Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Over the past week or so, there has been quite a volume of calls to my office from rural bus operators in County Donegal. They are querying what they see as the overly stringent nature of the qualifying criteria for the coach tourism business continuity scheme operated by Fáilte Ireland. Specifically, they feel aggrieved where, as stated in the guidelines, qualifying vehicles under this scheme must meet all of the following criteria: they must have been actively used by the applicant as of 30 March 2020 primarily for the carriage for reward of tourists by road under contracts for tourism transport; they must have been registered on or after 1 July 2013; the vehicle must have a valid certificate of insurance as at 13 March 2020; and the vehicle must be used primarily for the provision of transport services consisting of carriage for reward of tourists by road under contracts for group transport.

They feel that disqualification on the basis they operate buses that are deemed too old to qualify, or are not primarily used in coach tourism, is highly unfair to small rural operators who take on all types of work in order to survive. As they have outlined to me, they are an integral part of the tourism industry in County Donegal.

Over recent years, my own town of Killybegs, to take one example, has successfully worked to develop the cruise liner business. Our small rural operators have stepped up to the mark to service these tourists coming ashore for day trips within the county and wider north-west region. Without their commitment, this initiative would have died in its infancy as there would not have been the interest or financial incentive to attract large operators to this intermittent work. It was, therefore, the small guys who did and continue to do the heavy lifting.

Many have contracts for group transport and want to highlight that the age of their buses is not a problem with tour operators to whom they are contracted. It is simply that they could not justly describe it as the core work or the primary use of their vehicle.

For most, the tourism industry is unable to provide the level of work that would sustain them or their workers exclusively so, in addition, they provide service to a whole range of community needs such as the school transport scheme, local link, GAA clubs, etc.

These may seem insignificant or irrelevant to those who designed the scheme but they are vital services to our local rural communities. Yet, none of them alone could provide a sustainable income for a small rural operator. I am sure other Deputies in the House will agree with me that this is the same up and down the country.

If I was a cynical person, which I am not - although it is a test at times - I could be tempted to believe that, once again, the Government has purposefully set up a scheme designed to exclude many genuine operators within the tourism sector to drive down demand and, consequentially, the costs of the scheme. I am clear in my mind that the scheme does not recognise the reality of bus and coach operations in rural Ireland.

I also note the €10 million or so allocated to the scheme was far short of what the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland, CTTC, submitted would be required for such a scheme to the Minister. With the closing date fast approaching for the existing scheme, will the Minister give me some information and statistics on the take up of the scheme? Is she considering continuing it or a similar scheme? Will she look at amending it so as not to exclude those like the small rural bus and coach operators in County Donegal who play their part, which is a vital part, in the tourism industry? In summary, I call on the Minister to renew, review and properly fund the scheme.

I am acutely aware of the devastating loss of business experienced by the coach tourism sector and the difficult environment it is working in. The impact of Covid-19 on tourism globally has been overwhelming and immediate with unprecedented consequences for Ireland's tourism and hospitality sector, including coach tourism. I fully appreciate the important role coach tourism plays as a vital component in supporting the wider tourism industry including hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops in all parts of the country.

Many coach tourism operators invested heavily in their fleet in anticipation of high levels of tourism in 2020. The onset of the pandemic wiped out most of their business overnight. In this context, I was pleased to make €10 million available as part of the Government's July stimulus to assist the sector through a business continuity scheme to be administered by Fåilte Ireland. Following consultation with the Coach Tourism Transport Council, the coach tourism business continuity scheme was launched last week.

The key qualifying criteria of the scheme are as follows: the scheme is targeted at coach tourism operators and must satisfy the conditions under the EU's Covid-19 state aid temporary framework; the coach tourism fleet must have been active in tourism as of 13 March 2020 and remain in the applicant's fleet at the date of application; the qualifying vehicles must be primarily used in coach tourism and have been purchased, leased or hired and registered on or after 1 July 2013; the applicant must intend to continue operating in coach tourism through 2021 with this fleet; and applicants must commit to completing and adhering to Fáilte Ireland's Covid-19 safety charter.

