Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

For many years, parts of rural Ireland, businesses and homes have been without any broadband connectivity. Back in 2012 when the then Minister, Pat Rabbitte, announced the national broadband plan, he was very clear that there would be a minimum of 30 megabits per second for every remaining home and business in the country, no matter how rural or remote. Every year since, Ministers have consistently repeated that. From 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the language used in different announcements was one of the near future - within weeks and so on. We were told there would be a broadband announcement within weeks last November and that has been repeated subsequently.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach announced in the House that the cost of the investment in the broadband contract to the taxpayer would be €3 billion. Last week the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment said he could not talk about it at all because the matter had not been finalised. We had been told for months that it had not been finalised yet out of the blue yesterday the Taoiseach was in a position to announce formally the cost to the taxpayer would be €3 billion.

From the start, the bidders in this process were led to believe that the maximum taxpayer subvention was €500 million. That has now ballooned to €3 billion. The Taoiseach needs to explain how we have gone so dramatically from €500 million to €3 billion in the cost to the taxpayer. Has the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform analysed this? What is his role and that of the Department in analysing this process? We on this side of the House have not been presented with comprehensive information.

Will the Taoiseach also confirm that at the end of the process, the asset will not be owned by the State, notwithstanding the expenditure of €3 billion?

Will the Taoiseach comment on the capacity of the Granahan McCourt Capital consortium to manage a project of this scale and size? Is the Government satisfied that it has the necessary experience and expertise to deliver a project of this magnitude?

Taking the Taoiseach's comments yesterday as confirmation of the award, is the Government satisfied that the consortium is the same consortium which originally bid? Have the legal issues in relation to the competitive tendering process been sorted out?

The fundamental question relates to the Taoiseach's announcement that the plan would cost taxpayers €3 billion when all along people were led to believe the cost to the taxpayer would be €500 million.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue again. Back in 2012 when the national broadband plan was announced, only about 20% of homes, businesses and farms in Ireland had access to high-speed broadband. By the time this Fine Gael-Independent Government came to office that was at 50%. It is now up to 75%.

That is nothing to do with the Government. The Taoiseach will take credit for the weather next.

The national broadband plan as a policy driven by private investment has brought about a situation where the number of-----

Please. The Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

I will start again.

We do not need to start again.

The Deputies will have an opportunity, or I might give them an opportunity.

I would like to start again.

If the Deputies misbehave, I will not. The Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

I again thank the Deputy for raising this important issue which is of huge interest to people in rural Ireland and all parts of Ireland. Back in 2012 when the national broadband plan was announced, only about 20% of homes, businesses and farms in Ireland had access to high-speed broadband. By the time this Fine Gael-Independent Government came to office that was at 50%. It is now up around 75%, driven by private investment and Government policy.

Many people are opposed to private investment in communications but it has delivered 75% coverage already at no cost to the taxpayer. Now is the point when the Government needs to intervene to ensure that the next 25%, 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across Ireland, over 1 million people, are connected to high-speed broadband.

I am happy to confirm and clarify one or two things that were said in the last couple of days. I can confirm that in 2014 the memorandum brought to Cabinet by the Minister at the time, Pat Rabbitte, estimated that the cost of bringing high-speed broadband to 1,100 villages in Ireland would be up to €512 million. That was never the cost for connecting every home, farm and business in the country.

The State subvention was never capped at €500 million. That is not correct either.

In terms of bids, the only bid received is not only from Granahan McCourt. Before others withdrew, they also put in bids and the figures were similar in those bids.

In terms of the ownership model which the Deputy asked about, under the proposed contract terms, the contract is to build the network, to operate the network, to maintain the network and to manage the network for 25 years, at which point ownership stays with the consortium. However, at that point, Government has the option to buy. As this is not a commercial piece of infrastructure, one would expect that to be a relatively inexpensive proposition. At any point, if the contractor fails to deliver, the Government can step in and take over. Those have been the terms of the proposition since very early on.

Obviously, some more work needs to be done. This matter is being analysed by Government, by my own Department, by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and, of course, by the Department of Communications, Energy and Climate Action, which is the lead Department on this issue.

The next step will be for the Government to make a decision on whether to accept the bid and designate a preferred bidder. That has not yet been done. I anticipate that can be done in the next couple of weeks. It will then take a number of months for contracts to be drawn up and signed. After that, the work will commence in terms of roll-out on the ground.

