Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

Everybody in the House will, I am sure, share a sense of sadness and anger at the current record levels of homelessness announced yesterday. There are 6,480 adults and 3,784 children living in emergency accommodation. As we know, these figures do not tell the full story. They have been massaged and managed to try to keep them as low as possible. Despite the massaging, management and spin, they represent the reality for the adults and children concerned under the watch of the Government.

The Tánaiste was Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in 2016 when Rebuilding Ireland was re-launched. At the time, he said it was an ambitious plan and that it was the Government's main priority. He also said: "If urgency is not there, we will get into the system." In July 2016 there were 6,525 people living in emergency accommodation. The only things that have gone into the system since are almost 4,000 more people. They have entered emergency accommodation because of inaction under Rebuilding Ireland which was the Tánaiste's plan when he was Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, as well as the Government's. It was tailored to meet economic conditions of the time. It outlined the many changes the Government was going to make, but, as in the case of every initiative taken by the Government, it was based and founded on spin and had no substance. The figures announced yesterday are what we have to show for it, which is a source of sadness and anger. Surely, the figures should represent a call to action by the Government, instead of spin and more promises.

We need action on a number of issues. The local authorities still do not have discretion to build small or medium housing estates. They still have to interact with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to receive clearance and so on. We also need action on evictions. Deputy Frank O'Rourke has done a lot of work in this area. People have to be evicted into homelessness before they can access a HAP scheme payment. If the Government will not listen to voices in this House, surely it will listen to the United Nations which hammered its policies, in particular, for allowing vulture funds to buy properties and then rent them at high rates. There is a range of people dealing with this issue who are losing confidence in the Government's ability, but it will not listen. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, in an interview this morning with Bryan Dobson, accused him of having an ideological position because he was being asked hard questions.

Will the Government finally fess up to the fact that its plan, Rebuilding Ireland, is not working? The Government and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government need to re-orient their housing plan to deliver and address the fact that under their watch there are 6,480 adults and 3,784 children dependent on emergency accommodation.

We are listening. Nobody is denying the figures or the fact that there are far too many individuals, families and children who are homeless in Ireland. Rebuilding Ireland is a plan to try to respond to that problem, as well as to a whole series of other challenges in the housing market, a market that was fundamentally broken and that we are fixing. It is important to deal with the facts, as well as the emotion. There is a lot of emotion in this debate, understandably so. I have met many families and individuals who are homeless because, as the Deputy said, I was previously the Minister with responsibility for housing. It is important to say that, as a Government, we are committed to increasing the social housing stock by 50,000 by 2021 under Rebuilding Ireland, 50,000 being the figure agreed to by the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness.

That is not true.

It is true.

It is not. The Tánaiste is misleading the House.

Under Rebuilding Ireland, last year over 27,000 households had their housing needs met. The local authority stock of social housing increased by over 8,000 and this year the figure will be over 10,000. Last year 5,135 individuals exited homelessness into independent tenancies, an increase of 8% on the figure for the previous year. That is a record level of exits out of homelessness in a calendar year. There are 27 family hubs in operation, with capacity for 650 families. I accept that it is not enough. To be honest, families should not be in hubs; they should be in social housing or another long-term, stable rental arrangement to give them a home. We are listening to others in this House and experts outside it. Rebuilding Ireland was always a policy initiative that would change. depending on where the pressures were and from where the demands were coming. That is happening. The number of people who are being taken out of homelessness is higher than ever before.

They were dragged into it.

The number of social houses being delivered is higher than at any point in the last decade.

They are being bought from under the noses of first-time buyers.

The truth is there are more families and individuals entering homelessness than, I think, any of us in this House predicted.

Because of the Government's policies.

We need to respond from a policy perspective.

The Government's policies are not working.

My understanding is the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will bring a proposal to protect tenants before the Cabinet next week. It will be tested in this House, as it should be. It is important for us to focus on where the problem lies. We are delivering more social houses and also more private and affordable houses, but we are not, unfortunately, overtaking the pace at which people are entering homelessness.

Thanks to the Government's policies.

The Government intends to respond by providing more protections for tenants in order to keep them in their homes and out of homelessness.

The Tánaiste's response is the same as that he gave in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Last year 72 houses were built in Dublin city. Of the social houses supplied which the Tánaiste claims were built, 64% were bought in the market. They were houses other people such as first-time buyers and families wanted to purchase. The Government is muscling these buyers out of the market.

It is outbidding them.

