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 Header Item Bord na Móna (Continued)
 Header Item Cycling Policy

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 945 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] This has become increasingly relevant, with constrained currency exchange margins in the immediate aftermath of the British vote to exit the European Union and the possibility of trade tariffs in the longer term.

Regarding the specific matter raised by Deputy O'Loughlin, namely, the future of the plant at Kilberry, while this is a matter of concern to me, I must point out that it is an operational matter for the company and one in which I, as Minister, have no direct role or function. Nonetheless, Bord na Móna has informed me that the majority of jobs based in Kilberry will be secure following the integration of the White Moss acquisition. I consented to the acquisition of White Moss Horticulture limited with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and following thorough analysis by Bord na Móna in the first instance, by NewERA, as the ministerial and commercial and financial advisors and by my own Department officials. My consent to the acquisition was conditional, however, on assurances provided by the management team at Bord na Móna that staff would be fully engaged with during the acquisition and integration process, that, where necessary, redeployments would be pursued and that any potential redundancies would be minimised and would be on a voluntary rather than a compulsory basis as far as possible.

The question that arose was how to maintain the long-term sustainability of the horticulture business and secure as many jobs as possible here in Ireland. It was a very difficult choice. It is not Government policy to invest in operations outside of this country unless there is a clear economic dividend within the State. A lot of thought and consideration went into this proposal by NewERA before it came to me. I discussed and considered it thoroughly before I made any decision on it, with the sole intention being to secure as many jobs as possible in Kilberry and in the horticulture operation as a whole.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I accept that a review is under way, which is very important. I also accept the Minister's bona fides in terms of sustaining Irish jobs. The Minister said that this is a matter of concern for him but it is a matter of huge concern for me in light of his response. He said that this is the responsibility of Bord na Móna but the Government has a responsibility to oversee the policies of Bord na Móna and how they impact on employment.

The Minister gave an assurance that there will be full engagement with the employees, that, where necessary, redeployment will be pursued and that any redundancies will, hopefully, be voluntary. That will not give confidence to any employees who may be listening in now or who may hear of this debate later. Commitments were made previously to invest more money in the plant and to award pay increases. Not alone have the workers not seen any of that, they are now seeing investment going out of the country and into another plant. I ask the Minister to ensure that not one job is lost. I also urge him to go back to Bord na Móna and ask it to look again at Kilberry and to consider the possibility of re-investing in that plant.

I have met members of the workforce who are afraid of their lives to speak out. That is wrong. They would only meet me on condition that those meetings would be confidential and their names would not be used, which I absolutely respect. It is wrong that an environment has been fostered where they are afraid to ask questions of management about the future of the plant and are afraid to have their names mentioned. That is absolutely wrong. On behalf of more than 60 workers, I ask the Minister to go back to Bord na Móna and try to renegotiate with the company.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I thank Deputy O'Louglin for her questions. I want to make it quite clear that I could have kicked this can down the road, not made a decision and told Bord na Móna not to invest in the UK operation. Had I done that, within 12 to 18 months, Deputy O'Loughlin and her colleagues would be asking why I did not take any action to try to save the Kilberry plant and the horticulture operation. I would be criticised for not supporting Bord na Móna when it put a proposal forward that would retain as many Irish jobs as possible. My priority is to retain as many Irish jobs as possible. It is not Government policy to invest in operations outside of this jurisdiction unless there is a clear economic and employment dividend within this State. It is not my job, as Minister, to allow investments like that to take place within the semi-State companies that are under my control. NewERA, on my behalf and that of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, looked thoroughly at this proposal and scrutinised it carefully, as it does with any proposal, particularly where it involves investment outside of this jurisdiction. It found that the best way to retain the maximum number of jobs possible was to take the approach that is being taken by the company.

I am disappointed to hear the Deputy's comment regarding employees being afraid to put legitimate questions forward. That should not be the case and I am quite happy to facilitate a meeting between management at Bord na Móna and the Deputies from the constituency so that the latter can relay the worker's questions to management and get clear answers.

I wish to make one final, important point, which is that we do not have the availability of green waste here. It is a condition now for selling these products in the UK that they must contain a certain percentage of green waste. Part of the problem is that when people are using their brown and green bins, they are contaminating them. A substantial amount of the brown and green bins in this country are being contaminated. That has an impact on employment, not just in the Kilberry operation but in terms of other potential operations across the country.

Cycling Policy

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Approximately 25 years ago, Mike Curtis died on Merrion Square in Dublin. He was on his bike, was flattened and killed. A lot of us started campaigning then to try to make Dublin a cycling city. It is deeply shocking for anyone with a keen interest in cycling to look at what has happened here in the last few months. On 12 February, Ms Tonya McEvoy, a member of the Orwell Wheelers cycling club was knocked down and killed in Kildare. On 12 March, Daragh Ryan was knocked off his bike and killed on Conyngham Road, a well recognised black spot - we have been talking about these black spots for a long time - near the Phoenix Park. Last Friday, Paul Hannon was knocked down and killed on Patrick Street, while last Sunday, Des Butler, was killed on his bike in Bunratty. Last Monday, a young woman was knocked down at the roundabout on Templeville Road and flattened under a truck.

We have been campaigning for 25 years to try to make this city safe for cycling. It should be one of the best cycling cities in the world because it is flat and relatively dry. Cycling is the quickest, best, most social and healthiest way of getting around. Dublin should be like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. My party and others have been working on this matter for all of that time, making very little progress but continuing to push the idea. We set out the smarter travel plan in 2009 and a plan for the overall network in 2011. We are at a point now where we really are ready to go and make this a safe cycling city. This is achievable, doable and it is a decision for here and now.

There are some significant routes ready to be built, including the Clontarf cycle route, which is a two way route from Clontarf all the way into town. Huge numbers of cyclists use that route every morning but it is lethally dangerous at present. The Liffey cycle route is a two-way cycle track right along the river which would transform how this city works. There is another project ready to go for College Green that will create a safe civic space and turn the whole city centre around in terms of how it works. We have greenway routes that would not only work as commuting routes but would also provide incredible benefits for the city. One such route runs along the seafront from Sutton to Sandycove. It is ready to go but investment is required. We need big money to make this happen, although not big in comparison to the money needed for a motorway. It would cost the equivalent of 1 km of motorway to develop most of these projects. The funding requirement is big in the context of what we have spent on cycling to date. Other projects include the Dodder greenway, the Royal Canal greenway and the Santry river greenway. These are all projects that we have been working on for 20 years.

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