Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (Amendment) Bill 2017: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit agus fosta roimh mhuintir Charraig Mhachaire Rois atá anseo inniu. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, to the Chamber. I also welcome the delegation from Monaghan. I wish in particular to mention the three councillors from the Carrickmacross and Castleblaney areas, Pádraig, P.J. and Aidan, as well as the former Ceann Comhairle, Dr. Rory O'Hanlon. Deputy Niamh Smyth is also present. I welcome all those from Carrickmacross who are present.

This amendment to the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 is a very important amendment to existing legislation which enables a tenant under certain prescribed conditions the opportunity to buy out the freehold of their premises. I am delighted to be able to introduce this Bill which seeks to amend sections 9 and 10 of the Act. I know this will be very welcomed in my constituency because it directly affects a lot of businesses on the west side of Carrickmacross and indeed many other towns and cities throughout the country. The need for the amendment has arisen from a Supreme Court ruling in 2012. A recent documentary produced and edited by Pat Byrne of Carraige Productions and presented by Michael Fisher highlighted the issues which arose from very protracted litigation between the O'Gorman family of Carrickmacross and what is known locally as the Shirley Estate. The documentary covers the attempt by Gus O'Gorman, a local supermarket owner, to buy out his freehold, and the struggles he had which went through every level of the courts from the County Registrar all the way to the Supreme Court. Gus and his con Cathal are here with us today. I pay tribute to the O'Gorman family for their huge effort and commitment to the issue. Part of the reason we are here today is because of them.

It highlighted the problem that any remaining tenant with a qualifying lease would have, on the face of it, in buying the freehold under the existing legislation. Tenants who had thought they could buy out the freehold in the premises they occupy would find they may not be able to do so in light of the interpretation of the Supreme Court in respect of two key elements, namely, what buildings were involved and what constituted a "predecessor in title". This amendment will seek to resolve these issues and enable a tenant to go forward and buy out the lease, giving such people business certainty to be able to reinvest and grow businesses. It will also confirm the original intention of both Houses of the Oireachtas, which was to confer rights on tenants who had long occupation of premises and had developed such premises at their own expense.

The interest created by the documentary referred to earlier has brought the landlord and tenant issue sharply into focus. I give special credit to Mr. Pat Byrne, who is responsible for that documentary. He put his heart and soul into what was a very impressive piece of work. In no small way did it contribute to us being here today. It highlighted the fact that a number of lawyers, both in the academic world and in practice, had serious reservations regarding the judgment of the Supreme Court. Arising from a meeting that was set up with Deputy Jim O’Callaghan by the former Ceann Comhairle, Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, Mr. Byrne introduced Professor John Wylie, the leading academic on all matters relating to land law and who featured in the documentary, to Mr. Tony Donagher, a Carrickmacross-based solicitor, who was also interviewed in the documentary. Together, over the summer, they have provided the draft Bill I am introducing today.

I thank my fellow Oireachtas Members from all parties, including the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for their support with this proposed amendment. I also thank the county councillors from the Carrickmacross and Castleblayney municipal district, some of whom are here today. I also mention Deputies Brendan Smith and Niamh Smyth. Many other people have helped to get this Bill to where it is today and I thank them sincerely for their work in this regard.

I hope this Bill passes through here successfully today in order that businesspeople in Carrickmacross on the west side of the street will finally get total control of their buildings and put their minds at rest in order that they can continue in the knowledge of business certainty in future.

I second the motion. I wish to share time with Senator Leyden.

I welcome Pádraig, P. J. and Aidan to the House, as well as the former Ceann Comhairle, Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, and Deputy Niamh Smyth. The O'Gorman family have really been committed to making good the law as it relates to ground rents.

Ground rent is still paid in parts of the country and we are very familiar with the Marquess of Ely's estate, Lord Lucan's estate and the estate we are discussing, the Shirley estate. It is a payment for the ground on which a property is built. Generally, the freehold titles in Ireland tend to be owned by local authorities, but in certain areas around the country we have these miscellaneous estates left over from before independence.

