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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 2 Jul 2019

Vol. 984 No. 5

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

I may be breaking with protocol but I think I should welcome the students who are here from the United Arab Emirates from the Al-Maktoum summer school. I met them earlier. They are accompanied by the Irish ambassador to the UAE, His Excellency, Mr. Aidan Cronin, and the students are being hosted by our colleagues Deputies Breathnach, Catherine Martin and Maureen O'Sullivan. They are all very welcome.

The business this week shall be as set out in the first revised report of the Business Committee dated 1 July 2019. Regarding today's business, it is proposed that Nos. 13 and 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Amendment to the Articles of Agreement of the International Finance Corporation, back from committee, and motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann to instruct the committee on the Parole Bill 2016, shall be taken without debate and any divisions demanded thereon shall be taken immediately. No. 15, motion to instruct the committee on the Local Government (Rates) Bill 2018 shall conclude within one hour, if not previously concluded. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed 7.5 minutes each. Any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately. The Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 11 p.m.

Should a division be in progress at 8 p.m., No. 230, motion re mental health, shall be taken on the conclusion of the division for two hours. Notwithstanding the provision of Standing Order 157 that a motion to recommit a Bill wholly may be made at the commencement of its consideration on Report Stage, the Parole Bill 2016 shall be recommitted in its entirety to a committee of the whole Dáil and the Bill shall be taken in Government time.

Regarding Wednesday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m., questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine shall be taken at that time, and the Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and adjourn not later than 11.45 p.m.. No. 38a, statements on the EU-Mercosur trade agreement shall conclude within one hour if not previously concluded. Statements shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed seven minutes each, with a four-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. Expressions of sympathy shall be taken immediately following Questions on Promised Legislation for a period not exceeding 15 minutes and shall be followed by Taoiseach's questions, and contributions shall not exceed two minutes each.

Regarding Thursday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m., questions to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment shall be taken at that time, and the Dáil shall sit later than 8.03 p.m. and adjourn on the conclusion of the debate on the committee report on the wards of court. The proceedings on Second Stage of No. 1, Judicial Council Bill 2017 [Seanad], shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 30 minutes and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. The speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each. A Minister or Minister of State shall have a ten-minute response and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes by one question, which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Topical Issue debate shall be taken on the conclusion of Government business or at 9 p.m., whichever is the earlier.

There are three proposals to 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?

We are concerned with the lack of time being given to statements on the Mercosur trade agreement. It amounts to an hour, or approximately seven minutes per party. We have 44 Deputies, but seven minutes means that we will have just one speaker. The deal is causing significant concern. We ask that more time be given to the debate this week or, failing that, more substantial time next week. Alternatively, consideration should be given by the Business Committee to extending the Dáil session by a further week. Seven minutes to discuss something of serious concern is not good enough because it has implications across the board in the context of other issues. The relevant Minister is being somewhat disingenuous regarding the behaviour of the Brazilian President, for example. To suggest that the deal ties Brazil to the Paris Agreement-----

We are just dealing with the time factor.

What has been happening in the past six to nine months in terms of the acceleration of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is extraordinary.

We are only dealing with whether the debate will be for 60 minutes.

I apologise. I accept that, but this highlights the need-----

We are not going into the content of the issue.

It is not good enough for the larger parties or, indeed, any party-----

The debate should be open to Deputies who want to articulate their views.

We are deciding whether to agree Wednesday's business. There is a proposal that there not be more than 60 minutes for this debate. The Business Committee might be able to change that, but I cannot see how, because we will be sitting until 11.45 p.m. or 11.48 p.m.

Or next week. Does Deputy McDonald wish to discuss the same issue?

Yes, but with greater brevity. In addition to more time, it would be better if the Minister presented himself to answer questions.

It is not sufficient simply for the Minister to skate over this matter with a statement at the beginning and a statement from the Government at the end. This is a very serious issue. We need the Minister to answer questions as well as providing additional time for the discussion.

