Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

By the end of this year, we could witness over 100,000 people having been on trolleys during 2018. So far this year, more than 10,000 people aged over 75 have been waiting for more than 24 hours in our accident and emergency departments and we have lost approximately 136,000 bed days through delayed discharges. That is only in the first ten months of the year. We know the extraordinary impact this has on patients and people, as well as on mortality rates in our hospitals and the worsening of illnesses that people have as they present to accident and emergency departments. This is not to mention the major problem of people waiting for more than 500,000 outpatient department appointments, with 16,000 children waiting for more than a year for an appointment in the three Dublin hospitals alone. Yesterday, there were 449 patients on trolleys and there are 508 patients on trolleys today. This places enormous pressure on the staff of our accident and emergency departments and hospitals.

A document leaked to The Irish Times this morning examined lessons to be learned from the winter crisis of 2017 and early 2018. One of its most basic observations is the need to plan in advance and have all winter plans completed by the end of July 2018. We are now in November and we still do not have a winter plan announced.

We have also learned through a leaked report via Martin Wall, who makes up for the absence of transparency within the Government and the Department of Health on health issues by revealing confidential letters on a regular basis, in a confidential letter from the Department to the HSE, that €50 million that was to be spent on additional beds last year was not spent but was instead used to deal with the excessive spending of 2017. That is incredible and it strains Government credibility on the health issue, particularly in terms of emergency departments, to the very limit when it now emerges that despite all of the announcements from the Minister, Deputy Harris, throughout the year that money would be made available for extra beds and capacity, we learn that this money was never spent on extra capacity or beds. We know from many sources, the most recent being the former HSE director, Tony O'Brien, that the inability to recruit quality consultants and the paucity of applicants for consultant posts is adding to the consultant crisis.

The need for a winter plan is basic. It is to enable people to have time to build up physical capacity in terms of beds and recruitment of staff in terms of the hospitals. That did not happen last year. It came too late and the money was not spent optimally and, as a result, we had a crisis reaction which was very poor and ultimately disgraceful. There is the potential for the same issue to arise this year due to a lack of planning.

Will the Taoiseach explain to me why that extra €50 million allocated last year was not spent on additional beds and capacity? Will he indicate to me when the plan for the forthcoming winter period is to be announced by the Government?

I acknowledge that we have a long-standing problem with overcrowding in our emergency departments which we have faced for probably two decades at this stage. As a doctor and a grandson, I certainly do not want to see any citizens or patients spending prolonged amounts of time on trolleys waiting for hospital beds. There were 391 patients on trolleys this morning at 8 waiting for admission to a bed. While that is an increase of about 28% on last year, it is much the same as it was two years ago and most of those patients will be in beds by this evening.

As is always the case, there are big variations from hospital to hospital. There are as few as two or three patients on trolleys in Portiuncula, in Mullingar, in Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and as many as 36 in St. Vincent's University Hospital. We see huge variation from hospital to hospital, notwithstanding the fact that the same issues and challenges arise in every hospital. We see once again that the RCSI hospital group which includes Beaumont Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and Cavan General Hospital is outperforming all of the other hospital groups. The number of patients on trolleys in that hospital group is at a record low if not a ten-year low and that shows the extent to which this is about clinical leadership and management as much as it is about resources and other issues.

To answer the Deputy's question on new beds, 240 new beds have been opened. That consists of 22 in St. Vincent's University Hospital, 29 in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, 17 in University Hospital Limerick, 28 in University Hospital Galway, 19 in University Hospital Waterford, 20 in Beaumont Hospital, 23 in St. James's Hospital, 24 in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, 11 in Naas General Hospital, 30 in Cork University Hospital, and 14 in St. Luke's General Hospital, Kilkenny. It was not possible to spend all of the money for many different reasons but much of the money was spent in opening those 240 beds.

Why was it not possible?

There are different reasons and different issues why beds cannot be opened. Much of it has to do with planning, for example, but if the Deputy will let me answer his question I will do so.

I have itemised the 240 beds that were opened. Another 79 beds will be opened. They have been delayed but they are planned for this quarter and the first quarter of 2019. That includes an additional 30 bed ward in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and a 40 bed modular ward block in South Tipperary General Hospital, which was due to be open by now but is under construction. There will also be four additional high-dependency beds in the Mater Private Hospital in Cork.

On the numbers of patients experiencing time on trolleys, it is important to point out that the official numbers show that the numbers of patients who have had to spend time on a trolley waiting for a bed has been down month on month. It was down in May compared with May of last year and it was down in June, July, August, September and October.

