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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 7

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

As the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will know, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, published its quarterly report this morning. It makes for very alarming reading. The ESRI says inflation could peak at 8.5% this summer before averaging out at 6.7% for the year as a whole. This, as the Minister knows, is the highest annual rate of inflation since 1984. Inflationary pressures that were already building have escalated further due to Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine. We are presented with a very serious situation for workers and families as households struggle to keep their heads above water now face with a prolonged cost of living crisis. As the Minister knows, everything is going up and even now the very basics are pushed beyond the reach of many ordinary people. Our airwaves are filled with people sharing their stories of how incredibly difficult it is just to make ends meet. People can barely afford to light and heat their homes and we now need to talk about food. The soaring cost of energy and fuel, problems with supply chains and the impact of this criminal war means the price of groceries is going through the roof. Families now in real terms are stretched to put food on the table and money does not go far when it comes to the weekly shop. People are down the bare essentials and have very little left at the end of the week. They will be very worried and alarmed hearing the news this morning.

The ESRI is projecting strong economic growth and a budget surplus this year. That is the good news. The Government therefore has elbow-room within the public finances to intervene and cushion people from the sharpest impact of this crisis. We must ensure workers, families and small businesses come through this crisis in one piece. We must ensure especially that people on low and fixed incomes have enough to live on. The Government cannot stand idly by while people are pushed into poverty. Its members are not observers or commentators on people's hardship. Their job, as the Minister knows, is to respond with speed and urgency to the extraordinary difficulties households now face. However, the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, has said the Government has no plan to intervene with cost-of-living supports until October's budget. He said: "I can be really clear that we are not considering any further steps." Does the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform agree with the Minister for Finance's position because October is seven months away and people are trying to stay afloat now. They cannot wait that long for Government to implement measures that will bring the cost of living down.

Tá sé geallta ag tuairisc an ESRI go mbeidh an ráta boilscithe i mbliana mar an ceann is airde ó 1984. Ní féidir le hoibrithe agus teaghlaigh dul tríd an ngéarchéim costais mhaireachtála seo. Tá an cumas airgeadais ag an Rialtas déileáil leis seo so caithfidh sé gníomhú anois. I accept the Minister cannot do everything. There is no expectation of that on him or on the Government but they must do more. The Government has to cut the cost of energy and fuel. It will need to go further than that but it needs to start there. I asked the Tánaiste yesterday and now ask the Minister to engage with the EU Commission to remove VAT from energy bills for an initial three-month period and remove excise from home heating oil. These are two initial actions the Government can take to give workers and families the break and the breathing room they desperately need.

I thank Deputy McDonald for raising the issue of inflation and the cost of living pressures we as a Government acknowledge people are facing at this time. It was highlighted further by the ESRI report the Deputy mentioned in her introductory remarks.

People will accept this is a global phenomenon. All developed economies in the world are experiencing a high level of inflation. For our neighbours in the UK, the latest figure is 6.2%. In the US it is just under 8%. These are unprecedented times. The level of inflation we are witnessing and that people are having to deal with in their day-to-day lives is without parallel in recent modern history. That is why the Government is not standing idly by. The Government is not an observer or commentator. The Deputy is correct on that. It has already taken very significant steps in an effort to alleviate the burden people are undoubtedly facing at this time. That started with the budget back in October where we had a package of over €1 billion in income tax reductions including for people on low and middle incomes and also welfare increases both in core social welfare weekly rates but also targeted, anti-poverty measures such as the living alone allowance, the qualified child dependant allowance, changes to the working family payment and so on. However, it is because of what has happened since that we recognise we had to go further and the Government has responded outside of the normal budgetary calendar with two further significant interventions in recent weeks.

As the Deputy knows, back in February we had the package of over €500 million. This included the energy credit of €200 for every household which will be applied to electricity accounts in the next number of weeks. There was also the fuel allowance lump sum of €125 for up to 400,000 households, along with a range of other measures, including the reduction in the drugs payment scheme threshold to €80, the front-loading of the budgetary changes in the working family payment, a 20% reduction in transport fees and improvements in the school transport scheme as well to try to help families deal with the current pressures. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in the last two weeks brought forward the reduction in excise on petrol and diesel in recognition of the extraordinary increases in prices people are experiencing at the forecourts in recent weeks. The Government has made a genuine and concerted effort to tackle this issue. That overall cost-of-living package is close to €2 billion at this time.

