Commencement Matters

Qualifications Recognition

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly. In light of the issue regarding recruitment and retention of doctors, I wish to ask the Minister for Health to consider amending section 49 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, which currently limits access of trainee specialists to those who have graduated within the EU or completed a period of internship within a restricted list of countries. There are many young doctors working in this country who, despite having plenty of experience, are being blocked from accessing further training as they do not fit these restrictive criteria. These are skilled and experienced doctors that the Irish health care system badly needs to retain.

The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 states that a medical practitioner must have completed a period of internship to the satisfaction of the Medical Council to gain access to the trainee specialist division, which is fair enough. However, the Medical Council states that doctors who gained their qualification outside the EU cannot gain access to training schemes unless they have completed their internship in a restricted list of countries, namely, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the Sudan. If these doctors completed their internship in a country outside that list, they are deemed ineligible for the trainee specialist division, which is currently a requirement to apply for any of the medical training schemes. There are currently no means to remediate this. Many of these doctors have accumulated considerable experience and are working alongside and helping to train junior colleagues who are on training schemes, so there is an irony there. Any career progression for these doctors is pretty much blocked and, as a result, we are losing these doctors, who are leaving to go to jurisdictions where they can access training and upskill to progress their careers, which is obviously basic for anyone in the profession.

It was a young doctor, Dr. Sarah Barry, who brought this to my attention. She was a trainee in the midlands GP training scheme and also worked in smaller peripheral hospitals, such as the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, Portlaoise and Tullamore, and St. Loman's psychiatric hospital in Mullingar. She has seen how reliant these smaller provincial hospitals are on doctors who have completed their medical degrees outside the EU and completed their intern foundation years outside the designated six countries.

This issue has been flagged repeatedly with the national doctors training and planning association as part of the MacCraith reviews and it has been flagged to the HSE and the Medical Council but, as yet, I am unaware of any concrete plan to rectify the situation. It appears that simply adding the words "or its equivalent" to section 49 of the Act could address the intern year issue blocking access to trainee specialist division and the intern year. Priority could be granted first to EU residents as a similar system prioritises Australian citizens for their trainee schemes. I have made my point and I am interested to hear the Minister of State's reply.

I thank Senator Noone for raising these issues and for giving me the opportunity to update the House on the position in regard to them. I am pleased to say that, at the end of February 2018, there were 2,977 consultant whole-time equivalents employed in the public health services, which is 98 more than at the end of February 2017 and an increase of 750 in the past decade. The number of non-consultant hospital doctors also increased by 288 from February 2017 to the end of November 2018, with 6,327 non-consultant hospital doctors employed, an increase of 1,438 in the past decade.

I acknowledge the current difficulties attracting and recruiting consultants, particularly to certain specialties, including psychiatry and paediatrics. The HSE has been focused on addressing these issues and is now giving effect to the report, "Towards Successful Consultant Recruitment, Appointment and Retention", completed in December 2016, as well as to the implementation of the MacCraith group recommendations to support the recruitment and retention of consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors.

I acknowledge the valuable contribution made by doctors who are from outside the European Union to the Irish public health system. I am very aware that they play an important role in Irish healthcare. I am also aware that specialist medical training may be an important career pathway for these doctors but that some are unable to access this training.

The Medical Practitioners Act currently provides that doctors whose qualifications are from non-EEA countries require the equivalent of a certificate of experience, that is, an internship, to access specialist training in Ireland. The Medical Council currently recognises internships from Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan and Malaysia as being equivalent to Irish internships. A doctor whose qualification is from a country other than those cannot access specialist training. The Minister, Deputy Simon Harris, has therefore decided to amend the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. The amendment will be introduced by a regulated health professions (amendment) Bill, which will amend the five health profession regulatory Acts in respect of a number of areas. This Bill will amend the Medical Practitioners Act to remove the requirement to hold the equivalent of the certificate of experience to access specialist training. It is a large and complex Bill and is currently at an advanced stage of drafting by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in liaison with Department officials. It is expected to be published in this Dáil session, subject to no major issues arising.

