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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Vol. 1021 No. 6

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The report of the Business Committee has been circulated. In accordance with Standing Order 35, I ask the Government Chief Whip to move this week's Order of Business.

I move:

Tuesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Bills considered in Select Committee (without debate)

- Statements to mark Europe Day (not to exceed 145 mins)

Private Members' Business shall be Motion re Affordable Housing, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions (without debate)

- Statements on the Report of Review of Defamation Act 2009 (not to exceed 135 mins)

- Motion re Ireland's Opt-in to a proposal for a Council Decision to provide for continued exchange of DNA-profile and fingerprint (dactyloscopic) data (Prüm data) with the United Kingdom after 30 June 2022*

- Motion re Council Decision (EU) 2021/430 on the position taken on behalf of the European Union on the 'Kyoto Declaration'*

- Motion re Opt-in to Regulation (EU) 2021/2260 re Annex A & B of recast Insolvency Regulation*

* To be debated together and brought to a conclusion after 55 minutes

- Consumer Rights Bill 2022 (Second Stage) (if not previously concluded, to be interrupted either at 8.30 p.m. or two-and-a-half hours after the conclusion of the opt-in motions, whichever is the later)

Private Members' Business shall be Second Stage of the Living Wage Bill 2022, selected by the Labour Party.

Thursday's business shall be:

- Statements and Questions and Answers on National Maternity Hospital (not to exceed 135 mins)

- Statements on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Security (not to exceed 145 mins)

- Consumer Rights Bill 2022 (Second stage, resumed, if not previously concluded).

Thursday evening business shall be Second Stage of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2021.

Proposed Arrangements for this week's business

In relation to Tuesday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall apply, save that the time allocated to Government business shall be sufficient to conclude the Statements to Mark Europe Day, and the time for the adjournment of the Dáil shall be adjusted accordingly;

2. the Motion re Bills considered in Select Committee shall be taken without debate;

3. the Statements to mark Europe Day shall not exceed 145 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 135 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time; and

4. the Order of referral to the Select Committee on Justice of the European Arrest Warrant (Amendment) Bill 2022 hereby stands discharged.

In relation to Wednesday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall apply, save that Government business shall, if not previously concluded, be interrupted for the weekly division time either at 8.30 p.m., or two-and-a-half hours following the conclusion of the Motion re Opt-in to Regulation (EU) 2021/2260 re Annex A & B of recast Insolvency Regulation, whichever is the later: Provided that in any event, the weekly division time shall be taken no earlier than 8.30 p.m.;

2. notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 170(2), the proceedings on Second Stage of the Living Wage Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours;

3. the Motion re Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions shall be taken without debate;

4. the Statements on the Report of Review of Defamation Act 2009 shall not exceed 135 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for that time, and members may share time; and

5. in relation to the Motions re Opt-in to COM (2022) 158 proposal for a Council Decision to provide for continued exchange of DNA-profile and fingerprint data with the United Kingdom after 30 June 2022, Opt-in to Council Decision (EU) 2021/430 on the position taken on behalf of the European Union on the ‘Kyoto Declaration', and Opt-in to Regulation (EU) 2021/2260 re Annex A & B of recast Insolvency Regulation, the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) the motions shall be debated together and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 55 minutes;

(ii) the order of speaking and the allocation of speaking times shall be as follows:

- opening speech by a Minister or Minister of State - 10 minutes;

- speech by a representative of Sinn Féin - 10 minutes;

- speeches by representatives of the Labour Party, Social Democrats, People-Before-Profit-Solidarity, the Regional Group, the Rural Independent Group, and the Independent Group - 5 minutes per party or group; and

- a speech in response by a Minister or Minister of State - 5 minutes; and

(iii) members may share time.

In relation to Thursday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall apply, save that Government business, if not previously concluded, shall be interrupted at 7.27 p.m. in order to take topical issues, and the time for the adjournment of the Dáil shall be adjusted accordingly: Provided that topical issues shall be taken on the conclusion of Government business if it concludes before 7.27 p.m;

2. the Statements and Questions and Answers on National Maternity Hospital shall not exceed 135 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for that time, provided that members may use their time for a combination of statements and questions and answers, or questions and answers only, and members may share time; and

3. the Statements on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Security shall not exceed 145 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 135 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time.