In the next number of weeks, led by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, the stability programme update will be published by Government. This will reset our economic and fiscal forecasts to take account of the prevailing conditions we are experiencing. We are witnessing a perfect storm in relation to inflation. Inflation was increasing coming out of the worst effects of Covid internationally and that has now been compounded by the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I assure the Deputy the Government is as one. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, myself and the entire Government collectively are at one in our determination to assist and support people at this time. That is why we have already taken a number of critical decisions. At this point we have no immediate further plans to introduce additional measures but as is always the case the Government will keep this issue under review.

I acknowledge what Deputy McDonald said on VAT. I am sure she will accept we are governed by an EU VAT directive. The member states' national laws on VAT have to be consistent with that directive. The Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, are directly engaging with Commission President von der Leyen and her colleagues to see what flexibility there may be on options available to member states. We expect to hear back from the Commission in that regard shortly.

That is an extraordinary response and a very disappointing one. When the Minister says the Government is at one on these matters I can only assume he is therefore reiterating the position of the Minister for Finance that the Government has no plans to take further measures this side of October. Whereas the State's economic and fiscal forecast needs to be reset this springtime, I tell the Minister households' economic and fiscal realities have taken a battering. It is simply unreal and not accepting of the reality of the soaring inflation crisis to suggest the Government will sit this out for the next number of weeks and months. That is not dealing with the reality. I appeal to him again to move on this. We accept the phenomenon is global. The Minister does not have to keep repeating that. Nobody is placing the origins of this crisis at the Minister's feet - far from it. However, there is an absolute immediate expectation the Government will act now and not wait until October. That is not real. Will the Minister move on the issue of VAT and of removing excise from home heating oil? Will he move on them now and give people some small breathing space?

Through our actions to date, we have demonstrated that the Government is agile and responsive. The Government is constantly monitoring the evolving situation. We are experiencing an incredible amount of volatility and the Government has responded to date. We will keep the situation under review and consider our options on an ongoing basis. However, we also have to be honest with people and say that we as a Government cannot fully insulate the economy, households and businesses from the economic fallout of the appalling war in Ukraine.

That is not what the Government is being asked to do. The Minister is being disingenuous.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that we could.

No, the Minister is being disingenuous.

We have already taken decisive steps and we will keep the situation under review-----

-----but we also need consistency from Deputy McDonald. She entered the House yesterday and called for the removal of VAT. On the very same day, Sinn Féin tabled a motion in the Dáil calling for a reduction in VAT. It is fine in opposition to be loose in one's language and suggest that the Government can do things that it cannot, but the Deputy knows well that the Government does not have within its armoury at this point in time the ability to reduce or remove VAT. She should be honest with people and not mislead them about the options open to the Government.

I have been asking the Government to deal with this with the Commission for months. I am familiar with the directives.

The past four weeks have witnessed the illegal and unprovoked war of extermination launched by Vladimir Putin's Russia against the people of Ukraine. The world, in particular Europe, has changed and nothing will be the same again and we have to give most serious consideration, both as an Oireachtas and as a people, to a broad range of issues that will flow from this terrible aggression.

I wish to deal with our immediate response to the humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the displacement within Ukraine and across Europe of 10 million Ukrainians so far. Although we are on the edge of Europe, we expect to welcome to our shores up to 200,000 refugees. We must be ready today and each coming day to receive properly these desperate and traumatised people, who are coming here for refuge.

I wish to discuss the port of Rosslare in my constituency. In a most welcome and generous gesture, Stena Line is offering free passage aboard its vessels to Ireland. On Monday, more than 180 people – Ukrainians fleeing terror and arriving in Rosslare – availed of this facility. Another Stena Line boat will arrive from Cherbourg tomorrow and a larger vessel, the Stena Estrid, will arrive from Cherbourg on Saturday. It is expected that many hundreds of Ukrainian refugees will arrive on these ships and the ones to follow.

