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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 943 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] As I stated the last time Orkambi was raised in the context of setting out some sort of certainty for the health system, the discussions centre around Orkambi, Kalydeco and any other new drug that comes on stream. My understanding from the Minister for Health is that it is hoped to conclude the discussions in a matter of weeks. I know I said that the last time the matter was raised but that is my information. This issue is of serious concern to those who have cystic fibrosis and their parents. It is hoped the discussions will be concluded in an overall sense in a couple of weeks. I will revert to the Deputy on the legislation.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Will the Taoiseach send me a note on the legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Yes, I will provide an update on work on the Bill and when it is expected.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I raise the long-promised and overdue revised guidelines for the wind energy industry. The Taoiseach will be aware that in 2016 the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland will have to carry out a strategic environmental assessment before any revised guidelines are issued. As any planner will agree, the process of carrying out a nationwide assessment takes more than two years to complete and the procurement process could take another year. In light of this ruling, will the Taoiseach confirm that the revised guidelines will not be available for several years and we will be stuck with the current guidelines?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy seems to be seeking a timescale. All I can I tell him is that the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, and Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, are talking. This matter dragged on for some time with previous Ministers. I will give the Deputy an up-to-date account on the status of the discussions.

Deputy Shane Cassells: Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells In respect of the commitment in the planning reform section of the programme for Government to promote higher urban housing densities, particularly in public transport corridors, through the national planning framework, are plans in place to simultaneously fund the creation of community centres and facilities for these new high-density areas? The new policy being promoted by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, in a nationwide roadshow has the potential, if not handled properly, to exacerbate problems in urban areas where thousands of families can be displaced from their home town in search of affordable housing, only to find a dearth of community facilities. Are plans in place to reinstate the capital funds previously provided by the Department for the construction of community centres?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is a matter for legislation and one to which the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government will respond in accordance with the statutory plans set out by each local authority. The Deputy will be aware that in respect of special development zones, restrictions and prohibitions apply to the provision of extensive housing unless other facilities are provided in parallel.

Deputy Shane Cassells: Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells We have a special development zone in Navan.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar One cannot provide large numbers of houses without providing the facilities that go along with them.

Deputy Shane Cassells: Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells That has happened.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In the past, people sometimes forgot that children were born on housing estates and they need facilities. This is all about proper planning.

Deputy Pat Deering: Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering We have heard much today about jobs. The south-east region suffered a great deal as a result of the problems the country experienced in recent years. One of the key drivers of the Action Plan for Jobs in the south east was the development of a technological university for the region. Successive Governments set this as a priority. Will the Taoiseach provide an update on the progress of the Technological Universities Bill? Is it still Government policy to develop a technological university for the south east based on parity of esteem and multi-campus technology?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This was one of the first decisions made by the previous Government in 2011 on account of the demise of TalkTalk in Waterford. Since then, the Government has fully supported the concept of technological universities. We are awaiting Committee Stage of the Technological Universities Bill in the Dáil, which should be taken not too far from now.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae The programme for Government makes specific reference to the farming community, farmers' income and support for the family farm. In 2009, the disadvantaged payment made to farmers in the least productive land was cut from €4,400 to €3,400. Farmers may now only claim for 34 ha rather than 45 ha. The new ANC payment rate as well as how and where it is paid will be decided later this year. I ask that the €1,000 taken from farmers in disadvantaged areas be restored to farmers who badly miss and need this money because they are struggling. Incomes that were cut in many other sectors have been restored, which I welcome. I ask that the payment be restored to its previous level for farmers in disadvantaged areas when the new ANC payment is being distributed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar While I take the Deputy's point, these are all matters to be considered at the relevant time. Preparations for the 2018 budget will start in due course and the level of grant assistance from the Common Agricultural Policy and Exchequer are always monitored.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire While the issue I raise was addressed previously, I have a specific question on the programme for Government commitment to tackling the current challenges in health. Cystic fibrosis is one such challenge. With 1,200 people in Ireland suffering from the condition, we have one of the highest rates of cystic fibrosis in the developed world. Will the Taoiseach update the House on the current status of negotiations with Vertex on the availability of Orkambi and the extension of specialist therapies?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I just answered a similar question from Deputy O'Dea. The Minister hopes the discussions with the companies involved in the manufacture of Kalydeco, Orkambi and any future drug for cystic fibrosis can be concluded in a matter of weeks.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane The Taoiseach previously gave a commitment to establish a commission of investigation into Project Eagle. In previous responses to questions asked by me and others, he stated he would hold off on doing so pending the report on Project Eagle from the Committee of Public Accounts. The committee's report has been published and we now have allegations that the National Asset Management Agency sold loans worth hundreds of millions of euro in private, rather than through the proper procedure. A commission of investigation into a range of matters is needed. Now that the red herring of the report of the Committee of Public Accounts has been taken from the water, will the Taoiseach provide an update as to when the terms of reference of the commission of investigation will be published and when the commission will be established?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I agreed in principle, when I met the leaders of the parties opposite on a number of occasions, to have a commission of investigation.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane It was not agreed in principle; it was agreed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I believed it was appropriate to wait until the report of the Committee of Public Accounts had been published. As the Deputy is well aware, the report, which will be the subject of a debate tomorrow, is disputed. I need to hear the views of Deputies on the value of the extensive work done by the committee and the areas a commission of investigation could not deal with, both in terms of documentation and personnel who are available or live outside the jurisdiction. Deputies should give their views as to the value and estimated costs of such a commission of investigation and what it would hope to achieve. I am not resiling from the principle we set out but members of the Committee of Public Accounts and others have valid contributions to make and we should hear those. We agreed in principle to have a commission of investigation and there are quite serious constraints upon that, both in terms of legal areas, jurisdictional problems, evidence problems and the extent of work carried out by the committee, which resulted in a disputed report at the end of the day.

Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2017 - Vote 30.

Ceisteanna - Questions

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

 1. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he held any bilateral meetings with any EU leaders at the European Council meeting of 9 March 2017; and the issues that were discussed. [13175/17]

 2. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on the outcome of the European Council meeting of 9 and 10 March 2017. [13188/17]

 3. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on his Department's preparations for the forthcoming European Council meeting in Rome. [13424/17]

 4. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if his attention has been drawn to the comments by President Hollande regarding the establishment of a two-speed European Union; and if he has discussed this with President Hollande. [13425/17]

 5. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on the informal meeting of European Union Heads of State and Government held on 10 March 2017. [13683/17]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

As reported to the House in yesterday's debate, I attended the spring European Council meeting and a meeting of the 27 Heads of State and Government in Brussels on 9 and 10 March. As Deputies are aware, I also held a short bilateral meeting with Prime Minister May. I had no other bilateral meetings over the two days, although I engaged with my counterparts in the margins of the EU meetings.


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