The reality is that the small number of beds promised for 2018 were simply not delivered by the Government. The modular unit in Clonmel has been promised for over two years, if not longer, but it still has not been delivered. Yesterday the Minister for Health could not give specifics for additional bed capacity in 2019. He used the phrase "early in 2019." To be fair, the Taoiseach's predecessor, Deputy Enda Kenny, gave a whole new meaning to the term "early". Normally, it meant "at the very earliest", "the middle of the following year", if not "the end of the year." Therefore, the Taoiseach must forgive me for being somewhat sceptical when Ministers talk about "early next year" because invariably it means the end of next year and sometimes it will drift into early the following year. The problem is delivery and the absence of same. Too many people, particularly the elderly, are suffering far too much in emergency departments because of the absence of planning. The lesson that was supposed to have been learned from what happened last year was that winter plans must be concluded by the end of July, but again, that did not happen this year. We are facing into another winter crisis in emergency departments, with a chronic absence of any planning and a lack of confidence in the capacity of the health service to deal with the issues that will undoubtedly emerge in the coming months.

The facts are that when Fianna Fáil was in government with the Green Party, it took a decision to reduce the number of hospital beds in the health care system. It did not do so because of austerity. It did it during the boom because it decided that there would be a shift towards day care and primary care services. As a result, it started to decrease the number of beds in acute hospitals. We reversed that decision in 2014-15 and have been adding beds ever since. I have listed for Deputy Micheál Martin exactly where the 240 extra beds opened this year are located. There are 79 more on the way that will be delivered at the end of the year and the early part of next year. We are getting it done and delivering. We are putting new beds in place and reversing the Fianna Fáil policy which was to reduce the number of hospital beds in the acute hospital system.

Fine Gael is reversing its own policies too. It reversed its policy on universal health insurance.

Please, Deputy.

The Taoiseach is talking about reversals, but there are a lot of reversals.

When it comes to winter planning, we have had a winter plan every winter for ten or 15 years and it has not worked.

It has not worked very well.

News flash - we had a winter.


May we have order for the Taoiseach, please?

If the lesson in winter planning is that the standard winter plan that we have had for ten or 15 years, including additional home help, additional home care and transitional care, has not worked, the last thing we need to do this year is have yet another winter plan that will not work.

It is in the Government's own document.

That is what is going to happen. Between 22 December-----


May I speak?

Yes, you may. Please, Deputies.

Between 22 December this year and 3 January next year there are 12 days, seven of which will be Sundays, Saturdays or bank holidays. What has been happening in the health service for ten or 15 years is that hospitals effectively closed for seven days out of 12.

Christmas comes every year.


We need to change that. We need to make sure, for the first time ever, that during that period radiology departments and laboratories will be open and working at full whack, that consultants will not be on holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in emergency departments, and that nurses will not be on leave in the first two weeks of January. We need to make sure that every bed will be open. That is the kind of winter plan we need; not the kind we have had for years and years that does not work.


The Taoiseach has been in government for eight years. He needs to go and do it.

I ask Members to be aware of the clock and try to adhere to the rules of the House.

Last December when the joint report of the EU and British Government negotiators was published, the Taoiseach hailed it as a panacea for all of Brexit's ills. He said at the time that it "achieved what we sought to achieve" in avoiding a hard border. He also said it was not only rock solid but "cast iron." He claimed that it was politically bulletproof. His language was such that very many people took him at his word, but we, in Sinn Féin, urged caution at the time. We urged the Taoiseach not to oversell the achievement. Our caution was well placed because shortly after the December announcement the British Government rowed back and it has been rowing back on its commitments ever since. The bottom line and the need to mitigate the effects of Brexit are well known: no hardening of the Border on the island, no undermining of the Good Friday Agreement and no loss of citizens' rights.

The so-called backstop arrangement is supposed to be our guarantee and insurance policy that there will be no hard border on the island and the interests of our citizens will be protected. I am sure the Taoiseach agrees that those protections remain vital. The consequences of Brexit are real. They are a threat to our social and political fabric and economy, North and South. They are real, lasting and enduring threats. Brexit is for keeps.

To combat those real and enduring consequences, we need a solution to match, one that is not time bound or temporary, not couched in ifs, buts or conditions, but is an absolute and permanent guarantee. I thought that was clearly understood by all of us in this House. I thought that was the Taoiseach's position. There cannot be any fudging on that. A temporary or transitory backstop is not a backstop at all. Temporary protections mean no protection. Answers for our country need to be real. Enduring Brexit is not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement and we need a unique, bespoke solution for our island.

