there not enough room for the facilities; there are inadequate toilet facilities, cooking or eating facilities or facilities for children to exercise.

Our request is very simple. It is that this project be lifted out of the current capital programme up to 2021 and brought forward. The school has the land and the support from the local authority. It has support from the local community and cross-party support. I urge the Minister to visit the school to see for himself at first hand the conditions.

There is a further frustration. A number of us in this House have been raising the matter with the Minister through parliamentary questions over the last months, seeking information. I was told in replies in May, June and September that additional information had been requested from the school by the Department and had yet to arrive. In case that is going to be part of the Minister's answer today, it is not the case. The information that I was told was required over the summer had been provided in May. The information that I was told in September was required by the Department had been provided in August. The Department has all the information. The Minister has all the information. Because of the special needs of these children and the poor state of the school, we are urging the Minister to lift it out of the capital programme and bring it forward to let these children get the quality of education they so rightly deserve.

My colleagues have outlined the situation for the 74 children. The school covers four constituencies, including my own with 12 children coming from the Tallaght area. As other speakers have said, it is not about lobbying for a constituency school; the Minister gets those letters every day of the week and I understand the pressure he is under. This school is unique in the difficulties that are facing the children. The children themselves have multiple disabilities in many cases, including physical and other impairments. In their short lives, they have faced significant challenges and will probably face even more as they move into the future. The difficulties for electrical equipment and even for two wheelchair users to pass each other in the corridors have been described. In order to get from one end of the school to the other, some children have to go outside the school altogether, out on to the path. The school is located down in a back alley or laneway, which makes it difficult to drop off the children at school. It is made up of prefabs. There are a lot of problems.

There is plenty of land and there is agreement with South Dublin County Council. We are not just looking to serve our own constituencies here. We are asking the Minister to fast-track the work because of the profound challenges facing these children. It ticks all the boxes. I know there is a difficulty for the Minister in that if he does this for one school, the pressure is going to be on for another. I ask him to seriously consider this case, however. We have an opportunity to do something positive for these children and their families. I ask him to reflect on this in his answer.

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue.

The Department is committed to a rebuild on the existing site. That has been accepted. As the Deputies have indicated, it is due for commencement between 2019 and 2021. It is at an early stage of planning within the Department. As Deputy Ó Broin has said, there are issues from the Department's point of view. It needs additional information. The rebuild is designed to cater not just for the existing school numbers, but also for projected additional needs. I understand that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, and the school are involved in providing the additional information needed to identify the scale of those needs. The information in question will be an important input into the Department's planning. In addition, I understand from the Department that mapping and service identification in respect of an adjoining site, which has been put forward prospectively as part of the site on which the development will occur, is not available to it in the detail it needs. I do not know whether it is an issue for the school or the council to indicate what underground services are there. Additional information is being sought in respect of water and other issues.

I would be sympathetic to the proposal that this should be fast-tracked, if possible. The sheer growth in school numbers has put severe pressure on my Department. We are providing 15,000 additional school places every year, driven simply by demographic need. At the same time, we are trying to provide approximately 5,000 replacement places. This school would largely fall into the latter category. As the Deputies will understand, the Department has scheduled its work in accordance with that plan. It works through projects on a sequential basis. In light of the unanimity of the Deputies' views, I will explore whether there is scope for this project to be moved forward more quickly than anticipated.

The Department seems to need additional information from the school. I am not sure whether that information is entirely available to the principal or is something we need to source, along with the school, from other agents. It appears that South Dublin County Council and the NCSE will have roles to play in accurately identifying the scale of the project and determining the suitability of the site. They will need to ascertain whether any issues pertaining to the site could create delays in planning, design and so on. That is where it stands. I will seek additional information on this at a personal level to see whether we can do anything to comply with what the Deputies have said.

I have been seeking to prioritise children with special educational needs. In the past two years, I have been able to provide for 1,500 additional resource teachers and 2,000 additional special needs assistants. When special classes are needed, they are treated as emergency works. We are trying to make sure children with special needs are not disadvantaged in any way. I will explore this further in view of what the Deputies have said to see what is possible. If they can shed any light on the issues that are holding this up, according to what I have been told, I would appreciate it.

