As Members will be aware, there was a recommittal. I call on Deputy Mattie McGrath who was still in possession. Before the Deputy commences, I plead with him and any others who may be offering to ensure they are not repetitive. This is a recommittal so one can speak as often or as long as one wishes but I ask Members to observe the only rule that is there, which is they should not be repetitive.
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)
Nuair a dúirt mé aréir, it is an tAire who recommitted the Bill. I said last night it was the Minister-----
The Deputy should also say that he is aware of the amendments. Please adhere to those.
Of course I will. I am speaking to amendment No. 4. They go from amendment No. 4 to amendment No. 21. As I said, it was the Minister who recommitted the Bill. We are blamed in certain quarters for delaying it but when Deputy Healy-Rae and I attended a committee on a few occasions to try to discuss the amendments, including our amendments, they were not ready, there was no discussion and we did not get great clarity from the Chairman of the committee either. That is part of the reason for the delay.
Last night, when I was in possession, I was talking about speed cameras, the huge cost, the lucrative contracts that were given out at enormous cost to the State and the poor returns. I quoted figures and if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle does not mind, I will quote them again for the record. The State paid out €88 million to the firms behind these speed cameras and collected €32.7 million from fines paid by motorists. That is certainly a lot but it is a lot of negative equity for the cost of running the system. The figures, which were from 2010 to 22 July 2017, were provided to me in a reply to a Parliamentary Question I put to the Minister.
I note that the speed cameras have a positive effect on reducing the number of road deaths but I also think it is time for a re-examination of the contract if we are spending €88 million and only taking in €32.7 million. One cannot, of course, put a value on a life and I sympathise with anyone who has lost their life on the road for a myriad of reasons. It is very traumatic and upsetting. We all strive to change this but not all of it will or can happen in this Bill. There are many other areas at which we must look. There is no doubt about the impact of the camera regime on reducing road fatalities and accidents, particularly in areas that have been blighted by accidents over the years. I am not suggesting that they be removed but we need a reassessment or audit of the cost, value for money and whether they are working other than impacting on motorists. I feel that where they are located, particularly in a 100 km/h to 80 km/h area, an 80 km/h to 60 km/h area or a 60 km/h to 50 km/h area, it is very hard for a motorist to adjust. It could all take place within less than 2 km of road. It is very hard, particularly in some areas where a motorist is driving down a hill. Cars are faster and quieter and gears are better calibrated to do speeds without any revving of the engine or anything else.
I and several constituents of mine have asked, begged and pleaded for these cameras to be located in accident black spots. We used to have the black spot sign, which was a black sign with a yellow surround. Those signs were banished. They have no bona fides anymore. We cannot get them up. They are not relevant. In some areas, when I was a member of the county council, I am sure my colleagues from the Rural Independent Group like Deputies Danny and Michael Healy-Rae, Deputy Michael Collins and others have had many motions down-----
Where is the pilot? I hope he is not on the roads. I have lost my train of thought. I am questioning the pilot to see how we got into aviation here. Signs have now been put up but they are black. We have a limit but they are on a black background. Again, they have no authority. They are there as a kind of a warning, which is great, but they have no authority. It is not a direction. A motorist does not need to abide by those signs because they have no standing in regulation. Those black spots are still there, numerous accidents take place but these vans refuse to place themselves in the middle of these areas or immediately adjacent to them for whatever reason. Sometimes it is said that it is too dangerous to locate them there but I am sure the county council could set up a bay for Garda cars or these vans to be located at accident spots, as it has done on many motorways. We all know the tragic results of these accident black spots in our counties over decades, possibly nearly 40 years in some areas.
