Business of Joint Committee

We will deal with correspondence sent. The first is No. 2019/570, an email to the office of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, confirming the committee has agreed to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 22019 and that the Minister will be informed when the joint committee has scheduled a date. It is proposed to note that correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

With regard to correspondence received, No. 2019/555a and 555b is an email from the Ceann Comhairle attaching a letter received from Mr. Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, regarding the EU scrutiny process generally and. more particularly, the eight-week period provided in Protocol 2 of the Treaty on European Union, TEU. It is proposed to note the correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/557 is an email from Ms Andrea Lennon, aviation safety and security division, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, dated 25 November 2019, providing a further briefing regarding policy development on drones and possible legislation in this area, as requested. It is proposed to include this matter on the committee’s work programme for 2020. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/558 is a letter from Ms Irene Hagan, Journal Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas, dated 19 November 2019, forwarding an order passed by the Dáil on 19 November 2019 referring a Supplementary Estimate to the Select Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, pursuant to Standing Orders. It is proposed to note the correspondence, which was considered by the select committee at last week's meeting. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/559 is an email from Mr. Damien Ó Tuama, national cycling co-ordinator,, regarding the committee’s recent hearings and consideration of preparation of a report on cycling. It is proposed to include this matter on the committee’s work programme for 2020. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/560 is an email from Ms Mary Daly in the Minister’s office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, informing the clerk to the joint committee that the Minister has consented to the reappointment of Ms Liz O Donnell as chair-designate of the Road Safety Authority for a five-year period, subject to her appearance before the joint committee for approval. It is proposed to schedule this meeting early in the new year. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/565 is a letter from the Minister informing me that a copy of the final KOSI report has been furnished to An Garda Síochána and that the report will not be shared with the joint committee at this time. If there are no comments, it is proposed to note this correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed. I know Deputy Marc MacSharry wished to raise a matter on that and I appreciate he is not present. If it is appropriate, we will leave it on the agenda for next week, given that the Deputy said he had a specific question to ask.

No. 2019/566 is an email from Mr. Ciarán Ferrie, I BIKE Dublin, dated 2 December 2019, providing information about the Cycling Works Dublin campaign and reiterating I BIKE Dublin's offer to me and all the members of the committee to accompany it on a cycle through Dublin city in the new year.

Is that agreed? Agreed. I will be off my crutches by then.

Will the Chairman's leg be okay?

It will be fine in two weeks, perhaps even in two days, I do not know.

No. 2019/567a is an email from the private secretary to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, enclosing comments from the maritime services division and air accident investigation unit of the Department in response to a request for a briefing from the joint committee. No. 2019/567b is a further email from the private secretary containing additional information. There was a report on that air accident in a national newspaper and I asked the clerk to the committee to look for a briefing. We were told that the official report is not yet available and, until it is, it would not be appropriate for the committee to have a draft copy if there is such a thing. We will wait until the report is available.

Is there a timeline on that?

There is not, but I presume it must be available pretty soon.

I want to bring that in when we are considering my correspondence.

Of course. No. 2019/568a is an email from Mr. Tim Doyle that encloses No. 2019/568b, a letter from Mr. Doyle referring to No. 2019/548 from Bus Éireann to the joint committee. I propose to note this correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 2019/569a is an email from Deputy Rock forwarding further correspondence between Mr. Ken McCue of Sport Against Racism Ireland, SARI, and the Department of Justice and Equality regarding evaluation of the FAI intercultural programme. Nos. 2019/569b and 2019/569c are emails from Deputy Rock forwarding additional information from Mr. McCue. The Deputy will discuss this matter but he is addressing a housing conference at the moment. Is it agreed to put that matter on the agenda for the next meeting? Agreed.

No. 2019/571 is an email from Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, which we have discussed, seeking an emergency meeting to deal with the FAI. That meeting has been rescheduled for next Wednesday.

No. 2019/572a is an email from Ms Rea Walshe, chief operating officer of the FAI, dated 10 December, attaching No. 2019/572b, a letter from Ms Walshe stating that representatives of the FAI are not available to attend the meeting of the joint committee on 12 December and assuring the committee of their willingness to attend on a date when those representatives are available. We discussed that earlier and the meeting has been rescheduled and the invitation issued for Wednesday, 18 December. Is that okay? It is.

No. 2019/573 is an email from Senator Mark Daly requesting that the joint committee ask the Coast Guard management to attend to discuss the safety of life jackets issued to Coast Guard personnel and the procurement of same, and ask that any documents or correspondence to or within the Department on the coastguards regarding allegations of any possible conflicts of interest by senior management in the procurement process be sent to the joint committee.

No. 2019/574 is an email from Senator Mark Daly, dated 10 December 2019, requesting that the joint committee invite the Road Safety Authority, RSA, to come before the committee with a regulatory impact assessment in advance of any changes to the commercial vehicle roadworthiness test, CVRT, system, and request any information available on the lack of enforcement of regulation on foreign hauliers.

The request relating to the Coast Guard ties in with the report on the tragic accident that befell Rescue 116. I previously dealt with senior management in the Coast Guard about the stations at Malin Head and Valentia Island and a previous draft report, referred to as the Feron report, which contained scathing criticism of senior management in the Irish Coast Guard service was uncovered by the community group in Valentia. That report went to senior management in the Coast Guard and all of the criticism of senior management was taken out of the report. The final report that went to the relevant Minister at the time, Deputy Varadkar, contained no criticism of senior management. It should be borne in mind that this was years ago. That was a second attempt to close the stations at Malin Head and Valentia Island by giving false information to a Fianna Fáil Minister, in the first instance, and, subsequently, to a Fine Gael Minister.

