Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

The cost of living is out of control. Workers and families are at breaking point as they struggle to keep up with sky-high bills. Their quality of life, their ability to plan for their future and their mental health are now really suffering. People are fleeced with extortionate rents and rip-off insurance costs. Childcare fees are the equivalent of a second mortgage, the price of the weekly shop has gone up, while households have been hammered by more than 30 increases in energy and fuel bills just this year. Many people feel they are caught running an unwinnable race with no end. This is no way for people to live.

My colleague, Deputy Kerrane, has an online survey on the cost-of-living crisis. So far, just over a number of days, 14,000 people have responded. I would like to share some of the responses with the Taoiseach.

Siobhan said:

I am commuting from Quilty Co Clare to Limerick to work. I am paying upwards of €75 on diesel a week, that’s an increase of €15 a week compared to June, the price of food is also rising. I will soon have to buy oil for the house and that price too is also rising. I will not be able to afford my basic needs to survive.

Alison said:

My husband and I both work. We have two kids. Our rent is €1200 per month. Childcare for the two of them is over €1000. We are drowning in debt, car loans and bills. My husband is signed off as he is now suicidal. It is devastating.

Kevin said:

I work full time, earning what is considered a decent wage. I'm living month to month using my credit card for any extra spending. No nights out, no family holidays, no fancy house. I work to pay essential living costs. I cannot plan for a rainy day.

This is just a glimpse of what people are going through. In the budget debate, Sinn Féin outlined for the Taoiseach how he could start getting the cost of living under control. We called on him to cut rents and put a month’s rent back into tenants’ pockets through a tax credit but he did nothing for them. We asked him to cut childcare fees by two thirds, but he chose instead to cap fees at their current unaffordable rate. All he did was make it harder for people to light and heat their homes with another carbon tax hike.

People are at the end of their tether. The Taoiseach cannot continue to sit on his hands; he needs to start standing up for people. So far, he has ignored our calls to respond to the cost-of-living crisis but today I am going to try again to get him to respond because I believe he has an opportunity to make a difference on energy costs. There are options. Ba cheart dó VAT a ghearradh mar tá daoine faoi bhrú. Caithfigh an Rialtas sos a thabhairt dóibh. I ask the Taoiseach to temporarily cut VAT to zero on energy bills for the winter months to give people some breathing room. Has he considered this action? Has he discussed it with the European Commission? Temporarily cutting VAT on energy bills would alleviate at least some of the pressure people are under. I ask him to do this as a matter of urgency.

There is no question but that inflation has picked up recently all across the world, including in Ireland and the rest of Europe. The annual rate of consumer price inflation was 5.1% in October, the highest since 2003. Among the key factors are the supply chain disruption, issues caused by the impact of Covid on supply chains across the globe, and the consequent imbalance between supply and demand. There are also issues specific to energy on the global market, particularly regarding gas. Therefore, the carbon tax is not the factor responsible for the inflation, and the Deputy should not try to give the impression that it is, which she has been consistently doing. I will come back to that.

I accept fully that prices are increasing. They are increasing predominantly because of external factors, which are global. Every country is experiencing increases. It was discussed at the recent European Council meeting, particularly in respect of energy prices. A broader range of issues determine prices, in particular the supply of gas. What came out of the meeting regarding the energy mix within Europe was the view that we have to drive and expand the provision of renewables even further to achieve sustainability in respect of both price and what is best for our environment. We have to develop very strong interconnection to have more sustainable energy arrangements in the future.

In the budget, we introduced a tax package worth approximately €520 million, which Sinn Féin opposed but which will give workers relief and help them. It will help, but not meet all, the additional costs. It will help workers to deal with the increased cost of living. We also introduced a social welfare package worth approximately €550 million to guard against fuel poverty and specifically target those on low incomes who are most at risk owing to increasing energy costs.

We made a very significant decision to back workers in childcare, working with the unions and other representatives of workers to create a sustainable pathway for all those who work in childcare through a joint labour committee, and also working with employers and employees. The State is providing substantial financial underpinning so that there will be career pathways. The Deputy mentioned a freeze of childcare costs but we want to go further in reducing them. The budget, which was substantial, represents part of a multi-annual approach to transforming childcare, having regard to childcare workers, the development of the child, affordability, access, and sufficiency of provision.

