An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The business this week shall be as set out in the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 27 May 2019. In relation to today's business, it is proposed that: No. a9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, referral to committee and No. 9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Regulation EU 2018/1727 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), and replacing and repealing Council Decision 2002/187/JHA, referral to committee, shall be taken without debate and any division demanded on the Planning and Development Regulations shall be taken immediately; and No. 30, ráitis maidir le deiseanna fostaíochta in earnáil na Gaeilge shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, of ten minutes each, with ten minutes for all other Members and a five minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time.

In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that:

(1) Second Stage of No. 56, Housing (Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability) Bill 2018, shall conclude within two hours;

(2) No. 33, statements on the development of primary care, shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, of ten minutes each with ten minutes for all other members and a five-minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time;

(3) No. 34, statements on the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, of ten minutes each with ten minutes for all other Members and a five-minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time.

In relation to Thursday’s business, it is proposed that:

(1) Nos. 10 and 10a, motion re Sectoral Employment Order (Electrical Contracting Sector) 2019 (back from committee) and motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 (back from committee) shall be taken without debate;

(2) Weekly divisions will take place on the conclusion of proceedings on amendments from the Seanad on the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2018, which shall take place immediately following the motions re Sectoral Employment Order (Electrical Contracting Sector) 2019 and Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019;

(3) No. 35, statements on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES, global assessment report shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, of ten minutes each with ten minutes for all other Members and a five-minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time; and

(4) The Dáil on its rising shall adjourn until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 June 2019.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed. Before we start questions on promised legislation or the programme for Government, I urge Members to desist from taking the opportunity to make statements. We will test it today. Please do not try to circumvent the rules.

I might test the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on that. I apologise in advance.

I am very concerned by the response of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to Deputies McDonald and Howlin on the comments of Cathal Berry this morning. We are not talking about Private Pike, we are talking about a very senior member of the Army Ranger Wing. Commandant Berry spoke about the Defence Forces being dismantled and demoralised. He also referred to the humiliation and suffocation of the Defence Forces. We are talking here about Óglaigh na hÉireann, our Defence Forces. When somebody so senior makes such a statement, I would expect a more urgent response from Government. The Minister had not even read the interview even though she was taking Leaders' Questions. Would it be possible for the Minister of State with responsibility for defence to come to the House and respond in respect of these very serious issues? It is not just pay and conditions; there is a need for urgent action on a much broader front. We owe it to the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann to listen when somebody terms such as "dismantled", "demoralised", "humiliation" and "suffocation". We cannot ignore this.

I stated that I did not hear the specific interview but I was aware that he had made his concerns known. I accept that what he said is a matter of concern. However, as stated, the commission has completed its report and I am satisfied that the issues in terms of pay and all the other issues he raised will be taken into account by the Minister of State with responsibility for the Defence Forces, Deputy Kehoe. If the Deputy wishes to have the Minister of State make a statement, I suggest he bring a proposal to the Business Committee in that regard.

Two weeks ago, the Minister voted against a Sinn Féin Bill to provide for a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution, as was recommended by the Constitutional Convention.

As per the programme for Government, that recommendation was referred to the Oireachtas committee on housing, which also recommended that the right to housing be enshrined in the Constitution. The Minister and the Government, however, have consistently faced down and voted against doing anything about that recommendation. The Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, stated this morning that the Government should reopen this conversation and I agree with him. Does the Minister agree and where stands the Government on this issue? Has the Constitutional Convention's recommendation effectively been binned?

I call Deputy Joan Collins, who has a similar question.

It was horrifying to see four members of a young family in the council offices in Tallaght yesterday because they had been removed from a hotel on Friday night and could not get accommodation. Accommodation was provided after a sit-in in the council offices. That is an outrage, as is the fact that the family was given hotel accommodation in a location which meant that the children had to take three buses to get to school. This has to stop. Some sort of protection in the Constitution on the right to housing at least would force the Government, and future Governments, to protect people in such situations. When will the Minister bring that in?

I met the ombudsman recently regarding his report and we went through his recommendations. The Government is open on the question of a right to housing being enshrined in the Constitution. We want to ensure, however, that we follow the same type of process that led to the successful repeal of the eighth amendment and to marriage equality. As a result, this Oireachtas decided to refer that question to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, which is chaired by a Deputy from the Fianna Fáil party and not a Government Deputy. That process needs to come to a successful conclusion before the Oireachtas decides where we go from there.