The criteria for age restrictions of vehicles is in line with the standards set by the CTTC and tour operators. In the development of the scheme, a number of criteria were considered to define the maximum age of the vehicle. The CTTC set the maximum age of vehicles suitable to operate in coach tourism at seven years. Tour operators stipulate in their contracts for the supply of vehicles that vehicles no older than five years should be used for general leisure clients and reduced to between two and three years for corporate and incentive travel. With that in mind, in the development of the scheme, two extra years were built in to allow for exceptional circumstances which would include very high-volume periods where a five-year-old coach was not available.

Budget 2021 included a number of substantial measures to support and strengthen the tourism sector. The measures introduced in the budget were informed by the tourism recovery plan which was prepared by the tourism recovery task force. The total funding for the tourism sector will increase in 2021 by more than €59 million, or 36%, over the initial 2020 allocation in budget 2020 to €220.9 million.

The funding will comprise of €179.9 million in current expenditure and €41 million in capital investment. Under budget 2021, I am providing €55 million for strategic tourism businesses to help them survive through the pandemic and be there to help drive the recovery. Combined with the Covid resilience support scheme, the VAT reduction and the rates waiver, the Government is helping to sustain the businesses that have been most severely affected by the necessary public health restrictions. In addition, investment in the tourism marketing fund has been maintained to ensure Ireland is in a postilion to recover quickly, when it is safe to do so, for tourists from our key markets.

On the Deputy's question about the take-up of the scheme, it only launched last week. I can get my officials to look into that for the Deputy but it has not yet been open for seven days. I will follow up on it with him.

That is fair enough about the launch of the scheme.

The Minister outlined that she is providing additional money and so on but the reality is that in rural areas, coach operators operate a number of different varieties of transport, including school transport and so on. They supplement their income by doing different things. I know from contacts I have received that the tours they provide for do not stipulate that the coaches have to be less than five years old. They stipulate that they must be mechanically sound, safe, comfortable and things like that but there is not an age limit put on them. We are excluding an awful lot of operators from the operation of the scheme and from getting supports. They need support just like the big tour operators do. I am afraid this scheme has been developed for large tour operators and that what we are actually going to do is to push the small operators aside across the board. That is what I am afraid of, that is, that this crisis could end up as an opportunity for the big operators to consolidate and that the smaller operators will be squeezed out. The Minister needs to look at how the small operators can be supported as well. Perhaps a scheme could be designed particularly for them. If a small operator is using his bus 20% of the time for tourism, maybe there could be a grant for that 20% or something like that. That would recognise that they also have a vital role to play in the tourism sector and in developing it.

As I said, I am very aware of the difficulties being experienced by the coach tourism sector. I am mindful of their almost complete loss of earnings and am also cognisant of the very important role coach tourism plays in the tourism sector. As I said, the scheme opened last week and is being administered by Fáilte Ireland. I will revert to Fáilte Ireland and bring to its attention the concerns the Deputy has raised tonight.

Ambulance Service

I appreciate the time given to me to discuss this matter. I have raised this issue over many years and frankly I am disappointed to have to do so again. I have a number of questions about an ambulance base in Carlow and look forward to a reply to them.

Some years ago, I was told that €350,000 was being allocated under the capital funding for the building of a fit-for-purpose ambulance base. I was recently told in a written reply that only €50,000 was allocated and spent. Where is the rest of the money? Has a health and safety audit been carried out on the ambulance base in Carlow? If not, why not? Before Covid, I visited the site on which the ambulance is based, which is in the grounds of St. Dympna's Hospital in Carlow town. Before these new restrictions I visited there again and discovered to my shock and horror that there is no fire escape, only one shower facility, no training facility, no contaminated workwear bay, no room for social distancing and no storage for equipment. I am not a health and safety officer but I know this cannot be right. Are there plans to ensure moneys allocated to this facility are being spent? Will a health and safety audit be carried out? Will the Department advise as to the timescale of such an audit or capital work to be undertaken?

