Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Nov 2009

Vol. 693 No. 3

Other Questions.

Departmental Expenditure.

Pat Breen


6 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the potential and planned spending cuts across his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39601/09]

Jan O'Sullivan


12 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his views on the proposals regarding the transport sector by the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39544/09]

P. J. Sheehan


16 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Transport his views on the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes’ recommendations in relation to transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39678/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 12 and 16 together.

The report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes recommended full year savings of €127 million in my Department's current expenditure provision. The proposed expenditure reductions included a saving of €2.9 million on administrative expenditure, pay and non-pay; a reduction of €36.2 million on roads and road related expenditure, including €20 million on road maintenance; and a saving of €68 million on public transport expenditure, including €55 million from operational efficiencies among the CIE companies. The balance of €20 million was accounted for by savings in aviation and cross-programme expenditure. The report also included recommendations on additional revenue raising measures such as asset disposal and road pricing, and proposed some organisational restructuring such as the merger of agencies and functions.

As part of the preparations for the budget, my Department submitted a list of possible savings options to the Department of Finance in early September which took account of the recommendations in the report. That submission also included a preliminary evaluation of the non-revenue reduction recommendations in the report. The Government is considering all the recommendations in the special group's report and decisions will be made by it in the context of the budget for 2010 and later years. To assist with the task, the Government has referred the report to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service for its views prior to the budget. These processes are ongoing and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment in advance of the deliberations being finalised.

The Minister has proved himself a very weak performer at Cabinet level to allow such a drastic cut in funding for the roads programme. The planned cut will have a devastating effect on the condition of the country's roads. A cut of €36.2 million in funding for county roads is deplorable. Does the Minister realise the serious effect this will have on the quality of our roads? There is also a serious problem with poor signposting on roads, particularly on the recently constructed motorways. It is a major cause of concern to the travelling public.

I also wish to raise the issue of the Dublin-Sligo rail line. There is a serious health and safety issue at Edgeworthstown on Sunday evenings because the train travelling from Sligo to Dublin is overcrowded at that junction. This is a threat to the health and safety of the young people travelling back to college at weekends.

A question for the Minister.

In addition, the continuation of the motorway from Mullingar to Rooskey is not getting the priority it deserves from the Government, despite the promises made in the last general election campaign. Furthermore, the main north-south artery through the midlands, the N55, was described in a recent report as the road to hell. It is one of the worst roads in the country.

A question for the Minister.

What are the Minister's plans to upgrade this artery through the midlands?

That is a separate question, Deputy.

This would pull much of the traffic from the congested east coast of the country.

That merits a separate question, Deputy.

I also have a question about motor insurance. Has the Minister consulted the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment about the huge increase of 15% in the cost of motor insurance due to the poor condition of our roads?

That is well beyond the scope of the question. I call the Minister.

It is obvious Deputy Bannon did not listen to my initial reply. I was asked specifically about the recommendations and I outlined the nature of those recommendations. I concluded by stating that discussions were taking place, that the matter had been referred to the committee and that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any specific savings that might happen in advance of the deliberations being finalised. The recommendations contained in the McCarthy report will be decided upon by the Government and not individual Ministers. The latter will make their own recommendations, but the Government will make decisions in respect of the overall position.

I call Deputy Broughan.

The Minister has so many reports he could use them to paper the walls of this House twice over.

Deputy Bannon should allow somebody else to speak.

In the two most recent budgets, particularly the one introduced in April, the allocation in respect of transport was severely cut. There was a major cutback in the provision of public transport and some 300 buses were removed from the road. I was recently lectured by both Deputy Ciarán Cuffe and the Minister in respect of the Dublin city bus gate. However, both of them voted for a reduction of 300 buses in the fleets of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. The Road Safety Authority's budget was slashed by €2.8 million and the allocation relating to park-and-ride facilities was largely removed. In addition, there was a series of cutbacks in respect of important transport developments. I agree with Deputy Bannon with regard to the roads budget.

Is it not a terrible prospect that the Department, which has a relatively small budget when compared to some of its bigger counterparts, is facing into some severe cutbacks that will impact very negatively on public transport? The old Fine Gael mantra regarding subsidisation and rolling it up for three or four years in the context of the PSO for public transport was repeated earlier today. Dublin Bus has one of the lowest public subsidies of any major urban bus company in Europe. In addition, Bus Éireann is paid a derisory subsidy of 12%. Its counterpart in Belgium receives a subsidy of 78%.

