1. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his latest communications with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. [23062/21]
Vol. 1006 No. 6
1. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his latest communications with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. [23062/21]
2. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his latest communications with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland [24263/21]
3. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent communication with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. [23955/21]
4. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his latest communications with the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. [24635/21]
5. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent engagements with the First Minister of Northern Ireland. [24641/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
I spoke with the First Minister, Mrs. Arlene Foster, on 28 April to wish her well after her announcement that she would be stepping down as First Minister of Northern Ireland and as leader of the DUP. I have had a positive working relationship with Arlene in a variety of roles over the years. In particular, I valued our constructive engagement, notwithstanding our differences, in our respective roles of Taoiseach and First Minister. I conveyed my best wishes to Arlene and her family for the future.
On 9 April I had phone calls with the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and the deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill. We discussed the current unrest on the streets of Northern Ireland and related issues. We agreed there was no excuse for violence and the attacks on police officers and others. I stressed the needs for ongoing dialogue and support for the peace process and the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. I also welcomed the statement from the Northern Ireland Executive, published on 8 April 2021, condemning the violence and unrest on the streets. We agreed to keep in close contact on developments.
As previously outlined to the Dáil, I have also spoken with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on a number of occasions, in particular, regarding Covid-19 and our respective approaches to the implementation and easing of restrictions.
As ever, I thank the Taoiseach for his full response.
There are number of key issues to discuss but like others, including Deputy McDonald, I believe it is important to note the verdict of the investigation into the Ballymurphy massacre and the need for continuing engagement between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister on all issues relating to legacy and the slightly worrying comments out of the Queen's speech to Parliament today.
Specifically, in respect of this question, I wish to raise the absolute need for deep engagement on the part of the Taoiseach and all Ministers in the Government with our partners in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks and months. Significant transition is about to take place and we all know the issues and the serious concerns that are at the back of many minds. How will the Taoiseach proceed to ensure that all meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council go ahead in the coming weeks and months? How will he reset relations with the new First Minister in the coming weeks? As for the issues the people of Northern Ireland are currently facing, how can we ensure that the Irish Government plays an proactive role in ensuring that fears are allayed and that we get back to enjoying the most normal relations possible in the interest of everyone on this island, regardless of their political background or lack of one?
We dealt earlier with how we finally have an element of justice for those who were killed in Ballymurphy in 1971. We feared the possibility of unilateral action from the British Government in respect of an amnesty for killings involving state forces. We believed we were in a bad situation in respect of relationships and what have you. Obviously, Brexit has been absolutely destabilising and has destabilised unionism but we need to ensure that, for the want of a better term, we can put the show on the road and that the Good Friday Agreement is enacted in every way possible. We have the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. We must ensure that the North-South Ministerial Council meets whenever necessary.
Therefore, we must engage with all those who may be leaders within unionism to ensure that we can deliver. I accept that there is a leadership contest under way but we must get our ducks in a row to ensure there is continuity. That means having straight conversations with the British Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and with leaders of unionism, in particular.
I welcome the coroner's conclusions regarding the Ballymurphy massacre. It is a vindication for the families who have campaigned so hard down through the decades. It is a real scandal that the British state prevented the truth from coming out for 50 years. Today also, the British Government has declared an amnesty for its troops, which is a slap in the face to the Ballymurphy families and others. There must be no obstacles placed in the way of families campaigning for truth and justice around these issues.
In conclusion, the coroner criticised the British army troops of the infamous Parachute Regiment. The truth was told about Derry and it is now being told about Ballymurphy. I ask the Taoiseach to raise with the First Minister the point that the truth must also be told about the paratroopers' shooting of civilians on the Shankill Road.
In response to Deputy Richmond's questions, it is extremely important that the meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council proceed and that all parties to the Good Friday Agreement honour their obligations under it. That involves full attendance at the sectoral meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council. I was glad that that did happen in the transport sector in terms of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan's sectoral meeting in the presence of Ms Nichola Mallon and the First Minister.
