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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Apr 2022

Vol. 1020 No. 5

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The report of the Business Committee has been circulated and can be taken as read. Are the proposed arrangements for this week's business agreed to?

They are not agreed.

I call Deputy Naughten.

Ireland is setting out a very ambitious set of targets in our carbon budgets for the next 15 years. If we are to achieve such significant reductions, we will need to bring the public along with us on that journey. People cannot be commanded. Effective change means putting the levers of climate action into people’s own hands. That will not be achieved by shoe-horning continental solutions into addressing the unique set of challenges that we face here in Ireland. We have a three-day debate every October in relation to our annual budget. Yet, the Government is only providing a 200-minute debate tomorrow on Dáil Éireann’s final approval of a carbon budget for the next 15 years, which will have long-term economic and societal impacts on every single individual. We believe that amount of time is insufficient.

On the same question, earlier the Taoiseach asked us and other speakers to be meaningful and honest. We opposed this carbon tax two years ago when the Government put forward its ten-card trick. There was talk about a three-card trick. We want a full and meaningful debate, and we want it today. We are challenging the Order of Business for that reason, to ensure that people can live and that they can survive, given the increases in the costs of ESB, gas, excise duty, etc. The Taoiseach dances around like on the head of a pin telling fibs and alienating us. We will go off for two weeks on Thursday but we will be back and on 1 May we will add insult to injury with another carbon tax. It is totally unacceptable and totally unpalatable to our people. It is anathema to right thinking people. We do not deny climate change, but this is not the time and this is not the way to deal with it, with a stick rather than a carrot. All the Taoiseach is missing here is the múinteoir and the bata, lecturing us all on what we can and cannot do. We have been honest with the people. It is the Taoiseach who has been dishonest, not us.

The Deputy’s time is up. I call Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

The war in Ukraine has led the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to put serious challenges to farmers across the country around food provision. However, the huge increases in fuel, as the Taoiseach knows, have had a devastating impact on farmers and fishermen. Fishermen all around the coast are telling us that they cannot go out to sea, given these costs. Yet, there is no intervention. We asked for statements on this issue, so that we could put the concerns we are hearing from farmers and fishermen across the country directly to the Minister, focus on this and hear what the Government’s plans are to assist the fishing and farming industries to meet the needs of our people in terms of food supply and food security.

Will the Taoiseach please make time this week for that to happen?

After a very brief respite during Covid-19 on the homeless situation because of the temporary eviction ban and the ban on further rent increases, now that those measures have been lifted, the family homeless situation is once again spiralling out of control. We need to address it in this House as a matter of absolute urgency. The figures are back up towards 10,000 people. In the past few days, I have been informed of 60 families who are going to be evicted from the Shannon Arms apartment complex in Limerick.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day on the telephone with a mother of three, whose husband works 12-hour shifts in a Dublin hospital, who was sitting in a park and had nowhere to live. This is someone whose husband protected us on the front line and now the family are homeless. They have been looking for tenancies for six months but they cannot find them. I am hearing story after story. The situation is getting decisively worse. We need to address it in this House as a matter of absolute urgency and have a discussion about what additional emergency measures we will take to stop the homelessness crisis spiralling out of control.

I thank the Deputy; his time is up. Can the Taoiseach deal with those questions?

First, in terms of Deputy Naughten's question, the carbon budget is provided for in legislation. In fairness, he would have heard Deputy Bacik say earlier that we are not moving fast enough. We have to move too. There are three and a half hours tomorrow for the debate. The more substantive debate could be on the actual sectoral budgets, which will come later in the year-----

The Dáil has no say in that. The final decision is tomorrow.

-----but it is very important that we set this overall limit. Let us be under no illusions, however. This will be very challenging. I anticipate more pushback from the Dáil. As I said earlier, as the UN Secretary-General said, there will be a lot of doublespeak on this. Many people will be saying that we need to do this and that but not yet, not now, not that way or to do it some other way.

It is the Taoiseach's way or the highway.

That is what is going to happen in this debate; of that I have no doubt. We have got to move ahead, however. There are three and a half hours for the debate tomorrow.

In terms of Deputy Mattie McGrath, I am nowhere near as a good dancer as he is. I have to put that on the record.