Yesterday when the Taoiseach said he was willing to consider proposals for a review clause for the backstop, he shifted position. It is not a matter of nuance, but a substantial and reckless change in position by the Government at this most sensitive time in the negotiation. The Taoiseach's announcement yesterday was a cock-up, plain and simple, and I ask him to clarify the position of his Government and invite him to set aside any notion or proposal of a review clause in what is to be our insurance policy in the face of Brexit.

When it comes to Brexit, we should always remember what we are trying to achieve. First, we are trying to achieve a withdrawal agreement so that there is an orderly departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. We want there to be a transition period so that businesses and individuals have two years or more to prepare for any permanent changes that might take place. That is very important for our economy and jobs. We want to protect the common travel area, and people know why that is. We want to protect funding such as PEACE and INTERREG, particularly for Northern Ireland and the Border counties. We want to guarantee the rights and freedoms of European citizens living in Northern Ireland after Brexit. When it comes to the backstop, we need one as part of the withdrawal agreement to guarantee that there will never be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It may never need to be used, and if it does need to be used, it may well be temporary, but we do need it, and it must apply unless and until a new agreement is in place to supersede it. Therefore, there can be no expiry date and no unilateral exit clause. Were there to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it is written on. That is the position of the Government. That has not changed.

A review clause would have to be negotiated. We have yet to see proposals from the UK as to what it would look like, but if we do have a backstop, if it is used, if it does apply, and if it potentially lasts into perpetuity, it may be to our advantage or necessary at various times to have a review. A review is different from an exit clause and we cannot accept an exit clause that would allow the UK to resile unilaterally from the backstop, nor could we accept an expiry date. That has always been the position of the Irish Government.

We want there to be an agreement. Sometimes, to come to an agreement, especially as the point is reached where an agreement might be possible, one needs to be creative, and that means being creative around solutions and language. There would have been no Good Friday Agreement if John Hume, Seamus Mallon, David Trimble and even Gerry Adams did not understand that. There would have been no European treaties if people who negotiated them did not understand that. I know Deputy McDonald was against all of those European treaties before she became in favour of them. Yes, I am open to creative solutions and, yes, I am open to creative language, but I will not resile from the fundamental position that there must be a backstop as part of the withdrawal agreement and that backstop cannot have an expiry date or unilateral exit clause.

The Taoiseach's difficulty is that he has, in fact, resiled from his stated negotiating position.

He has done it at a time that arguably could not be worse. We are at crunch time and truth time. We urged the Taoiseach and the Barnier negotiating team not to blink in their dealings with the Tories in London and to stay the course with the very reasonable bottom line protections that Ireland requires. The Taoiseach says we need an arrangement with no expiry date or unilateral exit clause, yet he countenances a review mechanism. All that serves to do is muddy the waters. I do not know if the Taoiseach has lost his nerve. I hope, for the sake of this country, that he has not. We do not need a review clause. We need a clear enunciation of the protections in legally operable text. That is what we have all agreed on and that is the job of work but yesterday, the Taoiseach potentially torpedoed all of that.

I thank the Deputy.

I urge him, as Head of Government, not to lose his nerve or blink at this stage. How on earth, at such a sensitive time in a negotiation, can the Taoiseach commit himself to a review clause? Reviews, by definition-----

The Deputy's time is up.

-----imply things that are time-bound and transitory. How has the Taoiseach committed himself to that when he now says on the floor of the Dáil that he has seen no wording and does not in fact know what it would amount to?

Quite clearly, I have committed to nothing. I said we are open to considering a review clause but I have set out clearly what that review clause could not contain. It could not contain an expiry date or the unilateral ability of the UK to resile from its commitments with regard to there being no hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. As I said before, to come to an agreement, one sometimes needs to be creative and one has to be open to creative solutions and creative language to get to an agreement. Those people who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and all the European treaties understand that.

That is not creative; it is dangerous.

One can still achieve all one's objectives in doing so. It is a very good thing that Deputy McDonald is not leading these negotiations. She holds the world record for failing to negotiate a coalition agreement in Northern Ireland, which now stands at more than two years. We can see from her performance here today that she is too extreme, uncompromising and bullying.

Is looking for basic rights extreme?

Deputy McDonald would turn our friends into enemies within months. It is a very good thing that she is not handling these negotiations.

