Commencement Matters

Local Authority Boundaries Review

The Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, is most welcome. I am extremely concerned and, frankly, suspicious about the inordinate delays in the Drogheda boundary review process which was launched last year. As the Minister of State is aware, the previous Government conceded that the boundary between Drogheda and County Meath needed to be reviewed. The review was initially announced in June 2015 and the closing date for the receipt of submissions was 22 January 2016. Despite a nine-month gestation period, as it were, the baby has still not been delivered. In fact, the silence from the Government on the matter has been deafening.

The current situation is untenable and if the status quo is allowed to continue, the Drogheda area will pay for it in missed economic opportunities, in particular. There are approximately 6,500 residents living in a small geographical area straddling the Louth-Meath border. Residents of large housing estates such as Highlands, Millmount Abbey and Grange Rath are supplied with local services by a distant local authority - not just in geographical terms - in Navan rather than one located one mile away on Fair Street in Drogheda. The areas on the Meath fringe are entirely contiguous with the urban edge of Drogheda, the largest town in the country that does not yet have the status of a city. In the delivery of sustainable services, sustainable planning principles and good governance, it is high time the situation was regularised.

Of most concern is the economic impact of this anomaly, particularly in terms of job creation, on the Drogheda area in general. The Meath fringe of Drogheda houses an IDA Ireland park that neighbours the N1 and is a 20-minute unimpeded drive from Dublin Airport but which has just one single resident, IFS State Street. There are at least two prospective investments in this the best IDA Ireland location in the country that have been held back and may be lost because of a lack of clarity on what the Government will do in the boundary process. One side of the road is in what was formerly known as the border, midlands and west, BMW, region, but the side of the road which houses the IDA Ireland park is not. For anyone who states he or she is interested in job creation, this anomaly needs to be addressed. For the Drogheda area, not just the town but also the general area, to realise its full economic and social potential, the full and real extent of the town of Drogheda, including its environs in County Meath, needs to be officially recognised and formalised. The extension of the boundary needs to happen. Citizens, investors and decision makers need this clarity from the boundary commission and the Government sooner rather than later.

I thank the Senator for tabling this Commencement matter which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, who is attending a housing conference in the city.

In June 2015 independent statutory committees were appointed to carry out reviews of local government boundaries in Athlone, Carlow, Drogheda and Waterford. In each case the committee was asked to carry out a review of the boundaries between the respective local authorities and make recommendations on the boundaries and any consequential matter it considered necessary in the interests of effective local government. The committees were not established on the basis of specific proposals or plans to alter the boundaries. The purpose of the committee in each case was to undertake an objective review of the issue and, in the event that there was a recommendation that the boundaries be altered, to provide in its report relevant details in that regard and supporting information.

The main rationale for undertaking the boundary reviews is that in each case there is a significant overspill of population into another county based on the statistics reported in the 2011 census.

In the case of Drogheda, the town has expanded into County Meath, with a population of 5,983 reported in the 2011 census, which equates to nearly 16% of the total population of 38,578 citizens of the town and its environs. As the Senator noted, that figure has since increased considerably and the latest census figures will soon be available for 2016.

The boundary committees were due to submit their reports by the end of March 2016, but they have been delayed due, in part, to the volume of submissions received as part of the public consultation processes and also in view of the fact that the committees considered that further work was required in order to complete the reviews. Accordingly, the reviews are continuing, with an anticipated date for the submission of the committees’ reports being within the next few weeks. As the committees are, by law, independent in the performance of their functions, it is not appropriate to comment further on the matter in advance of the submission of their reports. Needless to say, careful consideration will be given to the reports when they are submitted.

As members will be aware, the Government programme provides that, by mid-2017, a report will be prepared for the Government and the Oireachtas on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability and ensure local government structures and responsibilities will strengthen local democracy. It is envisaged that matters arising from the boundary committee reports will be addressed in the context of preparation of that report.

As I said, the current situation pertaining to Drogheda and the region in general is untenable. However, I look forward to reading the recommendations of the group when the report is published. I hope we will have a debate before the Minister makes a decision on that process. I would like to establish when the Minister will publish the recommendations and a decision will ultimately be taken.

