There are 20 minutes in the next Government slot.
Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).
With the permission of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle I will take five minutes of it. I propose to share my time with other Government speakers, Deputies Finian McGrath and Frank Fahey.
This Bill is a worthy step in the right direction. After 20 years of involvement with transportation issues in Dublin, I am glad to see legislation in this area which I think will bring coherence, and some clout in terms of enforcement, to the pressing issue of resolving transport problems in the greater Dublin area. We have had a series of constructive meetings with all sides on this issue, and the Bill has benefited from a few thoughts that we brought to the table. I am glad to see that proper planning is at the heart of this Bill. It is crucial that we consider transportation and land use together. The Bill contains a strong requirement, in section 12(6), for the Authority not only to have regard for but to be consistent with the relevant regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area. This is a welcome step forward.
I do have some concerns about the Bill. There is a fear that the National Roads Authority is perhaps not reined in to the extent it might be. However, I have no doubt the Minister will listen carefully to the issues on all sides of the debate. It is important that we consider all aspects of transportation together: public and private transport, the slow modes of cycling and walking, and — increasingly in recent years — the "no-modes" under which people do not travel but instead communicate by telephone, fax, e-mail or text message. Any modern transport strategy should concentrate on reducing the need to travel and facilitating recent innovations in the area of communication. This can reduce the amount of traffic on our roads and hence the level of congestion.
I see this as a new dawn in transportation, as I saw the Dublin transport Initiative of the early 1990s, which took a step forward in addressing transport issues in the capital. The outcome of that was a light rail transport system for Dublin and a series of quality bus corridors around the city. However, much remains to be done, although the study was carried out 14 years ago. There was an emphasis on a network of QBCs around the city. We have QBCs but they are not quite a network. There was also an emphasis on real-time information and integrated ticketing. As I said previously in the House, all transport agencies must have their heads knocked together to ensure they develop a ticket that can be used on all modes of transport in the city and county, and in the surrounding counties, because so many people commute from quite long distances.
I would like to make a couple of pleas in certain areas. I am a regular cyclist and I often cycle with my children. Much needs to be done to provide a good system of cycle routes throughout the city which are safe for both adults and children and, more important, are maintained and kept free of traffic. I am sick to the back teeth of cycling along the red patch on a road and encountering fellas who have pulled in to buy their breakfast rolls and cappuccinos, Garda cars with their flashers on while the lads are out getting their coffee, security vans delivering money and lorries being loaded. I have seen all of this and I can show the photographs to anyone. I am sick and tired of cyclists being seen as second-class citizens. There is a lot more to be done in this area.
This Bill represents a sea change and is a good step forward. We should recognise the great work carried out by the Railway Procurement Agency and the Dublin Transportation Office. I ask only that we ensure the NRA pays sufficient attention to the DTA and that we pay particular attention to the slow modes of cycling and walking. Local authorities and the Garda Síochána have much work to do in this area.
Before the next speaker begins, may I ask the Deputy whether he is sharing time only with Deputy McGrath?
No. I am sharing with Deputy Frank Fahey as well, should he grace us with his presence in the Chamber.
There are 15 minutes left in the slot.
There is no need to worry — I will keep going if he does not turn up.
I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity of addressing the House on the new Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008. This is a major Bill and is a large part of the debate on transport in Dublin. It represents an opportunity for us to consider issues such as traffic congestion and the transport and traffic implications of Dublin Port and Dublin Bay. It also gives us an opportunity to debate the Dublin Port tunnel and its impact on the local communities of Marino, Fairview, Drumcondra and Santry. In addition, I will take a critical and independent look at the wider transport debate. We must consider the facts and the details and come up with solutions. I welcome the Bill presented by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and the debate today in the House.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority to ensure the delivery of Transport 21 investment and the provision of an integrated transport system in the greater Dublin area. It will ensure for the first time that there is a single, properly accountable body with overall responsibility for surface transport in Dublin, including the procurement of public transport infrastructure and services. The greater Dublin area is the area covered by the local authorities of Dublin city, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, south Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. I will focus in particular on the Dublin city area. The Bill provides a statutory basis for the new authority and sets out its structures, functions and powers. It also sets out the accountability framework for the authority and its relationship with other statutory bodies and transport providers in the greater Dublin area. This is the core of the legislation. I will talk later in more detail about particular sections of the Bill.
When I hear politicians talk about restricting access to the city centre for motorists, I often wonder whether they have thought this out fully. For example, what about people with physical disabilities and their right to access our city centre? What will they do? What about the rights of disabled motorists? I totally support the demands of representative groups for the Government to ensure that people with physical disabilities can access our city centre. Putting up barriers to them is not an option. I urge people in this debate to take into account my concerns about those with physical disabilities.
I welcome sections 8 and 9 of the Bill, which provide for the making of an order by the Minister to set a date for the establishment of the authority and contain other standard provisions with regard to the establishment of the authority and its legal status. Section 10 sets out the general transport, economic, social and environmental objectives of the authority. Section 11 specifies the general functions of the authority, including strategic transport planning, the provision of public passenger transport services and infrastructure, and effective traffic management. The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, make an order conferring additional transport functions on the authority. Sections 10 and 11 are important and their provisions form an important part of the debate.
I will move on to the wider debate, which includes the traffic and transport implications of Dublin Port and Dublin Bay. Dublin Bay is under ongoing debate. It is scandalous that the port company is still trying to destroy 52 acres of Dublin Bay even though most Deputies support the efforts to preserve the bay. The 52 acres are not for sale and we should be open in our challenge of those who are only interested in environmental vandalism. We need common sense and a vision for the future. I thank the Minister for Transport for his recent meeting with the Clontarf group, Dublin Bay Watch, which made strong points regarding the bay's protection and the need to address the issues of capacity, traffic and the port itself.
Dublin Port has continually asserted that the key reason for filling in 52 acres of Dublin Bay is the need for additional capacity. This singular mantra has been voiced since the mid-1960s and has resulted in substantial infilling of Dublin Bay. Since late 1997, the port company has continually claimed that it is on the verge of full capacity. Dublin Bay Watch has always been sceptical of this claim and initiated three research projects to review the evidence. In 2000, Dublin Bay Watch conducted an analysis of ship movements in and out of the port and correlated the information with that recorded in the annual reports of the company. This clearly showed that there were just more than 200 ship movements each week, yet the capacity of the port is 300. These facts relate to the issue of traffic congestion in the city.
