Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

What happened to women and children behind the high walls of Ireland's mother and baby homes casts a long and a dark shadow. For decades, these homes were shrouded in secrecy and the awful abuse of single mothers, the forced separation of families and the horrors of what happened in places like Tuam is still hard to comprehend. Those who survived these institutions, those who did not survive and their families are entitled to justice and to the truth.

I am sure the Taoiseach received thousands of emails and letters from survivors and families regarding the fast-tracking through the Oireachtas this week of the Bill relating to their records. There are huge concerns over the lack of consultation regarding this Bill and there are serious questions as to the reason the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Deputy O'Gorman, is proceeding with this approach.

The main concern is the intention of the Minister to transfer part of the commission of investigation's archive to Tusla without keeping a copy and a plan to seal the remainder of the archive for a period of 30 years. This will prevent people accessing their records from the Minister's archive and it will stop families accessing information about disappeared family members or babies buried in unmarked graves. I am sure the Taoiseach will agree that this is very wrong. It also means that all the information, the files and the records that show how abusive the system was will be withheld from the very people who are entitled to the truth.

The role of the State and the Government should be to remove the veil of secrecy surrounding mother and baby homes, not to reinforce it. The Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, has yet to credibly explain why he is taking these actions. He says that it is a requirement under the legislation to preserve access to valuable information and evidence but that is not correct. There is no legal obligation under the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act on the Minister to seal these records thereby preventing people accessing their information. In fact, the Commissions of Investigation Act enables the commission to deposit these records with the Minister for children on its dissolution. It is also not credible for the Minister to suggest that allowing survivors and families access to their records could in any way impede or undermine the operation of the commission. In fact, as the Taoiseach well knows, under data protection legislation survivors have the right to access their own data. Surely allowing people to access their information and records serves only to advance the cause of truth and justice. Rather than being bound to secrecy, the Oireachtas could legislate to unseal records and evidence gathered by the commission.

The proposed legislation needs to be scrapped. The Minister needs to produce an anonymised index of the records held. He needs to consult with survivors and their advocates and then draft the appropriate legislation that meets the needs and rights of survivors and the moral obligations of the State. That is the right thing to do.

Provision should also be made to enable survivors decide how to handle their records in the future. There is also a need for a dedicated archive to be set up at Sean MacDermott Street. I believe there is great merit in that proposal.

I believe that everyone in this House wants to see justice and truth for those women and children of the mother and baby homes. However, the Minister is doing the wrong thing and he is causing enormous alarm and great upset. I ask the Taoiseach to intervene immediately and that we would work together across the House to resolve this very important matter.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. From my own perspective, the situation with regard to mother and baby homes represented a very dark period in our history and an appalling approach to the treatment of women and mothers and, at the time, the separation of child from mother. I accept the norms of later years but as an individual and as a parent, the separation of child from mother is something I can never get over but that was the practice at the time. In the modern era, in some respects we have moved on a lot in terms of creating support for families and mothers in challenging situations.

I do not believe this should be a matter of dispute in the House. I regret the degree to which the Deputy has cast aspersions on the Minister's intentions and motivation, which are very sincere and heartfelt. The legislation is being brought forward to provide urgent and critical legal clarity surrounding the future use of a database compiled by the mother and baby homes commission. It is genuinely being brought forward to preserve invaluable information, not to put it beyond reach, as has been reported: that is not the intention.

The Bill will make it possible for the database that has been compiled by the commission to be accessible under current legislation and make it available for use under future birth information and tracing legislation. It is important to state that the purpose of this legislation is also to preserve all of the records which the commission has compiled in the course of its work and it does not otherwise alter the governance of the commission’s archive under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.

