Leaders' Questions

The Taoiseach last week told rural dwellers and various campaigners to stop talking down rural Ireland. I put it to him that campaigning for and articulating the need for basic services such as housing, health and broadband connectivity or questioning the lack of spending on important projects in rural Ireland is entirely legitimate, as is calling to account the Government for its lack of delivery on promises made by it to rural Ireland many years ago. We need a reality check in terms of delivery on promises made to rural Ireland.

The previous Fine Gael-led Government undermined and arguably destroyed a very good model for rural development in the form of the then Leader programme, which was lauded by the European Union as an example of good governance and developmental community-led approach and was designed to revitalise rural areas, create jobs and so on.

From 2007 to 2013 the previous programme allocated some €400 million. The Fine Gael-led Government came in and reduced that allocation to €250 million and destroyed it by undermining the governance structure with huge bureaucracy. There were also major delays in getting the programme off the ground. As of this month, only €13 million out of the 2014-20 programme allocation of €250 million has been spent. Forget all the rhetoric. This programme is there on the ground, waiting to be delivered, but it is not delivered in accordance with the promises made.

On broadband connectivity, back in 2011 Fine Gael said that it would connect 90% of homes by 2015. That was the promise then, and we had lots of promises in 2012, 2013 and 2014, such as Alex White's national draft strategy on broadband, and commitments such as the tendering process for the roll-out of broadband that commenced in 2013. SIRO pulled out and Eir has pulled out. Two years ago, the programme for Government promised that the contract would be awarded by 2017. If there was one project that would really enable rural Ireland and the regions to develop economically, it is the availability of high speed broadband. Everything else pales into insignificance with that vital piece of infrastructure.

Despite all the promises, the existing businesses are under huge pressure because of the lack of broadband speed, household quality is reduced and the potential of new micro enterprises is stymied because of the lack of broadband connection. Today, we learned that while there is no delivery on broadband, €466 million is also needed for the railways just to maintain them and ensure we can hold on to the existing network to connect to Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Kerry, Waterford and Wexford, not to mention the towns of Athlone, Longford, Roscommon and Carlow. All of those areas could now be affected. Is that €466 million in the existing estimates?

Rural crime is a real issue also, but I will deal with that later. My main point is that in a week when all sorts of promises are being made about billions of euro and we are going to do the roll-out in five years' time----

The Deputy is out of time.

The Government seems incapable of doing the here and now in delivering existing programmes in accordance with the promises it made. Does the Taoiseach accept that the Government has failed on the Leader programme, has failed on broadband and is caught short on the railway investment programme?

There is a difference between advocating for a place and undermining it. I always support people who advocate for their area, be it a town, a city or the country from where they come, or the rural area they represent. There is a big difference between advocacy and undermining. Advocacy involves acknowledging problems and coming up with solutions, and undermining the place from where one comes from actually deters investment and puts people off moving in to those areas, making it harder to do what we need to do.

On the Government's and my commitment to rural Ireland, one of the first actions I took as Taoiseach was to appoint a Cabinet-level Minister for Rural and Community Development.

He has nothing to do.

The Minister is here beside me. I will give the House some examples of things that have been done-----

That Department has no function.

-----in a short period of time to make rural Ireland a better place to live and make it more attractive for people to live, raise their families, set up businesses and do all the things we want. An investment of €21 million has been made in the town and village scheme.

The local improvement scheme-----


The Taoiseach without interruption please.

It says a lot about the different approach that Members on this side of the House are willing to listen to the charges and then the question is thrown in at the end.

Go on. This is good.

I remind Members that the Taoiseach should respond without interruption please.

The Opposition hates the facts, so I will go through the facts again.

It was €13 million out of €400 million.

Some €21 million has been invested in the town and village scheme, and there will be a lot more to come, making our towns and villages a lot more attractive to live in.

Yes, they are just thriving.

The local improvement scheme has been restored with €17 million spent already on that, improving rural laneways and access-----

The Taoiseach should visit some of them.

Some order please.

