An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The business this week shall be as set out in the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 14 October 2019.

On today's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ time, which shall be taken for two hours on the conclusion of the Parent's Leave and Benefits Bill 2019 [Seanad], or at 9.05 p.m., whichever is the later. No. 17, motion re parliamentary question rota swap - Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Department of Rural and Community Development; No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Data Protection Act 2018 (section 60(6)) (Central Bank of Ireland) Regulations 2019 - back from committee; No. 19, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2019 - back from committee; No. 20, motion re Standing Orders 23 and 140; and No. 21, Financial Resolution re Parent’s Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 [Seanad], shall be taken without debate and any divisions demanded thereon shall be taken immediately; No. 1, Parent’s Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 [Seanad], all Stages, shall conclude within three hours. The proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Speeches on Second Stage shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five-minute response from the Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken on the conclusion of Second Stage for the remainder of the three hours and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality. No. 2, Health and Childcare Support (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019 [Seanad] - all Stages, shall conclude within three hours. The proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Speeches on Second Stage shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five-minute response from the Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken on the conclusion of Second Stage for the remainder of the three hours and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health.

On Wednesday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m. to take No. 43, financial motions by the Minister for Finance [2019] - motion 9 (resumed). If there are no speakers offering, the motion shall be adjourned and the sitting suspended until 10.30 a.m. The Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 11 p.m. No. 44, statements before the European Council meeting of 17–18 October, pursuant to Standing Order 111 shall commence immediately after questions to the Taoiseach and be followed by the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for one hour, and shall conclude within 85 minutes, if not previously concluded. Statements shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. No. 68, Road Traffic (Amendment) (Use of Electric Scooters) Bill 2019 - Second Stage, shall conclude with two hours. No. 13, Family Law Bill 2019 - all Stages, shall conclude within three hours; the proceedings on Second Stage, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Speeches on Second Stage shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five-minute response from the Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken on the conclusion of Second Stage for the remainder of the three hours and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

In the context of Thursday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m. to take No. 43, financial motions by the Minister for Finance [2019] (motion 9, resumed). If there are no speakers offering, the motion shall be adjourned and the sitting shall be suspended until 10.30 a.m. The Dáil shall sit later than 8.03 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Topical Issues, which shall commence on the conclusion of the Social Welfare Bill 2019 [Seanad]. Item 21a, motion re financial resolution relating to the Social Welfare Bill 2019 [Seanad], shall be taken without debate. No. 3 is the Social Welfare Bill 2019 [Seanad] and all Stages shall conclude within three hours. The proceedings on Second Stage, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Contributions on Second Stage shall not exceed ten minutes each, with a five-minute response from the Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken on the conclusion of Second Stage for the remainder of the three hours and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion by one question which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Finally, no Private Members' Bill shall be taken under Standing Order 140A and no committee report shall be taken under Standing Order 91(2).

I thank the Deputy for that marathon presentation. There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday’s business agreed to? Agreed.

There are 30 Members offering and we have 23 minutes. Deputy Micheál Martin is first.

My question relates to the national broadband plan. Imagine has said that it can service up to 45% of the national broadband map. The Taoiseach stated last week that Imagine was causing a delay or that its challenge to the Government's map had caused a delay in respect of the plans relating to broadband. He also stated that objections or observations had been lodged with the commission in respect of state aid issues. I am curious as to the timeline of the roll-out of broadband. Can the Taoiseach indicate, in terms of the delay that he has indicated is there, what is the likely timeline for Europe to rule on or resolve these issues?

The position is that as part of the process we reopened the map to allow people to make submissions, as we are required to do under state aid procedures. When we opened the map there was a request by several bodies to extend the time. We extended the time by five weeks to 30 September. We are now in the process of examining the submissions that have been made. The next step will be to complete the due diligence that covers legal and contractual matters and so on and to ensure that we are good to go ahead with the process and complete state aid as well. That mapping exercise will be a part of the procedure relating to state aid. We are continuing to push on and we are seeking to complete this as quickly as possible. As the Taoiseach stated, the intention is to have this completed before Christmas.

