Leaders' Questions

I think the Taoiseach will agree that An Garda Síochána is central to our democracy and to the security of our State. Over recent years, unfortunately, the force has been mired in scandal and debacle, lowering morale and confidence within the force. We have had the whistleblowers' stories, the penalty points, the malpractice, the phone recordings, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, bugging, the 1 million fake breathalyser tests and, of course, the fixed charge notices which resulted in many thousands of people being wrongly charged. Now we have had very damning revelations pertaining to Templemore Garda College and the whole issue around the 42 bank accounts and the complete breach of procedures, law and accountability, which is an extraordinary story in itself.

The revelations of the director of human resources, John Barrett, are particularly damning about the culture that has protected this edifice for so long and the inaction of the senior management of An Garda Síochána, including the Garda Commissioner, in dealing with this issue in a transparent, accountable and effective way. Mr. Barrett met the Commissioner and other senior members of the force in July 2015. It was a two hour meeting, as far as he and others have testified, but in addition to that, it was clear that the head of legal affairs in An Garda Síochána, Mr. Ken Ruane, had written to the Commissioner stating that she had a legal obligation under section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act to make a section 41 report to the Minister. Section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act is very clear that significant developments that might reasonably be expected adversely to affect public confidence in the Garda Síochána should be notified to the Minister. That did not happen, even though the Garda Commissioner was given written notice by the head of legal affairs to do that, given all that had transpired in regard to Templemore Garda College.

Does the Taoiseach accept the Garda Commissioner did not discharge her legal obligations to inform the Minister for Justice and Equality of significant developments that would clearly adversely affect public confidence in An Garda Síochána, namely, the issues relating to Templemore?

It took 15 months from the date of being told she should do it by her legal adviser to having the Minister informed. Is that good enough? Could the Taoiseach indicate what the Minister for Justice and Equality has to say about this? Will the Minister come into this House and make a statement on these issues, and on that specific matter? Why would the Commissioner tell the Minister at that time? What is the issue? What was the problem? In the light of all that, do the Taoiseach and the Government still have confidence in the Garda Commissioner to discharge her duties and manage the Garda out of this series of debacles?

The first point Deputy Micheál Martin makes is important. I agree it is critical that the public and the Government have absolute faith and trust in the Garda Síochána and, clearly, that has been a matter in respect of which there has been pressure for quite some time. I have faith and every confidence in the Garda Commissioner to do her job. I must point out to the Deputy that the issues here are being examined by the Committee of Public Accounts, the Policing Authority and the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is appropriate that the work under way in that process should be able to be completed.

I would further point out that the work initiated here relates to a period quite a number of years ago. Action was taken by the Commissioner - when it was brought to her attention - in order that these matters would be dealt with conclusively. The Committee of Public Accounts is to meet again on 13 July. As I understand it, the Garda Commissioner will attend again at the committee to give evidence.

When the information was brought to the attention of the Minister, she sent it to the Policing Authority. The Deputy will be aware that the report contains recommendations which must be overseen by the Policing Authority. Obviously, the authority acts completely independently of both the Commissioner and the Government. I note that earlier today it made another appointment of an assistant commissioner in accordance with the new method of making senior appointments to the Garda.

Section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act enables the Commissioner of the day to send notices to the Minister for Justice and Equality. That is a matter of judgment for the Garda Commissioner.

Clearly, this process has not been completed and needs to be dealt with so that all of the evidence and facts can not only be ascertained but also judged. For that reason, the reform that is under way is quite extensive. The Deputy will be aware of the enhanced powers being sought in respect of GSOC, the Garda Inspectorate report, the independent Policing Authority and now the appointment of a commission to examine the structure of the Garda in the context of the way it is run and the mechanics of how it does its business. The commission will not be examining the qualities of any individual personality within the ranks of An Garda Síochána but will be looking at the structure overall so that the force can be seen to be professional and competent in terms of how it does its job in the interests of the people of the country, as one would expect.