One gets the sense the Taoiseach is managing this from a public opinion perspective and from a political perspective.

By the way, two of the original bidders did not actually bid in the end; they gave outline indication. It was asserted all along it would be €500 million. Industry sources are saying the cost to build out the network is approximately €1.5 billion. The Government is proposing that the consortium concerned will get €3 billion of taxpayers' money to build and to manage, and to own the entire network at the very end, making profits along the way. I have no difficulty with people making profits, but for the taxpayer to spend €3 billion and not own, or having any prospect of owning at the end, is something that needs to be fully explained. I find it difficult to comprehend.

The drip-feeding of information around this is not satisfactory. Given that the Taoiseach has now announced the crucial element of this which is the pricing, he has an obligation to place the full proposition in the public domain.

I got the sense, because of the PwC report on the children's hospital, that there may have been an attempt to create distance between that last week and the announcement on broadband. I do not know why all of the secrecy is still there. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Climate Action, Deputy Bruton, stated he could not comment last week on this when parliamentary questions were tabled, yet the Taoiseach had no difficulty in announcing the price of €3 billion yesterday.

There is an onus and an obligation on the Taoiseach to give the full cost. What is the overall cost of the project estimated to be? The subvention from the State will be €3 billion. Are there any additional costs, over and above that, to the bidder?

Not to my knowledge, but the decision has yet to be made by Cabinet. The decision that will be made by Cabinet in the next couple of weeks is whether to accept the bid and to designate this bidder as the preferred bidder, at which point contracts will have to be drawn up and signed, and that will take a few more months after that.

The contract is not only to build this network; the contract is to build the network, to operate it, to manage it, to maintain it, and also to rent the infrastructure from Eir, which will be necessary to rent for the reasons that people will understand. The cost of building it is only a proportion of the entire cost of a network that has to be built, managed and maintained and, of course, infrastructure rented from the incumbent.

We are taking all the risk.

In terms of investment in infrastructure, we should bear the following in mind: in the past 20 years in Ireland, we have invested €40 billion in our roads connecting our cities by motorways, bypasses, local, regional and national roads all over the country; in the past 20 years in Ireland, we have invested €10 billion in our sewerage and water network - perhaps we should have done more; and in the past 20 years, Government has invested very little in our communications infrastructure. That has all been done by the private sector. We need to see this kind of investment in that context.

This is not a small project. This is a huge project serving more than 500,000 homes, farms and businesses all over the country. Over 1 million people will potentially benefit - people who will be able to access education, healthcare and public services online and do the kind of things into the future that everyone should be able to do.

With every day that passes, the process surrounding the national broadband plan becomes ever more reminiscent of the debacle that now surrounds the cost of the national children's hospital. When I pressed the Taoiseach on this here yesterday, he admitted and confirmed for the first time that the cost of the broadband plan could reach €3 billion, despite the original cost estimate being in the region of €500 million. Despite the Taoiseach's attempt to skate around this yesterday by arguing that the plan had changed, the fact is that in 2012 the commitment made by the then Minister, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, as part of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition was to ensure the roll-out of high-speed broadband to every home and business throughout the State. That was the commitment - plain and simple.

We can argue the toss around semantics. The fact is that the aim of the national broadband plan has not changed, but what has changed, incredibly, is its cost. According to the Taoiseach yesterday, it will now cost six times what was expected. The overspend could run into billions of euro. To top it all, the Taoiseach advises that the infrastructure will be in the ownership of the consortium but that the State could, 25 years on, spend more public money to buy that infrastructure back. One could not make this up. It is utterly ludicrous.

The unfortunate reality of all of this mess is that, as the Taoiseach said, more than 500,000 homes, businesses and farms right across rural areas are left still without broadband, despite repeated assurances and repeated announcements. It beggars belief that this is still an issue. We have no date still for a decision to be taken. We have no date for commencement. The commitment to deliver high-speed broadband by 2020 will undoubtedly be broken. That is the reality. This process has been utterly chaotic.

The Taoiseach stated last October, in the aftermath of the resignation of the then Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten, that he would make this national broadband plan a "personal crusade". He also said, "I promised I will make it happen". He told the Dáil in November that he received two reports on this matter from the Department at least every fortnight. When exactly will the rest of us get a proper report? When will we get clarity? We were supposed to have an announcement before Easter. That is now not going to happen, despite the Taoiseach's assurances that it would.

