Commencement Matters

Environmental Policy

I welcome the Minister to the House. I raise this issue regarding the need for the Minister to update us on Ireland's transposition into law of the Aarhus Convention. The Minister is well aware of the importance of public participation in the planning process and how citizens across this country value that participation. It is an important and a very good convention that is relied on heavily and embedded into most city and county development plans. It is a very important aspect of our planning system that we have engagement with the public, with the citizens, as well as the public representatives in that process.

What are we talking about here? We are talking about enhancing environmental governance, transparency regarding proper planning and sustainable development of our communities, and empowering and entrusting people in sensitive information. However, more importantly, we are talking about giving people access and the right to information which governs and affect their lives, particularly regarding proper planning and sustainable development.

I welcome the Minister to the House and he might let is have his thoughts on these matters.

I thank Senator Boyhan for raising this issue. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, or as it is commonly known, the Aarhus Convention, was adopted on 25 June 1998, just two decades ago. The Aarhus Convention lays down a set of basic rules to promote public involvement in environmental affairs. The convention governs environmental justice rights and is formed by three aspects or pillars of the convention, namely: access to information on the environment; public participation in decision-making on environmental matters; and access to justice in environmental matters. The European Union subsequently introduced two directives to implement the Aarhus Convention. These are Directive 2003/4/EC, on public access to environmental information and Directive 2003/35/EC, on public participation in respect of drawing up certain plans and programmes relating to the environment. For the avoidance of any doubt I confirm that Ireland has already fully ratified the Aarhus Convention and this was achieved on 20 June 2012.

Since then Ireland has also ratified two related agreements: the protocol on pollutant release and transfer registers; and the GMO amendment to the Aarhus Convention. The convention and these two related agreements entered into force on 18 September 2012. An implementation table which details various legislative measures taken to implement the Aarhus Convention and related EU directives into Irish law is available on my Department's at dccae.gov.ie. This includes measures in the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, principally to introduce new rules about costs to apply in certain legal cases. Since Ireland transposed the convention in 2012, a body of case law has naturally emerged, as Irish and EU courts interpret the convention as transposed.

My Department is currently working on the heads of a Bill to address such matters. This Bill is intended to reflect the recent case law and streamline the legislative framework, and to remove any doubts as regards Ireland’s intentions in terms of the transposition where the courts have expressed the need for greater clarity. The issues to be addressed in the Bill include: automatic recognition that certain environmental NGOs have sufficient interest in relevant environmental cases; establishing in law that judicial review is an appropriate review procedure under Article 9(2) of the convention; and where they exist, that administrative review procedures must be exhausted prior to an application for judicial review.

While it had been originally anticipated that the heads would be approved by the Government before the summer recess, a small number of issues still remain to be settled in consultation between my officials and those of the Office of the Attorney General. It is, therefore, now more likely that the Bill will the published in the autumn, although my officials are still striving to have the heads approved by the Government before summer if possible. Although this Bill, when enacted, will clarify certain matters regarding the transposition and implementation of the convention by Ireland, I would like to reassure the House that Ireland is already in full compliance with the Aarhus Convention.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response and to note that he is bringing forward a Bill.

Would the Minister consider initiating the Bill in the Seanad? The Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, was in the House recently talking about expanding the role around scrutiny and legislation, and working more on legislation, perhaps more than statements that we tend to see much of in this House. It is something that the Minister will be well aware of. Any Minister can initiate legislation in this House, and the Minister might give consideration to that in due course. I thank the Minister for a very comprehensive response.

I have no difficulty initiating legislation in this House. As Senator Boyhan knows, it is a scheduling matter, mainly dictated by the Government Chief Whip's office. I have absolutely no difficulty initiating legislation in this House. My priority is to get legislation enacted. It has to go through both Houses. It is the case that there is limited legislative time available in the Lower House. There seems to be far more time available in this House. I am called in every week to give statements. I am quite willing to bring forward the legislation in this House first. I have absolutely no difficulty with that.