Vulture funds are buying apartments en bloc before they are released to the market, renting them and driving up rental prices. As I said, only 72 houses were built in the capital city last year. That is the plan, Rebuilding Ireland.

They were direct builds.

That is not true.

It is true. Bryan Dobson knew it this morning too.

In July 2016, under the Government's watch, 6,500 people were homeless.

The Government could not even deal with that number.

That figure has increased to over 10,000. Despite all of the Government's words, soft talk and concern, that is the result of Rebuilding Ireland, the plan the Government state would change things.

It has been an abject failure.

In July 2016 the Government stated it would inject urgency into the system.

It lost the syringe.

In March 2019 it has failed. It has failed and continues to fail 6,500 adults and 3,784 children.

We have work to do to get families and individuals who are homeless into homes.

That is putting it mildly.

With a sense of urgency, we have changed the housing market in Ireland. We have introduced rent caps in rent pressure zones.

They do not work.

They do work.

There was an 8% increase in Dublin.

A Cheann Comhairle, the Tánaiste should be allowed to speak.

In the last quarter of last year there was a slight reduction in rents. There has certainly been a levelling off in Dublin.

There was an 8% increase in Dublin and a 7% increase-----

Two new areas have been added to the list of rent pressure zones. Is anybody in Navan actually rejecting this? I do not think so. They want to see rent pressure zones in the town in order that they will have more certainty when it comes to rent inflation.

They do not want to have to rent houses.

They want houses.

We are increasing the powers of the RTB to make sure it is enforced.

The Government has delayed the Bill for over a year.

While we are changing the rental market, we have to increase supply. None of this will be resolved without an increased supply of affordable houses, social houses and rental properties.

All of that is happening.

Rebuilding Ireland is a five-year housing plan and we are three years into it. There are serious issues to deal with, but it is simply not true to say housing output is not increasing and that the rental market is not changing for the better. What we are not doing sufficiently is keeping people in their homes, whether it be a rental home or a home that is owned, and out of homelessness. We need to do more in that regard and the Government will respond.

(Interruptions).

Will Deputies, please, stop heckling? It is Leaders' Questions. Let the leader ask questions and the Tánaiste respond, please.

The number of homeless persons across the State is 10,264, according to the figures the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government gave us yesterday. That is more than 10,000 people who are without a place to call a home and the figure includes almost 4,000 children. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, described the figures as hugely disappointing, but they are a lot worse than that; they are an absolute and utter disgrace.

They represent a national scandal, not just a disappointment. This is not just about numbers. The Tánaiste said there was too much emotion involved in dealing with this issue, but perhaps there is not enough emotion in the debate. We are talking about real people in this so-called republic who are living in hotel rooms, bed and breakfast accommodation and family hubs. There are 4,000 children whose lives have been wrecked before they have even begun, many of whom have never known a place they could call home. At the national conference last weekend the Taoiseach had the audacity to say Fine Gael's housing plan was working and that the Government was on the right track. It might be working for landlords, the vulture funds and property speculators, but it is certainly not working for ordinary people whom the Government is supposed to protect.

The Minister went on radio this morning, but for whom did he bat? It was clear that it was not for the 10,000 homeless persons in the State, or those who were facing rent hikes or eviction. He batted, as he always does, for landlords because that is the side he and Fine Gael are on. He accused the interviewer, Bryan Dobson, of asking ideological questions when he was asked to defend the Government's abysmal record on social housing construction. Fine Gael has turned it into an ideological issue. Making sure people have a roof over their head should never be the subject of an ideological dispute in this House; it should be an automatic right. The Government is failing those who are homeless, those who are renting and those who aspire to own their own home because it simply does not get it. The housing system is broken. We need real homes, bricks and mortar from all sources - social, affordable and private. That requires adequate investment and means doubling the investment in social housing construction. It means real rent certainty and introducing a three-year rent freeze. We need to stem the number of people entering homelessness or who are at risk thereof. That means legislating. The single biggest cause of homelessness is landlords selling properties and evicting their tenants. The Government could do something about that in this House today.

There will be legislation before the Dáil this evening, brought forward by my colleague, Deputy Eoin Ó Broin. When he brought it forward previously, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil failed to support it. It is based on the Focus Ireland amendment. It would prevent buy-to-let landlords from booting tenants out of their homes and into homelessness. The Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil can take a stand if they are genuine about the comments they have made by supporting the legislation to stop landlords from evicting tenants because they want to sell their homes, which is the major cause of homelessness in the State. That needs to be done. Deputies need to support the legislation.

