Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 23 Jul 2020

Vol. 995 No. 5

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Harbours and Piers

I thank the Minister for attending today. I want to speak about an urgent, developing situation at Keelbeg Pier in Union Hall in my constituency. Union Hall is a picturesque, beautiful village between Skibbereen and Clonakilty. Keelbeg Pier is the local pier in Union Hall. It would help if I described the pier because I do not expect that the Minister would have been there before, but hopefully he may visit in the future.

On the issue with the pier, Cork County Council is the foremost authority there and is, essentially, shoehorning the installation of a barrier that gives access onto the pier. This barrier will prove disastrous for residents and for most of the pier users in Union Hall.

I shall describe the pier. It is a fantastic facility. It mainly facilitates the fishing community in Union Hall and it is a very important aspect of the activity happening in Union Hall. There is a very vibrant fishing community there. The pier also facilitates many leisure users. The local rowing club uses the slipway, which is also used by the RNLI and other users. There is a beach too. The pier is a fantastic facility. To the west end of the pier is the slipway and to the east end of the pier is the access to the beach used by local residents and by holidaymakers to Union Hall. It is a very popular holiday destination. I hope this gives an outline of how the pier works and the very important facility and amenity it is.

Here is the problem, however. With the installation of the barrier, the people most impacted will be the residents. Adjacent to the pier is a public road. Fronting on to that public road is a row of residential houses. The big issue is that the front doors of these residential houses come straight onto the road. There is not even a footpath between the front doors of the houses and the road. Essentially, these people must cross a road to use a footpath. By installing the barrier on Union Hall pier the local authority will be creating a funnel effect whereby traffic that wishes to access the local beach, which is very popular, will be funnelled one way. Currently the beach users or pier users can use both accesses, which is a one-way system. They can also use parking on the pier and this is a very important issue to remember. If installed, this barrier will create an absolute logjam. This is a cul-de-sac where people will be making efforts to turn. It will create mayhem.

There is huge political opposition to the installation of this barrier. The residents are very concerned. Cork County Council, the local authority, says the barrier installation is required from a health and safety point of view. Council staff did visit the pier and they have come up with an alternative solution that suits all, including residents, leisure users and so on. I ask the Minister to trust me that if this barrier is installed it will create an even bigger health and safety nightmare. I am asking for the Minister to reach out to the local authority. I am aware that it is the local authority's remit but the funding for this barrier is under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Minister's Department. I ask that the Minister would reach out to the local authority to ask them at least to pause the installation of the barrier until residents and all stakeholders have been liaised with.

I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for raising this matter and for his contact over the past days. As the Deputy has said, the pier in Union Hall is owned by Cork County Council and responsibility for its operation, maintenance and development lies with Cork County Council and its parent Department, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I have, therefore, no direct remit in this regard.

As part of our annual fishery, harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme my Department provides limited funding to assist coastal local authorities in carrying out small-scale projects for the development and repair of piers, harbours and slipways in their ownership. Funding of €3.1 million was approved for the local authority element of my Department's 2020 fishery, harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme. Cork County Council secured €394,500 for 13 projects under this year's programme. As Deputy O'Sullivan said, one of those projects under the programme was safety improvement works at Union Hall pier. One of the safety measures proposed by Cork County Council involved the installation of a physical barrier at the pier. The council has said the barrier is required to highlight to the public they are entering a working pier and in the council's view there is currently no means of controlling access to the working pier in times of emergencies or during high risk conditions. The application complied with the terms and conditions of my Department's local authority scheme and it was deemed eligible for funding. Any queries in relation to the barrier are a matter for Cork County Council. I do know, however, from the Deputy's contact, that alternative proposals have been laid and I will certainly inquire from Cork County Council as to why it is not possible to proceed with those alternatives. I will revert to the Deputy.