I am tired of hearing the same old ráiméis. I am also tired of people making vindictive and vicious attacks on the public sector and public transport. Senator Ross — who will never be a Deputy — has a vicious and vindictive attitude towards the public sector and public transport.

The Senator would beat the Deputy any day of the week.

In light of his track record as he perceives it, is the Minister prepared to inform the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance that if they do not retain key elements of the public transport and road safety budgets, he will resign? Will he take a strong line, indicate that he will not tolerate cuts and insist that transport be protected?

This is typical of what we are obliged to deal with.

By the way, I thought the Minister was off to Europe.

The Government is continually castigated by the Opposition for not taking the necessary actions to restore the economy. For the past five to ten years we have been criticised in respect of all the money we spent, etc. It is being stated now that the circumstances in which we currently find ourselves reflect the way that money was spent.

The Government wasted that money.

That is despite the fact that the Opposition called on us to spend even more money.

No area of Government expenditure will escape cuts or will not have changes made to it. The Department of Transport will be no more exempt than any other Department. In the context of what Deputy Broughan said, I will try to ensure that the commitment contained in the renewed programme for Government in respect of public transport will be adhered to. I agree with him that we have quite an amount of catching up to do.

I do not, however, agree with everything the Deputy says. He wanted me to pay for 300 new buses at a time when it was clear that they were not needed and when those already on the roads were not being used efficiently.

That is not what the Deloitte report says.

That is what Deloitte——

The Minister is misleading the House.

I am sure Deputy Broughan does not mean to say that because it is not in order for him to do so.

The Minister is misleading the House.

The Deputy should allow me to answer the question.

The Minister should be allowed to proceed.

The Deloitte report states that Bus Éireann is an efficient company. It is ridiculous.

The Deputy was seeking 300 buses for Dublin Bus.

I was seeking them for both companies.

No, the Deputy was seeking them for Dublin Bus. The Deloitte report shows that we can increase the efficiencies in Dublin Bus. The company has accepted that and has put in place the necessary changes. Deloitte focused on one particular bus corridor and indicated that it would be possible for Dublin Bus to save €3 million in a year in respect of it. Thanks to the changes that were made, the agreement reached with the workers and the work done by management, it appears that at least €2 million will be saved in respect of that corridor. I want to see similar initiatives across the public transport service. I am as committed to that service as the Deputy. However, I want it to be efficient, effective and capable of delivering for the public.

The subsidy for Dublin Bus increased from €18.9 million in 2000 to €82.9 million in 2008.

It was 29% of total revenue.

The Deputy should allow me to conclude. Is it not a fact that subsidy increased from €18.9 million in 2000 to €82.9 million in 2008? The number of buses on the road remained more or less the same during that period, but over 200,000 houses were built in the greater Dublin area. The bus network was not adequate to meet the needs of the increasing population. It is absolutely imperative that the network should be expanded and that routes should be open to competition. We want to see more buses, more people on them and cheaper fares. We do not care what colour buses are painted as long as they are provided.

The Dublin Port tunnel, which cost almost €600 million, is the largest single item of infrastructure built since the foundation of the State. When the tunnel was completed, much of the basic equipment in it, namely, the Scada safety system and the heating and ventilation system, were not fit for purpose. Is it not the case that if an accident had occurred during the first two years in which the tunnel was in operation, the first four minutes of the warning period could have been lost? The point I am making is that the money was not spent because the Minister did not have oversight of it.

There is universal agreement that whatever happens in respect of the transport budget, the rural transport initiative should remain in place. I accept that savings must be made and practical approaches taken. However, public transport is available in our cities and it should continue to be available in rural areas.

It is possible to quote statistics in support of any argument. I do not believe the Deputy is being fair in that regard. Deputy Broughan has a point in respect of this matter. I do not know the exact figure but the number of buses did increase somewhat during the period to which Deputy O'Dowd refers and the age of the bus fleet improved considerably. As a result, we now have the youngest bus fleet in Europe. Deputy O'Dowd is correct that the network remained largely the same. That was one of the failings of the system. However, the level of service of the network increased substantially. From 2000 up to 2006 or 2007, the number of passengers also increased to a substantial degree. There has been a decrease during the past couple of years.