The urgent issue in front of us is to ensure that we preserve the invaluable cache of information and not lose it forever. As Members know, in the course of its work, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has compiled a database of the mothers and children who were resident in the main mother and baby homes. The commission and the Government agree that this database will be of considerable assistance to those involved in providing information tracing services to individuals who were residents in these institutions. The database includes information extracted from institutions whose original records are now held in the main by Tusla. The legislation has been advanced to address concerns raised by the commission about the need for it to redact personal information and the impact which such redactions would have in terms of effectively destroying this database. The impetus for this Bill derives from the necessity to secure an urgent, bespoke solution to protect the complete records of the commission, including the database, before its expected dissolution by the end of this month.

The commission is due to submit its final report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs by 30 October 2020 and then stand dissolved. Prior to its dissolution, under law it must deposit all commission records with the Minister. In the normal course, such records are then sealed for a period of 30 years prior to their transfer to the National Archives. This is a requirement of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 and one we are bound to follow.

In advancing the legislation today, we are ensuring that an incredibly valuable and useful set of data can be used into the future and can support - I stress this - that essential information and tracing component that would otherwise be lost. It is critically important that we acknowledge that the commission received testimony from individuals who were former residents of mother and baby homes under a guarantee of absolute confidentiality. That is a commitment to many vulnerable people with real lived experience of post-trauma which cannot be reneged upon. This is not just simply a historical matter; it is a real living issue for many people. I will take further questions on that but this is about enabling people to access their records in time and to balance that. This act is necessary before the end of this month to preserve these records.

We all share the Taoiseach’s view and all of us find it difficult to reconcile that Ireland, not in the dim and distant past but in the recent past, was such a hostile place for vulnerable women and their children. I said in my opening remarks that that is a shared view and the correct view. This, therefore, is not simply data. This is information and testimony that relates, as the Taoiseach set out, to real living people who have been traumatised and are on a journey in search of information and truth. They are in search of their own information, their own story, the stories of their love ones and, in some cases, the story of children that never emerged from these institutions and were buried in mass graves. We all know that.

The truth is the Minister has not engaged with the survivors. He has not engaged with their advocates. The truth is also that access for those people and their families has to be a tantamount concern of the State so the notion of sealing these records for 30 years, a time span in which surely many survivors of the mother and baby homes will have gone to their great reward and will never find the full truth and have access to their records, is unconscionable. Rather than defending this legislation, which the survivors, their advocates and their legal advisors all agree is unnecessary, unwarranted and causing distress, I ask the Taoiseach that we operate on a cross-party basis to resolve this matter to the satisfaction of the survivors in line with legal obligations. The Minister does not have to act as he is acting and I appeal to the Taoiseach to take a wider perspective.

I appeal to the Deputy to do it cross-party. She is not doing it. She has come in attacking the Minister’s bona fides. The Minister wants to help. What he is doing is sensible and the right thing to do before the end of October. Does the Deputy not see that? I have no doubt the Minister will talk to the Deputy.

The Taoiseach is attacking me, actually.

I am not attacking the Deputy. I am just saying if the Deputy wants cross-party-----

He is being very aggressive and it is entirely unnecessary.

I am not aggressive at all.

The Taoiseach should go back and listen to himself.

I am simply saying the Deputy is wronging the Minister and not accepting his bona fides. I am sure the Minister would be more than willing to talk to the Deputy’s spokesperson and other spokespeople. In the final report of the commission, the section on the confidential committee will reproduce the anonymised testimony of each individual who appeared before it. While the testimony will be anonymous and slightly summarised, people will be able to see and recognise their story told in their own words. The commission has said to the Minister that there are issues. The Minister agrees with the commission on the need to preserve the data because the data can be used in the future for tracing and assisting people. If we do not preserve the data and all the testimonies provided to the commission, that capacity to provide a comprehensive service in the future will be undermined. That is why the Bill is being brought in. It is not the final act in all this but it enables us to preserve the records and enables Tusla to be in a position in the future, with further legislation, to improve and enhance the capacity of people. Obviously there is a balance of competing rights. It is clear that the Bill is necessary to resolve the serious legal and practical issues raised by the commission in relation to finalising its records in accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act. Most significantly:

...the Commission considers that it is obliged to redact sensitive personal information before depositing the records with the Minister... The Commission believes this database would be of considerable assistance [it agrees with the Deputy] to those involved in providing information and tracing services.