In respect of the new First Minister and whosoever is elected, my door is always open and I will work to constructively engage, as I have always done and will continue to do. I believe the only way we can work on this island is for all politicians from all persuasions to engage in the democratic process and dialogue, as well as to seek to reach understandings on common ideas and projects. The shared island initiative that we have undertaken is designed to be a constructive dialogue and engagement with all sectors on the island of Ireland. This includes research projects, industrial joint projects, education and infrastructural and amenity projects like the Ulster Canal and the greenways projects and much more. We have provided half a billion euro in funding to enable us to do that. We are working on a whole range of projects in that regard.
We will do everything we possibly can to allay the fears of certain sectors of society in the North. However, we also need to move strongly in respect of working with the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on educational disadvantage, school completion and supporting young people in communities that do not have a tradition of school completion or progression to further and third level education. We must take the initiatives to alter that once and for all and create a new paradigm for young people born into certain communities within Northern Ireland who have not had that experience or tradition. That needs to change in terms of the future of Northern Ireland.
On legacy issues, I believe that the framework is there in terms of the Stormont House Agreement of 2014. There can be no unilateral changing of what has been agreed between two Governments and all of the political parties in the North. In my view, the victims and those killed by state security forces, the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries need justice and there must be accountability. We have always been conscious of the needs of victims and the need to prioritise their needs in dealing with legacy issues. The legacy issues have dragged on for far too long. Too many families are without closure or the satisfactory provision of information and transparency around the death of their loved ones, often in very brutal and savage circumstances.
In my view, that is something we have to continue to keep in mind. It is about the victims, what they have gone through and what their families have gone through in particular.
That also applies to Deputy Barry's question. The truth should always win out in respect of atrocities carried out by whomever, and particularly in terms of either the Parachute Regiment or other state security endeavours. There have been lots of comprehensive inquiries under way in regard to collusion. Operation Kenova - or Project Kenova, or whatever title it has - is going on at the moment. It is a very widespread investigation in terms of Stakeknife and all that and the engagement between elements within the paramilitaries and state security services. We need the truth to all of this. We need to understand what happened and the victims and families, in particular, need to understand. They have waited far too long for all of this to come out.
6. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on Brexit and Northern Ireland last met. [23211/21]
7. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on Brexit and Northern Ireland last met and will next meet. [24636/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.
The Cabinet committee on Brexit and Northern Ireland operates in accordance with established guidelines for Cabinet committees and, where appropriate, substantive issues are referred to Government for discussion and approval. In general terms, the Cabinet committee oversees implementation of relevant programme for Government commitments in the area of Brexit and Northern Ireland and ongoing relevant developments. The committee was formally established by the Government on 6 July 2020 and had its first meeting on 29 October 2020. The Cabinet committee last met on 4 March 2021. The next meeting remains to be scheduled.
Relevant issues are also regularly considered at meetings of the full Cabinet, including most recently on 27 April, when a comprehensive memorandum on Brexit was presented. In addition to meetings of the full Cabinet and of Cabinet committees, I also meet Ministers on an individual basis to focus on particular issues where required.
Ireland was allocated €1 billion of the €5 billion fund in January 2021. The fund was intended to mitigate the losses to Irish businesses etc. in the context of Brexit. It is said that some member states are trying to reconfigure how that fund is being distributed. Are we secure in the allocation we have been given? Has any part of it been drawn down at this stage?
In regard to the shared island unit, the €500 million that has been made available will be out to 2025. Is there a list of projects at this stage and has any of the funding been drawn down yet?
The Taoiseach referred earlier to the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in their totality and the extent to which they have to function and deliver. He referred to strand two, the North-South Ministerial Council and, indeed, the cross-border bodies. These are integral to the arrangements we have across the island. As the Taoiseach knows, DUP Ministers have sought to disrupt this, in protest, they say, at the Brexit protocol. What action have the Taoiseach and the Government taken to ensure all the institutions operate successfully? When might a North-South Ministerial Council plenary be convened? Will these matters be addressed by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which I understand is to be held next month?