Are the arrangements for this week's business agreed to?

No. The deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála has stepped aside temporarily. He has admitted to what he says is an inadvertent conflict of interest. There are other allegations of conflict of interest reported in the media and under investigation. Given the centrality of An Bord Pleanála to the planning system and how important it is in terms of the planning process, will the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage come to the Dáil to make a statement on this?

In view of what the Taoiseach said in regard to transport, and the fact that not all the private transport companies can avail of the lovely, sweet 20% reduction - now 50% reduction in some cases - for transport services in cities and between cities, what about the people of rural Ireland? Are they going to have to walk? The Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is failing to come to talk to us. He is not turning up tonight up for a Topical Issue debate on it. We need a debate in the House about the discrimination against rural dwellers. It is shocking. This is in the transport area. Any student from my constituency who is depending on JJ Kavanagh and Sons or any other provider cannot get the reduction. It is totally unfair and discriminatory and I hope someone challenges it in the courts. The Minister's people are from Tipperary and he should be ashamed of himself for the way he is excluding large portions of the country and not allowing people there to have fair access to transport, education and all other services. It is totally discriminatory and we need a debate on it.

I concur with the call to have a discussion on the situation in An Bord Pleanála. The fact that the deputy chairman has had to step aside as an investigation and audit take place throws up very serious questions over the governance and integrity of the board. I believe there are deeper questions to do with the ridiculous situation whereby a quorum of only three is required to deal with appeals, which means, in essence, two people can decide. We have constant situations of planning inspectors being overridden by a tiny number of people on the board. Then we have this situation with the deputy chairman.

We therefore need a serious discussion about the implications of what has just happened at An Bord Pleanála.

Deputy Cian O'Callaghan, to be fair, raised this issue last week in the Dáil. I think Deputy Ó Broin raised it also. The Minister responded on that occasion in the Dáil. Separate from the allegations that had been made, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has also been made aware of correspondence between the deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála, Mr. Paul Hyde, and the board secretary, which was brought to the attention of the Minister's Department by the chairperson of An Bord Pleanála. The concerns about a conflict of interest disclosed by Mr. Hyde on 3 May 2022 relate to a meeting in 2021 and a board decision. Mr. Hyde states in his correspondence that he became aware of the conflict of interest only on 28 April 2022. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, requested a report from the chairperson of An Bord Pleanála when he became aware of this matter on 6 May 2022. The chairperson responded to the Minister on Monday, 9 May, that Mr. Hyde had agreed to absent himself from his duties as deputy chairperson for the time being on a strictly without-prejudice basis, pending completion of the chairperson's analysis of the matters raised. In this context Mr. Hyde will not be in attendance in the board's offices or have access to the board's electronic systems or documentation, and his case files have been reassigned to ensure the efficient discharge of the functions of the board. As the House will know, the Minister has appointed Mr. Remy Farrell to conduct an examination of this issue. In fairness, it was not envisaged that there would be a statement on the matter on this week's Dáil schedule. I think we should await the outcome of the examination of the matter. Then, by all means, we can have a debate on the matter and the Minister can come before the House to discuss it.

In response to Deputy Mattie McGrath's points, there is to be a debate on agriculture on Thursday.

No. The Deputy asked for a debate last week.

Last week, yes, but not-----

Yes. The Deputy sought a debate on agriculture this week.

We cannot have a debate on everything we might want to debate in the one week. That said, on the point the Deputy has raised, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has engaged with the transport operators.

My understanding is that he has and that he will continue to do so. He has connections in Tipperary. He has connections in Cork. He has connections in a lot of places, apparently.

You would not think it listening to him.

He is far more in touch with rural Ireland-----

-----than the Deputy gives him credit for, given the broad tentacles his family reach out there.

