Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 10 Mar 2022

Vol. 283 No. 9

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Road Network

I formally welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Heydon, to the House and thank him for being here.

Thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, for selecting this Commencement matter. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I do not know how much he knows about the eastern bypass but I will take him through some of it and my understanding of it. The Dublin eastern bypass, or the Dublin Bay motorway, as it was called, was a proposal originally considered and drafted in 1971. That is a hell of a long time ago, over 40 years ago. The idea was that the bypass would complete the Dublin sea road across Dublin Bay and back through what we now know as Booterstown Marsh, up into the back of Booterstown Avenue, right across to the Radisson Blu Hotel, cutting across the N11, then proceeding to UCD, up to the Drummartin Link Road, in Goatstown, and eventually connecting to the then proposed M50. The M50 is now long in place.

We know there is huge congestion in that part of Dublin - or was. It is now reduced. The traffic demands are not what they used to be. We have also seen major urban sprawl and many people now moving out of Dublin because they cannot afford to live there. We therefore see the pressure points in Kildare, where the Minister of State's constituency is, in County Meath and as far as Laois, Westmeath, Wicklow and even Wexford. That is the reality. There has been a shift in people's desire to live in places outside the Dublin area, but we clearly have issues around Dublin.

There were three proposals for the bypass. One was a viaduct under a tunnel and one was a viaduct or bridge over Sandymount bay. These plans and this route fall into two local authorities, namely, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. As the Minister of State will be aware, both local authorities have county and city development plans and both from time to time have changed the indicative line, that is, they have dropped it from the Dublin city plan and put it back into the plan.

The reality is that the tract of land that runs from Booterstown right up to UCD is possibly the most valuable in the country. It offers huge opportunities for housing and more. There is now a shift in the emphasis in transport to greenways, cycleways and bus connectivity. I understand that there is a desire on the part of the Green Party not to proceed with the eastern bypass, and I can see some of the logic in that. What I am trying to find out is whether due consideration has been given to releasing these lands or whether they are to remain frozen for another 30 or 40 years. These are exceptionally valuable lands with enormous potential for housing and the possibility of a route that would link UCD, which has major plans. As well as being a university, it has on-campus technology and a vision to develop an educational hub and a technological centre and to have a proper synergy between academia, commerce and the wider world.

That would be really good. UCD is linked to this site and has exciting plans and opportunities to explore.

The question really is whether we are going to sit on this very valuable land, which is partially suitable for development for residential and other uses, including sport, recreation and cycling facilities, as well as having potential as a transport corridor, whether a bus corridor or something else. There is enormous value and potential in the land and it is time we had some indication of the Government's intention for it, working with the National Transport Authority, NTA, and the other State agencies involved in transport, and having regard to the need for consultation on connectivity and other issues with the two local authorities, that is, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Dublin City Council.

I thank Senator Boyhan for giving me the opportunity to address the Seanad on the Dublin eastern bypass corridor from Booterstown to Sandyford and the possibility of alternative uses being considered. I am sure he will acknowledge that there are a number of different actors within this sphere and that a lot of work has taken place over the past number of years. That work remains ongoing.

The national development plan identified the southern port access road as one of the projects to be progressed through early planning and appraisal during the period of the plan. The proposed project would provide connectivity between Dublin's north and south ports. Based on the NTA's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area for 2016 to 2035 and the Dublin city development plan for 2016 to 2022, a southern port access road connection between the Dublin Port tunnel and Poolbeg would also have served as the first part of a future Dublin eastern bypass.

Dublin City Council commissioned a feasibility study in 2020 to consider the southern port access road and its interface with the more long-term objective to deliver the Dublin eastern bypass. Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Tll, also commissioned a study this year to review current policy, traffic assessments and requirements for the southern port access road and the eastern bypass. As part of that, it commissioned technical advisers to review the need for the eastern bypass scheme and the justification for proceeding. The review found that the need for the scheme, as originally identified, was no longer justified. The strategic assessment report concluded that the eastern bypass had limited benefits for the M50 and would adversely affect tunnel operations. It also concluded that should the scheme not progress, there was merit in considering some of the alignment for priority bus measures and active travel. TIl has briefed the relevant local authorities and the NTA. I understand the report will be published on the TIl website in the near future.

