Other Questions

Flood Prevention Measures

Aindrias Moynihan


6. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the report on the plan for flood relief works on the Upper Lee at Inchigeelagh, County Cork; when the project will progress to construction stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29079/18]

I have raised the issue of flooding in the Upper Lee in Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary several times here to see if householders and business owners could get protection from those floods, as well as peace of mind. The announcement by the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Moran, in May which suggested that these schemes were not in the first tranche of works was greeted with disappointment in Ballingeary and Inchigeelagh, as the Minister of State can imagine. We want to establish how we can progress and what plan the Minister of State has to protect people in Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary from floods in the Upper Lee.

Since taking up office, I have been in Cork three times and I am fully aware of the issue of flooding. I thank the Deputies for the support they gave me in Cork and the officials of Cork County Council for the work they have done with the Department and the elected members in ensuring that the scheme we announced will get up and moving. In response to the Deputy's question, the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme was announced in May with a proposed 118 schemes. It is not possible for me as Minister of State to announce all 118 schemes at once. We announced 50.

A proposed flood relief scheme for Inchigeelagh has been identified by the CFRAM programme to be progressed at a projected cost of €2.56 million. This proposed scheme consists of flood walls and embankments and will protect 28 properties when completed. The proposed scheme is not in the first tranche of projects to be progressed but the OPW and the local authority will work closely together to ensure that it will be commenced as soon as possible within the timeframe of the programme of investment. Once consultants are appointed to progress the scheme, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, as well as the public, will take place the appropriate stage to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to make an input to the development of the scheme.

Since I have launched CFRAM, I have worked closely with local authorities to drive on the small and minor schemes. We have gone around the country where some local authorities have taken that up while others are slow. In the case of Cork it is very much working with me in respect of the Inchigeelagh scheme. I am very hopeful that we will have another meeting soon to progress the scheme. I know the Deputy has raised it in the House with my predecessor and with me. I give credit to him for that. I assure him that I am working with the Department and the officials of Cork County Council to fast-track the scheme.

I acknowledge that the Minister of State has met officials and locals and is I am sure well familiar with, and has a good understanding of, the anxiety for homeowners and businesses which are being flooded in various parts along the Lee. Now that it is clear that the Government is not putting these down as tranche one, are these schemes in Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary now shelved and stopped for some time or what action is being taken in the background? Surely there must be some work prepared for tranche two. Onto what stages will these schemes be moved or are they parked up completely? If so, what can be done to ensure they get moving again because they are very badly needed not just for residential but also for commercial properties that are being flooded.

The Minister of State needs to take a holistic approach to the flooding. It is not just a question of walls along the villages, he needs to look up the Lee to opportunities for storing flooding, bogs, implications for forestry and so on.

CFRAM has identified all these schemes and looked for solutions. We are considering holding ponds and not just walls and so forth. When schemes start to develop and complete, others will be added. That is the process. Where I am working with local authorities, most of what the Deputy proposed here today can be done by the local authority driving on the scheme and we will support it with funding. I work with the local authority in Cork, particularly in respect of the scheme the Deputy has mentioned, and the local authority is working closely with the Department. I am hopeful that I will have the answer for the Deputy next time and that he will not have to raise it here again but that I can send him a letter letting him know it is starting. I am working closely with every Member, including the Deputy, and am very much aware of flooding around the country. I have been in every part of Donegal where I visited people who had water up to their waists. We sorted that out with funding and driving on the scheme. This is not the Deputy's first time raising this issue and I assure him we will fast-track this as well.

To go back to one of my original questions, if Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary are not included in tranche one of the scheme does that mean it is shelved and set aside or is there action going on in the background preparing it for the next tranche? What action will be taken to do that? There has been talk of temporary works. Some temporary works were undertaken previously in Ballingeary on the Lee. There have been proposals for works in Inchigeelagh for several years but they will not be the solution because they are temporary. The river will bring back any gravel that is taken out and vegetation will grow back. We need to ensure the wider scheme, the holistic scheme all the way up the Lee valley and particularly the Upper Lee valley, would not be shelved. It needs to be advancing in the background and be shovel-ready when the next tranche happens.