The second piece of research was on the usage of port lands conducted with the assistance of Mapflow Limited. The analysis showed that the port lands, some 640 acres, was considerably underutilised. When this evidence was made public, Dublin Port Company began to change its tune and added the need for a deep sea port to its original capacity issue. This was scrutinised via its second EIS, in which the port company's own consultants made it clear that, while the 52-acre infill would generate additional deep sea access, it would require continual dredging for it to remain accessible.
I raise these issues because we are discussing transport issues. Another issue that must be raised is that of the Dublin Port tunnel. How many minutes have I remaining?
The Deputy has one minute remaining.
Is that in my allocation rather than Deputy Fahey's?
I would appreciate sensible planning and consultation with residents' groups. Some 334 homes were damaged during the building of the port tunnel. Before the debate, we were told that nothing would happen to anyone's home. I accept that many of the families have been compensated, but we need common sense planning. People must be straight with local community and residents groups.
I welcome the legislation and that the initial provision of up to €4 million will be made available to the interim authority by the Department of Transport Vote in 2008. However, there must be a broader and wider debate on transport and congestion issues in Dublin city.
I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and his officials on tabling this long overdue Bill. Since being appointed Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transport last September, the most striking feature of the transport and infrastructure provision in the greater Dublin area has been the lack of joined-up thinking. A serious deficit in leadership has resulted in the failure to take courageous decisions and a lack of vision regarding providing an integrated transport system for the Dublin region. Both issues are being addressed through the establishment of the Dublin transport authority.
As outlined in the Bill, the new authority and its constituent bodies will deal effectively with the complex issues that numerous agencies have failed to address over the years. I welcome the transport and land use planning element of the Bill. In recent years, it has been amazing how we have often forgotten about an integrated transport system until after a major development has been put in place. I welcome that the Dublin Transportation Office will be subsumed by the DTA, as the former has given good leadership in recent years.
The traffic capacity of Dublin's road network was reached 15 years ago. After unprecedented economic growth, pressure on the network has since increased by 300% and little additional road capacity has been provided. Progress in the past ten years has been painstakingly slow. My committee's exchange with the various transport agencies revealed a lack of urgency, a failure to take hard decisions and a glaring lack of co-ordination and joined-up thinking in the implementation of an action plan to tackle Dublin's congestion problems. An example of such procrastination is to be found in the introduction of integrated ticketing. Every similar city in Europe provides for an integrated ticketing system, but full introduction here will take us a further two years.
The DTA's greatest challenge will be the necessity to change from our car-dependent culture to public transport. Those against change will argue that nothing can be done until we have a proper public transport alternative. While this is true, we cannot provide such an alternative if every possible obstacle is put in change's way. The proposal for a quality bus network in Dublin is a typical example. For a high-quality and reliable service, buses must be able to move at between 20 km/h and 30 km/h. Quality bus corridors must be put in place, but business, political, local and national opposition has succeeded in putting the brakes on the roll-out of the quality bus corridor network in Dublin. The highly successful bus corridor from Heuston to O'Connell Bridge on the north quays was delayed in the final six months before its implementation by senior members of Government. I will not be critical of anyone in particular, but this goes to show how difficult it is to make necessary changes and how far vested interests are prepared to go to stop change occurring.
One would expect that AA Ireland, which purports to represent motorists, would take a positive approach to the requirement to change our car-dependent culture to make life better for motorists but it does not. Mr. Conor Faughnan was vehemently opposed to the introduction of the Stillorgan bus corridor, making the case that traffic chaos would ensue were a bus priority measure established. We now know that the corridor has become one of the most successful quality bus corridors in Europe. At peak times, buses operate at a frequency of one per minute, giving motorists a high-quality and reliable alternative while allowing those who must travel by car or commercial vehicle better travelling conditions.
Recently, the Dublin City Business Association complained about traffic management measures to be put in place to facilitate the DTO proposal of a bus gate at College Green. Surely Dublin city centre business must realise the negative impact of traffic congestion on its growth and development. An examination of many major cities throughout Europe with quality bus services shows how Dublin Bus becoming the workhorse in a co-ordinated onslaught on traffic congestion would have a positive impact. Dublin Bus has a vital role to play during the next five years before a rail network is introduced in the city. The DTA will have limited success if our society is unprepared to accept the difficult decisions required if we are to make the switch from cars to public transport. In the short term, this means choosing the bus.
The DTO's "One Small Step" campaign focuses on personal responsibility and co-operation in tackling Dublin's traffic problems. I welcome the Minister's support of a key message of the campaign, namely, that if everyone who uses a car regularly leaves his or her car at home for just one trip per week, it would reduce the number of car trips per day in Dublin by an average of 10,000. The workplace travel plans promoted by the DTO and supported by the Minister are a mechanism whereby all of us can begin to use public transport, at least on some occasions. The one thing I have learned since becoming involved is that, if we use public transport once every week or fortnight, we would solve Dublin's traffic problems. I am particularly pleased that, at my suggestion, the Ceann Comhairle has agreed to a meeting with the DTO's executives to discuss a workplace travel plan for the Members and staff of the Oireachtas. We should give example when it comes to switching from using our cars every day to using public transport some of the time. The new DTA will give the lead on many of these issues but much can be achieved if we take a pragmatic and courageous approach to traffic congestion.
The Joint Committee on Transport will soon present to the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, a short-term plan for the development of an efficient bus network in Dublin. I hope that the implementation of this plan will be one of the first tasks of the Dublin Transport Authority. Ten years ago the DTO launched a short-term action plan to deal with traffic congestion in Dublin. Some days ago, I wrote the introduction for the committee's report to the Minister. I could use the exact same introduction that was used ten years ago, which speaks for itself.
Deputy Ciarán Cuffe said of this Bill that many people interested in public transport in Dublin and in the future of the greater Dublin area have argued for a coherent development of approached planning and provision of public transport.
Public transport in Dublin — and many of the recommendations made by Deputy Fahey — would be immediately improved if the Minister for Transport were to make provision for the promised buses. A simple measure, concerning which the Minister has simply sat on his hands, would be to give a licence to private buses to come through the Dublin Port tunnel that was built at enormous cost and paid in full by the taxpayer. I would not have any difficulty with private buses using the tunnel but it is barred to Dublin Bus.
That is inaccurate.
For people who come from Swords into——
The tunnel is not barred. The Deputy should get her facts right.