The Deputy referred to a tax credit regarding rent. There is no guarantee at all that it would achieve the outcome she desires. The Minister responsible for housing has brought in measures to restrict rent increases but the inflationary spike has overtaken them. However, he is going to bring in further legislative measure to deal with this. He will bring them before Government shortly. They will result in further controls pertaining to rent increases. The most fundamental ways to deal with rent increases, however, are to increase housing supply, provide more cost-rental accommodation and introduce other affordability measures, which we have provided for legislatively. This is not just happening in the Republic; it is also happening in Northern Ireland, as the Deputy knows well because her party is in power there. Energy bills are going through the roof in Northern Ireland. Gas prices have jumped there by 35%. This is further evidence of what is happening on the island as a whole and in the rest of Europe and the wider world. We will do our best to protect the low-income groups.

The Taoiseach cited external factors such as Brexit, Covid and the global energy market, but failed to answer the straightforward question I asked him. He has done nothing to alleviate the hardship that Siobhan, Alison and Kevin are experiencing. In fact, in the budget he did nothing for renters. He proposed to freeze unaffordable childcare fees at their current extortionate rate, and he introduced a carbon tax hike that will drive up people’s bills. I have asked him to change tack to respond to the realities of people’s lives. I have asked him to reduce VAT to 0% temporarily for the winter months to give some relief to families, workers and others who are struggling. The Taoiseach should not tell us what he cannot do; he should tell us what he will do and address the issue of VAT. The Czech Republic, as he knows, has made a move to cut VAT on energy bills to 0%. I ask him to follow suit and give some relief to families and others who are really suffering.

As I said, in the budget we did give relief; the Deputy just chooses to ignore it. In fact, she opposed it. She opposed the tax relief we gave to workers in the budget. She was against it. It is worth up to €500 million for workers on average incomes in this country.

What about VAT on energy bills?

Furthermore, in terms of the Deputy's comments on carbon tax, it is about time she got off the fence on climate change-----

Answer the question.

-----because she has been having an each-way bet every week in this House in recent years on the issues of climate-----

There is no each-way bet.

-----and carbon tax, which gives us the funding, by the way, to help people on low incomes meet the increased energy costs and prices.

Siobhan is not seeing it and neither are Alison or Kevin.

That is so disingenuous from the Deputy, that she continually-----

The Taoiseach's response is disingenuous.

-----seeks to exploit measures we have taken, which I accept are not popular but which are very important in dealing with the climate emergency facing the globe and this country.

What about VAT? Will I take that as a "No"?

You do not take anything as a "No". We have taken measures already to help people-----

The Taoiseach is waffling on-----

-----who are on low incomes in terms of fuel poverty through the measures we have taken through the increased taxation.

Is that a "No"?

All Members have been following the events this week at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP, at which the Taoiseach made some very ambitious commitments, but will his Government's climate actions match his climate rhetoric? The omens are not good. Yesterday, he stated that Ireland will sign a pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% before hastily adding that this was a global target rather than a national one. We hear the climate action plan contains a target of just 10% reduction. The Tánaiste also referred to that 10% figure yesterday. Can the Taoiseach explain the purpose of publicly signing up to a 30% reduction target when it seems he has no intention of even attempting to achieve that? Will the kudos that he got be short-lived and will it ultimately just make the country look like it does not take its climate action obligations seriously? If every country did this, there would be zero chance of the target being met. Can the Taoiseach just be honest and straight with people about what is actually going to be done?

Ireland has the second-highest greenhouse gas emissions per person in the EU. Agriculture and transport account for the majority of emissions at 35% and 20%, respectively. It is clear that we have to focus on those two areas. The Government itself seems riven on the plan for agriculture. The Minister, Deputy Ryan, insists the national herd will decrease, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members have mysteriously started to use the word "stabilisation" whenever the national herd is mentioned. Which is it? Is it decrease or stabilisation?

In the context of transport, apparently the Government's climate action plan will state that car journeys need to be reduced by 25% to reach our targets. How can that happen in the absence of significant investment in public transport infrastructure? We are told that the metro project and DART+ are now not due to be delivered until 2034. Why is there such a lack of urgency from the Government in progressing large-scale projects such as these, which are absolutely essential? How credible will the Government's retrofitting scheme be, given the underperformance of the current one?

Why is the Taoiseach making commitments at COP that he copped out of as soon as the ink was dry on the agreement? Why should people have confidence in his ability to meet targets, given the lack of clarity and credibility in his existing plans? Does he have any real ambition to make the large-scale changes needed to climate-proof our economy and society?