No scheme has been shelved. The Department is working closely with all local authorities. I am giving the Deputy assurance today that if he goes to the local authority and asks it to take up the Inchigeelagh scheme and drive it forward I will support it with funding. We will work closely together with the local authority on that. That is what I have done since CFRAM was announced. I have gone around the country meeting local authorities to drive on schemes that the Deputy calls "shelved". I do not call any scheme shelved. My job as Minister of State for the people of this country is to make sure that every person is looked after and that is what I intend to do.

Sale of State Assets

Barry Cowen


7. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the specific use to which the €400 million proceeds from the sale of Bord Gáis has been put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29056/18]

I seek clarification from the Minister regarding the €400 million proceeds from the sale of Bord Gáis. He told us in budget 2015 that those funds would be made available for social housing projects. It was further advanced that they would be specifically targeted towards the provision of affordable housing schemes. We have since heard that €10 million per annum would be allocated for 20 years, which amounts to €200 million I am anxious to know where this money is. Is it with the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, or the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF? Irrespective of where it is, is it earning money for the State? Where is it and to what use is it being put? We are a long way from the commitment that was made initially in 2015.

As the Deputy will be aware, the intention when Bord Gáis Energy was sold was that €400 million from the proceeds would be made available to establish an off-balance sheet financial vehicle to provide financing to approved housing bodies, AHBs. This funding, together with additional private funding, would then facilitate the provision of additional housing units by the AHB sector, in support of the Government's social housing strategy.

The Government established a clearing house group to work with the sector with a view to developing a new model that could use the €400 million in this way. Unfortunately, it proved very challenging to find a model that would be capable of using the funding while remaining off-balance sheet in EUROSTAT terms. However, the clearing house group considered that there were aspects of the proposals considered that appeared to offer potential, in terms of the possible development of a new affordable rental initiative. This would seek to provide long-term affordable residential accommodation for low to moderate income worker households in urban areas of high demand.

In response to this outcome, it was decided to convert the commitment from a single lump sum payment to fund the initial capital cost of social housing provision into a commitment to provide €10 million per annum, indexed for inflation, over a much longer period of at least 20 years. This ongoing funding could then be used to fund a pilot scheme for the provision of subsidised housing, thus making the housing available on an affordable basis over a 20-year period.

This additional €10 million in annual funding was allocated to the Vote of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government from 2017. I understand the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government is utilising this funding in supporting additional activity under its housing programmes.

In that case, the commitment made in 2015 no longer stands. The clearing house group rejected the proposal and found a model by which the funds could be used. A commitment was made in 2017 which amounts to €10 million per year, capitalised over 20 years, giving a total of €200 million. Where has the €400 million gone since 2015? Where has it been lodged? Where has it been resting? What has it accrued on behalf of the electorate, the people we represent? What benefit has this State and its inhabitants gained from the commitment the Minister made in 2015, which he has failed to honour since then?

As to where that money currently sits, an amount of money like that would sit on the State balance sheet. It is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency. On the question of what interest rate it has accrued for the State, given how low interest rates have been in recent years, I expect the interest benefits delivered to the State will have been very low across the period. The Deputy will be aware of the challenges we have in terms of translating once-off Exchequer gains into ongoing expenditure. For this reason, we proposed an alternative use, which I described to the Deputy. This involves making €10 million available per year for at least 20 years to allow the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to move forward on more housing projects.

For two years the Minister failed to honour the commitment he made in 2015, as he recognised in 2017. He cannot tell me what the €400 million from the proceeds of the sale made in these two years. I implore him to make available to the House exactly what it made as quickly as he can. In the meantime, he committed €10 million per annum for 20 years at most, which amounts to €200 million. There is another €200 million for which he has not accounted. I ask him again what has happened to that money since 2017. What is likely to happen to it in the future? How can taxpayers be expected to believe they gained from the sale of Bord Gáis Energy when the Minister failed abysmally to honour the commitment he made to the same taxpayers, especially when we consider the money was to used for housing? As we all know, housing has been the Government's greatest failure and an issue on which we hope to reflect when we discuss the budget in the coming months.

Given the Deputy is directing his questions to me, I should point out that at the time of budget 2015 I was not the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. However, I take responsibility for commitments that are made-----

The Minister is a member of the Cabinet.