It is important to mention that Ireland is committed to a national policy of health worker self-sufficiency and has signed up to implementing the World Health Organization global code of practice on international recruitment of health personnel. The code establishes and promotes voluntary practices for the ethical international recruitment of health personnel and the strengthening of health systems. Article 3.6 of the code recommends that members states "strive [...] to create a sustainable health workforce and work towards establishing effective health workforce planning, education and training, and retention strategies that will reduce their need to recruit migrant health personnel".

I do not think I have ever had such a satisfactory answer to a question I have asked as a Commencement matter. The fact that the Minister, Deputy Harris, has decided to amend the Medical Practitioners Act and the fact that the amendment is in train is great. I will be very happy to communicate that. I was at the Irish Medical Organisation conference the weekend before last and it was one of the concerns that was raised. It is great to see that the Minister, Deputy Harris, and the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, are on top of it. I thank the Minister of State.

I thank the Senator for continuing to keep the focus and pressure on this issue. That will be welcome into the future. We will progress this as best we can.

The next item is in the name of Senator Máire Devine. There is no sign of her. Perhaps we will move on to the matter being raised by Senator Kevin Humphreys as it is being answered by the same Minister of State. We will take his Commencement matter now.

Social and Affordable Housing

I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am sorry that I am slightly out of breath. I have just returned from An Bord Pleanála where I attended in respect of the 3,500 units being developed at Poolbeg west, which is in Ringsend. Last week, it came to public attention that the receiver was appealing the requirement for 900 social and affordable units. There was an agreement on 18 May 2017 that there would be 900 social and affordable units on that site. It was written into the special development zone, SDZ, terms. It then followed that there were to be negotiations between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Dublin City Council and the receiver in respect of the delivery of the 550 units which are not covered by legislation. Unfortunately, nothing happened for ten months. At five minutes to midnight yesterday, the assistant CEO of Dublin City Council, Mr. Shakespeare, issued a letter saying that negotiations commenced at the weekend. The inaction and inactivity by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, which says that social and affordable housing is a priority, is a joke. What is going on?

We are not only in a social housing crisis, but also an affordable housing crisis. The programme for Government states that an affordable housing scheme would be announced. There is an affordable loans scheme, but no affordable housing scheme. I have spent two days at An Bord Pleanála. I have raised this issue twice under Commencement matters in this House. The Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, told me 18 months ago that there was no need for a pilot scheme on affordable housing on the Poolbeg west or the old Irish Glass Bottle sites and that there would be a national programme. We have no national programme and we have no plans for affordable housing. We nearly lost, and may still lose, 550 units in a prime location 2 km from the city centre. We will have no integrated housing, rather we will have a dormant village in the heart of the city. That is poor planning.

This is at the Minister of State's door. I am sorry that neither the Minister of State, Deputy English, nor the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, are here because I am angry, as is the local community, but this goes much further than just Ringsend, Sandymount and Pearse Street. Affordable housing is a national issue. All we have heard from this Government is talk, but we have seen no action. Negotiations only began at five minutes to midnight with the likelihood of losing 550 units. That is unacceptable to me. We want to see action. This is in the Minister, Deputy Murphy's own back garden, yet we have seen no action from him. Do we not care about affordable housing and social housing? Certainly in the community in which I live, my neighbours feel that the Government no longer has any focus and only worries about the next headcount, which is getting bigger. Urban villages in this city are being destroyed due to a lack of planning, a lack of commitment from this Government and a lack of policy.

I am sorry the Minister of State is here because it should be the Minister of State, Deputy English, or the Minister, Deputy Murphy, taking this debate. I know the Minister of State, Deputy English, has a pain in his head from listening to me talking about affordability in this city and I wonder if that is the reason he is not here today. We need action, not words.

I thank the Senator for raising this issue. First, it is encouraging to note recent media reports which suggest that the receiver has agreed to enter into negotiations with Dublin City Council on the provision of affordable housing on the site with the aim of entering into a binding agreement which will result in the provision of additional affordable units. I wish the parties well in their discussions and I know that the Minister, Deputy Murphy, and his Department are ready and available to support and encourage such engagement by providing the necessary policy clarity at the relevant and appropriate time.

It is worth clarifying that the Minister’s role in relation to the planning system is primarily to provide the policy and legislative framework to which planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are obliged to have regard in the exercise of their statutory planning functions. Therefore, in respect of the appeal which has been made in relation to the planning scheme for the Poolbeg SDZ, it is ultimately a matter for An Bord Pleanála to determine this appeal and neither the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government nor his Department can be involved in the case.