I am very proud of the Carlow ambulance base staff members. There are wonderful people working tirelessly there, most especially in these difficult times. I have been working on this issue for years. The staff there are really frustrated because they know the small amount of money which was spent is still not enough to call it a fit-for-purpose base. They are operating out of a prefab with one shower. There is one shower and 18 staff. Men and women sharing one shower is very unsuitable. They do not have enough locker space and there is one computer between 18 staff, which is totally inadequate for online training. The store for their equipment is located some distance away, which, in an emergency, could cause a hazard at night if further restocking of vehicles were needed.

These good men and women are exposed daily to myriad health and safety issues and they only seek proper working facilities to keep them safe as they operate on the Covid-19 testing front line. Given the Covid-19 pandemic, our front-line staff should not be working in these conditions. However, even without Covid-19 they deserve better. A clap will not cut it and I implore the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, to give it his immediate attention.

My understanding is that there are some vacant premises beside the existing ambulance prefab at St. Dympna's Hospital. Will these be considered as a suitable premises if a proper base cannot be tendered for in the current climate? The money allocated would surely suffice to bring these premises up to standard. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this and anxiously await the Minister of State's reply.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of the provision of the ambulance base located at the Carlow health services complex at St. Dympna's Hospital in Carlow town. The National Ambulance Service is the statutory pre-hospital emergency and intermediate care provider. It seeks to serve the needs of patients and the public as part of an integrated health system through the provision of high-quality, safe and patient-centred services. Carlow ambulance base is an integral part of the ambulance service and has four emergency ambulances on duty. The base is supported by the National Ambulance Service's resources from surrounding ambulance stations, including Baltinglass, Athy, Kilkenny, Portlaoise and Enniscorthy. Funding the National Ambulance Service is extremely important and in 2020 there was an increase of €3.5 million, or 2.1%, on the 2019. The capital spend on ambulance base facilities is prioritised by the National Ambulance Service to meet the requirements of the bases with the highest needs.

HSE estates confirmed remedial works to the value of approximately €50,000 were carried out at Carlow ambulance base to address works requirements to make the base fit for purpose. The HSE has confirmed to Department officials that the facilities at Carlow ambulance station are fit for purpose. The HSE advises that a safety audit of Carlow ambulance base was carried out on Monday, 19 October. It confirmed the base is kept in good order and that all health and safety requirements are being met. The ambulance officer in the south region advises that the National Ambulance Service operates a comprehensive safety management system across all its premises across the south and continues to work collaboratively with staff, HSE estates and external providers to ensure any concerns or issues that occur are dealt with as quickly as possible. Dynamic deployment of available resources operate on an area and national basis, rather than a county or geographical boundary basis to ensure optimum resource use as the nearest appropriate resource is mobilised to the location of the incident. The priority of dynamic deployment is patient health and welfare in the context of service delivery which means that resources cannot be confined by county boundaries, barriers or borders.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply, although I am confused by some of it. I welcome that a safety audit was carried out on 19 October. Is it the first audit or have they been done regularly? There are 18 excellent staff doing a great job. As we know, even with their extra duties, paramedics are going into houses and testing for Covid, particularly for people who cannot travel or are not able to leave their homes, so we cannot give them enough praise. However, I have been there and although I am not a health and safety officer, I have concerns about whether a prefab is really a proper base for 18 ambulance service paramedics in 2020.

I do not think a prefab is acceptable. My biggest concern, and I have said this to the HSE and to the Minister, is we have a fabulous building in St. Dympna's Hospital, which is beside the prefab. There are vacant rooms in the hospital and if the paramedics could be allowed into the two or three little rooms in St. Dympna's Hospital that are not being used it would be very good for the paramedics and it would be good for everybody.

When people work really hard, particularly in our front-line services, and we all know the work they are doing particularly during these times, it is important that they go back somewhere that is fit for purpose. I have to say I am a little bit taken aback by the reply but I will go back and try to get more information. The only thing I ask tonight is that the Minister of State goes back to the HSE to ask it for a small bit of money to get the paramedics into the small building in St. Dympna's. That would be very good progress.