-----to farms and homes in rural Ireland. There will be more funding there also. The rural recreation scheme has been granted €11 million and €30 million is provided for the Leader programme. There has been an underspend in the Leader programme-----

That is the understatement of the year.

-----but there is always an underspend in the first two years. The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, has made 32 changes already to simplify the Leader process and to make sure money is drawn down and is spent. The social inclusion and community activation programme is receiving €43 million. The CLÁR programme is receiving €5 million to help restore small-scale infrastructure projects in rural areas.

Perhaps most important of all, 80% of jobs that were created in the last quarter in this country were created outside the Dublin area. The Government's target - the Deputy asked me about delivering on our targets - was to ensure 68% of new jobs created were outside the greater Dublin area. We have exceeded our target by providing 80% of new jobs outside the greater Dublin area. I do not think there is anything more we can do for rural Ireland than ensuring there is employment in rural Ireland.

I am afraid there is.

That is what sustains communities. If there are jobs there, people can stay in those areas.

There are no jobs in many rural areas.

The people who got the jobs might be in rural Ireland-----

I will not tolerate a continuation of this.

-----but they have to drive into the city every day.

I will not tolerate this. I ask Deputies to restrain themselves. They might not like what they are hearing.

I am hearing nothing.

I have no responsibility for that.

In addition, changes were made to ensure GPs have more funding to establish in rural areas.

Is the Taoiseach joking?

He is not serious.

Who told the Taoiseach that?

I did not need to be told it because I signed the order to make it easier for GPs-----

That is a few years back.

-----to qualify for the rural practice allowance and to increase the rural practice allowance.

They are not there.

I signed the order so I do not need to be told about these things.

It has not had any effect in those few years.

I would like to make a final point about the railways. In the past ten years, much of which was a very difficult period of budget cutbacks, we did not close any railway lines in rural Ireland or any other part of Ireland. Now that we are in a position to invest in our railways again and to increase Iarnród Éireann's subvention, which has increased by 35% in three years, Deputies can be absolutely assured that having got through the worst recession in a generation without closing any railways, we are certainly not going to start doing it now.


Hear, hear.

I have given the Taoiseach some injury time.

I note the Taoiseach's reply was devoid of any reference to the Government's failure with regard to broadband connectivity.

The Deputy must not have been listening.

I was intrigued by the Taoiseach's opening remarks, in which he referred to what the Government has been able to do "in a short period of time". It is as if he is trying to wave a magic wand so we will ignore the fact that he has been a Minister since 2011.

The Taoiseach and his colleagues promised that there would be broadband connectivity by 2015.

Keep the recovery going.

I remind the Taoiseach that he was a member of the Government which, contrary to its promises, destroyed the esprit de corps of the effective and successful Leader programme.

Fine Gael politicians wanted to take it away from the community and give themselves some credit.

That is not true.

That is exactly what happened.

That is totally wrong.

That is what happened. It went from €400 million to €250 million. It was snarled in bureaucracy because individual Deputies and Ministers wanted the credit. They did not like non-politicians in community-led groups developing through the Leader programme.

I say very calmly that we are now in 2018 and we have spent just €13 million of the €250 million budget that was provided for a programme that lasts from 2014 to 2020.

It is disgraceful.

By any yardstick, we are failing to deliver on something that could have a very real impact in parishes throughout the country.

I call the Taoiseach for his final response.

I have travelled the length and breadth of the country from Moville to Kanturk. I have met people involved in very good industries. Those who advocate for rural Ireland do not talk it down. Most of them are self-reliant. They want the best for their towns, villages and rural areas. They do not like being talked down to by the Taoiseach. They do not like lecturing from a Dublin-centric Government.

The Taoiseach to respond.

They would like genuine delivery on existing projects.

The old-fashioned way.

It is important to point out that, as the public knows, there is a huge gap between the promises and commitments and the actual delivery of them on the ground.

The Taoiseach to respond.

I ask the Taoiseach to address-----

You have exceeded your time by a minute.

When does he think people can expect connectivity with broadband?

The Taoiseach to respond. You have got the question.

When will the Leader programme be changed-----

The Taoiseach to respond, please

-----so that we can get a much more effective programme on the ground in rural Ireland?