It is very important for the public to know, however, that his Department has consistently supported engagement on the development of Poolbeg west in order to ensure the level of social housing delivered on this site is far in excess of the 350 or so homes that would be ordinarily delivered through Part V of the Planning Act. For example, the observations made by the Minister’s Department on the draft planning scheme are very clear on this point and also clearly signal that there could be no compulsion about such matters. Such arrangements would have to be progressed in the context of an agreement that would detail the various funding, delivery and value for money considerations that apply in the ordinary course of such matters parallel to, but separate from, the finalisation and consideration of the planning merits of the scheme. The negotiations currently under way and the appeal process to An Bord Pleanála do not alter this position.

The Minister, Deputy Murphy’s Department remains committed to working with the city council, any relevant approved housing bodies and either the receiver or developers of the SDZ area in securing additional social and affordable housing from this site over and above Part V obligations and at the scale proposed in the adopted planning scheme, but subject to agreement on all the normal relevant terms including value for money aspects. It is, therefore, for the relevant parties using the array of social housing delivery mechanisms supported by the Minister's Department, including capital and current funded programmes delivered through the local authorities and approved housing bodies, to realise the potential for this site including enhanced social housing delivery.

As I said at the outset, the Minister wishes all parties well in these discussions and he is hopeful that a resolution will be reached in the short term to pave the way for the development of the Poolbeg west SDZ, realising the much needed housing mix that it promises to deliver. Whatever the result of the hearing currently under way, the Minister would like to assure the local community of his continued commitment to ensuring that the commitments regarding social and affordable housing will be met.

I find the answer the Minister of State gave to be totally unacceptable. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government was on the phone to Dublin City Council on 18 May 2017. It was party to the negotiations with the receiver and Dublin City Council. Those phone calls took place on 18 May 2017 and I challenge the Minister of State to say that they did not take place. Representatives of the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, were negotiating at the time. The Minister of State mentioned recent media reports which suggest that the receiver has agreed to enter into negotiations. The receiver has been ready to enter negotiations since 18 May 2017.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has not stepped up to the plate over the past 11 months. I challenge the Minister of State to give us the details regarding the contact and information details between the receiver, Dublin City Council and the Department.

In the context of the Minister having no hand, act or part in this, the CEO of Dublin City Council is on public record as telling council meetings that he notified the Department a number of weeks ago when the appeal came in from the receiver. The receiver only put in the appeal because of the lack of negotiations about the additional 550 units. This matter has been laid at the door of the Department. Let us be very clear about that. In a letter yesterday, Richard Shakespeare, assistant chief executive, planning and property development, Dublin City Council clearly indicates that the negotiations are taking place between the Department, the council and the receiver. Therefore, the Minister of State has misled the House. I ask him to go back to the Department, seek clarification, come back to the House and correct the record. I find his answers to be totally unacceptable. I do not think there is an urgency in the Department regarding affordable housing. I do not want to further embarrass the Minister of State because I know he is only stepping in for the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, and the Minister and that he was given a prepared speech. I ask him to return speedily because his reputation is on the line and his remarks are on the record of this House. He should seek clarification on whether the Department is actively involved in negotiations. Is it playing an active role? The Minister of State indicated that it is not. He quoted recent media reports in which Mr. Richard Shakespeare stated that the Department is involved in negotiations. I really do not feel the need to embarrass the Minister of State but I believe the record of the House needs to be corrected.

I will seek clarification from the Department regarding its role and the negotiations. I will ensure that the relevant information is forwarded to the Senator directly. I will send him a transcript of the conversation here today and seek the clarifications he has sought from the Department.

The clarification needs to be given to the Seanad, not to me personally. I say that on foot of what has been said on the record of the House.

Would the Senator be kind enough to wait? I am obliged to take Senator Devine's matter now. I had to take Senator Humphreys' matter out of turn in her absence. Senator Devine is very welcome.

