Topical Issue Debate

Addiction Treatment Services

I welcome the Minister of State into the Chamber to discuss this matter, for what is probably the second or third time in the past two years. Hopefully we can achieve a positive outcome. I spoke to the Minister of State about this in recent times. The Abbey Community Project is a group in Celbridge that provides important counselling and dual diagnosis services to people with different addictions such as alcohol addiction, drug addiction, etc. The group comes at these from the perspectives of both mental health and addiction treatment. Qualified counsellors provide the services. I know that the Minister of State is familiar with the group .

I met the Minister for Health regarding this issue last July. He believed this was a good model, with the service established in the community with good support and providing an excellent service. Given the HSE was not able to provide the service in the way that was intended, he felt this was a model that should be supported. This project that has received plaudits from the Minister, the Minister of State and her colleague, Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly. The HSE is in favour of it, as is the South-Western Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, yet ten years on, the group is without any funding. Its members raise funds to cover public liability insurance by chipping in themselves or carrying out a bucket collection. They do this on a voluntary basis. The project has seen more than 500 people and has 75 or 80 live cases on its books at the moment. I have a copy of a memorandum of understanding which provides for the HSE to give the project referrals. That is a reflection of its status. Unfortunately, I also have a letter from the task force and the HSE acknowledging the service the project provides and suggesting that it could, and should be, supported in its work, which is badly needed in that area and beyond, but unfortunately cannot be without funding.

I ask the Minister of State to prioritise this case and allocate funding. This organisation is not looking for a massive sum. It just needs money to cover its own overheads such as office hire, which is free at the moment, insurance, the day-to-day running of the facility; and remuneration for the two qualified counsellors who have provided the service on a voluntary basis for ten years.

If we are serious about mental health issues, drug addiction and assisting people to get back on the right road and giving them the supports they need at all the different levels, we need to act and support this group, otherwise it will not be sustainable. The group cannot continue to operate as it is without funding. Everyone acknowledges that this is a worthwhile project, but it needs funding to continue. After all the discussions, meetings and engagements I have had with the Minister of State and all the other Ministers over the past two years - I have been raising this since I came into this House - I hope that we can achieve a positive outcome. I hope that we can get the project the funding, resources and supports that are needed because, to date, it has not received a cent. It was indicated last year that it would be allocated €3,500, but when the staff went looking for that to pay the insurance, they were told that the funding was no longer available.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. When I conclude my contribution, he probably will not be happy, but I will explain as I go along.

The Department of Health co-ordinates the strategic response to drug and alcohol problems, as set out in Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025. An objective of that strategy is to achieve better health and social outcomes for people who have experienced harm from substance misuse, and to meet their recovery and rehabilitation needs.

Ensuring timely access to health and social care services and extending the range of treatment options available is essential to achieving better outcomes. To this end, the strategy commits to expanding the availability and geographical spread of relevant quality drug and alcohol services and improving the range of services available, based on identified need. Drug and alcohol task forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of substance misuse in their areas, and in supporting community responses, as part of a co-ordinated approach involving all sectors at local and regional levels.

The south western regional drug and alcohol task force covers south and west Dublin, west Wicklow and Kildare. I am aware that the Deputy is a member of the task force and I thank him for dedicating his time to this initiative and other groups in the area. As the Deputy is aware, the task force supports many community addiction services in Kildare. These include the Abbey Regional Addiction Service, the HALO project for those aged under 18 and various community and family support projects In addition, the HSE provides addiction services in the county, including outreach workers and addiction counsellors. In 2018, the Department of Health allocated €3.2 million to fund the expansion of drug and alcohol treatment services. Kildare has been prioritised under this funding and I understand the HSE recently submitted a proposal to the Department of Health for an addiction day service in the county, at a cost of almost €260,000. This service will cater for up to 80 clients at full capacity.

I understand the Abbey community project has met the task force to discuss its funding proposal and this was subsequently forwarded to the HSE. I advise that the project continues to engage with these bodies to advance its proposal, which can be considered as part of the Estimates process for the HSE for 2019.

I very much appreciate the importance of community based projects such as the Abbey community project in Celbridge, County Kildare, in offering support to individuals and their families affected by substance abuse and mental health issues. Such projects provide a vital first step for those affected by drugs in seeking recovery. They reflect a compassionate and human approach to addiction underpinned by values of respect, equality and inclusion. I assure the Deputy the expansion of the drug and alcohol treatment service will continue to be a priority under the national drug strategy in order that counties such as Kildare, which have an expanding urban population, are adequately catered for in terms of available and accessible services.