On the same issue, I am not satisfied to simply have statements on this matter because Members come in, make a statement and that is that. This is an important issue. Deputy Micheál Martin referred to the extent of deforestation. Some 8,000 sq. km of rainforest were destroyed last year alone. That is an area the size of County Cork. These are fundamental issues if we are serious about climate change. I would like the Government to issue a motion on which the House can reach a determination, rather than Members coming in to make statements. In particular, the allocation of seven minutes to the larger parties to be divided between two or three Members is not the way to deal with an issue as important as this. I realise that time is very limited this week, but the Government should present a motion to the House next week and ask for the views of the House on it.

We must have considerably more time to discuss this matter because there are so many different aspects to it. There is an impact on farmers in this country and there is also significant detrimental impact on farmers and indigenous communities in Latin America.

We are not going into detail on the matter.

I am making a point about more time being needed due to the various aspects of the issue. On transport, Europe sending gas-guzzling cars to Latin America and countries there sending beef thousands of kilometres across the sea have significant climate implications.

We are not going into the content of the issue.

That needs to be discussed. We need several Ministers to answer questions on this issue. It is not just an agricultural issue. We need to be able to ask questions of those Ministers.

The Rural Independent Group is very concerned about this matter. We should deal with the matter in the manner suggested by Deputy Howlin, namely, that the Government would issue a motion and the House would have a proper and meaningful debate, including questions and answers, because this is a very serious issue for rural and urban Ireland.

The proposal was for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, to open the debate tomorrow and for it to be concluded by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, after contributions from the various parties and groups. I would be happy for the debate to adjourn after an hour rather than concluding and that the Business Committee would decide on extra time to be provided for the matter this week or next week, including the option to sit this Friday or next. There is no problem with that.

There is a proposal that-----

Is there any possibility of the Government issuing a motion on the matter rather than having statements?

That would have to be agreed at Cabinet, so I am not in a position to state whether that would be possible. There is an hour scheduled tomorrow for statements on the matter.

We should let the Business Committee decide.

Is the proposal that additional time will be provided for the matter next week? The Government will have to consider whether to go ahead with statements or issue a motion. That is a matter for it to decide. In the meantime, is the suggestion that the time provided tomorrow for the matter would be taken up with questions and a minute given to each-----

I do not think there will be sufficient time to ask questions on the matter tomorrow as each of the larger parties has only been allocated seven minutes. I agree that it could be adjourned to next week when the allocated hour elapses. The Business Committee should consider the facilitation of further debate on the matter in next week's session when more time will be available, and the Government should co-operate with the spirit of Deputy McDonald's point on questions. One hour tomorrow is not sufficient to have statements and questions. I agree with the suggestion of the Government Chief Whip.

There is a suggestion that the House avail of the hour scheduled for tomorrow. The matter will be discussed at the meeting of the Business Committee on Thursday. It seems to be the view of the House that time should be provided next week, or perhaps the week after-----

The provision of additional time will be discussed on Thursday. There is goodwill on all sides in regard to additional time being provided next week.

I suggest that we drop Topical Issue matters tomorrow and provide an extra 50 minutes to discussion of this issue.

The House will be sitting until 11.45 p.m. anyway. Subject to-----

No, the spokesperson of the Rural Independent Group has spoken.

May I ask that-----

-----a motion be issued next week and that there be a vote on the motion?

Was the Deputy listening? That is in the mix for the Business Committee to decide. I am sure Deputy Mattie McGrath will reflect Deputy Healy-Rae's views when the committee meets..

There should be a motion and a vote on the motion.

There will be a vote on Thursday.

At the risk of annoying you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I think the better use of the hour would be to have questions and answers rather than statements in the time allotted to us on Wednesday. I think it is important that the Minister comes in and is initially held to account and subjected to questions.

We have to decide on it. Can we get consensus?

Statements is one thing, but questioning the Minister------

The Business Committee agreed to statements. There is a useful purpose in parties setting out their positions albeit we have seven minutes on it tomorrow, but next week there can be further debate and questions. I envisage far more time next week than the hour allocated this week. I envisage a couple of hours next week.

Tomorrow after 60 minutes the debate is to be adjourned. It will become clearer after the Business Committee meeting on Thursday.

That is a new proposal.

Is Wednesday's business agreed? Agreed. We are eating into the time.

Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed.

I wish to acknowledge the importance of the Business Committee. The Business Committee agreed last week to facilitate the placing on the agenda of five justice Bills and a justice motion. Members on all sides agree on the importance of these. My concern is that this may well unravel in the context of new demands. I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to ensure, insofar as he can, that what was agreed by the Business Committee will not now unravel.