Primary Care Steering Group

In February, the House passed, unopposed, a motion which stated clearly that a non-HSE parent representative should be on the HSE primary care national steering group for children with complex medical needs. The parents of these children, who, through their experience, are experts, rightly rejoiced after the motion was passed. They believed that, finally, they would be listened to and respected, particularly in the context of their experience, their voice and their input. This has not happened to date. On 16 February, members of Our Children's Voice, the warriors who have been at the forefront of this fight since the very beginning, met the representative from the HSE and were assured that he was very happy for parent representatives to be on the steering group and that he would be in touch with an invitation. There was silence thereafter until just two weeks ago. At that point, the HSE representative emailed to state that the executive will proceed with the establishment of the reference group and that further consideration will be given to the issue of the steering group.

Let me be clear. There is no need for those in the HSE to exercise their grey matter. There is no need for the executive to give further consideration to this issue. The House made its decision on 6 February. Non-elected HSE representatives do not have authority over the decisions and determination of the Seanad. Every Member of this House should be very concerned by the brazen disregard of the decisions of this House by the HSE. I want to reiterate why this House passed my motion unopposed. A few years ago, the HSE used a steering group, the membership of which included service users, in order to develop its policy on service user engagement. This was the much-lauded and forward-thinking strategy on service user engagement by the HSE and the Department of Health. Authentic service user engagement is vital and best practice.

Our Children's Voice was represented on the HSE clinical group on domiciliary care for children. There are precedents for this type of representation. The parents making this representation today have long been organised in advocating on behalf of their children and have the necessary skill set to operate at steering group level. This is about listening to the real experts, namely, the people who live with this day in and day out. They are experts through experience and necessity. The HSE has a real opportunity to gain from their expertise. Our Children's Voice's mission statement indicates that it is "a group of parents, hoping to give children who have high medical/physical needs or life-limiting conditions a voice that will be heard". I ask the Minister of State to tell me why they are being silenced. Why are we allowing the HSE to dictate to the Seanad, which passed my motion unopposed in February? What is happening is disgraceful and disrespectful and it will be brought up in this House again and again until the HSE decides - or is instructed by the relevant Minister - to allow parents to join the steering group.

I thank Senator Devine for raising the issue of parental representation regarding the care of children with complex medical needs. Both the Minister and I understand the importance of this issue for parents. Children with complex healthcare needs have substantial medical requirements as a result of one or more congenital, acquired or chronic conditions and there is frequently a need for technological assistance and ongoing nursing care to support parents in caring for their children at home. The care of these children is best managed in partnership between parents and specialist medical staff who work together to help children lead as normal a life as possible and to avoid hospital admission. To this end, the Minister secured additional funding in budget 2018 to increase the number of clinical paediatric home care packages delivered from 507 in 2017 to 584 this year. I am sure the House will welcome this expansion of such an important service.

Turning to the specific issue of parental representation, some parents and representative groups have recently sought to be included on the HSE's primary care steering group for children with complex medical needs. Following discussion in this House on 6 February, the matter has been re-examined in recent weeks. However, as was referenced in the House previously, this steering group is a clinical group which, as part of its remit, scrutinises commercially sensitive issues relating to the business process. Representation on the group is, therefore, not the best or most appropriate means of securing the views of parents.

We all want to ensure that parents can contribute their full expertise and knowledge regarding the needs of their children. It is for this reason that the HSE will establish a parental reference group that will feed directly into the work of the steering group. Although some details are still to be finalised, it is intended that the reference group will have an independent chair and up to ten parent representatives and will include the national lead for children with complex medical conditions as a member. The group will meet up to three times each year. This will include meeting the steering group. The proposed structure will ensure that the voices of more parents from across the country can be heard directly in order to help us shape how we deliver care to their children.

It is also important to note that, as part of a national quality assurance process, individual meetings have taken place between the HSE and parents in respect of the provision of paediatric care packages and these meetings will continue throughout the year. The HSE will also be holding workshops with parents, which, again, will enable parents to be heard in respect of the needs of their children.

The provision of additional paediatric home care packages and the establishment of the parental reference group demonstrate that the Government is committed to supporting the families of children with complex medical needs and to ensuring the provision of a service that works for parents and reflects their expertise and knowledge regarding those needs.

The Minister of State's reply is completely unacceptable. It is also disrespectful to this House. We did not have a discussion in February. We passed a motion unopposed. There is a precedent. Phrases such as "commercially sensitive" are always used to keep people's voices down. These parents are responsible and they will be accountable.