I can dance to music. Whose tune is the Taoiseach dancing to? He is dancing to the tune of the globalists.

The Taoiseach to answer, please.

I would never attempt to emulate the Deputy in that regard.

This is no joking matter.

I want to say this to Deputy McGrath, however-----

The Taoiseach is dancing to the tune of Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the music is bad.

I do not mind a meaningful debate at all. We should have a meaningful debate. I am not on the Business Committee. Only so much can be done on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in terms of Dáil time. Again, there is Private Members' time, which people have-----

We will be using it.

-----if they want to put forward issues for debate.

In terms of Deputy Mac Lochlainn's question, the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, is very well aware of the issues. In fact, I was with him in counties Donegal and Derry on Friday and Saturday. It is clear that he has engaged with the fishers on an overall package of measures, which are obviously connected to Brexit as well, to try to enable them to get over this period. He also had engagement with the farming sector in terms of support for tillage farmers, in particular, around the food crop issues. Again, Deputy Mac Lochlainn is on the committee. We can only do so much in any one week but I have no issue in terms of debates on agriculture or fishers. If we cannot do it this week, maybe we can extend. I do not mind additional hours perhaps being added to the programme; I am open to that. There is also Private Members' time. The Deputy could maybe have put something forward in Private Members' time.

In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett, again, I have no issue with a debate. There are many factors with regard to homelessness as well. It is not all to do with evictions, by the way. In fact, we have growing-----

It is all getting worse, though.

No, there are actually other factors, which are quite significant in terms of emergency accommodation we have to provide, which has nothing to do with Ukraine but in terms of normal inward traffic to the country. That is a factor as well.

To clarify, a Cheann Comhairle, is the Government agreed to making time available for statements?

No, I simply said that the Deputy would have been involved himself in preparing the agenda.

Come on now. The Taoiseach knows how this works. The Government decides what is on the schedule.

(Interruptions).

We are out of time.

Sinn Féin has two Private Members' Business slots this week and, for some reason, it did not decide to raise the issues relating to fishermen or farmers.

On a point of clarification, I do not like the mood music coming from the Taoiseach's lips. It is the dead man's waltz.

I am now putting the question.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with this week's business be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 64; Níl, 57; Staon, 0.

  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • 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.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

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

Evidence is emerging of brutal war crimes by the Russian military in Ukraine. Innocent civilians have been shot dead with their arms behind their backs by retreating troops in the town of Bucha and the area surrounding Kyiv. There is aerial footage of dead bodies on the side of the road. These actions are appalling and barbaric. They demand investigation by the International Criminal Court. Russia must be held accountable. Incredibly, however, the Russian Embassy in Ireland has dismissed the evidence as what it calls "another stage in the disinformation war against Russia." Ambassador Filatov continues as an unapologetic propagandist for Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine. In the face of these war crimes, it is now long past time that Ireland acts decisively to stand four-square for human rights and justice. It is time to expel the Russian ambassador from Ireland. I ask the Taoiseach to act.

I condemn utterly the indiscriminate murder of civilians in Ukraine by Russian forces. The images we have seen from Bucha, Irpin and other small villages cut very deep and leave an indelible mark on the human conscience. These acts of depravity have to be responded to. Ireland and European Union member states have acted very decisively to this war in the form of the most severe and unprecedented sanctions yet deployed against the Russian Federation. There will be a fifth round of sanctions to which Ireland will be a party. We have been in discussion over the past 48 hours regarding those sanctions. We took significant measures last week in respect of four senior officials in the Russian Federation embassy by asking them to leave the country. We will work in concert with other EU member states to do things as collectively as we can and with the most impact.

I have just received notification this very minute that a company, Positive Care, which provides residential services for young people, is to be put out of business with the loss of up to 240 jobs. The company provides residential services for vulnerable young people in up to 25 facilities, as I understand it. I appreciate that I am inquiring with the Taoiseach about this matter at very short notice, but I ask him to make himself aware of what is happening. It is very serious for the provision of services for young, vulnerable people, especially those who are in residential care. The loss of this service provider represents a massive blow to the capability of this country to provide for the most vulnerable of our young people.

