Business of Joint Committee

I remind members to turn off their mobile phones completely as they interfere with the recording equipment. We will now go into private session.

The joint committee went into private session at 1.33 p.m. and resumed in public session at 1.44 p.m.

I remind members and those in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones as they interfere with the recording equipment. Before we commence the main business of today's proceedings, we will address some housekeeping matters. The minutes of the meetings of 23 October, 6 November and 20 November have been circulated. Are there any matters arising from those minutes? No. Are the minutes agreed? Agreed.

We will now deal with the committee's correspondence. Members should feel free to raise any matters arising from that correspondence during this discussion.

Correspondence No. 2019/543 is an email sent to the office of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport requesting details of the Minister's availability to appear before the joint committee throughout November and December. We will note that correspondence.

Correspondence No. 2019/544 is an email sent to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport requesting an updated briefing on drones and air traffic security, in light of our meeting on the topic on 23 October. I propose that we note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

We now turn to correspondence received by the committee. Correspondence No. 2019/542 is an email from Mr. Seán Murphy, the manager of public affairs at the ESB, 23 October, advising that ESB eCars plans to introduce pricing to support electric vehicle, EV, network expansion. I propose that we note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/545 is an email from the policy adviser to the joint committee, attaching an article from the Sunday Business Post, published on 2 November, on the school bus scheme, which refers to a meeting of the joint committee. That has been circulated for the information of members.

Correspondence No. 2019/546a is an email from our Vice Chairman, Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe, attaching for the consideration of the committee No. 2019/546b, a letter from Mr. Niall McCarthy, managing director of Cork Airport, regarding statements made at a joint committee meeting. Deputy O'Keeffe is not here at the moment but he may raise this when he comes in, with the agreement of other members.

Did the CEO of Cork Airport write to us directly as well?

He wrote to Deputy O'Keeffe-----

As Vice Chairman.

Yes, because he chaired the meeting in question. I was not here.

At that meeting, I questioned the CEO of the Shannon Group about it going the independent route rather than staying with Dublin Airport. The chairman of Fáilte Ireland was at the meeting for a different reason, and because of his background with Ryanair, he threw in a few nuggets of information which turned out to be false. He claimed that the worst thing Cork Airport ever did was stay with Dublin Airport, as things have not gone well for it since. That is not the case, as there has been substantial growth there since and things are going very well down there. It is important that we publish those facts and correct the record because an impression was given at that meeting that staying with Dublin Airport Authority was a disaster, that the Shannon Group did the right thing, and that Cork Airport was a basket case. As can be seen from this correspondence, that impression is totally false. Will we be publishing this?

Yes, that will go up on our website.

Correspondence No. 2019/547a is an email from Mr. Tim Doyle of Student Transport Scheme Limited, containing the text of a Sunday Business Post article regarding the school bus scheme, etc. He has attached correspondence No. 2019/547b, which is FOI correspondence from 1 November between Student Transport Scheme Limited and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I propose to note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/548 is a letter received from Mr. Stephen Kent, CEO of Bus Éireann, responding to matters raised by Ms Sally Hogan and Mr. Brian Lynch in correspondence No. 2019/519. I propose to note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/549 is an email from me forwarding correspondence between myself and the Italian ambassador regarding a meeting. He wished to meet with me and I suggested he come before the committee as well. We will hold that meeting as soon as we can arrange it. The fact that I broke my leg in the meantime has not affected this.

Correspondence No. 2019/550a is an email received from the Road Safety Authority, RSA, attaching correspondence No. 2019/550b, which is a letter from its CEO, Ms Moyagh Murdock, declining an invitation to attend the joint committee meeting of 20 November 2019, conveying her apologies to the Chairman and committee members and proposing to offer a report to the committee on all RSA cycling related material. I propose to note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed. We will hold a further meeting on this matter in January and are writing a report on it, so any information or input members might have would be extremely welcome. Encouraging young people and students to cycle more is a particular issue.

Correspondence No. 2019/551 is an email from the private secretary to the Minister, Deputy Ross, notifying the committee of the Department’s intention to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny on the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019 before Christmas. It is proposed to schedule this meeting as soon as the committee's schedule permits. Is that agreed? Agreed. As I said earlier, we have another pressing matter to deal with relating to the FAI.

Our two priorities will be the KOSI meeting with that report with the Minister and with Sport Ireland. Then obviously there will be the Minister's request. Is that okay with everybody?

Obviously, we need time to fully absorb that report. We had expected that it would be available long before this. It looks like there will be a need for a second meeting and that will post-date the reconvened AGM of the FAI which is due to take place on 21 December. We will have to do that in the new year. It is really important that we put it in context. The context is that this organisation has been denied State funding because of its accounts. We need to see how that situation is rectified as soon as possible.

I presume we will reserve our position to have further meetings as and when further reports arise. For example, there will be the ODCE report. I presume that is our position. We are setting down two meetings but we reserve our position to have further meetings should we so need to.