However, it accepts that redacting personal information would effectively render the databases and related records useless for this purpose. The Minister concurred with the commission’s assessment of the current and future value of the databases and deems it necessary to introduce this legislation to ensure complete records can be appropriately preserved and protected in the public interest ahead of the dissolution of the commission on 30 October 2020.

I can provide further data to the Deputy or others if required. We are willing to work here. The motivation is a positive and genuine one and I ask the Deputy to accept the Government’s bona fides on this.

If ever there was a demonstration that there is one law in this country for the rich, the powerful and big business and another for working people, we saw that demonstrated in the Four Courts yesterday, where KPMG, the liquidators of Debenhams, sought and got an injunction against Debenhams workers. This means workers who have been treated in the most despicable fashion by their employer and are engaged in an official dispute to fight for justice and fair redundancy now face – these workers include constituents of the Taoiseach - the real prospect of finding themselves imprisoned if they continue in their entirely peaceful and legitimate fight for justice. It is outrageous that should be the case. Workers face the prospect of jail and the wrath of the law; meanwhile, Debenhams, which has treated these workers disgracefully and has manipulated if not broken company law in their efforts to hide assets from these workers, and KPMG, which makes a fortune in contracts from this State and will no doubt be handsomely paid for their role in this process, face no interrogation for their role in this situation. It is appalling. This company tactically unloaded €200 million of debt onto Debenhams Ireland, which had nothing to do with that firm.

This is the company that stood up in the courts and gave evidence in April to a court of law that the online business worth €30 million was part of Debenhams Ireland, which every worker knows because the sales of that went through each individual store of Debenhams Ireland, and a few days later then said it was not part of Debenhams Ireland even though there is court testimony to that effect. What is Revenue doing about that? What is KPMG doing about that disgraceful treatment?

Stop the clock please. Do not waste my time. Stop the clock.

Please do not get involved in debating, discussing or criticising what has gone on in the courts. You are here a long time now and you know the precepts of separation of powers. Please do not go there.

What I am talking about is the failure of the Government to address the situation whereby Debenhams can abuse workers like this. KPMG has very serious questions to answer about the way it is handling the liquidation process, given that there is court evidence from Debenhams that the online business was part of Debenhams Ireland's operation. Every worker knows it to be the case, but nobody is doing anything about it.

Kieran Wallace told workers at meetings that the State could step aside as a creditor and allocate supplementary cash. It made a €1 million offer. If there is nothing the Government or KPMG can do, how come it offered €1 million? If it can offer €1 million it can offer €10 million. I and the workers do not accept that there is nothing the Government can do.

Will the Taoiseach say publicly that no worker, truck driver or anybody else in this country should break the picket of the Debenhams workers? Will he convene a meeting of KPMG and the shop stewards, with a presence from the Government, to discuss how we can get a fair deal for these workers? Will he instruct KPMG to allocate extra cash? If it can offer €1 million, even though it withdrew the offer, why can it not offer more?

I am interested in a resolution of this and I am not going to pretend that there will be an optimal solution. I do not want to take people up a hill and bring them back down again empty-handed. My assessment of this is that of course the workers have been treated very badly by the company. The company has gone into liquidation. It is in difficulty in the UK. As the Deputy knows, the UK does not want to know about it. Mandate and ICTU have worked on this and I intend to engage further with them.

I have asked my officials to review the entirety of this to see what can be done practically. It is all very well to articulate the issue as well and as eloquently as the Deputy does, but we all have to work within the law. The Government cannot instruct the liquidator or the High Court process. The Deputy knows that. There are legal frameworks we have to navigate. That is the reality. Every politician would love to say to everybody that they would love to resolve an issue and provide funding. Unfortunately, it is never that simple. Others may pretend and articulate that it is, but it never is.