The Minister, Deputy Ring, will make a statement on Leader in due course.

No, I want the Taoiseach to speak on it.

I will pick up on the other points mentioned by the Deputy.

I have asked the Taoiseach to speak on Leader.

I have answered the Deputy's question about what has already been spent.

The Taoiseach has not answered it.

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

This is unprecedented.

I mentioned that 230 measures have been taken to speed up the funding. I am not one to come into this House and-----

-----deliver history lessons. I remind Deputy Martin, who sought to remind me that my colleagues and I have been in government for seven years, that in our first years in government, we had to restore this country's economic sovereignty and put us back into a place where we could build a future for Ireland again.

The Taoiseach should answer the question.

As I have already mentioned, unemployment is falling in every county and employment is increasing in every county.

Some 80% of new jobs are being created outside the greater Dublin area.

The Taoiseach should stop lying.

The biggest single transport investment in the past two years was the Gort to Tuam motorway, costing €550 million. The biggest single transport investment in the past two years was in the west of Ireland, helping us to connect Galway and Limerick and we will connect Limerick to Cork in due course. The Deputies will know about the investment in projects such as greenways around the country and the Wild Atlantic Way. I also meet the people the Deputies meet around the country and they do not talk down their communities. It is politicians on the other side of the House who talk down their communities and counties.

That is outrageous.

If we raise an issue, now we are talking down.

I greatly regret that they do so.

Last December, the Taoiseach described the Brexit joint report as cast iron and rock solid. At the time, if the Taoiseach recalls, we in Sinn Féin acknowledged the positive language in the joint report but we warned that it fell far short of what is needed to truly protect the national interest, North and South. We cautioned that the promises contained in the joint report were not legally binding. We pointed out that the report was full of holes and open to interpretation. We warned that the Government needed to be very careful dealing with a Tory Government, especially a divided one. That was sound and solid advice, and how right we were.

Mr. David Davis, the lead negotiator for Britain in the talks, described the joint report as nothing more than a statement of intent. The European Commission described it merely as a gentlemen's agreement, a far cry from cast iron and rock solid. This was a fudge designed to get Britain and the European Union into wider trade talks. The assumption the Taoiseach made was that Britain would commit itself to staying in the customs union and Single Market or some variation of that. That is what we would want to see as well.

The Government accepted a bag of promises from Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Those promises have been cast to the wind and the Taoiseach's cast-iron guarantee is now not worth the paper it is written on. The future of this island is still subject to Theresa May's Cabinet battles and Boris Johnson's leadership ambitions. There will be a hardening of the Border on this island if the hard Brexiteers have their way and Britain and the North leave the European Union. We cannot have a situation where the North is dragged out of the customs union and Single Market against its will.

We have consistently said that the only practical solution for Ireland is for the North to have special status in the European Union. This would simply reflect the will of the people; as the Taoiseach knows, a majority in the North voted to remain. Sinn Féin is very clear on what that special status would mean. In practical terms, it would mean the North staying in the customs union and Single Market; both the Assembly and the Good Friday Agreement staying in the legal framework of the European Union and the European courts; and the protection of the rights of those who live in the North of Ireland who are Irish and European citizens, who should be able to enjoy exactly the same rights post-Brexit as they do now. The sooner the Government realises this and works towards those alternatives, the better.

The Taoiseach's naive guarantees in December have damaged his credibility. He allowed himself and the Government to be led by the nose by Theresa May, with the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, being patted on the back by Boris Johnson as the best boy in the class. Will the Government finally accept the reality that there was no cast-iron guarantee in December? Will the Taoiseach and Tánaiste accept that because of their naivety, we are essentially back to square one? Will the Taoiseach explicitly call for the North to stay in the customs union and Single Market? Will he call for the Good Friday Agreement to stay within the legal architecture of the EU? Does he see that as the only practical, sensible, realistic solution to protect the interests of Irish people, North and South?