There is a degree of suspicion about the reasons for the delay. I totally accept the independence of the commission and, as I said, look forward to reading its report, but there is a compelling case for the extension of the borough boundaries of Drogheda. Ultimately, of course, it will come down to a political decision by Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect the outcome might lead us through a process in which we will be helped to a very large serving of fudge because the Government is not capable of making decisions that might even be mildly controversial. In fact, I am suspicious that we might be in the process of seeing the reports buried.

Since the process started, we have been subjected to the nonsense of county flag waving by those who are opposed to the extension of the boundaries. This nonsense should be dispensed with by anyone who is serious about ensuring sustainable planning, good planning, good local governance and job creation. Through the regional Action Plan for Jobs process, for example, we are in the process of establishing the Drogheda-M1 corridor area as the location of a digital payments centre for the country, with some success, and competing for global investment. We all know that investors look at areas on the basis of critical mass in a region, not necessarily where arbitrary lines are drawn.

Towards the end of last year the then Government announced the review of the national spatial strategy which, as we all know, was a nakedly political document which bore no relationship to the reality of good planning on the ground or proper sustainable development. Criminally, the Drogheda area was left out entirely of the national spatial strategy, despite being the fifth largest contiguous urban area in the country. It is important, before the process gains momentum in to the review of the national spatial strategy and the development of a new national planning framework, that the boundaries of Drogheda be reviewed and regularised to reflect the reality on the ground.

I acknowledge the strong feelings of the Senator on this issue which I know are heartfelt as regards what is best for Drogheda and its citizens. I will certainly convey that message to the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney. I also note the Senator's suspicions, although perhaps I do not agree with them, and will inform the Minister of them. I will ask that a debate take place before a decision is made following the receipt by the Minister of the independent review on the boundaries of Drogheda and the other areas listed.

The Senator commented on the inability to make tough decisions. As he knows, we now have consensus politics within the Oireachtas. We have a minority Government and no decisions can be made without the agreement of the Oireachtas. If legislation has to be enacted to implement this or any other decision, it will have to be agreed to by consensus.

I acknowledge the Senator's heartfelt views on what is best for Drogheda. I have some experience of this, given that a report was published recently on the amalgamation of the Galway city and county boundaries. I was surprised to see some councillors rejecting the report, even though they could not possibly have read it. They were out of the traps quicker than an email could have been sent. I am sure they also have their heartfelt views, but I will certainly convey the Senator's views to the Minister.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne. This is an issue I have raised before with another Minister of State in the Department and the position has not changed. When we are dealing with children and the most vulnerable in society, it is vital that the highest level of protection and vetting be afforded. However, that does not excuse the fact that the current system is not fit for purpose. When I brought up this issue before the summer recess with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, he assured me the waiting time for Garda vetting was down to just five weeks. I have had dozens of cases brought to the attention of my office in which the waiting time is clearly well beyond five weeks. A number of applications that were made in August have still not been dealt with and it is now late October. I know of two applications that took at least three months to be processed.

I find there is a lot of confusion about the requirement for multiple and duplicate applications for vetting. For example, if someone has already been Garda vetted to, for example, coach an under-15s rugby team in a secondary school, the same person needs to be vetted again to coach the under-15s rugby team in a different school or club. We constantly hear from people who require to make multiple applications for vetting. There is a sports provision company that works in secondary schools. It has ten coaches on the books who go to schools all across Ireland, but they need to be vetted for every single school. Instead of being vetted once, the company has to have the same individual vetted ten times to engage in the same activity. This is leading to inordinate delays and businesses not being able to get the right people in place. It is putting huge pressure on parents who are not sure these services can be provided. A further problem is that these businesses are not able to take on anyone to gain work experience or undergo training because of the various requirements to be met. They know that if they were to take on a person, say, to participate in a two-month placement, it would take at least two months to have the person vetted; therefore, they will not go through with it. Another issue is the provision of preschool care, where in finding a substitute teacher for a crèche or a Montessori school at very short notice, the teacher has to have been vetted not just to teach the age group involved but also in the school in question. This is unlike the position in secondary and primary schools where there is a central database.