The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 gives a lessee a general right to acquire a fee simple interest. This is an important right for many reasons. Lending institutions, for example, will not give loans on a leasehold property that has fewer than 70 years left to run. In other words, a leasehold title with fewer than 70 years left is not considered good marketable title. House owners eliminate this as a problem generally by acquiring the freehold. It is very easy to do this with local authorities, but it is much more difficult when one comes across more difficult landlords that own the reversionary interests. Uncertainty has followed the Supreme Court case highlighted by my colleague, and this gives rise to the need for the amendments contained in this Bill. The Supreme Court decision has been widely criticised by both academics and legal practitioners. Mr. Wylie, the leading expert on land law has described the decision as "odd" and "surprising". Nonetheless, the position needs to be rectified and that needs to be done through amending legislation, which is before the House today.

In 2012, the Supreme Court interpreted two sections of the Act in such a manner as to hamper severely the ability of leaseholders, such as the O'Gormans in the Gallery today, to secure the compulsory sale of the fee simple. The interpretations related to what buildings were involved and what constituted a predecessor in title. The two amendments provided for in the Bill specifically address these two matters. The amendments sought in this Bill will confirm the original intention of the Oireachtas, which was to confer rights on tenants who had long occupation of premises and who had developed those premises at their own expense. The Supreme Court decision has created great uncertainty, particularly for business owners who are reluctant to invest in their premises as it is unclear whether they would be successful in an application to acquire compulsorily the fee simple in the premises.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, to the House and thank him for coming. I support the Private Members' Bill from my colleague, Senator Robbie Gallagher, and congratulate him on bringing the Bill before the House. I welcome in the Gallery Mr. Gus O'Gorman and his son, Cathal, who were instrumental in bringing this to the fore. They fought very bravely in the Supreme Court. It is quite amazing these ground rents still exist nearly 100 years on from achieving our constitutional freedom. When I was in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in 1982, I discovered the GPO was owned by some British landlord, which was quite amazing at the time. I believe it has been bought out since, or at least I hope it was bought out before the 1916 ceremonies. I also welcome my former colleague, Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, a former Minister and Ceann Comhairle. It has been 30 years since he and I served in the Department of Health. It was between 1987 and 1989 and we worked very well in that Department in a very difficult period. I also welcome to the House Pádraig, P. J. and Aidan, as well as Deputy Niamh Smyth, who is from the Monaghan area.

I am quite hopeful the Minister will welcome and support this amending Bill, which is very practical. It demonstrates new politics, in a way, as we can bring forward a Private Members' Bill and get support from the Government side. In the past this would have been opposed, as it was with my Registration of Wills Bill. I hope this might be brought forward as well with this great new relationship, which is very positive. I am sure Dr. O'Hanlon is particularly surprised to see this new politics in action. It is a true indication of how active it is when we see such goodwill on the opposite side in this regard.

It is the new Senators.

Yes, and there is a new approach to politics. The weekend's events were difficult for everyone involved and I am thankful we are not facing a general election before Christmas and we all came to an agreement at the end of the day. We are back in business and the confidence and supply is still there. The agreement will be supported and I hope there will not be any other difficulties.

I am trying to give the Acting Chairman some assurance. I am sure she was not looking forward to a winter election.

I was very nervous about my committee.

Yes. You have work in a committee and many people would have been delighted if it had collapsed. That is neither here nor there. Some people might have seen the bright side.

I think you are sensitive about that.

I am not a bit sensitive. The Senator is making irrelevant comments.

Not really. They are not irrelevant. I wish this Bill success. In his first term as Senator, it is marvellous for Senator Gallagher to get this Bill through. I hope it will get through the Dáil. It is very positive work. Mr. Gus O'Gorman and his son, Cathal, deserve great credit for the efforts they made in trying to vindicate their rights as Irish citizens. Well done. This is a good day for the Seanad.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also welcome the opportunity to debate this Bill. I commend the Bill's sponsor, Senator Robbie Gallagher, on bringing it to the House because it is an example of how the Seanad can work together to identify problems and barriers felt by our citizens, bringing forth legislation that we can work on.