The imprisonment by the Spanish Government of nine Catalan leaders, including the former Vice President of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, is an affront to democracy. Essentially, nine innocent people have been condemned to jail for peacefully exercising their right to democracy and self-determination. Their crime, it seems, is organising a referendum to allow their people to democratically decide their future. Sadly, the world witnessed shocking scenes of brutality by the Spanish police in the aftermath of that referendum. We now see the same repression being used in response to those protesting against these trumped-up sentences. Prison and repression are not the answer to the political crisis in Catalonia; dialogue is. It is not good enough for the European Union to brush this matter off or to describe it as an internal matter. We all remember the days when the British Government used to describe the Troubles in the North of Ireland as an internal matter.

That approach did not work then and it will not work now. The international community, especially the European Union, has an obligation to ensure that Catalonia can pursue the legitimate cause of self-determination. The European Union-----

This is not Leader's Questions.

The Deputy's time is up.

-----prides itself on its values of democracy and the rule of law. I put it to the Taoiseach that he needs to raise these unjust-----

Please Deputy.

-----jailings at this week's meeting of the European Council. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle is also concerned, given that the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament-----

I am sure everyone here-----

-----was imprisoned for simply facilitating a debate. The Ceann Comhairle is more than familiar with the case and the cause.

Everyone here is familiar with the case and, I imagine, has some sympathy for all the parties, but we have rules to abide by.

They apply to Deputy McDonald, to me and to everyone else with equal force.

Equally. Excellent.

I have spoken on this issue previously when there has been tension in relation to advocates for independence in Catalonia. What we have seen is the response to a court judgment in terms of interpreting Spanish law, but we have urged, and will continue to urge, dialogue as the way forward here in terms of political interaction, rather than anything else.

This week several housing experts have raised serious questions about the Government's Land Development Agency and have, in effect, characterised it as a land privatisation agency. The agency will have sweeping powers outside of direct Government control and will have an unmistakably commercial remit akin to that of speculative developers, according to one expert, with building work outsourced. This approach is described by some as very high risk and coming at a premium price. The agency, I understand, is to be outside the remit of the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act and will provide only 10% social housing. Will the Government legislate to ensure that the agency does not sell off public land? Will the Government ensure that the agency is subject to FOI?

I thank the Deputy for his question. It is true that there is a lot of speculation about the land development agency and what it is going to do. It will be the State developer. It will bring forward public land for the development of social and affordable housing. On the first four sites that will get planning permission, approximately 1,200 homes will be delivered, 800 of which will be social and affordable, which is well above the 40% minimum that we have stipulated for social and affordable housing. The legislation will be published in a matter of weeks and will come before the House thereafter. It is priority legislation, and once introduced, we will be able to debate exactly what the agency will look like.

Will it be subject to FOI?

I want to have it established in the first part of next year so that we can then capitalise it and get all of the sites that it has under its remit into development.

We will get to it in the legislation.

Four months ago Spinraza was approved for 25 children with spinal muscular atrophy, SMA, in this State following a very protracted campaign by parents and a number of Deputies in this House. However, the children have not yet been given access to Spinraza. Patients and their parents have contacted Deputies in this House. They are very frustrated with the whole process. Spinraza has been approved for these 25 children, but with winter approaching, they still do not have access to it. When will they be given access to Spinraza?

I support my colleague on the issue of Spinraza. This matter was raised in the House on previous occasions. A commitment was given on 11 June, but four months on, patients still do not have access to this drug. I am concerned that the affected children are the victims of cuts within the Department of Health. Funding should have been made available in June. The wait has been incredibly long and frustrating. Most of the patients expected to be in treatment by July, not October or November.

I am very familiar with the campaign waged by the Deputies opposite and acknowledge their efforts to have this drug made available. This is the first time I have been made aware of a delay. I will find out this afternoon what has happened and will revert to both Deputies with the reason for the delay.

