I thank the Cathaoirleach for his initiative in relation to the National Day of Sweden. I know he has been marking these occasions in recent months. It is a nice gesture to recognise significant national days, particular those of other countries in Europe. I think his initiative will go down well with them.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Josepha Madigan, to the House. In raising this Commencement matter, I am seeking to have tougher penalties introduced for people who park in disabled bays and spaces. The Minister for Transport should consider the introduction of penalty points, rather than additional fines, for this offence.
Yesterday, I took the time to travel to Dublin following an outcry about the state of the city after events of the previous night. I also took the opportunity to look at disabled parking bays. All over Dublin, people illegally park in disabled parking bays and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. It was a Sunday, so maybe people were taking their chances. The fixed charge for misuse of disabled parking bays is currently a €150 fine, to be paid within 28 days. People with disabilities are suffering. It is essential to facilitate people with disabled parking bays because they are bigger and allow accessibility. It is about people having the right to engage in their communities and being able to come into their cities and towns and access schools and places of worship and work. Disabled parking bays are there for a purpose.
There has been a considerable increase in the number of disabled parking bays around the country. However, people are parking in them and preventing disabled people from parking. There are not that many such bays in each street. If the Minister of State looks around her area of Stillorgan and Mount Merrion, she will see that they are spread out. They are not just planted in places for the sake of it. Their locations have been thought through and chosen for a reason.
Are we really committed to supporting people with disabilities, including moderate disabilities? Are we really encouraging them, by putting policies in place that will permit them to come into the villages, towns and shops, to meaningfully engage with their communities? They have the same rights as everybody else. This is also an equality issue. It is about good management of the issues around parking but, more importantly, it is about supporting people with critical disabilities.
From speaking to representatives of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, with which I am involved, and the National Council for the Blind, NCBI, with which Senator Martin Conway has been involved, I know that tactile paving and bigger parking spaces have improved access for people with disabilities.
What I am proposing is that the Minister consider introducing penalty points. It is tough and hard. Most people who get two or three penalty points want to get them off their licence so they are conscious of their behaviour.
The Oireachtas issued its standard press release this morning on Commencement matters. I had circulated the standard notice giving my name and the time at which the Commencement matter would be taken and the press office here issued its statement. Within minutes, I had been contacted by members of Galway, Louth, Laois, Kildare and Wicklow county councils expressing an interest in the issue. They told me this was a serious problem in their parts of the country and they had been trying to do something about it but the issue was one of enforcement with limited resources.
It is important that we put in place a mechanism such as this and I am interested in hearing the views of the Department on the matter.