As Senators are aware, legislation is not always perfect when first presented and I am sure the Bill before us is not perfect. I come from a locality, Portlaw, County Waterford, where people have experienced many difficulties with the transfer of lands and ownership issues arising from ground rents and the problems they present. With the greatest respect to the property rights of landlords and others, it is important in a modern society to have legal mechanisms that allow businesses, residents and citizens to transact business in an efficient manner without encountering expensive court challenges and problems such as those experienced by the O'Gorman family. I, too, acknowledge the members of the O'Gorman family and the delegation present in the Visitors Gallery who have, I expect, provided the motivation for this legislation. I also think of the many citizens around the country who have experienced similar problems. I support the Bill for this reason and my party is generally supportive of it.

I will leave it to the Minister of State to set out the detailed reasons we will not oppose the Bill as it stands. I am sure he will outline any amendments or clarifications that may be required to progress it to the next Stage. This is an example of how Senators from all sides can work together.

Senator Leyden referred to new politics. The newer Senators may be less adversarial that Senator Leyden and others with whom we have had many a row. It is good that we can work together to progress legislation in a positive manner. I recognise the work done by various people. I thank Senator Gallagher for acknowledging the work done by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys. I also acknowledge the work done by my party colleague, Councillor Aidan Campbell, who is present in the Gallery. It is important that councillors provide feedback to the House on the problems experienced by their electors.

It is up to the Minister and Government of the day, in this case, the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, to respond to the legislation. I hope the Government will introduce amendments that will strengthen the Bill and further the objectives of its proposers and sponsors.

While this is not the Minister of State's area of responsibility, all of us are aware of the problems caused by old title deeds when older properties are being transferred, purchased or transacted. In such circumstances, people submit applications to the land registry office. While the land registry system is extremely good for those who are in the system and having their file dealt with, there is a long waiting time to have files processed. This is an important issue, although it may fall within the remit of another Department. I ask the Minister of State to use his good offices in this respect, given that the Bill is before the Houses and there is a new focus on those seeking to transact business in a legal and proper way who encounter barriers because old legislation needs to be updated or as a result of outdated bureaucracy related to ground rents and title deeds. It is important that resources are invested in land registry offices to clean up title deeds and allow people to transact business.

I refer to the example of a community group in my local area which wishes to renovate a property. Although it qualifies for State grants, the old title deeds to the property have raised issues regarding leaseholds and ground rents which need to be clarified. This is a complex area with which, I suspect, solicitors must often wrangle. I mean no disrespect to solicitors who must do their job and I know the Acting Chairman, Senator Noone, is a solicitor. These types of issues cause untold frustration for people who are trying to progress property transactions. We need to modernise the processing system for property in the land registry.

I commend Senator Gallagher on his Bill, which the Fine Gael Party supports and will not oppose on Second Stage. The Minister of State will speak in detail on some clarifications and amendments the Government will introduce.

I share the Senator's view that this is a complex area. I also commend Senator Gallagher on introducing the Bill.

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit agus cuirim fáilte áirithe roimh na haíonna speisialta atá againn sa Ghailearaí inniu. Tá cuid acu ag troid leis na mblianta fada ar an mBille seo. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Seanadóir Robbie Gallagher maidir leis an mBille seo a thabhairt chun cinn. Tá sé an-tábhachtach agus beidh muide ag tabhairt tacaíocht iomlán dó. I apologise in advance for leaving the Chamber when my contribution concludes. I have to attend a committee meeting elsewhere in the Houses. Ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil fadhbanna tithíochta chomh dona sin anois gur cheart Fianna Fáil a bheith ag tacú leis an reachtaíocht eile a bhí ann againne chun cíosanna a laghdú agus chun cinnteacht a thabhairt do thionóntaí. Cén fáth nár thacaigh siad, mar shampla, leis an mBille um Chinnteacht Cíosa? Cuireann muid fáilte roimh an mBille seo sa Seanad inniu, áfach.

I pay tribute again to the work of the Shirley Tenants Action Group in Carrickmacross which has been active on this issue. The initial case taken by Mr. Gus O'Gorman many years ago highlighted the need for new legislation to amend the 1978 Act. Such legislation has been promised in Fianna Fáil Party manifestos since that time. My colleague, Teachta Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, has consistently asked, almost since entering the Dáil in 1997, when a Bill would be published. It is hard to believe the economic development of part of Carrickmacross is being held up by an absentee landlord who is currently basking in the Isle of Man.