I am asking the Minister for a bit of compromise and a bit of consultation. I appreciate that it is a Cork County Council pier, but as I stated, it is the Minister's Department's funding. I ask that at the very least the Minister would reach out to the council chief executive or to the western division manager, whoever it may be, to pause the works until consultation happens and we get some compromise. There are some very good viable alternatives that would separate the commercial aspect of the pier, which we understand needs to happen, and would also allow for use of the leisure aspect, most importantly the slipway. The residents who are most impacted are the important factor. I am not sure how much time I have left to speak as the clock is not there. Have I got one minute left?

While I am on the subject of piers I will take the opportunity to raise the issue of Dinish pier, which is also in my constituency in Castletownbere. The Minister will be very familiar with it given that fishing is in the Minister's remit. A €20 million extension is under way at the Dinish wharf to allow for larger hauls of fish and so on. It will be a significant improvement but there are fears about the works, including that they may have been paused and that the contractor has not been seen on the site in a while, from what information I have. Will the Minister clarify that? There are smaller contractors there who are concerned that the works have been stopped. They are worried about the future and whether they will have a position when that pier is extended. The most urgent question is whether the extension will proceed.

On Union Hall pier, my Department has no specific remit on the matter but we will reach out to Cork County Council given the case the Deputy has made to me over a number of days to ascertain the viability of those alternatives.

With regard to Dinish pier, my Department is engaging with the company and much discussion is under way. I am anxious to see the project proceed. I will take the Deputy up on his invitation to visit that part of the country as early as I can to see the facilities for myself and to meet the various operators. I met with the various fish processors and fishermen's organisations yesterday. Marine is very much part of my brief and I look forward to engaging with the Deputy's community about marine issues.

The Minister might call at Tipperary when he is passing through.

There are no marine piers in Tipperary.

Primary Care Centres

I raise the urgent need for a primary care centre for Finglas. As the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, may be aware, there has been a promise for a number of years to put in place a primary care centre for Finglas, which is also a top priority for the HSE. Some years ago, a previous application for a site for the centre failed. The location that has now been chosen and agreed is on a site of the former Church of the Annunciation in Finglas west. I have real concerns, and many in the community I represent share them, that the overspend on the children's hospital along with the challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic will have an impact on the building of the new primary care centre and that the primary care centre long promised for the people of Finglas and its surrounds may be subject to delays or funding issues. There is more need than ever for a primary care centre in Finglas because of the current lack of medical facilities serving north Finglas and west Finglas.

Finglas is an area neglected for many years and badly served when it comes to health service provision.

The primary care centres in Ballymun, Cabra and Corduff have proved to be a great asset to the communities in these areas. They have provided their communities with wonderful medical facilities on their doorstep which are non-existent in the areas of Finglas I mentioned. The population of Finglas is increasing and it has a higher percentage of older people than the national average, making the provision of a primary care centre all the more important. It beggars belief that there has not been a single GP in north or west Finglas for more than 20 years. It is, therefore, no surprise that Finglas has been identified as an area of high priority and that has a considerable need for the benefits brought by a primary care centre.

In addition, a primary care centre in Finglas will take the pressure off local hospitals, such as St. James’s Hospital, Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and the Mater hospital, in dealing with minor injuries and in the provision of social care services, including mental health services. Other primary care centres, such as the one in Ballymun, have developed invaluable links with local acute hospitals, making it easier for GPs to care for patients at weekends and in the evenings. I envisage the primary care centre in Finglas developing similar links and having similar tangible benefits for the provision of medical services and to the community.

However, the communities in Finglas need to be reassured that this project will go ahead and will not face delays. They also need to be reassured that whatever funding is required for the completion of the primary care centre will be made available. Will the Minister of State give me and the community a commitment that this will proceed and that there will be no obstacles to this commitment which was made many years ago? The people of Finglas need this primary care centre. Other primary care centres were built even though our application went in well in advance of any of them.

On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, I thank Deputy Ellis for raising the important issue of the provision of a primary care centre in Finglas.

The development of primary care is central to the Government’s objective to deliver a high quality, integrated and cost-effective healthcare system. This involves a move away from the older hospital-centred model to focus on the delivery of care in the community and at home.