I thank the Deputy for her comments but I have to say that she suffers from an abundance of negativity at times and seems to persistently want to undermine what are genuine and transformative decisions by this Government to step-change our response to climate change, which we have done through the climate action legislation, the establishment of the climate council in the plan and the carbon budgeting that will occur.

On the global methane pledge, the Deputy is being somewhat disingenuous. She should read the pledge and what has been signed up to. It is a global pledge, so, globally and collectively, in different ways and through different mechanisms, countries that sign up will contribute to that overall 30% global reduction in methane. As Members will be aware, methane emanates from a range of human activities, including oil and gas extraction, which we have taken steps in this House to limit.

That is bizarre-----

It is not Deputy Barry's turn. It emanates from coal mining, for example, and landfill, as well as agriculture. There are a variety of means. The pledge recognises that countries have varying methane emission profiles and reduction potential and that the energy sector globally has the greatest potential for targeted mitigation by 2030. That is why the US, which has partnered with Europe in this pledge, has singled out its oil and gas industry for particular measures in terms of leakages and so forth, and why Canada, as one of the largest oil and gas producing countries, made a specific pledge in respect of its industry in the coming decade. The positive news yesterday was that so many countries signed up to this pledge, recognising the role of methane, particularly in the shorter term, in exacerbating global warming and being a particularly concerning issue, as has been pointed to by the scientists.

There is no issue as far as I am concerned in Ireland signing up to this pledge and us then playing our part through our climate action plan, which will deal with every sector, as the Deputy stated. It will deal with energy, transport, agriculture, land use and afforestation, for example. It is quite complex in terms of the overall issue of dealing with climate change but this will represent the most detailed approach of any Government in respect of this issue. The Government is sincere about this country taking steps and playing its part in this emergency. That is reflected in our increased commitment, over and above what we committed in the programme for Government to climate finance, for example, which will be very significant for small island developing states and low-income countries. Through agriculture, we will also make our contribution to the reduction of methane and that will be outlined in the climate action plan we will publish tomorrow.

I thank the Taoiseach. I would appreciate a few specifics on this. As regards the national herd, is the Government talking about decreasing it or stabilising it? It is important that all Members are clear what the Taoiseach means when he gives commitments. It is really important that he is honest with farmers. Most farmers are perfectly reasonable. They want to know exactly what the plan is and what supports the Government is going to put in place for diversification. For example, what is it going to do about licences for forestry? That is one example of an issue that makes things so difficult for farmers. Will the Taoiseach be clear with farmers and tell us exactly what the intention is in respect of agriculture?

What exactly is the timescale for the metro project? As regards retrofitting, it is all very well setting big targets, but is the Government going to change the grant system to make retrofitting affordable for people on average incomes?

There are some fair points in terms of the delivery but it is absolutely important that we set the targets.

I ask the Taoiseach to answer the questions.

I am answering the questions. The Deputy stated that it is all well and good to set targets. It is not all well and good; it is vital to set targets----

Tell us how you will achieve them.

-----because if you do not set targets, the investment community does not have the framework within which to change tack and invest in renewables and other spheres of activity and move away from fossil fuels and other activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions. That is a very important point and should not be dismissed.

Will the Taoiseach answer the questions?

For example, in terms of the public transport initiatives, we have in the national development plan provided the resources for the metro project and a whole range of other projects. It is time to consider how some people object to everything in this country-----

Will the Taoiseach answer the questions and stop dodging? He should just answer the straight questions.

I am answering the questions. The Deputy spoke about the metro project and public transport. The biggest issue facing us in wind, for example - we nearly had a motion this week from the major party opposite on guidelines around wind-----

The Taoiseach is not answering the questions.

There is a lot of wind in this Chamber.

The biggest issue will be: are we prepared to allow offshore wind farms in this country-----

The biggest question is: is the Taoiseach serious-----

----and are we prepared to allow them properly-----

Is the Taoiseach serious about this or not?

Yes. I am absolutely serious.

Can we hear the Taoiseach without interruption?

I made that clear yesterday. When we were in opposition as a party, we supported the carbon tax, for example, even though-----

I ask the Taoiseach to answer the questions.

-----it would have been far easier for us to oppose it as an Opposition party, like the current party opposite has done.

I ask the Taoiseach to answer the questions.

We have worked to be progressive on the issue for a number of years. I am very serious about it, because we simply do not have time-----

The Taoiseach still has not answered the questions I asked.

The Taoiseach has not answered the questions.