Movement Therapy Programme

I would like to welcome the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, to the House. I met two ladies, Ms Aoife Caulfield and Ms Judy Breen, in Ennis two or three weeks ago. I have a particular interest in education, particularly that of small children. I am committed that they should be able to read and write as proficiently as possible. These two ladies brought to my attention that a child's ability to read and write can often be dictated by his or her reflexes and muscle movement if the child's neural system is developing correctly and appropriately. Certain movements in the neck, head and other parts of the body of many kids may not be developing, or may not have developed, appropriately and properly. There has been much research done on this internationally, although it is limited in Ireland. In England, it was proven beyond doubt that where children's reflexes and bodily movements are impaired, it leads to an literacy impairment.

We have seen a great commitment by the Government in recent times with more than 10,000 special needs assistants and significant resources put in to helping kids who have challenges reading, writing and so forth. That is very welcome but we need to think outside the box. I was struck by what these two ladies proposed, which they were able to back up by international research, that where programmes to help children with their reflexes were carried out their literacy skills improved dramatically.

I am not in any way suggesting this should be rolled out nationally immediately. It should be looked at for in-service training as part of the curriculum, particularly in primary and pre-primary education. Would the Minister consider doing this on a pilot basis with the proper analysis and reviews, and looking at the results? I have no doubt the results will be positive and we will see there is merit in looking at rolling this out at a national level.

At the very least, I am looking for a commitment in principle from the Department of Education and Skills that it will engage with these people and listen to what they have to say. They are doing it in schools on an ad hoc basis at the moment. They are getting the results. I would really encourage the Department of Education and Skills to engage with them and to carry out a pilot programme for the academic year 2018-19 in two or three schools. If it works, perhaps we could look at doing it on a more streamlined national basis. We need to think outside the box with these issues. When one thinks about it, it makes sense that, if children have issues with reflexes, movements and so on, it is bound to have a knock-on effect on their ability to read and write.

I thank Senator Conway. I apologise for taking this on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills who has provided me with this response.

Officials in the Department of Education and Skills were contacted in May by the organisation which promotes this movement therapy programme. At its core, the programme has the aim to promote learning readiness in children. On 19 June, officials met with the organisation and listened to a detailed presentation on therapy intervention. The specific intervention is known as the Institute for Neuro-Physiology Psychology, INPP, method. The theory behind the INPP method is the presence or absence of certain primitive reflexes or postural reactions are key stages in a child's development, and provide signposts of the maturity in the functioning of the central nervous system. Examples of primitive reflexes might include sucking and grasping, while postural reflexes might include head-righting reflexes or certain rolling reflexes. The theory suggests where there is a presence of an apparent reflex or postural reaction, which is not explained by an identified pathology, the reflexes and-or postural reactions can be associated with a variety of neurodevelopmental problems and specific learning difficulties. In simple terms, certain movement characteristics can signal certain neurodevelopment problems or learning difficulties.

The theory further suggests that, by addressing these issues through the exercise programme, neurodevelopmental programmes and specific learning difficulties can be improved. The INPP method uses the assessment of primitive reflexes and postural reactions in school-aged children and beyond to identify signs of immaturity and the functioning of the central nervous system. The reflex profile of an individual child is then used as a clinical tool to identify the earliest point in development from which a physical remedial programme should be started.

The method requires that physical movements based on movements normally made during infancy or the first year of life are prescribed and practised daily. When applied, progress is assessed at eight-week intervals using tests for primitive and postural reflexes, gross muscle coordination and balance, and ocular motor functioning. If the exercises are effective, the score on all physical tests should, in theory, decrease. There should be measurable improvement in the range of neurodevelopmental problems, including speech and language problems, where they arise.

In order to ensure there is a full understanding of the method, including any evidence of its effectiveness or merit, or potential application in schools, the National Educational Psychological Service was asked to consider the body of evidence provided by the presenting organisation along with any other research or studies on this intervention, and to report back to the Department when this consideration has been completed. Until such time that the review, or any further review which may be deemed necessary to establish the merit of the programme, is completed it would not be appropriate to consider its inclusion in any existing or new programmes, or for pre-service or in-service provision for teachers. The Department of Education and Skills is committed to considering any proposal for new or innovative evidence-based interventions. Officials will remain in contact with the organisation during the review and will inform it of the outcome as soon as it is available.