Deputy Boyd Barrett raised the same issue with An Bord Pleanála, and the same reply applies.

We will have a statement then, will we?

After the report is-----

My reply to Deputy Cian O'Callaghan applies to Deputy Boyd Barrett's question as well.

Are the proposed arrangements now agreed to?

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with this week's business be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 59; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • 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.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • 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 want to ask the Taoiseach about the Government's plan to pay big developers up to €120,000 per apartment they build. This has people shaking their heads in disbelief. Essentially, it means the Government proposes to give €450 million of taxpayers' money to a few developers. This is astonishing. What is more astonishing is that there will be no cut in the price of those apartments, which the developer will put on the market for anything between €400,000 and €600,000. This is way beyond the reach of ordinary workers and families. This is the transfer of million of taxpayers' money to developers with no public benefit at a time when local authorities and housing bodies are crying out for funding. How does the Taoiseach justify a misguided policy such as this?

There has been a well-documented viability gap between the delivery cost of eligible apartments and the open market sale price of the apartments. This is preventing many apartments from being built. There is a significant issue in the cities in particular. We want to enable affordability for people to be in a position to buy.

The beneficiaries of this grant will be members of the general public, who will now be in a position to buy apartments in city schemes, and the apartment supply sector, which can bring stalled schemes to construction. It is one part of a suite of measures designed to increase social, affordable and private housing. It will only bridge the gap between the achievable price on the open market and the cost of construction, which in many cases is expected to be less than €120,000.

The Taoiseach may be aware that the Labour Party is running a campaign demanding a pay rise for Irish workers. The Taoiseach announced that the VAT cut of 9% will remain for the hospitality sector until February 2023. The number of workers in that sector on the minimum wage is three times the national average so it is a low-pay sector. As we constantly remind the Taoiseach, 23% of Irish workers are on low pay. We are the third highest in the OECD when it comes to the proportion of low-paid workers. The Taoiseach should engage with employers and tell them that the payback for continuing with the 9% VAT rate is their engagement with the joint labour committees to ensure their workers are properly paid. We cannot stand over a situation where the Government is gifting employers a 9% VAT rate but they still stand over a system of poverty pay.

Generally, the intention of the extension of the 9% VAT rate until February 2023 is a good thing for workers and employers in the hospitality sector because this sector took a significant hit during Covid-19 over two successive years. In respect of joint labour committees and proper pay, I accept fully the Deputy's point about ensuring good-quality pay in that sector as well. This will be necessary because of labour shortages in that sector. More important, providing good-quality pay and conditions to people in the sector is a basic way to proceed and operate. We want to create opportunities for people with a genuine career interest in the hospitality sector.

Last week, Deputy Whitmore asked if either the Taoiseach or the Minister for Health had spoken to the two members of the HSE board who did not sign off on the national maternity hospital deal - law professor Deirdre Madden and patient advocate Dr. Sarah McLoughlin. The Taoiseach bristled at the very suggestion that it was "a new departure to even consider hearing from individual board members who happen to take a particular stance on a particular issue". Imagine my surprise when I opened the Irish Examiner today and saw a lengthy column from HSE board member Fergus Finlay explaining why he supported the deal. The Taoiseach referenced the article earlier. Can the Taoiseach clarify whether it is his view that it is only those HSE board members who agree with the deal who should speak publicly about it? If that is not his view, can he confirm that he has no problem with either Professor Madden or Dr. McLoughlin attending the Joint Committee on Health this week to outline her concerns about this deal?

First of all, I did not bristle. That presentation of what transpired in this House is wrong. I merely made the point that in terms of-----

That is a direct quote

I did not bristle. Generally speaking, if a board is a board, it takes collective decisions. It has emerged that in respect of this issue, two members of the HSE board recorded their dissent from the decision that was taken in the minutes. I have no issues with people articulating their view but legally, the HSE board has to take a collective view and a decision on an issue put before it in terms of documentation.

Could the Taoiseach answer the question?

I just have. I said I did not have an issue.

Can they come before the Oireachtas committee?