It is worth noting, however, that a constitutional or legal right to housing in other countries has not ended the problem of homelessness. The real way to do that is through supply. That is why the Government is committed to increasing supply while also remaining open regarding the question of a right to housing being enshrined in the Constitution. A process is under way with the Oireachtas committee at the moment, however, and that has to be followed.


What does this have to do with-----


What does this have to do with the committee? I have never heard-----

I ask for order. I call Deputy Howlin.

We have the results of the three plebiscites on directly-elected mayors. I note the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, is present. Limerick city voted by a slim majority to accept the proposal, while Cork and Waterford voted by an equally slim majority to reject it. Most of us here see the potential of directly-elected mayors and what they can bring to a reformed and invigorated local government system. What does the Minister of State propose to do next? The Government has committed to have a citizens' assembly in respect of Dublin. Would he consider having a wider citizens' assembly now or a separate one, whichever is the more appropriate? That would allow us to develop a strong, coherent model in order that people can understand what specific powers we want to devolve, as well as the relationship between the executive and a newly elected mayor. That was patently not the case during these plebiscites.

I call Deputy Quinlivan, who has a related question.

The programme for Government has a commitment to legislate for directly-elected mayors. I was delighted to see voters in Limerick approve the proposal put in the plebiscite on Friday to allow for a directly-elected mayor to lead our local authority. Sinn Féin supported a "Yes" vote for a directly-elected mayor in Limerick but we had a job of work to explain to people the benefits of having that position. That was because of the total lack of information provided by the Government. I have no doubt this lack of clarity contributed to the proposal, which is positive, failing in Waterford and Cork. That is a shame. Will the Minister of State tell us when he will publish legislation to provide for a directly-elected mayor to show more powers are being returned to the citizens of Limerick?

I acknowledge those who contributed to the plebiscite discussions and the campaigns in the three local authorities. There was actually quite a convincing majority in Limerick. It approached 4,000 votes.

That is correct but there were 4,000 votes in the difference between both sides.

That is hardly convincing.

In respect of Cork and Waterford, the result in Waterford came down to a difference of 720 or 730 votes.

Leave Waterford alone.

Some 360 votes would have swung the result. The Cork city result was something similar.

The people of Cork made it very clear.

This is for questions on legislation.

Regarding what Deputy Quinlivan said, we will proceed as soon as possible. Tomorrow, my officials and I are meeting members of the civil society group from Limerick who supported the plebiscite. We will proceed with Limerick, which will be the leader in this area of local government reform. I assure Deputy Howlin that the issue of directly-elected mayors for Cork and Waterford has not gone off the agenda at all. In the next couple of weeks, the Government will decide on the citizens' assembly on the Dublin area. However, Limerick itself will be the test ground for the establishment of the position of directly-elected mayor. I envisage, nevertheless, that the issue will be revisited for Cork city and Waterford city and county in the near future.

The people have spoken.

The message contained in the results of the elections which took place on Friday demanding radical emergency measures to address the climate crisis was dramatic and unmistakable. The central demand of the global climate movement is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. All the science says that 80% of known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to address the crisis. At the weekend, the Taoiseach promised that the Government would heed the message. In that context, I ask very simply whether the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment will now refuse the application under consideration in his Department from the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation and Exxon Mobil to drill for oil off the Kerry coast? If the Government is serious about climate change and dealing with the climate crisis as promised, will that application now be refused? To permit new drilling for oil off the Kerry coast is completely incompatible with any serious intent to deal with the climate crisis.

I call the Minister.

That is particularly so when one of the biggest producers of offshore crude oil in the world is involved.

On the same issue-----

I can take a question which is related if a Deputy's name is on my list. Deputy Eamon Ryan will be coming in as the leader.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle let other people in on the same topic.

That is because they were on my list. They indicated earlier. A Deputy must indicate.

That does not make sense. People do not necessarily know what topics are coming up.

If a Deputy is interested, I have no control. Does Deputy Coppinger have a different question to that of her colleague?

I want 30 seconds.

Let it be a question.

It is on the same issue of why the Government is allowing drilling to take place after such a clear message to the effect that the people want radical action. If the Government is serious about listening to the electorate, in particular young people, and their message from the weekend, it should stop now rather than to talk simply about carbon taxes and a range of oppressive financial measures imposed on ordinary people.

Is there a question?

If the Government is serious, it will let the Bill progress.

I ask the Minister, Deputy Bruton, for a brief response.

I will try to be as brief as the questioners were. The first point to make is that the Bill to which the Deputies refer will not reduce our greenhouse gases by a single ounce or gramme. Our challenge is to reduce greenhouse gases in Ireland.