I admire and salute the strength, courage and tenacity of the workers. The Government provides statutory redundancy and so on. We are now entering into new territory. Where I see things evolving is that employers can renege on their obligations in the future if the Government is always there to bail them out. That is a potential solution. Irrespective of companies reneging on or failing to honour their collective agreements, the Government ends up being the bank of last resort of those collective agreements.

The legislation should be changed in order to put workers on a par with others. In other words, where a legal collective agreement has been entered into workers should be on the same level as every other creditor in terms of getting their entitlements and obligations. That is something that will need to be changed. Whether such a change, even if introduced in the short term, can be applied retrospectively is an issue.

In the meantime, my focus, notwithstanding yesterday's court decision, is to see whether we can create some space to assess whether something can be done to alleviate the situation for the workers concerned. As I said, I have asked my officials to look at this issue. Whatever we can do legally and in a sensible way we will do. I have remained in contact with the workers on this.

It is long past time for action on this. We now face the prospect that ordinary working people - most of whom are women - who are not criminals and should not be criminalised, and have worked long, hard and loyally for Debenhams and have been treated despicably, could end up in jail. The Taoiseach needs to act urgently to prevent that. He should be under no illusion. They will hold this Government and previous Governments responsible for their plight because the failure to address all of these issues after Clerys is the reason they are in this mess now. The Government better take that responsibility.

Can the Government instruct the liquidators? Kieran Wallace said that unless the State voluntarily instructs the liquidators to allocate supplementary cash to the workers nothing can be done. The State can do it. The proof of that is that it offered them €1 million, a pathetic figure. Where did it come from? How could it offer the workers €1 million? If it can offer them €1 million it can offer them the €10 million necessary to give them the two plus two, and then the Government and Revenue can chase the company for the assets they are clearly hiding using accounting tricks. The Government can do it.

I ask the Taoiseach to join me publicly in saying that no truck driver or worker should cross the pickets of Debenhams. Then they will not have to defy an injunction. If workers do not cross the pickets, there is no injunction defiance. Will the Taoiseach convene a meeting with the shop stewards, unions, KPMG and the Government to discuss a resolution?

Mandate is the union that has been working on this. The Government will continue to engage with it-----

Not the shop stewards.

I presume the shop stewards are part of the union. I do not know why the Deputy is making that demarcation. I will also engage with ICTU because this has wider implications.

The Deputy is not correct in saying that because €1 million emerged from the process that €10 million can emerge from it.

Where did the €1 million come from?

That is wonderfully said, but it is not entirely grounded in reality. Certain people, the Deputy included, have created the idea that this can be solved easily knowing full well that it cannot, unfortunately. There has been much interaction on how to get this resolved. The Government does not instruct liquidators and is not in a position to do so, despite what the Deputy said consistently in his contribution.

Please, Deputy Boyd Barrett.

The Government cannot instruct.

Taoiseach, the time is up.

As a member of the Regional Group, I welcome the budget announced yesterday. The phrase "a wartime budget" is apt. I particularly welcome the increases in the health and education spend. I share some of my colleagues' reservations that an opportunity has possibly been lost to create social change in order to encourage migration to the regions, remote working, affordable housing and the overall tenet of rebalancing Ireland. I hope that is something the Government will address.

I wish to highlight the €10.1 billion capital allocation, which is also welcome. Will the south east get its 8.89% per capita pro rata share? I remind the Taoiseach of the last capital tracking index from 2018 to 2022 of large-scale capital enterprise. In that, the south east got €97 million. Cork and Kerry got €902 million and Dublin got €5 billion, a rate which is 15 times more per capita.

The major road projects announced yesterday are, I am sure, welcome to constituents, but an upgrade to the N24 to create a southern linkage from Rosslare through Waterford, Tipperary or Cork and on to Limerick to join Galway and Mayo was not mentioned. This would see a step change in the southern region road connectivity and would benefit multiple counties.