Last year, it was revealed that the State was paying ground rent to landlords such as the Earl of Pembroke for buildings on Merrion Square and the Duke of Leinster who owns land where the National Library of Ireland is located. These ground rents, which are a legacy of our colonial past, are also known as leaseholds. The State's ground rent bill for Iveagh House, in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade presides, is paid to an absentee landlord. The same applies to Dublin Castle. In these years of the centenary we are perpetuating a system that is a hangover of colonialism. The money involved is relatively small. The ground rent for Iveagh House is a mere €257, while the ground rent for the Four Courts is a mere €200 and the bill for Dublin Castle is only €7. However, there are 250,000 ground rents in the State which have an impact on individual home owners who wish to sell their homes but must require the freehold to do so.

This is not simply a question of being hostile to English landlords. The majority of ground leases are on private households, which means they are paid by people who own their home but do not always own the land on which it is built. The formula for the new ground rent per annum is computed on the basis of the open value rental value of the house. Many of those who find themselves in this invidious position are elderly and have no income other than their pension.

Many Irish developers built houses before 1978. Sisk, for example, continues to collect ground rents from a large number of households in Dublin. Many of the properties in question have leases of 999 years and many of those who wish to buy out the ground rent complain of high fees such as search and lawyer fees which can put them off engaging in the process in the first instance. No one knows the true position because many householders who owe ground rents are older people who are afraid to speak publicly and do not wish to refuse to pay. Many fear that when the lease ends they will not be able to afford to buy out the lease or pay the substantial increase in ground rent which may be demanded.

I hope the Bill succeeds in highlighting the vulnerable nature of tenancy in general. Ground rent landlords demand money for nothing. They are parasites gorging themselves on the sweat and tears of ordinary working people. They have no place in a just society and it is to our shame that we have allowed this system to persist for so long.

Another illustration of the peculiar attitude of successive Governments to landlordism is the reluctance to tackle landlords in the private rented sector. The demands of tenants in the private rented sector in recent years, namely, a fair rent and security of tenure, do not differ significantly from the demands made by peasant farmers in the 19th century. It is not, as we are often told, a question of balancing the rights of tenants and landlords as the home of the former is merely the business interest of the latter. I note that even on the Order of Business this morning the issue of evictions was raised by Senator Murnane O'Connor. An eviction of a person today is no different from the reality depicted in the iconic photographs of evictions taken during the late 1880s, except today we do not see the faces of the evicted and their voices are not recorded. The Government certainly does not hear them.

Davitt was guided by the motto, "Let justice be done though the heavens fall". I doubt he would be impressed by the propensity of successive Governments to prostrate themselves in the interests of unfettered landlordism. It is time to take up Davitt's fight again and ensure justice is done. Sinn Féin supports this legislation. Perhaps in the days ahead we will also discuss the claims made by landlords who are not resident in the State to our rivers, lakes, mineral supplies and other natural resources.

I wish to be associated with the warm welcome to our distinguished guests in the Gallery, and I compliment my colleague, Senator Gallagher, on bringing this Bill forward. The apparently unanimous support for the Bill across the House shows its importance. The point that often is lost is that while this is not a big headline-getter and is not top-of-the-bill news, it is a major crisis for those whom it involves, when they come across the problem of exchange of holdings. There has been much talk here this morning, in the aftermath of the weekend we had, about new politics and how we in the Senate can work together. However, with this Bill alone, Senator Gallagher has shown the effectiveness of the old politics of the Senator working with the councillor and the people on the ground who are affected by problems. By introducing legislation and bringing it to this Stage, he has demonstrated that. It does not have to be all new politics - the old system can be equally effective.