Who does "our" refer to? It is a global problem.

Let the Minister speak without interruption.

We have failed to meet our 2020 target and we are determined to meet our 2030 target. The reality is that, today, 84% of our needs are met by fossil fuels. Our problem is not too much exploration, it is too much dependence on and use of fossil fuels. We must reduce that 84% over the coming years, which is what we are determined to do.

That is not what the science says.

We are determined to reduce its use in every sector of the economy, including buildings and transport, and to use a range of policy tools to bring that about, including carbon pricing, which is an important system for pricing the damage that is done.

And to keep drilling for oil.

It is important not to pretend there is a magic bullet that will change our 84% dependence on fossil fuels to something else. That will not happen. We must have a sensible transition from a dependence rate of 84% and reduce that over time. Gas will always be part of that transition.

We do not have time.

Every Deputy is to be treated likewise in the House. I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

My question is about jobs for Tipperary. A task force was promised to be set up in Tipperary by the Taoiseach some months ago when he was speaking in the seat from which the Minister is now sitting. The people were delighted, including the different groups such as March for Tipp, Jobs for Tipp and all the community groups. An eminent lady, Ms Alison Harvey, was appointed to lead this task force but practically nothing has happened and there is disbelief and shock. The Government members all attended a jobs fair down there, including the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, and announced who knows what. Will this task force be funded? Is Ms Harvey going to be allowed to do what is necessary, co-operate and collaborate with the community groups, local authorities and everybody else in Tipperary? They badly need action, not empty words. Does she have a budget and will she be allowed do her work?

Alison Harvey is chairing the task force for Tipperary. She is doing a good job there and it is important that we let her do that work. I have been down in Tipperary on a number of occasions and the regional enterprise plan has a particular focus on Tipperary town. Funding has been provided from a number of sources to assist that region. It will take a bit of time and we should allow her to continue on with the work she is doing. She will have access to all the different Government funding streams, whether it is the rural regeneration fund, the urban regeneration fund or the regional enterprise development fund.

There is a range of funding mechanisms that can be applied to.

Tá sí as láthair.

There is a phrase in the climate community to "do the maths." The maths is simple and it would be appropriate to put on the junior certificate maths paper. If there is X amount of carbon that we can produce into the atmosphere and if we know that the known fossil fuel reserves, leaving aside the stuff we have not found yet, is four times that, we have to keep four fifths of the known carbon reserves in the ground. There is something wrong when on the day the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment had his all of Government climate plan meeting in Croke Park to discuss the new all of Government climate plan, his Department issued a licence to Total and Providence, and yesterday, on the very day that the cabinet subcommittee on climate met, the Department issued a licence to Exxon Mobil and Chinese Nation Offshore Oil Corporation. That has to stop and that has to change.

The position is that it is about maths. We are 84% dependent on fossil fuels and that will not change overnight. The ambition of Europe is to go from 16% renewables to 32% by 2030. That will still leave huge dependence on fossil fuels in Ireland and in Europe. Our choice is whether, by abandoning exploration, we switch to fracked gas from the US or to gas coming from Russia or Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and sacrifice the revenue that comes into the Exchequer that can help us fund the changes we need, or do we switch that money to paying these oligarchs from abroad for the way in which they generate fossil fuels. The logic is that we have to change our dependence on fossil fuels. That is the change we have to make and pretending that can be done by some sleight of hand is just not realistic. The Deputy is fooling the people.

The Government is giving it away to the big multinational corporations.

I have tried to get answers to my question through parliamentary questions but I have failed. My questions are directed at the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, but níl sé ann anois so I will ask them and maybe the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, will find out for me. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, came to my home town of Bandon many months ago and made some announcements, including on the reopening of the Garda station in Ballinspittle. I want to find out when exactly this is opening. The second announcement he made was that Kinsale Garda station would now be manned 24-7. I want to know if that is a physical presence or if that is just access to a Garda car.

I will convey those questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality.

My question is for the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Although it was promised that the waiting list for carer's allowance would be reduced, people must currently wait for more than three months for a decision. This is a disgrace. All that people who take care of elderly people or people who are ill and who keep people at home want is their allowance to be paid. Could something be done to increase the number of staff? While I appreciate the work being done by the staff already there, it is a disgrace to keep people waiting for up to three months to be awarded carer's allowance or even to receive an answer.

It is a disgrace that family members must take decisions about leaving employment and working without pay. They submit applications but the waiting time remains 16 weeks, having fallen from 19 weeks, according to the most recent response I have received from the Minister. It is utterly unacceptable. In one case, the information submitted by the doctors clearly states the person needs full-time care, which the family members are providing. Is there anything the Minister can do to ensure that the waiting time from the date of application to the date of the request being granted will be reasonable?