People in rural Ireland, particularly the farming community, are very concerned about the date for the end of slurry spreading by farmers and contractors. It is impossible to do it within the time allowed. We have had a reasonably good summer in my part of the country, but in the west and in other areas, it has not been good. There has been an enormous amount of rainfall in recent weeks.

It is impossible to spread within the time allowed. To do so would be wasteful, damaging and threatening to the environment. Farmers will not do it now anyway. It would be of no benefit as it would run off. I tabled a parliamentary question on this issue and was told that the date will not be extended. The closing date is ridiculous. It should never have been agreed by the then Minister, former Deputy Dick Roche, and the IFA many years ago. It is not workable. Surely, it should be based on the climatic conditions. That is what farmers and contractors want. I ask the Minister, please, to extend the date.

According to Met Éireann, as a result of the amount of rainfall since August, the ground is saturated. Farmers do not want to spread slurry at the moment, because when the ground is saturated, there is a risk of it running into rivers. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine this morning stated there will be no extension. The Minister should be clear that there is slurry in sheds at the moment. Farmers will not leave cattle in them. They will not spread in the wrong conditions. It would be prudent of the Department to give an extension in the coming weeks because if it does not, farmers will spread when conditions are right whether the Department likes it or not. We need to work with farmers.

I ask Deputies to keep their contributions brief because the point is understood.

It is a fact that it has been raining in County Kerry for at least seven weeks. Cattle have been housed for several weeks. Farmers in the North of Ireland, the other side of the ditch, may spread slurry when the weather is right. The land is drenched at the moment. Farmers want to be allowed to spread slurry legally such that they do not lose their single farm payments.

All Deputies will agree that the earlier in the year slurry is spread, the more value there is in terms of its nitrogen value and for farmers. As has been pointed out, according to Met Éireann, August was one of the wettest months for six or seven years. Farmers who planned to spread slurry then were unable to do so due to the wet conditions. Although it makes sense to spread earlier in the year, one must also take ground conditions into account. In particular, the Minister must do so and offer flexibility to farmers over the coming weeks to ensure the slurry is spread in better conditions than are currently being experienced.

Calendar farming does not work. Under the greening rules, tillage farmers with more than 10 acres of tillage must grow two crops, while farmers with 30 acres or more must grow three tillage crops. To meet these requirements, most tillage farmers need to grow a winter crop. However, due to the wet weather since early August, it has been almost impossible for farmers to sow winter cereal crops. It will shortly be too late to sow these crops, which will make it difficult for farmers to meet the greening rules. The closing date for spreading slurry has passed, but due to ground conditions caused by wet weather, some slurry remains to be spread. Will the Government consider setting aside the two-crop and three-crop rules for 2019-20 due to the weather conditions and will it allow farmers to spread slurry until the end of October?

A similar situation to that described by the Deputies pertains in the north west, including in Sligo, Leitrim, north Roscommon and south Donegal. Farmers cannot even walk on the land due to the amount of rain over the past two months in particular. There will be an animal welfare issue if the Minister does not extend the date and give farmers an opportunity to get slurry out of sheds.

This issue tends to arise annually. The date was previously extended when there were exceptional conditions. It remains the case that if a slurry tank is filled, the farmer may seek leave to empty it, and it will be decided on case by case. However, the Deputies indicated that farmers would not spread slurry today or tomorrow because the ground is saturated.

The farmers want to spread it when the weather is dry.

Is there a helpline?

There is and always has been a helpline. Applications may be made on a case-by-case basis. The situation is kept under constant review.

With regard to Deputy Collins's point on the two-crop and three-crop rules, they are part of the Common Agricultural Policy greening rules. I am unsure whether derogations can be obtained, but those affected should give that consideration.

Has the Cabinet signed off on the marine spatial planning framework that was due to go before it? It is a critical planning framework that we need to develop offshore renewable energy, protect biodiversity and ensure our coastal arrangements will protect against the ever-increasing threat of extreme weather due to climate change.