I thank the Minister of State. I am a member of the task force but, unfortunately, I do not get to attend too many of the meetings because they overlap with proceedings in this House on a Tuesday. I thank the Minister of State for acknowledging it.

The difficulty with this is we are without a commitment for funding. While I respect and understand what the Minister of State has said in her statement, if we are serious about supporting people and providing such a valuable and worthwhile service, and that has been acknowledged by everybody at various levels all the way down the chain, why is there not a commitment in place to give it funding and start the funding stream for them? It is engaging with the task force, as the Minister of State has correctly pointed out, but it has engaged ad nauseam. It has followed that path through. Obviously, it will continue to attend the meetings but it has gone to the full process. It had an excellent system in place but to meet current guidelines it had to be tweaked, fine-tuned and modified. We engaged positively with the system to ensure the i's were dotted and the t's crossed. That is all in place. I have letters from the task force and the HSE confirming that the house is in order in this regard.

It is acknowledged that, with regard to 80 of the cases it is dealing with at present, if it was not there to see those people, under the heading of dual diagnosis and on individual mental health and drug addiction issues, it would probably be very difficult for those people to find a service anywhere else that would give them the notice and supports they are getting, and who knows where some of them would have ended up.

The point I am trying to focus on is that while everyone is committed, and I get that and I hear it, now we have to measure that commitment with funding. I am asking, two years on, when will this group be given a commitment that it will be included in the funding and it will get it, even on an incremental basis. Otherwise it cannot go on, and if it closes its doors it will put massive pressure and strain on a system that already cannot cope with the numbers it is getting, not to mention another 80 cases. We should work together to try to bring this over the line.

I will refer back to the structure of the new strategy on reducing harm, support and recovery. I am very much dedicated to helping people through the strategy of bringing people into services, particularly with regard to recovery and counselling. It is not in my remit to allocate money to certain individual groups. The allocation of money through the strategy on reducing harm, support and recovery is through the local task forces. It is up to the service to make a case to the local drugs task force if it is short of money in order to be able to be included in the budget.

I have listened to all of the drugs task forces throughout the country stating they have been starved of money since 2008. We are in a new process here. We did not have the money but now we are starting to see a better avenue of funding coming down the line. This is what I want to concentrate on and bring in as many groups as possible. This is not the first time a Deputy has stopped me or asked me to look for funding for other groups. It is happening every day. I get emails from individual groups who do not get any money from the HSE or the task force. I am not in a position to give a commitment to any project on its own to fund it. The only way I can do it is through the task forces. We will be looking at funding the task forces through the budget on an evidence basis. I am reviewing the task forces at present with regard to their structures and this takes time. I hope that as we enter the next budget there will be the possibility of more funding being available to go to the task forces, but on an evidence basis. It will be up to the projects to apply.

I cannot stand here and tell the Deputy this project will get money this year. I cannot say it because it would be unfair to all of the other Deputies and people who write to me on a daily basis looking for money. All of the money for the drugs initiatives is centred through the task forces. That is why they were put there. I will continue to keep it at the top of the agenda. As I said, I hope that with the budget coming up we will be able to make cases for these groups and projects, because that is what I want. I want the task forces to be able to facilitate groups such as that which the Deputy has been speaking about to help them with extra funding in order that they can continue to work with those people who are most vulnerable in our communities. At present I am not able to stand up here and commit to give a certain budget to this project.

Road Network

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue this evening. What Minister would be before me this evening was one of the best kept secrets. I have been trying to find out for a long time who is responsible for parliamentary questions on this matter and under the remit of what Department do they fall. On 28 May I tabled nine questions of which seven were ruled out of order. The reason was that I had tabled them to the Department with responsibility for local government after the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had come back numerous times to tell me it was the role of Galway County Council. The reason I tabled such a vague question is I want to understand the matter clearly.

I acknowledge the hard work that public representatives do locally in acquiring funding for local areas. I am going to talk specifically about the national school in Milltown, where recently more than €400,000 was spent on an upgrade through the town and village scheme. Milltown national school is actually at the end of the M17-M18. It is on a stretch of road with a speed limit of 100 km/h but it is less than 1 km from Milltown. There are no traffic calming measures. There are flashing lights but the cars and trucks drive there at 100 km/h. For the past six months I have been looking for Galway County Council to provide me with a Road Safety Authority, RSA, safety audit. I cannot understand how this has been going on since February 2001. I have a document from 2001, which was the first time there was engagement with the Department when there was consultation with an engineer in Galway County Council. I tabled a question asking whether the Department could provide me with the details of all of the safety audits carried out on that stretch of road. That question was ruled out of order and the information could not be provided. We are leaving our most vulnerable, namely, our youth, their parents and their teachers, exposed, not to mind road uses on the M18. It should not have been overlooked when we were upgrading that section of road.