The measures that Tusla takes in respect of children in residential care, whether its own or private residential care, are really important. Where we use private residential care, all procurement measures must be adhered to. My understanding is that this company has not been successful in the recent tendering process and that Tusla is engaging with it to ensure that a care plan is put in place for all children who will be leaving the care of the company. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter, which I will continue to monitor.

There is an appalling disparity in the Government's allocation of our national mackerel quota. Only 2% is assigned to all vessels under 15 m, while 98% is given to a few much larger boats. Inshore fishers make up the majority of the fishing sector and they engage in the most sustainable type of fishing which has been practised in our island and coastal communities for centuries, yet they only receive 2% of the quota. Last year, because of this massive disparity, inshore fishers were forced to stop catching mackerel in June. I spoke on the issue then. In the meantime, I have repeatedly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to adjust the quota. He has refused to do so. It is very clear that last year's situation will be repeated. Small family fishers who are just getting by will again be restricted in making their livelihoods without policy change. Will the Government please reconsider this blatantly unfair policy?

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I know it is something we have discussed before. Mackerel is the species most impacted by Brexit trade and co-operation agreement. Between now and 2026, we will lose 25% of our mackerel-----

Sorry, but I am not asking about that.

I am talking about the national allocation of our mackerel quota.

I heard the Deputy's question.

I am answering, but context is obviously really important. We have only a certain quota nationally. The point I am making is that 25% of that between now and 2026 will be lost due to the severe impact, particularly on mackerel, of Brexit. We have to manage what we have. There is not agreement that any of that would be reallocated from any of the sectors that currently use it to the inshore hook-and-line sector. At the moment, that sector, which extremely sustainable, viable and important, gets 400 tonnes per year. A few years ago, it did not get any. It has since been allocated 400 tonnes. Any decision to change that would require a significant and comprehensive consultation process.

It is only 2% to the sector.

That is correct. There is not agreement among the sector on that. It is certainly something I am considering.

I am considering the matter but there has been no decision made in respect of it. This is not straight forward because fishers are not agreed on it.

I want to quote back to the Taoiseach the words of the UN General Secretary, António Guterres. The Taoiseach quoted Mr. Guterres this morning as follows: "Some government and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying". The Taoiseach seems to think that this applies to the Opposition because those in opposition, or some of u, at least, are against the imposition of punitive carbon taxes on ordinary people. Yet carbon taxes seem to be the only tool in the Government's kit for dealing with climate change. While the Taoiseach uses this quote, at the same time he is leaving the door open to liquified natural gas, LNG, the proliferation of data centres and the reintroduction of gas-fired power stations. How does the Taoiseach answer that accusation? António Guterres is actually accusing the Taoiseach and the Government not the Opposition, which is opposed to the imposition of carbon taxes on ordinary people.

I disagree. I quoted that this morning because, without question, there is a lot of doublespeak in this House and there is a lot of doublespeak among the Opposition. When it comes to any measure relating to climate change that has any sense of unpopularity about it, the Opposition will resist it or find some excuse to go against it.

What is unpopular with the Taoiseach is banning data centres and shutting down the possibility LNG here.

What about the actual fossil fuels?

The ESRI's research on carbon tax contradicts the Deputy's assertion. It states that the lower four deciles are not negatively impacted by it because it is offset by-----

Nonsense. The Taoiseach should listen to the science not to his own logic.

Please Deputy.

Because the carbon tax is redistributed, the lower three are basically not negatively affected. The Deputy knows that. However, that does not matter to her because she is only interested in the electoral gain on this.

I am asking the Taoiseach about the science of allowing in LNG and allowing data centres to use up our electricity.

We do not have LNG in this country.

The Government is allowing it in. It is leaving the door open.

Deputy please. There is no provision for people to interrupt continuously while questions are-----

There is when you are angry and you cannot help yourself. The Taoiseach is accusing me of------

No. There is no such provision. The Deputy is out of order.

I attended a presentation this morning on a report by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice. I commend Sr. Bernadette MacMahon and her team, alongside Dr. Nikki Dunne of Family Carers Ireland, on the excellent work they have done and presented on the cost of care at home for those with disabilities and on the premise that everyone should have a minimum essential standard of living, MESL, based on one's essential needs not the wants. The report is a phenomenal piece of work.