I am questioning the enormous cost associated with operating the Garda safety contract each year. From 2012 to 2015, it cost the State over €17 million to maintain the contract with a cost of almost €16 million in 2011. From 2010 to date, revenue generated by the safety contract has totalled €32 million so something is radically wrong there. Taxpayers' money is being used and paid out but we are not getting a good system. While people who drive at excessive speed are being punished, and we cannot fight against that, on the outskirts of a town where the limit changes from 100 km/h to 80 km/h, 80 km/h to 60 km/h, and 60 km/h to 50 km/h in a short space of road, it is like shooting fish in a barrel because a motorist could be a couple of kilometres over it with different incremental speed signs that change so often.
As I said, the black spots are being ignored - those cameras and those signs. There is a lot of work for the Minister to do in that area and I am surprised it has not been tackled. I am not blaming the Minister, Deputy Ross, for it all; his predecessors could have tackled those incremental signs. The black-spot signs were good warning signs. I grew up seeing them and inquiring what they were. A black spot is a dangerous spot and now they will not put them up anymore. They tell us that the signs are irrelevant. They have put up signs with a black background, but that sign has no legal standing. That is very disquieting and pretty unnecessary.
The Minister is predicating many aspects of the Bill on figures from the RSA, figures from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and figures compiled and supplied back and forward between the Garda divisions and the RSA. Last week on RTÉ an RSA spokesperson said it had been denied recent figures. What is going on? I know the Minister, Deputy Ross, is not the Minister for Justice and Equality, but surely the RSA should not have to be begging for statistics; it should be getting them freely and working in unison to try to tackle this issue. It is easy to blame learner drivers and others when there are many issues. Without the figures, people do not have trust. As I said before, if people do not have trust in the legislation, it will be much harder to police it. It gives me no joy.
On the vans, as I said, I would prefer to see that money put into rebuilding the traffic corps, whose numbers have been cut by 50% or more. Funding for their cars and other specialist equipment has been cut over the years since the recession, but it is now time to beef them up. I salute the members of the Garda traffic corps in the Tipperary division who do such Trojan work. However, if they are stopped in an area for any reason - they can stop anywhere they like and they are enforcing the laws of the land - and if there is a robbery or an accident up the road or whatever, they can leave immediately on getting a radio signal and attend to that. They are there quite fast.
On a point of order, I have listened to discussion of signage and Garda divisions, and they are all valid points in their own right. To what amendments is the Deputy speaking? I am hearing a great deal of repetition. I have been here for about six hours. What is a filibuster?
It is not for me to say that. The Deputy has been here for a lot of the debate. I have been here for all the debate and I have kept warning the Deputies. I have to say - I want the House to take note - that this is a recommittal. Therefore, we are on Committee Stage. Deputy Catherine Murphy can come in again and speak for as long as she wishes as long as it is not repetition.
I keep pleading with the Deputy. I do not have the blacks from last night or the previous night to be able to compare. I am depending on the goodwill of Deputies to have respect for the House. Deputy Mattie McGrath does not have to repeat himself all the time. We have given this a fair hearing. I ask him, please, not to repeat himself and perhaps - it is a matter for him - bring his remarks to conclusion.
I call Deputy Broughan.
We know various positions off by heart by now. I could recite what I have heard on perhaps three or four occasions at this stage from people who are opposed to some of the amendments.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has vast parliamentary experience at Irish and European level. In order to get some guidance from this debate, is it not now time for the Minister to respond to the amendments Nos. 4 to 21, inclusive, so that we can start to make some definitive progress on the Bill? The main positions have been set out by the proposers; it is now time for the Minister to respond and guide the debate.
There are other ways to bring it to a conclusion, but it is not a matter for the Chair to guide anybody. Members of this House are very familiar with the Standing Orders. I ask Deputy Mattie McGrath to bring his remarks to a conclusion. I know the Minister was asked numerous questions and I am quite sure he would want sufficient time to be able to respond. I ask the House to respect that. Deputy McGrath, would you-----
I am not quite finished yet, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, with respect.
The Deputy is finished with repetition so it has to be something new.
Yes. We have asked the Minister on numerous occasions - indeed I appealed to him on the last two occasions-----
He must be given an opportunity to respond.