Having listened to the Taoiseach earlier during Leaders' Questions, I put it to him that he is out of touch with the mood of the country on the issue of the national maternity hospital. He has had more than a week to make his case but polling still shows a majority against his plan. People want a State hospital on State land and 100% certainty that procedures opposed by the Catholic Church will be available there. They will be making their views very clear outside the gates of Leinster House at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The State should not be renting the land for our national maternity hospital from a company connected to an order of nuns and nor should that company have three directors on the board of the hospital. When the people voted for repeal, they voted to throw all of the old rubbish out of the house and into the dustbin of history. Why is the Government now trying to drag it back in?

The only interest I and the Government have is to provide a modern hospital and to make sure all services legally permitted in this State, for which people voted, will be provided and that the best of facilities will be provided for babies, premature babies in particular. That is the only interest we have. This has dragged on since 2013 and I believe sincerely that we need to get this hospital built. It is going to take some years to get it built in terms of all of the procedures involved in the physical preparations and so on.

Every day the National Ambulance Service, NAS, deploys approximately 160 to 180 emergency ambulances, an average of 22 rapid response vehicles and in excess of 50 officer response vehicles operating in over 100 locations across the country. Life-threatening calls are split into two categories, namely, delta, which are non-cardiac and non-respiratory calls, and echo, which are life-threatening cardiac and respiratory calls. Echo and delta calls account for approximately 45% of all 112 and 999 calls. Why is it taking so long for ambulances to arrive? In some cases, vehicles are taking between one and two hours to reach people. At a football match in Dundalk last weekend a young footballer with a spinal injury had to wait for nearly two hours for an ambulance to arrive. I know this is the responsibility of the Minister for Health but nobody appears to be accountable for the process management side. There needs to be more accountability when it comes to waiting times. Who is accountable?

I will engage with the NAS on the case mentioned and alert it to the points Deputy Fitzpatrick has raised. Increased resources have been provided in this year's Estimates to the NAS in respect of increasing capacity and so forth. The objective is to get the ambulances to people as quickly as possible but issues have been raised in the House of late and I will pursue those with the service.

I raised the matter of the pig industry with the Taoiseach several weeks ago. The Irish Farmers Association and other farming organisations as well as individual pig farmers are protesting at four processing plants today. When is the Government going to do something meaningful to rescue our pig industry? We only have a certain number of pig farmers now and, as I said previously, the Taoiseach will not act until there are no rashers for his breakfast roll. He talked about lettuce to me the last day. These people have given gallant service and provided significant employment but they are on their knees. The Government keeps talking but there are funds in Europe for which we have not yet applied. The pig farmers need assistance. Indeed, they needed it two or three months ago, not just talk about it. The Taoiseach must act and he must ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to act as well.

The Minister has responded to the industry.

He has responded to the industry. He made an initial allocation to support the industry, followed by a further initiative and he is continuing to engage with the industry. We do recognise that the pig industry is very important, with good employment. It is normally a viable industry but because of the inflationary cycle post pandemic and the war, the situation has become very difficult with input costs. That is acknowledged and the Minister has responded and will continue to engage.

I would like to return to the issue of the national maternity hospital, particularly in the context of the Taoiseach's emphasis on honesty. Last Tuesday, the Cabinet had concerns and could not sign off on the proposal for the national maternity hospital. The Government has allowed for a two-week period before a final decision but in the interim, we have been consistently told by Government sources that there will be no change. That is disingenuous. Why are we going through the process of having a committee meeting tomorrow if there is going to be no change?

Second, the Taoiseach graced Fergus Finlay's article and in that context, I want to reiterate what Deputy Cairns said. The Taoiseach used Mr. Finlay's article today to back up the narrative and he is entitled to do that in a democracy, but I ask him to clarify whether Professor Madden and Dr. Sarah McLoughlin can also speak out. I am sure the Taoiseach is going to tell me that it is a matter for the board but I am asking him for his own view on this. Yesterday, the Minister for Health, speaking on an RTÉ programme, saw no problem with the two dissenting voices being heard at the committee and clarifying why they dissented. What is the Taoiseach's opinion?