I have a number of direct answers from the Minister that indicate his position. He has powers under the relevant Transport Acts going back to the 1930s to grant the right to Dublin Bus to use the tunnel. However, presumably in order to develop the private sector and give it an extra advantage, the Minister is barring Dublin Bus.
I am not barring it. The Deputy is incorrect.
The net result is that commuters who live in the Forest Road and Highfield areas of Swords very often face an extra commute of half an hour minimum and, at busy times, their journey time from Swords to the city centre is extended by anything up to an hour and a quarter. If the Minister is committed to fair competition between private and public transport, he would permit access to a tunnel that was paid for by the commuter and the taxpayer. His partisan approach to allow only the private sector to use that tunnel——
The Deputy is telling lies.
That is what the Minister's order and his parliamentary replies to me indicate.
That is totally inaccurate.
The Minister has refused to advance the position to allow Dublin Bus or CIE to use the tunnel——
Bus Átha Cliath is using the tunnel.
——although €0.75 billion——
Dublin Bus is using the tunnel.
Deputy Burton, without interruption.
Dublin Bus is not using the tunnel from the Swords 41X route, from the Highfield-Forest Road area——
I do not think the Deputy is entitled to mislead the House..
The Dublin transport authority has been discussed for a long time. However, the way in which this institution has been put together by the Minister calls to mind the development of the Health Service Executive. This Bill has all the hallmarks of the structure of the HSE. A minimum amount of genuine public accountability and democracy is provided for along with a maximum amount of centralisation.
As somebody who was brought up very close to Dublin city centre, who has represented County Dublin over a long period, I fear the centralising, dictatorial tendencies given to the Minister for Transport of the day by the provisions of this Bill. What I fear most is that it will culminate in a smash and grab raid by the Minister for Transport and by Fianna Fáil to have the remaining green belt in County Dublin, particularly that of Dublin 15, rezoned to benefit the Fianna Fáil developers in the construction industry.
What a load of rubbish.
There will be nothing to stop them. Obviously the Minister is not aware that in Dublin 15 there is a contentious rezoning project called Kellystown. The Minister's colleagues wish to rezone hundreds of acres of green belt land to provide for an extra 1,500 high-rise, high-density housing units in front of Luttrellstown Castle. This is an area where 2,500 acres have already been zoned for development. There are 18,000 units currently under starter's orders, fully planned and provided for, with 60,000 further units provided for by zoning. Where is the Green Party in all of this? I do not understand that.
Now that the housing sector is closing down and flattening out because of the current difficulties in the construction industry the Minister's colleagues wish to move away from the already rezoned land, from the developments that have begun at Hantsfield, Tyrellstown and the Phoenix Park race course. Much as their late colleague, Liam Lawlor, did in the 1980s, they wish to leave those developments, already planned for and commenced, and rezone prime green belt land. It is the only such land left in that part of Dublin. As happened with the HSE, people will wake up to discover the potentially dictatorial powers reserved for the Minister in this Bill.
We can examine the authority that the Minister is to appoint. If there is ever to be a directly appointed mayor of Dublin, he or she may take the chairpersonship of the authority. That is not necessarily guaranteed but is at the whim of the Minister. Two members are to be appointed from the Dublin regional authority. Four local authorities, therefore, will have, in total, two elected members as representatives on the board. In addition there will be two members from the mid-east regional authority. That area covers another three counties, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow and gives a total of five public representatives. As far as I can make out, the members of the Dublin regional authority and those of the eastern regional authority representing the counties that surround Dublin, will be nominated by the Minister. This is a HSE-style situation where public accountability will all but vanish in a quango to be controlled and appointed by the Minister.
The Minister has the capacity to put some genuine democracy into this situation. However, it is perfectly possible, as set out in the terms of this Bill that its land use and planning elements could be used by Fianna Fáil to rezone the green belt. If that were to be the case, the powers that have been given and taken by this Minister are excessive and dangerous in terms of the future of Dublin.
I have made numerous submissions to the RPA regarding the proposed metro west line. This is the difficulty with the plenipotentiary powers contained in the Bill. It is difficult for the public to have a serious input into this process. There has been much consultation but it does not necessarily mean the resulting body, empowered by the legislation, will pay any attention to the views of the public.
In the case of the proposed metro west line, a decision in principle seems to have been made by the Railway Procurement Agency to plan the route through several public park areas where there is already relatively good access to the railway line. This proposed route will miss the new, developing areas of Dublin 15 including Huntstown, Hartstown and especially Tyrrelstown and Littlepace. In Littlepace some 12,000 houses and apartments have been built over the past ten years. The area is adjacent to the Minister's constituency and is popularly called Clonee, after the village of the same name which is in County Meath. All this area will be missed by metro west. The proposed metro will not serve the area of Tyrrelstown, which has 2,500 houses built and occupied. Instead it will be routed as far away as possible from there, presumably to allow for more development, rather than serve the people in these new houses who have paid their taxes.
Many of these people are sitting on negative equity. If public transport was routed closer to these areas the situation of people in negative equity, as a result of the actions of the Taoiseach when he botched stamp duty reform, could be ameliorated. The provision of a genuine public consultation process by the RPA would assist the people living on the edge of Dublin city and County Meath whose houses, if they were bought in the past two years, are worth up to 25% less than the purchase price. These poor people are paying mortgages based on the inflated values of two years ago. If public transport benefited these people it is possible the value of the houses might recover somewhat faster than what appears to be the case as a result of the policies of the Government.
My major criticism of this Bill is that, as with the Bill establishing the HSE, buried in the Bill under a benign appearance is the complete lack of public accountability. I hope that, as is the case with the HSE, we will not live to regret the lack of real input by people and serious consultation with local public representatives.
The Minister is proud of never listening to anything anybody has to say. This is the Minister who brought us the fiasco of electronic voting, who knows it all and who will arrogantly refuse to consider the views of the public.
The Minister's colleague, Deputy Frank Fahey, has discussed the possibility of closing access to bus corridors for private cars on a north-south axis within central Dublin. The difficulty for people who use cars is the lack of an alternative.
The railway line from Maynooth and Clonsilla into the city centre is wonderful. It was inherited from Victorian times and the British period of administration. Despite the promises in Transport 21, the improvements for Dublin West in recent years have been meagre in the extreme, even though the area has been a powerhouse of the economy. The people of Dublin West are significant contributors to tax revenue and deserve a fair share of public transport. Many trains serving this area are half trains with four carriages and the largest trains have eight carriages. Compare this with the DART service along the gold coast — some say it is not good enough — which serves some of the most prosperous parts of the city and one finds the trains are more frequent there. The DART service is one of the reasons for greater prosperity in that area. Although public transport could be improved there, it is infinitely better than what applies on the west of the city, where so many people work, pay taxes and helped to make the Celtic tiger.