It is affordable, it makes economic sense and it is absolutely consistent with green thinking of improving road and possible rail links to the ports of Waterford, Rosslare, Cork and Foynes in Limerick.

There is no mention of specific funding or recognition of Waterford as the future fulcrum of south-east regional economic activity and the driver of same. There has been no announcement on our urban regeneration and development infrastructural funding for the North Quays project. There has been nothing to signal the upgrading of University Hospital Waterford as the lowest-funded model 4 hospital in the country. I correct the record from the last time we spoke, as there is no second cardiac lab diagnostic activity taking place in Waterford at this time and our cardiac waiting list is growing almost exponentially.

Beyond that, there is nothing to recognise the primacy of Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT, in the south-east technical university proposal. This is the most highly functioning institute of technology in the country, garnering the highest rate of EU research funding of all institutes of technology. The recent transformation grant was announced of €5.1 million, which places it behind all the other regions with a national university. That hardly seems fair, and we have been seeking capital refurbishment and developments for more than 30 years. With our Waterford metropolitan area strategic plan, our border has not been extended and we cannot take in Tramore or New Ross, although borders in Limerick and Cork have been extended.

What is the Government's future attitude and commitment to fairness for Waterford and the south east? Do we matter in health, education and economic revival? The south east is currently worst performing region in the country and prior to Covid-19, Waterford had the highest city unemployment in the country. Will the Taoiseach commit to future funding so as to bring fairness for Waterford and the south east? Will he commit that this will be delivered in the lifetime of this Government?

I thank the Deputy for his question and raising the matters relating to Waterford in particular. Any previous Government with which I was involved put much investment into Waterford. As a former Minister with responsibility for education, I know the land we purchased for Waterford Institute of Technology was essential to its growth. It has developed into a very fine institute of technology and it can now move to becoming a technological university in association with the institute of technology at Carlow. It is essential for Waterford and progress is being made in that regard.

There are approximately 7,000 people working across 36 IDA Ireland companies in Waterford and there is great potential for further foreign direct investment. There is some very good quality companies in the indigenous base that can develop. Working with the institute and its technology research base, along with others, Enterprise Ireland can help the growth of entrepreneurial companies in Waterford and more generally across the south east.

A former Minister, Mr. Martin Cullen, was responsible for some very substantial and significant infrastructural investment in Waterford. Knocking a few doors in Waterford in recent times, I picked up that people had nostalgic memories of him in Waterford because of that.

I get the Deputy's point on the future and we want to think about how we can advance the area. The technological university process is moving on. The Deputy knows the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is drafting a memo for the Government on a funding package for the North Quays development. The urban regeneration and development fund provides opportunities for a number of projects of that kind to be resourced and developed. We will proactively move to see how we can help Waterford to develop that exciting project.

The second cath lab in Waterford has gone to tender. That is a step forward and the deadline for the receipt of applications is 16 November. It is envisaged that the bidding will commence in the first quarter of next year. I know the Deputy will be tenacious on this and keep at us on the timeline but it is happening and it will happen.

The €5 million for the technological university is important for the south east. It is important money that should be spent. Waterford and Carlow institutes of technology have moved to an advanced stage of the process of establishing that technological university, and this will have very significant implications across the board.

We have significant commitments in the programme for Government on the development of cities and Waterford is critical in this regard. Connectivity, including road connectivity, is vital, especially with the growing importance of Rosslare and so on. Public transport is also important, and I know the Minister for Transport has significant ambitions around city public transport networks, as well as rail more generally.

I thank the Taoiseach for his comments. I agree with the Taoiseach that it is probably more than a decade, when Mr. Cullen was a Minister, since Waterford could look at any kind of significant capital infrastructural spend from the Government. It is probably a testament to that being the case that I am standing here now.