As the Taoiseach knows, despite the democratic wishes of the people and their elected representatives in majority, the North is facing a considerable realignment in terms of benefits that have been recklessly lost as a result of Brexit. In that regard, can the Taoiseach outline what progress has been made on the PEACE PLUS programme in terms of support for the North, when the draft programme will be submitted to the European Commission and when the Government expects to launch the programme to allow critical funding supports to be awarded to the North?
First, on Deputy Catherine Murphy's question in terms of the Brexit fund, there have been, or were, some representations being made by other member states to try to eke out an additional share of funding. However, we are close to agreement on this and Ireland was allocated close to €1 billion under the fund. We are close to a resolution on this now at European Council level and I anticipate, at the next Council meeting perhaps, that we should have agreement on it. It is important funding, particularly for sectors that have been affected and impacted most by Brexit, in the regions and rural Ireland in particular.
On the shared island funding, we have allocated moneys. At the last North-South Ministerial Council plenary before Christmas, we indicated a number of areas for funding, particularly the Ulster Canal. Some €13 million has been allocated, €7 million from the shared island fund and approximately €6 million from the rural regeneration and development fund, to phase 2 of the Ulster Canal. A total of €12 million is for phase 2 and €1 million is to get the design ready for phase 3. We want to complete the Ulster Canal project in its entirety, utilising the funding in the shared island fund and the regeneration funding. That is a very good project in itself. We are also looking at a joint industrial project, partnering with City Deal in Derry, to provide an industrial complex on the Derry side and on the Donegal side. That is in partnership with the North West Regional Development Group.
We have already funded some minor research projects under the shared island funding itself. People can bid for up to €20,000 in funding for research projects. There is also a more substantive research piece being developed in partnership with the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Harris, and his Department in respect of collaboration between third level institutions on the island of Ireland on issues of mutual benefit to the island. That could be cybersecurity, for example, or it could be climate. There will be competition for that funding and it is intended that the universities or institutes of technology would bid for it. We have also committed to the A5 and to Narrow Water Bridge and we have some work to do to get them going. These are the projects that have been committed to already under the fund. We have also invited community groups and so on to put forward ideas for further funding.
In response to Deputy McDonald, I have met all the North-South bodies and gone through the fund with them. We stand in support of the bodies in respect of any particular projects they may have under their aegis, to get those projects going, from Ulster Scots to the Irish language to a range of other projects on the tourism side, for example, which could give a very interesting North-South dimension for people travelling North and South and tourism coming in from overseas. There is a good list of healthy projects and I can arrange that some briefing be made available to the Deputy in that regard.
In terms of the North-South Ministerial Council, my understanding is that the next meeting is due in June, which is important. As I said earlier, with the situation within the DUP and the election of a new First Minister, we obviously must await the outcome of that election. The outgoing First Minister has made it clear and articulated publicly that they are not boycotting the North-South Ministerial Council. My view is that there is a very clear obligation on all signatories to the Good Friday Agreement to honour the agreement and participate in these North-South meetings, which are important in terms of the wider issues.
On PEACE PLUS, it has been a very successful round. We secured €120 million in an initial allocation from the European Union. That, of course, gets matched by the Government, the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. It is now estimated that up to €1 billion, through all the matched funding, will be available for PEACE PLUS. There has to be some work done between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the other relevant stakeholders in terms of the operationalisation and allocation of that fund. It is an exciting project in itself.
There is a substantial amount of money there, which illustrates the continued benefits of European Union membership and also reflects the Union's interest in peace on the island of Ireland. The EU has made a long-standing commitment to that peace.
I recall when I was Minister for Foreign Affairs many years ago, the DUP and Sinn Féin had difficulties and we were in Downing Street. It was just after we had lost the first Lisbon treaty referendum, which was about the only subject at that time that the DUP and Sinn Féin agreed on. Both parties were happy that we had lost the first referendum, though, thankfully, the second referendum was won. I make the point that the European Union's interest in the North has been positive and constructive. The EU sees it as one of the success stories in terms of peace processes across Europe.