Finglas has been identified as a high priority location for the development of a primary care centre. Approval for a HSE direct-build primary care centre was given in 2012 in the context of the HSE’s multi-annual capital plan. Following the review of several sites in the area, the HSE identified a Dublin City Council-owned property on Mellowes Road, Finglas, as the preferred site for the construction of the proposed new Finglas primary care centre. Subject to planning permission, the commercial terms for its sale were agreed with the officials of Dublin City Council and approved by the HSE.

As the Deputy will be aware, the award of planning permission by Dublin City Council was appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Its inspector also recommended the granting of planning permission, upholding the Dublin City Council decision, but in February 2015 An Bord Pleanála took the unexpected decision not to grant planning permission for the Finglas primary care centre due to the loss of informal open space.

Following refusal by An Bord Pleanála, HSE estates, in conjunction with local primary care services teams, reviewed several alternative sites for a new primary care centre in Finglas. An alternative site was identified and discussions with Dublin City Council on purchasing the site were initiated.

In recent months, the HSE has been tasked with the delivery of additional capacity - infrastructure and equipment - nationwide in the effort to contain and prevent the spread of Covid-19. Discussions with Dublin City Council on the proposed primary care centre were delayed due to this work.

However, these discussions have been recently reconvened in an effort to conclude the site purchase from Dublin City Council on terms agreeable to both parties. Feasibility studies on the site are still progressing. The HSE will be tendering for the services of a design team to progress the proposed project to completion in the near future, subject to an agreeable conclusion to the site's purchase. Finglas south and west remain a priority for the Department and the HSE. It is one of the communities most in need of access to primary care services.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I am disappointed, however, that we have not been given any timescale. The site has been identified and a deal has been on the table with Dublin City Council, which bought the land from the church. It is ready to go. I was concerned Covid was one of the reasons for the delay. However, we need to advance this. There is no point in continuing the way we are. People in the community have mental health issues, small injuries and need to access a dentist but we have not even had a GP service in that area for the past 20 years. It is a shame that with the large population of this community we have not even got that service.

Obviously, the site is subject to planning. I am hopeful it will prove to be a prime site for a primary care centre. There are many plans for the site including a senior citizens centre, a new church, a Tusla office along with other community facilities. We need definite dates now, however. It is a greenfield site and can be built on without delay. We really need to push this forward. It has been too long in the pipeline and is badly needed by the people. North Finglas has one of the largest populations of older people. We need health facilities for the elderly such as physios, as well as facilities for young people. I am asking that this project be pushed ahead as quickly as possible and pressure put on the HSE to do so.

I thank Deputy Ellis for raising this issue. As he knows, the development of a primary care centre is a key building block in enabling the vision of Sláintecare and is required to meet growing demands for health and social care services. The Deputy said the centre in question is subject to planning permission and there are many hurdles to be got over yet.

The construction programme for primary care centres will continue through the National Development Plan 2018-2027. The HSE had been successful in developing a network of primary care centres across the country. I have seen at first-hand how important and successful they are. There are now 132 primary care centres operational across the country.

Work will now refocus on this programme following the HSE's work in response to Covid-19. After Covid-19, issues regarding mental health are arising. Now more than ever, it is important we get these primary care centres up and running as a priority. In line with national requirements of appraisal, design, planning, tender and construction, this programme will continue into the future, including the development of a primary care centre in Finglas.

Road Improvement Schemes

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me the opportunity to raise this important issue which relates to traffic management in north Kildare, in particular in the towns of Naas, Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip. The populations of these towns have grown tremendously over the past several years and are still growing. In all the towns concerned, there are large industrial estates which generate a significant amount of traffic. The net result of all of this is that it is necessary to plan ahead.

The previous Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, initiated the plan for Maynooth, which has been advanced considerably and is ready to go to contract. It is important that progress should not only continue apace, it should accelerate in order that the circle be completed. The ring road must be completed in order to siphon the traffic off onto the bypass and leave more space for people to walk, cycle and, where necessary, drive within the circle.