What plans has the Minister for Transport? The Taoiseach said last week that everything in the national development plan was up for reconsideration, as the public finances are so far off course. What does the Government plan to do with Transport 21? The Minister has already put the time lines for many of the Transport 21 projects back by one year, 18 months and two years. Much of the Transport 21 plan for Dublin West has been long-fingered and rescheduled for 2016 and beyond. Given the inevitable delays in projects under this Government it is reasonable to assume many of these projects will not see the light of day for a long time.
I was a member of Fingal County Council in 1999 when it and Meath County Council agreed in principle to the reopening of the Dunboyne railway line. All the preparatory work was done and then the plan remained in the Department of Transport until the railway order, which is only the first stage, was signed recently.
What are the public transport options for people living in Ratoath, Dunboyne and especially Navan? The number of buses to Dublin city centre from Navan and Trim is very limited and such buses are full and well patronised. This applies to the provision of buses by both the private and public sectors. However, there is nowhere near enough capacity. How can the Minister's colleague, Deputy Frank Fahy, contemplate closing O'Connell Bridge and the bridge at Liberty Hall — the loop-line bridge — to private traffic in the absence of a genuine public transport alternative?
There are people in Dublin West queueing to use public transport and crammed into the trains like cattle. The Clonsilla train is often called the "Calcutta Express", because of over-crowding. Some women have to quit using the train after three or four months of pregnancy such is the level of over-crowding. This train stops regularly to allow people who have fainted to get off and such people look after themselves at the stations. Many civil and public servants working in the Houses of the Oireachtas know this and people tell me about it all the time. This happens to people I know, people in this building and their families. The Minister for Transport has had nothing to say on this matter.
What are the options for people living further out in County Meath? These people drive to such places as Portersgate in Dublin West and park there. This results in rows with people living in estates such as Portersgate in Dublin 15 because there are no park-and-ride facilities. This is because the Dublin Transportation Office has held, as an article of faith, that park-and-ride is a bad concept as it means a split journey for motorists, partly by car and partly by train. It is almost like an ideological belief in communism, with transport planners not allowing park-and-ride facilities.
The only park-and-ride facility planned for west Dublin is at Pace, near Ratoath, County Meath. However, it is not listed to commence construction for years. In the meantime, in areas like west Dublin, traffic is the worst feature of people's lives. The data show a reduction in the volume of car traffic between the canals in Dublin city, with marginally improved journey times. In the suburbs, however, particularly in west Dublin, and in parts of Meath and Louth, journey times from one village to another or from one part of County Dublin to another, such as Castleknock to Blanchardstown, are now taking vast amounts of time.
The Minister has many questions to answer in regard to this Bill. It will not necessarily be the panacea it was claimed to be. I am particularly concerned about the implications of these proposals for Dublin's heritage. As far as I can see, St. Stephen's Green will effectively be destroyed for up to a decade. That level of destruction is not evident in public works projects undertaken in cities elsewhere in the world. Dublin owes much of its economy to tourism and the St. Stephen's Green area is central to that. I urge the Minister to take some control over the activities of planners and officials. We must plan and organise with the interests of ordinary people at heart, those who live and work in the Dublin region and those who visit it. This can be done properly but it cannot be done in the dictatorial fashion implied in many sections of the Bill.
I chaired a meeting of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security this morning at which the proposals from the EU on emissions reductions were examined. The committee discussed the actions we will have to take in the period from 2013 to 2020 to implement the reductions already agreed by the EU Heads of State. It is frightening to consider the impact of CO2 emissions. Almost 20% of our emissions arise from the various forms of transport. We must take action to deal with this. That will involve facing up to the reality of the scarcity of fuel and to our dependency on the private car for transporting people and on the heavy goods vehicle for transporting goods. We are all aware of the recent increases in the price of diesel and of the future scarcity of petrol and diesel as the global supply is depleted. We must plan effectively for these issues.
For these reasons, I am fully supportive of public transport in general and of the establishment of a Dublin transport authority in particular. The bulk of our population resides within the region referred to in the Bill, that is, the area under the remits of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council, together with Kildare, Meath and Wicklow county councils. It makes sense to legislate, as this Bill proposes to do, for a single authority that will ensure, for the first time, that there is a proper, accountable body with overall responsibility for surface transport in the greater Dublin area.
However, I have concerns about the accountability of the body proposed in this legislation. What does it say about our democracy that we must always exclude public representatives from these types of endeavours? How will the voice of the people be heard in the future? During my five year absence from this House, I was horrified to see the damage done to local government by some of the legislation enacted in that period. Local authorities are becoming dysfunctional and powerless. It seems everybody is to be given power other than those who put their names on a ballot paper.
The same is happening under this legislation. We are handing over significant power to ten people, none of whom is elected by anybody. I was looking forward to the introduction of this Bill and I asked on numerous occasions when it would be published. I was deeply committed to the establishment of a single authority to provide effective management of the transport system, particularly the public transport system, in the greater Dublin region. I note from the Order Paper that the Fine Gael Party, through our spokesperson, has had to table an amendment. I am glad to see our spokesperson is of a similar mind to myself. I regret very much that my colleagues and I may be obliged to go through the lobbies to vote against this Bill on Second Stage. Somebody has to stand up and argue that, in a democracy, people must be accountable.
What will happen when public meetings are called and people come out in their hundreds to the local hotel or hall to complain about poor services or some issue that is seriously affecting them? Neither the chief executive officer of the Dublin transport authority nor any of the other nine members will be present at such meetings. Instead, it will be the local public representatives and Oireachtas Members for the area who will be wheeled out. Yet again, however, we will have to explain that we do not have the authority to change anything. That is why people are losing faith in democracy and in their public representatives. Like many others, I have been canvassing for a "Yes" vote in the referendum on the Lisbon treaty and I have been told by numerous people that they do not want to hand over more power to the bureaucrats. That is the reason that many decent people are voting "No". They are fearful of giving away power from their elected representatives, who can be replaced by them every four or five years.