I acknowledge the Minister's positive response. We will be glad to work collectively with him to bring this to a conclusion as quickly as possible, for example, by working to supply the additional information that is needed to ensure this project goes ahead. It can advance with the direct help of the Minister. I commend the students and teachers in the school, who are doing exceptionally well during these difficult and challenging times. In case anyone thinks we are jumping on the bandwagon at the last moment, I remind the Minister of the findings of a whole-school evaluation that was conducted in the school in March 2010:

The school wing contains three units, each comprising a shared area with two classroom bases located off it. This type of school design was prevalent at the time the building was constructed but is not the optimum design for pupils with physical disability. The classroom bases are small and are restrictive when used for tuition with the whole class group. Many of the pupils attending the school have physical needs requiring frequent changes to supportive seating or standing equipment. This necessitates the movement of both pupils and equipment regularly during the day. As the classroom bases are small, other pupils often have to be moved to facilitate the exit or entrance of their peers.

In acknowledgment of that evaluation, the board of management of the school replied:

We welcome inspectors’ comments about the significant inadequacy of our existing buildings. The Board of Management will increase its efforts to achieve a building programme through the DES which will fully address the needs of our physically/multiply disabled students.

The evaluation to which I refer was conducted in March 2010. This shows that the problem has been around for a long time. I am glad to hear the Minister's response. My colleagues and I will work collectively to try to advance this project.

The Minister's response is quite positive. We sometimes get negative news when we come in here. I hope the issues raised in the Minister's statement can be overcome. In particular, the issue relating to the land in the local area can be overcome quite quickly by South Dublin County Council.

I would like to mention some other parallels. A really good primary school is being built by Stewarts in the Rosse Court area of Lucan. It will be a state-of-the-art facility for children with special needs, etc. I hope the parents, the management and the service users can get what they want and the issues can be fast-tracked so that this school gets up and running as soon as possible.

I welcome the very positive response from the Minister. I want to clarify the nature of the information that is being asked for. An email that was sent by the principal of the school in response to my last parliamentary question on this matter makes it clear that as far as the school understands, the information sought by the Department - a letter from South Dublin County Council with respect to the use of a particular piece of land - was submitted in March 2016 and again in June 2017.

Future enrolment numbers have also been mentioned. As the Minister will be aware, because this is not a mainstream school, the sources of enrolment are more complex. According to the information that has been provided to the Department, it will be built as a 12-teacher school, in line with the current shape and size of the school.

There have been conversations between the Department and the relevant personnel in the CRC regarding the co-location of the CRC building. The CRC authorities have confirmed that they are more than happy to work with the Department and to allow it to be the lead design team in producing this development.

I suggest that the quickest way to get this resolved is to do two things. First, officials from the Department need to have an on-site meeting with representatives of South Dublin County Council and CRC, as a matter of urgency, to resolve any outstanding issues. Second, I recommend that a joint design team, comprising officials from the Department and the CRC, should be put in place to work through the rest of the issues and avoid emails getting lost in transmission between different bodies. This is happening in housing and there is no reason it cannot happen in the Department of Education and Skills. If the Minister were to undertake to do those two things - arrange an on-site meeting and establish a design team involving the Department and the CRC - this could be expedited very quickly, something which would meet with universal approval.

There is nothing more frustrating than getting an answer that refers to technical issues or all sorts of problems. I take what the Minister is saying at face value. I think prioritising schools like this is the right direction for us to take as a society. As I said in my opening statement, these children face challenges because they are impaired by their disabilities, so society should not be impairing them as well. They should not have difficulty getting into their schools, which should be safe havens they can enjoy with their colleagues. If the Minister can fast-track and champion this cause, it will be a positive day's work. There is huge pressure on the families of these beautiful children to deliver the supports they need. They are looking for the best for them. If we have the ability to deliver such services at this school, in particular, we should try to do so. If the Minister can champion this as a priority, we would appreciate it.

I am not sure that an on-site meeting is necessary at this stage to resolve these issues. The Department is looking for information on the existence and location of a water main, media underground services and ESB underground cables.

This is factual information about mapping. I was not aware that this involved co-location with the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, so I will have to explore whether the suggestion the Deputies are making of undertaking a joint design project with the CRC is something to which the Department would be positively disposed. I presume the design issues for the CRC will be different from what would be a standard design of the Department but I will explore the issues the Deputies are raising to see if we can make progress.