The issue is very topical, given that the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, has rightly said in the past two weeks that, in respect of the upcoming industrial action by the ASTI, he will look to bring in parents and others from the school community to cover playground supervision and other duties from which teachers will be withdrawn separate from the actual strike days. When I did my leaving certificate examinations many years ago, members of the ASTI only went on strike for five days officially but they worked to rule for an additional 11 days; therefore, those in my school missed 16 full days because the school was unable to bring in parents or other staff to provide supervision. The industrial action is due to start next month and there is no way parents will be vetted in time to do this work, even though the vast majority of those who might be willing to volunteer have already been vetted to engaqe in other activities, often in the school, be it coaching rugby or soccer teams or looking after drama and debating clubs and so on.

There is an unnecessary amount of bureaucracy and duplication in a process that, while important, could be simplified and improved. I would like to hear what the Minister of State has to say.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter which I am taking on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald.

The primary purpose of the Garda National Vetting Bureau is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. While every effort is made to make the system as efficient as possible, as is always desirable, it cannot be at the expense of this core function.

Full vetting checks are conducted by the Garda vetting unit for each new vetting application received to ensure the most recent data available are taken into account. This is because once there has been a significant lapse of time between one employment and another, the original Garda vetting disclosure must be reviewed to take account of changes in information such as more recent criminal convictions. Furthermore, under the Data Protection Acts, sensitive personal data which employers use for their employees must be current, accurate and up to date. Importantly, the general non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the current process also protects against the risk of fraud or forgery. There are certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting disclosure where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant, for example, persons involved in voluntary work with more than one organisation at the same time. Similar arrangements can be made in the health and education sectors.

The Tánaiste is pleased to inform the Senator that 80% of vetting applications are being processed by the Garda National Vetting Bureau in five working days through a system that reflects best practice internationally. In circumstances where there is such a sustained reduction in processing times, the issue of vetting transferability becomes something of a moot point. This vast improvement on the turnaround time of 14 weeks in 2013 has come about primarily as a result of significant investment by the Government in the Garda National Vetting Bureau and, in particular, the launch in April this year of the bureau’s new e-vetting system. All organisations are encouraged to avail of this service and 85% of organisations registered for vetting already use it.

Some cases will, because of their nature, take longer than the average to complete. Vetting applications that continue to be submitted in the old paper format take four weeks to process from the date of receipt of the application and there will always be certain cases the nature of which demand more extensive inquiry. Delays can also occur in the application process which are outside the control of the bureau. In that regard, one very welcome feature of the e-vetting system is that it allows applicants to track the progress of their application. The Garda authorities will continue to work with all organisations to bring them into the e-vetting procedure.

I thank the Minister of State for his very detailed response. While some of its elements were reassuring, I must take issue with other elements of the reply. If it were the case that the procedure took five working days to complete, I would not have tabled this Commencement matter and I would not receive so many telephone calls from service providers, schools and sports clubs. Does this mean that five working days are spent on vetting? What is the all-in processing time involved from the moment an application is made until vetting clearance is granted? There is absolutely no way applications are being processed in five working days. The figure from 2013 of 14 weeks is a far more accurate reflection of the queries I receive from people using the e-vetting system. I also take issue with the claim that paper applications supposedly take four weeks to process.

In the coming weeks will the Minister of State see whether the Tánaiste will come back to me to detail the process involved and where it could be ironed out? If the information on the process taking five working days to complete is accurate - I query it - there is absolutely no reason for transferability, a point on which I agree with the Minister of State, but I remain convinced that it is not accurate. We have people in positions, be it teaching in schools, coaching or working with children in various clubs or associations, who are active, but they cannot transfer to another body. This is an area in which we could remove an element of duplication, particularly in real-time. I am not speaking about someone who was vetted four or five years ago but someone who was vetted several weeks ago and is still working in a school or club setting. It would be ideal to have their vetting clearance transferred to another body.

The Tánaiste would like me to emphasise that the purpose of the Garda employment vetting service is to seek to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. Accordingly, the vetting process demands rigorous procedures to safeguard its integrity and maintain the highest level of confidence by the public and organisations availing of the service. Any vetting process will take a certain minimum amount of time to complete and, given the importance of the service, the Tánaiste does not consider a processing time of five days to be at all unreasonable, although I will ask her to come back to the Senator to show the veracity of this. I accept that not many people whose applications are processed within five days will come to the Senator to thank him for it. He will only hear from those who suffer inordinate delays in having their applications processed. It is not the same for everybody.