Europe is sensitive to the current issues and Commissioner Maroš Šefcovic and Mr. David Frost are now engaged in a process that I hope will facilitate a working through of some of the issues that have arisen in respect of the protocol. I hope we can have a constructive engagement on that front because it is important. We must all work collectively to reduce tensions on an ongoing basis. We will have ongoing interactions with the British Government in respect of the need to ensure that whatever we do, we do it with a view to maintaining stability and peace, defusing tensions, and enabling the workings of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement as effectively, efficiently and peacefully as we can.
8. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the public service, justice and police reform division of his Department. [21617/21]
9. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the social policy and public service reform division of his Department. [21776/21]
10. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the social policy and public service reform division of his Department. [21778/21]
11. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the public service, justice and police reform division of his Department. [22858/21]
43. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the social policy and public service reform division of his Department. [24140/21]
44. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the justice and police reform division of his Department. [24141/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, 43 and 44 together.
The role of the social and public service reform division is to assist me, as Taoiseach, and the Government in delivering programme for Government objectives on public policies and services which help create a socially inclusive and fair society. Specifically, the division assists the work of the Cabinet committee on social affairs and equality and the associated senior officials' group established to oversee implementation of programme for Government commitments in the areas of social policy, equality and public services, including matters relating to arts and culture, children, justice, policing reform and community safety, disability, social inclusion, gender equality, direct provision, the Irish language and sport; the Cabinet committee on education and the associated senior officials' group established to oversee implementation of programme for Government commitments in the area of education and further and higher education; the Cabinet committee on health and the associated senior officials' group established to oversee programme for Government commitments in the area of health, including implementation of health reforms, including Sláintecare and the development of mental health services; and the Cabinet committee on Covid-19 and the associated senior officials' group established to assess the social and economic impacts of the potential spread of Covid-19 and to oversee the cross-government response.
A policing reform implementation programme office forms part of the division. This office drives the implementation of A Policing Service for our Future, the Government's plan to implement the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The division also assists the work of the Civil Service management board which oversees Civil Service renewal; has departmental oversight of the National Economic and Social Council; advances Dublin's north-east inner city initiative, including through supporting the work of a programme office, programme implementation board and oversight group; assists the delivery of public service reform through membership of the public service leadership board and public service management group; provides me with briefing and speech material on social policy and public service reform issues; and participates in relevant interdepartmental committees and other groups.
Earlier this year, the Taoiseach committed to doing all he could to bring closure to the families of those who died in the Stardust fire. That commitment has not been fulfilled and I urge him to act swiftly to rectify that. In order to access legal advice, the families must apply for legal aid for the inquest into the deaths of their loved ones. The process is intrusive for all families due to the volume and breadth of documentation and personal information they are required to submit. A number of families have been refused access to legal aid as they own their own homes. It is unimaginable, having had to battle the State for four decades to secure this inquest, for the State to now block their access to legal advice.
The Minister for Justice could resolve this matter quickly. Section 29(2) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 provides for a discretion to waive the requirement of the financial eligibility test. Section 37 of the same Act states that the Minister may make such regulations. The Legal Aid Board has confirmed that, in the absence of the Minister's regulations, it cannot and will not waive the financial eligibility test. When my colleague, Deputy Doherty, raised this matter with him in committee two weeks ago, the Taoiseach committed to pursuing the matter on behalf of the families. Can he confirm what action he has taken? Has the Minister for Justice drawn up the necessary statutory instrument to provide for this regulation, as advised by the Legal Aid Board? This is a matter of great importance and urgency.
There is a considerable amount of international evidence about the importance of hot nutritious meals for pupils in school. Pupils who receive such meals are healthier, less likely to be tired in class and more likely to be attentive. The younger they get access to those meals, the better. That is why I welcome the hot school meal programme. However, the programme is drastically underfunded given that almost 100 schools that applied have been unable to access it. One particularly unjust example of a school that has missed out is Knockmore Junior School in Killinarden, a DEIS - Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools - school with 149 young pupils. The situation is particularly unjust because many of the other schools in the area have access to hot school meals, which is great, but means that the brothers and sisters of some Knockmore pupils will be getting the hot school meals they need while their younger brothers and sisters will not be getting that access. I ask the Taoiseach to intervene with the Minister and the Department to ensure those children are able to access the hot school meals they need and that all the schools that need access to this programme are able to get it.