The average waiting time until the end of last year was 19 weeks, which is wholly unacceptable, but it is currently 15 weeks. Although that does not meet the 12-week target we have set in the Department, it is moving in the right direction, for two reasons. The first is we have changed the application form to try to make it less onerous and to allow us gather more information. There are two aspects to a carer's allowance application, namely, the means test and the medical assessment.

The second reason is we have added more staff to the area. As other staff become available, such as those working on our illness benefit transition and the 2012 pension anomaly restorations, they will be moved to address the issue. I hope that will continue to reduce the waiting time to the 12-week target.

My question relates to the Bill to amend the Constitution to extend the franchise at presidential elections. In 2013, the Constitutional Convention agreed that Irish citizens in the North and the diaspora should have the right to vote in presidential elections. Last October, the Taoiseach announced that a referendum to extend the right to vote in presidential elections to all citizens outside the State would be held in May. On 5 February, however, the Government decided to defer the referendum on extending the franchise until October. Will the Minister outline the timetable for the publication of the heads of the Bill, the publication date for the Bill, whether he is confident the referendum will be held in October, and whether a specific date has been decided?

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach laid out understandably why the delay occurred. A memo on the legislation is due before the Cabinet soon. In order to hold a referendum in the autumn, we need to ensure that the Bill is progressed through the House in good time. That will be up to the Oireachtas, but the Government will discuss the memo at its next meeting or the following meeting.

I call Deputy Eugene Murphy, who, from his experience in the Chair, knows the rules.

I certainly do, which is why I always keep to the rules and never break them.

We will judge you in a moment.

I do not intend to discuss the programme for Government. It was noticeable when canvassing, particularly in my constituency of Roscommon-Galway, that the issue of broadband is very significant. While I acknowledge that there have been breakthroughs and that some areas have been connected, many farmers, owners of small businesses and schools remain without it. Is it the Government's intention to proceed with the scheme as announced, and if so, when can we expect a contract to be signed?

As the Deputy knows, two weeks ago, the Government made a decision to appoint a preferred bidder and now contracts will have to be completed to the satisfaction of the State. We will not sign any contracts until that is done and we are satisfied that all the elements of the deal are in place. We have given an indicative timeline and predicted that the process could take up to six months to complete. While we hope to beat that timeline if possible, we will not commence the roll-out until after that date. It will happen in the final quarter of this year.

People in the north west depend on University Hospital Galway for certain procedures. Over the past six months in particular, people have been notified of appointments in Galway that have then been cancelled. Yesterday, a constituent informed me that his appointment for a stent replacement has been cancelled on four occasions. As a result of the fact that some patients need to be accompanied, those travelling with them to hospital book hotel rooms and then receive a phone call on the morning the procedure is due to be carried out stating that it has been cancelled. This is totally outrageous and it is not fair to people who are sick.

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. If he passes on the specific details, I will raise it directly with the Minister for Health.

I call Deputy Michael Collins to ask a relevant question.

The charity-led air ambulance based in Cork, which has the capability to reach most parts of Ireland, in ten minutes can reach-----

A question, not a statement.

I am asking a question. The air ambulance can reach Beara, Sheep's Head and the Mizen peninsulas in 15 minutes. The deployment of the charity-led air ambulance has been delayed for months. This has led to major frustration for many who know it will save lives. The charity has complied with all of the requested procedures and protocols. Will the Minister let us know when the National Ambulance Service will confirm deployment of this life-saving resource in the community?

Is the Minister in a position to answer the question on the National Ambulance Service?

It is not in promised legislation or the programme for Government but I will pass on the details to the relevant Minister.

I raise the planning regulations on short-term letting that will come before the Oireachtas this week. Last Friday, Catherine Sanz reported in the Ireland edition of The Times that Airbnb is trying to pressurise the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to delay the introduction of the new rules. As the Minister is aware, these regulations have been a long time coming and should not be delayed any further. The deadline has already been extended by one month. Will the Minister confirm the 1 July deadline will not be changed and that these regulations will be enforced from that day forward?

I thank the Deputy for the question. There has been no pressure on me on what we need to do when it comes to short-term letting. I thank the Oireachtas committee for the support we have received. Tomorrow morning, before we have our quarterly session on Rebuilding Ireland, I will officially lay the new regulations for short-term letting before the House and they will be discussed. These have to be approved by the committee, after which they can come into force immediately. An advertising campaign will commence in the run-up to the 1 July deadline for the new regulations to come into force. Provided that the Oireachtas continues to give its full support in respect of this matter tomorrow morning, the deadline will not change.