One matter that arises from it is that being in receipt of carer's allowance is not an automatic entitlement for the fuel allowance. Given the times we are living in and that the research today says that at least €168 per week more will be required just to give that minimum essential standard of living, can the Government commit to including carer's allowance as an automatic entitlement to the fuel allowance, now and in the future, and remove it from the means test?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and I commend the work of the Vincentian Partnership. We take on board many of its recommendations when compiling budgets. That is why in the most recent budget I was delighted to be able to introduce a broad range of measures to support carers. We increased the means threshold and the capital allowance. A great deal of work has been done in this area in order to improve the situation of carers. However, there is more to be done. Of course, we will take any reports of this nature into consideration when we are looking at our budget considerations in the coming months. I will be meeting with the Vincentian Partnership, along with the many other organisations toi which we provide a lot of support, and asking it to highlight the issues outlined in its report.

This morning we learned that the Department of Health will pay the €187,000 salary of the former Chief Medical Officer, CMO, Dr. Tony Holohan, while he dips his toe into academia at Trinity College Dublin. The Department will also have to pay his replacement. Is this not evidence of a cosy cartel or a two- or three-tier society? People are hard-pressed to try to survive and yet the Government can do this for Dr. Holohan, its friend. This goes all the way back to Aughinish Alumina. They covered up for each other and this is his reward. He can go into Trinity College and the Department of Health will pay his money while people wait for all kinds of treatments for cancer, orthodontics, spina bifida, you name it. As stated, the Department is also going to pay his replacement. The Government is taking the public for right patsies. That is one thing they are not. We have decent people. Show them some respect and stop this double-jobbing and scandalous waste of money.

I am not familiar with the arrangements between the Department of Health and Trinity College. I was not involved, one way or another, in the decision taken by the Department of Health to create this post on public health and pandemic preparedness and second the CMO to it. That is my understanding of the matter from the perspective of the Department of Health. The Deputy's personalisation of it between myself and Dr. Holohan should be withdrawn. I had no hand, act or part in it.

Personalisation. Shocking. Is the Taoiseach in charge of the country or not?

Is the Cabinet in charge?

Please. I call Deputy Connolly.

Where has collective responsibility gone?

The Taoiseach referred selectively to the report that was published earlier today. He talked about doublespeak and putting things off. The decarbonisation zones were an action under the Climate Action Plan 2019. Almost a year ago, local authorities were requested to submit decarbonisation plans. Galway City Council did that. There has been absolutely no action on the part of the Government in a year. It is really since 2019, but it is more than a year now because April was the closing date. The plans sit in the Department awaiting approval in the context of guidelines. If that is not doublespeak in action and complete hypocrisy, I do not know what is. I am raising this matter for the second time in a month. When will we get action on the decarbonisation plans that sit with the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government pending the introduction of regulations?

Let us be clear that in the last 18 months there has been unprecedented action on climate change. Legislation that has been passed on carbon budgeting and the maritime Act will give us the opportunity to develop wind energy. The idea that the Government is engaged in doublespeak - the Deputy itemised one issue and through that made the generalised accusation against us - does not hold water at all. That is a flawed premise upon which to base her assertions because the Government has been very strong on climate change on a whole range of issues of substance. Country councils do not need Government guidance on what is required-----

The Department is sitting on the applications.

-----because most local authorities-----

A Cheann Comhairle-----

Just hear me out please. You have this facility - you ask the question, you do not like the answer and you interrupt. You are not alone in that. Others are doing the same.

I did not get an answer.

I have been around the country. Local authorities-----

I will move out of the way.

-----are advancing right across the country on active travel, a whole range of environmental schemes and on biodiversity. The Deputy has overstated the position.

The time is up. I call Deputy McAuliffe.

Deputy Connolly has overstated the position.

This weekend we had another person murdered in my constituency in what has been reported as being a gangland assassination. This follows weeks in which other people have been murdered following the discharge of an illegal firearm. We have had homes that have been petrol-bombed or suffered arson attacks. We have had a kidnapping. We have had social media platforms being used by rival gangs to issue threats. We had one family home where people were intimidated so it could be turned into a headquarters for a drug cartel and retrofitted with bulletproof glass and CCTV.