I also think it is beyond despicable that the Stardust families are not being given legal aid. The Taoiseach should address that as a matter of absolute urgency because the families have been through enough and do not need further obstacles put in the way of their pursuit of justice.
I wish to raise a matter I have raised with the Taoiseach a number of times, that is, the plight of people training to be psychologists. We have unacceptable waiting lists in this country for mental health services. Thousands of children, teenagers and adults are on waiting lists for mental health services and they are often urgently in need of counselling and psychological treatment. I have met three times with psychology students, most of whom are young but some of whom are older and have gone into psychology later in life. The most extraordinary barriers are being put in front of those students attempting to get doctorates in psychology. They must work as assistant psychologists without pay. Posts have been advertised recently to that effect and those are not isolated examples because the practice is going on all the time. People are paying extortionate fees for an education and counselling psychology doctorate and receive no funding whatsoever. There are a tiny number of places available. Students are working on placement without pay. There are extraordinary barriers that mean large numbers of people cannot get through the system. When we have all these waiting lists and a mental health crisis that needs to be addressed, why is the Government not making it easy and supporting people who want to become psychologists in order to address the mental health crisis and waiting lists in this area?
I wish to deal with the issue of the policing reform implementation and whether it is the role of the Garda Commissioner to allocate the necessary resources. One cannot have policing reform without some changes. Obviously, the previous Government endorsed the report, A Policing Service for the Future, and an implementation group, which is chaired by Ms Helen Ryan, is dedicated to the implementation of the programme. Associated with the report are ideas such as the sixth principle, which states, "An Garda Síochána should be structured and managed to support front line policing." Much of that is community policing. I previously published a report on policing resource across the State, which I have updated for 2021. There is no real evidence that there has been a change in the allocation of resources. There are very big differences between some parts of the country. Areas which are growing rapidly in population tend to be left behind, for example. It is a big bone of contention for certain areas where many new developments are only a disadvantage in terms of public services. Will the Taoiseach look at this issue and talk the Garda Commissioner? To be honest, there will not be reform unless the resource allocations are also reformed. I, too, speak in support of the Stardust families and the assistance they require for the inquests.
I had intended to ask the Taoiseach about the fact that more than 50% of Covid-19 fines have been handed out to people between the ages of 18 and 24. There has been an increase in Garda harassment of young people, who are also suffering disproportionately as a result of unemployment at present. I will ask the Taoiseach about that matter another day, however,
Last night, or more correctly, in the early hours of this morning, we saw workers lifted off picket lines outside the Debenhams store in Waterford. They were physically removed from sitting positions by gardaí in order to clear the way for trucks driven by non-union labour to remove disputed stock from the store. The intervention of those gardaí came after a five-hour stand-off between midnight and 5 a.m. Members of the public order unit from Waterfront were there in big numbers, the area around the store was sealed off by gardaí and traffic was diverted. Some 40 gardaí were involved in this operation. In other words, more gardaí were present than there were Debenhams workers and their supporters. Those officers were backed up by six big police vans.
There is an issue here for the media to get its teeth into. I find it incredible that this is not one of the top news stories in the national media today. That says something about how sharp the media is on these issues, or not, as the case may be. We are talking here about policing reform, however.
Workers are not criminals and should not be treated this way by gardaí. In fact, the role of gardaí should be connected to dealing with crime and antisocial behaviour. They should not be involved in industrial disputes full stop. I will end this contribution with a statement. As part of the policing reform being considered, the removal of the Garda Síochána from involvement of the kind we saw last night in respect of industrial disputes should be on the agenda. It would be interesting to hear a comment on that from the Taoiseach.