That briefing by Tll fed into the draft transport strategy for the greater Dublin area that was published in November 2021. Measure ROAD4 of that strategy states that the NTA will undertake an assessment of the potential for the southern section of the former eastern bypass corridor reservation, as provided for in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county development plan, to be used as a transport corridor accommodating sustainable transport modes. Pending completion of this assessment, the existing reservation should be retained.

I understand the NTA is currently in the process of reviewing the observations made during the consultation period and preparing a revised draft transport strategy for submission to the Minister for Transport for his consideration, in accordance with the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. The NTA anticipates further dialogue with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on potential alternative uses of the corridor following the finalisation and completion of the transport strategy process. I understand the Department of Transport has not been involved in these discussions, which have taken place at an agency and local authority level.

I thank the Minister of State. The key point in his reply is that the review found that "the need for the scheme, as originally intended, was no longer justified". In addition, the strategic assessment report concluded that the eastern bypass had limited benefits for the M50. Those two factors were the reasons the scheme was originally proposed. I agree with the Minister of State on those points and I thank whomever prepared the reports because they came to the right conclusion. There is potential for a new transport corridor or some mechanism of connectivity from the coast right up to UCD and beyond and, more than that, there is also enormous potential for residential development. If the Minister of State has an opportunity to talk to the people involved, I would like to see there being greater synergy with the Land Development Agency, LDA, on this matter.

This is prime land, located in the wealthiest and most valuable location in the country, where we are crying out for residential accommodation, as well as student accommodation next to UCD. Let us use this resource to the benefit of everybody, whether for transport purposes or sport and recreational amenities, which are also terribly important. It is a vast tract of land. I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response.

The material that was prepared for me by the Department of Transport does not deal with the question of the use of the corridor for housing. That is more properly a matter for the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

In regard to the wider active travel measures being promoted by the Government, I am pleased that this year has seen another increase in the Department of Transport's overall funding for cycling and walking facilities, in line with the Government's prioritisation of active travel and greenways, as well as an increased allocation of €289 million administered through the NTA to active travel. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has also announced further funding of €60 million for investment in greenways. These allocations form part of an annual provision of €360 million promised in the programme for Government and being delivered by local authorities throughout the country.

The programme for Government sets out an ambitious and wide-ranging set of commitments on the provision of walking and cycling amenities, supported by an increased multi-annual budgetary allocation amounting to some €1.8 billion over the lifetime of the Government. The overall increase in funding across urban and rural Ireland will not only support the construction and improvement of safe and connected walking and cycling infrastructure but also the deployment of almost 250 dedicated active travel staff in local authorities around the country. The funding committed in budget 2022 for investment in sustainable transport projects is proof of the Government's commitment to active travel. I look forward to the development of the active travel plans, to include plans for the revised corridor, that will promote sustainable transport options for people in the locality and the wider Dublin area.

Road Projects

I recognise the road Senator Murphy intends to discuss.

I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I know he has travelled this road on many occasions because of where his in-laws are located. He knows how important and necessary it is to upgrade it. I welcome the Minister of State. The issue I am raising is not within his brief but I appreciate his coming here to take it.

The N61 is a very busy national secondary route from Athlone to Roscommon. In fact, one could say it serves people travelling from Donegal to Wexford as it is the route they link onto to access the N4, N5, N63, N56, N60 and a number of other regional roads. It really is a very important part of infrastructure in County Roscommon and, indeed, for road users from different parts of the country.

The route was identified as a priority one scheme in need of attention in the national secondary roads scheme study of 2011, more than ten years ago. We have moved on from there and I am glad to say that, in recent years, it has been prioritised and routes have been reviewed. I want to talk about a 15 km stretch of the route, namely, the Ballymurray-Knockcroghery bypass. It appears that under TII's plans for 2022, there is no funding available to continue the progress on this route. There is no money for design and environmental plans to be put in place. The question I am being asked by people living along the route, motorists and local authority members is whether the project has been shelved. My information is that it has not been shelved but I await the Minister of State's reply. It does seem to have been pushed back.