-----as a race, to hang around any longer without dealing with climate change. We have to do it.

The Taoiseach has not answered any of the questions I asked.

I would prefer it if the Deputy was a bit more engaging and was an advocate for change, as opposed to nitpicking all the time.

(Interruptions).

Please, Deputies. This is Dáil Éireann, our national Parliament. Please let Members speak without interruption. Deputy Mick Barry has the floor.

It is my turn now. It is clear that the political establishment are impressed with themselves and with COP26 to date, but are the young people impressed? They saw a conference opened up by Boris Johnson, dressed in green, but know that this is a man who slashed tax on domestic flights and support subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. They saw Jeff Bezos, the rocket man, pledge $2 billion to protect the environment. Yet, in one single year, this man's company, Amazon, emitted 44.4 million metric tonnes of CO2, more than the annual emissions of two thirds of the countries in the world. Mr. Bezos is typical of the men who lead the 100 corporations responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988. The capitalist politicians, whose strings they pull, have organised 25 full COPs to date, the end result of which is a world on track for a 2.7°C increase in temperatures. Why on earth should the young generation place one iota of faith in these politicians to solve the crisis?

Tonight, I will pack my waterproofs, set my alarm and get ready to travel to Glasgow in the morning. Myself and a busload of young Socialist Party colleagues will join the International Socialist Alternative contingent, which will be part of the 100,000-strong protests on the streets of Glasgow this weekend. My hope for the future rests with the young people who will be on the streets around the world, including in Cork, Dublin, Belfast and other Irish cities, this weekend, and not on the Government politicians in the COP conference hall.

The Government delegation trotted off to Glasgow waving climate plan promises high in the air and solemnly posing as being amongst the best boys and girls in the global classroom. Only last week, the Government's Climate Change Advisory Council proposed a 4.8% CO2 emissions reduction target for 2022. Yesterday, we found out that this week's Cabinet meeting will lower that target. What was announced with some fanfare last Tuesday will be quietly watered down tomorrow. Best boys in the class, indeed. Yesterday, the Taoiseach signed off on a pledge to cut global methane emissions by 30%. No sooner was the ink dry on the agreement than the Tánaiste told the Dáil that our cuts will be just 10%. Behold, the best boys in the class kowtowing to big agri-business and the big dairy farmers, rather than protecting the interests of the next generation. The Taoiseach told the conference that Ireland will end deforestation by 2030. He did not tell the conference that his Government currently oversees the cutting down of 5 ha of trees for every 1 ha planted. Massive people-power pressure will need to be exerted on the Taoiseach and the best boys in the class for this promise to be upheld.

Will the Taoiseach tell the Dáil why a Government that claims to be serious about tackling climate change will not sign up to the pledge, currently on the table, to cut methane emissions by a modest 30%?

The first point I would make is that the prism through which the Deputy sees climate change really is in the overall world view he has about what he calls the political establishment, and his perception of an elite capitalist caste that is responsible for all the ills in the world and for climate change itself. He believes that nobody else has a role to play. As he does with every other issue, the Deputy is using climate change to attempt to bring down what he calls the capitalist system in the world, even though in a country like Ireland, the level of state involvement is enormous in terms of the economy and society. It does not fit neatly into the Deputy's ideological standpoint. I reject the approach that he is taking in respect of saying that the only way we can deal with climate change is to take down the world order and collapse governments everywhere and the system of enterprise that we have in Europe or elsewhere. That would create chaos and would not advance efforts to tackle climate change. That would be deeply dishonest and disingenuous.

All of us have a role to play in changing patterns of consumption and how we adapt and change our lifestyles. We have never said we are the best boys in the class, which the Deputy disingenuously asserted. We are behind as a country and we have to move very fast to catch up. One of the biggest issues with afforestation has been serial objections to every kind of forest over the past number of years. We need to broaden the range of trees that we plant in this country. Far more native trees must be planted. Schemes will emanate from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to create new income streams for farmers. The biggest issue we have in agriculture, for example, is encouraging and incentivising farmers in terms of connections to the grid, microgeneration, the use of solar panels and anaerobic digestion. I met with a farmer at COP26. I did not meet the Jeff Bezoses of this world at all. I met Tom Galvin from Dingle, who travelled to COP26 with a group from the Dingle peninsula. They are a very innovative and creative group of people who want to create a particular approach across the peninsula to this climate issue, and who, as I understand following my discussions with them, represent a model in terms of a multidisciplinary approach for how we can deal with this issue. Mr. Galvin informed me that approximately 100 farmers in the Dingle peninsula area have signed up to this approach. He said that we need to approach the issue from the ground up and work with farmers. I told him we would do that.