I said a number of things about the UK-EU joint report which was agreed in December. The contents are there in black and white for everyone to see. The language used is one of commitments and guarantees - commitments and guarantees written in black and white. I also said it was the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end, and that we would need to stay vigilant, focused and engaged as we moved into phase two. That is exactly what we have been doing. We are now seeking that those commitments and guarantees written in black and white in the December report are written into the EU-UK withdrawal agreement, which will be legally binding. What we are working on at the moment is making sure those commitments and guarantees that were agreed back in December are made legally binding by writing them into the withdrawal agreement.

That is the work we are doing in the background at the moment. We are also beginning work on the transition agreement because we want to make sure there is a transition period during which Irish people and Irish businesses have time to adjust to any permanent changes that may take place. That is what we are working on at the moment. It is significant that the work being done at present is on the withdrawal agreement, making those commitments legally binding, and the transition arrangement for the period after the UK leaves the EU. We are not into talks about trade yet because we believe it is important that we prioritise the withdrawal agreement and the transition phase and making sure that what was agreed back in December is written into the legal text of that agreement.

I want the Taoiseach and his Government to succeed. I want the best possible outcome for the people of this island. The concerns I have are concerns which are shared and have been expressed by many people. The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said last week that a border on the island of Ireland is inevitable if Britain leaves the customs union. I agree with that. The EU negotiator Sabine Weyand said that meeting commitments on the all-island economy would imply that the North effectively remains within the customs union and the Single Market. Michel Barnier has said exactly the same, that is, without a customs union and being outside the Single Market will mean barriers to trade in goods and services are unavoidable. If the North is taken out of the customs union and Single Market, we will see a hardening of the Border irrespective of whatever backdrop agreement the Taoiseach believes he has in place. It simply will not be good enough and will fall far short of what is necessary to make sure that we do not have that hardening of the Border.

The Taoiseach knows that the issue of the Border is about more than trade. While trade is important, it is also about the peace process. It is deeply political. We want to ensure the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts. We are trying to so do in respect of talks in the North, as the Taoiseach knows, and we want the same outcome in terms of the negotiations.

Does the Taoiseach accept that the North needs to stay in the customs union and Single Market? Does he accept that nothing short of that is required to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of this island?

The Deputy is correct to be concerned. This is not done yet. No one on this side of the House has ever claimed that everything was sorted and resolved in December. Phase 1 ended in December, and we are now in phase 2. We need to stay engaged and stay vigilant and we shall.

There are a number of ways in which we can avoid a hard border - meaning new barriers to the movement of people or to trade - between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. Our preference is that it be done in the context of the new relationship that will exist between the UK and the European Union. Movements between Britain and Ireland are as important as movements between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. For farmers, people involved in the agrifood industry or exporters, or for those people whose jobs depend on any of those things, the importance of maintaining free movement of people and free trade between Britain and Ireland is obvious. I get a little concerned sometimes when I hear other parties imply their preferred solution is some sort of special status or special arrangement for Northern Ireland, because that by definition would mean new barriers to trade between Britain and Ireland and all the problems that would arise from that.

It would also mean new barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and all the political problems that would arise from that, particularly for the unionist community.

We are working towards a new relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union that allows free trade and free movement of people to continue between all parts of Britain and all parts of Ireland, if that is possible. If that is not possible, we have that guarantee around what I call the backstop and what Prime Minister May calls the last resort, which is a unique arrangement for Northern Ireland. That should not be our preferred solution. Our preferred solution should be ongoing free trade and free movement of people between Britain and Ireland, which is so important not only for citizens in Northern Ireland but also for Irish industry and Irish jobs.

Six years ago this week, 31 year old Nora Hyland died in Holles Street hospital. She died from a cardiac arrest as a result of a massive haemorrhage after giving birth to her son, Frederick, by emergency caesarean section. There were no emergency blood supplies in the operating theatre. The coroner believed that the 37-minute delay in getting a transfusion probably cost her her life. Holles Street said it would rectify this situation but although fridges were installed in theatres, they were not sufficiently stocked when Malak Thawley bled to death in the same hospital in May 2016.