I raise the recent announcement by Bord na Móna that it is to accelerate the reduction of peat harvesting. This decision will wipe out a traditional industry with all its financial reward, rich history and tradition. The founders of Bord na Móna were people with outstanding vision and ambition who took creative, bold and courageous decisions. They dedicated themselves to achieving policy objectives by using natural resources to create employment, build communities and financially sustain rural areas. Harvesting the bog to save turf or manufacture briquettes has come to a shuddering halt. This is due to environmental consequences and the necessity to comply with European regulations regarding the use of fossil fuels.

As a representative of County Tipperary, I have seen at first-hand the devastation caused by the closure of the Littleton briquette factory, which resulted in the loss of 125 jobs and a loss to hundreds of other service providers. The workforce was made up of general workers, electrical and mechanical engineers, fitters, administrators and management. The closure of the Littleton plant has impacted on Littleton, Killenaule, Ballingarry, Templetuohy, Thurles and all of the surrounding areas. It was sudden and swift and was greeted with widespread dismay. The decision by Bord na Móna was noted for its lack of advance notice and consideration for the employees and their dependent families. The redundancy package on offer was meagre and did not reflect the years of dedicated, committed and loyal service by the workers. We had to fight long and hard to secure an enhanced package. After a protracted struggle, we got an agreement on terms which I presume will now become the blueprint for redundancy negotiations on behalf of the workers affected by the midland closures.

What is evident and very clear is the absence of a strategy by Bord na Móna to provide alternative opportunities. There is no effort to maintain rural infrastructure and support the communities that are so devastated by the resulting job losses. Bord na Móna's announcement of the closure is long on aspiration and very short on detail. The bog is a unique natural resource.

The question and challenge now is how to utilise and maximise the potential for the future. Like the original inspirational leaders and founders of Bord na Móna, we must revisit the drawing board. We must be imaginative and creative to harness the bog for alternative uses. We have to create business opportunities. The question arises as to what the future will hold. If the 500 alternative jobs which Bord na Móna states it can deliver are ever to materialise, they need the full resources and support of the State. Within the national brain trust there is an abundance of relevant experience that could be made available through IDA Ireland, Teagasc, Bord Bia and Bord Fáilte. The peatlands are national assets and the best intelligence should be deployed as a matter of urgency to address their development in a concentrated and joined-up manner. Whatever the solution is, the future requires heavy investment. I ask that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, which has billions of euro at its disposal, be mandated to assist Bord na Móna in developing a path to the future.

I thank Deputy Lowry for raising the important issue of the future of Bord na Móna and its impact on the economy and jobs in the midlands, in particular. He is correct to say that when Bord na Móna was established, part of the original vision of semi-State bodies was that the Government would step in to set up State-owned enterprise where the private sector dared not to go. Bord na Móna was originally established with a mandate to develop the midlands region using its natural resources, especially peat which was to be harvested for fuel to produce electricity and create jobs and economic development in the region, as it is has done successfully for decades. Things have changed since and we now know about climate change and that peat is a particularly dirty fuel. Even the harvesting of peat and turf releases CO2. Burning it for electricity does the same. Therefore, things need to change. Bord na Móna needs to transform from being a semi-State company based on peat that creates CO2 emissions to a green company involved primarily in producing renewable energy, waste recovery and recycling and also in new industries involved in the retrofit of public buildings and houses. That is the plan the company has and it is one of which the Government wants to be part. However, as always with climate change, we need a just transition. We need to bear in mind the impact the changes will have on people who used to work in Bord na Móna and the communities and local economies supported by the revenue the company creates. It is important that redundancies be voluntary. It is also important that good redundancy packages be put in place and early retirement offers made. In addition, it is important that staff be given the opportunity to train for new jobs in the company, whether it in the renewable energy sector, waste recovery and recycling or retrofit. That is the vision we have for Bord na Móna, namely, bringing about a just transition and turning it from a company based on peat which causes climate change to one that is all about renewable energy, retrofit and waste recovery and into a green semi-State company. There are enormous opportunities for the midlands region and the staff, including future staff, of Bord na Móna if we embrace that vision. I agree that the State needs to be involved and that potentially funds such as ISIF and others could be involved in helping to make the transition possible.

It is important that the State does become involved because it is obvious to anyone who knows anything about it that Bord na Móna's financial resources are already stretched. The cost of the redundancy package that must be available to the workers in the midlands and County Tipperary has to be met from its resources; there will, therefore, be no investment funds left. The support of the ISIF must be made available to Bord na Móna and it must work in conjunction with it.