At the Gort end, in Ardrahan, land was purchased for the road and a fabulous job was done. The local authority members were beating themselves up trying to state it would be delivered months in advance. It was delivered, but one landowner was left exposed on three sides.

We went back to see if we could get an extension of the barrier for sound dampening purposes. I am not talking about complicated material but rather clay that would extend the existing land bank. It could not be done. All of a sudden, the process was taken over by the company and the price came in at €130,000.

If I go 5 km further down that road there is a man whose land was divided in two. Lagan forgot to put the pipe from one side of the motorway to the other and although he can have animals on one side, there is no water available for them on the other side. It is absolutely disgraceful. He was told at the end of the process that he would be paid €3,000 but the cheque bounced, believe it or not, as Lagan went into receivership. The man is without money and water and his land is useless because he cannot put cattle on it. I am on to Galway County Council on a regular basis to see what we can do, either by going under the road or by drilling a well for water in order to assist the man, but there has been no engagement whatever.

There is also the N67 at Kinvara. In fairness to the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Cannon, he lobbied very hard to have funding brought to Kinvara, which is a gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way from Kinvara to the Burren. It is fabulous. However, the authorities want to get rid of the stone walls and only want to replace it with post fencing. What will be the insurance position because of this? What postcards will be designed for the Americans when they are going home? Will we have postcards with post and rail fencing?

People have been looking for one light at Kilmeen cross on the N65 near Loughrea for 20 years so people can see when they are turning right and going to Portumna. It is a main route to the port in Rosslare for lorries but on a foggy night it cannot be seen. People met the Minister recently but the matter has not been addressed. Where could we join a few of those dots?

The Minister of State might try to turn on the lights rather than join the dots.

At least it is bright until 11 p.m. at this time of the year but it is not quite the same in December so I appreciate where the Deputy is coming from. As a rural Deputy I understand many of the challenges so I will try to assist Deputy Rabbitte with some of those matters.

I am taking this issue on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ross. County and city councils - the local authorities - are the road authorities for national, regional and local roads. I will try to explain the breakdown of responsibilities as it is frustrating trying to figure out exactly who to go to and whose responsibility it is. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has responsibility for overall policy and funding for national roads. Each year my Department makes available to Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, funding for the maintenance and construction of national roads. The disbursal of those moneys to local authorities under its various programmes of works is a matter for TII.

Under the Roads Acts from 1993 to 2015, the planning, design and implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the TII in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act. TII may, with respect to national roads or proposed national roads, do all or any of the following. It may prepare, or arrange for the preparation of designs for construction or improvement works, programmes of maintenance works or schemes for the provision of traffic signs; allocate moneys and make payments for construction or maintenance works; and specify standards for design, construction or maintenance works to be complied with by a person, road authority or public authority carrying out such works.

Whereas TII has an overarching responsibility for planning and supervising national road projects, it is local authorities, as road authorities, that have the responsibility for the operation and implementation of TII's planning strategies for national road developments. When national routes are being upgraded, councils normally arrange for undertaking the planning and design work, the preparation of compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact assessments, the submission of schemes to An Bord Pleanála, the subsequent acquisition of land and the procurement of contractors. In light of the above it is clear that, in general, local authorities which are designated under the Roads Act as the road authorities have primary responsibility for the implementation of construction and maintenance works on the national road network.

It should be noted that under other legislation local authorities are empowered to undertake many other roles and functions separate to their powers under the Roads Act. Under section 213 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, a local authority may, for the purpose of performing any of its functions "acquire, permanently or temporarily, by agreement or compulsorily, any easement, way leave, water right or other right over or in respect of any land or water or any substratum of land". This is a general local authority function and not a function under the Roads Act so it is the local authority that must account for its use of powers under this legislation. The Minister has no role in the oversight of individual projects on national roads. It is far from layman's language but it is specific to the legislation.

