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O'Brien, Darragh

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Order of Business

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Senator Darragh O'Brien

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Senator Darragh O'Brien

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Darragh O'Brien

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I thank the Leader for outlining the business for today and particularly for allowing time to debate the motions concerning the two Standing Orders which need to be discussed.
I request we have a debate at the appropriate time - probably be in the new year - on the HIQA report on the National Ambulance Service. This is an issue that has been discussed in the House over a number of years. I have mentioned issues related to the great work done by Dublin Fire Brigade, its ambulance service and the National Ambulance Service, but we need to look towards the creation of one combined emergency medical service system. I have read through much of the report but the headlines do not tell the full story. It is quite a complex situation with regard to resourcing and areas of responsibility. When Members have had an opportunity to read the report, it would be useful to have a debate on it early in the new year. I ask the Leader to organise it.
It is welcome that a debate on the issue of homelessness, with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, in attendance, will take place this evening. I know that there was a vote on the issue yesterday and people are genuinely concerned. I know that some Senators would accuse other colleagues of mock outrage, but that is not the case. I am in receipt of correspondence from Dublin City Council through the leader of the Fianna Fáil group, Councillor Paul McCauliffe. As far back as 6 November all group leaders of the city council groups - the Labour Party, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, the Independents and Fianna Fáil - have been seeking a meeting with the Minister through the office of the Lord Mayor, Christy Burke, to discuss the urgent need for action to be taken to tackle homelessness in Dublin city. Following a series of e-mails, the Minister's office eventually came back and scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, 26 November, but a few days prior to that meeting an e-mail was received stating that the Minister's office had phoned to cancel that meeting. It stated the situation with Irish Water and water charges over the previous two weeks had impacted greatly on this diary and his staff were in the process of rescheduling meetings. It also stated that they would be in touch to discuss and agree and alternative date as soon as possible. The city councillors had flagged the issue. I am chair of the regional drugs task force in north County Dublin and I am very familiar with the issue of homelessness, and much of the cause of it is related to drug and alcohol abuse, although not all of it is. I am glad that the Minister will at least be coming into the House this evening. However, the priority of homelessness was obviously not high on his agenda when he saw fit to cancel a meeting with the leaders of the groups on Dublin City Council and said he had other issues to deal with. The leaders of those groups had been seeking a meeting with him since he took over as Minister. I would like us to have a proper debate on this issue this evening and for people to come forward with some solutions. One idea I have, which the Minister should examine, is to take account of the infrastructure that is already in place such as the regional drugs and alcohol task forces, groups such as the Fr. Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Community and others, and to have a specific conference on this issue to examine ways to solve the problems. The Minister has not shown up to now that he views homelessness in Dublin as a priority and that fact is borne out from his cancellation of the meeting with elected members of Dublin City Council. I hope he uses the debate we will have later to state that he will prioritise this issue.