We do not now know whether this plan is going ahead or not. The 500,000 homes, businesses and farms, it seems, are to be left in the lurch for a considerable period. The Taoiseach has no notion of any cost or budget for this plan. Above all, people in rural areas are left with no clarity as to what is happening. We can all agree that is utterly unacceptable. When will we have an announcement? When will be have the real figures? When will be have access to that? Above all, when will people in rural areas know that there will, in fact, be a national broadband plan roll-out?

First, I said it was my objective to have this decision made by Easter.

I did not give an assurance that it would be made by Easter.

A Deputy

It was weeks, last November.

The Taoiseach said Christmas.

At the time, I stated bluntly and explicitly that one of the reasons we were not in a position to make a decision is because we did not know whether there would be a crash-out Brexit last week and the Government could not make major financial decisions with the risk of that hanging over us in the past couple of weeks.

That is not true.

It is exactly what I said at the time.

Repeating an untruth does not make it the case.

The Deputies got their opportunity.

Second, Deputy McDonald did not hear the answer that I gave Deputy Micheál Martin and I will give it again. I have looked at the memorandums. I have confirmed that the memorandum that was brought to Cabinet by the then Minister, Mr. Rabbitte, in 2014 gave an estimate of this project costing up to €512 million, specifically. That was for extending high-speed broadband to 1,100 villages in Ireland-----

There was a subsequent memorandum by the former Minister, Mr. Alex White, mapping out all the intervention area.

-----not from there onwards-----

The Deputies will all have an opportunity.

-----to every home and business in Ireland.

It is important for the record that there was a subsequent memorandum.

It is not the case that there was ever a €500 million cap on the subsidy and it is not the case that there was only one indicative bid put in. I want to put those facts out on the table-----

We will bring the bidders to the committee and we will establish those facts.

-----because we constantly heard otherwise.

We should not forget what is involved. This programme is about extending high-speed broadband to over 500,000 homes, farms and businesses. It is a major project, possibly the biggest investment ever made in rural Ireland and possibly as important as rural electrification. It is not going to be done cheaply and quickly. As already stated, we need to bear in mind that €40 billion and €10 billion, respectively, were invested in roads and water in the past 20 years. Building infrastructure like this and connecting homes, farms and businesses all over the country will be expensive.

It will be expensive doing it the way the Government is doing it.

The Government has not yet made a decision to accept a bid or to appoint a preferred bidder. If and when it comes to the point of being able to do that, there will be several months-----

The Taoiseach is drip-feeding information.

-----while contracts are drawn up and, during that period, I have no doubt that the committee and Parliament will want to scrutinise the matter in detail.

That will be after the event.

It is a small mercy that we were not reliant on the Taoiseach and his Government for rural electrification because there would still be debate about Ardnacrusha power plant. We would still be in the dark, lighting candles and hoping for the best.

The Government used the wrong procurement process. The process was supposed to generate a dynamic of competitiveness and yet there is a sole bidder left. By definition, that leaves the Government vulnerable in terms of cost. The Cabinet and Government sources consistently briefed that the cost of this scheme would be €500 million. The Taoiseach quoted a memo brought to Cabinet in 2014 but I am advised by Deputy Howlin that a subsequent memo was brought by the then Minister of State and former Deputy, Alex White. The Taoiseach is being selective in his quotation of memos.

We are now left in a situation that is utterly farcical. The Taoiseach states that he is not sure whether he is going to accept this bid from the sole bidder, the cost of which will be six times that of the original estimate. The Taoiseach still protests, with a straight face, that he is the Taoiseach and that this is the Government that will deliver broadband to rural Ireland. Quite frankly, nobody believes that at this stage and I suspect he does not believe it either.

I ask for more clarity in the Taoiseach's answers. Can he give us a precise date on which the Cabinet will make its decision? Can he give us access to these memos and all of the information and data that he possesses?

I cannot give the Deputy a precise date, nor have I ever. Due diligence has to be undergone, Cabinet Ministers have to be briefed, the Cabinet has to meet, a decision has to be made and a preferred bidder has to be appointed, or not.