The Deputy mentioned the N67 and the roads department has indicated that TII has recently introduced a new boundary treatment with the aim of providing more forgiving roadsides in accordance with the Road Safety Authority strategy for 2013 to 2020. In this context, TII's road standards now only permit the use of timber posts and tensioned mesh fencing within eight metres of the road edge for 100 km/h roads unless a safety barrier is erected in front of the hazard or departure from the standard is approved by TII. It is understood that in the particular case of the N67 project, the existing boundary wall comprises a variety of boundary treatments, including fine examples of dry stone walls, rendered block walls in the vicinity of dwellings, concrete posts and rail fence. Approximately 80% of all boundaries are mature hedgerows that have developed over collapsed rubble walls.

We can come back to that.

Perhaps I can finish it after the supplementary question.

The Minister of State has answered my question. He has told me it is to do with the county councils so why has the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government not come here to answer my questions? I do not have a problem with the Minister of State's Department, it seems, but rather with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Its people are not answering their phones and they are infuriating, frustrating and annoying me. They are letting us down completely with their communication.

I have experience of the N63, the road from Roscommon to Galway. It is a fantastic stretch of road and €850,000 was allocated to it. It was a magnificent improvement for the areas from Abbeyknockmoy to Annagh Hill. The county council forgot to put a compulsory purchase order, CPO, in for the land. I asked the Minister a number of times when a compulsory purchase order would overrule a way leave. There was a group water scheme in this area that was not purchased by way of CPO. While the road has been upgraded in the past number of weeks, the contractors have pulled the pipes from the road. On the hottest day of the year so far two weeks ago - on 28 May, the day I put this question - one man lost three cattle because the contractor decided to pull the pipe up from the road. That pipe was owned by the group scheme and was not purchased by Galway County Council. It was not even on the design plan. There is much frustration because of a lack of communication between the council, local residents and the general public, business owners and farmers. It is inexcusable. We are about to start a project on the N67 where there is no transparency and it is not good enough.

I apologise to the Minister of State, who has been sent in here in good faith. It is his colleague, the Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government, who needs to take the heat on this. Somewhere along the line, people must be accountable and responsible. Washing machines have been blown because pressure was turned too high when water was turned back on. Pipes are not being rinsed. The group water scheme should receive some communication.

The Deputy might table an issue specifically directed to the appropriate Minister.

I did not know until today to whom I should address it.

There is an overlap between Departments in that respect. I have not operated in a dual mandate system and I know it can be frustrating as a Member of the Oireachtas trying to get accountability from local authorities. One does not have a forum in which to demand answers. There are matters that are not being addressed by members of Galway County Council and the executive and officials could be held to account.

Perhaps the Deputy's good colleagues could liaise with her in this regard.

I have a further response in respect of the N67, and the details relating to the project, which I will supply to the Deputy. She also mentioned Ardrahan and Milltown. I am quite familiar with that road, having travelled up and down during my three years attending college in Galway. That is some time ago now. There have been some improvements to some sections of that road but there are others in respect of which work is still required. It is a road with which I am very familiar and I appreciate that people can drive very fast on it. Speed is certainly a factor in the context of the Milltown Road. Any primary school located at the side of a national secondary route on which there is a 100 km/h speed limit is a concern and special protection must be afforded to it. Whatever traffic calming measures that could be put in place there need to be put in place because we are talking about the safety of children. They may not see the dangers that other road users see and need to be given special treatment as a result.

I will pass on to the Minister the specific cases to which the Deputy referred. I have a written response on the N67 that I can supply to her afterwards.

Transport Policy

I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State. Perhaps he was very well qualified to answer the previous question - well, he probably was not - but the Minister should have stayed in the Chamber for the ten or 15 minutes it would have taken to address this matter. It was totally inappropriate-----

Hear, hear. Absolutely.

-----for him to slink out of here 15 minutes ago. This is an issue of huge interest to his constituency and this city. He does not have the courage to answer a question. It is a disgrace and it should be noted. We must do something about this when it comes to Topical Issue matters. The Minister was here for transport questions only a few minutes ago. There is no reason or excuse for his not having remained in the Chamber. This is particularly the case because he need not have been too afraid because I am supportive of the project. For once, I might actually agree with him on something.

The Minister is probably at the High Court.

Tens of thousands of people will be nervous tonight that they may, if their houses are in the wrong place, lose their front gardens. This is not a small issue. It is not inconsequential. The Minister should have had the guts to come in and answer a few questions or to set out his thoughts on what is probably one of the most significant transport projects we face. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State but his senior Minister has behaved despicably, to my mind, in walking out of the Chamber just before this question was to be asked.