There are many people in my community wondering what is coming at them next due to these actions by the rival gangs. Will the Taoiseach join me in condemning this illegal drug industry and what it is doing to my community? Can he raise these matters with the Garda Commissioner? There is a good history of success of Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána working together to tackle some of these issues. More resources would benefit that.

I thank the Deputy for articulating so vividly the horrors of what is occurring in certain locations across the city. In the area he represents there was, at the weekend, the shocking murder of a young man. Certainly at Government level we will do everything we can. The Garda and Minister for Justice are doing everything they can through the criminal justice system to stamp out this criminality. At a broader level, we want to work with communities on the social side through initiatives like, for example, the North East Inner City, NEIC, which is a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach. We want to apply that to other communities not just in the city of Dublin but across the country.

As the Taoiseach is aware, the HSE is having significant and sustained issues with retaining suitable staff to complete the 91 children's disability network teams across the country. Will he please outline the steps the Government is taking to arrest this critical deficit within the service, which is having an adverse impact on young people across the country?

I will certainly raise that and follow that through for the Deputy. He has raised a very fair point.

I raise the lack of secondary school places, especially in Midleton. I acknowledge the Carrigtohill campus is going ahead but I was made aware the Minister for Education had turned to asking the additional schools to open additional classes last year. I ask the Taoiseach if there are any plans to build another secondary school in Midleton.

Deputy Buckley, along with Deputies O'Connor, Stanton and others, has been raising this issue for quite some time about the need in the east of County Cork. Very substantial investment has, as Deputy Buckley knows, been sanctioned for the Carrigtohill site. I understand there are further challenges with school placements. I will follow that through with the Department of Education and see where we are.

The number of unfilled consultant posts at Mayo University Hospital is reaching critical levels. I have a responsibility to the people of Mayo to raise this issue as I want our hospital in Castlebar to succeed into the future. With over 700 unfilled consultant posts in hospitals around the country and the age profile of consultants in Mayo University Hospital being much closer to retirement age there needs to be action to get new specialist registrars into our hospital. I understand there are still issues ongoing to remediate consultants pay parity and restore trust between consultant bodies and health service management around financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI. Will the Taoiseach provide an update on when we will see agreement reached on the implementation of consultant contracts, which we need if we are to have any chance of getting vacant posts filled?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. First, the total number of funded consultant positions in Mayo University Hospital is about 64, with 60.5 currently in post when locums are included. The area of difficulty in filling posts in Mayo University Hospital is predominantly within the medical speciality, so there are a range of issue there. Interviews will be held in April for two obstetric consultant posts and one consultant endocrinology post. Other posts that have been advertised and have interview dates pending includes positions in geriatrics, emergency medicine, respiratory medicine, cardiology medicine and medicine in general. At a broader level, there has been substantial recruitment of consultants across the board. It is higher than was sometimes anticipated. On the advancement of new contracts in line with the Sláintecare proposal, we have had intensive discussions on that.

As the Taoiseach is aware, coach operators are not at present eligible to register for VAT. That would enable them to claim back the VAT paid on fuel, tyres and other running costs. I understand some EU requirement does not allow for such registration. The Taoiseach has been advocating at EU level for some flexibility on VAT issues. In that context, this is an area that needs urgent consideration.

Coach operators are under particular pressure at present. One small-scale operator in my county operates a cross-Border service established in 2012. The same fares are being charged today as back in 2012. That is not viable in the long run and the coach operators need some particular assistance in that regard, especially with costs to try to reduce them. They cannot pass any more costs onto the consumer. In that context there are particular difficulties in the Border region because in the neighbouring jurisdiction, such businesses are eligible for VAT registration.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. The Department of Finance is advised by Revenue the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to EU VAT law. In general, the VAT directive provides all goods and services are liable for VAT at the standard rate, currently 23% in Ireland, unless they fall within categories of goods and services specified in the directive. The directive also allows for historic VAT treatment to be maintained under certain conditions.