I thank the Minister for a very detailed explanation of the theory, which I am getting my own head around. It appears to be very convincing. It is appropriate that it would be referred to the body to which the Minister referred. Is there a timeline? We all know about things being referred to bodies, and it seems to be an infinite timeline. Is there a specific eight-week, 12-week, three-month period in which the body can report back? The next move for the Department of Education and Skills will be dictated by the recommendations of this body.

I thank the Senator. I do not have a timeline and it has not been presented to me in the information I have been provided with.

As part of the negotiations on the programme for Government, I specifically had a commitment written in on page 86 that the Government would be determined to ensure every child leaving primary school could read and write. It should be a basic requirement that every child is literate and numerate leaving primary school. Every child should have the opportunity to do that but, sadly, it is not the case. The Senator has highlighted a particular initiative that may assist a small cohort of people, which I have consistently raised in the past. I have taken plenty of heat from this House and the Lower House on the issue. We have three separate databases that could assist us regarding the rate of truancy. If we could link up the Department of Education and Skills database with those of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the national educational welfare service of Tusla, which comes under the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, it would be an effective tool to identify problems and vehicles to address them. Sadly, for political reasons people have jumped down on it. Our priority should be to use all the available technology and information available to us to ensure that regardless of background every child has an equal opportunity to access a proper education particularly in primary school.

The issue of truancy came up again in the media today. We need to use the tools available to us as a State to try to ensure all children have the opportunity and are able to read and write when they leave primary school and progress to secondary school.

Light Rail Projects

I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. We have a rather topical item coming up.

I thank the Minister for taking this Commencement matter. He could have asked a Minister of State to come in so I appreciate him taking the matter in person.

The Minister knows the area well. He has lived in this part of Dublin for a long number of years. He is well aware of the proposal for MetroLink, which will erect a wall in the middle of the community of Ranelagh. It is proposed that a train will run every 90 seconds. It will separate the community forever and it will have a great impact on traffic and emergency services. If they had to attend to a heart attack on one side of the line, for example, trying to access the incident would be difficult because of the way the emergency services are configured. There has been little opportunity for the residents to make their views known. Residents on the northside were invited to appear before the transport committee. The Minister has no control over whether one group or another is invited to appear before the committee but they were excluded from that. I feel particularly aggrieved by that. They have requested a meeting with the National Transport Authority, NTA, which I hope will be granted shortly, and they have also asked to meet the Minister. I ask the Minister to look at his diary on Friday, if that is when he has his diary meeting, to see if he can facilitate the representatives of the residents and schools in the Ranelagh area.

The proposal is to close the Luas green line for up to two years. The official papers say it will be a year but the structural surveys on the embankment have not been carried out yet. If the embankments have to be reinforced, which I believe will be the case, it will take substantially more than a year. It will have an impact on the immediate area, not only Ranelagh and Rathmines but the entire southside of the city. To put the number of people who use the green line back on to other public transport or in their cars would destroy the southside of the city for up to two years. The economic impact would be substantial. I ask that the Minister look at continuing the MetroLink further underground past Milltown, which the papers propose, would only close the green line for three months. The green line could be closed for June, July and August during the school holidays which would lessen the impact on the city and its economic activity and mean having a better scheme to service the city.

The Minister's officials will probably say he cannot implement these proposals without breaking eggs. I am a realist. To put in the infrastructure that is needed, some people will be discommoded and disadvantaged but we have to try to ensure we do not destroy where we do not have to. There is a solution, although it is not a perfect solution. It may not be the one everyone likes but it would certainly maintain the integrity of Ranelagh. It would prevent an old-type Berlin Wall through the heart of Ranelagh, which would not only separate families and communities but would have an impact on small businesses and their economic viability if half their footfall is taken out.

I ask the Minister to meet the representatives of the residents' groups, who are the people most impacted. They have formally written him asking for that meeting. He may not have had time to consider it. I ask the Minister to meet them as soon as possible with his officials, to allow them to explain the impact on their communities. He will see that there is a viable alternative. The costing is €420 million. Similar major changes have taken place on the northside regarding the location of the stations. We are hearing rumours. The NTA said it may be move to a single bore tunnel. We need to know what impact that will have and what can be done. If it is moved to a single bore tunnel, as a result of the reduction in cost, can we reduce the impact it will have on communities such as Ranelagh and Rathmines?