The money was invested well at the time but I agree with the Deputy that the major failure was that the network did not change.

Services did not change to meet the demands. We must rectify that failure and provide services in places where people work and live.

Transport 21.

Willie Penrose


7 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he will publish a full report on every Transport 21 project including each current estimated commencement date, date of conclusion, the estimated cost of each project and the likely outcomes down to 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39546/09]

Joe Carey


23 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether all aspects of the Transport 21 plan will be completed by the 2015 deadline; his further views on capital transport investment projects as a means to restore lost economic competitiveness and provide much needed short term employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39609/09]

Bernard J. Durkan


42 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which the objectives set out in Transport 21 have so far been achieved; the full extent of changes made to the original proposals; the extent to which these targets have been affected by the Revised Programme for Government, the economic situation or other factors such as the proposed carbon tax; the extent to which calculation in respect of costs and completion dates have been revised arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39684/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 23 and 42 together.

Information on the completion dates, projected outcomes and costs of major Transport 21 projects that have been completed or are at an advanced stage of construction is contained on my Department's Transport 21 website.

This is the fourth year of Transport 21 and significant progress has been made. To date, more than 66% of the major inter urban roads programme, linking Dublin with Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and the Border with Northern Ireland, has been completed and the remainder is under construction and on target for completion in 2010. Upgrade of the M50 motorway is also on target for completion in 2010. The Waterford city bypass and Tullamore bypass were recently opened.

On public transport, Irish Rail has completely modernised its intercity rolling stock. I opened the Cork commuter rail line from Glounthaune to Midleton earlier this year and phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor and the Luas line to Docklands are scheduled to be completed by year end. Construction continues on other projects, including the Luas lines to Cherrywood and Citywest, the first phase of the Navan rail line between Clonsilla and Pace and the Kildare rail project.

The start and completion dates for Transport 21 projects that have not yet commenced will be subject to the relevant statutory and procurement and contract award processes and will also be determined by the funding allocation available during the current difficult economic climate. I do not propose to release the cost of these projects until the relevant procurement processes have been completed and all contracts have been awarded. This is standard practice at this stage.

It is unlikely that all of the projects originally identified in Transport 21 will be completed by 2015. However, no projects have been cancelled and Transport 21 continues to provide the strategic framework for capital spending on transport infrastructure into the future.

The priorities for investment are set out in the renewed programme for Government.

It has been reported that expenditure on metro north to end September was approximately €134 million, including legal fees. Is that the position? Is the Government wobbling on metro north, one of the flagships, after the inter-urban routes, of Transport 21? The process is well under way in terms of the railway procurement order and there remains only two bidders involved, Celtic Metro and Metro Express. What level of funding to progress this development would be required in the forthcoming budget and the next three or four budgets? Will such funding be relatively small? Also, is funding for metro north ringfenced?

Can the Minister tell us, as we head into 2010 and on towards the 2015 deadline, which projects are or might be postponed? For example, what will happen in respect of the electrification of the Maynooth line, Kilbarry Station on the Cork-Blarney line, the Luas power upgrades and the upgrade of the Dublin-Maynooth and Cherry Orchard-Inchicore lines? There are a range of projects across the country about which people are now concerned given the fiscal crisis. These projects which would greatly enhance public transport are now in doubt.

The Minister recently opened the first phase of the Navan line. However, the Navan line needs to go to Navan. Is there widespread belief within Government that it is not going to be able to deliver on many projects, including metro north?

It is no secret that the current economic circumstances will make it difficult to deliver on all projects. The renewed programme for Government, published a couple of weeks ago, specifically states, in respect of priorities for capital investment in transport, that work will continue on the subsequent phases of the Western rail corridor and Navan projects for earliest possible delivery; planning and design in respect of metro west, the Bray-Lucan and cross-city Luas lines with a view to earliest possible delivery; metro north and the DART underground, including associated projects such as electrification and rolling stock will be fast-tracked and prioritised so that they are completed by 2016, real time passenger information will be introduced at more than 500 bus stops in Dublin and Cork by the end of 2010 and will be extended to bus stops in Limerick, Galway and Waterford in 2011; an integrated ticketing system will be introduced for all modes of transport; the smart card will be rolled out for testing next year and the major inter-urban roads programme will be completed in 2010; investment in enhancement and maintenance of regional and local roads will continue and a significant portion of the budget will be allocated to road improvement projects; and the Bray to Balbriggan cycle-pedestrian route and other similar routes will be developed as major tourism and commuter facilities. While that list does not include all projects in Transport 21, they are the priorities.