However, although there is amazing and heart-warming goodwill from local community volunteers, local authority staff, the Garda Síochána, the Department of Social Protection and many others, there is a clear lack of co-ordination at the port – a lead agency, someone to be in charge, to co-ordinate that goodwill. We need a strong physical presence from the International Protection Accommodation Services, IPAS. There must be comprehensive Covid testing for staff and those arriving. Already, some support staff have had to isolate because of the latest Covid wave. There must be sheltered areas to deal with traumatised people away from busy port activity. We are mostly talking about women and children who are arriving in an alien and foreign country and into a busy working port.

There is also a need for practical assistance, including guidance on car insurance. People who have driven across Europe are arriving with cars but instantly have no insurance. There is a need for cash for fuel and personal requisites, support for medicines and prescriptions, SIM cards and power adapters – all the normal things that people need. Many people fled their homes with just the clothes they were standing in. We need to wrap supports around them.

In the coming days, hundreds, or perhaps thousands, more refugees will be arriving at our ports. We need to recognise that those areas are becoming war refugee zones and we have to prepare accordingly. Will the Minister set out the Government's plans?

I thank Deputy Howlin for raising this issue and I acknowledge the manner in which he has done so. We all share his sentiments about the appalling atrocities in Ukraine that we are witnessing on our television screens, scenes that we believed belonged to a bygone era. Ireland is going to do everything it can to support the Ukrainian refugees who come to our country. We will welcome them with open arms. This is being led by the extraordinary response of the Irish people and the goodwill and generosity they have demonstrated to date in the offers of support and accommodation.

As of yesterday, 10,414 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland and almost 5,000 have sought emergency accommodation from the IPAS. The IPAS has contracted more than 2,500 hotel rooms, with additional capacity being pursued through hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts. Work is ongoing to work through the 20,000 offers of accommodation that we have received through the portal that was set up by the Government in partnership with the Red Cross. We will be availing of many of these offers in the days and weeks ahead. We are also considering State-owned and private properties that may be suitable for short-term accommodation, religious properties and any property under the control of our local authorities.

Deputy Howlin raised the issue of Rosslare Europort on the floor of the House yesterday during statements in advance of the European Council meeting. I recognise the efforts of the local groups on the ground that have been meeting refugees as they arrive at Rosslare Europort and assisting them in every way they can. To date, 879 of the arrivals from Ukraine have arrived via Rosslare Europort. The port has been working with various State agencies – the Garda, the Departments of Social Protection and Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Wexford County Council and Civil Defence – as well as the Red Cross and local charities to provide people with the immediate support they need by way of temporary protection, accommodation, access to social welfare etc.

However, we acknowledge the point that the Deputy has raised about the need for a greater level of co-ordination to ensure that the process works as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. In that respect, the Department of the Taoiseach is co-ordinating a group that has been tasked with putting in place enhanced arrangements at Rosslare Europort to accommodate Ukrainian refugees arriving there. The key services to be provided are those under the responsibilities of the Departments I have named, as well as the Department of Justice. The intention is to put in place as quickly as possible a large reception centre close to the port because, as the Deputy mentioned, it is a busy working port. Insofar as we can, the model will replicate the successful model that is in operation at Dublin Airport.

I warmly welcome that, but it needs to be in place for tomorrow, which is when the next Cherbourg boat arrives.

The Minister will recall that our response to Brexit was to put customs officials and agents on board ferry vessels so that, by the time truck drivers arrived here, all the paperwork had been done. Surely we need to put cross-departmental teams on board the ferries. The 18-hour crossing affords us the opportunity to undertake registrations, Covid tests and assess accommodation needs so that, when people arrive after those 18 or 20 hours, the work is done and does not need to be commenced here. Teams could be deployed at our departure ports and on board those ferries.

The co-ordination is welcome and I hope it can be in place tomorrow. Many disparate groups are desperately trying to do good but without co-ordination, so it needs to be in place immediately. As well as that, much of the work could be done on board the ferries. Will this matter be addressed by the Government?

It is important to recognise that Ukrainian refugees arriving at the port are being looked after. That is thanks in no small part to the fantastic efforts of local community groups. State actors are also directly involved and are providing the essential supports to the refugees. I assure the Deputy that this specific issue is being treated with the urgency it deserves. There was a meeting as recently as this morning on seeking to co-ordinate the State's response at its points of entry, including Rosslare Europort. I assure the Deputy that this will be done as quickly as possible.

The Deputy has raised the issue of having State personnel on board the ships. This will be considered by the group that is being led by the Department of the Taoiseach.

There is a whole-of-government approach to dealing with the situation and ensuring that Ukrainian refugees are given every possible assistance and support that they need.

While the people of this country are showing extraordinary solidarity and generosity in terms of the terrible suffering of the Ukrainian people, they are simultaneously being crucified by the spiralling costs of living, electricity and gas prices, energy prices and so on. The latest bad news in that regard is the ESRI report that the rate of inflation will hit 8.7% this summer. People's incomes and savings and their ability to pay their bills are being wiped out. In the face of this, the Government and, I stress, other European Governments and the American Government, all of which will be meeting in Europe this week, are saying that they are more or less powerless and that there is nothing they can do, even more so now because of the Ukraine war.

Is the Minister familiar with the concept of war profiteering? I suggest he, the Government and the EU leaders make themselves familiar with this concept. War profiteering is a disgusting practice whereby ordinary people are asked to endure incredible hardship, financial and otherwise, as a result of war but where private companies and businesses make superprofits at the expense of everybody else's misery, exploiting the crisis and the war. I suggest to the Minister that this is what we are seeing across the world. We are seeing war profiteering on an industrial scale by the producers of fuel and energy and the suppliers of fuel and energy, globally, in Europe and in this country and the bill for that is being picked up in terms of the extreme hardship, energy poverty and so on that people are suffering.

I will give some facts in regard to the profits of these companies. The profits of the French company, TotalEnergies, are up 300% to €16.1 billion; BP's profits have increased to €13 billion, its highest profits in eight years; Shell's profits are up to €19 billion, again the highest in eight years; Chevron Corporation's profits are up to €15 billion; ExxonMobil's profits are up to €23 billion and the profits of Aramco, the Saudi company, are up 124% to €110 billion. This is mirrored in this country with the ESB's profits up 10% to €679 million and Energia's profits up 46% to €35 million. What is the Government going to do about that? While everybody else is being told to suffer, to endure hardship, these energy companies and petrol companies are making a fortune. If the European leaders who are meeting this week in Europe can take unprecedented action to impose sanctions on Putin's bloody regime, could not they take unprecedented action to stop the war profiteering that we are seeing from energy and electricity companies and the producers of petrol and gas across Europe to control the prices such that ordinary people are suffering?

I thank the Deputy. It may well be the case that there are companies that are profiteering on the back of the current international climate around energy prices. Those issues are not entirely within the control of any government or of the European Union acting as a collective. The European Union leaders, when they meet at European Council tomorrow and Friday, will be examining this issue in the round, inclusive of the issue of energy prices that is having such an impact on our people, households and businesses and our economies. As the Deputy will know, we are seeing a significant increase in the wholesale prices in the markets. That is a reality that suppliers, distributors and retailers are having to face.

The week before last I was part of a delegation of Ministers who met a number of the key stakeholders operating in the sector in Ireland, including Fuels for Ireland, which is a representative body, and the Irish Petrol Retailers Association. We had a lengthy and good discussion with them about the challenges, how the markets are working and how the prices are feeding their way through from the wholesale level through to the level being paid by the consumer on the ground.

The Deputy mentioned the issue of the ESB. As he will know, the Government is a significant beneficiary of any profits earned by the ESB. In the past ten years, the Government has received €1.2 billion in dividends from the ESB. The ESB is on a green transition which involves major capital investment over the next number of years of the order of €2 billion per annum to be invested to assist us as a country on that journey. The ultimate insurance policy in terms of this issue is our reduced dependence on fossil fuels and our reduced dependence on us being an importer of energy. That is why the Government is excited by the potential of floating offshore wind. Over the next number of years, we will see major initiatives in that regard. We have already passed the enabling legislation, the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021. A new regulatory and licensing regime is now being put in place by the Ministers, Deputies Eamon Ryan and Darragh O'Brien. We look forward to seeing the progress of that over the period ahead.

What we are experiencing here as a result of, first, Covid and now, the appalling invasion of Ukraine, is an international market where the normal balance between supply and demand has been completely disrupted. This has resulted in a significant increase in prices that consumers in this country and throughout the world are facing. The Deputy will have heard me say earlier on the record that the rate of inflation in the UK today is 6.2% and in the United States, it is almost 8%. The suggestion that we as a small open trading economy can deal with this issue entirely on our own is just not realistic.