I thank the Senator for raising this issue on which he has been a loud and extremely effective voice. It is a difficult issue because when we embark on projects like this, some communities almost inevitably suffer discomfort or worse. It is partly my job to ensure it is Government policy that the kind of disruption to which the Senator refers, particularly in Ranelagh, is deferred or does not happen at all. It is difficult to embark on a project without doing that but I assure the Senator we have no intention of splitting communities in any way. We will do everything we can to ensure no communities are split by this particular project, which is of such great importance to the entire city and county of Dublin.

The recently published national development plan, NDP, which was launched earlier this year by Government as part of Project Ireland 2040, brings together the metro north and metro south projects, as envisaged by the NTA's greater Dublin area, GDA, strategy, into one project called MetroLink. It is a massive project and Ranelagh is an important part of it. Ranelagh will greatly benefit from it but the sensitivities of the people of the community have to be taken into consideration.

The MetroLink project is the development of a north-south urban railway service that will run between Swords and Sandyford, connecting key destinations along the 26 km route. There will be 25 stations in total, 15 of them brand new. A large proportion of the route will be underground, including where it passes under the important city centre area and Dublin Airport. The underground section will terminate close to the Charlemont stop on the Luas green line, south city area, where the metro will connect to and run southwards on the existing Luas green line. The Luas green line will be upgraded to metro standard as part of the project. It will provide Dublin with a high-capacity, high-frequency, cross-city rail corridor, serving critical destinations such as Swords, Dublin Airport, Dublin City University, Ballymun, the Mater Hospital and existing destinations along the Luas green line to Sandyford. MetroLink will provide faster reliable journey times to and from these key destinations while offering interchange with other rail, DART expansion, light rail and bus services.

It is predicted that capacity for 15,000 passengers per direction per hour during the busiest peak times will be required along this corridor. MetroLink will have the capacity for 30 trains per hour in each direction, so it will greatly enhance the public transport offering in Dublin. The creation of about 4,000 jobs during construction is also envisaged, which is highly significant for the economy in the region. The NTA, in conjunction with TII, recently completed a public consultation process on the emerging preferred route. The emerging preferred route is the proposal which has been identified as the likely optimal scheme from a technical design perspective, without the benefit of public consultation and input. It is not a finalised and selected scheme. The final layout will only be determined after consideration and evaluation of the issues raised during the consultation process. The purpose of that process, which also includes public consultation meetings, was to obtain the views of the general public, particularly those along the identified emerging route and to take that input into account in finalising a selected route. I gather there have been consultations and meetings on this subject in the Senator's area.

Following receipt of all of the submissions, the issues and concerns identified are being carefully considered by TII and the NTA in determining the final scheme proposal. A public consultation report is expected to be published later this year, following a full appraisal of the 8,000 submissions received. The NTA and TII expect that an application for a railway order, comprising the final design scheme, will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála during quarter 3 of 2019. A further public consultation will be undertaken in 2019 as part of the statutory planning consent process. This will include a report assessing the environmental impacts of the project as well as final details of any land acquisitions needed for the scheme. Subject to receipt of planning approval, construction of the project is expected to commence in 2021 with MetroLink open for passenger use in 2027.

I absolutely understand the concerns raised by affected stakeholders, including those communities in Ranelagh, so well represented by Senator Humphreys. I believe that the MetroLink project can bring many benefits. I am confident that the NTA and TII, through the consultative process that they have under way, will find a way of delivering the MetroLink project, maintain good routes that interchange with other public transport modes, and do it in a way that respects the social and community life of our city.

Given the MetroLink emerging preferred route proposal is the subject of a current independent public consultation process, I am sure the Senator will understand it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment any further on the details of the proposal at this time.

It is not my intention or that of the residents' groups to put the Minister in an awkward position, but the residents in Ranelagh believe the consultation process was deeply unfair. As I said earlier, others had access to the transport committee, to the National Transport Authority and to senior Ministers. This is not what happened on the southside of the city. When we requested a two-week extension to the public consultation we were informed that it would not be extended because of a specific request from residents on the northside that it should close on time.

The opportunities for people to express their views were very limited. That is why I am asking the Minister to find time in his diary to meet the residents' representatives. Above all there have been a number of announcements since the closure of the public consultation. We have heard of a temporary inconvenience of five or six years during the building of the MetroLink to Home Farm Football Club and certain GAA pitches. I welcome that they can be facilitated as they should be.