Yes, I hope he will and I look forward to it, but he has not responded to any of the issues we have raised on any of the Stages.
Hold on, now. The Minister did not have an opportunity to respond-----
He did have an opportunity.
-----because of the nature of the debate.
I look forward to his response and, as I said last night, I look forward to him withdrawing the scurrilous allegations he made about Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and our colleagues as a gang of road traffic terrorists.
It is not relevant to this.
Of course, it is relevant.
It is not.
Why would it not be relevant? If you recall-----
Speaking on the amendments-----
Yes, but I am just saying until the Minister responds, I am just allowing him-----
If I have heard it once-----
-----the good grace-----
I do not know whether the Minister will respond.
Yes. I am just offering the opportunity for a third time - I know he did not make it in the House - to respond.
The debate has to be structured.
The Minister cannot immediately respond. If he wishes at a later stage, he may respond, but that is a matter for him.
I did not say that, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I just said I asked him three times and gave him three chances that he might reconsider because it is a very hurtful allegation to make against anyone, never mind elected Members.
I was making the point that the figures, on which the Minister has predicated the Bill, are totally false, erroneous and spurious - one can call them whatever one likes. It is impossible to expect people to support that because they are totally erroneous. It gives me no pleasure to say that in my county the breath tests were exaggerated by 380%. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle cannot say I am not allowed to be concerned about that in discussing a road traffic Bill which is making changes in amendments Nos. 4 to 7. That is not right and we should be conscious of that when we are making legislation. We will be accused in later years of rushing legislation. Bad legislation is worse than even rushed legislation. No explanation has been given for this from the assistant commissioner or anybody else. I am not blaming the ordinary gardaí on the road or the traffic corps; I am blaming senior people, including the most senior person in Tipperary. The breath tests were exaggerated by 380%, which is staggering. The Minister and others expect that we should change the legislation to criminalise people for a lower offence on foot of the appalling vista that is going on up and down the country.
Tipperary is a very proud county and I am very proud of the members of An Garda Síochána in Tipperary. We badly need them and need more of them. We need the traffic corps to be boosted and put back to near its original strength and to give it the tools of the trade to implement the present legislation and then go forward from there. However, we must have honesty and integrity in respect of the figures on which the Minister has built the Bill. I do not believe he investigated or even gave a cursory look at those figures because if he did we would not be where we are at present without a full explanation. While it applies up and down the country, as I said, Tipperary was the worst with figures exaggerated by 380%. We have to be able to deal with that. That is what I am concerned about. I am asking the Minister to withdraw this legislation until he gets explanations about that. The citizens in Tipperary-----
I remind Deputy McGrath that most of the amendments, particularly those in his name and the names of his colleagues, are about penalty points.
Yes, but to get the penalty points the people in this case with a particular blood-alcohol level must be breathalysed and brought to a Garda station and go on the special machine.
Of course, that is the case and we must have trust and faith in that system, but we have no faith in the system. The people with the responsibility to stop drivers on the road are members of the Garda, and they are doing their job. Somewhere in that office in Thurles, however, the figures grew like wild mushrooms. A grow house would not expand them as fast. It would be hilarious if it was not so serious. We have to have respect, understanding and fairness. Justice has to be done and be seen to be done. How can we have the increased penalties for the blood alcohol limit which the Minister is talking about when we have 380% exaggeration? How can we have any faith in this? We heard the RSA again at the weekend saying it cannot get figures from the Garda Síochána, which had been giving the RSA those figures for a while but which now does not give it any figures. Something is badly wrong in the system and I have to express my concerns on behalf of the people I represent in Tipperary.
There are many other areas of road safety. During the recent storm three people were killed. A friend of mine - cara liom - was killed by a falling tree, Michael Pyke from Ardfinnan, and two others also died. We have been pleading for years that every one of the trees on the roadside boundary should be cut back and no new planting should be done on motorways or anywhere else, and they should be required to be planted a fair distance back. If there is planning for a mast or other obstruction, for safety reasons it should be so many metres back from the road.
Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Collins have been in the committee in recent days trying to extend the hedge-cutting season because the roads are so dangerous, with restricted view and poor visibility. There are amendments in regard to cycling and the safety of cyclists. No one can cycle the roads in rural Ireland, and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows that as well as I. The briars grow out during the heat of June and July and the roads are almost closed in - dúnta. I am a member of Farm Contractors Ireland. Most tractors today have implements which might be 1.6 m or 1.8 m in front of the bonnet of the tractor, ag teacht amach ar an mbóthar, and trying to get out-----
Sorry, Deputy. What has that to do with penalty points?
If a person has an accident and kills someone, all the penalty points in the world will not matter. I am talking about road safety.
On a point of order, I think the Deputy is not correct in this regard. Is it not the responsibility of landowners to maintain these areas? We are discussing a wider area which has nothing to do with these 20 amendments.
That is not a point of order. I ask Deputy Mattie McGrath to concentrate on the amendments.
I am well aware of the laws of the land on hedge cutting. The county council can give a felling notice to the landowner but the county council has primary responsibility for the verges and the sides of the roads, and it will not cut them. Worse than that, it is not allowed cut them because of the Wildlife Act. I am talking about the safety of motorists and, above all, the safety of cyclists and passengers. This is not just about penalty points because everybody has to be looked after. We have to look after the cyclists, the motorists and the farmers and contractors trying to exit from their land or businesses. They have huge insurance costs. If there is no visibility, nobody is wrong, but somebody could be killed, maimed or seriously injured.
This is very important to rural people, as the Minister knows. The school buses cannot get up and down the roads. We also see the state of the roads, with drivers driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes and to keep some semblance of their chassis and the undercarriage of their car together-----
Deputy McGrath, you have said it all about penalty points and the amendments. I appeal to you to bring your remarks to a conclusion. If no other Member is offering, I would like to call upon the Minister to respond to the debate.
I am not finished at all. With respect, these are all issues I have to deal with and the Minister will not deal with. I do not want any sideshow from the benches on my right.
You must show respect.
I want to deal with the motorways, some of which go through my county, but in particular the 2+1 roads, which are lethal. I thank the Minister for coming down past my county to the Piltown bypass. He knows the number of road deaths there in recent years due to a wrongly designed, dysfunctional roadway. It was pointed out to officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the county engineer and the engineering executive of Kilkenny County Council, as Deputy Aylward is well aware. The Minister met very concerned people in the hall at Piltown, some of whom had lost loved ones. Although the Minister took it upon himself to do a bit of bowling in a lovely facility in south Kilkenny-----
Deputy McGrath, you have embarked tonight and other nights on a Second Stage speech.
I have not mentioned this before. These are all issues-----
It is not relevant to penalty points.
Of course, it is relevant to penalty points. It is relevant to deaths. What is more important - penalty points or road deaths?
You cannot ask me to decipher that.
I am not.
I am asking you to bring your remarks to a conclusion.
These road deaths are a slaughter. They have crosses on the roadsides with the number of people killed, but we have no sign of any funding. I do not know what the motorcyclists call the 2+1 road but it is lethal, with a steel wire stretched up the road, and if anyone hits it at any kind of speed, they are cut in two halves. The Minister saw it was the wrong design and that there should have been two underpasses and overpasses. The locals at the time had hired engineering expertise to design the road properly but it is now going to cost tens of millions to correct it. I do not mind spending tens of millions if it saves one life or a number of lives, but the design is very dangerous. The Minister saw it and was given the presentation. It is a long stretch of road from the outside of Carrick-on-Suir, County Kilkenny, and on to Fiddown. There are other such roads at Clontibret in Monaghan and when coming off the M8 at Cloghabreeda, going south, where the last 3 km is a 2+1 road. They are terribly dangerous roads and I wonder how some body like the RSA has not insisted they be discontinued. We have motorways with proper concrete barriers, which have such a grade of concrete that the cars will hop off them if they hit. The steel wire, however, is lethal, and God help us if it breaks or snaps, as no one knows where it will end up because of the tension in the wire. People have lost their lives due to those steel ropes without ever being on a road. In the past-----
We have now discussed 2+1 roads for a number of roads in the country. Irrespective of the roads, it is still the same principle. You do not have to repeat yourself.