I call Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, who should ask a question.

Is the Minister aware of how the reduction in the time for home helps is affecting-----

Give the Minister an indication of the promised legislation involved.

It is in the promised legislation.

It would be helpful if the Deputy could pinpoint the legislation in question.

The story is that home help has been cut down to 20 minutes-----

A woman phoned me to say that her home help cannot cook a dinner for her. The home help has time to give her a shower and a sandwich.

The Deputy is being very specific.

The sandwich is no good to the woman because she is hungry and sick of sandwiches and showers. Twenty minutes is not enough.

I know this is important but-----

Another lady is paying so much money that she is left with only €57 for the week-----

-----after paying for private home help.

I am asking the Minister to increase the time for home helps. It is the policy of the Government to keep people in their homes for as long as possible.

We have the question.

Will the Minister do something about this? A sum of €57 for an old lady to live on-----

The Deputy's colleagues after him want to come in.

-----is not adequate.

I called the Deputy in good faith.

I am aware of the issue with regard to home helps and the amount of time some people get and I will certainly raise it with the Minister for Health.

As the House is aware, the programme for Government contains a specific recommendation on supporting tourism and walking tourism in particular. Ireland's Hidden Heartlands is the newest development in this regard. One of the main tourism attractions is the Beara-Breifne Way. Many tourists use this walkway but for the past couple of weeks the Melick Weir footbridge has been closed by the OPW.

Last weekend, 12 tourists from New Zealand got as far as the weir but could not cross it. They were extremely disappointed. People in the tourism trade in the region are very annoyed that this is the case.

We understand it will remain closed for a year, with no alternative put in place to keep the walkway open. If we are genuine about having a proper tourism resource in the regions, will the Minister ensure the OPW puts in place an alternative to keep the Beara-Breifne Way open?

The relevant Minister is not here.

I understand that the walkway is open. On the specific issue raised by the Deputy, I will refer it to the relevant Minister to be taken up with the local authority.

On the defence Bill, poor rates of pay and allowances are driving personnel out of the Defence Forces. The Army is losing good employees, with approximately 9% of personnel leaving every year. I have spoken to constituents who are members of the Defence Forces. They enjoy their job and they want to serve their country but they cannot survive on poor wages, in particular those who have young families to support. Not only are their earnings below the minimum wage, they are below the living wage. Currently, a soldier who works a 24 hour duty on a Saturday takes home with-----

A question, please, not a statement.

In 2017, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, conceded a €50 million pay package to avert a strike by gardaí. The situation in respect of the Defence Forces is similar.

The Deputy is making a statement. A question, please Deputy. I take everybody in good faith.

Will a package similar to that provided for An Garda Síochána be provided for the Defence Forces?

I will allow a brief relevant question from Deputy O'Loughlin.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I listened to the interview this morning with Cathal Berry. It was chilling but not surprising. I have been working closely with Sarah Walshe and the Wives & Partners of the Defence Forces, WPDF, in terms of giving a voice to those in the Defence Forces who do not have one. Where they have a voice is in regard to voting. I was disturbed to learn at the count centre in Kildare that many of our serving members did not get an opportunity to vote. I understand that the ballot boxes for those serving overseas were not sent. I saw photographs of boxes of ballot papers, which were taken on Monday, which was after the election. Many serving personnel had their votes transferred to their homes.

The Deputy must ask a specific question.

In situations where they were received too late, they were brought to count centres but not accepted. This matter needs to be investigated.

If the Deputy gives the details-----

Complaints of the type mentioned by the Deputy should be referred to the returning officer in the specific area.

On pay for members of the Defence Forces, pay is increasing under the pay agreements. For example, the average pay plus allowances for enlisted personnel is €41,189 and average pay plus allowances for officers is €64,278. This will improve under the Low Pay Commission report.

We are out of time but I will allow Deputy Fitzmaurice 30 seconds.

Under the programme for Government an application was to be made to Europe for TEN-T funding for the west of Ireland. Almost three years on, it had not been done. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, gave an undertaking two months ago that it would be done. My understanding is that it has not yet been done. Can the Minister confirm if it has been done, or not? When questions were asked on this previously during Questions on Promised Legislation Ministers said they would come back to Deputies on the matter but no response has ever been received.

I cannot give the Deputy an answer but I will ask the Minister, Deputy Ross, to contact him with a response.