I emphasise to the Minister of State, and I ask him to take this message back to the Department of Transport, that we really need to get this project going as speedily as possible because it is a route with a lot of danger for motorists. Unfortunately, there have been a large number of accidents on it. There are schools, churches and businesses along the route and thousands of vehicle travel it every day. It is not a quiet national secondary route through our county; it links to many other roads. I ask the Minister of State to take the matter back to the Minister. I am making a strong case that TII must get back to putting funding into this particular route in order that the 15 km bypass can proceed without further delay.

I thank Senator Murphy for clearly articulating the importance of the N61 project. The Minister for Transport has responsibility for overall policy and Exchequer funding in respect of the national roads programme. I am responding on his behalf.

Once funding arrangements have been put in place with TII under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 and in line with the national development plan, NDP, the planning, design, improvement and upgrading of individual national roads is then a matter for Tll, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Tll ultimately delivers the national roads programme in line with Project Ireland 2040, the national planning framework, NPF, and the NDP.

Under the revised NDP launched in October, approximately €5.1 billion is earmarked for new national road projects to 2030. This funding will enable improved regional accessibility across the country as well as compact growth, which are key national strategic outcomes. The funding will provide for the development of numerous national road projects, including the completion of projects that are already at construction stage and those close to it, as well as the development of a number of others. The progression of any project will be subject to compliance with Government policy, availability of funding and further approvals. All projects under the NDP or, indeed, any proposed projects outside of the scope of it will typically require the necessary approvals under the public spending code. This will include Government approval in cases where project costs are estimated to be above €100 million.

In line with the public spending code and planning requirements, two sets of approvals are typically required for a proposed new national road project to proceed to construction: approval at specific decision gates under the code, including of the project business case, and approval by An Bord Pleanála of an application for development consent. The necessity to meet the requirements of the public spending code and any applicable planning consent, along with an adequate capital budget, are key to delivering national road projects.

The N61 is a national secondary route in County Roscommon, connecting Athlone to Boyle via Roscommon and Tulsk. Regarding the N61 Ballymurray to Knockcroghery element, Tll has provided an update on this scheme. Technical advisers were appointed in early 2019 to progress the planning and design of the scheme. The scheme has now progressed through the route option selection phase. Environmental and technical surveys have been completed and an emerging preferred route was identified in late 2021. The emerging preferred route was presented to the public in December 2021 and January 2022. Given funding constraints in 2022, TIl was not in a position to provide funding to progress the overall scheme in 2022, as the Senator outlined. However, I refer to the earlier point made in the response I have given. The completion of projects that are already at construction stage is where many of the resources are going at present. Obviously, a lot of money has gone into this project to get it to this stage and I am sure it will progress in time and that the investment will not be lost. For now, however, TII has not allocated funding to it for 2022.

I welcome the reply. It is regrettable that TII did not see fit to put funding into it for 2022, but that is the position. I hope, and I know the Minister of State will bring this message back, that we can get this development back on course as quickly as possible. It is vital that we upgrade this road, not only for the economy of the area and the wider region but also, more importantly, from a safety perspective. It is very important for safety. It is an €80 million project but, obviously, costs will have risen. We are now in very uncertain times given how things are. I hope it will not become a victim of the current circumstances.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I intend to push this matter with the Minister and the Cabinet. I appreciate the Minister of State coming to the House today to outline the up-to-date position.

Senator Murphy can rest assured that I will bring the points he articulated clearly here about the importance of this road to the Minister. Approximately €616 million of Exchequer capital funds have been provided to TII for national roads in 2022. In line with the NDP and Government policy, TII is allocating national roads funding to local authorities for 2022 in a manner which seeks to achieve the following outcomes: protection and renewal of the existing national road network; progress major projects in or near construction; progress major projects which are pre-construction but well advanced in the development pipeline; and prioritise any remaining funds for major projects which provide for local bypasses and compact growth in Ireland's towns and villages.

It is necessary to prioritise projects for funding in a manner which seeks to achieve key outcomes in line with the NDP and NPF. As a result of this, while a large majority of the projects were issued a funding allocation in 2022, TII was unable to provide an allocation for a small number of projects. The delivery programme for these projects will be kept under review for next year and considered in terms of the overall funding envelope available to TII. Although TII was not in a position to provide funding to progress the overall scheme, in 2022 funding of €300,000 was provided under TII's minor improvements programme to progress improvements on the section of the route. That addresses some of the concerns the Senator raised, but I take his point about the need for progression of the overall project as soon as possible and will refer it back to the Minister.