The Government retains confidence in the Garda Commissioner. Obviously, in my view, it would be a mistake to personalise issues in respect of the new commission looking at the structure and the culture of the Garda. It is not about that. The work is under way by the Committee of Public Accounts, the Policing Authority and the Comptroller and Auditor General. They should be entitled to finish their work and report on it.

The Act does not enable the Commissioner, it legally obliges the Commissioner. The Taoiseach is trying to wash this issue away, day after day, week after week. Does the Taoiseach not get it? The thing is completely untenable and unacceptable in light of what we have heard here. The reports in 2008 and 2010 into Templemore were hidden from the audit committee and they were denied. Mr. Barrett points out that requests for copies of previous audits in 2008 and 2010 were denied to the audit committee and described this as a "bizarre course of action". It is absolutely bizarre. How much more does it take for the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality to get it? This matter demands urgent action on the part of the Government. The Taoiseach has the power to do it.

The Policing Authority has a role. This is stretching the credibility of the force to its very limit, and with it the Government's credibility as well, in terms of its seeming paralysis in acting on the issue. I urge the Taoiseach to read the material that has come into the public domain and assess it himself because I get the feeling he is glossing over it and passing it on to various other agencies and bodies.

Deputy Martin's time is up.

This is extremely serious and it is time the Taoiseach acted on it. I would appreciate if he would indicate to me whether the Minister for Justice and Equality is prepared to come into the House to issue a statement on the latest revelations and to take questions on them.

The latest revelations are part of a very extensive report produced by a very competent civilian. The report is now before the Committee of Public Accounts. I am quite sure Deputy Micheál Martin, with his long experience in here, realises the importance of the committee and the independent way it is entitled to do its business. The Minister has sent the information to the Policing Authority because there are recommendations that must be overseen by it, and that independent body will see that this happens.

Deputy Martin stated I do not seem to get it. The situation is that this work is under way. The Comptroller and Auditor General is examining the issue and the Committee of Public Accounts is examining it. The Policing Authority will do its job in terms of monitoring and oversight of what is involved. The Minister for Justice and Equality has been here on so many occasions about issues relating to the Garda-----

Exactly. Has the penny not dropped? That is the point.

-----and that is why the reforms the Government has put in place will deal with the nature, culture and structure of what has evolved in the Garda Síochána for so many years. As the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Martin knows that over many years this culture has moved to a point where it is no longer acceptable and that is why this Commissioner is taking action in accordance with Government requirements to ensure that those matters are sorted out.

She did not take action on this issue.

This is shocking.

That is why the new commission to look at the structure, professionalism and competency of how the Garda is run is important in terms not of personalities but of that structure.

The Taoiseach should read the documentation.

There is a complete denial of the facts.

It has been 15 months.

I do get it, but I think it is important that the Committee of Public Accounts is able to do its job.

I raised the matter here a month ago.

The Minister has no problem coming in here-----

Good. She should come in tomorrow.

-----to answer questions about matters relevant to the Department of Justice and Equality but there is no point in jumping to conclusions before allowing the agencies and committees that are vested with the authority to report to do so.

I thank the Taoiseach. We are way over time. I call Deputy Gerry Adams.

Contrary to the Taoiseach's assertion a moment ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General is not examining this issue. In fact, it was kept from him. Yesterday, I raised these matters with the Taoiseach and the fact that John Barrett, the head of Garda human resources, had handed over documentation to the Committee of Public Accounts that completely contradicts the evidence provided to the committee by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan last Thursday. I raised that along with a raft of other scandals that have shaped Ms O'Sullivan's leadership of An Garda Síochána and, once again, the Taoiseach expressed his confidence in the Commissioner and he did that again a moment ago.