I ask the Taoiseach to raise one other issue with Bord na Móna. In County Tipperary 10,000 acres of bog stretch from Littleton as far as County Laois.

Already, we have had trespassing on these lands and people have taken ownership of lands. It is a major concern for local residents in local areas because of vandalism and the violence that goes with it. Bord na Móna should be asked to protect what is a national asset. We are talking about 10,000 acres of land in my area. We are also talking about huge industrial buildings that have a value, but if they are not secured properly, they will lose it.

I am glad that we are in the presence of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, as I do not need to commit to making him aware of what Deputy Lowry has mentioned. It is essential that Bord na Móna protect what are public assets – its buildings and bogs. I would not like to see a situation develop such as that that has occurred for CIÉ during the years, where large amounts of land owned by CIÉ and Irish Rail have been encroached on by people who then acquire squatters' rights and ownership of the land. It is important that public assets be protected and defended by the company in the interests of the wider public and especially people living in the midlands.

The Deputy mentioned the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund as a possible source that could be used to help to fund Bord na Móna's transition. That is an option. There are other funds to bear in mind, including the €1 billion rural development fund, the regional enterprise fund and the €500 million climate action fund. We should be able to make the first set of announcements of funding from these funds before the end of the year. There is potential in that regard, as well for the company.

The National Transport Authority has put back the consultation on the revised metro link route on the southside of Dublin. The expectation was that the authority would lower the route on Dunville Avenue to avoid problems at the Beechwood station. The rumour now is that it is thinking of tunnelling a little further south of that station. There are real problems in building the metro, a driverless segregated system, and joining it to the light rail system which is pedestrian-friendly and has completely different characteristics. In trying to combine the two there is a risk that we will have to take out the green line for a year and a half, which would have major consequences for the city.

The question I have is whether the Government would think of asking the NTA to think bigger and look at two or three further options. The first option which I have pushed previously is that we not stop the tunnelling machine but follow the original route the metro was meant to follow towards the south west. There could be stations at Harold's Cross, Terenure, Rathfarnham, Knocklyon, Firhouse and Tallaght, as originally planned. There would be major benefits because that corridor, as the Taoiseach will know, being a former Minister with responsibility for transport, has the worst public transport problems. It is the hardest bus corridor for us to get right. It is the area of the city that would be most affected by the BusConnects project in terms of front gardens being taken out and disruption being caused for people living in that area. It would make real sense to keep the tunnelling machine going towards the south west to service that area and provide proper public transport for once.

Another route has recently come into view. The option involves taking a slightly different direction and not stopping the tunnelling machine but heading slightly to the south east with a stop at Donnybrook and another at UCD. It would transform the college and provide a connection between DCU, Trinity College Dublin and UCD. It would have extraordinary development potential for the city in connecting the three main universities. We would not stop there because there is an obvious line that we could follow on the reservation for the eastern bypass that would bring the metro to Sandyford. In that way, we could provide the high capacity connection needed to Sandyford to cope with further growth on the line.

This is eminently doable, but it needs political direction. The Taoiseach could, if he was thinking big and serious about how we could make this city work, look at one further development - a connecting line between Marlay and Balinteer which would join the two lines. With it we would have a southside circular route that would transform the southside of the city similar to what has been done in Copenhagen. Those responsible started to think about a metro at the same time as we did. In the meantime they have built two metro lines. Next year they will open jsuch a circular line. Therefore, this is doable and we need it because we are not meeting our climate change targets and transport is one of the worst sectors. The city is gridlocked, which is not good for anyone in the country. The right set-up would help the economic system to work to pay the taxes which, in turn, pay for all of the infrastructure.

Dublin is grinding to a halt. It needs a transport Minister and a Government that is willing to think big. Will the Taoiseach ask the National Transport Authority, NTA, to look at those options as part of the review it is doing on the south side part of the MetroLink project?

I am a big supporter of MetroLink, the Dublin metro project, which is essential. It is not the only part of what needs to be done to improve public transport in Dublin. We need to do the DART extension electrification as well. We also need to do BusConnects, and do it right. MetroLink will be a big part of the future of public transport in the city of Dublin. Starting in Swords, it will run through the airport and on to Dublin City University, DCU, the Mater Hospital, through the city centre to Trinity College and on to the south side, via Ranelagh, all the way to Sandyford, Cherrywood and Bray, when it is completed. This is a very big project, the biggest single investment in public transport in the history of the State. It will make a major difference, not just for people who live along the route in Dublin, and will make it easier for everyone to get around Dublin, even people in other parts of the city.