Ireland has retained the application of VAT exemption to the transport of passengers and their accompanying baggage. This means the supplier does not register for VAT, does not charge VAT on the supply of their services and has no VAT-recovery entitlement on costs where such costs are used for the exempted supply of passenger transport. Ireland may continue to apply the VAT exemption on the supply of domestic passenger transport as governed by Article 371 of the VAT directive. However, it cannot change the conditions under which the exemption was granted. In accordance with the directive a reduced rate of VAT could be introduced to the supply of passenger transport in place of the exemption that currently applies. While this would give the transport operator deductibility in relation to VAT on their business inputs it would involve charging passengers VAT on their fares.

Thank you, Taoiseach.

We will have to look at other ways. We will work with the Deputy and engage further on this to see what we can do.

We are out of time but I will call the remaining Deputies if they can put their question in 30 seconds. Deputy Mythen is first.

I have had several smaller childcare services in Wexford contacting me regarding the new core funding for the early childhood care and education, ECCE, sector. Some services, through the online portal, are only showing they will break even or see a slight increase in funding allocations. Will the Taoiseach contact the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and ensure that where there are such small margins, and where smaller operators will continue to struggle and possibly close altogether, extra help will be given to them?

The Department of Education has announced an alternate sitting for leaving certificate 2022 for students who have close family bereavement, Covid-19 illness or certain other categories of illness. I have been contacted by families of students with epilepsy who are trying to be included in that scheme, especially students who may experience a seizure just before or during an exam. So far they have had vague, uncertain answers on whether students with epilepsy will be included in the scheme. Can the Government give certainty a flexible and compassionate approach will be taken for students with epilepsy by including them in the scheme?

Last Monday week a lady of 88 years of age fell on the roadside near her home in Bandon. She was lifted by her family back to her house knowing she had a hip and shoulder injury. We found out afterwards she had a fractured hip and broken shoulder.

They called an ambulance immediately at 2 p.m. but it did not arrive until 4 a.m and she was in hospital at 5 a.m., 15 hours later. I have heard similar stories from around the country. In order for the people of west Cork and throughout the country to regain confidence in their ambulance service, I ask the Taoiseach to investigate how this lady was left waiting for 15 hours for an ambulance and to make sure that ambulances appointed to specific areas are not travelling all over the country but are where they should be.

I want to raise the impending wipe out of the pig industry in the very near future if we do not act quickly to plug the hole in the colossal losses engulfing family pig farms around the country. Teagasc has estimated that pig farmers are losing an average of €56,000 per month, and rising. The war in Ukraine has had an impact on feed prices and Teagasc is also taking into account what is happening with energy costs. I thank the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, for his interventions, including his recent visit to Cavan and I ask the Taoiseach to give us an update on those interventions now.

I want to raise the ongoing industrial action at Lisk in Gort, County Galway. The company is refusing to engage with the workers' trade union, SIPTU, despite a Labour Court recommendation that the company should recognise the trade union and negotiate with it on worker's concerns. Of course, companies like Lisk have representative groups, such as IBEC, and should, therefore, give the same opportunity for representation to their workers through their trade unions. I ask the Taoiseach to use his office to encourage the company to recognise the State's industrial machinery.

Could we have a very brief response to those matters please?

In response to Deputy Mythen, €220 million in core funding went into childcare this year. It should be within the capacity of the sector, given that level of funding, to deal with the issue he raised, although I do not know the details of the individual case.

On Deputy Costello's point, I will talk to the Minister for Education. The move the Minister has made in having an alternative exam is quite a radical shift from the traditional stance in terms of standardisation, assessment and so on. I say that as someone who served in the Department previously. I will talk to the Minister about the Deputy's point on epilepsy but the move that was made, in itself, is very significant.

In response to Deputy Collins, I will ask for that incident to be investigated. I will raise the issue with the HSE and the National Ambulance Service. The Deputy has made a very legitimate point. It is very unacceptable that a woman in a frail condition with a broken hip would have to wait so long to get to hospital.

Regarding the issue raised by Deputy Farrell, I would appeal to all parties to that dispute to utilise the existing labour relations mechanisms to have it resolved.

Deputy Niamh Smyth raised the issue of pig farmers.

Sorry. On the pig industry, Deputy Smyth will know from her interactions with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, that he is working intensively with the pig farmers. It is an industry that ordinarily is viable but because of a unique set of circumstances, a perfect storm has emerged for the industry. We want to protect the jobs and the industry and the Minister is working on that basis.

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