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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The inaction is the core of the issue. The Government has run out of road and ideas. There have been more announcements made than houses built. Ten local authorities did not build a single house last year. In 2009 there was approximately €670 million available.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl This is Leaders' Questions. Will the Deputy, please, put his question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That figure was reduced to €88 million last year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is all part of the legacy of destruction that the Deputy's party left behind it.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No, it is not.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As the Deputy knows, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is taking action as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Where?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny First, 500 units of modular housing will be delivered in two tranches of 150 and 350.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen How long will that take?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Where and when?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputies asked questions and they are getting answers.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny They seem to think one can deliver these units overnight. There are processes that one must fulfil.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen As the Government delivered nothing for five years, we would hardly expect it to deliver overnight.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Will Deputies, please, stay quiet and listen to the answers? They might not like them, but they should listen to them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I never hear interviews with anybody who has been allocated a house that was a void and closed up and which has now been returned to proper condition. There were 2,333 units returned to use in 2014 and the most recent projections show that there will be 2,500 by the end of the year. Dublin City Council has reported that 633 vacant units have been returned to use to date, with a projection that the number will be 765 by the end of the year. To date Cork City Council has returned 64 units to use and is projecting that the number will be 215 by the end of the year. To date Cork County Council has delivered 30 units and will have 71 by the end of the year.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan That is nothing; it is a drop in the ocean.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny To date the local authority in Waterford has returned 74 units to use and is projecting a figure of 148 by the end of the year.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea There are 5,000 on the housing list in Limerick alone.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny These are places where people will be able to live. It takes a while to repair the destruction caused by the Deputy's party.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Government has had five years, but it is only starting now.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Five years of doing nothing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Minister has met local authority chief executives-----

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea He starts four years and nine months down the road.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----to discuss their targets, the money they have been given and the objective of getting on with the business to be done. Why is that when the Minister provides money and objectives and tells local authorities to get on with building social housing-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Taoiseach knows why - the Government did nothing for five years.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----that we are not seeing the results? Is it that some of them do not want to build? They might prefer to have agencies to do it for them. A sum of €37.16 million has been confirmed for the Dublin region which represents more than 70% of that figure. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has confirmed that its expenditure has been €33.4 million. That is the money being spent and action is being taken-----

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis But the problem is still growing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Clearly, I admit there is a real challenge, but the challenge is not money.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is a crisis, not a challenge. It is an emergency now, not in 2020.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is the process by which the money can be spent and housing delivered. One will not deal with the issue until more houses are provided, that is, blocks and concrete, to provide houses for people.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government must increase the rent supplement to provide for this to happen.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Since last weekend's tragedy at Carrickmines, disturbing information has come to light on conditions on halting sites across the State and the lack of investment by the Government and local authorities in recent years. A tremendous article by Kitty Holland was published in The Irish Times which made devastating reading. The Carrickmines site was overcrowded; 29 people were sleeping in cabins and caravans at the time of the fire. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is one of 15 local authorities in the State that has drawn down no funding this year for Traveller accommodation. In the past seven years funding for accommodating members of the Traveller community has been cut by a shocking 93%, from €70 million in 2008 to €4.3 million this year. Of the 10,226 Traveller families in the State, 445 are living on unauthorised sites by the side of the road without anything but the most basic facilities. Some 104 families are living on basic serviced sites such as that on Glenamuck Road. A further 223 families are sharing halting site bays with other families, while 37 are sharing basic halting site bays with other families. In addition, 727 families are sharing houses with other families. A total of 1,536 families are living in overcrowded or unsafe conditions. This cannot continue. Will the Government immediately work with the Traveller representative groups to ensure lessons are learned from this tragedy and that Traveller families across the State will be provided with the safe and adequate accommodation they need?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The answer is "Yes". I visited the scene of the inferno at Carrickmines. The site, although a temporary site established eight or ten years ago, was very neat and clean. However, the units were located around the perimeter and made from the material that had caught fire, as a result of which ten people had lost their lives. It is an extraordinary tragedy and so sad for everybody involved.

The Deputy is aware that an audit is being carried out of all Traveller accommodation units and halting sites throughout the country, many of them in locations with which I am familiar. In Priory Hall, Longboat Quay and other locations around the country, places where all building regulations and planning conditions were supposed to be complied with, there have been fire traps. In this case I assume the corrosive smoke was responsible for people being unable to move when the fire occurred and it resulted in that difficulty.

Accommodation for Travellers is provided through a range of measures. There are the standard local authority housing units financed by way of the Department for the Environment, Community and Local Government's capital allocation for social housing. There is also Traveller-specific accommodation financed by the Department, while the purchase of private housing is assisted by the State and through Travellers' own resources. An approved Traveller housing body, CENA, has recently been launched and is due to commence operations shortly.

It is open to Travellers to opt for any form of accommodation. The 2014 annual count of Traveller families showed that of 10,226 families, the majority, 35%, were accommodated in standard social housing, 26% in private rented accommodation and 5% in assisted private housing, while 6% had been housed using their own resources. A total of 13% were accommodated in group homes or permanent halting sites and bays, 9% were sharing accommodation, 1% were on transient sites and 4% on unauthorised sites. That 4% represents a significant reduction from the first annual count which took place in 1999 and showed that 25% of Travellers were living on unauthorised sites. The reduction is due to significant investment in Traveller-specific accommodation such as group housing schemes and housing sites in recent years.

The level of investment was reduced in recent years, similar to many other forms of investment. Notwithstanding this, €400 million has been invested in the provision and support of this type of Traveller accommodation over the period. Every local authority has a five year programme to accelerate the provision of Traveller-specific accommodation. This requires particular expertise in the consultation process in the provision of the type of accommodation required for Traveller families. The programmes started in 2000 and the current programmes run from 2014 to 2018. During the period of the last programme 500 accommodation units were delivered.

Every council has a local Traveller accommodation consultative committee comprising local authority officials, members of Traveller representative groups and other relevant bodies, including public representatives. The committees assist in the preparation of the five-year rolling programmes and oversee implementation where possible. The National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, NTACC, is a national body appointed by the Minister. It comprises representatives of the different State agencies and so forth. It is the national platform for consultation.

The site in Glenamuck was not an unauthorised site. It was a temporary site, with services provided by the local authority, pending the putting in place of more permanent accommodation for the families. I understand a site at Glen Druid in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has been identified by the local authority in its Traveller accommodation programme for the period 2014 to 2018 for a group housing scheme of five units to meet the needs of the residents of Glenamuck. Funding approval has been granted by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and work is expected to be completed in 2017-18. In the interim, the necessity for a fully serviced, temporary site in the area for these families is being discussed and negotiated with a view to it being ready for occupation in the near future.


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