It is disgraceful that the Minister of State is using the words "commercially sensitive" or a "business process" when we are talking about the care of the complex medical needs of our children. I am beginning to question the usefulness of this House or even the Lower House when the motion that was passed there on 22 March to abolish the in loco parentis clause and homecare nursing contracts for sick children has also been ignored. Where do we go from here when the wishes of both Houses are completely and utterly ignored and disrespected, and disrespect is shown to the people who we want to represent and get on those boards to have their voice heard? It is not acceptable from the Minister of State and I will be furthering this issue if I can find a way to do so and if I am advised by the Cathaoirleach how to best do so.

The role of the Seanad and of the Dáil is not within my remit. Senator Devine will have to take that argument elsewhere. On the issue, all I can do is to clarify for Senator Devine again that it is not appropriate in this instance that parents would sit on this steering group because of issues of commercial sensitivity. That is why it has been agreed to establish a reference group that will feed into the steering group, which will ensure that the voices of parents will be heard, which is very important to all of us, not just Senator Devine. I can assure her of that fact.

Deer Culls

I welcome members of Ballinteer Educate Together to the Gallery. I hope they enjoy their visit to Leinster House. I call Senator Coghlan.

I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for taking this matter on behalf of his colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan. This situation speaks for itself and has led to a lot of recent publicity because there is an increase in comment, and more importantly, concern among residents and the general public.

Deer populations have greatly increased in the last few years. Before I get into the matter I would like to congratulate the Minister of State's colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, on the further investment announced in the national development plan for trails and other amenities in the national park. That is very important for Killarney and for tourism.

I refer to the deer situation. As I have said, the deer population has greatly increased. What is primarily needed is a proper management plan and engagement between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Kerry County Council. In the last few years the deer are encroaching on farmland all over the place, well outside the national park. I know they are a wild animal and we cannot say they are totally the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, but in a sense they are because that is the deer's' primary home. I know that farmers can get a licence, and if the deer are on their property and damaging vegetation and feed, they can deal with it. There has been a significant cull this year of about 97 animals. Once the culls are happening properly in the open season, I think it is proper.

We do not have an exact count for the native red or the sika, but the sika are also growing in number and, as we know, they are an imported species. The Kerry Deer Society, of which I am a member, would not mind seeing a huge reduction in the number of sika. They are more difficult to deal with than red deer. They probably do not do as much damage to grazing, but they are all over the place and there was an unfortunate incident on Innisfallen Island where a few of them were found starved to death because there was no grazing left for them and the number there has been culled down to about 20. I would argue that 20 is still too many sika to be left on Innisfallen Island, but that is a matter for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to consider further.

I wonder if the service is considering not alone depopulation, but translocation of deer. I am thinking of the Kerry red, and in the interests of genetic purity, that we could transport some of these deer to other national parks. I do not know about Ballycroy. It is a vast acreage in Mayo. There are some deer in Letterfrack already and in Doneraile. The State should consider other offshore islands. There have been some deer for years on Inishvickillane, thanks to the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. There are other offshore islands that could be considered. Perhaps that would be good for the deer as well.

The concern is among neighbouring landowners on all sides of Killarney National Park - north, south, east and west. The deer are even encroaching slightly on the town, coming in at King's Bridge, opposite St. Mary's Cathedral. There are grass verges there and there has been some good grass growth. The deer have been encroaching during the night and have been photographed right outside the cathedral gates. That has been a new development.

I could go on about a whole lot of other aspects but I do not think there is any point. I am looking forward to hearing the statement the Minister of State has on the matter and I am sure we can have further engagement. However, I would ask in the interests of road safety as well as everything else, that there be an active engagement with Kerry County Council on the matter.

As Senator Coghlan will be aware, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine published Deer Management in Ireland - A Framework for Action in 2015, which recommends a series of actions on deer management and conservation in a number of areas, including addressing the impact of deer in places where they are widespread.

There is a significant challenge in attempting to balance the demands of agriculture, forestry and conservation with the need to ensure that deer populations occupying the same land resource are managed at sustainable levels, and in a responsible and ethical manner. It should be noted that while the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department does license the hunting of deer, the Department does not own the deer population. They roam freely throughout the countryside and are present in many parts of the country. It is not part of the remit of the Department, nor indeed would it be generally possible to cordon them onto specific areas of land. Ultimately, however, where deer species are increasing in range and numbers, depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls need to be carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences.

