Questions Nos. 1 to 26, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 27 to 31, inclusive, resubmitted.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Questions Nos. 34 and 35 resubmitted.

Questions (32, 33)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

32. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent trip to the United States of America and the meetings he attended. [13969/19]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

33. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the issues he raised with President Trump during his recent visit to the White House. [12373/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 33 together.

In Washington D.C. I had a series of political discussions and meetings, including with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressmen Richie Neal and Peter King.

In each meeting, we discussed the Ireland - US bilateral relationship, including the importance of the two-way economic relationship.

I outlined the Government's position on Brexit, and thanked representatives of the Administration and Congress for their continued backing for the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

On Immigration, I expressed the Government's appreciation for the backing received both from the Administration and across the aisles in Congress for the E3 Bill last year, and highlighted the continued problems facing the undocumented Irish in the US.

In Washington D.C. I also attended a series of events hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.

I also attended a number of events including the White House St. Patrick's Day reception; a breakfast event hosted by the Vice President, and receptions hosted by the Irish Ambassador and by the Ireland Funds.

In Chicago, I had a meeting with a number of emigrant support groups that receive Irish Government funding, and had the opportunity to reaffirm the Government's commitment to finding a resolution to the status of the undocumented.

I also met with political leaders including Governor Jay Pritzker and Mayor Emanuel, where we discussed bilateral relations and topical issues including Brexit.

I attended Chicago's annual St. Patrick’s Day events, including a dinner hosted by the Irish Fellowship Club, mass in Old St. Patrick's church, and the Chicago Parade.

Finally, I launched Tourism Ireland's new publication marking the 10th anniversary of the Global Greening Initiative.

Questions Nos. 34 and 35 resubmitted.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Questions Nos. 37 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 60 to 68, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (36)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

36. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee E (Health) last met. [12374/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Cabinet Committee E last met on 22 November 2018. A date for the next meeting is being scheduled.

In addition to the meetings of the full Cabinet and of Cabinet Committees, I often meet with Ministers on an individual basis to focus on particular issues. In this regard, I meet regularly with Minister Harris to discuss issues relating to our health service.

The Government’s continuing commitment to improve access to health and social services for the people of Ireland through investment across community and hospital services is reflected in the significant increases in Health investment in recent years. This year will see the highest ever level of health funding in the history of the State.

Recent significant developments include:

The publication of the Sláintecare Action Plan for 2019, the first of what will be annual plans, sets out in a detailed and measurable way how the ambitious 10-year reform programme will be advanced this year.

Minister Harris recently launched the €20million Sláintecare Integration Fund for new models of health and social care, which will help share and scale examples of best practice, and encourage innovations in the shift of care to the community.

Last week, an agreement was reached with the Irish Medical Organisation on a major package of GP contractual reforms that will benefit patients and make general practice a more attractive career option for doctors.

On 1 April, primary care enhancements announced in Budget 2019 for reduced prescription charges and reduced drug payment scheme and increased GP visit card income thresholds came into effect. This is a step forward in benefitting potentially hundreds of thousands of people when these three actions are taken together.

A new HSE board is being established to strengthen the management, governance and accountability of the HSE. Appointments to the Board have been made on an administrative basis after the positions were advertised through the State Board process operated by the Public Appointments Service.

Following an open competition by the Public Appointments Service, Mr Paul Reid was appointed the new Director General of the HSE last week and is expected to begin the position on 14 May.

Significant progress has been made since the Cabinet Committee last met.

Questions Nos. 37 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 60 to 68, inclusive, answered orally.

Legislative Reviews

Questions (69, 114)

Paul Murphy

Question:

69. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on whether a review of legislation is required to ensure greater fixture of tenure and greater limitations on multiple evictions in view of the developments at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16380/19]

View answer

Paul Murphy

Question:

114. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a review of the rights of tenants to improve rent certainty will be supported in view of the mass evictions taking place at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16381/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 114 together.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.  

A number of measures have been introduced in recent years with the objective of improving security of tenure for tenants.  Security of tenure provisions under the Residential Tenancies Acts apply once a tenant has been in occupation of a dwelling for a continuous period of 6 months, with no valid notice of termination having been served during that time. Section 34 provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination in any notice served, in accordance with the grounds for terminations set out in the table to that section.

The so-called ‘Tyrrelstown amendment', included in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, provides a proportionate and justifiable limit to the legal right of landlords to use the 'intention to sell' ground to terminate a tenancy.  Where a landlord proposes to sell 10 or more units within a single development at the same time, that sale is subject to the existing tenants remaining in situ, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 published last December aims to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and commitments I made to provide the RTB with additional powers and resources to deliver enhanced protections to both tenants and landlords.

While extending the scope of the "Tyrrelstown amendment" is legally problematical and is therefore not provided for in the Bill, the Government has approved a range of amendments, including provisions to strengthen further the arrangements in relation to security of tenure for tenants and enforcement mechanisms under the Acts.  These amendments will be introduced at Dail Committee Stage of the Bill which is scheduled to be taken later this week.  Thereafter, the Government will be working to ensure that the Bill completes its passage through both Houses as quickly as possible, supporting the stability of the private rental sector in the interests of tenants and landlords alike.  

Rent Pressure Zones

Question No. 71 answered orally.

Questions (70)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

70. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to extend rent pressure zone designation periods beyond three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16253/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Last December, I published the Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and the commitments that I made to provide the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) with additional powers and resources to deliver enhanced protections to both tenants and landlords.

The Government has given priority to the legal drafting and passage of this Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. On 2 April 2019, the Government approved proposals I brought forward for significant  Committee Stage amendments to the Bill, including a provision that the operation of existing Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) will now extend to 31 December 2021, supporting the continued restrictions on rent increases in the areas concerned. 

The key measures and reforms in the Bill are designed to enhance the enforcement powers and data capacity for the RTB, provide greater security of tenure for tenants and further underpin the operation of the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) arrangements.  Specifically in relation to RPZs, the Bill provides powers for the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who fail to comply with the 4% rent increase restriction and the exemptions from the 4% restriction will be revised so as to apply only to the first rent setting, rather than every rent setting, of a new rental property.  In addition, revisions are being proposed to give wider scope to the application of Rent Pressure Zones. 

A fundamental principle of the Bill is to secure stability and confidence in the rental sector and its economic viability, and to safeguard and balance the rights of both tenants and landlords, while enhancing the effectiveness of the Residential Tenancies Acts as a whole.  As the Deputy will be aware, the Bill is scheduled for Dáil Committee stage debate later this week and I look forward to constructive discussions with the Deputy and other members of the Committee in that context.

Question No. 71 answered orally.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Review

Question No. 73 answered orally.

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 67.

Questions (72, 82)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

72. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when he plans to publish the review on the tenant purchase (incremental) scheme 2016; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16336/19]

View answer

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

82. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16250/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 82 together.

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 set the commencement date as 1 January 2016 for the introduction of the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses.

The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme.  To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations. 

Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review very shortly. Indeed, it is intended that a wider package of social housing reform measures will be brought to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process.

Question No. 73 answered orally.
Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 67.