If Deputy Pearse Doherty wants to have a serious debate about housing, let us stop the Punch and Judy show and trying to accuse people of adopting ideological positions and so on. There is no ideology on this side of the House when it comes to housing.

It was the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who accused Bryan Dobson of having an ideological position.

It was Deputy Eoghan Murphy, a Government Minister.

There is a serious challenge for the Government and the Oireachtas in responding to a huge demand for social housing and providing long-term solutions for families, children and individuals who are homeless. It is an emotive topic, but we need to talk about numbers and facts, as well as the emotion. I am not saying we exclude one or the other. The State is not the only one facing this challenge. Last year almost 20,000 households approached housing bodies in Northern Ireland because they considered themselves to be homeless and solutions had to be found there as well as here. It is a challenge many countries are facing and we need to do more. It is unacceptable in Ireland to have children and families living in long-term emergency accommodation - we all accept this - but the way we resolve it must make sense and be legally sound. The legislation I understand Sinn Féin will propose this evening would do nothing retrospectively for families or individuals who are under pressure.

It absolutely would.

That is the legal advice we have received from the Attorney General.

The Tánaiste should publish that legal advice.

We will be introducing sound, workable legislation-----

It will do nothing.

-----which will provide more protection for tenants.

It will not help families.

One cannot take a simplistic view of being for tenants and against landlords, or vice versa. We need landlords in the market. It needs to be viable for landlords to operate in and predictable as a marketplace. We also need more protections for tenants. When I was Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, I introduced many extra protections for tenants, to which the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has added and will add again next week. The key issue is the number of families and individuals entering homelessness. We are accelerating housing supply as quickly as we can. It is working and we are meeting the targets set by us and this House in the Rebuilding Ireland plan.

As the level of homelessness is increasing, it is not working.

We need to do more, through legislation, to protect tenants and keep them in their homes without driving landlords out of the market because that would undermine what we are trying to achieve, which is to increase supply. Both things must be factored into policy. Unfortunately, Sinn Féin focuses on one side of the argument only. In time that would create an even bigger problem, if we were to pursue that priority only. The Deputy knows this and we have had that discussion.

That is not the case.

That is absolute nonsense from the Tánaiste. Sinn Féin has put forward proposal after proposal. Fianna Fáil trumpeted last year's budget as the housing budget and stated it had secured major decisions from the Government on housing. Six months later we have record numbers of homeless persons in the State. The Tánaiste continues to make the argument that the Government's plan is working, but the figures tell us otherwise. The fact is we have the highest and fastest growing level of child homelessness in the European Union and, despite Fine Gael having been in government for eight years, the situation is getting worse. Sinn Féin has proposed a doubling of investment in social and affordable homes, but the Government has rejected this. It has a decision to make today. The major cause of homelessness in the State is landlords evicting their tenants into homelessness. We can take the bold and correct decision today to support the Focus Ireland amendment which Deputy Ó Broin's legislation would enshrine in law. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil rejected the legislation in 2016. This is the time to do the right thing by supporting that legislation. The Government cannot cry crocodile tears on the issue of homelessness, especially child homelessness, while at the same time sitting on its hands and continuing to allow landlords to evict their tenants into child homelessness. The Government legislation will do nothing to protect tenants who have been served notice to quit. It is time to stop the spin. It is time for substance and this Parliament to legislate. It must take a side to ensure it will protect those who are facing the nightmare of homelessness. There are already 10,264 people homeless and, unless something is done and action taken, as we have suggested, the situation will only get worse. We have told the Government this year after year, but, unfortunately, it has fallen on deaf ears.

I am not hearing Deputy Pearse Doherty more clearly just because he is shouting. We consider proposals that come from Sinn Féin and other parties and test them inside and outside the House.

The Deputies paint this as though the Government does not want to solve the problem.

The Government is not solving the problem.

The truth is that what the Deputies propose will not work. We know it will not work.

What the Government is doing is not working. Landlords are creaming off the market because of the Government's failed policies.

Deputy Ó Broin, you are not the party leader today.

The Deputy is not the leader today. We know his proposals will not work legally or practically.

In that case, the Government should publish the advice on the matter.

If we thought the proposal would work, we would support it.

We will instead introduce proposals that we believe will work and that will provide more protections for tenants-----

The proposals have nothing to do with the crisis, which the Government knows. The Tánaiste is misleading the House.

-----and, at the same time, ensure there will be a marketplace where landlords will continue to provide more supply, which is what is needed. The Government was the first ever to introduce rent caps, by limiting increases to 4% per year in the areas where they are needed-----

There are increases of 8%. The Tánaiste should get his head out of the sand.