-----by either of my Departments up to this point. Regarding who manages the money, I have answered that question.

The Minister has not done so.

As to the benefit the State might gain from it, money that goes onto the State balance sheet in the way this windfall gain would have done reduces the net indebtedness of our State. That, in turn, means we can fund ourselves better than we would be able to do otherwise.

In terms of where the other €200 million would reside and how it would be used-----

Was it used to write down debt?

-----as I said, the commitment is for at least a 20-year period and if an extension of funding is needed beyond that 20-year period to move forward on an affordable housing project, I would be happy to give that commitment and I will work with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Murphy, on it.

Public Sector Pay

Mick Barry


8. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the estimated cost of eliminating all forms of two-tier pay discrimination in the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29101/18]

Richard Boyd Barrett


10. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to remove pay inequality for new entrants in the public sector in view of the current economic position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29109/18]

Joan Burton


106. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the negotiations with regard to pay equalisation; the timeline for negotiations to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29010/18]

My question asks the Minister to set out the estimated cost of eliminating all forms of two-tier pay discrimination in the public service, and to make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 10 and 106 together.

Under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which we negotiated last year, it was agreed by all parties that there would be an examination of remaining salary scale issues in respect of post-January 2011 recruits at entry grades. The agreement stated that this would be undertaken within 12 months of the commencement of the agreement.

In addition, when the legislation to give effect to the terms of the agreement, the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017, was going through the Oireachtas the Government accepted an amendment at section 11 which provided that within three months of the passing of the Act, I would prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service and a plan for doing so. This was a significant body of work, which was carried out by the Irish Government Economic Evaluation Service. On 16 March last, I submitted the report on the matter, which outlined the figures in this regard. It would be a two-point adjustment overall for our public services, involving an annual cost of €200 million.

Discussions on this issue with public service trade unions and representative associations commenced in October 2017, with a further plenary meeting taking place in April and further discussions taking place since then.

The two-tier pay discrimination is still very much in place. Apart from being bad news for young workers, it is bad news for our public services because the Minister cannot fill much-needed positions in the public service, partly because of low basic pay rates but also because of two-tier pay discrimination. In teaching, he cannot fill the positions in mathematics and information and communications technology, ICT. In the Defence Forces, he cannot fill the positions for engineer artificers. However, the impact of this on nursing was highlighted dramatically this week. According to information received by The Irish Times, the Bring Them Home campaign has attracted three nurses to return so far this year. Four years after a target was set to bring home 500 new nurses, 120 nurses, or less than 25% of the target, have come home. There is a global market. Ireland is not competitive and the question of two-tier pay is not helping in that regard.

It is clear what needs to be done. First, the Minister needs to increase basic pay rates for these grades and, second, he must end the scandal of two-tier pay, not just for young workers but for our public services.

Since 2011, our public services have hired more than 60,500 new entrants.

The Deputy mentioned two professions. We have hired some 16,000 more teachers and nearly 10,000 more nurses. Earlier I provided information to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien in which I indicated that during the first four months of 2018 the HSE hired the equivalent of 380 more persons per month. It is not the case that we have broad recruitment difficulties within our public service. We are able to hire, recruit and retain excellent individuals to pursue careers within our public services to deliver the services that are so important to our society.

Where we have specific difficulties that need further inquiry the Public Service Pay Commission will address these. It will report on these issues in July. On the basis of the report, we will then engage with representative bodies in the health service on the issues raised.

The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, must be the only person in Irish society who does not believe there is a problem recruiting and retaining nurses for our hospitals. I will leave him on that.

Tomorrow in Macroom, County Cork, young archaeologists who have been working on the Macroom N22 bypass will place pickets over a dispute on union recognition and low pay. Their direct employer is the Irish Archaeological Consultancy, IAC, but it is working to a State contract. These young people have degrees, master's degrees and ten years' experience and yet they are on €12.50 per hour. Compare this to the more than €17 per hour earned by a general operative in the construction industry. The two-tier payscales for teachers and nurses is the direct responsibility of the Government but the low pay and effective two-tier pay rates for young workers such as these archaeologists are indirectly the responsibility of the Government, which continues to give State contracts to employers such as theirs. This is also exploitation, direct and indirect, and both should end.