Last night the details of the 122-page document provided by Mr. Barrett emerged in the public domain. The information provided is damning. Mr. Barrett states that the actions taken by senior gardaí in response to financial irregularities at Templemore would be seen as a cover-up. The financial irregularities include how moneys generated from various Garda College areas were moved outside the purview of the normal accounting practices and into some 42 unauthorised accounts. Mr. Barrett further claims that Garda auditors were purposely kept in the dark about what was happening. The Garda Commissioner has claimed she was not aware of the scale of the irregularities two years ago. She said it was mentioned in a brief chat. However, the documents provided by Mr. Barrett support his position that he first raised these concerns about financial irregularities at Templemore in July 2015 with Commissioner O'Sullivan, Assistant Commissioner John Twomey and the head of Garda legal affairs, Ken Ruane. The meeting was a detailed discussion that lasted for over two hours. Mr. Barrett also claims that Commissioner O'Sullivan failed to act on advice from the head of Garda legal affairs to inform the Minister for Justice and Equality about the irregularities discussed in July 2015.

The Commissioner does not have flexibility. She has a statutory obligation to do so under the Garda Síochána Act, yet the Minister remained silent this morning. In fact, the Minister remains absent this afternoon. As I told the Taoiseach yesterday, accountability or the lack of it is the key issue underpinning all of these controversies and scandals. That goes to the heart of public alienation in public life and politics, and disillusionment with State agencies. This is unacceptable. What is happening is a waste of taxpayers' money. It is all the more alarming because An Garda Síochána is the body that is supposed to be enforcing the law. Those are not my words, they are the words of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Leo Varadkar, this morning.

The fact is that there is no accountability for those in high places. Can one imagine a poor, powerless person getting away with even a smidgen of these offences? My question to the Taoiseach is simple. He says he has confidence in the Commissioner and maybe he has good reason for that. We do not know it or share that, but he should explain to us why he has confidence in the leadership of An Garda Síochána.

Deputy Adams made a point about the leadership of An Garda Síochána under Commissioner O'Sullivan. These events took place quite a number of years ago and is it not only right and proper that we should find out the truth and facts about them? That is why the Committee of Public Accounts is investigating this matter and looking at it. That is why the Policing Authority will oversee the recommendations of the information that is being sent to it. Remember that it was Commissioner O'Sullivan who acted on this. She is the first Commissioner since these events happened to take action. She is the Commissioner in situ when the greatest reform of An Garda Síochána in the history of the State is taking place. That is led by the Government decision, which was quite controversial at the time, to set up an independent Policing Authority. This morning that authority made an independent appointment of another assistant commissioner. It does take time for these things to evolve to a point where that culture will be seen to change and be accepted as such by the public. That is why the Government's decision to have a root and branch analysis of the structure and the way in which the Garda Síochána is run is now beginning to take place. It will be appointed formally next week.

Mr. Barrett has obviously written his report in great detail and it is right for it to be examined by the Committee of Public Accounts. That committee, which is charged with examining this matter, is entitled to produce its report and findings in the same way as it produced a detailed report on Project Eagle, out of which has come a decision by the Government to have a commission of investigation.

The Garda Commissioner, in situ, is taking action and is responsible to the Policing Authority for the way the Garda Síochána is now being run.

That is a laugh.

The Policing Authority will make its findings in respect of the oversight there. The Minister for Justice and Equality has no problem in attending the House and has done so on many occasions in recent years, dealing with controversies in the Garda Síochána. These are matters that have to be dealt with and will be dealt with. I would like to see the Committee of Public Accounts meeting on 13 July being able to do its job. That is what it was set up for, in part. I would like to think they will have the Garda Commissioner there to answer the charges the Deputy is making here in respect of differences between what Mr. Barrett says in is report and the evidence the Commissioner gave at the Committee of Public Accounts.

I presume the Taoiseach accepts that all is not well. Despite this, I asked him why he had confidence in the Commissioner and he ignored that question. The Taoiseach said he set up an independent Policing Authority, but he did not. He set up a Policing Authority but it is not independent. He refused our motion in that regard and is only now moving slowly in that direction. These are serious allegations of malpractice, corruption and breaches of the law. I brought even more troubling allegations to the attention of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality 18 months ago, yet the Taoiseach did nothing about that. It appears that he is going to do nothing about the Garda Commissioner before he leaves office.