Intervention in the market, therefore, is not something from which we shy away but it has to work.

The Government's interventions do not work.

(Interruptions).

Unfortunately, however, what the Deputies propose over and over again may sound good in a press release but when tested, it does not stand up, and this is another example of that.

The Government should publish the advice and convince us. There is more failure.

A Cheann Comhairle, stop the heckling. We cannot hear the Tánaiste speak.

Putting children in emergency accommodation does not work.

The Deputy is not a leader.

I do not pretend to be but I am angry.

Could we please-----

(Interruptions).

The Government is a disgrace.

I draw the House's attention to the fact that the public watch the proceedings-----

They do, including families in emergency accommodation.

Including families in emergency accommodation, who I think would want to see us all represent their interest in a realistic, calm and effective way.

The Deputy should stop pretending that there are easy solutions when he knows that there are not.

The Tánaiste is a disgrace.

Is the Government not ashamed of itself? Some 10,200 people are in emergency accommodation, 3,784 of whom are children whose lives will be irredeemably scarred and marked by the experience of living in emergency accommodation for one or two years. For many of them, those years were preceded by the insecurity of facing eviction or unaffordable rents in private rented accommodation before they were evicted for sale or refurbishment. The Government has refused to take action in this regard and has voted against legislation that has sought to prevent those children from entering that shameful, unacceptable situation. Is the Government not ashamed? Does it not accept that its policies have failed?

Since Rebuilding Ireland was published, the number of adults in emergency accommodation has increased by 117%, the number of children in emergency accommodation has increased by 247%, while the number of children in emergency accommodation since Fine Gael entered Government in 2011 has increased by 470%. Is the Government not ashamed of that? Does it bother the Government that misery is being visited on those thousands of families, on top of the more than 100,000 families waiting a decade or more on social housing lists? Tens of thousands of working people - a whole generation - whose income is above the threshold to get them on a social housing list cannot afford the obscene prices and rents that are available in the private market. It is a whole generation locked out.

While that is happening, what is happening to the landlords to which the Government sold vast amounts of property through the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA? The situation has even been condemned by the United Nations, which agrees with what we are saying. A total of 93% of the property assets sold by NAMA have been sold to foreign investors that sit on land and speculate on it. Margaret Sweeney of Ires REIT has paid herself €680,000, while the profits of Cairn Homes, the largest owner of land in Dublin, increased by 267% last year. Is the Government not ashamed? Is it not true that the reason it is not delivering the social and affordable housing on the scale necessary to deal with the crisis and alleviate the suffering is that it is worried it will interfere with the profits of companies such as Cairn Homes, Hines and Ires REIT, which were invited into the country but do not even pay tax because of loopholes the Government has created regarding the massive profits the companies are accumulating? Is the Government not ashamed?

I am focusing on solutions; the Deputy is focusing on drama, as usual. Of course, I am conscious that 10,000 people will be in emergency accommodation tonight. I am not happy about that and the Government should not be either, but we will change it. We must focus, however, on where the problem is. Through the Rebuilding Ireland programme, we are delivering significantly more supply year on year, taking more individuals and families out of homelessness than ever before and putting them into tenancies and homes. What we have not done is overtake the number of families who are entering homelessness, which I accept, and we need to do more in that area, but it is also important to point out what we are doing and what is working. In truth, we are trying to fix a fundamentally broken housing market that collapsed during a property and banking crisis. We are trying to return to a point of building approximately 35,000 housing units of all types and we are getting there. Last year, just over 18,000 units were built and we added 8,400 social houses. On top of that, there is a heavy reliance on the housing assistance payment, which, while too great, is necessary in the short term while we increase the number of builds, bring voids back into use, put long-term leasing arrangements in place and so on. The figure exceeded 8,000 last year and will exceed 10,000 this year. Some 25,000 housing units, I hope, will be built this year and up to 30,000 next year. We are moving in the right direction on those metrics.

The rental market, too, was broken and we are fixing it, which is why the Government introduced rent pressure zones and limited rental inflation within those rent pressure zones. At the same time, however, we must ensure that there is investment and building to deliver supply. What many Deputies seem to suggest is that the State should simply do it all and build houses for virtually everybody. There is not the capacity to do that in the short term and the Deputy knows that. Money is not the issue; rather, it is a matter of capacity and pace of build. We need to empower and fund local authorities to build much more and then hold them to account on the targets we set for them and the targets they set for themselves. That is happening and the details are published on the website of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in order that people can see who is or is not performing. We need to remain on that journey of providing more supply and, through legislation, we need to do more to protect tenants and ensure that they will not find themselves homeless and unable to find alternative accommodation. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will bring forward proposals in that regard next week. Some Deputies have made their own proposals but they do not stack up. It is important we do not agree to something we know may cause an even deeper problem in the medium term.