Any meetings the committee wants we will have as soon as possible. I agree with Deputy Catherine Murphy. Holding meetings four days before Christmas of such a controversial item leads me to believe that what she proposes makes a lot of sense, particularly in early January. We should have a full meeting with the people concerned in the full light of the post-Christmas clarity. I very much support that.

Obviously, as Deputy Catherine Murphy said, this has gone on a lot longer than everybody thought.

Seven months at least.

By extension, Government funding cannot be started again until everything is teased out. The longer that goes, the programmes for coaches and children are being denied. In other words, there are innocent victims of all of this. Euro 2020 is in Ireland next year and that is being funded by the Government as well. Whether that is affected as well is a question. There is an urgency that all of this be brought to a conclusion in a timely order so that the innocent people caught up in this do not continue to be discriminated against because of what has happened in the past.

I agree very much with Senator O’Mahony. I would love to see the committee take a position. This clearly has gone on for a long time and is likely to go on for a considerable period more with the various reports. I think our primary concern in the Oireachtas is the programmes, the people delivering them and the children. As of today - I am conscious we were all celebrating a good performance of Ireland last week - we are the only country in the world not supporting soccer in any way financially at this time. I think that it would be worth discussing and that the committee would develop a position that the funding could be made available, be it week-to-week, month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, with additional oversight, if necessary from this committee or, if not, by Sport Ireland or whomever satisfies the Minister. The important thing is that we get this money back supporting the programmes that are there, without prejudice to all the other matters that have to be dealt with. Clearly there is a process afoot that is going to take a lot longer than these programmes will survive.

I have got to say that I would hold back on making that kind of statement as yet. That is the ideal situation but the loss of confidence in terms of the finance of the FAI was really brought about by the lack of proper governance and oversight. We absolutely have to be confident that this situation is rectified and that we can be confident that public money is spent in the way it is intended to be spent. I fully accept that is something that Deputy MacSharry would want as well.

We thought that we would see that second AGM in September and the KOSI report a lot earlier. There is funding for soccer by way of capital grants. It is not direct funding for the non-commercial side that was there heretofore. We saw a scenario, for example, where the Olympic Council was denied funding for a considerable period. Looking at that organisation now, it is not recognisable in comparison to what was there heretofore. That is what the object should be in relation to this, so that we do not come back and revisit this topic in a year or two years time but that we can be confident that this organisation is fit for purpose.

I totally agree with everything that was said. All I am suggesting is that because it is going on so long, maybe we can achieve both.

I think there is a consensus that we want transparency and accountability from the FAI. Ipso facto, if and when we get that, quam celerrime. I do not know if there are any Latin scholars here. That means as quickly as possible. I remember that from my leaving cert. We should encourage and support Sport Ireland in its analysis and the restoration of funding with the Minister’s consent.

It is straightforward. I agree with Deputy Catherine Murphy. It is a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is that we have governmental funding. The stick is that we hold people to standards and to account and make sure that they have proper processes in place. If they do not, then we take away that funding. That is the position the FAI is in right now. With regard to the funding of programmes, they do effectively have a line of funding from UEFA. It is important that we make sure we have proper process in place before another cent of taxpayers’ money goes to those programmes. We will do that in the course of events. We will scrutinise everything. I do not think we should be restoring funding on a temporary basis at all until we are satisfied as to where that funding is going, that every penny is accounted for and properly spent.

Okay I think we have vented all sides of the debate and are all on the same page.

Correspondence No. 2019/552 is an email from Larry Larkin of Friends of Irish Athletics, dated 7 November 2019, seeking to arrange a meeting with Friends of Irish Athletics and the Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is proposed to note the correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/553 is an email from private secretary to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, dated 19 November 2019, notifying the committee that officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are available to attend should the joint committee hold a meeting on 11 December 2019 in relation to pre-legislative scrutiny of the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. It is proposed to note the correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/554, is an email from Shane Corr, dated 20 November 2019, regarding an FOI request. It relates to submissions with regard to vulnerable road users and cycling infrastructure. As we agreed at our last meeting, we will have a report on that. Our staff will be working hard on that. It is proposed to note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed

Correspondence No. 2019/561 falls into the same category. It is in relation to the Voice of Vision Impairment, in terms of the hierarchy of vulnerable road users. Maybe we can dispose of that at the same time.

Absolutely.

Correspondence Nos. 2019/562a/b/c/d, is an email from the Minister’s office, attaching three documents for the joint committee’s consideration, a letter from the Minister to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport requesting early consideration of the general scheme of the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019, and a copy of the regulatory impact assessment of the Bill. It is proposed to schedule that meeting as soon as possible, giving priority to the FAI and to the Minister. Hopefully this will happen quickly.

Correspondence Nos. 2019/563a/b, is an email from Aidan Flynn, general manager, Freight Transport Association Ireland, attaching a press release regarding the Road Safety Authority. It is proposed to note the correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Correspondence No. 2019/564, is an email from John Treacy, CEO, Sport Ireland, dated 22 November 2019, providing an update regarding the KOSI audit of governance matters at the Football Association of Ireland.