I met a group of young people from UCC at the conference. UCC is the only university in the country that is accredited to COP. The group travelled over to COP26, just as the Deputy will. They will be there over the next two weeks as part of the civic society contribution. I met many young people in Glasgow who are very enthused about what is happening. The Deputy can be very cynical and dismissive. That is fair enough; it is his perspective. One big change that occurred in the past five or six years was the US withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. President Biden has brought the US back and has rejoined the agreement. He is also driving the agenda with the EU. Europe will be the first continent to be climate neutral by 2050, but, of course, the Deputy rejects the edifice of the EU and his view is that we should take it down too.

The earth is not dying; it is being killed. The people who are killing it have names and addresses. My neighbours and constituents will do their bit and I urge them to do a bit more. However, it is not their names and addresses that folk singer, Utah Phillips, was referring to; it is the names and addresses of big oil, big gas, etc., and the big banks that finance them. The Taoiseach talked about chaos. They are people who are threatening the world with climate chaos.

The World Economic Forum, a conservative body, has just published a report in support of a polluter tax on big business carbon polluters. It states that such a tax, set at $75 per tonne for higher-income countries and then graduated down, could reduce carbon emissions by 12%. Will the Taoiseach support the introduction of a polluter tax on big business? I would, but I would go further.

You not control what you do not own. Global corporations must be taken out of the hands of the profiteers and placed into the hands of society, with dirty industry shut down, massive retraining and reskilling and alternative, well-paid jobs in the green energy sector - a world for people and the environment, not a world for profit, which is the system that the Taoiseach defends.

On carbon taxation, we have brought in a broad measure that will do two things. It will disincentivise the use of fossil fuel over time and it will also give us the resources to retrofit the homes of ordinary people in this country to enable them to reduce heating costs on a sustainable basis over a long period. There are very ambitious plans there in terms of the thousands of houses that we want to retrofit through grant schemes and retrofitting local authority houses and social housing more generally. That is a step change from anything that has been put forward before. There will be significant challenges in terms of delivery and so on, but we are determined to do it.

On big oil and gas, we have taken steps in this country in the legislation that we have passed to forbid the issuing of future oil and gas exploration licences.

We have taken that step and this is happening with increasing regularity. Fossil fuels are a big enemy here but we have to make a transition over time and do it in a realistic way.

Once again, I want to raise the issue of insurance, particularly the soaring cost of business insurance. It has been reported that insurance renewals have increased by 15% in the past year. In the hospitality sector, insurance has increased by an average of 10%. This is despite the fact this sector has been practically closed for the past 12 to 18 months. This is not on. The Alliance for Insurance Reform report published last week stated insurance costs had risen across the board by an average of 15%. This is despite the fact that new personal injuries guidelines have been introduced. These new measures have resulted in reductions in personal injury awards, which should have resulted in reductions in insurance premiums. Unfortunately, this is not happening and businesses deserve to know why their premiums continue to rise. The insurance industry needs to answer these questions.

Earlier this month, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, reported that average awards since the introduction of new guidelines have decreased by 40% compared to last year. Despite this 40% drop as well as a reduction of liability in personal injury claims over the past decade, the commencement of the perjury legislation and the opening of the Garda insurance fraud office, businesses are still facing insurance premiums that are rising at an annual rate. This is wrong and needs to be addressed. Why is the insurance industry not passing on these reductions to their customers? Only two weeks ago, the Tánaiste publicly stated he expected insurance premiums to fall as a result of greatly reduced personal injury claims. He also stated the Government would continue to work with the insurance sector to make sure premiums will eventually fall. What exactly is the Government doing to ensure this?

I have been contacted by many local businesses in Dundalk regarding their insurance costs. In some cases they have doubled compared to the previous year. This has the potential to put many businesses on the brink. I want to talk about one business in Dundalk that has contacted me. Air Bound Trampoline Park provides fun and fitness for children and adults. It is a great place for children and their friends to visit. It is also a wonderful place for parents of autistic children and other children with disabilities to bring their children for much-needed leisure activities. When the children were not in school, Air Bound was open seven days a week and when the schools went back to normal, it opened four days a week. It employs 16 staff, many of whom are students who use it to pay their way through college.