In Waterford and south east we are absolutely ready to play our part in the economic revival of Ireland. We have fantastic innovation clusters and a vibrant agrifood sector. We have a college performing way above other colleges in the country, as is our hospital. All we are asking for is an acknowledgement of this and fairness. We are not looking for a handout but we are looking to be helped up so we can make a really significant drive for the regional recovery of Ireland. We can play a major role and we are ready to do it. We are looking for a Government commitment to fund it so we can achieve primacy in this country.

Fairness is a valid ask. The programme for Government identifies and recognises Waterford as a regional city and investment must follow that designation. The recovery fund in the budget of €3.4 billion is over and above the Covid-19 contingency fund and it will provide opportunities for infrastructural development, reskilling and retraining, as well as supporting investment in jobs.

There are some very good quality companies in the south east and Waterford, in particular. My experience has been that it is important to leverage those quality companies to create an indigenous entrepreneurial activity. Many people from multinationals have gone on to create their own companies, as the Deputy knows. We must work on that agenda. I often felt we could have done better with financial services in Waterford from a foreign direct investment perspective, and I am keen on that.

We want regional development and we need to rebalance the country's economy and society. This means doing far more for cities like Waterford than what has happened in the past two or three decades.

Baineann mo cheist leis an ngéarchéim atá ann ó thaobh cúrsaí tithíochta, go náisiúnta agus go háirithe i nGaillimh, agus an ról faoi leith atá ag polasaithe agus beartais tithíochta an Rialtais, atá ag cothú na géarchéime sin.

Today I walked from my privileged accommodation to the Dáil, which is perhaps less 600 m. I counted 16 homeless people living in doorways. Nine of them were outside the Gaiety Theatre; the drama venue was closed inside while the drama continues outside on our streets.

Yesterday the Government had a golden opportunity to do something different. We were talking about Monopoly money of billions of euro, and every respected institution is telling us to spend so we can help with the solidarity in communities by building them. We should finally realise that we cannot talk about an economy without talking about people. Yesterday I listened to the speech of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath. I call him the passive Minister or the Minister of the passive tense. He is the Minister of the soarbhriathar. He spoke about rents and house prices rising without any responsibility or looking at the causes of the homelessness I mentioned or the increasing waiting lists, which are directly related to Government policies.

The Taoiseach might tell me that homelessness is complex but I can pre-empt that by agreeing with him. Some people are on our streets because of complex problems but the vast majority of homelessness and the numbers on housing waiting lists are caused by Government policies.

Yesterday the Government gave the vast bulk of public money to private landlords through the housing assistance payment, HAP, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and long-term leasing. I could name people in Galway who have been waiting for more than 15 years and have never been offered a house. That deserves an inquiry in itself. The housing assistance payment has been the only game in town since 2016. It was enshrined in law by Fine Gael and the Labour Party. It is time for the Taoiseach to do what his Minister called for yesterday when he was not using the saorbhriathar and said we need a radical reappraisal of how we deliver housing.

Can we leave ideology behind for once? We have people on the street and huge numbers of people on waiting lists. I could go into the figures for Galway. Will the Government make a commitment to building public housing on public land as an integral part of the solution?

I thank the Deputy agus aontaím léi. Níl aon amhras ach gurb í géarchéim na tithíochta an ghéarchéim is mó atá againn lasmuigh den choróinvíreas, mar gheall ar an easpa tithíochta do ghnáthmhuintir na tíre, agus go háirithe na daoine nach bhfuil aon tithe acu in aon chor. Bhí béim sa cháinaisnéis inné ar thithíocht phoiblí go háirithe a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá sé i gceist againn 9,500 teach poiblí a thógáil an bhliain seo chugainn agus 10,000 gach aon bhliain ina dhiaidh sin. Sin an aidhm atá againn agus an príomh-rud ná go bhfuil na háiseanna agus an t-airgead ann chun é sin a chur i bhfeidhm.