Citizens will not be able to replace the chief executive officer of the new transport authority, nor will they be able to effect change in regard to the membership of the two senior managers or the Dublin city manager. What has the latter, who will be an ex officio member of the authority, to do with public transport in Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, south Dublin, Kildare, Meath or Wicklow? Why should he or she, who will be in situ for seven years, be a member of the authority? It is a joke. Who are the two senior managers and why should they be permanent members?
The Bill bestows significant powers on the authority. If we are to get a democratically representative body, it should certainly be given the teeth to deal with the serious problems we face in this area. However, there is no explanation as to why there will be four ex officio members of the authority while the Minister or one of his successors will appoint five other members. Who are these five people? None of them will have stood before the electorate. The only relevant consideration is that they have wide experience in relevant disciplines, for example, finance, transport and land use planning. That could be anybody. This body will have five people appointed by the Minister and four people in situ.
I am glad to see my dear colleague, Deputy Reilly, arriving into the Chamber. He has lost nearly all his hair and is going grey arguing about the downfall we are facing with the health service as a result of it being run by a body that is answerable to nobody. We are doing precisely the same with this authority. Five unknown people together with two managers, the Dublin city manager and the chief executive will have powers relating to planning and will be able to overturn the development plans of local authorities. That is not what I call democracy. It is frightening that the Minister should take this course.
Under section 26 of the Bill, the Minister may issue policy directions to the authority or a subsidiary regarding any of its functions, and the authority or subsidiary must comply with such directions or have regard to such guidelines. I do not know why this must be the case. Why does the Minister, as well as the authority, have powers? If the provision stated that the Minister had such powers after consultation with both Houses of the Oireachtas, I would have some faith. However, I believe we will encounter terrible difficulties with the set up of this authority. That is the reason I will be saddened to walk through the "No" lobby. We need a good authority with teeth that will change things and get things done but, for goodness sake, do not ask me to vote for a group of people who are answerable to nobody.
There is also the business of having another advisory council. I was first elected in politics in 1974, that is, 34 years ago, and I have been on many advisory councils and bodies in that 34 years. I eventually gave up participating in them because all one does is get frustrated. Advisory councils mean nothing; they become talking shops. What is being done with this advisory council? The Dublin city manager, who is a member of the authority, or an official of the Dublin City Council nominated by him will become a member of the advisory council. The Dublin city manager seems to be more important than the Taoiseach or the President with regard to traffic management. Some of the problems in Dublin city would lead one to ask questions as to some of the decisions that were taken at executive level and elsewhere over the years, which account for the mess in Dublin.
Among the general principles in the legislation, which I support, is the provision, at last, for integrated ticketing. I will refer briefly to some points I made previously about the use of public transport. I have lived in Dublin all my life with the exception of two or three years and I am fortunate to live in an area that has a DART service and a bus service. It is fine to have such services if one lives near them, but in the middle of winter if people must walk a mile and a half to a bus or DART service, they will take their car. They might drive to the nearest point where they can get the bus or train but the problem is parking.
I have long suggested that there should be a mini bus service, such as the old Imp service. That is where the private sector could get involved if the public sector is not prepared to do so. It is also an area where integrated ticketing is very important. A person should be able, within a reasonable walking distance of their home, to jump on an Imp bus which would connect with either a DART line or a main bus service. We will have to start thinking along these lines if we are to encourage people to use public transport. It is all very well if one lives next door to a DART station or a bus service but we must provide others with the means of accessing public transport. An integrated ticketing system is necessary in that regard.
Why does every double decker bus have to trundle through the centre of Dublin city? There should be a service running clockwise and anti-clockwise on a circular route in the city, whereby people could hop on and off buses using the same ticket. That would remove the double decker buses from the city centre. One need only travel down to O'Connell Street to see the blockages that occur. The 46A bus, for example, which serves Dún Laoghaire travels through Donnybrook and eventually reaches O'Connell Street. It goes up that street, around Parnell Square and back down O'Connell Street. Generally, there is nobody on either the top or bottom of the bus when it is travelling around Parnell Square and down O'Connell Street. Nobody can explain to me why that bus is caught up in traffic on O'Connell Street and then spends 20 to 30 minutes trundling around Parnell Square. I wish the Minister would listen because my point is worth noting.
I am listening.
What is really annoying is that there is nobody on the bus. Then people complain about a shortage of buses. Of course, there is a shortage of buses. The bus going around O'Connell Street could have been out to Dún Laoghaire and back again if there was a circular service running from Donnybrook, for example, around the centre of the city which people could hop on and off. The bus could have done two or three runs in the time it was choked up in O'Connell Street.
People talk about emissions. If one walks down Merrion Square, one will see cars in traffic jams waiting to get around by the Mont Clare, down Westland Row and up Pearse Street. There are emissions from the use of fuel. The city is choked with cars. Those cars are emitting more gases when stationary than if they were driven 20 miles. It is all due to the blockages in the centre of the city. We must start thinking about this. Dublin is a very small city. It would take 15 minutes, at most, to walk at a reasonable pace from here to the end of O'Connell Street. However, it is perpetually jammed with double decker buses. The cars are not the issue because car drivers will not go up O'Connell Street unless they really must. This problem requires planning.
We must make it easier for people to use public transport. What happens when people decide to drive to a public transport pick-up point because they do not live near one? They must park the car. If there are church grounds available, they will park there for the day and when a funeral takes place, people cannot get into the church yard. There are no park and ride facilities. If they park on the roadside, the local authority will eventually install parking meters on the road. That is the carry-on when we want people to use public transport. Eventually, they say: "To heck with this; I will drive all the way in." In other words, we are not making life easy for people. If we want to get people onto public transport, we have to start thinking differently. We may have to consider whether it is worth our while providing a free bus service within a one-mile radius of the city centre where people can hop on and off buses. Such buses would need to run regularly and we would have to get rid of double-decker buses, as there is no need for them in the city centre. That would free up space for motor cars to move instead of fuel being wasted while people sit in traffic jams.
We are codding ourselves. People are being encouraged to downsize their cars. However, if I have a 2 litre car and I drive it once a week, my emissions are less than if I have a 1.5 litre or 1.2 litre car and I drive it seven days a week. Does the Minister accept what I am saying? We are looking at the size of car engines but we do not ask how often people use their cars. I agree with Deputy Fahey, that if we all left our cars at home one day a week we would save a great deal. I use the DART as often as I can for selfish reasons. I only use the car when I have to go somewhere not served by the DART. I do not think I am a great fellow for using the DART — I use it because it is far easier and more comfortable. I agree with Deputy Fahey that we need to encourage people to use public transport but we have to take away the obstacles.