At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the former Ceann Comhairle. When I was a Member of this House, he was the Ceann Comhairle of the other House. I did not have any opportunity to cross him then and I do not think I will have any opportunity to cross him now. I also acknowledge the other people from Monaghan who are here; Councillor Campbell, whom I have known for years, and in particular the O'Gormans. I was actually studying land law in the King's Inns when the Shirley v. O'Gorman case was happening. I must state that I found the study of land law quite tedious even though I am a farmer's son. However, the facts, issues and matters that are contained therein are fundamental for Irish people. I refer to the ability to own one's own house or property and note the foundation of the State has its origins in the battle for the land, as it was, at the end of the 19th century, and the subsequent Land Acts that led to most landed estates being broken up.

Right across the country, however, not least in my own part of the south east, the issue of ground rents still remains contentious. I went to school not in County Kilkenny but in New Ross, County Wexford. The Tottenham estate still owns much of the ground rent in that particular town. I commend Senators Gallagher, Ardagh and Swanick on their proposal of this Bill, and state from the outset that the Government will not be opposing it. In principle, we agree with what the Senators are trying to address. It contains proposals to amend the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 to facilitate acquisition of freehold titles by lessees and ground rent tenants. I also acknowledge the efforts of Senator Coffey. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Humphreys, has been in contact with me about this before. While I am taking this Bill for the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, it is fair to say that the local government area for which I am responsible also encroaches on this area.

That said, I must admit a vested interest in this regard. I bought a house in Dublin before the economic collapse and am what one might term an accidental landlord. Senator Ó Clochartaigh's comments, likening people who are renting out private houses at present with the old British landlords and the ground rent landlords across the country, were outrageous. Lest we forget, many of the people who own these ground rents are Irish citizens, not British landlords. Some are British, as outlined by Senator Ardagh, but a lot of them are people who are residents or citizens here. However, it is correct and proper to amend this Act from 1978, the year I was born. Moreover, I commend the O'Gormans. It is good to see that they are here. They took a long legal road to assert their rights and they represent many citizens across the country who find themselves in a similar situation.

I add, however, that the Bill requires detailed scrutiny to ensure its consistency with the property rights safeguards in the Constitution, as well as coherence with other statutory provisions governing the purchase of ground rents. The Minister informs me that his Department is consulting with the Office of the Attorney General on these issues. Arising from this, he expects to be in a position to table a number of Committee Stage amendments in due course.

As Senators will be aware, the rights of tenants occupying property under long leases to acquire freehold title has been a contentious issue since at least the 19th century. Such tenants normally pay a small yearly rent to the ground rent landlord and the issues that arise are the nature and extent of the tenant's right to acquire the freehold title.

Statutory reforms since the 1960s have strengthened the rights of such tenants to acquire a freehold in the property. The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967 gave statutory effect to the principal recommendation of the report of the Ground Rents Commission chaired by Judge Conroy. Under the Act, certain ground rent tenants, including both business and residential tenants, acquired the right to purchase the ground rent in their property.

The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 prohibited the creation of new ground rents in respect of dwellings. Leases after that date are only valid if they operate as a renewal of an existing lease. The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 gave the Land Registry, now the Property Registration Authority, responsibility for operating a low-cost scheme for tenants acquiring the freehold of dwelling houses.

To date, more than 80,000 ground rents have been bought out under this statutory scheme. These important statutes seek to establish an appropriate balance between a tenant's right to acquire the freehold title for reasons of public interest on the one hand, and the property rights of ground rent landlords, that are protected under Article 40.3 and Article 43 of the Constitution on the other.

The Private Members' Bill we are discussing today seeks to address what are seen as adverse consequences for ground rent tenants arising from the Supreme Court ruling of 2012. On 2 February 2012, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the protracted legal proceedings of Shirley v O'Gorman, which concerned the right of ground rent tenants to purchase ground rents in their properties in certain circumstances. The case arose from an application to acquire freehold title in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. While the tenant's application in this case was ultimately successful, the manner in which the Supreme Court interpreted certain technical provisions of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 effectively narrowed the scope of the ground rents purchase scheme under that Act. The ruling means that certain ground rent tenants who had been eligible to acquire the freehold title in their properties may no longer be able to do so. This narrowing of the grounds on which a ground rent tenant is permitted to acquire freehold title affects other ground rent tenants in Carrickmacross and elsewhere in the State. As mentioned earlier, a ground rent tenant's right to acquire the freehold in property, that is, to purchase the ground rent, was first introduced in the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967. While this legislation remains relevant in the case of many commercial properties, the later Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 contains the statutory rules that generally apply to acquisition of the freehold title in the case of dwellings.