Deputy McDonald questioned my beliefs. I am of the view that Sinn Féin would probably have opposed rural electrification if it had been around during that period. Sinn Féin representatives would have stated that it would cost too much, that it was not necessary and that people in rural Ireland did not need electricity. That would have been the Sinn Féin view. We have seen Sinn Féin's approach to infrastructure in Northern Ireland, the renewable heating scandal and everything it has done there. We have seen how, in this State, infrastructure has come on in leaps and bounds and overtaken infrastructure in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that Sinn Féin would have opposed rural electrification and it is very likely that Sinn Féin will oppose rural broadband as well.


Will Sinn Féin put forward an alternative? It has tried to by proposing that the ESB do it and the ESB pulled out. Sinn Féin proposed that a public company be designated to do it. That is contrary to European state aid law, under which tendering is required. I have no doubt that Sinn Féin is opposed to rural broadband and that it would try to stop the project if it got into government.

That is just daft.

No one is opposed to it, it is about how it is done.

The nationalist far right surged in the recent general election in Finland. The tactic of those involved was to promote a whole new level of misinformation and outright lies about climate change and the necessary policies to tackle it. Greenpeace and others have dubbed it Finland's climate election. There has been similar climate scepticism as part of US President Donald Trump's call for the US to abandon the Paris Agreement. Thankfully, we heard a different and more progressive American view expressed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, in this Chamber earlier.

The strong scientific consensus is that we have 11 years to make serious changes to our economies in order to stave off the worst impact of global climate change. Reducing and phasing out our carbon emissions over the next 30 years will allow us to sustain most of our way of life while limiting, although not undoing, the further harm that our economies will cause the planet. This is not a solution to climate change but it is the least worst course of action that we must now take. Those worst affected by climate change will be the people living in countries which are particularly exposed to droughts and floods. Equally, those with least wealth here in Ireland are at the greatest risk of any failure to meet the challenges head on. That is where the populists have lied in the faces of those they pretend to represent. They have stoked hysteria about food prices and demand to retain petrol-burning cars. They claim that climate change is exaggerated so that elites can impose further austerity on ordinary people.

Making changes to our economy will be difficult. That is why the Labour Party and the trade union movement have argued for a just transition model, to use the opportunity to eliminate energy policy and to ensure that the State actively supports the creation of good jobs to replace those that will be displaced. On foot of events in recent weeks, it is clear that some populists here intend to campaign against climate policy as a tactic to scare voters without any consideration of the dire consequences that this might have on reducing our capacity to mitigate the harm of climate change. They are warning people of the high cost of climate action policies while claiming that climate action can be somehow achieved free of charge. They are warning people of the loss of jobs and income that will follow from failing to control climate change.

The membership of this House should rally together in respect of the following question. Will the Government confirm that it is committed to the just transition approach which has been outlined by the trade union movement and supported by my party and which will mean setting up robust funds to assist people with home insulation, to mitigate the increased fuel costs and to support job replacement in industries that will be displaced as we make the necessary adjustments? When will we see the Government's climate action plan?

I confirm that the Government supports a just transition on climate change. I am not sure it is exactly the model that Deputy Howlin supports but the Government absolutely supports the principles of just transition. We anticipate that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, will bring forward the all-of-Government climate cation plan in May. I agree with Deputy Howlin's broad assessment regarding the politics of climate change and I have previously commented on that in this House.

I do not think it is quite the case that the populist, far-right Finns Party surged. It got a similar share of the vote as it got in the elections five years ago. In many ways, the election was a draw because the Social Democrats won 40 seats, the mainstream, centre-right party - Fine Gael's sister party - won 38 seat and the Finns Party won 39.

The politics of climate action are difficult as we saw in France, where climate action kicked off the yellow vest protests. A Government lost office in Australia because it was taking climate action. There have been difficulties in Canada where the Government has taken climate action. As is often the case, everyone agrees about the need to take climate action but the fact that it requires changes in lifestyle, can increase costs and have impacts on people can make it difficult. It is used by populist parties to make themselves more popular, to create fantasies about elites and all those matters to which Deputy Howlin referred. In most of the world, that is the populism of the right; in Ireland, it is the populism of the left - not the Labour Party, but Sinn Féin, Solidarity-People Before Profit and others, the parties that could not sign up to the cross-party climate action plan because it might cost them votes or they might lose out on the opportunity to exploit an issue for the sake of populism.

