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An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 7

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Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin The Government made a number of announcements on International Women's Day on ratifying the Istanbul Convention and related issues. That is welcome and we need delivery on those announcements. My question concerns the six sexual assault treatment units, which treat men and women, aged 14 and over, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Despite a 20% increase in the number of people seeking treatment in recent years, all of the units are understaffed. We have heard stories of men and women having to go to units elsewhere in the country because the unit closest to them has closed or cannot deal with them. At a minimum, the only such unit in Dublin, at the Rotunda Hospital, should be open 24-7. Are there any plans to improve the badly needed services in these units?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Yes, is the direct answer to that question. The Government has committed to a 25% increase in funding. We are also examining the possibility of making some of those units mobile so they can be taken to areas where they are needed rather than expecting people to travel long distances to attend them.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea In response to many queries from constituents, individuals and further afield, I ask the Tánaiste to indicate when the new tenant purchase scheme will be introduced or the current scheme changed. I have asked this question six times already. I was told initially this would happen in the second half of 2017. It then moved to the first half of 2018 and subsequently to the second half of 2018. The most recent promise I was given was that this would happen in the first quarter of 2019, which is rapidly expiring. Will this be a case of fourth time lucky?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney All I can say is that a review process was being finalised the last time I checked. I will ask the Minister to respond directly to Deputy O'Dea. I presume he has tabled parliamentary questions on the issue.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae It is now clear the debacle of the national children's hospital spending overrun is having a devastating effect on many projects around the country. Kerry has already been hit. A sewerage scheme requested and promised for 15 years has again been put back until next year. The problem is that the pipes are to be laid along the road from Kilcummin to Killarney and the road cannot be reinstated until that has been done. Thousands of cars use this road daily. Does the Government have any shame for blackguarding the people of Kilcummin? This is clearly happening because the Government was asleep at the wheel in controlling spending at the national children's hospital.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy Danny Healy-Rae's time is up. We will get an answer for him.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae As a result, the people of Kilcummin are being adversely affected.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Whatever about the needs of the people of Kilcummin in respect of a new sewerage scheme, it is a bit of a stretch to try to connect that with the building of the national children's hospital.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae That is what has happened.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has outlined on many occasions how the increased spending planned for next year will be accommodated. I do not think it has anything to do with a sewerage scheme in County Kerry.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae The Tánaiste is wrong.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Government established the Land Development Agency six or more months ago. According to a recent reply to a parliamentary question I submitted, not one property identified has been transferred to the new agency. That is generating great uncertainty in respect of Columb Barracks in Mullingar. Community groups utilising the barracks do not know what will happen or if they will be able to use the facility in the long term. They have made inquiries of the Department of Defence, which then refers them to the Land Development Agency. The agency, in turn, refers them back to the Department of Defence because the property has not yet been transferred. I do not expect the Tánaiste to be able to give a reply today but will he ask the relevant Minister to respond to me on the timeframe for the transfer of Columb Barracks in Mullingar to the Land Development Agency and the long-term plans for that property?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will happily do that.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward My question is on the old chestnut of the roll-out of the national broadband plan, NBP. I am constantly asked by people in my constituency when broadband will come. Farmers, small businesses and residential houses are waiting for broadband. We were promised broadband would be rolled out by 2020, yet the plan is still not being implemented. We are being told it will commence in a month or before Easter. What is the status of that plan? It is of great importance to the people of rural Ireland and will allow them catch up with urban areas such as Dublin, Cork and Galway. We badly need the national broadband plan.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton We have seen a large increase in the number of homes getting access to broadband under the NBP. There has been an increase from about 50% to 75%. There are a number of ways of dealing with this issue. There is a remaining issue, as the Deputy knows, with what is called the intervention area. That is the area where it is not commercially viable to provide a service. A tender has been received and is under intense examination in my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. As the Taoiseach indicated to the House, he hopes that we can bring forward proposals for consideration before Easter.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan When the Government was formed three years ago, it made a major budgetary commitment on the provision of respite care. A sum of €10 million was allocated in the first budget. Now, in the early stages of 2019, respite care is in a serious crisis, with parents of people with intellectual disabilities unable to access respite care. They have been told, through their service providers, that funding is not coming through from the Health Service Executive. The HSE seems to be centralising power and making decisions concerning all parts of the country, rather than having decisions made by the service providers as was the case previously. This is a major crisis. Already, in the early months of 2019, parents are being told there is no money for respite care this year.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I am aware of the issue the Deputy raises. I spoke yesterday with Mr. Ger Reaney, the CEO of the community healthcare organisation, CHO, in the area Deputy Michael Moynihan and I represent. This matter falls within the direct remit of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. This is a challenge and a large budget will be needed to meet existing demand in full. There has been some progress and some significant successes in the area. The €10 million provided has resulted in the opening of a number of new respite facilities. While we cannot take from the progress that has been made, we are certainly not yet close to where we would like to be. That will remain a challenge for some years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Five Deputies remain. We will get everyone in, if they are brief. I call Deputy Ó Broin.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin Page 28 of A Programme for a Partnership Government features a commitment to a State-wide review of building standards and improving fire safety standards. It was worrying to read in a report by Barry Whyte in The Sunday Business Post this weekend that 75% of Dublin Fire Brigade planning conditions have been overturned or significantly changed on appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Equally worrying was an article by Jack Horgan-Jones in The Irish Times yesterday highlighting a report which shows that approximately 60 apartment developments owned by one management company in Dublin have inadequate fire alarm systems and a lack of fire stopping. Will the Minister commit to conducting this review and updating the fire safety regulations as a matter of urgency? Will he also seriously consider a latent defects redress scheme and a risk audit of Celtic tiger-era developments?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I have a long note on this matter that I will not have time to read into the record. I will ask the Minister to respond directly to Deputy Ó Broin. There are many technical issues linked to this matter.

Deputy James Lawless: Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless We all acknowledge the importance of forensics and evidence in crime detection and solving and prosecuting crime. I recognise the work of the Garda National Technical Bureau in this area. It has won a number of awards over many decades. Investment was planned to advance work on a new forensic science laboratory to be located in Celbridge. I attended the turning of the sod for the project about a year ago. I understand, however, that it is now in jeopardy and that it is a casualty of the overrun at the national children's hospital. Reports suggest it is part of the reprofiling exercise arising from the overspending. Will the Tánaiste clarify what investment will continue in the forensic science laboratory? Will it go ahead? If not, what is the plan? Where does the Garda National Technical Bureau fit into the new structure? I understand there are also some questions concerning that alignment as well.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It is absolutely not the case that there has been any delay in the forensic science laboratory due to overruns at the national children's hospital, as the Deputy alleged. I assure him and the House that the forensic science laboratory is one of the major capital priorities of the Government.

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