That is all agreed. The Minister for Justice and Equality should talk to the Chief Whip.

The intention would be that all this legislation would be taken. We have to find additional time if necessary. We all have to be pragmatic about this when we meet on Thursday.

I wish to reply to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan. There are three justice Bills listed for this week, including the Parole Bill, the Judicial Council Bill and the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill.

It is all in the document. It has been read out. No changes were made.

On a point of order, I note the unprecedented over-riding of a Government Whip by a Minister.

That is not a point of order. We are going to move on.

I put it to all 20 Members on the list that we are taking about time-saving yet we are 20 minutes behind. We cannot have more slippage. I ask leaders to make short and concise answers. I will not get to all 20 Deputies so they should not be disappointed.

In the context of the programme for Government, climate change and the protection of biodiversity, most people would have been shocked and taken aback by the decision of Japan to leave the International Whaling Commission and recommence commercial fishing of whales. Albeit it was doing it for research purposes, the last commercial hunt was in 1986. This is further evidence of a growing unilateralism in international relationships and in the withdrawing by new leaders in countries from multilateral obligations and approaches to issues of this kind. We have had this with deforestation and now with Japan leaving the International Whaling Commission. Has the Government lodged a complaint and protest with the Japanese Government via the embassy in Dublin?

I will have to come back to the Deputy. I do not know what has been done but certainly I share his dismay at the decision of the Japanese Government.

I wish to raise the Public Service Pay Commission report on pay and recruitment issues for the Defence Forces. It is unfortunate that consideration of the matter has been postponed due to the absence of the Taoiseach. I do not propose to rehearse the issues at play but I note that the last time these matters were debated last month the leaking of proposals to the media in advance of consultation with the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, the representative bodies of the Defence Forces, caused some angst. Judging by the coverage in the media again today, it seems the lessons have not been learned from that episode. Why have proposals again been leaked prior to consultation taking place with soldiers and their representative bodies? Will meaningful consultation with them take place as soon as possible directly and not through the media?

It is a bit premature for me to comment on how this will be dealt with as the issues have yet to be considered at Cabinet. It is likely that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, will bring a report to Cabinet this week and the Government will make its strategy clear at that point.

I am concerned that we are going to run out of time to have any meaningful discussion in this House on a matter of real concern, namely, the demoralisation in our Defence Forces. Members of the Defence Forces are totally demoralised by the lack of respect they have been shown by the Government. This peer review, which has been promised for six or eight months now and is to be published in the dying days of this Dáil term, if at all, is adding to that sense of alienation. Why did the terms of the review focus only on allowances and not on core pay when core pay is the kernel of the grievances of our serving men and women?

It is my understanding that the issue of core pay was negotiated across the public service.

As the Minister knows, the Defence Forces were not represented at those negotiations.

Arrangements were put in place in that agreement for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement. That agreement made provision for looking at specific areas, such as difficulty of recruitment and so on. It is under that clause, not a reopening of the pay settlement as a whole, that these specific concerns of the Defence Forces have been examined. That is why the matter has been dealt with in this way.

Why are we waiting so long for the report?

In a significant development, Dublin City Council yesterday endorsed a motion from one of our councillors, Tina MacVeigh from People Before Profit, to re-municipalise waste management in the city. That means taking the waste management system back into public control and ownership. This very important development paves the way for addressing environmental concerns, the concerns of the city's population who have been paying inordinate charges to private waste management companies and the concerns of those who could not afford the charges when their waivers were removed. As the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and a representative of the Government, does the Minister agree that it is time the Government legislated to support this motion to take our waste management back into public control? The motion was also supported by the management of Dublin City Council. The current approach has been a disaster for the population and the environment. We have also seen the farce of plastic being shipped to China and back again, which was both unsustainable and unjust.

Allow the Minister to respond.

We need sustainable waste management and we can only achieve that via public control.

The Deputy should allow the Minister to respond and show some concern for her colleagues.