I am supportive of this project because we need a radical solution to our transport problems in this city. We need what is set out in this plan to get a 50% cut in bus journey times rather than a 50% increase, which will happen if we do nothing. We need a radical approach to cycling. One of the concerns I was going to raise is that while I welcome the 200 km of cycle routes in the plan, I have real questions to ask about the practicality or the wisdom of, for example, taking cyclists out of Rathmines high street. The Minister of State may well be aware that many Kerry people know that area fairly well, having stayed in the flats along the road. The high street is our main cycling thoroughfare. Cycling is the dominant mode of transport there. We must look at this as we go into consultation.

I am concerned about what we did not get today. I would have preferred to see the orbital bus network, which I believe is due only next month, and the inner city new network review, which I understand is also due to be published next month. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have done these together with what was announced today because there is a concern that by just concentrating on the radial routes we perhaps do not get the mesh effect, the network effect, that might overcome some of the concerns people have about changing to this system that they would lose local bus services. That is just one piece of advice I wanted to give the Minister and I wanted to know his thinking on it. I also wanted to ask him what sort of design office he will put in place. This is a massive, incredibly difficult, complex, vital and time-urgent project. Having worked in the past with the quality bus network project office on some of the design issues, my view is that it would be good to develop in-house resource expertise either in the NTA or in the local authorities. Even if we did so in the local authorities, we would have to do it in such a way that we could replicate this in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, where we will need to do something similar.

Perhaps the reply the Minister of State has been given contains some details on the final question I wanted to ask the Minister. The consultation on this is critical. I wish to give some comfort to people around the city who are terrified they will lose their front gardens. The first example we have seen of this project, the Fairview-to-city-centre route, which is part of the project, has gone through a process. In this case, the original design involved taking out every tree along the Fairview Park section of the route. For cyclists, it represented a very inferior scheme. However, through good consultation and engagement with stakeholders and local people, we have ended up with a good design. We have not had to take out those trees. Perhaps the same will be possible as we get into what is a critical project.

I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State but the Minister should really be here.

I cannot speak for the Minister as to why he is not here. He has had a very busy day, including a Cabinet meeting this morning. We have just had over an hour and a half of parliamentary questions and he will be present again later for the taking of legislation. I apologise on his behalf. I will try to answer as many questions as I can for Deputy Eamon Ryan, give him the detailed written response I have and pass on his concerns and further queries to the Minister.

Everyone recognises that traffic levels have grown steadily since the economy began to recover and congestion is now one of the most significant challenges to the sustainability of Ireland's growth performance. On the busiest routes, bus lanes are only in place for less than one third of the corridor. This means that for most of the journey, buses are competing for space with general traffic and are affected by the increasing levels of congestion. In the capital, for example, approximately 70% of people travelling into the city each morning do so by sustainable transport. The bus system is important because each day the majority, 57% of all public transport trips, use the bus system for the journey. Buses are, therefore, the main component of the solution to address the current congestion problem and to meet future transport needs. As those numbers grow, and as congestion worsens, it is becoming increasingly difficult to operate a reliable bus system with sufficient capacity to cater for the needs of the region. The NTA published a discussion document earlier today outlining the core bus corridor project that is part of a wider BusConnects programme for Ireland's cities, starting in Dublin and rolling out to Galway, Cork and Ireland's remaining cities. The NTA's document focuses on the 230 km of continuous bus priority across 16 core bus routes expected to achieve up to 50% on current journey time savings. It also focuses on the more than 200 km of cycle tracks and lanes and pedestrian facilities that are emerging as the likely core bus corridors in and out of Dublin city under this new investment programme. These proposals will revolutionise traffic in the city of Dublin and on its outskirts. They take into consideration the current congestion situation and the challenges and opportunities that Dublin will face over the coming decades while setting out some of the key impacts, issues and challenges that relate to the 16 corridors. The document also sets out mitigations to these challenges, including compensation, as appropriate.

In response to one of the key questions Deputy Eamon Ryan asked, following today's launch by the NTA of a discussion document focusing on 16 core bus routes, the NTA will conduct a public consultation on the redesign of Dublin's bus network, including proposals on a major redesign of routes, schedules and fare structures. This is expected in July. Later this year, the NTA plans to hold a public consultation on the emerging proposals for the 16 core bus corridors, expected in September or October. This is to ensure that the public is fully informed by the NTA about the BusConnects programme as it progresses and will have the opportunity to have an input at various stages into its development.