There is a problem in the Celbridge case. The local authority has already tabled and put on display proposals. A video simulation of the proposed plans was also shown. I do not agree with them and they need to be examined as a matter of urgency. During the course of the video, the simulation showed a truck crossing over a car, which was not a great advertisement for the proposal. This issue needs to be looked at in a different light with a view to a different proposal, which is readily available and for which there is space. There would be a road and bridge realignment, an extra bridge would be required and an upstream bridge would be required. Let the traffic from the town centre move out without being impeded, thereby siphoning off the through traffic.

Regarding Naas, one part of the ring road to the north and west has been provided successfully. The remaining section is needed. The local authority made a proposal in that regard in the past 12 months, but it was not agreed by the council members, leaving a considerable amount of confusion and dissatisfaction among some residents. Obviously, they will be the ones affected. The inner relief road was to be provided first, but local people feel that the outer relief road is required first. I am of the view that whatever is the right thing to do should be done and that the outer relief road is the right proposal and should be proceeded with. This situation should be examined as a matter of urgency by the relevant Department with a view to ensuring that whatever is done will be in the best interests of the people who live and work there and who will be affected by these traffic volumes.

It is a tribute to all of the towns concerned, the public representatives and the local authorities that the towns have progressed so well that they have become victims of their own success. Long may that continue, but it means that we must design plans so that the current generation can enjoy amenities that are rightly available in many other places and are especially needed in these towns.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I wish to explain that, once funding arrangements have been put in place through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Overall, TII is responsible for the delivery of the national roads programme in accordance with Project Ireland 2040 and the national development plan, NDP. In that context, TII provides the Department with regular updates on its delivery of the national roads programme.

Within the timeframe given in the lead up to this debate, the following is the most up-to-date information available to me. Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the NDP was developed to underpin the successful implementation of the national planning framework, which provides the strategic and financial framework for the national roads programme for the period 2018 to 2027. The focus of TII's activities in the coming years is accordingly being directed towards the development of the major national road improvement schemes included in the NDP along with the maintenance of the existing national road network.

While it is not clear what specific road project the Deputy is referring to - I will refer to Celbridge at the end - the inner and outer relief roads for Maynooth, Leixlip and Naas in County Kildare are not included among those projects that have been identified for development in the area during the period of the NDP. The M4 and M7 roads already bypass the Maynooth, Leixlip and Naas urban areas. It should be noted that, consistent with the programme for Government, a review of the NDP is proposed, taking account of the Government's priorities set out in the programme. I also wish to take this opportunity to highlight that all projects, including those listed in the NDP or any proposed revision to the plan, require statutory approval and compliance with the public spending code.

I will highlight the following projects that are being progressed and completed for the Kildare region. I understand from TII that work is under way on the M4 Maynooth to Leixlip transportation corridor. Technical advisers were appointed in December 2019 and are working on early stage appraisal and option considerations for the scheme. In parallel, Kildare County Council is progressing a feasibility study on the possibility of advancing a bus corridor on this section of the national route, which will be considered as part of the overall solution. I understand from TII that €1 million has been allocated to the Kildare national roads office, which is working on behalf of Kildare and South Dublin county councils, to progress and complete this study.

Once funding has been assigned to TII, individual payments to local authorities are a matter for TII. It may be contacted directly for further details on this matter. In addition, a brief was developed by Kildare County Council to examine the feasibility of short-term bus priority measures on this route. I understand that there is ongoing co-ordination with the National Transport Authority, NTA, on the public transportation initiatives associated with the delivery of this project.

The M7 Naas-Newbridge bypass upgrade scheme is substantially complete. It involves the widening of the M7 motorway from a two-lane into a three-lane carriageway in each direction. It also includes the removal of the existing on-off access ramps at junction 10 at Naas south and the construction of a new interchange immediately south of the existing junction 10. Some final finishing works and snagging of defects arising from the road safety audit are ongoing. The road was opened to traffic in August 2019.