I have been trying to understand why this is so. As I watch all of this unfold, I have genuinely been wondering why the Taoiseach does not move on this matter. Is it because the institutions are all in this together? I do not mean that the Taoiseach is complicit or is in a conspiracy, I just mean that the institutional instinct is to leave things be. It is to protect the establishment and not to move unless one is absolutely forced to take action. There is no other rational explanation for why the Taoiseach will not remove the Garda Commissioner from office. He has a second chance to give us an explanation as to why he has confidence in the Commissioner.

It seems that Deputy Adams wants to continually tick boxes and ask for another head on another plate. Does he not think that it is appropriate that the most influential committee of this House, the Committee of Public Accounts, be allowed to do its job? On occasions in the past, people associated with the Deputy's party have been the subject of television programmes on a variety of issues, but nothing was ever wrong there. All is not well here. Neither I nor anybody else can stand over a situation where the issues that have been raised are not identified and dealt with factually and in full. If money was shifted or misappropriated------

That is exactly what happened.

That is accepted.

-----or money was diverted, as we now have some evidence of having happened in Templemore-----

There is no argument.

-----it was this Commissioner who took action to find out what exactly had happened.

It has gone way beyond all of that.

That is why it is necessary for the Committee of Public Accounts to be allowed to do its job, finish its report and present it to the House. The Minister for Justice and Equality will have no difficulty in coming before the House, as necessary-----

Will she come in today?

-----as she does for Questions to the Tánaiste and Questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality, to give an account of her stewardship of her Department in this matter.

When will she come in?

I say again to the Deputy that the terms of reference set out for the commission's analysis of root-and-branch activities include: the structure and management arrangements apply for An Garda Síochána; the appropriate composition, recruitment and training of the men and women who serve in An Garda Síochána; the culture and the ethos of policing; the appropriate structures for oversight and accountability; and the legislative framework for policing. That is the focus of the new commission, in order that we can all be happy that, over a period, the Garda force will have the trust, confidence, professionalism and wherewithal to do its job as the people of the county would expect.

That is a fantasy land.

This is a matter that needs to be dealt with and is being dealt with. I hope the Deputy agrees that the Committee of Public Accounts and the other oversight bodies should be allowed to do their work.

Last week, I raised the rise in crime rates in County Kerry in the form of a Topical Issue debate. During that debate, I also touched on the fact that elderly people are having their homes invaded and are being attacked. Very sadly, since then a man aged 94 years and his wife, who is 87, had their home invaded last Sunday. Two men attacked him. They broke his walking stick over his head. They ransacked his house and stole money. Representatives of the active retirement associations around the country have said that politicians will have to step up. I agree.

This type of behaviour from any human being should not be tolerated. I am not blaming Government or An Garda Síochána. These people are scumbags. They are the worst type of cowardly blackguards that God ever had the misfortune to create and bring into this world. They are horrible people. I know that they will not hear this because they are all thrown in a slumber somewhere sound asleep and would not be up until evening time, but if any one of them is awake I would send a message to them out of this House: they are cowards; they are horrible blackguards.

I commend the Government that was in office at the time of Veronica Guerin's death. It came in here and worked diligently - Opposition and Government together. It brought in new rules and regulations that ensured the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Taoiseach and others that were here tackled organised crime in a very diligent and workmanlike way. We, as Government and Opposition and as elected Members of Dáil Éireann, have to stand up and say that we will not tolerate this type of behaviour.

We will ensure elderly people in their homes will be safe, secure and happy in the knowledge that if any person is stupid enough to enter their homes and hurt a hair on their heads, they will be dealt with severely. I am talking about punishments such as tagging. This is not an outrageous thing to say. They should be tagged for life because people should know where they are if any person is cowardly enough to do this. Why do they not take on big strong men in their homes and see how they would come out of it? I am very supportive of what the Government did in the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 under which a person is entitled, and rightly so, to use reasonable force to protect their home. I would like to hear what the Taoiseach has to say about that.