We spoke about bus lanes. I asked the county manager in my local authority to please explain why we have 24-hour bus lanes when we do not have buses running for 24 hours. I recently went to a funeral in Navan, an area with which the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, is familiar. After I passed the Blanchardstown shopping centre, I was in a traffic jam for approximately half an hour. God only knows how much fuel was used. When I came to the end of the dual carriageway, I got on to the old road to Navan past Fairyhouse and I saw that a 24-hour, seven-day bus lane had been installed. That means only one lane of other traffic is allowed, which is utter madness. People do not respect bus lanes because they question the logic of having 24-hour bus lanes. By all means let us have quality bus corridors and police them properly. They can be used from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. because that is when most buses are in use. I dare anybody to cross into a bus lane between those hours. However, in certain places there are traffic jams at 3 p.m. because empty bus lanes cannot be used. It is all about emissions. We are wasting fuel. There is no need to have a bus lane in operation at that time of the day. Perhaps there are areas where it is necessary for bus lanes to be in operation for 12 hours or 14 hours per day during the week but not to have a 24-hour bus lane on Saturdays and Sundays when there are no buses. That is what makes people cynical and frustrates them.
I hope that in his reply to the Second Stage debate the Minister will demonstrate that there will be real accountability in the new authority and that people like my good self can walk through the "Yes" lobby instead of the "No" lobby. The Minister should not put us in the position where once again we are destroying democracy.
Deputy Noel Dempsey: I am listening.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this necessary Bill. Unfortunately, I concur with the previous speaker that we do not seem to have any other choice but to go into the lobbies and vote against the Bill. Once again, we are setting up a separate organisation that is not accountable to the House and that is very serious. We have set up the Health Service Executive, the National Roads Authority and many other bodies and we should have learned from them. My colleague, Deputy Reilly, has learned in the past 12 months what it is like to deal with the HSE. I have been dealing with it a lot longer and it is an absolute nightmare.
We are meeting officials from the HSE next Friday and even at this stage we do not know what the structure of the meeting will be. We will get to meet them at 12 noon and people will get tired and leave for lunch before it is too late. The type of structure we have in place already suggests that nobody will be answerable to anybody. People will give us a spin to try to make us believe they are doing something. I find the independent structures that are being set up frightening. We provided €16 billion for the health service, yet centres like my own hospital in Monaghan are far worse off than they were 30 years ago when there was no money in this State. I ask the Minister to rethink his approach before it is too late. It has been shown that this type of independent structure does not solve anything and will not solve the traffic problems.
I was prompted to speak in the debate because of traffic chaos. I come into the city from the north side, more recently via the M1. I appreciate the tremendous improvements made to that road and to the roads through Ardee to my home town of Monaghan. I can travel that 75 mile journey in approximately an hour and a quarter keeping within the speed limit, as I do not need to enter any towns. However, when I arrive at the Dublin Port tunnel the whole place is jammed up. The road has been restructured by modern designers and I cannot understand how they came up with their plan.
On one occasion when the tunnel was out of order and a lorry got a puncture on the road into it, I was delayed for an hour and a quarter without moving my car. That was a joke and is proof of the need for a management structure. If I had done something wrong, I am sure the Garda would have been with me in a short time but I could not move my car for an hour and a quarter on that occasion. When I raised the matter in the House, a joke was made of it. However, it is not a joke for the many thousands of people driving on business or in a private capacity who sit in traffic chaos every day of the week. Time is money and we are wasting an unbelievable amount of time and money with the current structures.
We all talk about the environment and the need to cut down on our emissions. We have been told that we will have to kill off some of our cows because of their emissions at a time when there is a scarcity of food. We have cars and vans sitting in traffic chaos wasting time and causing emissions that cannot or should not be justified. We need to put some structures in place, but we need political accountability for them. I urge the Minister to rethink the situation before it is too late. If the Minister proceeds with this authority and all the other structures, the Government should consider curtailing the number of Ministers. If all the business that was dealt with by Ministers reasonably well in the past is handed over to outside bodies, what call is there for all the Ministers, especially Ministers of State?
We have a fuel crisis at the minute, yet we have cars, vans and lorries belching out fumes at a cost not only to individual drivers, but also to the nation. I want to make some proposals for the Minister to consider in the short term. Deputy Barrett has already touched upon some of them. Most Oireachtas Members have had the advantage of travelling to other cities over the years and we have seen how transport systems work. For example, in Canada, if a vehicle contains three or more people it is automatically entitled to travel in the bus lane. Can something like that not be brought about here in the short term to alleviate the problem? It would not cost money. All it takes is a bit of common sense and restructuring. It would immediately encourage people going to business, work etc. to join together in order to travel in the bus lane and, therefore, get to their destination more easily and on time. This, in turn, would take pressure off the system.
I travelled to Belfast yesterday and I noticed a sign along the route approximately ten miles south of Belfast for a park and ride facility. It looked quite simple. Cars were parked in an open area and the commuters were able to get onto a bus or a train and continue to Belfast. What opened my eyes was coming out of Belfast at six o'clock. I only had to queue for a very short time to get onto the M1. Once I got onto the M1, the traffic flowed quite freely. We can compare that to trying to get out through Drumcondra or anywhere else in this city in the evening. If it can be done in Belfast, which is not in a foreign country or should not be to us in this day and age, why can we not come up with something simple like that? The bus lanes are there. There are plenty of private bus companies if Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann cannot deal with it. It would help to solve the problem dramatically and quickly.
I was fortunate enough to have been in cities like Chicago and Vancouver to name but two on that side of the water. They have overhead trams and underground tunnels in relatively new countries, yet we have failed to do that sort of thing in this city. It makes one wonder how we spent our time and money. A few years ago members of an Oireachtas committee visited Helsinki. We could not believe that we could get from one end of the city to the other in 15 minutes. We were never late for a meeting and never had to make any excuses. The services just run as they should do. We pride ourselves on having one of the best economies in the European Union and beyond at present, yet we cannot get the simple things right to make the structures more workable. Some of the older cities of Europe that have come through two world wars have been creative in dealing with their traffic problems through the use of tunnels and overpasses, yet we are still dealing with traffic lights. Why can we not make the simple things happen more quickly?