With regard to Killarney National Park in particular, Senator Coghlan will be aware that the Department, as part of its regular ongoing management operations, carries out localised annual deer counts on State lands, where appropriate. Deer have the potential to impact significantly on woodlands, including the iconic yew, oak and also wet woodlands within the park, for example by bark stripping of mature trees and preventing regeneration.

The Department commissioned a comprehensive survey and report in the winter of 2016 on the distribution, population density and population structure of red deer and sika deer in Kerry national park. The study found that the total estimated red deer density over the entire study area of 13.64 sq. km. was some 708 deer. A further census of areas of the park was commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, southern division and conducted in spring 2017. On foot of these reports circa 100 deer have been culled within the park to date during 2018. This is in addition to more than 120 deer which have been culled between 2015 and 2017.

As part of the Department’s ongoing proactive management of the habitats and species in Killarney National Park, it is also proposed to conduct a Killarney National Park deer census during 2018. This work will be undertaken by external specialists. It is hoped to initiate this process shortly. As mentioned earlier, the Department does not own the deer population. Deer are wild animals and they roam freely throughout the countryside. Control of deer on private property is the responsibility of landowners. Wild deer in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts, however, there is an annual open season during which deer can be legally shot under licence. The open season for deer operates generally from 1 September to the last day of February, depending on the species and gender of deer. Landowners may also apply to the Department for a permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts to cull deer where necessary outside the annual open seasons.

These permissions offer a facility whereby a person can obtain a permit, on a case-by-case basis, to prevent serious damage caused by individual deer on specific lands. Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage.

The Department has granted over 5,000 deer hunting licences for the current deer hunting season. Licences are issued for an annual period with all licences expiring on 31 July 2018. Last year the Department issued 21 section 42 permits for deer in Kerry. To date this year, eight section 42 permits for deer have been granted for Kerry with nine applications currently under consideration.

The Senator will also be aware of the issue of fencing, which has sometimes been raised with regard to deer management in Killarney National Park. There are no plans to fence the national park. Fencing it would not be a viable solution and would not achieve the desired results for a number of reasons. The presence of deer is not confined to the national parks and consequently fencing of these properties would serve no practical purpose in terms of wild deer control or management. The park is over 10,000 ha in size, including some rugged terrain. Fencing this area would be an enormous task that is unlikely to result in the desired objective. Sika deer are capable of going under fencing that is eight inches off the ground, while red deer are capable of knocking down fences that are preventing them from reaching traditional feeding and shelter grounds. The erection of a fence this size could also impact on the sensitive habitats within the park. There are many deer outside the park boundaries. I am aware that there have been cases where wild deer have been involved in collisions with vehicles. I am of the view that improving sight lines for motorists, as well as improved, possibly larger, signage is likely to be the most effective measure to assist motorists in remaining vigilant when driving through areas where populations of deer can be expected.

Officials from the Department have discussed this with Kerry County Council and I understand that Kerry County Council has prepared a scheme of works, which includes a number of measures including the trimming back of overhanging tree branches and the enhancement and relocation of roadside signs etc., in this regard.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am delighted to hear his remarks towards the end regarding the work with Kerry County Council and the scheme of works it is preparing. I accept there always has been culling of old and infirm animals, I refer to the native red deer primarily, which has been important but it is now necessary to do more. There are over 200 deer at Knockreer and Killarney golf club alone, which is only a small section of Killarney National Park. In Muckross there are several herds, which is apart from what is on Torc, Mangerton and the rugged terrain which was referred to. I am sceptical about the number given of 708 but am delighted that another deer count by external specialists will be undertaken this year, which I welcome very much.

The Minister of State spoke of the number of licences that had been issued. It is quite in order for farmers to be allowed do this on their own ground because if the deer are on their land, they are the farmer's property. However, within Killarney National Park, where so many people roam freely through trails and walks, it is essential that the Department would not issue licences to anyone apart from its own staff or rangers.

I thank the Senator. I will pass his sentiments on to the Minister and ensure she is aware of his concerns.

Sitting suspended at 11.14 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.