I am not saying one is on account of the other, but it is important that the Deputy recognise the significant improvements made in the quality of our waste management in recent years. We have improved our recycling rates and we are ahead of recycling targets in most areas. That is not to say everything is satisfactory. We need to improve significantly, specifically in the area of plastics. The difficulties have not been in collection but in other areas, including handling, prevention, reduction, recycling and outlets. While we need to make improvements, I suspect this measure is not one that will significantly contribute to improving our record on recycling.

The Minister is opposed to the re-municipalisation of waste management. He does not agree with it.

Deputies may not ask supplementary questions. I call Deputy Mattie McGrath to ask a relevant question.

Post is always relevant. What is the status of the post office in Thurles? The Save Our Square committee, business people in Thurles and the community in general are very concerned about the decision to move the town's post office. Rumours have been circulating lately that the move may not go ahead. As he is in charge of this area, will the Minister indicate the present and future status of Thurles town post office with respect to its current location?

As this has been previously raised on numerous occasions in the House, the Deputy will know that decisions in relation to individual post offices are a matter for the board of An Post. It is to the board that he should direct his questions.

Perhaps the Deputy could raise it as a Topical Issue matter or in a parliamentary question.

Under the Minister's climate action plan, we will see the possible banning of cars from city and town centres but to achieve that a viable public transport system will be needed, yet only 20% of the transport budget goes on public transport and only 2.9% of journeys in Ireland are made by rail. The people of Navan would like to have a rail line, which would reduce car congestion on a road that the Minister knows well, given that he comes from Dunboyne. As a fellow Meath man, will he use his influence to bring about the possibility of bringing the Government review of the Navan rail line forward from 2021 because the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has shown no interest in the project?

Deputy Thomas Byrne has a question on the same issue.

On the same issue, I completely agree with my colleague, Deputy Cassells, on the Dublin-Navan rail line. Yesterday, Fine Gael published a list of projects throughout the country for which it is claiming credit. None of those is in Meath. The Navan-Dublin rail line is not on that list. Meath is not mentioned at all on Fine Gael's list and the people of Meath want to know why that is the case.

Is the Minister in a position to answer on that?

I am not in a position to answer. I can understand the Deputies' concerns for the royal county. There is significant investment in the national development plan but I will alert the Minister responsible to the Deputies' concerns.

The Garda Síochána (compensation) Bill is promised legislation. At what stage of preparation is it and will it come before the House in the next session?

That is the way to ask a question.

Excellent. I do not mean excellent in the sense that it will not be brought forward this term but the manner in which the response was given was excellent.

Page 58 of the programme for Government refers to capacity with respect to an emergency disability fund. My HSE area was allocated €1.5 million at the beginning of the year to address cases where people with a disability could be moved out of acute care to rehabilitative care. Unfortunately, this fund was exhausted in a very short time. I have been dealing with the case of a 29 year old man with a disability who has been occupying an acute bed for almost four months after being discharged from hospital. His acute care is completed but due to his disability he is unable to return home. A residential rehabilitative care programme has been identified and organised. All he is waiting for is instruction from the HSE to proceed. I understand there is no funding available to deal with this case. It is economic foolishness to have a young man taking up an acute bed. Funding needs to be put in place immediately for an emergency disability fund.

The Deputy has made the case. That would be a question for the Minister or a Minister of State at the Department of Health.

No. I do not know the details of the case so I will have to ask the Minister responsible to respond to the Deputy.

I call Deputy Adams who I know will be concise.

In March, the Tánaiste stated the Government would introduce legally sound legislation to protect tenants and this morning it was announced that the entire county of Louth would be designated a rent pressure zone. This will give little protection to people struggling to find accommodation or to tenants trying to hold on to their homes. The average rental cost for Louth is €1,206, which is an increase of 7.6% since last year and an increase of 44% since the Government took office. Will the Minister outline to us the legally sound legislation the Government will bring forward and if it will include a rent freeze and tax credit for renters?

We will have two for the price of one. I call Deputy Ó Laoghaire.

The rent pressure zone scheme is inadequate for several reasons. That it is not applied to the country as a whole is one of them and this has resulted in serious anomalies in some areas. There is a ward in Cork County Council where, as a result of the redrawing of boundaries, two thirds of it are in a rent pressure zone and one third of it is not. That is causing major confusion. It is the Tánaiste's ward and he told me that the issue would be sorted. There is no sign of that happening and it is causing major confusion for tenants and landlords because people are not sure where the boundary line is now.