I thank Deputy Murnane O'Connor for raising the issue of the ambulance base location in Carlow. The ambulance base in Carlow is an integral part of the National Ambulance Service. The capital spend is prioritised by the National Ambulance Service and I have been dealing with this situation over the years. Normally the National Ambulance Service has a say over county boundaries and it has a certain model that works. Works costing €50,000 were carried out at the ambulance base to make it fit for purpose, and I thank Deputy Murnane O'Connor for taking the time to visit it and see for herself the health and safety issues. Although we are not experts sometimes we have a view, and I am delighted to articulate that view to the HSE, the National Ambulance Service and the Minister. With regard to what the Deputy has said about the vacant rooms in St. Dympna's Hospital, it should be investigated as it is a reasonable suggestion. I will certainly bring it back.

As I said, a safety audit was carried out last Monday and I am not in a position to say how many safety audits have been done. It was confirmed that the base is in good order and all health and safety requirements are being met. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue and I will bring it back to the HSE, perhaps to investigate the opening of the vacant rooms in St. Dympna's Hospital as it is a reasonable suggestion.

Health Screening Programmes

I am disappointed the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, is not here to answer these questions. I know he is busy but it is important that the Minister is in the Chamber.

Recently, Patricia Carrick, a mother of four from Oranmore in County Galway who is terminally ill, won her case in the High Court against the HSE and a laboratory. It was determined that a smear test done in 2016 was read in a manner that was neglectful. I believe Patricia's case may expose something deeply worrying, which is a major oversight in the previous Government's handling of the scandal when it broke in May 2018. I will try to explain this as best I can. When a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in this country CervicalCheck is notified of the diagnosis and conducts a review of the previous smear tests that woman had taken. In May 2018, it revealed that these audits between 2008 and 2018 had shown that out of 1,500 diagnoses reported to it in that timeframe, more than 200 of the tests had mistakes or missed readings. This is a mistake rate of 14%, which is a phenomenal figure.

In May 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review conducted by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, RCOG. This review's finding differed significantly from the previous audits. It stated that out of a sample of 1,034 tests that it reviewed there was a 30% mistake rate. The terms of reference provided by the Government to RCOG are troubling in hindsight. The Government instructed RCOG to examine the slides of women who had since been diagnosed with cancer. RCOG did not examine all of the slides but only those women who had at the time been diagnosed with cancer.

Patricia Carrick, for example, had a smear test in 2016. She was given a clear result and carried on with her life. She had another test in 2018 and another in 2019, again with clear results. However, she was diagnosed with cancer a few months later. Given that she has won her case, we know the 2016 test was misread but when RCOG was carrying out its review, as instructed by the terms of reference provided by the Department, it skipped Patricia's slide because as of 2018 she had not been diagnosed with cancer. Her slide was left on the shelf and had not been examined.

The slides of all the women who have not yet been diagnosed with cancer have not been reviewed. This is startling. For people such as Patricia, who do not discovered their cancer until later or perhaps where the cancer has manifested itself since, sadly it seems that it is too late. Had the Government told RCOG to review all of the slides in 2018 then issues such as Patricia's would have been identified earlier and, perhaps, the prognosis could be different.

I am not raising this issue to speculate on what is a deep and difficult issue for the family, and our prayers and solidarity go out to the Carrick family. I am raising the issue because if RCOG states the samples it looked at had a 30% mistake rate then are we to assume that the slides and samples it did not look at of those women who had not been diagnosed with cancer at that time also have a 30% mistake rate? If this is true, even if it is a quarter of that figure it is startling information and it would necessitate a radical re-examination of the whole CervicalCheck scandal. I ask the Minister of State for a response.

I thank the Deputy Tóibín for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity on behalf of the Minister to update the House on this very important matter. Patricia Carrick's story is indeed harrowing and I will raise many of the issues involved in it with the Minister.