However, we have no information on whether the single-bore tunnel will affect the southside, whether it can be extended beyond Milltown or whether the residents' views will be taken on board. That is why I am so insistent that they should have an opportunity now to engage with departmental officials on the matter. They have some extremely good ideas. The residents know very well the impact needs to be highlighted; they went through this procedure with the Luas green line. They just want their views taken on board. They do not want their communities divided in half. They want equality. They want to be treated in the same way as every other citizen in Dublin is treated which they have not been up to now. They need to talk to the decision makers, to whom other residents in this city seemingly have access but the residents in Ranelagh do not.

As I said earlier, I ask the Minister to meet the residents' representatives. I ask him to ensure the National Transport Authority also meet the residents' representatives. We need to seriously look at taking the single-bore tunnel underground much further out into the suburbs. I know the areas involved and they need good public transport. The MetroLink opens up lands past Dublin Airport for the construction of residential units that we badly need. We know of the planning applications for a number of units to be built in Cherrywood. We know of the need for access. However, the impact this will have in the Ranelagh and Rathmines area needs to be taken on board.

I thank the Minister for attending today.

I wish to respond to the subsequent points the Senator has made. I am not averse to meeting residents' groups at all, although I could not obviously meet everybody who has difficulty with every transport project.

The public consultation process report is due to be issued later this year. This is primarily a matter for the NTA and it is not primarily a matter for me to interfere with that process. In fact, it would be wrong for me to do so. It should be left. The Senator might like the result of the public consultation report that is due to be released this year. After that I will certainly consider meeting the residents if the Senator still feels dissatisfied or aggrieved by the treatment he received from the NTA in this matter.

There will be another public consultation process in 2019 as part of the statutory planning consent process as the Senator will be aware. I will convey what he had to say to the NTA and I will communicate with him on its response.

Care of the Elderly Provision

I am asking the Minister for Health to confirm when the day-care centre for older people will open at the Ballinamore community nursing unit and primary care centre and if there are any plans to provide additional beds at the unit. I thank the Minister of State for being here today. I clearly remember five years ago turning the sod on the €6 million primary care centre and the 20-bed community nursing unit in what is a very impressive campus. It was a great privilege for me as a local Deputy back then to turn the sod on the wonderful development. We now have a modern purpose-built primary care centre and an interconnected 20-bed care managed unit.

The role of the primary care centre fits in with the Government's primary care strategy which is to provide a range of key services addressing the needs of local communities all under one roof. Using this approach, the primary point of contact between a person and the health system is through the local primary care team. The community nursing unit works in tandem with the primary care centre, acting as either a step-down facility for patients well enough to be discharged from general hospital but not well enough to go home or those who require additional therapies.

Regarding my first query over the day-care centre, it was clearly stated in the project's brief at the very outset that this campus would have a day-care facility. Unfortunately this is still to happen. I would like to establish when the facility will commence. It is certainly long overdue. Day-care centres provide a range of social and rehabilitative services for older people with disabilities, and are a vital lifeline for many elderly people. Ballinamore deserves one like any other area.

The community nursing unit is a long-term care facility designed to meet the needs of dependent older people in south Leitrim and has been operational since May 2016. At present there are 20 residents in the facility. It is an extremely busy unit but, unfortunately, there is a long waiting list to avail of all its services. Given this situation, I want to ask Minister of State whether there are any plans to provide additional beds at the site. There is certainly more space in the site for a further build, which would provide more beds to cater for this demand. I will be interested to hear the views of the Minister of State on this issue.

On behalf of the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health and older people, Deputy Jim Daly, I thank Senator Feighan for raising this very important matter. I also acknowledge his work on this issue and with regard to health and disability services and senior citizen services in his area.

The overarching policy of the Government is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, and to support access to quality long-term residential care where this is appropriate, and this appropriateness is the important aspect. Yesterday we announced €14 million for housing adaptation grants for senior citizens with disabilities and this is another step in the same direction, so we have more people living in their own homes, where possible, as long as they have the proper facilities and accessibility.

The HSE has operational responsibility for planning, managing and delivering health and personal social services. Home care and other community services provide a greater range of options to avoid admission to acute hospitals, support early discharges and, where appropriate, to rehabilitate and re-able patients after periods of particular difficulty.