The Government is not wobbling on metro north. The process has ceased because the oral hearing was stopped. Further information was sought from the RPA and this was provided on 1 October. While I understand the intention was that the oral hearing would recommence before the end of this month, this has not been confirmed. This is a good example of the futility of my trying to predict in this House when projects will commence or finish. I cannot do so until the contractors are on site. The planning and procurement process is lengthy and difficulties often arise. Metro north and the DART underground are the two major priorities in the public transport area. While other projects in the list are priorities, I have no control over the planning process. If all goes according to plan, we should have the railway order for metro north by the middle of next year.

We all support the metro north project. I appreciate it is a battle in difficult times. However, it is important we are ready when the economy turns around.

We are spending so much money on all of these projects. Will the Minister request CIE to provide us with a list of the ten top procurement projects for each of its companies during the past two years? While I welcome the list of projects announced by the Minister, an important project not listed is the Leinster outer orbital route which I know the Minister will favour given its potential to assist economic development in the Louth-Meath and general north county Dublin areas. I accept the Government is not committed to this project in this cycle but perhaps the Minister will outline his views in this regard.

I presume what the Deputy is seeking from CIE is information on the top ten tenders?

I will ask CIE to provide that information for each of the three companies.

I thank the Minister.

On the Leinster outer orbital route, this project is not included in this phase of the national development plan or Transport 21. It will be considered in the context of renewal of the programme post-2011. The Deputy and I are at ad idem that this project will be hugely important for the north east region in general and further afield. It is a project that will have to come into the reckoning post-2011.

The Minister omitted from his list the Kinnegad to Rooskey and on to Sligo motorway project, which is an important east-west link.

What is the status of that motorway now as a result of the downturn in the economy? We have a Minister responsible for transport, we have the NRA and we have the National Transport Authority. We also have a new position for the capital city, the position of a directly elected Lord Mayor. The Green Party is insisting that this position will be created by next year. Will there be a role for the newly directed Lord Mayor with regard to Dublin transport?

If the Deputy puts down separate questions on the individual projects, I will try and be as helpful as I possibly can be. The issues he has raised are included in the planning and design process. Money is provided each year as it is needed to advance those projects. As I have said on a number of occasions, as far as I am concerned, the planning and design of the projects is extremely important. We may not have the money to go ahead with as many of them as we had hoped over the next two or three years, but I am convinced the right thing to do is to continue with planning and to bring projects to a stage where they are ready to go to tender. Then in 2011 or 2012 when the economy picks up and money becomes available again, we will have the projects ready on the shelf.

After the general election.

We will try and get some of them in before the election. That would be more beneficial. With regard to the question on the mayor, it is envisaged that the directly elected mayor of Dublin will have transport functions.

National Cycle Policy.

Jack Wall


8 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the cycle ways that have been approved for funding including Carrigaline to Crosshaven in County Cork and the cross Dublin cycle route; the cycle ways which are awaiting funding approval; the estimated cost of same; his views on the number of cyclist fatalities and the level of enforcement of road traffic law as regards cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39539/09]

Since announcing the national cycle policy framework in April, I have indicated my intention to provide financial support to exemplary, demonstration, cycling infrastructure projects in the following areas: the Phoenix Park; Carrigaline; Eyeries; Passagewest, with a link to Rochestown; Crosshaven to Carrigaline; Dublin city, from Portobello to Fairview Park; Galway, comprising the Fisheries Field greenway; Fenit to Tralee; Castletroy; Newport to Mulranny; Westport greenway; and south Dublin, to link Adamstown directly to the Grand Canal cycle path. In addition, I am supporting refurbishment of cycle lanes in Dublin City, new cycle parking facilities in Galway and Waterford and in schools and workplaces and other cycling-related initiatives around the country. My support for the foregoing projects, some of which will be provided over this year and 2010, will be some €18.4 million. This is a significant increase in investment which will not only will facilitate cycling but seek to deliver a safety dividend.