A cancer diagnosed in the period of time after a negative screening test and before the next screening test is known as an interval cancer, which unfortunately are an inevitable occurrence in population-based screening programmes. Audit of interval cancer is a key quality assurance mechanism in assuring health authorities, patients and the public about the quality of cancer screening services. Audit processes were in place in CervicalCheck since 2010 as part of quality assurance measures. However, these were paused in 2018 following the issues which have been dealt with by the Scally report.

The scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme led by Dr. Gabriel Scally made a number of recommendations, including that audit should continue to be an important component of cervical screening as this complies with all good clinical practice and that common, robust and externally validated approaches to the design, conduct, evaluation and oversight of audits should be developed across the screening services.

This recommendation was accepted by the Government, as were all of Dr. Scally's recommendations, and actions to implement these were set out in an implementation plan approved by Government and published on the website of the Department of Health. In line with the Scally recommendations, the HSE chief clinical officer commissioned a review of audit of interval cancer for all three cancer screening programmes, namely, BreastCheck, CervicalCheck and BowelScreen, with the aim of defining future audit processes and reviewing guidance for interval cancers in the national screening service based on international evidence and best practice.

Expert reference groups were set up comprising Irish and international experts and patient representatives and advocates. The expert reference groups' reports set out the future approach to managing reviews of interval cancers in CervicalCheck and our other two cancer screening services, BreastCheck and BowelScreen. The Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, wishes to thank the groups for their work and acknowledges the contributions of the patient advocates and experts, including the Irish Cancer Society, and the doctors at home and abroad who were involved in these important reports.

Implementation groups for CervicalCheck and other programmes will now be set up and the Minister expects an update on the progress in early 2021. The ongoing participation of patient representatives in the implementation groups will be the key to improving the patient experience, access to patient information and open communication. The CervicalCheck programme will contact any affected patients whose reviews were paused and keep them informed as implementation progresses.

The Minister wants audited cervical screening to recommence as soon as possible but it must be done in the correct and robust way that Dr. Scally recommends. Some work is required to ensure that will happen. The Minister supports the future direction of auditing within the national screening programme as set out in the expert reference group's reports and the Department of Health will work closely with the National Screening Service to ensure this happens in line with best practice and with patients at the centre.

I have two more general messages for the public, the first of which is that I strongly encourage anyone who has recently received an invitation for screening to follow up on it. Second, I remind the public that while screening is an important service to help identify those who may be at risk of certain cancers, anyone with concerns about symptoms they are experiencing should contact their GP.

I concur with the Minister of State that it is really important that people ensure they respond to invitations they receive in respect of cancer screening opportunities. It still breaks my heart that BreastCheck is not yet up and running in the State. It is incredible that a backlog of 200,000 women, according to the latest estimates, are on a waiting list for cancer screening.

The Minister of State mentioned interval cancer but I am not talking about an interval cancer. It is a pre-cancer that was missed. Patricia Carrick won her case. What the Minister of State mentioned, therefore, is not relevant. Two major studies of cancer screenings in the State have been carried out, separately showing a 14% mistake rate and a 30% mistake rate. Individuals who went through those screenings, some as late as last year, have gone to court and found out there was neglect in the reading of their cancer screenings. The Department of Health, when contacted by concerned women during the height of this scandal, emailed them back to say the issue was not one of concern because cervical cancer is known to take ten to 15 years to develop. This means there are likely to be women throughout the State who may feel they are perfectly healthy but, because of the rates of mistakes in those two samples, may not be. This is a significant fear and a big worry. The State has a responsibility to re-examine the slides of those women and check whether they are correct. At the very least, it should choose a sample of the slides to check whether they have the same mistake rate as the two samples that were taken previously.

This matter is very important and I ask the Minister of State to ensure he attends to it immediately.

I reiterate that the Minister supports the future direction within the national screening programme as set out in the expert reference group's reports. The Deputy outlined a few views, which I will relay to the Minister and the Department. The publication of these reports represents another important milestone in implementing the Scally report and the ongoing work to improve public confidence in our cancer screening services.