Our ageing population is one of the most significant demographic and societal developments that Ireland has encountered in modern times. Not only are people living longer, but a great many people are staying healthier and living better for longer. Demand for community services is rising as more people are supported in their own homes rather than in hospitals or nursing homes. However, quality residential care must continue to be available for those who need it. I emphasise this angle to the debate. It is for those who urgently need it.

Primary care centres provide a range of key services to address the health needs of their local communities. Access to day centres can make an important contribution by providing invaluable support, advice and social interaction for older people who may, for any number of reasons, be experiencing isolation and loneliness. The Ballinamore primary care centre and community nursing unit consists of a modern purpose-built primary care centre and interconnected 20 bed community nursing unit. The community nursing unit has been operational since May 2016. There are 18 single bedrooms and one twin bedroom. Residents are supported by a full nursing team and support team, who provide nursing care and support on a 24-hour basis. Medical care is provided by a GP service Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Outside these hours medical care is provided by NoWDOC. Multidisciplinary team members are accessible to residents through a referral process.

Ballinamore forms part of the south Leitrim complement of nursing home beds, which includes St. Patrick's hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon with 65 beds and Arus Carolan in Mohill with 36 beds. At present, there are no plans to provide additional beds in Ballinamore. However, as the Senator is aware, the national development plan acknowledges the need for additional capacity. It is expected that 4,500 additional short-term and long-term beds will be required across the public system in community nursing units and other step-down facilities, as identified by the health capacity review.

Health capital projects and programmes under way will continue, and these major priority projects will require the bulk of the notified capital allocation over the initial period of the plan from 2018 to 2022. The next planned phase of service provision for Ballinamore is the introduction of an integrated social day care service, which will further enhance day service provision in the south Leitrim area. It is envisaged that hot meals for clients who attend will be provided through the Ballinamore community nursing unit based on the same site. Social day services help to prevent social isolation, reduce possible hospital admissions and support early discharge from acute settings. The integrated social day care service will provide clients with opportunities to engage with their peers while participating in social activities. The HSE is seeking funding through the 2019 Estimates process to progress this plan and I will be very supportive of it.

I thank the Minister of State for his, as always, considered contribution. I welcome the fact that integrated social day-care services are planned and I hope the HSE will get the funding through the Estimates in 2019. We should support anything that prevents social isolation, reduces possible hospital admissions and supports the early discharge from acute settings. There is a very elderly community in Ballinamore and it should get priority funding and attention.

The fact that 4,500 additional short-term and long-term beds will be required throughout the public system in community nursing homes and other step-down facilities was identified by the health capacity review. There is no better place to increase the number of beds than Ballinamore. The 65 beds in St. Patrick's Hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon and the 36 beds in Arus Carolan in Mohill are very welcome. Providing an extra 20 beds in Ballinamore would bring it on par with Mohill. It is not that one is competing with the other, but that these beds are needed in the south Leitrim area. I know the Minister of State will look favourably on providing these extra beds for Ballinamore, and I hope he does so.

I thank Senator Feighan for his comments. I also welcome the fact that he welcomes the integrated care plan. With regard to the Estimates, it is very important that we are all very supportive.

The Minister and the HSE recognise that services provided at Ballinamore are a vital element in helping people to stay in their communities and homes. These services assist people who do not require emergency department hospital admission to be discharged as early as possible from acute care back to their communities. The level of funding available from the Department of Health in 2019 and the quantum of service to be provided by the HSE will be considered as part of the national estimate budgetary process and the national service planning.

The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, would wish to acknowledge Senator Feighan's continued commitment on behalf of the community to improve services in the area. When we listen to this debate and see the work has started, there is a genuine issue with regard to Ballinamore. I commend the commitment of Senator Feighan to Ballinamore. There should be an increase in the number of beds. It is a genuine request from the Senator and it is very important that I bring this message back to the Minister of State. I will bring back all of the issues the Senator has raised with regard to the wonderful service in Ballinamore. We should develop it as part of the national plan. There is a genuine issue because, of course, we recognise the valuable work done for many of our senior citizens.

Sitting suspended at 1.18 p.m. until 3.30 p.m.