Educational Disadvantage

I have just come from a committee meeting. I thank the Cathaoirleach for choosing this matter because it is something I feel very strongly about. I also thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to respond to it.

I had submitted this Commencement matter before yesterday's announcement and did not have the information or knowledge I have now following the announcement. I was very pleased to see the major expansion of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, programme announced yesterday. It is extended to an additional 310 schools, and 37 of the existing schools in the programme are being reclassified and are eligible for increased supports. That is incredibly important. I have always been a big supporter of this programme in schools. Indeed, I have seen the difference in many schools in Kildare. In fact, I taught in a school that was in the first classification back in 1990. I remember Sr. Concepta Conaty who worked on this programme and was a very strong advocate for it.

I believe the area of home-school liaison is incredibly important for supporting parents and guardians and providing co-operation across the entire school community. Yesterday morning, I was with the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, in Newbridge town hall with regard to women's health week and I was delighted to see that one of the home-school liaison teachers I know had brought mothers from the school. They might not necessarily have availed of that event if not for the opportunity to meet within that school community.

While I welcome the six additions in Kildare, there is one glaring absence, in my view, which I wish to discuss. I have always been a powerful advocate for inclusive education. Access to education must be universal and the education we provide must meet the needs of every individual student. Our education system must be adaptable and flexible, and offer adequate support to advance learning and development. That is exactly what the DEIS programme does. It focuses on targeting additional resources at schools with the highest concentration of students at risk of educational disadvantage. It provides the home-school liaison that I mentioned, school completion, hot meals, extra teaching supports and extra schoolbook schemes. It is very important.

I have been calling within the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party for the widening of the band for some time. I am very proud that it was a Fianna Fáil Government that introduced this and I welcome the work of Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, in respect of it. However, Scoil Na Naomh Uilig in Newbridge has still not been included and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why. I remember 2017 when the then system was expanded. I could not believe how this school, the newest and biggest school, catering for most certainly the children coming from more vulnerable backgrounds, was not included in 2017, and I was absolutely shocked to see that it was not included yesterday. I contacted the Minister's office immediately and I was told there will be a chance to appeal. I really cannot understand what is happening.

When I look at the criteria being used, I fail to understand why this school was not included. The point is improving school attendance, participation and retention and that would benefit the whole school community. I am concerned for this school community. I know the former principal of the school extremely well and I know she spent so much time going out to the parents, trying to encourage them to send their children to school and working with them. At times, she felt like a social worker and she had to take that role on because there was no home school liaison or school completion officer. I ask for a strong message to go back to the Department to ensure Scoil Na Naomh Uilig is included.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley. I thank Senator O'Loughlin for raising this important matter. As the Senator will be aware, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, is the main policy instrument of the Department of Education to tackle educational disadvantage at school level. DEIS schools benefit from a range of supports, including a DEIS grant, access to home school community liaison officers and a school completion programme, in addition to priority access to continuous professional development and other supports. The DEIS programme focuses on targeting additional resources at schools with the highest concentration of students at risk of educational disadvantage.

There is a strong evidence base in the Irish context that the social class mix of a school matters. This provides a rationale for providing targeted supports to certain schools identified for inclusion in the DEIS programme. This approach has been proven to reap benefits, in particular in those urban schools with higher levels of children at risk of educational disadvantage.

Yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Foley, announced the extension of the DEIS programme to include more schools at primary and post-primary level, supporting students with the highest level of educational disadvantage. This will add an additional €32 million to the Department of Education's expenditure on the DEIS programme from 2023 onwards. This is the largest ever single investment in the DEIS programme and I am proud to be part of the Government that will extend additional resources to those schools most in need.

Schools have been identified for inclusion in the programme through the refined DEIS identification model which is an objective, statistics-based model. This model uses information from the Department of Education enrolment databases and the Pobal HP deprivation index. The model was developed through extensive work by the DEIS technical group, which involved valuable input from stakeholders. Schools are not required to apply for inclusion in the DEIS programme and the model has been applied fairly and equally to all schools.

This announcement by the Department of Education achieves the programme for Government commitment to complete the new DEIS identification model and to extend DEIS status to schools serving the highest numbers of pupils at risk of educational disadvantage. The Government will keep working towards an open and welcoming school system in which all students at risk of educational disadvantage will be supported to achieve their full potential.