Almost two years ago, the park was closed because it could not get insurance. Luckily, someone came in and helped out. On 12 December, the park is facing the same challenge when it comes to insurance. At this point in time, no insurance underwriter will offer it insurance. It has no outstanding claims. It is being told the insurance company that deals specifically with activities and leisure parks is pulling out of Ireland due to the ever-increasing red tape being introduced by the Central Bank. If this is the case, the Government must act now. We cannot see businesses such as Air Bound Trampoline Park closed because they cannot get insurance.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue, which is impacting on many businesses, people and homeowners throughout the country. The Government is very aware of the affordability issues and the difficulties very often with getting adequate insurance cover and availability of cover for certain businesses, particularly in the leisure sector and the sector the Deputy has just outlined. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets here. The Government has taken action through a range of measures in our action plan for insurance reform. This has involved the implementation of the personal injuries guidelines to replace the book of quantum six months ahead of schedule. The Deputy is correct that the PIAB report on what has happened since has shown a substantial reduction in the amount of awards issued. We want to see this followed through in reduced premiums from companies. The insurance industry needs to come up to the plate and respond to the changes the Government has made in terms of insurance.

We have also established an office in the Department of Finance to promote competition in the insurance market. The Central Bank has published its national claims information database report on employer and public liability insurance and completed its report review on differential pricing in the motor and home insurance sectors. The Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act has been enacted. This places perjury on a statutory footing for the first time. An insurance fraud co-ordination office has been established in the Garda national economic crime bureau. The insurance (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is being developed. This will enhance transparency and reinforce protection of consumers. This is the range of measures the Government has already introduced, but we need to do more.

The Minister for Justice is bringing forward legislative proposals to reform the law on the Occupiers' Liability Act and the duty of care. These proposals are at an advanced stage. The Minister will bring these to the Government and we will take them forward and bring them to the House. It is relevant because it will help to address the slips, trips and falls issue, which is very prevalent in footfall intensive areas such as the leisure industry and activity-related pursuits. There is detailed analysis of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 with regard to making a number of legislative amendments to increase the number of cases settled by PIAB without recourse to litigation. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment under the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, have developed the heads of a Bill in collaboration with PIAB. The Minister of State is progressing this in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.

There is a Cabinet subcommittee on insurance reform. There is an onus on the industry to respond to the reforms that have taken place and that are taking place. We are particularly conscious of companies such as those referenced by the Deputy, with regard to trampolines and the leisure industry more generally, particularly those looking after children's recreational interests and the difficulties they are having. We will continue our engagement with the industry to ensure provision and access to cover is there.

On 12 December, Air Bound, a trampoline park in Dundalk, will close. The reason the park will close is that it cannot get insurance. It is not the owners' fault. Nobody wants to give them insurance. They wants to pay for their insurance. They have been there for a number of years. What will I tell the parents contacting me who have autistic children and children with disabilities? Adults also use it. The trampoline park opened a couple of weeks ago for one adult. It made no money. This is not all about money. These businesses are there to look after people with disabilities. I am pleading with the Taoiseach. I will give him the details. How can a company that pays its way not get insurance? I cannot understand it. It has tried everything.

In fairness, several years ago the company could not get insured because the premium increased three or four times. Luckily enough, I contacted a friend of mine with an insurance company in County Tipperary who did us a favour and it got insurance. I am pleading with the Taoiseach. This is only the start of it. Where will these people with disabilities go? It is affordable. The company works with children. When the children are in school, it opens four days a week and when they are off school, it opens seven days a week. Almost everybody in the Chamber has somebody with a disability or knows someone who is autistic. They have nowhere to go. This is the only bit of peace and quiet they get. I am pleading with the Taoiseach on behalf of Air Bound in Dundalk. Will the Taoiseach please help to keep it open? 12 December is a very important day for children with disabilities in Dundalk. I am sure there are also cases in other parts of the country. Will the Taoiseach please help to get the likes of Air Bound and other such companies insured?

I ask the Deputy to send on the details of the situation to me and the background to it. I fully commend the work of Air Bound with children with disabilities and special needs. Unfortunately, under the EU Solvency II legislation, the Government is prohibited from setting insurance premiums so there is no silver bullet. However, I would like to hear more detail on the background to this. I will speak to the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, who is dealing with insurance reform in the Department of Finance to see whether there is anything we can do on this. I thank the Deputy.

The Government blocked legislation introduced by Deputy Pearse Doherty to deal with this gratuitously.