There is a clear need to expand attractive public transport alternatives to car transport to reduce congestion and emissions and enable the transport sector to cater for the demands associated with longer-term population and employment growth in a sustainable manner. This is why the major flagship investments to be delivered within Project Ireland 2040 and the ten-year national development plan, such as BusConnects and projects like MetroLink, DART expansion, expanded Luas services and cycling and walking infrastructure, are needed to ease congestion, lower carbon output and add greatly to the quality and standard of our transport system.

Again, if there are specifics that have not been answered by this response, I would be happy to take them back to the Minister for Deputy Eamon Ryan. Specifically regarding public consultation, we will see the start of that next month and further stages of that process in September and October. I hope that is of some benefit to the people who are concerned tonight about this process.

I very much welcome that and we will try to play a positive role. This will take huge resources. The level of public consultation in itself, and the level of design, detail and engineering expertise we need, is not insignificant.

In order to kill two birds with one stone, I ask that Transport Infrastructure Ireland stop the work that it is doing on widening the N7 on the approach to Dublin and the widening of the N2, N3 and N11. While we are trying to make the city work and not get into gridlock, Transport Infrastructure Ireland is turning the tap on to allow yet more traffic into it and is using some of our best engineers in order to do it. I would switch them around and get them involved on this project because it should have priority. If we do not get it right and do so quickly, Dublin will grind to a halt.

We should give people hope that we may be able to do it without always turning to a four-lane solution that seems to be the standard design here. In fact, once the two car lanes and two bus lanes have pavements and cycle lanes added, there effectively are six lanes. There are places which have used a bus gate system and traffic light regulation to ensure that buses get priority and their speeds are increased but that do not maintain and 12 or 15 m carriageway width.

Earlier, I listened to the Minister answering questions and he recognised that this project should be and is just as much about promoting cycling as it is about promoting bus networks, as much as possible. Everything that we have learned, and the best international design advice on cycling infrastructure is clear that at all costs one should try to provide straight, continuous routes. In so many routes, when it comes to the crunch, the cyclist is removed. They are put into other wayward alternatives. The detail is not there but from the broad approach, and knowing the areas as I do, I am concerned we will lose that capacity.

I suggest that the resources from widening the M50 on the approach to Dublin be diverted to this project. Bus gate solutions should be examined rather than just six-carriageway width solutions and cyclists should be given priority at all times.

I will pass the Deputy's sentiments on to the Minister. As far as cycling is concerned, I have often been stuck in gridlock in this city but I have not attempted to get on a bike here. I will be doing the Ring of Kerry cycle in a few weeks but that is less of a challenge. I can assure the Deputy, I would rather go up Coomakista or Moll's Gap any day than try and cycle around Dublin city. However, within the BusConnects plan, there is a plan to upgrade and enhance more than 200 km of cycling route. It has a huge role to play in the future of Dublin's transportation network.

I had the pleasure of being in Copenhagen last autumn. Over a few hours, it was incredible to see the level of cycling in the city centre and how it completely transforms the whole ambience of the city centre as well as providing a very effective means of transport for all the family. Dublin can learn much from it.

An bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag déileáil leis an gcéad ábhar eile, in ainm na Teachtaí Ó Cuív, Naughton agus Connolly?

Tá mé ag fanacht anseo.

Road Improvement Schemes

Mar aon leis an Teachta Eamon Ryan, tá an-díomá orm nach bhfuil an tAire sinsearach anseo. Bhí sé anseo níos luaithe agus d'fhéadfadh sé fanacht. Is dóigh liom go dtaispeánann sé easpa measa ar an Dáil agus ar Thithe an Oireachtais nach bhfuil sé anseo. Ar ndóigh, ní hé seo an chéad uair a d'ardaigh mé ceist an bhóthair seo. Tá droch-chaoi ar an mbóthar. Tá sé contúirteach i láthair na huaire. Tá cuid den bhóthar ag titim. Tá an bruach tite isteach. Go bunúsach, is féidir a rá go bhfuil an Rialtas ag déanamh faillí ar bhóithre tuaithe. Ar ball beag, bhíomar ag caint faoi lánaí bus i mBaile Átha Cliath. Tá níos mó daoine ina gcónaí amuigh faoin tuath in Éirinn ná mar atá i gcathair Átha Cliath. Níl fadhb ar bith €1.5 billiún a chaitheamh go héasca sa chathair ar lánaí bus, agus €3 billiún eile a chaitheamh ar an meitreo, ach ní féidir linn cúpla euro suarach a fháil le caoi a chur ar na bóithre tuaithe. Tá airgead beag á lorg againn le hobair fíorphráinneach a dhéanamh ar Bhóthar Dhoire Fhearta. Ba cheart tús a chur leis an bpleanáil chun an cuid eile a dhéanamh. An mbeidh an Roinn ag cur airgead breise ar fáil do na comhairlí contae i mbliana? Má tá airgead breise ar fáil, cén chaoi ina roinnfear an t-airgead sin idir na comhairlí contae? An mbeidh an Roinn ag iarraidh iarratais ar an airgead breise sin i mbliana?