I take on board the points the Senator raised regarding Scoil Na Naomh Uilig and I will highlight them with the Minister. I know the work of Noreen Duggan, the previous principal of the school who the Senator mentioned, the great efforts that happen in that school and the great model it provides in Kildare.

The Senator mentioned six schools but there are seven schools in Kildare that have secured DEIS status. They are Scoil Ída Naofa, Kilmeade; Scoil na Bhríde, Ticknevin; Scoil Bhríde, Suncroft; St. Patrick's NS, Morristown in Newbridge; Gaelscoil Átha Í in Athy; Scoil Mhichíl Naofa, Athy; and St. Conleth's National School in Derrinturn in Carbury. We recognise increased investment by Government for the provision of education in this schools but will bring back and highlight the point about Scoil Na Naomh Uilig in Newbridge.

I am aware of the seven schools in County Kildare and appreciate the Minister of Education's inclusion of them in the system. I contacted the Minister's office yesterday to say I wanted this issue addressed in the Commencement matter after it had been selected, so I am disappointed there is not a response back specifically on that school. I appreciate that is not the Minister of State's fault. It is an excellent scheme and one of the best I have seen in education. I am pleased it was Fianna Fáil that introduced it and ensured that we had the extension announced yesterday. We need more clarity on the mechanism used. I cannot see how any mechanism could leave out Scoil Na Naomh Uilig. We need transparency around how schools are selected. I appeal for Scoil Na Naomh Uilig to be included. I understand there is an appeals procedure but that it will not be ready for two weeks. We will ensure there is an appeal for Scoil Na Naomh Uilig.

In the draft response I received, there was no reference to Scoil Na Naomh Uilig but I will bring it back to the Minister's office. The school will have the appeals mechanism there.

I emphasise that the DEIS programme focuses on targeting additional resources towards schools with the highest concentration of students at risk of educational disadvantage. The Department is committed to ensuring all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner they are assessed for inclusion in the DEIS programme. There will be an appeals process to allow schools to seek a review, including Scoil Na Naomh Uilig. We will work with them to navigate that process. The Department will publish the details of the process on its website shortly. We look forward to seeing that for any schools which believe the model did not adequately reflect their circumstances. It is important they have that process.

I thank the Minister of State for taking the first three Commencement matters. It was appreciated.

Rental Sector

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan.

The Minister of State is more than welcome to the Chamber. I want to ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy O'Brien, to make a statement on whether he has plans to regulate Airbnb properties to ensure the rental market is not grossly impacted by short-term lettings through Airbnb.

I have raised continuously the lack of realistic regulations on Airbnb. Airbnb plays a role in the marketplace that is distorting the rental market. This morning in Kinsale, a town close to my home, 60 properties are on Airbnb for rent, while three are on daft.ie. It is sucking the lifeblood out of the rental market. We brought in regulations in 2019 that did not address the issue. They stipulated that people could rent a property for 90 days; otherwise, they had to apply to the local authority. Nobody has done that. There has been no active engagement at local authority level to ensure the Airbnb market is regulated.

It is more financially lucrative for people with these properties to rent them out for two or three months per year, and leave them idle for the rest of the time, than to go into the rental market. The three aforementioned properties on daft.ie include a house for €2,700 and an apartment for €1,600. There is no competition. The competition is in the Airbnb market and, because of that, people in towns like Kinsale can never rent. They are dealing with an unregulated entity. Until we regulate it, this cohort of society will be left with no place to live. We have spoken continuously about bringing forward regulations. Bord Fáilte has looked at this but has not brought anything forward. It is March, the Airbnb issue will explode in my part of the world in the next few weeks and we have no regulation brought forward.

I ask the Minister of State to comment on another issue brought to my attention during the week. We have brought forward under the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, a €200 fuel rebate system for people who have an ESB bill. Every commercial Airbnb property is eligible to get that. That is sinful. They do not pay rates but now they get €200 off because they are considered private residents. They are not; they are commercial properties. Not alone are we not regulating them, we are giving them a freebie of €200 for the fun of it.

There is a huge issue here. We cannot wait any more for regulation. We need regulation brought forward within the next few weeks or, unfortunately, the people I represent in Kinsale will never get an opportunity to rent a house because everything will be sucked up by Airbnb.