Regarding Celbridge, my understanding is that there is no national road planned there and that it is probably a local or regional roads issue. I will revert to my officials and provide the Deputy with an update on the matter. I will work with him on it.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. In the Maynooth case, funding came from the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. In the other cases, an overall traffic assessment needs to be done again to ensure that the necessity that was identified some years ago is addressed in the shortest possible time. The traffic in Celbridge in particular is serious. It is because there are not enough ingress and egress points in the town. Even if there were no through traffic, roads relief would be needed in any event.

The case of Naas is simple. Work is already in hand. The same situation applies in most towns in north Kildare, including Kilcock and so forth. For example, work is already in hand on the Sallins bypass. These towns are in the pressure area in terms of industrial development and housing. There are more than 20,000 people in each of the main towns. Maynooth is a growing university town and, with the number of students included, its population is heading towards 17,000.

The situation requires an update and an assurance that the proposals are progressed as soon as possible and corrected where necessary. It is important that we try to ensure that this vital infrastructure is put in place at the earliest possible date as opposed to waiting until half a generation has passed, which used to be the situation previously. I am not suggesting that it is currently, but it is necessary that we keep a watchful eye on progress to ensure that it is done and this issue is taken up as a matter of urgency.

I will explain how national roads projects are identified for development. The NDP identifies two categories of national road improvements. The first includes projects to advance to construction, subject to satisfactory outcomes of the project appraisal and development consent approval processes. The second includes projects at pre-appraisal and early planning stages that are being assessed with a view to developing a pipeline of suitable projects for development. Specific inner and outer relief roads in Maynooth, Leixlip and Naas are not currently within the scope of the NDP.

I would also like to explain the approvals requirement associated with national roads projects generally. In line with the requirement of the public spending code and the Department's capital appraisal framework for transport projects and programmes and also planning approvals, two sets of approvals are required in regard to any proposed schemes: approval of the business case and cost-benefit analysis for the project and approval by An Bord Pleanála of an application for development consent. The necessity to meet the requirements of the public spending code and planning consent from An Bord Pleanála, along with an adequate capital budget, are critical to delivering any national road project. All projects under the national development plan or any proposed projects outside of the scope of the national development plan will require all of the approvals that I have outlined. This will also include Government approval in cases where projects are estimated to be above €100 million. The M4 Maynooth to Leixlip transportation corridor is at a very early stage of development and it is not, therefore, possible at this time to indicate the timeframe for the construction of the project, if it is deemed feasible to proceed. However, as I have just outlined, any timeframe is dependent on obtaining the necessary consents at various critical stages, including at the route selection, detailed design and tender stages. Typically, schemes of this size can take of the order of eight to 13 years to advance from the initial proposal to completion of construction.

Football Association of Ireland

Last week, I raised several issues regarding State borrowing by the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, in circumstances where there are governance questions to be answered. Since then, I have done as the independent chairman of the FAI asked in his late night statement of last week, and checked my facts and find not only that I must stand over my comments but that other serious governance issues and questions arise.

On the question of the independent chairman's authority to sign the memorandum of understanding, MOU, my understanding is that the first the board saw of the MOU was a draft sent on the morning it was signed. Despite emails from directors expressing concerns about its terms no board meeting was held to consider or approve the MOU before the independent chairman went ahead and signed it that afternoon. At a later date, despite the expressed reservations of a number of the board members the board approved the document. They had little choice but to do so as it had already been signed.