Those of us from Cavan-Monaghan depend totally on the road structure. We arrive in Dublin by the M1, N2 or the shambles called the N3, which the Minister knows better than most. We are looking forward to that road being improved sooner rather than later. If simple park and ride structures were put in place along the M50, it might even eliminate the problems on the M50 by stopping the traffic going back and forward along that route. It is now clearly recognised as the single biggest car park in Ireland rather than a transport route.
The Minister should reconsider the structures to run transport in Dublin. He must arrange that those appointed to do it are brought before a committee to ensure it is not a political structure. I suppose it is too late to ask him to do away with it altogether. Surely he will listen to some of the proposals made by Deputy O'Dowd. If it is not changed and remains as a totally independent structure that is not answerable to anybody, those who are spared and are in this House in the future will need to try to find ways and means to ask the Minister and his successors questions without the legal right to do so, which is unacceptable. While the Minister might regard it as a handy way out today, it is a dangerous road to go down. The NRA is responsible for the national roads that will lead into the area administered by this new transport authority. While it has been quite good to my area in Monaghan and we have a reasonably good road down there, Belturbet has sought a bypass for ten years. Many people have been killed in that area. However, when we raised issues with the Department of Transport in recent days, we could get no answers. That is the problem. These groups are not answerable to anyone.
The Minister has an opportunity to do some simple things right. I beg him to consider the use of the bus lanes as they are used in Canada. It would not cost the Government a cent. It is only a matter of working with the Garda and others that look after transport. That would ease some of the pressure. He should investigate the possibility of getting the use of fields or private parking structures to take the traffic out of the city by having park and ride facilities. As I said to the Minister before, if that can be done in Belfast along the M1, it is difficult to understand how it cannot be done in Dublin. The Minister must waste no more time. We are burning petrol and diesel, causing unjustified emissions and wasting time and money, because time is money. I have said this before but it cannot be overemphasised. There is an urgent need for these simple matters to be addressed.
Last, but by no means least, a number of years ago the Government promised many extra buses. I know money is scarce but surely there is a need, as Deputy Barrett said, to better utilise the double deckers available, or bring in extra buses, private or otherwise, to ensure the bus lanes are kept full. There is nothing as frustrating as sitting in a single car lane with a bus lane idle beside one. I have spent many hours like this. Today I enjoyed the sight of one little old lady who happily drove past all of us in the bus lane and eventually turned right at a junction. I tell this as a bit of a joke. She got away with it and we are glad she did. To see how she got out of the traffic chaos by using the bus lane shows how useful it can be. It was illegal and I will not give her registration number.
Deputy Crawford took her number?
I certainly did. It proved the point that one should examine the simple issues because it will take some time for any authority, regardless of whether it is the correct authority, to rectify the chaos that is Dublin transport.
I congratulate my colleague, Deputy O'Dowd, on raising this matter. I, too, have a serious issue with how this authority will be established. We badly need this and we all support the concept. Like so many of the Government's initiatives, the concept seems perfect but the detail and the nitty gritty of the implementation leaves much to be desired. We will do this in such a way as to put further distance between those who make decisions and those who have to suffer the consequences. It will put further distance between the Minister and his responsibilities. When things go well, he will claim the success and when they go badly, he will refer it to the new authority and say it is not his business. It strikes a chord and reminds one of the HSE.
I will draw more parallels with that august body later. I return to the issue of creating the dislocate between those who suffer the consequences and those who make the decisions. Recently Malahide Community Forum did a survey asking the people of Malahide what they would like to see happen. One of the issues that arose was the need for a feeder bus to the train station. There is an excellent DART service and they are pleased with it but access is a problem. A feeder bus would allow people to get there and would free up the car park because people would not have to drive. People from Swords have to travel over and they need car parking spaces, but the car park is insufficient. I mentioned the Malahide Community Forum because it is democracy at work. A Fingal County Council official came to that meeting and has taken on board what the survey showed and what the people said. He will bring it back to the council. He knows if he did not do so the county councillors would bring it to the council and raise the issue. Fingal County Council is very proactive in many areas. I will return to this aspect.
The Dublin transport authority envisaged will be answerable to nobody, will visit the committee only quarterly or twice a year — I am not sure when or how often — and give, judging by others, a sermon followed by very limited questions and answers through which one gets no real satisfaction for one's constituents or concerns. This will be a retrograde step and I plead with the Minister not to take it. He should create an authority with public representation that is answerable to the Oireachtas and will report directly to him and allow him to answer parliamentary questions on transport instead of sending them out to the authority. This happens with questions to the Minister for Health and Children which are sent to the HSE and answered in weeks or much longer. There is a sense that a game goes on whereby one receives a partial answer and has to ask another question. It goes on and on and by the time one gets the ultimate answer the issue has been resolved by some other means.
It is important to say that what we need and have lacked is a reliable, accessible public transport system; otherwise, people do not use it and cannot be blamed for that. If somebody has to get to work, attend appointments during the day and come back, he or she needs a reliable service that is interlinked. It is clear that this has not been on the Government's mind. The two Luas lines that do not join up is a classic case of this Government's unjoined thinking. This arises in other areas such as schools, housing, planning, health facilities and justice requirements for additional gardaí.
I have already mentioned the absence of a feeder bus in Malahide. The same problem pertains in Lusk, which waited six years for a footpath so people could walk safely to the train station, a mile from the village. A feeder bus was provided on a trial basis before the general election by one of the candidates. We could have a very successful situation where people could depend on getting the train on time without having to drive. The necessity for those car journeys would be eliminated and this would improve our carbon footprint.
I want to raise another issue that relates to health and is not specific to Dublin but is important to the country. My colleague, Deputy Crawford, referred to how Monaghan had its accident and emergency department closed and 17 people lost their lives travelling from Monaghan to Cavan General Hospital in an 18-month period. The road is appalling. If services are removed, they must be replaced with services that deliver better care, and the access to those services must be realistic. If the road infrastructure is put in place, that would address one issue. The same argument could be made about Nenagh, Ennis and Limerick and the unavailability of parking at the hospital there. I do not want to digress into health but just to mention that if people are to lose an aspect of a local service it is important there be a reasonable transport and road system to get them to hospital in an emergency when life is at stake. We all know about the "golden hour" which is predicated on transport time.