The State has no intention to exploit anybody for their services or work. We do not. If the Deputy or any group have concerns in this regard they know all the mechanisms and options that are open to them. I had hoped that Deputy Barry's views on the job market would also acknowledge the latest unemployment figures, which have come from the CSO today, that show the unemployment rate is 5.1%. There are 34,000 fewer people without a job now than one year ago. This is a sign of living standards and jobs being created for people due to policies that Deputy Barry has constantly disputed and challenged, as is his right. It is, however, getting to a point of creating employment which is seeing the unemployment rate move to that level.

On the core point put to me in Deputy Barry's initial question, we have a process under way with the unions on new entrants' pay. As I indicated earlier to Deputy Barry Cowen, I am approaching this process in good faith to see if progress can be made in this matter.

As the Minister is taking questions Nos. 8, 10 and 106 together I invite Deputy Boyd Barrett to ask his supplementary question.

Between 2011 and 2017 applications for second level teaching have dropped by 62%. By any measure this is a dramatic reduction in the number of people who apply to go into second level teaching. The Minister can quote figures about increased recruitment, which is not hard given what happened during the austerity period and the slashing of public sector numbers, but the fact remains that we are having extraordinary difficulty in attracting people into teaching and nursing. Another group I have mentioned before as suffering this pay inequality is the service officers and ushers in Dáil Éireann who came in after 2012. They get less pay than those who came in before them, and with whom they work side by side. How can this attract people?

Consider the gap between the earnings, which is a second, lower tier of new entrants' earnings, and the costs of accommodation or being able to buy a house. This is the same generation, 25% of whom now believe they will never under any circumstances be able to afford a house. Consequently, some 60,000 mostly younger, educated people are leaving the State every year. They cannot live here.

Because of changes we have seen in Dublin and some of the other larger cities I absolutely understand that those people who work in our public services, and especially during the early part of their careers, are facing challenges around affordability for rent or mortgage payments. I can see this in many parts of the country and I can see it happening in Dublin. I shall outline our response to this. I remember that for many years Deputy Boyd Barrett called for the unwinding of the financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation, FEMPI. This is now happening. The Deputy put points to me. He is very fair-minded and always comes forward with solutions and ideas on how he thinks things could be done differently. Perhaps the Deputy will acknowledge that this year two pay increases were made available to our public sector workers, one of which is already happening and the other will happen in September or October. This was done to recognise the fact that across the period our public servants took wage cuts in response to exceptional circumstances within our economy. As those circumstances have changed we have looked to put in place the unwinding of the FEMPI legislation, which is well under way.

With regard to new entrants' pay, I reiterate that I am engaged with the unions on the matter but it goes beyond teachers. If a solution is put in place for any part of our public services it will need to apply to all.

Will the Minister indicate when he plans to roll out the supplementary pension, with regard to public service pensions.

As the Minister is taking questions Nos. 8, 10 and 106 I will invite Deputy Joan Burton to ask her supplementary question for Question No. 106 if she wishes. It concerns the status of pay equalisation. Deputy Burton can ask Question No. 9 shortly.

In the meantime Deputy Boyd Barrett can ask one more short supplementary question.

There has been some unwinding of FEMPI but at the end of the current pay agreement public sector workers will still be earning less than they were earning in 2008. This is pretty extraordinary. In 2018 public servants will earn less than in 2008. Government spokespeople claim that it has closed 75% of the new entrant pay gap. This is not true. For the first 13 years the gap is more like 50% to 60%. Over a full career the gap is closed by some 75% but most of the difference hits people when they are younger and for the first 13 years when it remains a 50% to 60% gap. This is why people cannot afford anywhere to live. That such a pay gap exists is unacceptable in any event. I put it to the Minister that such a gap has to be closed immediately or we will not solve the recruitment problems and the desperate problems in getting people into the health and education sectors and into other areas of public service. I have not the time now to go into the details but we have put forward many proposals where other groups could be taxed to finance such a measure.

Deputy Joan Burton can now ask her supplementary question on this group of questions.

It is very simple. When does the Minister propose to proceed with the expansion of the age limit for employment in the public service?

Many people want to retire early while there are others who want to stay on. The Minister indicated that he would raise the age of retirement and abolish the compulsory retirement age in line with many other countries. How has that work progressed?