The attack on Jimmy Campion at the age of 94 in Roscrea, County Tipperary and his wife, Maura, who is aged 87, was an attack of cowardice and wanton brutality. I do not know who the people who broke into that house are, the condition they were in or the state of their minds, but to do that to an elderly person is unforgivable in so many ways. Unfortunately, it is not the first time it has happened and probably will not be the last. I hope Mr. Campion is making a recovery. I note the reports of the walking stick being broken and the effect this is having on his wife, Maura, with the post-traumatic stress caused by people entering a house and beating up a man in his senior years. I saw his neighbour and colleague on television saying that he was a gentleman of the first type against whom he had played hurling so many years ago. They would not have attempted to break into the house if he had been in his younger years as a hurler. I share the Deputy's view on this matter.

It is a fact of life that we have made serious attempts to involve communities through the text alert system and Macra na Tuaithe where communities are advised to be in contact with the Garda and Garda stations when unusual happenings and these type of suspicious movements take place. The TheftStop partnership with the IFA aims to deal with the stealing of livestock and machinery. As the Deputy is aware, efforts are under way to deal with this through various technological chips and so on to prevent machinery being stolen and to ensure that if it is stolen, people will know where it is. A total of 75% of burglaries are committed by about 25% of these people. Some of those involved are professional gangs. Operation Thor, which has been funded by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government, has put a stop to a great deal of that because many of those professional gangs who leave particular areas to travel throughout the country in high-speed cars have had their run ended.

I hope the local gardaí in Roscrea are able to apprehend these people. It will be for the courts to punish them. The Deputy made a very clear case about how he feels they should be punished. It is simply unforgivable that a man and his wife in the comfort of their own home who expect they will be able to live their lives in peace and tranquility should have that breached by thugs who enter a house for no other reason than to beat someone up and rob money. I hope the local gardaí find these people, that they are brought before the courts and that the judge on the bench will deal with them.

I cannot agree with the Taoiseach about Operation Thor because I believe it has sent these criminals underground and into rural areas. A couple of weeks ago, 64 people were arrested in one day in Carlow and Kilkenny, but it was all in urban areas. We must be very careful about what we are doing here and how we are tackling the problem. I thank the Taoiseach for his comments but I want action. I want an end to these people being treated with kid gloves. There is free legal aid and every sort of pampering and nonsense for them. The full rigours of the law must be applied to them. Every one of us has parents or grandparents who grew older and more frail until we possibly lost them. We became more protective of them. We want to protect our elderly people. That is how we will be judged as politicians.

I ask the Taoiseach and the Government to get cross about this issue because we cannot and will not tolerate it or allow it to go on in our country. It is not right and it is not fair.

This case has been raised by many Deputies. The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 was targeted at burglars with previous convictions and who are charged with multiple residential break-ins. That Act requires that the courts provide for consecutive jail sentences when a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences. It also allows courts to refuse bail to offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary.

This case involves an aggravated situation where the burglars beat up an elderly man. The criminal justice forensic evidence and DNA database system was commenced a year ago and introduced the DNA database, which provides the Garda with investigative links between people and unsolved crimes, including burglary. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, this morning turned the sod on a new forensic laboratory in County Kildare, which will cost over €30 million.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae should not underestimate the impact of Operation Thor, which began in November 2015 at a time of straitened public finances. It led to a sharp decline in the national rate of burglary, which has been reflected in successive statistics published by the CSO. The full year figures for 2016 are the most recent available. They indicate a 30% reduction in burglary over that 12-month period.

That does not excuse what happened to the Campion couple in Roscrea. I hope that the Garda is able to apprehend the perpetrators and that they are brought before a court to be dealt with by a judge. The Deputy’s point is valid. Whether they be urban, semi-rural or what one might call really rural, communities need to be on the alert. Facilities such as the text alert scheme and so on are available that allow suspicious vehicles or people acting suspiciously to be reported in the hope that issues such as this one will not arise again or at least will be reduced. Should an incident unfortunately occur, those facilities will mean that the perpetrators can be apprehended.