I turn to an issue the Government first brought to light before the 2002 election. With much ado, it promised a metro for north Dublin. It promised it again before the 2007 election. Throughout the week I was out canvassing at the trains and supermarkets of Balbriggan, Rush, Lusk, Skerries and Swords, and people are coming to me and telephoning me on a daily basis with real concerns that the metro is being postponed or put on hold. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister directly when the metro will come, whether delays are expected and whether there is a problem with the funding. This is a national infrastructural project that should not be delayed in any way. The Indecon report recently commissioned and undertaken showed that 67,000 new jobs could be created as a consequence of the metro coming to Dublin North. This is at a time when we have lost 30,000 jobs in the first three months of the year. This would be a very serious blow for Dublin North and a serious breach of trust by the Government with the people to whom it was promised, not just before the last election but before the election in 2002.
Contingent on this is the development of Swords, the population of which could grow to 100,000 people. Through the proactive management of Fingal County Council, there have been discussions with one of the universities about bringing a university to the area and there are discussions with others about bringing hospitals to the area. This could greatly enhance the quality of life for people in Dublin North. The availability of proper park and ride facilities would do away with the necessity for many of the cars to come into Dublin city from Dublin North, where the population is growing all the time. I hope the Minister in closing this debate will specifically answer this question on the metro. It is causing serious concern among the people of Dublin North and, I am sure, all the way down the line into Dublin city.
These are all issues which a Dublin transport authority could address. It is a terrible shame it has been set up in such a fashion that we must vote against it. If it were set up in a proper democratic fashion, having learned the lessons we have learned from the HSE, we would be on the same side of this argument as the Minister and would support him in forming this important new authority for Dublin and its people.
Congestion at Dublin Airport is becoming ever more problematic, with problems of access and egress. With more and more passengers expected to pass through Dublin Airport, this will just get worse unless serious work is done to improve the road system. An example of this is the work on the M50 and the trouble it is causing. My understanding, from Deputy Varadkar, is that within three to five years the M50 will be chock-a-block again unless a further route is developed — I am referring to the Bremore route from the proposed port just outside Balbriggan. IKEA has stalled its development until the M50 works are finished. That is how lack of planning impacts negatively on our economy.
The outer orbital route is a matter close to the Minister's heart. We need this route from Bremore port to connect through Naas to the other motorways. This will keep away all the traffic that comes from the north on to the M50, which does not want or need to be there and which causes major congestion. As Deputy Crawford noted, it is the country's biggest car park. It could take an hour to travel 60 miles from some part of the country and, on arriving at the M50, take another hour to travel six miles. The carbon imprint of this must be such that the Green Party cannot be happy. I put it to that party, as a supporter of public transport, that the metro needs its absolute, unequivocal support. The funding for this must not be interfered with in any way and must be expedited.
I referred to the M1 and the additional traffic coming into the city. We need a third lane on the M1 sooner rather than later. Will we wait until the congestion is so bad that we have to take remedial action and disrupt traffic all over again?
This is a time of economic downturn, particularly in the construction industry, which is one of the highly skilled industries in the country and was honed in a major way in the boom of the past ten years. Why let all those workers go and let all that skill and knowledge lie dormant? Why not turn it to focus on our infrastructure and build our schools, health facilities and, most importantly, roads and rail system? This is the time to do it. The expertise and the labour are there. Let us use them productively rather than lose them to emigration.
I wish to turn to the ludicrous situation where public bus services, in particular the 41X service, are not allowed to use the port tunnel. There was a public meeting on this issue in Swords a couple of weeks ago. People are outraged at the idea that taxpayers' money built the tunnel but a public bus cannot use it, which is the height of folly and beggars belief. It is a conundrum I cannot get my head around. I cannot understand why public transport cannot use it as well as a licensed transporter.
Then let them.
As long as they comply with the law.
Let them. As a legislator, I am sure the Minister would expedite any law necessary to help them keep within the law.
The law is there, all they have to do is comply with it.
As a previous speaker stated, 200 buses were promised but fewer than 100 have been delivered. Bus corridors lie empty while drivers sit fuming in their cars with carbon emissions flying up into the air. It is ridiculous. Surely a car with three or more passengers should be allowed to use a bus lane and could still be policed, which would encourage car pooling.
Another issue raised was that of integrated ticketing. I will ask the Minister a question and, given that he was able to interject so speedily some moments ago, he might have the answer on the tip of his tongue. B'fhéidir go mbeidh sé ábalta a rá liom, cé mhéad atá caite ar integrated ticketing? How much has been spent on it already? It is not——
Some €12.5 million.
I thought it was €30 million.
We still have not got it. It is not rocket science.
It is not due until next year.
It is available in Paris and all the major cities throughout Europe, yet we have to spend €12 million devising a way to do it. I find that extraordinary.
I will conclude by referring to the mess the HSE transpired to be due to the manner in which it was planned.
That is not relevant to the DTA.
It is relevant. The situation has arisen because poor planning and poor thought were put into a perfectly good concept. As I said, the DTA is a perfectly good concept but the manner in which the Minister is setting it up will lead to major problems down the line. There will be a lack of accountability and transparency, as with the HSE and, of course, everybody will be responsible but nobody will be to blame, as with the HSE. The HSE is a perfect mirror of what we will be looking at if we allow the Minister to proceed with this Bill in the manner he has chosen.
The Deputy should read the Bill.
Therefore, we on this side of the House will oppose it.
The Opposition cannot do anything else.
I find it unfortunate that I must oppose it but I cannot allow a situation to pertain whereby the Minister will set up a body that is unanswerable to this House other than through the occasional committee meeting. When we seek to ask parliamentary questions or to get answers for our constituents to legitimate questions such as on the bus service from Portmarnock, the inability to get parking at Portmarnock train station because the road beside the station is so narrow or the lack of a bus service to bring people in a timely fashion to the stations at Skerries and Rush, those legitimate questions are unanswered. The Minister will have no responsibility and he will say it is a matter for the Dublin transport authority, which will not answer parliamentary questions. Yet, the Minister wants the House to approve this Bill.
We have already had a discussion on the Lisbon treaty. We want to make the Dáil more relevant and make Europe more democratic, but the Minister comes to the House with this Bill and tells us it is perfectly all right for us to pass it, knowing full well what will happen due to the experience with the HSE.
If the Deputy wants to be a local councillor, he should get elected to a local council. This is parish pump politics.
Despite knowing what a lack of accountability and transparency leads to, the Minister believes it is perfectly legitimate and he wants this side of the House to vote for it.
A national Parliament should be debating national policy rather than worrying about local bus stops.
We cannot vote for it.