Am I also dealing with Question No. 9?

We will deal with that in a minute.

When does the Minister propose to proceed with abolishing the compulsory retirement age in the public service?

Two different elements are at play. I will publish the legislation on Thursday. There will be a Government meeting that morning, to which I will bring legislation in order to deliver what the Deputy mentioned. I hope and anticipate that it will be agreed by the Government and published that day. Depending on whether the Business Committee makes time available, I expect the legislation to pass quickly through the Houses. However, we have interim measures in place, of which approximately 100 members of the Civil Service have taken advantage.

Regarding Deputy Boyd Barrett's remarks about FEMPI, public servants and their earnings now compared with 2008, that is not the case. If someone was on a lower level of earnings in our public service prior to the crash, he or she is now back at that level. The Deputy is right about people on middle incomes, in that there is still a difference, but that is because the pension-related deduction that was introduced on a temporary basis has since been legislated for on a permanent basis. We are asking those who work in our public services to make a longer contribution to the funding of the pensions that they will avail of later in life. If someone was on a high income level prior to 2008, what he or she is earning now is still below that level.

Public Sector Pensions

Joan Burton


9. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he plans to roll out the supplementary pension in respect of public service pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28991/18]

This is a continuation of my previous comments. As the Minister indicated, there is a provision for people to stay on in the public service if their employers so wish. However, if someone decides to stay on, for example, an usher in the Houses, beyond the retirement age of 65 years, he or she will effectively be in a supplementary position. People are being advised that they will revert to the first point on their employment scales, which is a significant loss of approximately €100 per week. I am wondering what is the logic of this.

I am sure we will get the answer.

That is a different matter than how the Deputy's written question was interpreted. The written question refers to the supplementary pension, which I took to refer to the future of auto-enrolment. Clearly, the Deputy-----

Sorry. There was confusing correspondence on the question.

The Minister might-----

If he wishes to answer me, that would be fine.

We are short on time.

I am aware of the matter-----

Given the reference to supplementary pensions-----

Deputy, we are short on time and others are waiting.

-----and the fact that auto-enrolment was not mentioned, I believed this was about the Department of Finance's supplementary pension.

If the Members wish to deal with this outside, I would be happy.

No, I will answer the question the Deputy has just raised. Her previous question was on the abolition of the retirement age for people who worked in our public services.

They are related.

Yes. The Deputy's current question is on the principle of abatement and why it is the case that someone who avails of the interim arrangements returns on the minimum point on the salary scale, which gives the appearance of his or her weekly or monthly income being below what it was. We now have a well-established principle in our public services that, if a retiree is rehired, he or she resumes work on the minimum point. This is to ensure that the combination of the salary earned and the pension payment received is not greater than what he or she would have been earning had he or she remained in full employment.

In any event, this arrangement will fall when the full legislation is enacted. I anticipate that the legislation will be passed by the Houses quickly, given the level of support for the measure.

I am asking these questions for a reason. It is clear that, at all levels in the public sector, a significant number of retirements are taking place. Many others are in the cohort approaching retirement age. People must make that decision some years, if not months, in advance and consult their families. Across the public service, people of considerable skill and experience would like to stay on.

Regarding those on the supplementary pension scheme, I welcome the Minister's statement about his forthcoming legislation. There is talk of an election in the autumn. The Minister might comment on that as well if he likes, and he and Deputy Cowen might reach an agreement across the floor. We need a plan to incentivise people with particular skills, expertise and experience to stay on, given the growing skill shortages in the public service.

The Deputy spoke about retaining experienced staff. Thankfully, people are staying healthy for longer and many want to work for longer. People also find themselves having to support families now in a way that previous generations did not.

The Deputy asked for a plan. We have one. It is in the legislation that I will bring to the Government meeting on Thursday. Once passed, it will provide a framework for legally allowing those who want to work for longer to do so. The cause of many of the questions on this matter that I have dealt with in recent months relates to the interim measures that we introduced. Had I not introduced those, however, none of the workers in question would have been in a position to stay on for longer. Approximately 100 people currently working in the Civil Service would not be there now.

Question No. 10 answered with Question No. 8.