The e-vetting processed has contributed significantly to improving the vetting service. The Government and the Garda authorities are committed to sustaining this level of service. Most organisations have now signed up to use the e-vetting process which offers great benefits to them in vetting applicants. As I stated, individuals can track their own applications on the system. The Garda National Vetting Bureau works with the registered organisations on an ongoing basis to maintain quality and standards in the process. The Garda authorities continue to work also with the other registered organisations to bring them on board.

I take on board and will convey to the Tánaiste the Senator's concerns about ongoing delays and the veracity of the figures quoted for processing times. What the Senator is speaking about makes sense with regard to transferability in cases in which there are delays. I will ask the Tánaiste to come back to verify the figure of five working days as reported by the Garda National Vetting Bureau.

Inland Fisheries

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach. The Minister of State is very welcome and I thank him for his attendance.

It is welcome that the board of Inland Fisheries Ireland, IFI, has agreed to defer indefinitely its decision to cease trout production at its hatcheries in Mullingar and Roscrea. The decision was the result of massive opposition by anglers throughout the country and I compliment them on their campaign. We need a firm commitment to provide the resources necessary to guarantee the long-term future and viability of the hatcheries.

IFI infrastructure has been fractured by continuous downgrading. At one point it almost had 500 staff members, but today this figure has been reduced to 294. This cannot be allowed to continue. Tourism angling is worth an estimated €750 million to the national economy. It is also estimated that angling is responsible for supporting 11,250 jobs in the country. Counties Cavan and Monaghan have 12 angling clubs, with almost 3,000 members. It is estimated that this group is responsible for generating €3.4 million for the local economy in cross-Border fishing trips. When we consider that €800 million each year is generated for the economy by the angling industry and the fact that it supports more than 11,000 jobs, any reasonable person would have to conclude it surely is time the issue was taken seriously and the necessary funding was put in place. I call on the Minister of State and other Ministers with responsibility for tourism and rural affairs to recognise the value of angling to the State and provide the necessary funding to secure its long-term viability.

I thank the Senator for tabling this Commencement matter. When he raised it previously in the Seanad, unfortunately I was not in a position to attend, for which I apologise. I am taking it on my own behalf for a change.

The value of angling in Ireland is well recognised. A number of developments in that regard have been recently progressed. The most comprehensive study of angling activity in Ireland, commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland, was carried out in 2013 by Tourism Development International. The study and subsequent updates demonstrate that the angling sector contributes €836 million to the economy every year and supports more than 11,000 Irish jobs, often in rural communities where alternative income earning and employment opportunities are not readily available. In 2015 Ireland attracted 163,000 overseas visitors who participated in angling, with a further 273,000 domestic anglers in the country.

Following on from the study, IFI has set out its national strategy for angling development. It is the first comprehensive national framework for the development of Ireland’s angling resource and aims to increase the economic contribution of angling from €836 million to €932 million annually and the number of jobs to more than 12,800 from a current base of some 11,000. The strategy is intended to deliver a wide-ranging set of investments, innovations and promotions in the coming years. This is to ensure Ireland's fish stocks and angling infrastructure will be protected and enhanced for their economic value and their recreational benefit to the communities and visitors they serve across Ireland. Effective and sustainable implementation of the strategy will ensure the stability of existing jobs and businesses reliant on angling and the creation of new jobs as the economic impact of angling grows.

The strategy will ensure the inland fisheries resource is protected and conserved in an environmentally sustainable manner for future generations to enjoy. Fundamentally, the strategy will strive to make angling an accessible and attractive pursuit for all and is the foremost statement of intent on the future of Ireland’s angling resource since the establishment of lFl in 2010.

The national strategy for angling development aims to develop the angling resource sustainably through balancing the economic, environmental, social and cultural aspects of any development in line with IFI’s responsibilities for the protection, management, conservation and development of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources. IFI has embarked on its efforts to secure funding to underpin the strategy. My Department has earmarked €1.3 million for capital elements of the strategy. An additional allocation of capital funding was made to IFI in the budget announced last week, some of which may be used to fund capital elements of the strategy.

IFI also recently secured funding of €536,886 from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to develop key angling projects in rural areas as part of the Government's programme to support rural development. The package will deliver projects in counties Westmeath, Leitrim, Mayo, Tipperary, Roscommon, Galway, Donegal and Longford. It will invest in projects such as river bank restoration, a fishery recreation hub, access to coarse angling and fishing points which will allow for international match events and the upgrade of existing facilities for anglers with a disability and attractive, accessible lakeside and river bank walks.