As we all know, screening saves lives and it is important that we have high-quality and sustainable screening services in Ireland. The Deputy appealed to people who have received a letter to turn up for the screening services. Sometimes, when people receive such a letter, we need to encourage them to appreciate its urgency. Implementing these reports will significantly improve our system to ensure we save as many lives as possible through screening in the future.

I again thank the Deputy for his views and the information he outlined, which I will relay to the Minister and the Department. We hope to have an answer for the Deputy in the coming days.

Housing Provision

Housing in the Ringsend, Pearse Street and Kevin Street areas is a significant issue. There is not enough of it. There is not enough social or affordable housing nationally, but in Ringsend, Pearse Street and York Street in particular, and in Dublin 2, 4 and 8 more generally, the lack of housing is particularly acute. Flat complexes in Ringsend such as Whelan House, O'Rahilly House, George Reynolds House and Canon Mooney Gardens are no longer fit for purpose. They need comprehensive regeneration and investment, not a facelift. The time for carrying out minor works has long passed. We need energy-efficient modern homes that can house working families. We do not need small flats that are riddled with dampness or overcrowded and unhealthy for young families.

The recent budget trumpeted its commitment to affordable homes, yet residents of Ringsend village still have no clarity as to whether there will be affordable homes on the glass bottle site. The Government needs to give certainty to the Irish Glass Bottle site housing action group and the residents of Ringsend who have fought every step of the way to ensure that the glass bottle site is developed in the interests of those currently unable to get on the property ladder. Patsy, Susan, Richie, Kevin, Tom, Joe and Christine, to name but a few of the glass bottle site housing action group, have kept the fight for affordable homes at the top of the agenda.

In 2017, Dublin City Council and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government agreed to fund 650 affordable homes on the glass bottle site in addition to the public housing promised, yet there is still no clarity as to whether they will be delivered and no certainty that they will be affordable. It has been suggested that the so-called affordable housing cost will be between €350,000 to €400,000 per home. How can anyone claim that is truly affordable? Ordinary working families in Ringsend will not be able to afford €350,000 or €400,000. The homes need to be genuinely affordable and no costlier than €230,000 in order for anyone to get even close to being able to afford them. We need to know what the Government deems to be affordable and to have direct intervention from the Minister and the Department. Only €110 million was allocated for affordable housing in the recent budget.

The National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, still has not reached a commercial agreement with Dublin City Council. The Minister needs to intervene to ensure that affordable homes will be delivered on the glass bottle site. Significant public funding is being invested to ensure that the glass bottle site will be developed. Construction of public bridges, and of infrastructure to allow the homes to be built on the glass bottle site, is being funded by the public purse. We cannot allow developers to benefit from this investment without ensuring that affordable and public housing is built on the site.

I assure the Minister of State that the residents of Ringsend will not roll over. They will resist any attempts to cut the provision of affordable housing on the glass bottle site, even if that takes direct action. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in Ringsend and Pearse Street. All the residents will resist any attempt to cut social and public housing on the glass bottle site.

The Government is focused on ensuring that affordable and high quality housing solutions are available to everyone in society. This is clearly reflected in the programme for Government, Our Shared Future, which confirms our view that home ownership should be a realistic aspiration for people. Everyone should have access to good-quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price in connected and sustainable communities.

I reiterate that the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien's, priority is to bring forward measures starting next year and continuing over the lifetime of the Government to enable more people to buy and own their own homes, something that previous generations were able to do through increased supply and policy interventions that made home ownership more accessible and affordable.

These commitments were reflected in budget 2021, which provides for an overall investment of €3.3 billion for the delivery of housing programmes. This represents an increase of €641 million, or 24%, on 2020 and the single biggest spend on housing by any Government in the history of this State. In addition, it will be the largest build programme in the history of the State.

The budget also provides for a suite of affordability measures totalling €468 million. This will be spread out across the serviced sites fund, the local infrastructure housing activation fund, the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme and the Land Development Agency. Importantly, €110 million of this amount will be provided to deliver a new national affordable purchase shared equity scheme for first-time buyers and a new funding model to accelerate the delivery of cost-rental homes through the approved housing body sector.