I hope that Jimmy Campion makes a full recovery. I hope that the condition of his wife, Maura, improves and that they will be allowed to live their lives as a long-married couple in the peace and tranquillity of their home, which they have known for a very long time.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time and the greatest opportunity for us to switch to a more secure, sustainable and just economic model. However, our draft national climate mitigation plan is an unmitigated disaster. The head of the EPA says that the Government’s policy measures are failing. John FitzGerald, the head of the climate advisory group, says the plan lacks substance, detail and analysis. The environmental NGOs have given it an F rating and it is lucky not to have been given a G rating.

In terms of the European Union, we are now mentioned in the same breath as Poland. There are only two countries in the EU that will not meet their emission targets and we are one of them. There are only four countries which are not going to meet the renewable targets. This country, which has some of the richest renewable resources in the world, is unfortunately in that category and heading in the wrong direction. The Institute of International and European Affairs estimates that those failures could cost us between €3 billion and €6 billion over the next decade.

What do we have? We have a Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, who has the cheek to say the problem is that we were too ambitious. During the Green Party’s period in Government between 2008 and 2011, emissions fell by 15 %. Half of that drop was due to the economic downturn but the EPA recognised that the other half was because of political commitment in government to the issue at that time. The EPA projects that we are now facing a 15% increase in emissions up to 2030. If we were to take this issue seriously and grab the opportunity, we would go in the opposite direction.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, was absent from the talks and had no interest whatsoever. The plan has many gaps where there should be transport initiatives.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine says to count agriculture out because that sector has nothing to do with it. This is part of the reason - and it is not just because there are thousands of acres of forestry burning in the west today - that we are turning this green island brown. This is not in the interests of farmers, landowners or foresters.

We do not have a single public transport project ready to go to tender. We cannot get a cycle lane built along the Liffey quays because of a lack of funding from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and as a result of a lack of political support at council level. We cannot build a greenway to Galway; it could even go by that plant in Athenry that the Government can get built for Apple, which will be an innovative part of the new green economy because it will be 100% powered by renewable energy. The Danes are building a similar plant and while matters here are stuck in planning, they are actually going to commission that facility. Will the Taoiseach tell us what is going to change and what the Government is going to do differently? The lack of political ambition and lack of economic understanding in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is at the core of our failure. It is the Government's responsibility to stop this country going from green to brown and to start grasping the opportunity that is before us.

Deputy Eamon Ryan has been talking about change recently. He stated that he wants to become quite promiscuous - from a party point of view of course - and that he is quite prepared to jump into bed with any other political party in order to be back in government. The Deputy was in government and he had some very good ideas, many of which were not followed through.

He had some bad ideas also.

I share Deputy Eamon Ryan's enthusiasm for dealing with climate change and where we stand in that respect. Ireland's profile is the same as that of New Zealand and it is very different from most other countries. Ireland is the most carbon-efficient producer of milk in the world and the fifth most efficient producer of beef in Europe. If milk quotas go and Ireland is in a position to double the national herd-----

The quotas are gone.

-----then there is an issue in respect of being able to protect our farmers and deal with natural emissions of methane gas.

The Deputy will be aware that climate change is one of the key environmental issues globally, not just in Ireland. In the context of the scale of transformation, there is a real challenge for the State to meet its targets between 2020 and 2030. It is not a case of being ambitious enough; it is a case of having letting this slip in Tokyo in the first instance, where our profile - for what it was - was not recognised. It should have been the case of building the ambition on top of that and of not in making the target completely unreachable. The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line our EU and international commitments - including the Paris Agreement - is well understood by Government. The best technical minds are working on this to see how we can be ambitious between 2020 and 2030 and meet with our requirements in that regard. These are reflected in the 2014 national policy position on climate action and low-carbon development, which is underpinned by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The national policy and the 2015 Act provide the high-level policy and statutory direction for the adoption and implementation of successive national mitigation plans.