Community Sector High Level Forum

John Curran


11. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the community sector high level forum has met since its meeting on 23 November 2017; the progress in regard to pension provisions for supervisors and assistant supervisors of community employment schemes; if reports from these meetings will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28777/18]

The Minister will be aware of the Labour Court recommendation on the issue of pensions for community employment, CE, scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors. That recommendation is being discussed by the community sector high level forum. When did the forum last meet and what progress has been made to date on the recommendation?

An issue that has been under discussion by the community sector high level forum relates to CE supervisors and assistant supervisors, who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a Labour Court recommendation. The group met in April 2017. My Department outlined its intention to conduct a detailed scoping exercise. A meeting of the forum then took place on Thursday, 23 November. A follow-up meeting took place on Friday, 15 December.

Formal arrangements to meet on the matter are the subject of deliberation between the parties and remain to be finalised.

The minutes of the meetings await formal approval by the parties to the forum and on such approval will be publicly available on my Department's website.  Previously approved minutes are on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not possible for the State to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees in question are or were employees of companies, notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding.

I thank the Minister. I received most of what he read out before, either in debates in this House or in previous questions. I am specifically concerned that he indicates the discussions with the high-level forum. There have been no discussions in 2018. The last date he gave was December 2017. It seems that we are kicking the can down the road. There is no enthusiasm to get a conclusion with this issue. The high-level forum addressing the issue met on three occasions in 2017 that the Minister called out - he can correct me if I am wrong - and has not met this year.

I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the high-level forum meets soon. I find it difficult to understand why none of the minutes of meetings that took place in 2017 have been made available or published and why it is not the case that one meeting would approve the minutes of the previous meeting, which is a common practice. I appeal to the Minister with regard to the high-level forum. These people have given years of service and are in a situation where the Labour Court recommendation is not being acted on.

The difficulty we have with this is the massive costs relating to it that we outlined in response to the Private Members' motion from the Deputy's party. I have shared and indicated in the Dáil before that we estimate the potential cost to the State of this as being between €188 million and €347 million per annum. This is in addition to the call for the Exchequer to provide a lump sum payment for a pension, which, depending on the size of the settlement to those who look for it, could have a cost of up to €318 million.

Looking at the different points the Deputy has raised, such as why the minutes have not been approved, that is a matter for the forum and its participants. I agree that the minutes should be on the website and I will see what the difficulty is with it. Should the forum meet again, the challenge that we have is with the figures that I have shared with the Deputy. From all that I have learned about industrial relations in our public service, as the Deputy knows, and his party knew it when it was in Government which is why progress was not made on the matter, if the principle is accepted that the State has to be provide a pension for employees of an organisation, even if that organisation is not the State, the knock-on consequences of this are massive. That drives the figures I am sharing with the Deputy.

To be brief, we have a problem. The Minister acknowledged there would be a high cost because of other groups. I acknowledge those issues. I do not have the breakdown of figures that the Minister has. On the other hand, the other side of the equation is that there is a Labour Court recommendation to be dealt with and it is not going away. The problem is that this high-level forum was established to address the Labour Court recommendation and it seems to have come to a standstill. There is no progress, no process and there is no outcome. People who have been community employment supervisors or assistant supervisors are effectively left in limbo. That is a most unsatisfactory position for them. I speak on their behalf when I present this.

I acknowledge there may be other implications. I have heard the Minister say it before. He quoted some figures today. The global figure has been quoted and it is quite a wide range, at half or double, whichever way one is looking at it. No breakdown of where that has come from has been made available to me, and I do not think it has been made available to this side of the House. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the high-level forum convenes again, deals with the issue and publishes the minutes of its previous meetings. These people are entitled to that level of transparency on foot of the Labour Court recommendation that has been made.

I do not know what the difficulty is with the publication of minutes from the previous forum meetings. I will follow up on that. We have not been able to reach agreement on the matter because, while the Deputy is speaking strongly about those who are especially affected by this, if the State were to agree to funding pensions for organisations to which it has contributed but which are not of the State, where would we end up with the wide range of organisations involved in providing childcare services or section 39 organisations? We provide funding to all of those organisations but we do not pay for the entitlements of the employees. That is the issue that I and all of my predecessors have grappled with. Those predecessors go back to when the Deputy's party was in government, when this recommendation was issued. That is the cause of the challenge that we have had in making progress on this matter.