I also wish to speak in favour of improvements to Bóthar Dhoire Fhearta in Cearthrú Rua. It is a local road which has been an ongoing issue for residents there for many years.

The county council has acquired land in order to widen the road and deal with part of the problem, namely that it is very narrow in places. Some work has been done and our call today is for funding to be made available for the most dangerous part of the road. There is a very dangerous bend where there are no sight lines. Schoolchildren travel on this road each day. There are double-decker buses filled with students. As we move into the summer period, the Gaeltacht summer courses will commence and there will be a huge influx of people who will use this road. Thousands of vehicles use it daily and over many years, residents have called for this to be addressed. One more spell of bad weather could seriously undermine the road and we need funding to start the process at least, as it is critical that we start to deal with the most dangerous areas.

Tá mé tuirseach traochta ag ardú na ceiste seo. Tá cúrsaí sábháilteachta agus sláinte i gceist. Táimid ag caint faoi phíosa bóthair nach bhfuil rófhada, agus a cheanglaíonn An Cheathrú Rua leis an R374, a théann siar go dtí na hoileáin. Is é an chéad rud atáimid ag iarraidh a chur os comhair na Dála ná cé chomh práinneach agus chomh baolach is atá an t-ábhar seo. Tá an tAire ar an eolas anois agus ní mór dá Roinn rud éigin a dhéanamh. Tá imní mhór ar an gcoiste áitiúil nach bhfuil ann ach ceist ama go dtí go marófar duine i dtimpiste ar an mbóthar seo. Bhí na hAirí Stáit, na Teachtaí McHugh agus Kyne, amuigh ag breathnú ar an mbóthar seo inné agus cúpla mí ó shin. Níl a fhios agam cé mhéad cruinniú ar a d'fhreastail muidne agus na Teachtaí Dála eile ón Dáilcheantar i leith na ceiste seo le blianta beaga anuas. Tá daoine ag impí orainn rud éigin a dhéanamh. Níl i gceist, i ndáiríre, ach airgead suarach. Táimid ag iarraidh ar an Rialtas ar a laghad tús a chur leis an obair atá ag teastáil anois ionas nach mbeidh sábháilteacht agus sláinte i mbaol.

Gabhaim mo leithscéal nach bhfuil an tAire anseo. Beidh mé ag labhairt ar a shon agus an freagra seo á léamh agam. Tógfaidh mé teachtaireacht ar ais chuige ó na Teachtaí. Tá an freagra atá agam i mBéarla. I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Ross.

We do not need a translation service, we do understand English. The Department was offering us translation services.

That is okay. Tóg go bog é.

We greatly appreciate the offer but we do understand English.

This matter has been raised with the Minister, Deputy Ross, previously and I am pleased to restate the position in the House this evening.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the local authority’s own resources supplemented by State road grants.

I must emphasise that the initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is a matter for the local authority. Regarding grants provided by my Department, allocations are made at county council level and the distribution of grants to municipal districts is a matter for each council. It is also open to each local authority to prioritise the allocation of its own resources to address road issues in particular areas.

Before the financial crisis, local authorities could apply on a regular basis for specific grants for schemes costing less than €5 million and for strategic improvement grants for schemes costing more than €5 million with a view to strengthening, widening or realigning regional and local roads. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the crisis meant these grant schemes had to be curtailed from 2013 because expenditure on maintenance or renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.

The capital plan does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but it will take some years yet to reach the level required for the adequate maintenance and renewal of the network.

For this reason there continues to be very limited scope for funding projects under the specific grant programme. Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under this grant programme are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis, with particular consideration given to higher cost bridge rehabilitation works, significant safety schemes and improvement works that promote employment. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the public spending code and the Department’s capital appraisal framework. For this reason the Department has issued an updated set of project appraisal documentation to local authorities. If Galway County Council wishes to prioritise works on the Derrartha Road then it needs to undertake and submit to the Department a preliminary appraisal for the project. Any such appraisal would need to consider options and costings for any improvement works. Any appraisal submitted by the council would then be examined by the Department along with other proposals from other local authorities. Given continuing funding constraints on all projects there is considerable competition for available funds.