In the first instance, Deputy McDonald raised the issue - it has been commented on by others - of the Stardust inquest and related legal fees. The Stardust fire was a most traumatic national tragedy that has left a terrible and particular legacy of pain for many people in north Dublin. I greatly sympathise with all the families of the 48 young people who were tragically killed in that fire 40 years ago for the awful loss they suffered. I also recognise the terrible impact it had on everyone who attended the Stardust that night.
The Minister for Justice is absolutely committed to ensuring that all the families of the victims of the Stardust fire tragedy receive the supports they need in terms of legal aid at the new inquests. Extensive work has already been undertaken towards this end. Government funding of up to €8 million has been allocated for the new inquests to cover a number of areas, including legal aid for the families. The last remaining issue regarding legal aid for the families was the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013, which made a set of amendments to the Coroners Act 1962 and the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 that enabled legal aid at inquests in certain conditions. Officials working for the Minister for Justice reviewed alternative arrangements for funding legal professionals, which were not considered to be the best option in terms of meeting the needs of the families compared to the facility provided by the Legal Aid Board. Section 60 of the Coroners Act 1962, as amended, provides a procedure whereby a family member of the deceased may apply to the coroner for a request to be submitted to the board with regard to the granting of legal aid. Applications for legal aid have been certified by the coroner and these applications are with the Legal Aid Board.
Ordinarily, applicants through the legal aid system would pay an initial fee and support would be provided on the basis of a means test. This is how the legal aid scheme works for all the individuals who seek its help and it is a widely respected system. All of the Stardust families who meet the criteria of the Legal Aid Board, including the means test, will receive support. The usual fee for legal aid applications has been waived and the legal professionals will receive refunds of their costs one month in arrears instead of after the inquests. This goes beyond the provisions of the legislation in order to try to allay any concerns people may have.
The Legal Aid Board notified the Department of Justice that a very small number of the Stardust victims’ families would not qualify for legal aid because they exceed the income limits currently enforced by the Legal Aid Board, as required under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. The Minister for Justice has assured me that she is actively investigating the position and engaging with the Attorney General's office to explore possible mechanisms to provide for legal aid to those families who do not meet the financial eligibility requirements under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. This will require new arrangements to be put in place, such as new regulations. This matter has been actively worked on since the issue was identified to ensure that an appropriate solution is found. The Minister for Justice intends that the families and their legal professionals will have a response shortly and that the Stardust inquest should commence a few weeks after that. I will engage with the Minister again after today's session to make sure that can be expedited.
Significant progress has been made in respect of policing reform and A Policing Service for the Future. The Government's plan to implement the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland is a living document, which is reviewed and updated as required to maintain ambitious but realistic commitments, timeframes and milestones. The policing reform implementation office, which is based in the Department of the Taoiseach, monitors progress and supports the work of the implementation group as well as keeping the high level steering board of policing reform and Government apprised of progress being made.
The first two phases of A Policing Service for the Future, that is, the building-block phase of six months' duration and the launching phase of four to six months, have been completed and much has already been achieved, for example, the roll-out of a new operating model for An Garda Síochána designed to streamline administration and provide a more visible response from localised policing service to communities nationwide.
An Garda Síochána has established and strengthened resourcing of a human rights unit and re-established the strategic human rights advisory committee. The National Security Analysis Centre, NSAC, has been established and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 has been enacted, which gives gardaí access to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, for the first time and provides for a modern industrial relations framework within An Garda Síochána.
There has also been progress on legislative reform. As Deputies will be aware, the Government recently published a general scheme of the landmark policing, security and community safety Bill. I am not aware of the issues raised by Deputy Barry in terms of Waterford but I will have that checked out.
I will raise Deputy Paul Murphy's issue of hot meals for the specific school in Killinarden with the Minister for Social Protection.
Deputy Boyd Barrett raised, as he did last week, the issue of postgraduate psychological programmes and the costs associated. The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is looking at a variety of supports which can be made available to postgraduate students more generally, not just in one specific area.