We gave the Government solutions in a motion that was passed in this House by the majority in October 2018, on foot of the Raise the Roof demonstration. I inform the Tánaiste and anyone watching the debate that last Tuesday, Raise the Roof agreed to hold another national demonstration on 18 May, for which we make an appeal to everyone in emergency accommodation, on a housing list or who cannot afford the obscene rents or property prices being charged in the private market. We will appeal to everyone who is in mortgage distress to come out onto the streets and ensure the coming election is a referendum on the failed housing policies of the Government. We gave the Government solutions in the motion which the Government ignored but was passed by the House. The Government must stop evictions into homelessness now. It must freeze rents now, build at least 10,000 council houses per year, not the pathetic 2,000 that were built last year, and it must expropriate any land or property that is being sat on and speculated on by the investors the Government invited into the country. Even the UN has condemned the Government for handing over the residential property market to vultures that exploit the misery of people affected by the housing crisis.

We have offered the solutions and the Government ignores them. Is it not the case that the Government ignores them because it is worried that they will impact on the profits of Cairn Homes, Ires REIT, Lone Star, Kennedy Wilson and such, which are making an obscene fortune from the misery of people affected by this crisis?

Some of the Deputy's proposals are about as credible as the numbers he gives. Last year, 4,251 social houses were built, not 2,000.

That is with approved housing bodies. I said council houses.

These are all social houses and the Deputy knows that, even though he likes to spin the figures in the other direction.

A total of 4,200 is not 10,000, is it?

It is increasing and will continue to increase this year, next year and the year after, so that we add 50,000 social houses to the housing stock over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland. That is exactly what we are trying to achieve. Freezing rents across the country overnight may provide temporary reassurance to tenants but it will not solve this problem because it will fundamentally undermine the capacity to increase supply in many parts of the country.

By the private sector.

What we are trying to do and spent many hours debating is to ensure that we introduce appropriate measures to limit rent increases in the parts of the country where there is the most pressure-----

-----which is now the majority of rental properties. It is starting to work in many areas.

The Government has failed.

We need to do more work, and we recognise that, to move beyond the current additional protections that we have provided for tenants and the powers that we have given to the Residential Tenancies Board to protect tenants more comprehensively. As I have said repeatedly this morning, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will bring proposals in that regard to Cabinet next week.

Maidir le fíricí, yesterday the Taoiseach said that 10,000 social houses were built last year, so the Tánaiste might check the record when he accuses others of falsifying information. Faraor, táim ar ais arís go Páirc Mhuirlinne. Tá dhá obrádlann as úsaíd de bharr an báistí atá ag stealladh isteach. Tá an dá obrádlann as ord. Tá litir agam atáim chun léamh isteach sa taifead, chomh dona is atá an liosta. I am raising Merlin Park Hospital again. I raised it with the Taoiseach in February and again over the past year. Unfortunately, in ainneoin rudaí a bheith ag feabhsú, tá siad ag dul in olcas. We now have 2,000 people suffering on a waiting list for serious surgery on shoulders and ankles. I ask the Tánaiste and his colleagues to put themselves in the position of those people who are now on a waiting list. The rain poured in while the Government was talking about a rainy day fund and it put two theatres out of operation. The list has gone up exponentially and I now have a letter from the consultant orthopaedic surgeon, on behalf of ten surgeons, telling us that the list is now 2,000 and has been accumulating on foot of the lack of infrastructure. The situation is becoming unbearable for patients who are clinically worsening as they wait to be admitted for surgery. They are clinically disimproving. At this stage, it is incumbent on senior management in either Saolta or the Health Service Executive to make a public statement to the people on their waiting list, either to say that they can handle the problem or that the problem is too big for them to address. It is unprecedented for a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, on behalf of nine others, to write to Deputies and to the Minister on more than one occasion to highlight this situation. He stated it is now becoming a growing regional crisis and it gave him no satisfaction to write that.