Five years ago yesterday, while giving birth to her fourth child, Sally Rowlette died in Sligo General Hospital as a result of a catastrophic mismanagement of HELLP syndrome, the same condition as a result of which Dhara Kivlehan died in the same hospital a few years earlier. The HSE's brutal opposition to the truth coming out, fighting her husband, Michael, for four years and resisting that inquest, probably cost Sally Rowlette her life and her children their mother.

We are hearing a lot lately that Ireland is one of the safest countries in which to give birth but when something goes wrong, there is no appetite for transparency or no appetite to learn. It is a battle every time with the bereaved and stunned families on one side and the HSE lawyers on the other. It is a case of litigate, delay and deny. That is the HSE way. The report on Portiuncula University Hospital still has not been released. Investigations were ongoing in seven out of the 19 maternity hospitals last year. Twice in the past three years, the HSE has gone to court to prevent the truth coming out, first, to prevent the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, publishing the report on Portlaoise and, now, Holles Street hospital effectively taking the Minister to court to stop an external investigation into Malak Thawley's death.

There is something very wrong in our health service. There were 27 maternal deaths between 2011 and 2013 but only three inquests. The culture of deny and defend has to end. While I welcome the Minister's measure to have an external investigation, the reality is that mandatory inquests in respect of maternal deaths are a key step in ending this culture and improving maternity care. That is something on which this House has agreed since Second Stage of my legislation was passed in the dying days of the previous Dáil. That legislation was prioritised by the current Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. We gave the Department of Justice and Equality six months to table amendments. On the night before the committee hearing, it pulled the plug and did not proceed with that investigation. The legislation in question is supposed to be a priority for the Government.

Two years ago, the Taoiseach met Sean Rowlette, who gave him a letter from his children in which they said they miss their Mam every day. Can the Taoiseach ensure that this will never again happen to another mother? Since the meeting to which I refer, it has happened at least twice. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation for mandatory inquests in respect of maternal deaths will be forthcoming?

I would like once again to extend my condolences to the families of the women Deputy Clare Daly mentioned. As she is aware, I met some of those families when I was Minister for Health and I know they still suffer every day from the loss of their loved ones and as a result of the traumatic events that occurred to them. My sympathies and those of the House are with the families.

Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world in which to give birth, both in terms of maternal mortality and neonatal mortality. However, that should not give rise to complacency in any way because we need to ensure that the number of maternal deaths and neonatal deaths is minimised. It is never possible to eliminate them entirely but they can be reduced further and minimised. Any time a maternal death occurs, there should be total transparency. Hospitals should be upfront about what happens and should carry out full investigations so that lessons can be learned and further events avoided into the future.

In terms of the actions of the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, Deputy Clare Daly will know that he has sought an independent review of the Thawley case, and the Government is totally behind him in that regard. We are very disappointed and dissatisfied that Holles Street hospital is threatening to take the Minister or the HSE to court in order to avoid an external inquiry. There should be an external inquiry. Rather than trying to block it, the hospital authorities should welcome it. If they have nothing to hide, they should welcome it. We are totally behind the Minister in that regard.

Legislation was passed in recent months to provide for open disclosure. As a result, for the first time open disclosure by doctors and other health care professionals is protected. I know that was a long time coming but it has now been done and it is important that we turn this legal mechanism into a culture and a practice across our hospitals whereby doctors and health care professionals are upfront with patients and their families when something goes wrong and understand why it is in their interest to be upfront. We know that is the case for many different reasons.

In terms of inquests, that legislation is under consideration.

There are strong arguments in favour of a mandatory inquest in the case of every maternal death but there may be cases in which that is not appropriate, for example, where a family does not want one. We have cases of maternal death where it is known immediately why the mother died. An inquest may not be necessary in such cases. However, there is a strong basis for a mandatory inquest where the family requests it.