Could the Government indicate the position regarding the publication of the marine spatial planning framework?

There are two pieces are coming, one of which relates to marine spatial planning. The latter should come to Cabinet and it will be published very shortly, before a consultation period-----

Has it come to Cabinet?

It has come to Cabinet and it will be published very shortly in advance of a consultation period of a number of weeks. The second piece - the planning and development Bill for the marine - has almost been finalised to come to Cabinet. We hope to get that in the next four weeks.

According to the ESRI's analysis of last week's budget, it was regressive and will have the greatest impact on those people who are on the lowest incomes. I have two questions. Was the budget poverty-proofed? When are we likely to see the new national anti-poverty strategy, which is now two years overdue?

I can deal with the poverty-proofing of the budget. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform looked at the impact of the budget on different income groups. Our analysis was that the budget would not have a regressive impact on the vast majority of people. The ESRI's analysis, to which the Deputy referred, did not take account of service improvements.

On which page of the Budget Statement is that outlined?

For example, it did not take account of the changes in the national childcare scheme. It focused on matters from a purely income distribution point of view. It did not look at any service improvements that the budget is looking to deliver.

Where is the Minister's analysis available?

What page is it on?

Is he keeping it secret?

The Deputy is entitled to ask one question on one matter. If she wishes to table a Topical Issue matter, we will consider it.

Perhaps the Minister will tell us where we can find the analysis about which he is speaking. We could not find it in his budget documentation.

I am happy to make that information available.

I welcomed the 1 million extra home support hours which were announced last week as part of budget 2020. As we all know, over 7,000 older people are waiting for home care supports. Some of them are in acute hospitals and cannot get a reasonable timeline for transfer of care. The 1 million hours that have been promised equate to approximately three hours for each of these 7,000 people. When will these 1 million hours come on stream? At what stage will the older and vulnerable people who need these supports know that these extra hours will be there for them?

I thank Deputy Butler for her continued interest in and support for this matter. I can confirm that the 1 million additional home help hours, which will bring next year's allocation to 19.2 million, will be available from 1 January. These home help hours will support people to continue living in their own homes. I have already indicated that some of these hours will be used to test the statutory home care scheme, which I have mentioned previously. We intend to run a pilot of that scheme next year, starting in January 2020. I will give the Deputy further details on that as they come to hand. They will be available from 1 January.

It is acknowledged on page 38 of the programme for Government that this country's "national infrastructure compares poorly with the most advanced European countries". The programme contains a commitment to "increase capital investment in transport". The northern commuter line is operating at capacity. In the absence of a legal entitlement to family-friendly or variable working hours, it is no use telling people they can vary the times at which they travel to work. Large housing developments are planned in Lusk, Rush and Balbriggan. Will anything be done in the short term to increase capacity on the northern line? At present, it is full to capacity at peak times. I received reports this morning of people becoming unwell due to overcrowding on the trains. Additional carriages are needed in the short term. I accept that there is a plan, but that will not happen until 2027. We need additional capacity on the northern line in the short term.

It is absolutely the case that this country's infrastructure is not as good as it should be. We are a young country with an expanding population. We have only been wealthy for the past 20 or 30 years. We are well behind other European countries in terms of developing our public transport and railway systems. The metro systems in Paris and London were built over 100 years ago. We are only going to start building our metro system in the next couple of years. As a consequence of the financial crisis, there was underinvestment for several years of this decade. Things are now really kicking off in terms of transport investment.

As the Deputy is aware, earlier today the Government signed off on the new road to connect Westport and Castlebar. Over €200 million is being invested in a major road project in the west of Ireland.

That is not much use to people in Balbriggan.

The Luas expansion on the green line in Dublin is now well under way. The first of the extended carriages are arriving which will allow for a 30% increase in capacity on the green line. On the northern and western Maynooth lines, with which I am familiar, two projects are under way. The first is the ordering of hybrid carriages that will allow us to electrify the network. Unfortunately, however, these will take in the region of four years to arrive. The national train control centre project is now under way. Approximately €100 million is being invested in the latter and this will allow more slots and, therefore, more capacity on the northern and Maynooth lines. Unfortunately, in the meantime only investment in buses will make a difference. It will be a couple of years before rail services can be improved.

