Business of Joint Committee.

The proceedings of the meeting of 23 February have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed.

The items of correspondence received since the last meeting by the joint committee have been circulated. The first item relates to the appointment of returning officers. That has been posted with the agenda. A further reply to queries raised by Deputy O'Sullivan is enclosed. I propose we note the correspondence.

The next item relates to the smart park development at Carton House. It was sent by Deputy Michael Fitzpatrick and relates to a report by the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the visit to the smart park development at Carton House in counties Meath and Kildare. I propose we note the correspondence.

The next item was sent by Senator Coffey and relates to e-voting machines. It is a request to hold a meeting on the options for the disposal of e-voting machines.

To clarify, we were informed some time ago that the e-voting machines were to be disposed of by the Department. I am not sure what form the disposal will take or whether any benefit will be derived from that. It is obvious that they will not be used for the purpose for which they were purchased. A company in Waterford was in touch with me but I am not writing just on its behalf. I suggest that the committee should invite departmental officials to a meeting and inquire what options have been considered in terms of the disposal of the machines or whether they could be used for other means of dispersing information through e-networks or electronic means at civic centres throughout the country. Approaches were made to the Department but little or no information has been forthcoming. A lot of taxpayers' money has been invested in those machines and if they are to be disposed of we should know that a full assessment of the costs has been made and whether any alternative use of the machines has been explored.

Senator Coffey should reserve his comments if we are to have a meeting on e-voting machines or is he happy to put the matter on record now?

I am putting the need for a meeting on record. It has not been agreed yet to hold a meeting. A meeting can be arranged at the behest of the committee.

Will the members agree to have a meeting with departmental officials?

Is it agreed that we have a meeting with the officials? Agreed.

As members are aware, the Minister made an announcement last April that the e-voting project would be scrapped. He set up an interdepartmental committee, to which Senator Coffey referred. From recent correspondence with the Minister I was informed that the committee met three times but no deadline has yet been set. It would be worthwhile for that group to come before the committee to explain to us what it has been doing, especially in terms of bringing an end to this fiasco and what benefit, if any, could accrue to the taxpayer on the machines.

Is it agreed that we would have a meeting? Agreed.

We sought information previously on where the e-voting machines are being stored around the country and the cost of same. We did not get the full picture. Many local authorities did not provide that information. Did we ever receive an updated position?

Those are questions we can ask when we have the next meeting.

Up to 60% of the machines in question are now in storage in a central holding station in Mullingar while 40% are stored in private locations, the leases of which are for 30 years, which is unusual given the machines have a shelf life of 20 years. It might be a good idea to raise what escape clauses were contained.

These are issues that can be put to the meeting on 23 March.

No. 2010/758 is correspondence re non-principal private residences charges, reply to the committee's letter, 25 November 2010, following a meeting with the Department on the matter. Is it agreed to note the correspondence? Agreed.

No. 2010/759 is correspondence re Cork flooding, request to have services commissioned by this joint committee to conduct a study into it. Is it agreed to note the correspondence? Agreed.

No. 2010/760 is correspondence re Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009. Is it agreed to note the correspondence? Agreed.

No. 2010/761 and 2010/762 concern environmental magazines. Is it agreed to note the correspondence? Agreed.

No. 2010/763 concerns supplemental information on the recent Cork flooding from Paudie Barry, engineering surveyor. Is it agreed to note the correspondence?

That is a request for further information following the ESB presentation last week. Mr. Paudie Barry gave a presentation to the committee a fortnight ago and supplied it with worthwhile information. He is seeking additional information now. It would do the committee some service if it also asked for this information.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

No 2010/764 concerns a press release on the meeting of the joint committee with the ESB. Is it agreed to note the correspondence?

That press release was issued by Mr. Joe Gavin, city manager, Cork, following the presentation by the ESB to the committee last week in which he said he was very surprised and disappointed to read the comments made by Padraig McManus, ESB's chief executive officer, at the recent committee meeting. Mr. Gavin has requested a copy of the Official Report of that meeting. I suggest when this is sent to him that he is invited to make any comments he wishes on the ESB's statements and that the committee would accommodate him in attending a further committee meeting, if he so wishes.

I suggest the committee invites both the Cork city and county manager to attend as part of its ongoing investigation into the recent flooding there. After the refusal of Mr. McManus and his officials to accept any responsibility for these events, it is important he would be invited to attend the committee.

We have a meeting next week about flooding in the midlands and the Shannon catchment area. I do not want that to be diluted.

We can hardly mix up the two.

At the last meeting we made a decision on how we would proceed on the various flooding events and issue a report then. I do not want this inquiry to go on too long. We should do the reports, present the facts and so be it. We met the Cork city and county managers prior to the meeting with the ESB at which they had the opportunity to present the committee with their facts.

We are only dealing with the press release. The clerk to the committee has suggested the Cork city manager is invited for his comments on the ESB's presentation.

I withdraw my proposal on the basis that we do get a submission. I hope the Minister will commit to an independent investigation, which Fine Gael called for from the outset. Mr. McManus and his officials refused to accept responsibility and declared they had no accountability. It is important for the Cork public representatives to get answers on this. There is a clear divide between the city manager and Mr. McManus of the ESB. We need to have a written submission from the Cork city and county managers.

We will seek that.

The Cork city manager has requested the Official Report of last week's meeting with the ESB and it will be furnished to him. The committee should invite him for his comments on the ESB's position and he should be facilitated to attend the committee, if he so wishes.

They have to make a submission on what the ESB said at the last meeting.

That is agreed.

No. 2010/765 is a list from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny on decisions taken at its meeting on 23 February 2010. It is agreed to note the correspondence.

No. 2009/766 is a research and review paper on governance by the European urban knowledge network. It is agreed to note the correspondence.

The committee notes WP 7/2010 concerning a negotiated agreement with banking sector re ATM litter. The committee should also note SI No. 48 of 2010, Urban Waste Water Treatment (Amendment) Regulations 2010 and the building regulations 2009 technical guidance document F on ventilation.

On the last matter, I believe the committee should focus on the serious issue of radon gas levels in homes.

I have also raised this issue with local authority managers. The committee should inquire of all local authority managers, how many have a designated radon gas officer to carry out inspections on developments for compliance with radon requirements.

The committee has already requested this information and is waiting for replies.