First, the Cabinet did not take a decision last week in relation to this before making sure there was full transparency in relation to all of the documents that are underpinning the Government's consideration and the decision it will take. Deputy Connolly would have been in the House asking that the Government would not take a decision before issues were made public. All of the documentation has been made public and there will be a hearing tomorrow before the Joint Committee on Health.

To date, I have not heard anything that undermines the idea of clinical, financial and operational independence for the hospital or that raises any questions around those services that are lawfully permitted in the State being provided. I have not heard anything really that questions the fundamentals of those agreements.

In respect of the HSE board members, my sense is that the board needs to deal with this because there are more than three members on the board. I am sure Deputy Connolly, at another time and on another issue, would say that the board itself, collectively, has a responsibility to articulate its position.

The Taoiseach has quoted Mr. Finlay-----

Yes, I have because it is in the public domain. Deputy Connolly has quoted-----

-----minutes of the HSE board.

Thank you. We cannot go into it in such detail now. Deputy McAuliffe-----

I take Deputy Connolly's point but-----

Please, we are out of time. Deputy McAuliffe is next.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of infection that can impact anybody. In fact, nearly seven people a day die with sepsis. The Taoiseach will know of the death in my constituency of 15-year-old Seán Hughes from sepsis. His parents have done tremendous work in raising awareness of sepsis and got a commitment from the Minister for Health in the previous Government that similar work would be done by the HSE. Unfortunately and mainly due to Covid-19, only €50,000 has been spent in the past three years on this campaign. Will the Taoiseach write to the HSE and urge it to significantly increase the resources available for sepsis awareness and use tools such as television and radio advertisements, which were used widely during Covid-19, to communicate a really important public health message?

I thank the Deputy for raising what is a very important issue. I certainly will engage with the Minister for Health in relation to this because quite a number of people get very ill and some pass away through not identifying sepsis early on. Sometimes it can be too late when it is identified and this can cause terrible damage and loss of life. It is something that deserves a far greater allocation of resources.

I warmly welcome the Cabinet's decision today to extend the 9% VAT rate for hospitality. This is something I have called for many times because it is beneficial to businesses and consumers alike. In my constituency in Kerry, it will be welcomed and is much-needed as we try to restart the tourism and hospitality sector. One thing that will very much help us restart that sector and, in particular, to raise our profile abroad, especially in North America, would be a presidential visit. There have been rumours that a presidential visit will take place later this year. Is that the case? Given that the estimated advertising value of such a visit can run into hundreds of millions of euro, I ask that we prioritise a visit to County Kerry by the President of the United States. We are approaching the 250th anniversary of the birth of Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, who had very strong links with Mr. Frederick Douglass in the USA. This decade will also mark the bicentenary of Catholic emancipation and freedom of religious practice in this country, which would be very pertinent to mark during a presidential visit.

There could be a Biden plaza in Kerry, maybe.

The people of Cork might have something to say about that. We might bring President Biden to Pairc Uí Rinn and ask him if he can figure out why Kerry were so reluctant initially to come to Pairc Uí Rinn. They came and we had a great night, in any event.

The 9% VAT rate is a response to the situation the hospitality industry finds itself in after a long, hard Covid-19 period in which it was hammered. The Government's employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, was very important in keeping a lot of hospitality sector employees at work. The VAT rate, by the way, goes beyond the hospitality sector and takes in a lot other sectors, including cinema, theatre and so on. A number of different sectors will benefit from this and employment should be maintained in those sectors out to February 2023.

Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Al-Haq and many others have documented the crimes of apartheid inflicted on the Palestinian people by the state of Israel. I welcome the fact that the Jewish Voice for Peace and Amnesty International will be giving a joint briefing on Israeli apartheid in Leinster House tomorrow. Five United Nations special rapporteurs have endorsed the recent report by the UN which found that Israel is inflicting the crime of apartheid on the Palestinian people. When will we see Ireland standing up to Israeli terror, just as we are rightly standing up to Russian terror? There are two terror states but one is getting preferential treatment.