As part of the development strategy, IFI has also established a new fund to support projects that will contribute to the delivery of an accessible and sustainable world class inland fisheries resource. The capital works fund was announced earlier this week and is aimed at funding capital improvement works, with grants available to all groups and individuals, including local development associations, Tidy Towns groups, angling clubs and others looking to improve access to angling. The strategy is an overarching policy initiative concentrating on the economic development of the entire angling sector. Economic research conducted as part of the strategy identified key strands of angling activity with the most potential for development to benefit local and peripheral communities. They include coarse angling, pike angling, bass and sea angling in Ireland, wild salmon and sea trout and wild brown trout.

On the separate issue of farmed trout raised by the Senator, proposals regarding the fish farm operations of lFl are a day-to-day operational matter for its board, but I have paid attention to it in the past few months. My Department had indicated to IFI the need for consultation with affected stakeholders prior to any action. I visited the fish farms to view operations in Roscrea and Cullion. I met members of the board of IFI and the chief executive officer to discuss the concerns of both IFI and the trout angling community. The board has deferred indefinitely its proposal to exit trout production. I am advised by IFI that the board also met a delegation from the main trout angling representative bodies to discuss lFl's proposals in that regard. All parties have recognised that there are significant economic, environmental and biological issues surrounding the current production facilities which need to be addressed. I am assured by IFI that the board is committed to developing a comprehensive strategy to meet current and future trout production needs, subject to securing any investment required. All parties have agreed to continue to work closely together to deliver the strategy. I am conscious of the concerns about the continuity of a supply of fish for lakes around the country and have asked IFl to advise me of the outcome of ongoing discussions with the angling representatives. However, the appropriate course of action is to await the outcome, including whether suggested production, management and funding models may emerge, rather than pre-empt the discussions taking place with stakeholders.

I thank the Minister of State for his response and acknowledge his input and contribution on this issue to date. I outlined previously the benefits to the economy both from an employment and an income generation perspective. I very much welcome the ongoing discussions taking place between the various parties. Is there a timescale for completion of the negotiations and when will we be informed of the outcome?

I thank the Senator for raising this issue. Action has been taken and there has been lobbying by anglers and politicians. I acknowledge the reversa during the summerl of the board's decision. Plans are being developed and I cannot say whether the Department will invest in projects until they come before me for approval. The board of IFI has to make decisions on what it wants to do with the investment. The facility in Cullion is under lease, while the facility in Roscrea is owned. While both facilities are doing what they were designed to do, they are antiquated and in need of investment. The board will have to come back with proposals in that regard. It is engaging on the matter, but there are environmental issues. For example, the availability of a water supply is a particular issue on the Roscrea site. All of these issues have to be examined before a decision is made. When a proposal is brought to me or whoever will succeeds m, it will be dealt with and I am sure it will be looked on favourably because the Government recognises the importance of the resource, particularly in lakes in the midlands. We need to ensure continuity of the fish supply. There are also tourism and social benefits. IFI has done a great deal of work in getting children involved in angling as a recreational activity and a sport. There is a need for continuity of supply to allow that to continue, something I have highlighted at all times to the board of IFI. That is why, thankfully, it indefinitely postponed the decision that had been made. When a proposal for investment is brought to me, I will bring it to the Government and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I will continue to engage with the board and the chief executive officer of IFI on its plans. I commend the Senator for his interest in this matter. I will continue to engage with all relevant parties to ensure a resolution of the concerns of anglers and a full solution to ensure continuity of the supply of fish is found.

Ambulance Service Provision

Ambulance paramedic staff are a vital asset to Carlow and the south east in providing assistance and support for the community, especially at times of illness and tragedy. The Carlow ambulance service comprises 18 staff - four women and 14 men. They are based in a prefab which has no hot water, a leaking roof and a sewage problem. The store for medications is located in a different building. It is not ideal to have to go to a different building on winter evenings, which puts them in a vulnerable position. Last week a health and safety audit was carried out of the prefab which was condemned and deemed unfit for purpose. As of next Monday, 24 October, the 18 staff will pick up their keys and kit and work out of Kilkenny on their 12-hour shifts, which means that there will be no ambulance service in Carlow. This is uncalled for. The 18 staff will have to travel from Carlow to the depot in Kilkenny and back. If accidents happen and an ambulance is needed, no service will be available in Carlow.