The principle is wrong. I did not mention it until now. If it is wrong, it is wrong, and the concept should be taken away. As I said, that is little solace given the number of people killed on the N24 bypass that was widened and where the junctions were supposed to be made safe. People would not listen. I am just making the point that the RSA and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are not ag éisteacht. They are not listening to anyone. They just bulldoze through their plans and to hell with the consequences.
We must be fair and balanced. We cannot have one piece of legislation that penalises rural dwellers. Rural dwellers pay their taxes, rates, VAT, NCT charges and everything else and they are entitled to be let live like anybody else, not be persecuted and literally - I hate using the word - terrorised. They are being put into a cave mentality so that they stay at home unless the Minister, Deputy Ross, gets his €460,000 for a bus to bring them from wherever.
The M7 road to Limerick, which is a much newer construct, has huge issues. We see at the moment they are widening the strip from Dublin to Kildare and there are long delays, although it is very welcome and badly needed-----
On a point of order, I ask that we consider Standing Order 62 in regard to bringing this particular section of the debate to a conclusion. I think there is a great deal of disrespect for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and, indeed, the House in regard to the degree of repetition.
I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. We sat through pre-legislative scrutiny and had a Committee Stage debate. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae participated in the Committee Stage debate but the others did not although they had the possibility of doing that.
That is not a point of order.
There is a point.
They were accommodated.
To which standing order is the Deputy referring?
Standing Order 62.
It is not 62.
It is not 62, excuse me.
Deputy McGrath should hold on. I will decide what it is. There is a Standing Order which I think the Deputy is referring to, which is Standing Order 68.
If that is the Standing Order it means that any Member once the question has been proposed calls for the question to be put. In other words it is a guillotine or calling for an end to the debate. Is the Deputy proposing that we deal with it under Standing Order 68?
I am. I am proposing that we do that.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle-----
The Deputy must hold on. We are at a very serious juncture here. Deputy Murphy is proposing under Standing Order 68 that the question be now put. Is that her proposal?
That is my proposal.
I am obliged to put that to the House.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
I am sorry we are at this juncture.
No I mean-----
On a point of clarification-----
Surely to God we can get a point of clarification. I am in possession. First of all the knowledgeable Deputy did not even know what Standing Order it was. Since when did the Chair come along-----
Since when did the Chair have to tell the Deputy what Standing Order to use? I hope if I am lost in a Standing Order after a while he will tell me what-----
I did not tell anybody-----
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle did.
I clarified it.
I would expect the Deputy would have known the Standing Order coming in. I want to continue speaking on amendment No. 4.
The Deputy cannot continue once-----
There is no debate after the question is put. I am putting the question.
The question is, "That the question on amendment No. 4 be now put." To be clear, it is not on amendment No. 4 itself. The question has been challenged. Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
As a point of clarification before we stand, I thought this was a vote on section 68.
No. Let me be very clear-----
-----so that there is no ambiguity. We have been here all evening, both myself and the Deputies who have been in the House, so I ask those who have come in for the vote to offer the courtesy of listening, please. Deputy Catherine Murphy made a proposal under Standing Order 68. Standing Order 68 gives the right to any Deputy to propose that the question be put. After that, there is no debate. This is exactly what I am doing. The question is, "That the question on amendment No. 4 be now put." A division on that question has been claimed. I have asked the Deputies who have claimed the division to stand in their places.
As fewer than-----
The Deputy cannot ask any questions. He cannot even stand while the Chair is on his feet.