I would not accept that. Ireland has been very strong at the UN Security Council on this. Indeed, the Secretary General has thanked me for Ireland's proactive role at the Security Council on the Palestinian question and in support of the Palestinian right to a homeland and general issues.

I am not clear in terms of the advocacy that Sinn Féin members have promoted on behalf of Palestinians when they go to America. When they meet with senior politicians in America, they are very quiet in regard to Palestinians as they make presentations to the United States.

They are. I would love to hear the outcome because it never seems to get mentioned or surfaced. It is just as Sinn Féin was soft on Russia. I remember that it did not accept the invasion of Crimea as the partition of Ukraine. Some of Sinn Fein's representatives at conferences in Moscow-----

Israel is a terror state.

Some of the representatives of the party in a Moscow conference - I think it was Mr. Ó Dubhghlais-----

We are out of time.

He said it was justified and that the freedom fighters in the independence areas were justified in fighting “the Nazis in Kiev”.

Nothing is happening to Israel.

We are out of time. I call Deputy O’Dea.

It has generally been accepted that Ireland's response to the recent pandemic has been one of the most successful. At present, a WHO global pandemic treaty is being negotiated. My understanding is that the states which become signatories to this treaty will be ceding power to deal with any future pandemics entirely to the WHO and that the local government will be completely excluded from the situation. This is a very significant development. Has the advice of the Attorney General been sought as to whether the Government signing up to this will require a constitutional referendum?

I will have to check that out in the first instance. I remember that Ireland was one of the proactive members in getting a global tobacco treaty under the auspices of the WHO, and we would have been co-authors of that legislation and key players in getting it enacted, which was to the benefit of healthcare. In terms of a pandemic, what is required is very strong global interaction and co-ordination among all the members of the WHO, which did not quite happen at the beginning in this regard.

I want to raise the issue of the very worrying media attention that the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, IABA, has had over the past week, with the latest news of Bernard Dunne’s departure or resignation - call it what you want. This is the third high-performance coach who has departed the IABA in the last number of years, including my own county man, Billy Walsh, and Gary Keegan. To lose not one, not two, but three shows there is something horrific going on in that organisation. It was described to me by what we might call a whistleblower that the IABA is like the mafia given they are losing so many people. We have seen many amateur boxers going professional with some unwarranted people. That is very concerning. We see volunteers on the ground who are distraught at what is happening. I know the Taoiseach would like the problems in this organisation to be addressed. I ask him, the Government and the Ministers to get involved in this, to sort it out once and for all and to deal with what is happening in the IABA.

I think the world “mafia” should be withdrawn.

I withdraw it.

I do not think the Deputy means it that way because whatever our views and perspectives on organisations, that can in the normal case be a loaded term which I do not think is appropriate. That said, there are governance frameworks which the IABA is obliged to fulfil and comply with. The Minister will engage with the sports council in regard to this issue. I am reluctant to have Government Ministers run sporting organisations. It means there is a problem and that should not normally be the case at all. However, there are governance frameworks and agreements that have to be observed and complied with. In particular, good quality coaches of the type the Deputy has mentioned are important, as is a good environment and a good framework to sustain their contribution to the sport.

I want to start by congratulating those who were elected in the Assembly elections over the weekend, especially my Sinn Féin colleagues.

There are 524 vacancies across the 91 children's disability network teams, CDNTs, at the moment and that is out of 1,982 so-called approved positions. That means one third of positions in CDNTs across the country are vacant. It is more or less the equivalent rate for the CHO area which includes south Tipperary. At the same time, families of children who had preliminary team assessments are receiving letters about how the files were being reviewed and that they would be contacted in due course to let them know what will happen next. That is how the HSE put it, with absolutely no uncertainty. We also recently heard how the HSE refused meetings with the Minister of State, Deputy Anne Rabbitte, when she requested them.