I agree with the Deputy's emphasis on commissioning and building public housing alongside affordable housing. We need specific targets for the building of social homes. The HAP has grown up in recent years. I believe in rebalancing it. The less emphasis we place on the HAP and the more we place on increasing housing stock, the better. That is what we are determined to achieve through the social housing Bill. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, believes passionately in that, as does the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. I took a particular interest in this myself. I wanted direct builds. Local authorities should start building. I am saying to local authorities throughout the country that the funding will be made available. We have changed regulations to allow them to work faster and more effectively. They should go out and build social housing.

In the short term we have moved on homelessness in light of the Covid-19 situation. The system acquired some capacity from March onwards. The Minister has put out a call for housing. We are trying to build more units for single people who are homeless, a cohort for which there is an absence of suitable accommodation. Yesterday's funding package is very strong on homelessness. The aim is to drive down the numbers. We must make that a priority and proceed in line with the policies of the NGOs at the front line of homelessness issues. The private sector will have a role to play, but to do its job effectively the State is not limited to creating conditions for construction to happen. Critically, it must directly enable the building of social housing and ensure the critical skills are there to deliver it over time. That is why multi-annual funding is required to underpin the social housing programme. That has been built in. In other words, agencies will not be living from year to year, wondering if they will get the funding next year to follow through on what they start to build this year. Multi-annual funding is critical to the realisation of social housing targets and I am very committed to it.

The worst thing about this is that with each Government, language means nothing. I hear what the Taoiseach is telling me, but the reality is that the Government is putting more than €1.2 billion directly into the private sector under the three schemes I mentioned. I did not mention other programmes such the help to buy scheme, which the Parliamentary Budget Office has clearly shown did not target the right people.

I really tire of this type of language. The Taoiseach did not put money in the budget to rectify the housing crisis. Homelessness is a symptom of it. In Galway, we will very soon have the same number of people on the HAP as in social housing. Can the Taoiseach imagine that? He is looking perplexed. The housing assistance payment has been the only game in town. We have privatised public housing. The Taoiseach keeps talking about social housing. The HAP is not a social housing programme. It is private housing temporarily lent to the State so the landlord and the developer can make a profit. The only person who loses out is the tenant, who has no security.

The Government made a further allocation to the Land Development Agency, which is clearly doing the job of a developer. Galway, one of the five cities destined to grow, has no master plan. Those responsible for Ceannt Station, the Galway Docks and the Dyke Road area are all doing their own thing. The city council is playing an inactive part in what the previous Tánaiste acknowledged is developer-led development. We have a major housing crisis as a consequence of Government policy. The Taoiseach did not avail of the opportunity to change that radically.

Just because Deputy Connolly says we did not does not mean we did not. We did. I do not use language lightly. I have not been in Government for ten years. The housing assistance payment has been in place for about that length of time, maybe less. Dismantling HAP now, as the Deputy seems to be advocating, would immediately create homelessness. The housing assistance payment is a very large intervention. Yesterday we provided funding for 9,500 direct builds, to be provided by local authorities and approved housing bodies. There will be 10,000 units every year after that. That gives us a target of 50,000 on the social housing side. That is the largest target ever, though I accept we have a larger population now than before. I will not go into which intervention is the biggest. The important issue will be delivery. The policy changes have been made and the funding has been provided and ring-fenced for local authorities and approved housing bodies to build social housing at scale over a five-year period. The money is multi-annual.

The Deputy is correct in sone respects. The housing assistance payment became a way for local authorities to say they were resolving social housing issues through a rental process. In time, that crowded out the private market to the extent that the State made it unaffordable for many people. I never favoured pursuing that policy exclusively. I have always believed there should be a balance between social housing and a strong and vibrant private sector. We also need affordable housing to ensure that young couples can realise their aspirations to purchase a home. Delivery will be the key to getting the job done.

Sitting suspended at 12.48 p.m. and resumed at 1.10 p.m.