On the safety issue, I understand from the Road Safety Authority that seven cyclist fatalities have occurred to date this year. This is a decrease of 46% on the full year figure for 2008. I offer my condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones in traffic accidents. However, I should record that the Government is making significant progress in delivering the road safety strategy and in achieving its objective of reducing road fatalities to 60 fatalities per million of population, or 252 per year, by 2012.

Regrettably, use of our roads, whether by motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, can never be risk free. The safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users is and remains a matter of concern. The development of a national cycling safety strategy by the Road Safety Authority has been amalgamated into the national cycle policy framework. Enforcement is, of course, a matter for the Garda Síochána.

It is tragic that cyclists are still being killed on our roads. I echo the Minister's comments in that regard and sympathise with the relatives and friends of the people who died so tragically. There have been 11 cycling related deaths in this city over the past seven or eight years. The Dublin cycling campaign, the Galway cycling campaign and other cycling campaigns with which I have liaised have made the point that the enforcement of the rule on overtaking cyclists is not being carried out by the Garda Síochána. Will the Minister look at that issue in the context of his cycling strategy?

I thank the Minister for the details he gave us on the overall programme. Going into 2010, what level of funding is being requested for cycling projects generally and what level of funding will the Minister be able to provide? I am aware there was a row between the Minister and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, with regard to the Sutton to Sandycove route. Are the Ministers talking to each other again and will there be further progress on that project? I tried to launch the project 17 or 18 years ago, but we are still waiting for it. An astonishing figure of €7 million per km was given by Dublin City Council for that route. Has the Minister discussed the matter with the city council? I am aware the Minister has an overall budget, as indicated in the cycling strategy, of €1.2 billion. However, is it realistic to expect these additional resources will be brought forward in the next couple of years?

I congratulate my colleague, Councillor Andrew Montague, who proposed the free bike scheme which has been so successful for Dublin. It is a wonderful initiative. When I was on the council some years ago, I proposed the radial cycleway network, which was the beginning of the cycling programme. I congratulate Councillor Montague on the major step that has been taken and hope it will be replicated in other major cities throughout the country.

I do not have the full accurate figures before me for the projects I mentioned, but next year's expenditure, which will bring most of them to a conclusion, will be approximately €11 million. The total amount we are making available for those projects has been committed to them. Some are already completed, for example, the Phoenix Park project.

If we are to get a change in attitude to cycling and walking and if we are to get people out of cars, something to which I am committed, we will have to use some of the money we used previously on roads to provide the facilities to encourage them. I am committed to doing this. Some wonderful schemes have been put forward and while some people consider it a waste of money to spend it on cycle lanes etc., at a time when money is tight they are missing the point. I acknowledge Deputy Broughan's support in that regard. Some of the €1.2 billion we will require to cover us up to 2020 will have to come from the roads budget and we will have some fighting to do to get extra money from that.

I never had a fight with my colleague and friend, the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, on the issue of the Sutton to Sandycove project. We are providing approximately €3 million for that this year, as part of a package.

Did he not threaten to lie down on the beach until he got the funding?

He did not. Some €3 million will be spent on that project and he will provide €1.5 million of that, which I appreciate greatly. I wish to acknowledge Councillor Montague's contribution to the cycling programme. I hope to meet him early in the new year. On the bus gate issue and not making a political point about it, the decision made, supported by the Labour Party councillors, does enormous damage to Councillor Montague's efforts.

I asked a parliamentary question about the bus gate, but a response was not allowed. The Minister lectured us outside with the media, but now he has answered the parliamentary question he refused to answer. The bus gate will return in mid-January. There are issues also with regard to jobs. The bridge should have been open, but it was not.

The Deputy is out of order.

I am surprised by Deputy Broughan's approach to the bus gate because he is a favourite of Dublin Bus, whose facts and figures show that as a result of the bus gate buses move much faster through the city. I am disappointed with him in that regard.