Deputy Fitzpatrick wishes to raise a similar issue.

I welcome the announcement of the new rent pressure zone areas especially in my county of Louth where we have Ardee, Dundalk south and Dundalk north. On numerous occasions I have raised the issue of the 60 vacant houses in Louth and the 50 acres of land we have there. We need to build social and affordable houses. The last time I spoke on this issue the Minister of State, Deputy English, said that if Louth County Council could bring something to him on the issue he would consider it. It has something to bring to him now. I ask the Minister if the Government will engage with Louth County Council to help get people into these vacant houses. It also has some land.

I thank the Deputies for their questions. In respect of Deputy Adams’s question, we just passed the legislation referred to by the Tánaiste. This is the legislation to change the qualifying criteria for rent pressure zones. As a result of that, we announced the largest expansion of rent pressure zones today. Nineteen new zones will come in under that. We have also lengthened the notice period for tenants and given greater powers to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, so that it can enforce rent pressure zones.

That legislation had the support of all parties in this House because these are important protections that we need to put in place for renters. What we see are rents that are still too high and rents that are still rising unsustainably. These measures have just come into law in tandem with the changes for short-term letting. That will, we believe, have a positive impact on the rental sector. However, we need now time for that to bed down. We will see that then in the next RTB data index when that is published.

On Deputy Fitzpatrick's question, Louth has been leading the way on vacancy in a number of areas. It has a vacant housing officer and a national programme and plan. If the Deputy gets in touch with the local authority, it will share its numbers with him, the different properties it has identified and what it plans to do with them.

I call Deputy Michael Moynihan.

Sorry, what of the anomalies?

On the changes that we made around the qualifying criteria, we have made two specific changes. We are seeing more areas come into rent pressure zones as a result of a change we made just last month because of the severe pressures that are being seen outside of places such as Dublin, the greater Dublin area, Cork and Galway.

The Minister misunderstood the question.

There cannot a second contribution. I am sorry but I have no control over ministerial answers.

There was a ward that was previously designated and an area was brought in.

I call Deputy Michael Moynihan.

I note the report this morning on cuts in funding for transition beds. This is to allow people who are in acute hospital settings avail of funding to get into step-down facilities, either nursing homes or community hospitals. Is it true that the funding for the transition beds has been stopped? This will cause further delays or further issues in relation to acute hospitals. Has the funding dried up? Is there an instruction from the HSE to stop any funding for transition beds?

On the same issue-----

Deputy Ó Caoláin is on my list.

-----Mr. Paul Reid, the newly appointed director general of the HSE, has just received a series of briefings from senior HSE managers, including the warning that there will be a deficit in relation to fair deal funding over the course of this year of up to €30 million. This will contribute to an ever-increasing backlog of elderly patients in hospital wards moving into long-term residential care. Would the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and his Cabinet colleagues not recognise that there is a crisis in terms of care of the elderly in the State and it needs to be addressed urgently, and with the prioritisation that it deserves? Will the Minister advise what steps will now be taken?

On the same issue, Deputy Michael Collins may ask a question. There will be no statements.

Following on from the restrictions to the home care service announced recently, another elderly care support will be restricted as the number of transitional care beds is to be capped. The restrictions to the transitional care beds together with the restrictions to the home help services are another attack on the elderly and will lead to delayed discharges and longer emergency department waiting times.

This is penny wise and pound foolish. With these types of decisions, it is little wonder the HSE is off budget. Will the Government reverse these restrictions immediately and treat older people with the respect that they are entitled to?

I call the Minister, if he is in a position to answer. If not, he might get his colleague to do so.

The position is that there have been no cuts in any of these areas; far from it. Increased provision has been made in the 2019 budget. Compared to previous years, this has been repeated and expanded so that there is more support for home care, transitional care and the fair deal scheme. Of course, the HSE, like any other body, has to live within a certain allocation. When pressures arise, it has to try to manage those pressures as best it can. The report was that Mr. Reid was gaining information about the various pressures within the service so that he could take decisions to manage those budgets as effectively as possible in the interests of patients with care needs. That was the origin of this. It is managing within increasing budgets but it is still a pressure to do it.

The solution is no more talk of tax cuts.

I call Deputy McConalogue.