Coastal Protection

James Browne


12. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding coastal protection in County Wexford, particularly at Ballygeary and Rosslare Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29067/18]

I ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding coastal protection in County Wexford, especially at Ballygeary and Rosslare Harbour, and if he will make a statement on it.

I visited Wexford. Wexford has done very well since the announcement of catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, scheme when we announced two schemes in Wexford town and one in Enniscorthy. Everybody in the House has raised questions about coastal erosion and put it down that my Department deals with coastal erosion when it is in the remit of local authorities. We work closely with every local authority to see if we can establish and come up with a scheme to make it work.

I am advised that a detailed study commissioned by Wexford County Council which fully investigates the problem of coastal erosion and flood risk at Rosslare and examines the full range of management options to address the problem is nearly completed and that a submission based on the study findings will be made shortly by the county council to the Office of Public Works about coastal protection for the Rosslare area in general. When received, the submission will be given due consideration by the Office of Public Works. With regard to Rosslare, which the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, has raised with me on a number of occasions, as the Deputy has in recent months, I am in a position to say that once that report comes to my desk, we will be able to fast-track that, and we are working closely with local authorities.

I would be particularly concerned about this issue because we know that Irish Rail has threatened the railway line between Dublin and Rosslare Europort, especially south of Gorey. I would hate to see this as being a badge of convenience for Iarnród Éireann to shut down that railway line. There was a report from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which said that Irish Rail faces shutting down this railway line due to coastal erosion within ten years if action is not taken.

I note that the Minister of State says it is the responsibility of the local authority. The costs involved in protecting the coastline around this railway line include handling very high cliffs. The local authority would not be in a position to fund that in and of itself. I expect that the Department will properly fund Wexford County Council. We cannot lose that railway line in the face of Brexit. It is vital to the survival and development of Wexford tourism, to the county itself economically and for access to Rosslare Harbour where our roll-on, roll-off trucks will inevitably have to gain access to the Continent.

We are waiting for the report that will come in from the local authority to my Department. At that stage, we may have to engage with the different bodies that this affects, such as, as the Deputy says, CIÉ and other bodies that this may fall on. We will have to work together to make sure that what the Deputy is outlining does not happen. It is unfair for anyone in the House to say that something may close or may happen to tourism. We should prefer to say to wait for the report. When dealing with that report, we can try to find a solution for all so that what the Deputy has outlined does not happen.

I do not think it is unfair.

Perhaps if the Minister of State had invited people other than Government politicians to Rosslare Harbour, he might have been given an alternative view. Be that as it may, Iarnród Éireann, in its own report, threatened the closure of the railway line south of Gorey. It is not me saying this. I am relying on Iarnród Éireann which made that information public. The coastline is rapidly being eroded and that must be addressed urgently. I ask the Minister of State to engage with the local authority to ensure the necessary funding is provided.

I am aware that funding for flood relief in Enniscorthy has been moved to the next stage but that was done two years behind schedule. Promises were made on this issue and we cannot afford to wait. If the railway line closes, it will cause serious economic damage and not just to County Wexford. Following Brexit, access to Rosslare Europort will have to be developed. I note there is still no plan for the port, despite the likelihood of a hard Brexit coming down the line.

In fairness, I met Deputy Browne the day we launched the flood relief plan for Enniscorthy. It is widely known that I travelled around all of County Wexford on that day. I was on social media and the local radio station and others were well aware of where I was. Deputy Browne was welcome to attend the launch if he wanted. Perhaps he would be better off posing his question on rail services to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. I will not know what is in the report until it is put on my desk. The right way to deal with the issue is to wait for the outcome of the report and meet the various Departments. It is very easy for Deputy Browne to say this and that did not happen.

The Deputy asked a question about Enniscorthy. Since taking office, I have delivered on the scheme for Enniscorthy.

The Minister of State is two years behind schedule.

The scheme is on public display. The people of Enniscorthy look forward to the project going ahead. I have given Deputy Browne a positive answer to what he has asked me today. We will deal with the matter, but it may require other Departments to sit around the table also. I do not like people saying CIÉ will stop rail services. That is unfair until the report comes to my desk and we can deal with it properly.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.