The second question I raised is the assertion by the independent chairman of the FAI that the required "expressed sanction" under Article 3.8 of the FAI constitution was given by the council for the State borrowings by the FAI. My question is how can the chairman make this claim when, as I understand it, his own board has not received let alone approved any terms and conditions or other legal agreement from the State for these loans. Bizarrely, my understanding is that board members are unaware of any legally binding loan agreement with the State, even now, for the FAI borrowings. The MOU expressly stated that it is not a legally binding document. It seems the State has lent and the FAI has borrowed significant funds already on the strength of no legally binding contract. Perhaps the independent chairman has signed a legally binding loan agreement with the State and intends to seek his board's approval at a later date, as he did with the MOU. If he did, I am sure they will be hearing from him. I am led to understand that the board has approved no legal contract, as required by the MOU. How can the independent chairman claim express sanction from the FAI council for a legally binding State loan agreement that either does not exist or, if it does, has not been shown or explained to or approved by his own board, let alone the council members? He points to a resolution of the council which was approved by council on 16 March last by email as evidence of authority to borrow these State funds on behalf of the association. There was no reference whatsoever in the formal notice of, agenda for or resolution in which he refers the meeting to State borrowings. They all refer exclusively to the Bank of Ireland borrowings.

The day before the meeting, due to the Covid crisis, council members were asked to consent to the vote happening by email. The formal request from the interim chief executive office, CEO, of the FAI to council members sets out, with complete clarity, what the council was being asked to vote on. It was sent to all council members and copied to the independent chairman and each board member. In it, the interim CEO says:

Tomorrow's meeting has been called solely to approve the re-financing proposals with Bank of Ireland. There are no other items on the agenda for the council meeting.

It also says: "In order to proceed on that basis, we require a majority of you to consent to approving the re-financing proposal with Bank of Ireland via email." The council members then consented to authorising Bank of Ireland refinancing being approved by email. There was no mention of borrowings from the State whatsoever and so no consent to voting on it. The council sanction required is an expressed sanction. According to The Oxford English Dictionary this means formal permission for something that is clearly and intentionally stated. There is no wording in the resolution passed which gives any sanction for the State borrowings. Not only is there no amount, no repayment date, no interest rate and no other terms outlined, there is no reference at all to borrowings from the State. How could there be if the FAI board has not approved them? The independent chairman claims to have a resolution, as if by magic, formal permission for something that is clearly and intentionally stated. The independent chairman's proposition is clearly a ridiculous one. The email vote was sanctioned only on the basis that it was for the Bank of Ireland refinancing, nothing more.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Further to the comprehensive statement provided by the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, last Thursday on the memorandum of understanding with the FAI, I am pleased to provide additional information in response to the Deputy's query.

At its meeting on 30 January the Government authorised the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, to enter an agreement with the FAI to provide additional funding support to the association to address its grave financial crisis. This additional funding would be conditional on the FAI implementing reforms to its corporate governance and financial controls on an agreed timeframe. The MOU signed on 30 January by the then Minister, Shane Ross, and the chairperson of the FAI, Mr. Roy Barrett, enables Sport Ireland to restore funding to the FAI of €2.9 million per annum and to provide additional annual funding of €2.9 million for football development up to 2023. It also provides for a repayable grant of just over €7.6 million to the FAI to pay its licence fee for the Aviva Stadium up to 2022.

The MOU sets out broadly the terms upon which funding support can be provided and is to be underpinned by a series of relevant documents which will set out in detail the terms under which funding will be provided. It was agreed that in line with the established grant for sporting bodies, Sport Ireland would oversee the disbursement of funding to the FAI and would enter relevant legal agreements with the association in this regard. In April, a memorandum of agreement was entered into between Sport Ireland, the FAI and New Stadium DAC, the company which operates the Aviva Stadium, for the disbursement of the FAI's licence fee to New Stadium DAC. The agreement outlines that a recoupable grant will be paid in instalments totalling €2,544,600 annually by Sport Ireland directly to New Stadium DAC on behalf of the FAI in each of the years 2020 to 2022. This grant will be recoupable from the FAI from 2024.

Sport Ireland is awaiting confirmation of the implementation of various reforms by the FAI before putting an agreement in place in relation to the remaining funding approved by the Government. At its most recent meeting on Friday, 17 July, the board of Sport Ireland considered the immediate steps necessary towards restoration of funding to the FAI. The board recognised and endorsed recent progress made by the FAI to improve its governance and internal control environment. The board also agreed that the relevant rule and constitutional changes committed to by the FAI are required to be implemented in line with the MOU prior to grant funding being paid.