Let us improve services provision.

Deputy McConalogue, a quick question.

These are improvements in service provision.

They are insufficient.

I call Deputy McConalogue.

There has been a 50% increase in home care, and 7% extra for the fair deal scheme.

The Minister will have to hold bilaterals outside. I call Deputy McConalogue.

It is a question for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. I seek an update on the situation with regard to the mica redress scheme. As the Minister will know, in last year's budget €20 million was allocated and the Government committed that by the start of this year houses would be fixed. There are some 5,000 houses affected in Donegal. As the Minister well knows, families are sitting in their houses wondering if the walls will fall down. Can the Minister update us on the progress with regard to it and can he give us a definitive date as to when homeowners will be able to apply and homes will get to be fixed?

I thank the Deputy for the question. I cannot give a definitive date to the Deputy today. As the Deputy will be aware, my officials have been in touch with officials in both Donegal and Mayo to do further work on how we roll out that initial €20 million that has been allocated this year for the scheme.

I have asked previously about a management plan for the brown crab fishery. There is no management plan there. It is being exploited at present and overfished, and it will be a disaster if something is not done about it. I am asking the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, and the Government whether they intend to bring forward a management plan for that inshore fishery.

Will the Minister request his colleague?

I will have to organise a reply for the Deputy.

I refer to the Mercosur deal. With any trade agreement there is give and take, but surely where one industry will be decimated, this is a no-brainer. I merely want to point out how badly the beef sector in my constituency of Cork South-West will suffer if this goes ahead. Can I ask the Minister the format that the economic impact assessment will take, when is it to start and what is the format?

On the same issue-----

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae was in ahead of Deputy Cullinane, but I will call the Deputy.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

On the economic impact assessment-----

It is about the Mercosur deal, which is the same issue. A blind man could see here today that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, was in favour of this Mercosur deal. Does the Minister realise the impact that this will have on rural Ireland? Is this purely a Government for Dublin or does it realise there is life outside Dublin and that it needs to continue there?

I am asking the Minister to bring forward a motion on this next week, that we have a vote and that Fianna Fáil, which has supported the Government, to vote against it on this occasion.

We do not want to interrupt the Deputy.

I am asking for Fianna Fáil's support on this occasion.

The Deputy cannot be taking advantage.

The Government cannot let down the suckler farmers and beef farmers of Ireland. That is what the Government is doing.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae may not have been in the House earlier but it has been agreed that it will be discussed for 60 minutes tomorrow.

We want a motion.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae will have to place his faith in the leader of his group who will represent him at the Business Committee. If they discuss it, I have no doubt he will reflect Deputy Healy-Rae's views.

On the planned economic assessment of the Mercosur deal, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, was Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the past. He will know the south east is still an underperforming economy, although there has been some recovery. The Department will have carried out many economic assessments in that region given that it still does not have the same level of employment as other regions. The agrifood sector is hugely important to the south east as is the beef sector.

I thank the Deputy.

The region needs the agribusiness sustain the regional economy. I am sure the Minister is aware that this is a massive issue for farmers across the State, but particularly in some regions, such as the south east.

Okay, we got the question. I call Deputy O'Keeffe.

Given that the Department has already carried out numerous economic impact studies for all the regions, why is there a need for a further one on this issue when the Minister knows full well the importance of the agrifood sector to the south east?

I call Deputy O'Keeffe on the economic impact assessment on Mercosur, bearing in mind there will be a debate tomorrow.

In the Government's defence, the Ministers state that the trade-off will mean we will get more value out of our dairy sector. The Government must remember that the dairy sector survives on the basis of new born calves, which go into the beef sector. One cannot lose sight of that. The economic impact will affect the dairy sector.

As there are no more questions on Mercosur, I call on the Minister to flesh out the economic impact assessment if he is in a position to do so.

The economic assessment will take the pattern of previous ones. It will look on a sector-by-sector basis at each of the sectors that are likely to be affected by the reduction of tariffs in the case of new access to these markets and imports of quotas where quotas have been allowed in the various agricultural markets. They look at its impact on living standards, employment and the flows of imports and exports, and the net effects of that for regions and for the economy as a whole. That is the approach that has been taken previously and I am sure that will be the approach that will be taken again.

That is very helpful.