Fáiltím go mór roimh an dá alt deiridh den mhéid atá ráite ag an Aire Stáit. Beimid ag cur ceiste anois ar Chomhairle Contae na Gaillimhe an bhfuil sé i gceist aici measúnú a dhéanamh ar Bhóthar Dhoire Fhearta le cur chuig an Roinn. Tá dhá cheist agam don Aire Stáit. An bhfuil airgead ar fáil leis an réamh-mheasúnú a dhéanamh nó an gcaitear é a dhéanamh as airgead na comhairle contae? Is í mo dara cheist an cheist a chuir mé an chéad uair. An mbeidh allúntas breise á thabhairt do chomhairlí contae i mbliana - abraimís ag tús Mheán Fómhair tar éis an tsamhraidh - le cur leis an méid airgid bóithre a fuair siad go dtí seo? Bhíodh an nós sin ag an Roinn Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt. An mbeidh airgead breise á thabhairt do chomhairlí contae i mbliana? Da mbeadh, d'fhéadfaí cuid den obair fhíorphráinneach atá le déanamh ar an mbóthar seo a dhéanamh láithreach.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. We have to meet Galway County Council and we will be asking it to submit that preliminary appraisal for the project. As I stated, perhaps it could even commence on the critical, really dangerous area of that road. As I understand it, that would cost far less than the total upgrade of the entire section. Many of the residents would be very happy if the council could even start with that. I accept the procedure here but we will be in contact with Galway County Council. It is important that we raised the issue here with the Minister of State's Department in order that it can be given top priority once this appraisal has been received.

I dtús báire ba mhaith liom a rá gur maslach é freagra a thabhairt i mBéarla. Seo Bliain na Gaeilge. Mar Chathaoirleach Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán, cuireann sé isteach go mór orm go bhfuil an freagra i mBéarla. Sin rud amháin. Araon le mo chomhghleacaí, fáiltím roimh an dá alt deireanach. Tá rud dearfach ansin. Tá litir os mo chomhair anseo ón innealtóir is sinsearaí sa chomhairle contae ag rá gur chuir an chomhairle iarratas isteach, go raibh an t-iarratas sin os comhair na Roinne ó Mí Eanáir, agus go bhfuil sé ag fanacht ar fhreagra. Dúirt sé go bhfuair sé glaoch gutháin tar éis an t-iarratas a chur isteach agus go ndúradh leis go raibh scéim dheontais faoi leith ann agus go raibh an Roinn ag breathnú ar an gceist seo faoin deontas sin. Tá iarratas curtha isteach de réir mar a thuigim. Is maslach ar leibhéal eile an freagra seo mar níl a obair bhaile déanta ag an Roinn maidir leis na comhaid atá agam anseo agus maidir leis an uafás litreacha agus iarratas atá curtha isteach. Ar a laghad, an dtabharfaidh an tAire Stáit soiléiriú dúinn anois mar gheall ar an iarratas atá curtha isteach ag an gcomhairle contae?

Mar a dúirt mé, thóg mé na ceisteanna sin ar son an Aire féin chun freagra a thabhairt do na Teachtaí faoi shonraí na scéime seo. Tá nóta agam anseo a deireann that there has been significant local lobbying for Galway County Council to carry out road improvement works on the local Derrartha Road, which connects the island areas of Connemara with An Cheathrú Rua. While Galway County Council did write to the Department about funding for this road in January of this year, the county council would need to submit a preliminary appraisal as required under the updated project appraisals process and any such appraisal would need to consider options and costings. I know from lobbying for improvements to roads in my native county that this is the procedure the Department now looks for. It seeks to have local authorities complete these appraisals in advance of further funding allocations for the specific improvement grants. I know the documentation had been awaited for quite some time and was only finalised and distributed to the local authorities in recent weeks. I urge the Deputies to continue to engage closely with the local authority as Deputy Naughton suggested. I am quite familiar with the part of the country to which the Deputies are referring and I understand the challenges there in terms of the sheer logistics of getting around and the risks of losing key infrastructure. I appreciate that this is a matter of urgency and I will be raising the matter further with the Minister, Deputy Ross. I apologise that I am not in a position to give any further detail on the specifics or some of the minutiae which might perhaps be more helpful in this regard but I will pass on the Deputies' serious concerns in respect of this matter.