The Taoiseach should read the reports.

We do not have a far right in Ireland. We have a far left but the far right and the far left are like a horse shoe: when one goes so far in one direction, one pretty much ends up in the same place.

One of the recommendations of the cross-party committee on climate action was that we adopt a just transition model and have just transition task forces. There are ways in which we can realise them. In the midlands, as Bord na Móna restructures and moves away from peat to become an energy and a waste company, it is about making sure people not only get decent severance packages and pensions but also get the opportunity to retrain and take up new employment in other areas. As the Deputy says, it can involve helping people to make the change and we do that already by providing subsidies for electric vehicles and the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme.

However, we must also be honest with people. The cost of renovating and insulating every home in Ireland is €50 billion. No Government of any hue could find that kind of money so people will have to bear most of the cost of insulating their homes themselves. The Government is not in a position to buy everyone an electric vehicle so people will have to bear the cost of changing their vehicles. That is where Government models come in. It can introduce a carbon charge or tax to make things that damage the environment more expensive but on the flip side, it can use subsidies, the fuel allowance and the welfare system to compensate for that to make sure it is just.

Our view is that everything gathered from carbon taxes should be used to assist those will be impacted by it - not by giving everybody a cheque in the post but by ensuring that the most vulnerable are completely protected. We can do that by ensuring their houses are insulated and they have alternative fuels but that is for another day.

On Monday, the International Energy Agency urged the Irish Government to publish more transparent emissions target. The agency is right to point out the lack of definition regarding our climate action commitments. The climate action committee called on the Government to introduce annual carbon budgets, to cap the annual level of carbon emissions in each sector of the economy and to reduce these caps year on year. Will the Government confirm now that it will introduce transparent carbon budgets for the economy beginning with this year's budget?

I cannot confirm that but it is something we are considering as part of the whole-of-Government climate action plan. I appreciate where the Deputy is coming from in saying that all the revenues from carbon tax should be ring-fenced to assist the most vulnerable whether it is through the fuel allowance or helping them insulate their homes and so on. I understand where he is coming from. There is a difficulty with that model and this is something that arises so much in policy making. When all the money goes to the most vulnerable, the people who lose out the most are the ones who are just above that threshold. We see it all the time in public policy - people who earn just a bit more than the threshold for a medical card or social housing. That is the difficulty with a model-----

The notion of giving everybody the same is not right.

True, but ring-fencing all of it for the vulnerable and forgetting about the people just above the threshold, the middle class and low-income families is not just either. That is why we do not agree with Deputy Howlin's assessment.

I wish to raise the implications of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government's decision to increase building heights in Dublin. This decision was made without any regard to the setting, the impact on land values or any sense of home or quality of life. What it has done is open a space for developers whose Celtic tiger excesses and irresponsibility had drastic consequences in many areas, including housing. The permission was given because this door was opened to an application for a 22-storey tower on Tara Street from Tanat Limited, which is controlled by property developer Johnny Ronan. This application had already been rejected by Dublin City Council planners because its scale and bulk would be significantly detrimental to the architecture and conservation of the area from Trinity College along the Liffey to the Customs House and into O'Connell Street.

Under freedom of information, I received copies of letters between developers and Ministers for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Apart from the praise and considerable redactions, one quote stood out. This stated that height limits are compromising Dublin's ability to respond to the housing crisis. I would ask what this 22-storey tower will do for housing. The answer is nothing. I want to turn to the docklands. Quotes relating to the docklands stated that restrictions are preventing delivery of appropriate residential densities in Dublin docklands and constitute a significant impediment to increasing housing supply there.

To date, the current height had been adhered to because of the SDZ, which is a legally binding contract between the local authority, the developer and the community. Developers are now lobbying and pressurising Dublin City Council to review the SDZ but only on height, which is the door the Minister has opened. If there is a review, the other aspects of an SDZ should be part of the review. They include aspects like plot ratio, sustainable living, social audit, benefit to community, quality of life, social mix and infrastructure. The review of the height is supposedly for housing but in reality, it is for high-rise offices, commercial space, hotels, aparthotels and some student accommodation with the housing all being buy-to-lets that will not be on sale on the open market. There is zero scope for public servants and people on average wages to afford to live in the area never mind the local community. There is such hypocrisy, that is, that this is supposed to be for housing. During the previous building boom in the docklands, 36 social homes were built. There will be no social homes with these plans. The social element is gone. It has gone to Rialto and along the M50.