As the Minister, Deputy Ryan, informed the House last week, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Catherine Martin, and the then Minister of State with responsibility for sport, Deputy Calleary, confirmed to the FAI on 9 July that the Government would not reopen for discussion any part of the MOU agreed by the previous Government.

I do not wish to cast aspersions on the good name of the independent chairman of the FAI or anyone else but I am bound by my duties to the taxpayer. These are serious issues. Significant State funds are at stake and clearly the independent chairman of the FAI has significant questions to answer and so too does Sport Ireland.

The essence of the independent chairman's role is ensuring that decisions are made in a proper, open and effective way and in accordance with due process and good governance to the exercise of independence. However, the prior association of the independent chairman of the FAI to the interim executive team makes that impossible. A person cannot pretend to be independent. One is either independent or one is not. Further, the independent chairman has made no secret of his desire for the interim CEO to be put forward for a permanent role. How does that affect his independence when he is interviewing other candidates for the role as a member of the nominations committee?

I respectfully suggest to the independent chairman that he is best advised to do two things: he should recheck his facts and, having done so, he should resign. The Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, has confirmed to me this evening that the State has, through Sport Ireland, lent to the FAI a total of €1,386,480, paid up to date to New Stadium DAC. That has been done without the express authority of the council and without the approval of the board.

Have legal documents been executed in respect of these loans? If so, who signed them, what express sanction was provided by the FAI board and its council to sign such documents and when? These are very serious matters of governance. We were promised a new era in the FAI and, frankly, it is appalling. People are not being told what is going on. As far as I am concerned, the State and Sport Ireland are complicit in an effective coup d'état where people at the top - so-called independents - are dictating what is going on without telling their own board. We have lent money, it seems, to an organisation that did not have the express sanction of its council. That is wrong.

It is inconceivable, in the greatest crisis there has ever been in the history of the world since the 1918 Spanish flu, that the Secretary General of our busiest Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, seems to have spare capacity to go off and pad out his own CV for the exit strategy to the private sector and take up a position on that board. If he was working in the private sector, that would be fine, but the reality is it is a clear conflict of interest. He is not our man on the board; he is on it in a private capacity. A fiduciary-----

I remind the Deputy that, under Standing Orders, he should not name people outside the House.

He has a fiduciary duty to the FAI when he is on that board and, at the same time, he is the one providing the money from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Government should reverse this. In fairness to the former Minister with responsibility, Shane Ross, I did not agree with him much but I agreed with him on blocking that appointment in January.

A nominations committee was formed by the FAI to appoint independent directors to the board of the FAI in line with one of the key recommendations of the governance review group report. Sport Ireland was invited by the FAI to nominate two independent persons to the committee. Its nominees were Olive Loughnane and Peter McLoone. Amrop, a world-leading executive-search firm, was appointed as the search partner to assist with the selection of independent directors. The then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and his Department had no role in the nomination of the committee or the selection of the independent directors.

On 8 January, the FAI announced the appointment of three independent directors to the board. Roy Barrett was appointed as the independent chairperson, Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce as independent directors, while Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was appointed by the FAI as the fourth independent director on its board on Tuesday, 21 July. That appointment was made by the FAI in accordance with the association's rule book, memorandum and articles of association. Neither the Minister who now has responsibility for sport, nor the former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, nor their Departments had any role in the appointment.

The FAI announced on 4 July that its AGM has been moved to September and that an extraordinary general meeting, EGM, will take place in the near future to vote on the required changes to the FAI rule book and constitution as the association pushes on with governance reform. While the FAI has not yet announced a date for the EGM, Sport Ireland understands it is most likely to be held in the second week of August. Sport Ireland has not paid out any funding to the FAI in 2020 and no Sport Ireland funding is scheduled to be paid in advance of the FAI's EGM.