Within four short months, this Government has risen to the challenge and shown our commitment to affordable housing and cost rental by allocating funding towards these two schemes and towards delivering homes from next year.

In terms of the old Irish Glass Bottle site, the regeneration of Poolbeg West is the next important step in transforming the docklands area, given its strategic location east of Grand Canal Dock with close proximity to important bridge connections to Dublin Port and North Lotts. The extent of vacant brownfield land available at Poolbeg West is significant, at 34 ha. The residential potential within the available lands is for a maximum of 3,500 additional residential units at a gross residential density of up to 238 units per hectare on lands over 14.7 ha to the south of South Bank Road. This estimated housing yield would be sufficient to support a residential population of approximately 8,000 people and, therefore, would make a significant contribution to the city's housing needs.

It should be noted that the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, as the responsible agency, retains responsibility regarding a decision to proceed with the competitive process to develop this site. NAMA has confirmed the competitive process adopted was designed to achieve best financial return in line with the requirements of the NAMA Act and facilitate delivery of much needed housing in Dublin.

On the wider activation of these lands, I understand that, having decided to embark on the competitive tendering process in July last, NAMA named a preferred bidder to acquire 80% shareholding. NAMA will retain a 20% shareholding. A condition of the planning of the scheme, as modified by An Bord Pleanála on 9 April 2019, provides for 15% social and affordable homes on this site, in addition to the 10% statutory under Part V arrangements, which still stand and are applicable. As such, it is envisaged that at least 350 of the planned 3,500 homes on the site will be designated for social housing and at least 525 will be for affordable housing.

For our part, subject to the overall progress of the project, my Department remains ready to work with Dublin City Council, any relevant approved housing bodies and the receiver and-or developers of the strategic development zone, SDZ, area to progress this site, subject to agreement on all normal and relevant terms, including the value for money aspects.

I thank the Minister of State. What has been happening recently, and accelerating over the past number of years, is that the likes of Facebook, Google and their senior management teams have been buying homes in the Ringsend area. Prices are huge there now. There is a small one-bedroom cottage in Ringsend for which people are being asked to pay more than €400,000. This is not affordable. The long-term community in Ringsend is being forced to move out and it is having a negative impact on the community at large. The Capital Dock building, which the Minister of State has probably seen in Ringsend, did not provide any social housing in the area because developers bought their way out of providing Part V social housing by providing the housing in Rialto. That is great for Rialto and in the general context of the housing list and housing crisis but the difficulty is there are no new social and affordable homes being provided in Ringsend. Prices are so high that the council stated that it cannot afford to pay the prices developers are requesting.

Ringsend gets left behind and gentrification continues. Working families are being left behind so affordable homes not only on the old Irish Glass Bottle site but elsewhere are really important. We need public housing on public land and affordable housing to ensure people get homes and do not have to move too far from their community. Government needs to intervene on the old Irish Glass Bottle site and I am not seeing that yet.

I assure the Deputy that we are looking at a total of 875 units between social and affordable housing. We have reiterated our commitment to progress this site and we are ready to work with all key stakeholders towards social and affordable housing delivery objectives so I share the Deputy's aspirations in that regard.

As a Government, we will, in parallel with these impact measures, drive structural reform and supply side measures in the way we deliver housing. Over the medium term, this will result in a far greater level of social and affordable housing directly provided by our local authorities on their land. A significant budget of 2021 funding that has been secured will allow these schemes to be delivered over the coming year. However, it is intended to see the results of the measures we are confirming today being delivered beyond 2021, with tens of thousands of homes being delivered over the coming years. Taking on the Deputy's earlier point, these will be in sustainable communities, energy efficient and in line with repurposing our town centres, regenerating communities and giving affordable options to people living in those communities who want to stay in them.

The public purse is ensuring that this development will go ahead and it is important that developers are not allowed to turn their backs on the people of Ringsend.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.17 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 22 October 2020.