Deputies cannot challenge the Chair in that manner.
On the recommital-----
This is very clear. I am clear in my mind, and I put it to the Deputies that when the Chair is on his feet, no one should challenge.
The Chair already said that.
I cannot make it any simpler. As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
On a point of order-----
No, there is no point. We are not debating-----
There were half a dozen points of order earlier that were not points of order at all.
The Deputy is in the House long enough to understand that on the recommital we were debating amendments Nos. 4 to 21, inclusive, and No. 28. We debated them all together. We move on to the question on amendment No. 4.
I withdraw amendment No. 4.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 3, line 10, to delete “in section 29”.
Will the Deputies claiming a division, please, rise?
As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 3, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:
“(a) in section 13A, by the substitution of “11(6)” for “11(5)” in subsection (1),
(b) in section 13B, by the substitution of “11(6)” for “11(5)” in subsection (1), and
(c) in section 29—”.
As I am opposed to the amendment, we might as well call a vote on it also.
Will the Deputies claiming a division, please, rise?
As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 3, to delete lines 11 to 32, and in page 4, to delete lines 1 to 14 and substitute the following:
“(a) by the substitution of the following for subsection (7):
(7) The fixed charge is—
(a) €500 in the case of a concentration of alcohol referred to in subsection (1)(a) or subsection (2),
(b) €500 in the case of a concentration of alcohol referred to in subsection (1)(b), or such other amount that, for the time being, stands prescribed in lieu of either of those amounts.”,
(b) in subsection (8) by the substitution of the following for paragraph (a)(i):
“(i) did not exceed 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 5 penalty points shall be endorsed on the entry relating to the person, or”.”.
As the amendment has already been discussed, there will be no further debate on it.
Can the Minister not reply to the points I made on it?
Unfortunately, Standing Orders do not allow for that. Amendments Nos. 4 to 21, inclusive, and 28 were discussed together.
On amendment No. 7, this is a-----
The Deputy cannot speak to the amendment.
This is use of the guillotine.
It is in accordance with Standing Orders. The amendment has already been discussed.
I accept that I have already discussed it as part of the group of amendments that were discussed together. However, I made a number of very valid points on it and believe it would be appropriate for the Minister to reply to them.
He will have to find another way to respond to them. It might be appropriate, but it is not permissible.
I will reply on Fifth Stage.
I have no choice. Deputy Murphy moved the Standing Order.
Can we postpone it until tomorrow?
It is not on the Order Paper for tomorrow.
We are due to finish at 10.15 p.m., and it is now 10.12 p.m.
There is no debate.
I beg to differ. I abide by the Chair, but we were speaking on the recommittal of the Bill and amendments.
We are on Committee Stage.
A certain Teachta Dála invoked a Standing Order, although she did not even know what it was.
We are on Committee Stage.
No, we were speaking on the recommittal.
No, we are on Committee Stage, not on Report Stage.
Any of the points we have asked about, and they were numerous, are not going to be answered.
The Minister would have had an opportunity-----
When? I believe the Minister was not going to answer any question.
I do not know, I cannot call that.
I do not believe he was going to answer any question.
He refused to apologise to Deputy Danny Healy-Rae. I believe the Minister was delaying.
Deputies, please. The Minister would have had an opportunity had Standing Order-----
The Minister would have had an opportunity, and I am sure he is disappointed he will not have that opportunity, had Standing Order 68 not been invoked. The Minister will have an opportunity on Fifth Stage.
There is nothing further.
It is about policy and good law, not rushed and stupid law. It cannot be implemented.
I see that-----
I did not see any of the Deputies in the House supporting the Minister either. Where were they?
I am going to adjourn.
In the interests of practicality-----
I am coming in here-----
There is a woman speaking.
This has been reduced to-----
I never hit the pillar on the gate. The two pillars coming in here-----
If Deputy Healy-Rae would like to have a bit of respect-----
I never hit the pillars.