The Deputy spoke of building the greenway from Athlone to Galway. Does he not appreciate the difficulties that arise when one tries to do something like that? It is now virtually impossible to make any move in this country without taking into account the litigious nature of people. This presents difficulties and, under the law of the land, there are opportunities for people to object to everything. It is not possible to walk in on farmer X or farmer Y and say that we are suddenly putting in place compulsory purchase orders in respect of their land in order that we might put in place a greenway to allow people to pass through. There must be a process of consultation and discussion in the same way that I hope Ministers will be able to bring forward the regulations relating to wind turbines in the next weeks. We have had this debate for quite some time, including around carbon emissions, diesel emissions and the fraudulent activity of a number of motoring companies that have resulted in fines which are exceptionally high.

The measures include the emissions trading scheme; the carbon tax; the renewable electricity support schemes; the renewable energy prototype development funding; financial supports through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, large industry energy network and the small to medium enterprises support schemes; social housing energy efficiency upgrades; the near zero energy building standards; the building energy rating certificates; the public sector energy efficiency strategy; public transport investments and smarter travel initiatives; tax and financial incentives for low-emission vehicles; biofuels obligation schemes; the Rural Development Programme; and the forestry programme. These are all areas in which Ireland is working intensively to meet its targets and live up to its requirements.

We are not working hard enough. The reason I spoke about going into coalition with other parties is that I have a sense of urgency. We need to pull together, left and right. I will work with anyone here to try to achieve these goals. We would go into government with the aim of effecting change, working harder and going further. My experience is that it is possible. We protected the metro project right through the hardest budget decisions and times. We had it ready to go with European Investment Bank, EIB, funding. It was in the four-year plan. Fine Gael's Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will need to answer this question in the next few weeks. He killed it and now we are all paying the cost.

The Deputy's banking crisis killed it.

We introduced building retrofit schemes that helped people to save money and create warmer homes. During the time of the current and last Government, the level of activity halved. We were able to get EIB funding for a €500 million interconnector which helps us balance our power. No other EIB project has gone through in the last five years because we do not have ambition. The Government lacks ambition and the understanding that we need to do more. That need is clear to anyone looking at its plan, which only sets out about 60% of the response we need. Where is the other 40%? What is the Government going to do differently?

We are going to work harder and are working very hard. Another Private Members' Bill was introduced by Deputy Pringle, seeking to amend the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2014. It seeks to instruct the NTMA to divest the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund from its fossil fuel assets within five years of the Act's commencement. The Bill's intention is that this timeline will assist in the orderly management of Ireland's climate change commitments on decarbonisation under article 2 of the Paris Agreement. That debate took place on 19 January. The Government tabled a reasoned amendment which was put to a vote on 26 January and defeated. The Bill has now been referred to the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach.

Does the Taoiseach want credit for that?

On a point of order, has Deputy Pringle become a Member of the Government or something?

It is fine for Deputy Ryan to come in and tell me to do all of these things. We have opened a European Investment Bank office in Dublin for major projects. Maybe the Deputy has forgotten the time he was in government. It is not as easy as he thinks to put in his interconnector-----

-----to put up his wind farms and solar panels, or put in his greenways.

Zero energy government.

These are all wonderful aspirations but if the Deputy visited the communities he would find a very different reaction from his nice perception of people saying we will all be energy and fuel efficient and we will all have emissions control and we will have a lovely country.

The Taoiseach should have some faith.

It took 16 years to bring the gas pipeline in from the Corrib field and there were legitimate reasons for that as it went through one court case after another. The gas is now flowing.

I support the Deputy in so many ways. We have to become more understanding of what climate change and climate action actually mean. It is the overriding requirement not just for Ireland but for the planet. It is perfectly evident now from the storms, hurricanes, cyclones, increased flooding, icebergs off the Antarctic, the way the Northwest Passage in the Arctic is now open summer after summer, that the world is changing. With the heating of the Atlantic, if the temperature goes up another half degree the entire salmon stock will move 1,000 miles north. These are all massive challenges that have to be met. Ireland will play its part but it cannot happen overnight. The chance might come for Deputy Ryan again sometime to play his part in government. One never knows.