I welcome the Minister for Health's initiative to put in place an external review, but it is not enough and it is not a substitute for an inquest. There are a lot of questions around the review, including what the terms of reference and qualifications of a reviewer will be and whether it will be capable of public scrutiny. There is something very wrong in the Department of Justice and Equality. I wonder whether we would be waiting this long if men were dying. Both the former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the current Minister, Deputy Flanagan, gave me guarantees that the legislation was a priority matter for them and the Government. Objections such as those the Taoiseach has raised are obvious and have already been dealt with. It is a priority for the whole of the justice committee. Local authorities the length and breadth of the country and representatives from all parties and none have supported this call. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice and Equality, which promised that we would have this legislation through every Stage before the summer, has yet to deliver the heads of a Bill.

The justice committee, on which Deputy Ó Caoláin and I sit, has met with the Department's officials. Either they do not understand what priority is or they are not listening to the Taoiseach's Ministers. There is no excuse for this. Babies have been conceived and delivered in the time the Department of Justice and Equality told us the legislation would be seen through every Stage. It is about fighting for better maternity care. We need these measures and we need the Taoiseach to get behind forcing the Department to stop messing about and simply deliver the legislation.

The Minister for Health has already announced that all deaths in maternity hospitals will be subject to an external review, which is necessary and welcome. It is also a provision of the national maternity strategy which was published not too long ago. I am advised by the Chief Whip and the Minister for Justice and Equality that this legislation is on the A list and that he intends to publish it this month. If it is published this month, we can perhaps get it through the Houses sooner rather than later. I have no doubt the Deputy will hold us to account in that regard.

In autumn 2016, the Taoiseach said the following in a Dáil debate:

It is a great regret that the previous Government, of which I was a member, did not hold a plebiscite on the issue or allow people in Dublin to have a say on directly electing a mayor for the city.

He was in favour of the concept. In 2013, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who is now the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, published a statement:

I'm a big supporter of having a directly elected Mayor for Dublin. There's a big democratic deficit at the moment in that the person who runs the city, the City Manager, is unelected and yet has all of the power and responsibility for the capital, whereas the Lord Mayor (elected by the Councillors) is largely a ceremonial role.

Late last year, the Dáil was told it was likely the Government would hold a plebiscite on the mayoral issue next autumn, around the time there might be a presidential election. It was also reported that in a report to Government, the Department had come out in favour of directly-elected mayoral system for Dublin and possibly Cork. I would add Limerick, Waterford and Galway as all our cities should have that sort of leadership.

This is not about an urban-rural divide. We all have rural and urban connections wherever we live in this country. It is not about Dublin versus the rest either. It seems the Government has a cunning plan at the moment whereby it will cripple Dublin with gridlock in an attempt to help the rest of the country develop. A planning proposal which involves being stuck in traffic for 75 minutes to get from Castleknock to Kildare Street every day is not a clever one. Things are worse around the country. Speaking for Dublin, the city is in crisis. Every other city is the same.

We need real leadership with a mandate to tackle the housing crisis. One cannot get that when one has four different city managers who are unelected and answer to no one but the mandarins in the Custom House and Merrion Street who run everything in this country. We need mayors to sort out the housing crisis and a transport crisis which is just as bad, if not worse, in Galway as it is in Dublin. We need someone to represent each of our cities and the enterprise culture we have to develop business and the economy in a co-ordinated way rather than according to a divided approach.

We need a mayor who has real power so we can develop the cultural life in our cities, as well as a mayor who can help to lead community development. Dublin Culture Connects is a fantastic example of bottom-up leadership that is happening but it will not work when it is controlled and led just by the Civil Service, rather than by elected officials.

Will the Taoiseach put this to the people? Will we have a plebiscite this autumn in order that we can introduce directly-elected mayors in our cities, starting in 2019? I do not believe he could introduce a plebiscite that would say to the people we are thinking of doing it six years later. Will he put it to the people? Will he live up to what he said numerous times in the Dáil and what the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has also said, namely, they believe, like us, that a directly-elected mayor is needed? If we are going to do it, the Taoiseach must decide now so we can have the plebiscite in time. Is it going to happen?

I am and remain in favour of a directly-elected mayor for Dublin. I think the same logic applies to other cities as well, and even potentially to counties and other local authorities. That would involve a major transfer of power from county and city managers, or chief executives as they are now called, to somebody elected. That would be a very big change in the way our local government works. The relationship would be similar to that which exists between a Minister and a Secretary General, as opposed to all the power, or almost all the power, residing with the chief executive, as it does now. However, we need to be more definitive on what proposal we are actually making to people before we have a plebiscite. We have pencilled in a plebiscite for this autumn and the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will bring proposals to Cabinet in the next few weeks.

I was very much against the proposals that were made by former Minister Gormley from Deputy Eamon Ryan's party because he proposed, essentially, to have a super-mayor who would be a mayor over the four existing local authorities in Dublin. Therefore, we would have the four existing local authorities all with their own chief executives, all with their own mayors, and then another super-mayor over that with very little power indeed. The last thing we need is another layer of bureaucracy in local government or between local government and national government.

I believe the exact role of an elected mayor needs to be fleshed out. The Deputy mentioned, for example, transport. Are we suggesting that Dublin Bus be transferred from national government to a Dublin executive mayor? How would it apply to the DART, for example, which runs on rail lines that also connect other parts of the country? What would happen with the housing budget and would it be a transfer from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to that authority? If that mayor had an enterprise role, would the IDA and Enterprise Ireland cease to operate in the Dublin region or would there be some sort of double structure? Those things need to be fleshed out before we actually put a proposal to the people.

Realistically, if we look at what was done in London, for example, while I am not sure a plebiscite was held there, even after the decision was taken to establish a directly-elected mayor in London, it did not just happen six months later and they had a programme as to how that was done over time. There also is the question of revenue-raising powers and how any directly-elected mayor with no revenue-raising powers would be able to do any of the things the Deputy mentioned. Would the property tax go to the mayor's office? Would VAT collected in a particular city go to the mayor's office? All of those things need to be fleshed out and thought through and I do not think this had been done adequately yet.

The mayor has to have a real role. That Bill introduced by the former Minister, Mr. Gormley, gave real powers in the transport sector, over the planning system and in the enterprise and cultural sector in helping communities develop. That was done on a cross-party basis where we got agreement from all sorts of parties on the side. We got it through the Dáil and it was almost on its last stages in the Seanad before it was pulled because that Government fell. If the Taoiseach has some amendment to that or some additional powers, we will happily debate that here.

We put forward a very detailed Bill which said exactly how it could be done. The then Minister, Deputy Coveney, took it and said, "We will discuss it", and we have not heard a word back since. If the Taoiseach is to do it, if he is to be more than just stylish socks, if he is to be something of substance and not just a protector of the status quo, he needs to do this quickly. If we are to have the plebiscite in the autumn, he needs to be getting ready now. The Taoiseach may laugh about it. I was told it was going to Cabinet today but it obviously did not. It has been ready for months. I have been told it is the Taoiseach's own party, his own people, the same backbench people in other counties, who are saying, "We would not like that because it is pro-Dublin". If Dublin crashes because of gridlock and a lack of housing leadership, the Taoiseach will be responsible. If he does not get this agreed in the next couple of weeks and get it to the people in the autumn, we are going to suffer another five years with a lack accountability, leadership and trust in the people of this city and others to lead.

That is what the Government will be doing unless it turns this around quickly.

The Deputy and his party had several years in government to bring this about, but they did not do so.

We got it right through.

It is something the Government is working on now. No proposal was brought to Cabinet today. I have not had backbenchers from outside Dublin object to this, or at least they have not made objections to me. Proper consideration of how this would work and what the role would be is required. It may be that a directly-elected mayor for the city of Cork on the new city boundaries might work more logically than one for Dublin, particularly as the latter is divided among three local authorities. That would need to be fleshed out. Each of those four local authorities in Dublin, the "four Dublins" as they like to call themselves, is a housing and planning authority. Are we discussing stripping housing and planning functions away from Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council and Fingal County Council and giving them to a new mayor? Will that mayor have all those powers vested in himself or herself or will there be another council elected between the mayor and those authorities? All that must be figured out. It was not properly figured out when the then Minister, John Gormley, put forward his proposals, which is why they never became a reality.

The Government has had seven years. Fine Gael is the status quo party.