The N81 is one of the deadliest roads in the State. It has seven times the national average of head-on collisions and twice the national average for single vehicle collisions. After a ten-year site selection process to see the upgrade of the N81 over a 31 km stretch between Tallaght and Hollywood Cross, the scheme has been shelved. It is not included in the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and it is not in the national roads programme. I have asked the absentee Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about it numerous times. He has not even acknowledged correspondence or petitions containing thousands of signatures from people in west Wicklow.

The Deputy is well over time. I remind him that his colleagues behind him are waiting.

I ask that this project, which is essential not just in terms of road safety but also for the economic development of west Wicklow, be given priority and that the Minister correspond directly with his Cabinet colleague, the Minister, Deputy Ross, to get answers for the people in west Wicklow.

The Deputy should not take advantage of the Chair.

I am not in a position to reply. I will have to organise a reply for the Deputy.

My question is about the building control (construction industry register Ireland) Bill 2017, CIRI, which the Minister of State, Deputy English, has described as critical for the development of a culture of confidence and compliance in the construction industry. A story in The Irish Times by Niamh Towey today reports on how the developer of an apartment block, Cathedral Court in Dublin 8, has now taken control of the management company and is trying to charge owners of properties with latent defects €5,000 a head, despite the fact that it was the developer that sold them the apartments. Will the Minister use this Bill to bring forward stronger protections for apartment owners with latent defects to remove conflicts of interest such as the one that is clearly present in this case in Dublin 8? Will he also introduce a latent defects redress scheme so that owners of apartments are not left carrying the can for failures of builders, developers and weak Government regulation?

We are finalising elements of the CIRI Bill currently between myself and the Office of the Attorney General. We are looking at what elements we can include based on the submission we received from the joint Oireachtas committee following the prelegislative consultation.

I raised this matter with the Minister, Deputy Bruton, two weeks ago. This Friday, 5 July, is the closing date for submissions to the Department of the Economy in Northern Ireland in regard to an application for a fracking licence by a company called Tamboran. As Minister with responsibility for the environment, Deputy Bruton must recognise that this is an environmental issue which will have catastrophic implications for the Border counties and indeed for the whole country if it goes ahead. We have banned fracking in this jurisdiction. I appeal to the Minister personally to make a submission in his capacity as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, on behalf of the people on this side of the Border, suggesting that this is totally inappropriate and wrong and that it would have a detrimental impact on the environment. This needs to be done as quickly as possible.

I will ask the EPA to have a look at whether it is something on which Ireland would make a submission.

Sinn Féin can do more about the institutions in Northern Ireland than anybody here.

They walked away.

Deputy Buckley is next and must make it a short question. I have control of the microphones.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is in bad form today.

Is there an update on the Mental Health Act 2001? It has seen very little progress or movement in legislative programmes over the last three years. Mental Health Reform has called for a draft to be published fairly smoothly. Will the Minister do this?

I understand that the heads are not expected until the end of the year on that Act.

The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is the right man in the right place. Page 47 of the programme for Government refers to next generation broadband. I am beginning to wonder if there is going to be a new meaning given to "next generation" given the slow pace of development. On a more serious note, on the basis of an excellent presentation made here by Carolan Lennon, chief executive of Eir, and the fact that Eir has now submitted some detailed plans in respect of broadband, is it the intention of the Minister to meet with Eir, has he done so already, and has he gone through the documentation sent to him? I think at this stage they are entitled to a fair hearing.

The Deputy will be aware that the details of the procurement process for the national broadband plan were published at the end of 2015. They set out very important protections for users, the State and in respect of state aid to ensure fair competition. The proposals that have been put forward by Eir do not comply with those arrangements. When it entered that competition knowing the conditions, it made a bid of €2.7 billion. It subsequently withdrew from the contest. In the last couple of days, it announced at the committee that it could do it for €1 billion. It since produced figures for both €500 million and €1.5 billion. The Department is scrutinising its submission. However, it is important that the Deputy also reflects on the protections that exist such as making sure 100% of people get cover, making sure the charges are the same for urban and rural users, making sure there are fair competition and access rules and making sure State money has the proper governance to oversee its expenditure. These are the issues that are at stake.

We have to move on. Members not reached today will be given priority tomorrow.