We are all of the same view with regard to cycling and walking and I welcome the Minister's views on the issue. In some cities in France I have visited recently the pedestrian is king in the city centre, the cyclist follows and then comes the motorist. In some cities in France, the traffic stops for pedestrians crossing the roads at designated areas. Could we look at the law on this in urban areas? It is a critical issue.

Have any of the tourism interests in the midlands been in contact with the Minister about the development of cycle paths in the area, particularly in the lake county of Westmeath? A significant amount has been spent to develop the canal system across the country. The canal banks offer great opportunities for cycling routes that would open up paths from Dublin to the Midlands and the Shannon. Could that facility be opened up further?

We must use our imagination in this area. The canals offer an extensive cycle and pedestrian way. The Royal Canal will be completely open next year. The railways are similar, some of the projects I read out run along disused railway lines. As the Deputy says, there are great opportunities for tourism and related projects. We have advertised two schemes we hope will get local authorities to think more about how they might to do this.

Haulage Licences.

Sean Sherlock


9 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport his views on the Farrelly report into the issuing of road transport haulage operators’ licences by his Department; when he will publish the promised legislation to enhance the regulatory regime governing the future issuance of road transport operator licences in view of the case in which an alleged drug trafficker applied for and received a licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39554/09]

I initiated a general review into the criteria for granting road transport licences in April 2009 in the aftermath of the drug case referred to by the Deputy. Mr. Jimmy Farrelly was engaged to review all aspects of the decision to award the licence and, having regard to that review, to examine and to make recommendations on the procedures for processing applications for licences and the legislative framework.

Mr. Farrelly's report made a number of recommendations to strengthen legislation, as well as proposals on improving procedural and processing matters. I have since published the Farrelly report and an accompanying action plan for the implementation of its recommendations on my Department's website.

Many of the recommendations have now been fully implemented and others have been progressed substantially. In addition, legal advice was sought and received on the current regulations as many of the legal, and constitutional issues around the criteria for granting licences, have proven difficult and complex. Legal advice recommended strengthening of compliance with EU law in this area and advised that new regulations would be required to achieve this.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I signed a new regulation in August 2009 which is now in effect. This regulation automatically disqualifies from holding a road transport operator's licence, any operator who has serious convictions in a number of specific areas including murder, manslaughter, serious assaults, drug-trafficking, person trafficking, money laundering, sexual offences and firearms offences.

The disqualification applies if the convictions are within the past five years when prosecuted on indictment, or two years when prosecuted summarily. Any licensee continuing to operate while disqualified, risks receiving a maximum fine of €500,000 or three years in prison, or both.

I also plan to introduce a second regulation to further strengthen the regulatory regime. The proposed regulation is broader in scope, and will cover other relevant persons working in licensed transport operations, such as directors and transport managers. This regulation will provide for disqualification in respect of convictions for serious offences committed beyond five years by licensees or relevant persons. It will also provide a potential licensee and relevant person with the right to go to court seeking leave to apply to the Minister for a licence, where the conviction occurred more than five years previously.

As a result of the possible significant impact of this regulation on the sector, a consultation process was initiated with the industry, the Courts Service and the Garda at the end of September. The closing date for receipt of comments was 23 October 2009. The responses are now being examined with a view to introducing a second regulation before the year end.

I have the Farrelly report here and it is shocking. The Garda did not check for past convictions when granting a HGV licence and awarded a licence to a notorious drug dealer. It was an appalling situation. Has it been remedied? Is the new regulation in effect? Does that mean people with convictions for murder, manslaughter, drug trafficking and sexual offences will not be allowed a licence for such a vehicle?

On foot of that, have we checked to see if we have missed any other grants of licences like this? My colleagues, Deputies Rabbitte and Costello, repeatedly asked for information on this matter in this House and were stymied. The situation was allowed to continue until the Government was finally forced to take action thanks to this valuable report.

The Deputy has the sequence of events incorrect, I commissioned the Farrelly report on foot of the specific case raised. All of the matters that arose as a result of that case have been dealt with. The first statutory instrument that I put in place means that anyone convicted in the past five years would have to give up his licence. Four people have been contacted in that regard and if they have not handed up their licences by the end of next week, the Garda will take action against them. All of the recommendations in the report are being acted upon. Many are complete, but a Bill on foot of this report will be introduced next year.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate