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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 29 Mar 2022

Vol. 1020 No. 2

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

As agreed, the report of the Business Committee shall be taken as read. Are the proposed arrangements for the week's business agreed to?

I understand a motion regarding the proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the carbon budget under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts, 2015 to 2021, has been laid before the Dáil. Will time be made available by the Government next week to debate the motion? This is a matter of urgency. Friends of the Earth and other NGOs have been looking for us to have a chance to debate this on the floor of the Dáil. Will it be on the Order of Business for next week?

The Rural Independent Group is demanding an immediate debate on the crisis facing the pig industry today. If the Taoiseach cares to see them, members of the industry who are protesting outside the gates of Leinster House. They are not known for protesting but their family lives, incomes and their industry are on the line. The paltry €7 million offered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, is an insult to them. They need a package of €50 million and a further €50 million that they intend to pay back. What other group in society has paid back money it got in Covid supports? It is a crisis that the Taoiseach does not seem to recognise and the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, will not recognise until he does not have any rashers for his breakfast roll.

He should eat the rasher with a poached egg.

I ask once again for the Government to allow time for a debate on the disastrous situation and war in Yemen. The Government rightly has moved heaven and earth to debate and set out a response to the disastrous situation in Ukraine but it is stubbornly resistant to discussing the war in Yemen that has claimed more than 300,000 lives and brought 14 million people to the brink of starvation. Does the Government not want this debate because it has trade relations with Saudi Arabia and because the US and the UK are arming the Saudi regime? Is that why it does not want the debate? If that is not the case, will it please allow for a debate on this crisis?

As no other Members are indicating, I ask the Taoiseach to respond.

Before the Taoiseach responds, he made a joke of my request by saying he eats poached eggs.

I did not answer-----

I do not know what he eats - that is his own business - but this is not a laughing matter. It is a serious situation facing an industry that could be wiped out if he does not act.

Deputy, you made your point. The Taoiseach to respond.

This is mockery by the Taoiseach, talking about poached eggs. He will be well poached when they get at him.

The Taoiseach to respond uninterrupted.

Or fried, even better.

I actually said he should have the rasher with a poached egg or a poached egg with the rasher.

Make fun of it, yes. Make fun of it.

It is not a laughing matter.

I was not joking; I was serious. I believe in a good rasher for breakfast. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is alive to the issue. We have already allocated funding to the pigmeat industry. Just as we did in respect of Covid-19 when we helped an awful lot of enterprises survive by investing in them, we also want to keep a viable industry, the pigmeat industry, intact and viable because in normal times it is a productive industry that does well. The Minister is engaging with the sector to see if we can do more in the context of what already has been done for the industry. It creates a lot of jobs. What is happening now is beyond its control in terms of a disruptive market situation plus the Ukraine crisis.

Are you going to wake up?

The Minister is working on that. I can confirm that we will endeavour to have a debate on that next week and I have asked the Chief Whip to follow up on that.

On having a debate on both the pigmeat sector or a debate on the war in Yemen, I have to say to the Deputies that there is more Private Members' time available in this Dáil than in previous Dáileanna. There is therefore an obligation on the Deputies themselves to bring forward these issues-----

We have Private Members' time every six months.

Change the record.

----- in Private Members' time. There is Topical Issues as well. We need to balance legislation-----

You do not care about the people in Yemen. The Government does not want to embarrass the-----

-----with debates. The House is not meant to be three days of every week dealing with statements and nothing else but statements. It is also a legislative assembly and we have to get that balance right.

Is the Order of Business agreed to?

It is not agreed.

Question put: "That the proposed arrangements for dealing with this week's business be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 46; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Question declared carried.

I again raise with the Taoiseach the commitments Britain made to the Irish Government and all parties in the North to introduce an Irish language Act and to commission abortion services in the North. We can all agree that women have waited long enough for these services. Certainly, Irish language speakers have waited long enough. As the Taoiseach will know, the British Government has again demonstrated bad faith on these matters. Will he tell us whether he has spoken to or will speak to the British Government to establish the dates on which it will deliver on both of these commitments? In his recent meeting with the British Prime Minister, did he ask about an tAcht Gaeilge or the British Government's intentions to honour the very clear-cut commitments made not only to Sinn Féin, but also to the Irish Government and all of the parties in the North?

We will be taking this issue up with the British Government. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has already discussed it with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is my understanding that the Secretary of State is committed to putting the legislation in place but not until after the election. I will say that the commitments that have been given in respect of the language Act should be honoured because, when governments give commitments on such important matters, they should follow through on them.

I will raise with the Taoiseach the impact the current energy crisis is having on our protected crop growers, particularly in north County Dublin. Last week, I met with Councillor Robert O'Donoghue and representatives of Welgro Produce, a young company of growers which is at the cutting edge of this industry and which has won awards for its sustainable practices. They are the kind of people who are going to bring our growing sector into the 21st century. The company is being crippled by energy costs which may see it go out of business within weeks. If we are to get where we need to be with regard to food security and a climate-resilient growing industry, we need to protect such companies through the transitional period we are now in, which the Taoiseach referenced in response to a question from Deputy Bacik earlier.

What is the Government doing for these growers? What is its plan?

As the Deputy knows, the Government more broadly has moved to reduce excise and VAT on energy products in the last package. We have also taken specific measures for hauliers and have a separate tillage initiative related to the growth of protein crops, grain and mixed-species swards. The Deputy is talking about the horticultural sector, in essence. As I have said, the Government has taken broad measures on taxation more generally. We continually review different sectors of the economy to see what we can do to be of assistance to them. The Government cannot keep coming forward with measures every week. We need to look at this over the medium term. We now believe the impact of this war will be a medium-term one. We need to take an annual prospective of expenditure, revenue and the whole fiscal situation as it is affected by all of this.

I wish to raise the scenes in Dublin Airport over the weekend. We all watched on with a sense of dismay and bewilderment at the scenes of would-be travellers crammed into the departure lounge, some unable to go on their holidays owing to the absence of security staff. What assurances has the Government sought from the Dublin Airport Authority that these scenes will not be repeated? Although 1,000 redundancies were offered to security staff in Dublin Airport during Covid, only 100 people have been rehired. There is a rehiring process going on at the moment, offering €14.40 per hour for 20 hours guaranteed and another 20 hours of flexibility. That will not be enough to secure the essential staff needed to ensure the airport is secure and well managed.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, in the Department of Transport will be engaging with Dublin Airport in respect of this. There are issues with recruitment. Notwithstanding all the challenges facing the economy, the reality is we have never had so many people employed. We have had real challenges with recruitment of staff in key sectors of the economy since we emerged from the latest Covid crisis. We will do everything we can. There are existing workplace arrangements to deal with the latter point the Deputy raised.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I beg your indulgence and that of the House. Deputy Bacik asked me earlier about diplomatic expulsions. I do not want to be accused subsequently of not fully informing the House. As her question was coming through, the Department of Foreign Affairs had indeed summoned the Russian ambassador. I was loath to override what would be normal diplomatic protocols. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, four senior officials of the Russian Embassy have been asked to leave the State because their activities are not in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour. I received security advice yesterday and the Minister for Foreign Affairs also received security advice. Yesterday I met our national security team. Under Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention, we have taken these actions. However, we believe that diplomatic channels between the Russian Federation and the State should stay open in the interests of us conveying our abhorrence of the war, maintaining diplomatic channels as a principle and protecting Irish citizens in Russia and elsewhere.

I appreciate the Taoiseach's intervention.

I expect sanctions to be imposed on Saudi Arabia and the apartheid State of Israel promptly following that announcement. I will not hold my breath on that, obviously.

I again ask about the €1,000 that was promised to healthcare workers. The applause given to those healthcare workers for the work they did during the Covid pandemic - and are still doing - rings hollow now when the Government still has not paid these healthcare workers the €1,000 promised. Community swabbers have contacted us and I asked questions about that. It seems that community swabbers may not be getting this payment. There have been suggestions that phlebotomy nurses will probably not get the €1,000. The Government seems to be penny-pinching and that is why these negotiations are dragging on.

The Government is looking for reasons to exclude healthcare workers, every one of whom deserves as an absolute minimum the €1,000 payment that was promised. Why has the Government not paid it and why is it trying to exclude healthcare workers from benefiting from this payment?

First, my understanding is the HSE and the Department are in ongoing consultation with the health sector trade unions to finalise the application of this measure. It is intended that the payments process will be instructed to commence this week. The Government has committed very significant resources. The Government wants to do this. We are not holding back at all. I will engage again with the Minister and the HSE in this regard. It is €1,000 and it will not be subject to income tax, USC or PRSI. The announcement also made provision for a pro rata application of the payment. It will be extended to those equivalent healthcare workers in private nursing homes and hospices, who also experienced very severe outbreaks and burdens during the pandemic which staff have had to manage.

No answer, in other words.

The issue surrounding work permits is reaching a crisis level for many employers. A growing number of employers in the healthcare, food processing, hospitality, agriculture and transport sectors are battling through a system that is fraught with long delays and refusals based on minor human errors on their applications. This triggers an appeals process that is taking up to 18 weeks to complete. The vast majority of these errors could be rectified by simply communicating directly with the applicant. I have been inundated with calls from exasperated people in all of these sectors across Tipperary who are unable to secure staff in Ireland or within the EU. The lack of a workforce is having a negative impact on productivity, curtailing production, damaging exports and suppressing economic growth. Unless a way is found to fast-track these non-EU work permits, many businesses in these sectors face collapse. I call on the Government to introduce a system that will both simplify and expedite the process of obtaining work permits for the sectors whose survival depends on them.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. A plan of action is being implemented by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to meet the challenges of this increased demand and to reduce the processing time, which has built up recently, as the Deputy said. Staffing actions include recruitment of additional permanent and temporary staff which will increase the permanent processing capacity by over 100% and overall capacity by over 200% from November levels. Some 898 employment permits were processed last week, which is more than triple the 259 processed in the same week last year. Waiting times for critical skills employment permits are seven weeks for trusted partners and nine weeks for standard applications. These waiting times stood at 14 weeks for trusted partners and 21 weeks for standard applications only seven weeks ago, so progress has been made. The backlog continues to fall and it is now at 8,851, which is over 2,000 below its Christmas 2021 peak. The rate of applications in 2022 has stabilised at a rate of 32,000 applications per annum, which is considerably higher than the 27,000 received in 2021, which itself was well up on previous years. I spoke to the Tánaiste yesterday and to the Secretary General of the Department. We want those numbers down as quickly as possible.

It is nearly six weeks since I first raised the Dursey cable car crisis with the Taoiseach in the Dáil. Since then, I have raised it with the Tánaiste; the Minister, Deputy Humphreys; and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, among others, in trying to find a solution before the world-famous Dursey cable car ceases operations this Thursday evening for 240 days due to the urgent repairs to be carried out on the towers following storm damage. This is a cable car, I may add, opened by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, in 1969. As we stand right now, on Friday morning of this week islanders, farmers who have land on the islands and holidaymakers will not have a service of any type from the island to the mainland or from the mainland to the island.

A proposal from the local authority for funding for a temporary ferry service was made to the Department of Rural and Community Development at the end of last week for the 240 days the cable car will be out of operation. I fully respect that the Taoiseach would not have had the time to hear of these proposals but, for the sake of the residents, farmers and tourists who visit the world-famous Dursey Island and the Beara Peninsula, will the Taoiseach meet with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and find the funding to secure a ferry service to the island by this Thursday?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I answered him last week on it but I will tell him the latest anyway. I understand they sent a proposal on Friday evening - I do not know what time it was sent at - but this is Tuesday so it has taken them a long time to get the proposal here. I am happy to look at it and I will certainly engage with my officials. The Deputy should remember, in fairness, that it is Cork County Council that has taken away this cable car, and not me.

Will the Government provide the funding?

I can tell the Deputy we will look after it. I am pressing very strongly. I will make sure the next time I am down there that I will get on it.

I would appreciate that.

I want to again raise the issue of the need to set up a cost of living hardship emergency fund to be distributed by community welfare officers in order that families can access the resources they need for things like fuel and food, and for those community welfare officers to be in the community, like they used to be. I welcome the fact community welfare officers are at the airports, welcoming and resourcing Ukrainian refugees. Given the urgent needs people are going to have in the future, particularly with another increase of 6.7% in inflation over the next couple of months, we must bring in a fund like this, separate to the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is for a different purpose. We are talking about a specific hardship fund so people can access community welfare officers for food and fuel in the community. It is very important that we do this and the Government should respond.

The Department of Social Protection has a fund - the urgent needs payment - that is available for those who are experiencing difficulty. Such people should go to their community welfare officer.

They cannot access this through the community welfare officer.

The community welfare officer is available to help them. I do not want to see anybody in dire straits. That is the safety net. If anybody is in difficulty, they should go to their community welfare officer. If there is a specific instance, the Deputy should bring it to my attention and I am happy to talk to her.

It is the long term that we have to look at.

Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to intervene on behalf of 60 families - 150 people in all - who are tenants of the Shannon Arms housing complex in Henry Street, Limerick? Even though those people have taken their case to the Residential Tenancies Board, the landlords of those apartments are employing intimidatory and illegal tactics to force them to leave their homes. The tactics include sending in heavies to change the locks unilaterally and ordering people to get their furniture together and get out on the street within 30 minutes. Some of those tactics have worked and some of the more vulnerable people have actually left. The Taoiseach will be aware that these tactics are not only reprehensible and immoral, but highly illegal and reminiscent of the behaviour of the absentee landlords during the great Famine of the 1840s. This is not the 1840s. I ask the Taoiseach whether the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage can be requested to assist those people against this modern form of Rachmanism.

I thank the Deputy for raising this on behalf of the 60 families in Henry Street. I certainly will ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to intervene. As the Deputy said, this behaviour is not tolerable and should not be tolerated in this day and age. I will ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with the RTB, to intervene.

On 15 February, the Taoiseach indicated to the House that the planning regulations for solar panels would be ready in two to three weeks. That is nearly six weeks ago now and I have seen no movement on it. I do not need to remind the Taoiseach that we are in an energy crisis, that we have introduced one of the most ambitious energy retrofit schemes seen anywhere in Europe and that we have agreed the feed-in tariff scheme. What we need now are the planning exemptions on solar panels. We have potentially up to 2 GW of solar in this country on farm buildings, community buildings, schools, houses and apartments - everywhere. There is massive potential. People want to fit them on their roofs and we can create thousands of jobs. I need to ask the Taoiseach again: where are the regulations? We need them urgently.

The Deputy has raised this issue consistently and correctly. I will follow that up with the Minister concerned and get an answer for him as quickly as I can.

On page 120, the programme for Government commits to holding a referendum on housing. There are almost 7,000 people on the housing list in Kildare and there is a ten-year to 12-year wait for allocations. There is no sense of urgency in dealing with this issue. We need to build public homes on public land. If there is not enough suitable public land, we need to acquire it through compulsory purchase order. It is not acceptable for families with young children to live long-term in substandard accommodation or in hotels and emergency accommodation. We need urgent action and a strong constitutional amendment which drives an ethos of cost rental and publicly funded housing to deliver it. When is the Government going to act to bring forward this referendum?

The Government is committed to public housing. In particular, 12,000 is the target for 2022, 9,000 of which will be built.

That would be the highest ever and we are on line to achieve that in 2022.

On the referendum, the commission on housing which has been established has established a sub-committee chaired by Ailbhe O'Neill, a barrister with extensive experience working in constitutional law and deep expertise around property rights. She is joined on the sub-committee by Sorcha Edwards, secretary general of Housing Europe; Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust; and Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. There will be some external members with expertise. They are charged with coming forward with a proposal for a constitutional referendum on housing.

I raise the 2013 report published by the Government and entitled Keeping Communities Safe - A Framework for Fire Safety in Ireland. There are 2,065 retained firefighters operating out of 197 stations across the State and there is a problem in relation to staffing. I have raised this before because there needs to be a sense of urgency around this. In May 2021, the management board of the National Directorate of Fire and Emergency Management was mandated to set up a review of the model of retained fire services. That is still dragging on. We are nearly a year into that. A private company was procured to do it. The last reply I got on it stated that the expectation of the project team is that the final report would be submitted to the management board of the national directorate by the end of the year. For God's sake, it is a year and a half. There is a staffing issue in smaller stations in outlying areas like Rathdowney, Stradbally, Mountmellick, and Abbeyleix.

We are way over time. Taoiseach to respond.

I ask the Government to move on this. We cannot take a year and a half to put together a simple report. It is just taking too long to get these things done.

It is not the only thing that is taking too long.

I will follow that up with the Minister. I have noted that if you stay in here long enough, you will get a good geography lesson across every county and town in Ireland. I take the point the Deputy makes seriously and will follow through on it. The Healy-Rae syndrome is beginning to-----

We are moving on. There is very little time left.

All of us today have raised the issue of housing and the lack of supply. What is the update on the module building the Government is looking at? I heard the Taoiseach speak about HAP today. As the Taoiseach knows, if you qualify to go on the local authority housing list, you get HAP. I checked daft.ie in Carlow recently. Five properties are available. By the way, it is €1,200 to rent. The biggest issue is between rural towns and cities. There is a discretion in the local authorities and in Carlow and other rural towns it is 20%. In Dublin or any of the other cities, it is 50%. That is unfair and not right. I ask that all local authorities get the 50% discretion.

I thank the Deputy. The key issue with housing is supply. We simply need to get more houses built more quickly. That is key to dealing with the housing crisis. Regarding HAP, there are different rates across the country. They are not all uniform and the cities have much higher levels of rent, unfortunately, which have necessitated more flexibility around HAP payments. I will talk to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the issues the Deputy raised.

I will give the Taoiseach a quick geography lesson. Kerry, Carlow, Wicklow, Dublin, Sligo and the Mourne Mountains are locations where firefighters were called out to tackle wildfires in the past couple of weeks. It is the time of year when we see a spate of upland burnings, even though the legal season ends on 1 March. There have been none, thankfully, so far in the Comeraghs in my county of Waterford.

I recognise and accept there is a distinction between the burning of agricultural waste and upland burning, but we are in a biodiversity crisis. In this context, every habitat matters. I have half an eye to the nature restoration loans coming down the tracks from Europe. Eoghan Daltun's Twitter account shows what our hills and mountains could and perhaps should be like. Is the necessary enforcement in place to make sure these restrictions are observed? Are fines being issued? Probably more important, are we moving quickly enough to make sure farmers are supported in moving to better land management practices in upland areas?

I will talk to the Minister on enforcement. Enforcement is being increased across wildlife and habitat protection. I agree we have to have a stronger focus on protecting habitat and biodiversity. There is no question about that. It is under enormous threat across the country and it cannot be business as usual.

Recent legislation which aimed to provide emergency support to members of the haulage industry was somewhat welcome. However, a substantial portion of the sector has been excluded. This week I have been contacted by Gleeson Concrete, which operates in Donohill, County Tipperary, as well as north Cork and Limerick. They are reliant on their hauliers but pointed out that while some delivery fleet personnel in the industry hold a haulage licence and will benefit from the emergency measure, the majority of International Coaching Federation member companies are own account operators and therefore not required to hold a haulage licence. As a result, they are ineligible for the Government's support measures despite incurring the same level of cost increases as licensed hauliers. Coach and school bus operators have also fallen foul of this with school transport operators locked into contracts of up to five years at a time. Is the Government giving consideration to extending the measures to the many operators in the State that do not meet the limiting criteria it has set down? Over 6,000 people are directly employed in the sector.

The Government has taken measures to help and to alleviate the pressures on the sector. As I said earlier, we cannot do everything. There are limits to what governments can do and they cannot 100% compensate every situation. We have to bear that in mind. We are conscious of the impact of the war, the issues arising from supply chain difficulties and inflationary pressures. We have to look at this over the 12-month cycle.

Yes, but most of these are own account operators and they are not eligible.

I know, but, unfortunately, the impacts of this will be longer term than we might have anticipated.

We are running out of time so I will take the last two speakers. I call Deputy Carthy.

Farmers across all sectors have been struggling with increasing input costs. The Government response has been far too slow and underwhelming. For pig farmers, those escalating input costs have been compounded by depressed prices. They are in a battle for the survival of the sector. They are protesting at Kildare Street today and pleading with Government to intervene further.

This is not a month-old crisis. I have been raising it with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine since September, as have many other Deputies. Does the Taoiseach accept the Government needs to do more? I welcome the limited moves that have been made but much more needs to be done. The sector has said it requires a €100 million package, about half of which can be provided in loans. Will the Taoiseach utilise the Brexit adjustment reserve, the EU crisis reserve and any other measures at his disposal to save the sector?

Tomorrow is a big day for the people of Cork and Limerick, given that the route selection for the M20 will finally conclude. We all know the story of the old Cork-Limerick road, how dangerous it is and how many accidents and fatalities there have been there over the years. Will the Taoiseach give the best assurance he can that this road will proceed this time?

To deal with Deputy Carthy first, the Government wants to keep the pig industry going. It is a good industry in terms of viability and had been doing well. Some market distortions arose. There is a perfect storm at the moment with the war in Ukraine. We have taken initial steps to assist the industry. The Minister, Deputy McConalogue, is in constant engagement with the farming organisations and State entities to see what can be done to respond further to the situation and to help.

The Government is committed to the Cork-Limerick road. The route selection tomorrow will be an important milestone in relation to that project. Anyone who has travelled that road knows there are too many bottlenecks, including Buttevant, Charleville and many others. This is something that many people are anxious to see happen from a road safety point of view, in particular.

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