Tipperary County Council has requested that the Department of the Housing, Planning and Local Government fund a pedestrian crossing in the village of Ardfinnan. It is essential for the safety of pedestrians and schoolchildren in the village who attend school nearby, as well as the economic activity of the area because it is the only crossing on the River Suir in the immediate area. Will the Department give positive consideration to this request?

I thank the Deputy for the question. I am not aware of the project to which he refers. The request may, depending on the size of the capital budget required, have gone to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I will ask the relevant officials and come back to the Deputy directly.

The mental health commission found that eight children were admitted to the Waterford adult mental health service in 2018. Incredibly, it found that the compliance record for the service was 57% compared to 68% for 2017. A report found that not all staff involved in the care of children had training in Children First, age appropriate facilities and a programme of activities were not available and child residents did not have access to age appropriate advocacy services. It went on to state that the admission of children policy did not address the procedures in regard to family liaison. Other issues included parental consent, confidentiality and the requirement for each child to be individually risk assessed. It found that residents’ general health needs were not monitored and assessed in line with their specific needs, that physical examinations were inadequate, that residents did not have access to a supply of appropriate emergency personal clothing and, to add insult to injury, the centre was not clean, hygienic and free from offensive odours. What in God’s name is happening? How can children and adults with mental health difficulties be treated in that fashion?

I am aware of the report to which the Deputy refers, and I want to acknowledge the good work the mental health commission continues to do to ensure standards continue to improve across the range of healthcare facilities that look after some of our most vulnerable adults and young people. There is no excuse for many of the issues highlighted in the report, which the Deputy listed. It is down to management. In this instance, management has a job to do and a function to deliver. People deserve to have clean facilities and proper care plans in place.

Children are being admitted to adult services.

We cannot have a discussion.

On the issue of children being admitted to adult facilities, in 2008 three out of every four children admitted to mental health units went into adult units. Thankfully, the situation has reversed and now about one in every four children are admitted to adult services, while three out of every four are admitted to age appropriate services. Last year, the figure was 84. To date this year, it is 37. We are making significant improvements, but a number of children are still being admitted to adult services.

Mar Theachta Dála don dáilcheantar Corchaí Thiar Theas, iarraim ar an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an scéal maidir le Gaelscoil Chionn tSáile a leagan amach. A permanent structure was approved in 2015 and to date nothing has happened bar a site investigation. There was supposed to be a commencement debate in 2018. It is now nearly 2020 and nothing is happening. Students are being taught in prefabs and in this day and age this is not good enough. Ba mhaith liom dáta a fháil.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta. Labhróidh mé le mo chuid oifigigh mar gheall ar an togra atá luaite aici. Beidh mé i dteagmháil léi. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall sonraí soiléire a fháil i dtaobh an togra. Gheobhaidh mé amach an scéal maidir leis an scoil tábhachtach seo agus na míbhuntáistí atá i gceist.

We know that fast-track planning is not delivering what it was intended to deliver, namely, houses for people. We know the strategic housing development, SHD, process is being used by speculators to avoid local area plans and county development plans and to lodge massive density applications with no amenities for local people. It is leading to a splurge of high-density, co-living, student and build-to-rent applications, particularly in the Citywest, Tallaght and Knocklyon areas of my constituency.

I understand that a review of the operation of the SHD scheme, the fast-track planning scheme, has been undertaken and is due to be published at the end of this month. In that context, could the Taoiseach commit to a speedy debate in this House when that report is laid before it?

The review has been concluded and it is now up to me to publish that report and recommendations flowing from it in terms of what I intend to do to improve and reform the fast-track process. As part of that, I am sure there will be time to debate the matter either in the House directly or in committee.

A total of 12 Deputies were not reached and will be given priority tomorrow.