My question to the Tánaiste is as it was in February and all of last year. How could it be so difficult to put up two modular theatres? What type of health executive do we have in Saolta? It told us last February that tender documents had gone out and in May that contract documents had gone out, were about to be signed and the modular theatres were about to go up. On Tuesday, we found out that the whole process has been stopped. We do not know what happened but I know that more than 2,000 patients are suffering with no other alternative arrangements having been made for them, with a series of misrepresentations from Saolta, even to the Minister for Health. He understood that the contracts had been signed. I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health. I appeal again to the Government to take a hands-on approach and put itself in the position of any of those patients who are waiting for complex surgery because the Saolta University Health Care Group cannot provide modular theatres. What hope have we for a children's hospital?

I share the Deputy's frustration on this issue. She has asked this question before in this House and many other public representatives for Galway have also raised a lot of frustration with regard to this issue. As outlined and confirmed this week by my ministerial colleague, Deputy Finian McGrath, in a Topical Issue debate, the HSE has been obliged to terminate the procurement process to provide the orthopaedic modular units. I am assured that the HSE will commence a new procurement process as soon as possible. I think the Deputy knows the background to this. Leaks developed in the roof of the building on the campus of Merlin Park hospital that houses the hospital's two orthopaedic theatres in September 2017. Remedial works took place last year and one of those theatres has reopened but it has resulted in about one third less throughput, which has resulted in longer waiting lists. For a problem to be caused by a leak in a roof in September 2017 and for us to still be talking about a procurement process to get a modular unit in place to remedy that situation in 2019 should frustrate everybody in this House. That is why there needs to be a sense of real urgency to solve this problem as quickly as possible.

The tendering process was undertaken for the provision of two modular theatres for orthopaedics on the Merlin Park hospital site and a successful vendor was selected for the project, contracts were engaged and were under discussion between both parties, and a planning application was submitted last December. Saolta advised that unfortunately, contracts could not be executed and that the decision was taken to terminate the procurement process. Saolta has further advised that a revised procurement strategy is being put in place to restore full capacity at Merlin Park to immediately address the waiting list issues. The hospital is currently working to optimise current capacity to treat patients.

As for what went wrong, the HSE has now confirmed that it has terminated its letter of intent with Falcon Healthcare on this project after failing to reach agreement on the terms of the contract. Falcon Healthcare was attempting to remove key elements of the tender from the contract and the HSE could not accept the revised terms as they were in breach of what was tendered. As I said earlier, the HSE will now commence a new procurement process as quickly as it can. I can understand the frustration and will certainly pass that on to the Minister for Health, with whom I know Deputy Connolly has already raised the matter.

I thank the Tánaiste for the attempted answer and giving me a history lesson on the matter. It is beyond frustration and beyond anger. If a Government can stand over 2,000 people suffering and getting worse, there is something seriously wrong. If Saolta and the Health Service Executive cannot erect two modular theatres, which were supposed to be temporary, something is seriously wrong. We appeal to and ask the Government to take a hands-on approach. That was done by the Minister in October 2017. We had all the stakeholders somewhere in this building and they said the theatres would be provided. They have not been provided since then. I cannot stand here as an elected representative and talk about frustration. These people are suffering. Something is seriously wrong with management and decisions relating to management have to be made by the Minister. This is in a hospital that has 67 nursing vacancies, 35 physiotherapy and occupational therapy vacancies, 23 management and administration vacancies, which, on reflection, we may need fewer of, and 17 other vacancies which have not been identified.

It is not possible to stand here and talk about frustration. We need a solution to this. There has to be some way to put in modular theatres as a matter of urgency. They are temporary. We are avoiding the local authority for planning and many other things.

The Deputy knows as well as I do what happened. A procurement process went wrong because of a difference of view between the company involved and management. It fell apart and has now been terminated. It needs to be replaced as quickly as possible with a new process to deliver the infrastructure as quickly as it can allow. In the meantime one of the theatres is working, but the throughput is not what it would be if both theatres were up and running. I will, of course, pass on not only the Deputy's frustration but also that of the House generally on the issue to the Minister and the Department. We cannot simply bypass all procedures. There is a tendering and procurement process that the State needs to abide by. Because the last one fell apart, it needs to put a new process in place as quickly as possible. It also needs to finalise the planning permission because the application was only lodged in December. My understanding is further information has been requested and needs to be delivered by the applicant. In many ways, it is not possible to defend the timelines here and I am not attempting to do so. I will exert appropriate pressure to make sure the timelines are shortened to have the project concluded as quickly as possible. It should not be rocket science to put in place modular units to respond to a leak in a roof and some other issues that have emerged since September 2017. We need to conclude the project as speedily as possible.