The figures the Senator gave are shocking. To have 60 properties in Kinsale is incredible. I will provide some background and come back to him on the supplementary question on the fuel rebate.

To provide some background, legislative reforms to regulate the short-term letting sector through the planning code in areas designated as rent pressure zones, RPZs, were introduced under the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 which came into effect on 1 July 2019. The aim of the legislation was to return much-needed accommodation being used for short-term letting purposes in designated RPZs to the long-term rental market, thereby increasing supply in the short-term rental market and helping to stabilise rents in those areas.

Under the short-term letting legislation, homesharing, that is, the letting of a room or rooms in a person's principal place of residence, is generally permissible on an unrestricted basis. However, where a person owns a property in a RPZ which is not his or her principal private residence and lets it for short-term letting purposes, he or she is required to apply for change of use planning permission unless the property already has a specific planning permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes. Such change of use in planning permission is not guaranteed in areas of high housing demand.

Given that short-term letting accommodation is technically tourism-related accommodation, and the regulation of such accommodation is more appropriate to the tourism sector, the Government's Housing for All plan contains a specific action, action 20.4, to develop new regulatory controls requiring short-term and holiday lets to register with Fáilte Ireland with a view to ensuring that houses are used to best effect in areas of housing need. This will take the regulation of short-term letting accommodation out of the planning code.

Funding was allocated in budget 2022 to Fáilte Ireland, which has been tasked with the design and implementation of the new short-term lettings registration system, which requires significant investment in supporting IT infrastructure. The agency is currently recruiting staff to work on this project. The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is also scoping out the legislative provisions that will be required to underpin the new registration system with a view to the necessary provisions being enacted in the current year and the new Fáilte Ireland short-term letting registration system being operational from January 2023.

As Senator Lombard has suggested, an underlying objective of the new registration system will be to ensure that an adequate level of private rental accommodation can be provided in towns like Kinsale, in particular in urban areas of high housing demand, and that such accommodation is not overly diverted to the short-term letting sector at the expense of local people seeking long-term rental accommodation. In effect, it is about achieving an appropriate mix of private rental accommodation and short-term letting accommodation, having regard to the housing needs in the area concerned.

Once again I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I look forward to the introduction of the new legislative provisions in this regard and the positive impact that they will have for the long-term rental sector, in particular, as I have outlined, in those urban areas of high housing demand and need.

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. He said it will be 2023 before we have the regulations brought forward, which is disappointing for patrons in my part of the world. The blight of trying to get a house will continue for at least another 12 months at this rate. These regulations need to be brought forward immediately.

I ask that the Minister of State clarify whether Airbnb properties are now in a position to draw down the €200 rebate for energy costs. I think that is sinful. Not alone are they taking rental properties out of the market, we are now giving them an opportunity to have a €200 voucher for the two or three months during which they are doing business. I do not get the logic of that. The Minister of State might come back to me on that issue. In the short term, we have no hope for towns and villages with large numbers of Airbnb properties until the regulations are in place. People are doomed to wait on waiting lists because there is no hope for them.

On the €200 rebate, it is something I was not aware of and I will try to get clarification on that. As the Senator is aware, the rebate was introduced on a blanket scale to try to get money out to people as quickly as possible. I know it was criticised in that regard, but it was the most effective and quickest way to do that. We will find out about the specific issue of people with Airbnb properties. That is something we need to clarify.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Senator. We would love to bring this legislation forward more quickly, but it has to go through a process and it is critically important to get this right. The Senator is correct in saying that 60 properties in Kinsale is far too many to be in short-term letting and not available for letting on a longer-term basis. That has an impact on the vibrancy of the town centre, which is contrary to the Town Centre First policy. It is an issue for people working in Kinsale. It is an area of high tourism demand and a lot of people working in the services sector would love to be able to rent in the locality. In that regard, it is critically important that the legislation addresses that in as timely a manner as possible.

I thank the Minister of State for addressing that issue and Senator Lombard for raising it. I express my thanks to all Senators and Ministers of State, as well as the staff, including the ushers, for their co-operation.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 11.17 a.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 12.02 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 11.17 a.m. and resumed at 12.02 p.m.