Well-established communities in the docklands area of North Wall are being ignored and treated with contempt. They are overshadowed and are now facing a 22-storey office block that is practically in their back gardens. What is happening involves giving away control of an important part of the city - North Lotts and South Lotts - to developers. Do we never learn? We will be left with uninspiring glass cages and no communities, houses or homes. Where is a real, creative and sustainable vision for Dublin with people at its core, not profiteering egotistical developers with abysmal track records when it comes to quality of life for communities and ordinary people?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I would prefer not to comment on an individual planning application, building or SDZ without having studied it. I am not informed enough to comment specifically on it but I am advised that Dublin City Council is reviewing the SDZ for that area. I would expect the council to take all issues into account, including the impact on existing residents, their residential amenity and all of the factors that should be taken into account in planning.

On a general note, I support the policy of us going higher in our cities, not just in Dublin but also in the Tivoli docklands in the centre of Cork and the city centres of Limerick and Galway. Rather than growing out and continuing to sprawl, our cities should grow up. That is not just for housing. It also applies to office buildings, public buildings and every type of building we build. If we have more dense development, which involves some high rise in our city centres, it is right in terms of climate action and our response to climate change. It means less commuting and people spending less time in their cars and more time with their families. It means that we can run public services and public transport much more efficiently. The Deputy and I, and, I am sure, most people in this House, travel all over the world and see beautiful cities all over the world that have high density be they Chicago, San Diego or Barcelona. People there have a good quality of life, good services and good public transport and live in much higher densities. I do not think that is a bad model. I think it is a good model but we must take everything into account. Whether a planning application is for a two, six or 25-storey building, planners must take all factors into account such as the architectural merit of the building, its impact on other people and whether it is a near zero-emissions building. In principle, we are right to go higher in our cities but one does not just go ahead and do it without taking all those other factors into account.

I think there is a space for high rise but Dublin is not New York or Chicago. Dublin has a particular historic and cultural aspect to it. Let us not be hypocritical about this. Height increases have nothing to do with housing. Regardless of whether or not they are appropriate for family living, they have nothing to do with housing. It is time we move away from terms like "social and affordable" and begin to use the term "public housing". I do not know whether the Taoiseach got to CHQ to see the exhibition on the Vienna model. What we had there was a creative and innovative use of space and current buildings. It is being presented as a way forward and I think we should look at it. The docklands could be the lead on that. Otherwise we are consigning the docklands to offices, business space and high rise all over the place. The communities there have suffered enough already. I do not know whether the Taoiseach saw the video footage released by the IFI last night.

It showed the demolition of Sheriff Street in the 1980s, with people hoping something better was going to come. I refer to another scheme in the Ballsbridge area. There is a block of, I think, 80 apartments there. They are all being bought up, and for what? To put up 300 buy-to-lets in the area. We are creating a market for a certain kind of people. What we are seeing is increasing land values and then the flipping of sites. We are going against what was agreed in the strategic development zones, SDZs, and I hope what the Taoiseach says, that everything will be reviewed, will come to pass.

We need all types of development in Ireland, including in our cities: housing, office buildings, hotels and student accommodation. We will have a population of 6 million by 2040. It is therefore not a case of either-or; we will need all sorts of development in our cities. While the block to which the Deputy refers has no housing in it, An Bord Pleanála just the other day approved planning permission for 3,500 homes in Poolbeg, consisting of a mixture of private, affordable and social housing at high densities. She is right about Tara Street, but not far from Tara Street is Poolbeg, where 3,500 residential units have been approved.

I have not been over to CHQ recently but I have been to Vienna many times. The model of public housing used in Vienna has merit. It is one of the reasons we are doing cost-rental housing on Emmet Road and in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, for example. What I find ironic, however, is that many of the people who laud the Vienna model are opposed to aspects of it here in Ireland. The Vienna model involves a relatively high local property tax being used to help subsidise housing, something very much opposed by the left in Ireland. The model does not involve direct build by local authorities; housing is provided through public private partnerships and affordable housing bodies, which the left in Ireland viciously opposes. The model also involves relatively low levels of home ownership. Most people in Vienna do not own their own homes; they are tenants. The model is buy-to-let.