The building is not fit for purpose. Despite 18 trained paramedics raising concerns for a number of years about health and safety issues in the prefab, they have to move to Kilkenny because the HSE has not listened to them. I have a major issue with this. The staff have been complaining for years. Who is accountable? Is it the HSE or the Minister? The most recent audit also highlights the fact that issues were raised about staff numbers because the service was understaffed. There is ongoing health and safety training provided, yet the staff are expected to work from a condemned building. As a matter of urgency they need to be relocated in Carlow in a suitable alternative building. It is unacceptable that funding should be an issue, as taxpayers are paying for the service, but it is not being delivered, leaving the people of Carlow and the surrounding area in a vulnerable position. I have met the staff and there is no need for this to happen. These trained and qualified professionals have to leave the prefab in Carlow because it is not fit for purpose.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Health who cannot be present.

The National Ambulance Service has confirmed that following a health and safety audit, an issue was identified with the shower and changing facilities used by staff at Carlow ambulance station.

Works are planned to rectify the issue which is being treated as a priority by the National Ambulance Service. I am advised that the station remains fully operational.

The National Ambulance Service has undergone a significant process of modernisation in recent years, during which a number of significant service innovations and developments have taken place. They include the establishment of the national emergency operations centre; the delivery of improved technology to improve response times; the development of an intermediate care service to provide lower acuity hospital transfers, thereby freeing more emergency ambulances for more urgent calls; and the establishment of a permanent emergency aeromedical support service to provide rapid access to appropriate treatment for high acuity patients in remote rural areas where access by land ambulances may be difficult.

We are also examining alternatives to the current care model which requires every patient to be brought to an emergency department. They include providing clinical advice over the telephone for callers and referring them to other care pathways, as appropriate, and transporting patients to a wider range of care destinations such as a local or minor injuries unit or medical assessment units.

The reform programme is taking place against the backdrop of the Health Information and Quality Authority's review of ambulance services which was published in 2014 and the National Ambulance Service capacity review which was published earlier this year. The capacity review which was undertaken by Lightfoot Solutions, a UK based consultancy firm, examined overall ambulance resource levels and distribution against demand and activity. The review found that the NAS was presented with a major challenge compared to ambulance services elsewhere, as population density in Ireland was significantly different from that in many other countries. Outside the greater Dublin area, the population is widely dispersed, with a relatively large population living in rural areas. This means that response time targets are much more difficult to achieve owing to longer driving distances.

The report endorses the existing policy of dynamic deployment, whereby vehicles are strategically located where they are most likely to be required, rather than statically deployed, which means being located at a particular station. Implementation of the recommendations made in the capacity review will require a multi-annual programme of phased investment in ambulance manpower, vehicles and technology. In that regard, I assure the Deputy that increased funding will be available to the National Ambulance Service in 2017. The detail of the improvements to be funded will be provided in the HSE's 2017 national service plan. In the coming weeks my officials will work closely with their counterparts in the HSE and the National Ambulance Service to agree priorities for the 2017 allocation.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. It is unacceptable in 2016 that 18 staff members are working in a facility with a leaking roof, no access to hot water and a sewage problem. Taxpayers are not being provided with the service for which they are paying, which is unfair on the employees and people living in Carlow. I ask the Minister of State and the Minister to visit the facility which is too small for 18 staff working 12-hour shifts. Will the Minister of State provide a timeframe for completion of the works? Staff can no longer work in the current conditions and will move to another depot in Kilkenny. Relocation to a new or another building in the Carlow area should be considered. The medication required by staff is not located in the prefabricated building, which means that during winter months they must go to a different area to obtain medication, leaving them unsafe and vulnerable. I want another audit to be carried out. I accept that the Minister of State may have first been notified of the issue this morning, but it is an urgent matter which I will raise every week until I get answers. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to deal with it.

I agree with the Senator that no one should have to work in an unsafe environment. As I stated, the Health Service Executive will prioritise the allocation of a building for the service. I will also raise the matter with the Minister when I meet him later and outline the Senator's concerns about staff having to use a building that is in such poor condition. I will urge the Minister to give the HSE a timescale for rectifying the problem. That is the only commitment I can give.

Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.