Will the Taoiseach make a statement as to exactly how the HSE has been allowed to feel it can evade transparency when it comes to families of children with disabilities and the Minister of State? Will he also tell me if the HSE is to review the current number of approved positions in line with the increased level of demand as a result of the backlog that the HSE is responsible for?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is working with the HSE on the reconfiguration of children's disability services. There are issues with how this is progressing and there is a need for a review of its impact on existing services and the need to accelerate recruitment to vacant positions. There are certainly issues on which we need to engage with the agency.

Over the weekend, there were reports in national newspapers about a review by Transport Infrastructure Ireland of roads infrastructure under Project Ireland 2040 and the national development plan. One of the roads infrastructure projects that greatly concerns me is the final stretch of the M11 from Oilgate to Rosslare. The Taoiseach knows it is going to the most strategic port in the country and it would complete the eastern corridor from Belfast to Rosslare. Can he assure people that this project will not be long-fingered?

As the Deputy knows, the Government has invested very heavily in Rosslare and will continue to do so. Rosslare is enjoying a significant renaissance in that respect. It is an ill wind that blows nobody good and Brexit has certainly created opportunities for Rosslare. The investment there is positive and we want to maintain that. I accept the point about the M11 and that last phase of the road. There is a national development plan. I will certainly have a look to see what we can do to make sure it progresses.

The Tánaiste visited County Donegal last week, where he visited a home destroyed by mica and met the Mica Action Group. It was reported that he was not aware that reconstruction was to be on the existing foundations of houses affected by mica. It is a mind-boggling revelation at this stage that Government Ministers are not up to speed on this issue as they have been making significant decisions that affect people's lives. The Mica Action Group has recently written to Deputies, pleading with them to ensure that promised legislation goes through the pre-legislative scrutiny process. I ask the Taoiseach to get this right because it has to be done. I ask him to commit to pre-legislative scrutiny for the mica legislation as a matter of urgency to make sure the legislation is right and proper.

I have a problem with that and the Minister has too because that is going to delay it another six months.

No, it will not.

All along, people have been saying not enough is happening and it is not quick enough. We need to get the mica houses rebuilt, particularly those that are most severely affected.

The Government promised to publish legislation in January.

The Government has been under huge pressure. It has been said we are not moving quickly enough and not getting enough stuff done in terms of process and procedures. The legislation is key to underpinning what we do. I ask the Deputy to reflect on that. There will be a Committee Stage and we have had a lot of consultation over the last six months. We need to consider this very seriously. The Deputy would be the very first guy to jump up in the Chamber in the autumn to say the Government does not have one house done.

Thank you. We are out of time. I will give the two remaining Deputies 30 seconds each. I call Deputy Bríd Smith.

On the day that the World Meteorological Organization, WMO, has warned that the planet has a 50-50 chance of average global temperatures soaring 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels at least once in the next five years, will the Taoiseach agree that this means the shot across the bows that we have received from the WMO means that we absolutely must move away from burning fossil fuels, that we cannot develop Barryroe or any other fossil fuel infrastructure and, indeed, that we must now commit not to import LNG into this country?

Private coach operators are currently struggling for survival and need urgent financial assistance or to be included in the fare reduction scheme.

Many of these operators have stated they may not be in a position to provide school transport for children come September, such is the need and urgency for them to be given some assistance. Will the Taoiseach take action to ensure these operators are included in a fare reduction scheme and are given much-needed financial assistance? We also need to ensure we have school transport come September.

I have already spoken in the House about the warnings about climate change, that we were likely to hit 1.5°C in the next five years, and how this is a wake-up call to everybody in the House. It means we have to continue with the carbon tax. We should do so to enable us to raise revenue to enable us to retrofit more homes to make them more energy efficient, for environmentally friendly farming and to protect against fuel poverty. Collectively, there has to be a realisation in the House this is very serious for future generations. We are in deep trouble, as a world, in respect of climate change.

We should move together not to develop Barryroe.

I did not say that.

I did not get a response.

I apologise. The Minister for Transport is engaging with the private operators. I spoke to him last week about this. It is important we got public transport done. I acknowledge the implications for private operators, but the Minister is engaging with them.

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