The NTA has carried out a public consultation, and I met its representatives personally as part of that consultation. The point of a public consultation is to listen and I am glad to hear the NTA has listened. It listened to the concerns of Na Fianna GAA club near Glasnevin and is examining alternatives to what was proposed in that respect. It listened in particular to people living in Ranelagh who were concerned about severance and is considering bringing the tunnel further south. It is welcome that it was done in that way and that the NTA put the proposal out to public consultation, that the consultation was real and meaningful and that the NTA listened and is willing to come back with revised plans. The same will happen with BusConnects. It is a very good project that will improve bus times and bus journey times in Dublin but it included many mistakes. It is a good sign that the NTA is willing to listen, make modifications and hear what people have to say, particularly regarding the Na Fianna club and Ranelagh.

I discussed with the NTA the possibility of alternative routing options for the metro, or what used to be called metro south. What it says to me, and as somebody who spends a lot of time in Ranelagh and along the proposed line, I think it is right-----

What does the Taoiseach do there?

-----is that the Luas south line would have to be upgraded anyway. There is a limited capacity on the Luas. Even now, it is impossible to board at the Beechwood and Ranelagh stops. There will be massive additional development in Sandyford and also with the new town of Cherrywood. As it stands, the current Luas is already close to capacity and it needs to be upgraded to metro. The proposal to go from Swords to Sandyford and on to Cherrywood and Bray makes sense. That is not to say there could not be other metro lines in the future, including perhaps some of those the Deputy mentioned, but anyone who is familiar with the Luas line south, Sandyford, Stillorgan and Ranelagh knows that the line is already at capacity and needs to be upgraded to metro.

The Taoiseach should listen to me because I know those lines intimately. There is a solution that avoids problems and would save us the cost of stopping services on the green line for a year and a half to upgrade it. The solution is to keep the tunnelling machine going. It is very cheap to do so because the cost arises in getting the machine into the ground. Once it is in operation, we should keep it running to University College Dublin and from there to Sandyford. I would not stop there but go all the way around the south side.

That might be the solution to the broadband problem.

For those from the country who might ask why we should do this, I will set out a way to pay for it.

Will the Deputy give us a bit?

We should stop all the road expansion on the approach roads to Dublin. These are the only projects that are going ahead and they will make the problem of gridlock in Dublin worse. We should use that money to provide a high-quality public transport solution which tackles the Sandyford issue and gives us the capacity we need. It would also bring UCD together with Trinity College and DCU and transform the UCD campus and the city. It would also offer the prospect of heading west. We should start creating a capital ideas Dublin where we are not stuck in cars and where we have the same quality public transport system as Copenhagen, Berlin, Athens and every other city. Why should we not think big about public transport in Dublin? Will the Taoiseach ask the NTA to look at the option of running the metro to UCD and Sandyford as a way of addressing that issue and giving us the option of a proper public transport system for this city?

When it comes to metro, Luas and BusConnects, the way it works is that there is a public consultation process. The NTA goes out with a design and anyone can make a submission. I have given it my views and I imagine the Deputy has done the same.

It is not for me to ask them on the Deputy's behalf. He can make a submission himself and the National Transport Authority will come back with its revised plans on metro in due course.

It is not true to say that tunnelling is cheap once the machine is put in the ground. It is actually very expensive, and the underground stations are very expensive too. It is not just a case of Thomas the Tank Engine going underground and tunnelling along. We have to build station boxes and do many different things.

What about the Fat Controller?

It costs €100 million every couple of miles. Cost is something we have to bear in mind. One thing I will not do is agree to the Green Party's proposal to divert money from transport projects in the rest of Ireland to Dublin.

I did not say that.

As somebody who is from Dublin but is a Taoiseach for all of Ireland, I will not be diverting transport funding from the rest of Ireland to Dublin-----

That is because there is nothing left in the country to transfer.

-----because Virginia needs a bypass, Adare needs a bypass, we need to upgrade the motorways through Kildare, we need a ring road for Galway and we need to get Dunkettle started. I do not agree with the Green Party when its members say we should take transport funding away from the rest of Ireland and put it all into Dublin.

The Taoiseach has nothing left to take away.

Just the north west.

Castlebaldwin and Collooney have already been started.