The point I am making is that collectively, the Irish Government and the European and American Governments do have the power. It is a power that was used during the Second World War, whereby profiteering was stopped and the State took control of energy and other vital supplies in order to control prices. Under the current regime, even if we do develop more renewable energy it will not reduce the prices. I will set out some facts. Europe now produces most of its electricity from renewable resources in Europe and most of our gas comes from Corrib in Ireland. Most of our electricity - over 50% - is produced here but because we have given it over to the control of private companies, they charge what they like. They are profiteering and governments in this country and in Europe choose to do nothing about that. They can impose sanctions but, apparently, they cannot control the profiteering of energy companies in this country and in Europe. I suggest they can but they refuse to do so because, it seems, for this Government and for the governments of Europe, profits come before people.

I believe investing in renewables is the way forward. We have set the target that by 2030, 80% of our electricity generation in Ireland will come from renewables. At the moment, it is 40% plus; it varies day by day depending on the extent to which the wind blows. That is the future for Ireland. The Deputy mentioned that we get all of our gas from the Corrib. We do not.

No, not most. We get about 30%. It is important that we are accurate. We get the balance from the UK and Norway. We are not self-sufficient in relation to gas supply in this country. Similarly, in respect of oil.

I did not say we are self-sufficient. I said that the Government has the power to intervene.

The Deputy narrowed this issue down to fuel, which is a major issue, but he ignored the impact that the war is also having on food prices, fertiliser, input costs for farmers and so on. It might suit his ideological agenda to narrow it down to one specific issue. The impact of this is global and it is across a range of sectors that are impacting on the Irish economy. As a Government, we are doing all that we can to respond.

At the close of business last night Deputies Conway-Walsh, Calleary and Ring raised the problems in Mayo in regard to the Oweninny wind farm. The reason Deputy Ring is beside me is we are standing in solidarity with the people who have worked on that wind farm installing up to 31 turbines, three or four of which remain to be installed. There are contractors in Mayo who are owed €1.3 million and €1.4 million. Funnily enough, years ago when this country did not have a lot of money some of these contractors were deemed fit to build airports. They were good enough to carry out roadworks throughout the country. Ironically, following on from the appointment of the receiver, the ESB and Bord na Móna, who have responsibility for this project, have decided to bring in people from the North to finish the job. I refer to two northern companies, one of which has an association with a large corporate here, but the other has none.

There are companies employing a lot of people in the west of Ireland. Basically, Roadbridge was a name. They had people with suits looking after the job but the work on the ground was being done by what we would call local subcontractors. At least €4 million or €5 million is owed to those subcontractors. It must be borne in mind also that as the ESB is connected to the Government, as is Bord na Móna, we are talking about taxpayers' money.

While we talk about the future and the wind energy future, I put it to the Minister that it is disgusting and something is not right in this situation. Those subcontractors who had put in the work, joined together with the Roadbridge workers and the contractors that were supplying everything, including materials and machines, to put in a proposal to the so-called director who was over this wind farm belonging to the ESB. Ironically enough, Deputy Ring and I have been trying to make contact for two weeks, going through the liaison and through the channels we are supposed to go through, to try to contact this person for a meeting. Whoever they think they are, or how high up they think they are, they do not think it is good enough to even come back to us to say that they will have a meeting. A proposal has been made by the group of people who are well fit to do the work. The bottom line is that it was this group that built the 27 turbines that have been built up to now. Those companies will not survive if they lose €1.3 million or €1.4 million on one job. I would like the ESB and Bord na Móna to hear clearly the point that on the bottom of the dockets for the goods and services that were supplied, it says these are owned by those companies until they are paid for. Let ESB and Bord na Móna hear this clearly.

Then they insult this group of people by bringing down other contractors to look at finishing the job. There is a retention fund of €4 million to €5 million left. There are solutions to this. I acknowledge the work done by Matthew Lynch in the office of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, who liaised with us and with the Irish Plant Contractors Association in the past few weeks to help sort out the problems for workers. This is not in my constituency but all of those Deputies and I are very clear: let nobody think that they are going to come from the North and basically turn over companies in the west of Ireland who are well capable of doing the job. The Government must intervene.

We are well over time Deputy.