Sections 9 and 10 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 specify the criteria that determine a ground rent tenant's eligibility to acquire the freehold title in the case of dwellings. Section 9 provides, inter alia, that such tenants have a right to acquire freehold title where there are permanent buildings on the land, these buildings are not an "improvement" within the meaning of the Act, and one of the conditions set out in section 10 also applies to the property.

One of the most widely used conditions in section 10, condition no. 2, is where the lease in question is for a period of less than 50 years and the annual ground rent is less than the rateable valuation of the property. Moreover, while this condition recognises that there were buildings already on the land when such a lease was granted, there is a statutory presumption arising from the fact that the rent is at a low level to the effect that the buildings were not erected by the ground rent landlord or the landlord's predecessor in title. However, that presumption may be rebutted in any particular case.

In its ruling in the Shirley v O'Gorman case, the Supreme Court took the view that the ground rent tenant is ineligible to acquire the freehold unless all the buildings had been built by him or her and not by the landlord. The court also ruled that the definition of "predecessors in title" should be interpreted in a wide manner to include works by all previous owners, that is, not only the ground rent landlord but also any earlier tenants of the property in cases in which the landlord had taken repossession between tenancies.

The overall effect of the ruling in the Shirley v O'Gorman case is to narrow the scope of the ground rent purchase scheme. The Private Members' Bill before the House today seeks to address the matters arising from the Supreme Court in this ruling by means of amendments to sections 9 and 10 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978. In Section 9, the Bill proposes to repeal both subsection 1(b) and subsection 2, which contain the "improvement" conditions. Instead, the Bill proposes the insertion of a revised definition of "permanent buildings" in a new subsection 6. It would provide that the right to acquire the freehold would in future apply where additions, alterations or extensions to the original buildings had caused it to lose its original identity or had caused an extension in its usable area by not less than 50%.

In addition, the Bill proposes an amendment to condition 2 in section 10 that would seek to make it clear that the reference to "predecessor in title" would exclude any building works carried out by any previous tenants of the property.

There is merit in the Bill's objective to broaden ground rents tenants' right to acquire the fee simple of property and that is why the Government has decided not to oppose it today. In fact, we are quite supportive of what the Bill seeks to do. However, as I mentioned earlier, a number of references in the Bill require careful scrutiny to ensure that they do not clash with existing ground rent legislation. The Minister refers particularly to references to "extension of its usable area" and "previous holder of the lessee's interest". The Minister is, of course, anxious to ensure that any amendments to ground rents legislation will not lead to further litigation challenging its constitutionality. That is why I have indicated that certain Committee Stage amendments may be required following completion of the examination that is currently taking place in the Office of the Attorney General.

As I have stated, the Government supports broadly the policy objective in terms of the gaps the Bill seeks to fill and will not be opposing it on Second Stage. Moreover, any future amendments that may be tabled at later Stages will seek to ensure that the Bill's provisions are coherent with other ground rents legislation and consistent with the Constitution.

I thank sincerely the Minister of State for his comments and all the Senators who have contributed to this debate. There is much talk nowadays about new politics. This is an example of good politics. This is a good idea that is shared by all political classes and people are rowing in behind it. Legislation can address an issue that has been hanging over not just Carrickmacross but many other towns throughout the country. I acknowledge all the work that has been done by everyone involved in this particular issue in Carrickmacross for many the long year. It is down to their collective efforts that we are here today discussing this issue. I look forward to the Bill moving on to Committee Stage. I note the Minister of State's comments about having a job of work to do at his end. Based on the input of legal experts throughout the country, I am confident the Minister of State's job of work will be a short one and I look forward to dealing with the Bill on Committee Stage and early in the new year in order that we can move it forward again. The people of Carrickmacross and other parts of the country will finally have released the grip on them currently and they will be able to move forward and expand their businesses confident that they have total control of all matters.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 5 December 2017.
Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.50 p.m.