There are issues relating to Rescue 116, including the faulty information that it had, rosters and so on in the information we have available to us. I have information about life jackets and have asked for the correspondence without, and within, the Department. My information is that the Coast Guard was aware those jackets were faulty when Coast Guard volunteer, Caitriona Lucas, died in Clare. Senior management was aware that those life jackets were not deploying on impact with water. While that may not have been the reason that lady passed away, the life jacket did not deploy. There are allegations that jackets were changed and the life jacket Ms Lucas was supposed to be wearing was not the one she was wearing. I take all of that with a pinch of salt but, on top of that, there were questions about the procurement of lifeboats of questionable origin and over the use of cars and jeeps.

The Feron report, although not an official report, said senior management was critically flawed. Everything that has happened since should be considered in the light of that draft report stating how bad senior management in the Coast Guard was. That report dates back to 2007. Looking at everything that has happened since, the original report was correct and the senior management in the Coast Guard is costing lives, as we saw with the tragedy of Rescue 116 and the life jacket of Caitriona Lucas. I have asked for the correspondence because my information is that there was a lot of stuff going on about the procurement of equipment by senior management who were also at the back end of the companies that were supplying that equipment. That is secondary to the fact that people are losing their lives.

When the report into Rescue 116 is available, the whole senior management of the Coast Guard and the Secretary General or assistant secretary should be brought before the committee and asked about those life jackets. We also want to know about the procurement process for the life jackets because concerns were raised prior to their purchase. I want to put to those representatives that there was a reason they purchased those life jackets and we should be concerned about that, even though they are only allegations. We should try and get to the bottom of that so I ask members of the committee that when the report on the tragedy of Rescue 116 is available - and please God it will be available before a general election - we bring the whole lot of them in on all of those issues, including Rescue 116, life jackets and-----

We want all that correspondence in the interim.

That would be helpful.

The clerk to the committee has requested that. These are serious issues but on the question that the Senator has asked about a draft report that was materially and significantly different-----

It was very different.

-----are we also seeking a copy of that draft report?

In order that senior management in the Coast Guard can see us coming, we should ask them to forward the Feron report and the draft report. That way, they can highlight what was taken out. I went through it line by line.

There is no problem. The Senator wants the draft report and the final report.

It is referred to as the Feron report.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I hope members of the committee are happy with that.

My other correspondence relates to the RSA and a matter that was raised by road hauliers. The Committee of Public Accounts is also examining that matter but, given it concerns the RSA, it also falls under the remit of this committee. I did not realise the RSA has €25 million in the bank. That is a serious amount. It has €25 million in the bank while charging €72 million per year to people who are trying to export goods out of the country. The authority does not need all that money.

Hauliers have stated that the RSA is looking to consolidate power. This is why I asked for the regulatory impact assessment. This also affects the Chairman's constituency. The current testing system for hauliers means that if a haulier wants to bring a truck for testing, he or she can ring a local CVRT person with whom they have a relationship. The tester is not going to pass the vehicle because he or she knows the haulier, but the haulier can drop the truck in at 11 o'clock at night when it is back from its journey. That might shift to an amalgamated system because the RSA wants to put it out for tender and have one body to do it all, as is the case for car testing. When the road hauliers asked senior management of the RSA if they would be allowed to take the trailer on the truck to a tester at 11 p.m. or 6 a.m., they were told they would not. If there is a flaw with a truck, for example a brake pad is required on one wheel, hauliers are currently allowed by the operators of test centres to bring in their own mechanic and fix it on site. That would no longer be the case.

They would have to go to the cost of bringing in a truck to haul it away, which is hundreds of euro. That is why I asked that, before the RSA goes off and puts this out to public tender for one system, while we are all in pre-election mode and when we might put something in front of a Minister and say "sign that", we should ask it not to do any of that until it gives us a regulatory impact assessment on the impact on the average road haulier of its proposed system.

Another point, which is way more serious is that, based on information the RSA gave to Deputy Robert Troy, the level of testing it does on foreign registered trucks is minuscule - by its own admission, it is 5% to 8% - whereas the estimated proportion of foreign registered trucks, although the RSA does not know it exactly, is about 30%, or possibly higher.

The Senator is raising serious issues. It would be important that we have a full discussion on it and that the Road Safety Authority is in a position to reply to the points raised. I disagree with the Senator on one point. He said the RSA is out to consolidate power. What I see it out to do is to consolidate saving lives. If it is in order, given Senator Daly has had a fair run and nobody is fighting with him over this, I propose that we ask the RSA management not just to send on the regulatory impact statement but to come to the committee to discuss it. The Senator will have the opportunity to make his points and they will have the opportunity to reply to him, which would be fair to Senator Daly and fair to them.

Through the clerk, is it okay if I send a series of questions and we would ask them to bring in the information?

Of course.

We do not want a situation like we had with the FAI, where they say they will send on the information and we are still waiting.

In fairness, there is no issue with that. Again, I want to say my experience with the RSA is that it is very good at its work and it has never been anything other than professional, although that does not change anything Senator Daly has said or anything he wants to happen.

With regard to EU scrutiny, under schedule B, I want to deal with the following proposals: COM 2019/440, COM 2019/441, COM 2019/480, COM 2019/568, COM 2019/569, COM 2019/574 and COM 2019/575. These have been discussed and it was decided in committee that the proposals warrant no further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.