I am asking the Minister whether he and his Government will intervene with the ESB and Bord na Móna to bring a bit of common sense to the situation and bring some of these so-called directors back to ground?

I thank Deputy Fitzmaurice for raising the issue. I also acknowledge the interest of Deputies Ring, Dillon and Calleary, and I am sure others-----

-----including Deputy Conway-Walsh.

The Minister is getting as bad as the Taoiseach.

I am referring to the people who have raised it with me, if the Deputy wants me to give a straight answer.

I acknowledge the enormous impact the appointment of the receivers has had on the employees. Deputy Fitzmaurice has recognised the work of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the work of the Department of Social Protection, in ensuring that the employees are being looked after in that regard.

Deputy Fitzmaurice raised specifically the knock-on impact on subcontractors. I am aware the clarification was issued by the receiver to Roadbridge staff on Tuesday of last week, following engagement with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The receiver confirmed to employees that there is no statutory restriction on employees taking up additional employment during the statutory redundancy consultation period in circumstances where they are not expected to attend the workplace. Provided they do not resign from their current employment, there should be no obstacle to retaining their statutory redundancy entitlements.

As a Government we are examining the range of projects that Roadbridge has been involved in from a public capital works point of view, and in relation to the national development plan. There is, for example, a housing projects in Moyross, Limerick. There is a road project from Coonagh to Knockalisheen and Roadbridge had been appointed as the contractors for the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge road project, where a site compound had been set up and some subcontractors had started to mobilise.

I understand that the Oweninny wind farm is a 50:50 joint venture between the ESB and Bord na Móna. Given that receivers have now been appointed, that is now a regulated process that must take its course under the Companies Acts. I have no doubt but that the contractors concerned will obtain their own independent advice but we would, of course, encourage engagement and discussions. We recognise that the appointment of receivers can have seriously adverse effects on contractors, many of whom are operating in an environment of rising costs and quite low margins. We want to see all of these contractors continue in business. The receivership is a statutory process that is regulated by law. The receivers are now in place and must continue with their work over the period ahead. Certainly, as a Government, we would encourage discussions and engagement between all of the relevant parties to see if a resolution could be identified.

I thank the Minister for what he has said. I acknowledge the work by the Departments of Social Protection and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. We are moving to phase 2 on this issue and I recognise the point about the receiver process. Is it not ironic, however, that the ESB was able to bring down two Northern contractors to look at finishing the job? The job at the moment is standing, as the Minister will understand, as when someone goes into receivership. Yet they were able to bring two different northern contractors to look at finishing this job while they had people well able to do the job right beside them. There is something amiss in what is going on with this. The receivers seem to be parked to the side. If someone was owed €1.5 million or €1.25 million, would you not think that someone from the receiver's office, from the ESB or from Bord na Móna would ring that person? It is the least they could do.

The Department of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, covers climate action. We need the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to get involved in resolving this issue. I am making this very clear and Deputy Ring will echo what I am saying. Let no-one think that they would be going in with diggers from Northern Ireland-----

That will not happen.

-----down to the Owenwinny wind farm, while the contractors down there are owed €4 million. There is a retention fund and I know what retention is. I saw the contract, to be quite frank, and if I was a receiver I would worry.

I put it to the Minister that someone needs to talk to the CEO of the ESB to get him back to realism in order that the contractors in the west of Ireland and the employees will be left working.

The Deputy has made his point.

As the Deputy is aware, both bodies are commercial State bodies under the remit of the Department of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, will be alerted to the fact that Deputy Fitzmaurice has raised this on the floor of the House today. I am sure the Minister will respond directly to the Deputy in that regard also.

Deputy Fitzmaurice has made clear the strength of feeling that there is on the ground about this issue. It is always incredibly difficult when a receivership process is entered into. There can be losers and there can be victims. We hear the Deputy's strong desire to ensure that the local contractors, who have been part of this important local project, are not among those victims. All that I can do is ask, on behalf of the Government, that there be engagement between all of the relevant parties involved here. Our first priority was to ensure that the employees were looked after and that their rights were vindicated, and I believe that the relevant Departments of worked together in that regard. We are also concerned, of course, about the outcome in all of this for the subcontractors concerned. I hope that their needs and their situation will be taken into account, albeit recognising that this is a statutory process now that is governed by law.

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