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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] I pointed out to Deputy Brady and others that between 2004 and 2010, 345 post offices closed and that there have been 37 closures in the past five years. Two post offices in my area closed quite recently. Both were advertised and consultations took place but nobody wanted to take on the job. It is hard to direct that people would do this. What are we doing about this? On television the other night, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment referred to the national roll out of broadband, which will allow post offices to have access to broadband. We are also actively encouraging people to have their social welfare payments paid at post offices, which is their choice. We support the introduction and roll-out by An Post of the e-payment account. An Post has announced its intention to launch a new payment account from its own resources. It is not seeking Government support for that. We support the model of community banking and this is being processed by the Department of Finance along with the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. We established the feasibility of offering a motor tax service and other social services in post offices. This is being finalised with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government but will ultimately require An Post to engage in delivery.

I mentioned the report brought forward by the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, regarding hub post offices. Four of those will be rolled out as part of a pilot scheme. We will support the establishment of a post office network renewal process based on the An Post plan over five years. I assure Deputy Brady and others that the Government is fully committed to the post office network. This is not an easy situation to resolve. We want to try to give it as many services as we can.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin As we reach the 19th day of the Bus Éireann strike and in light of its devastating effect on public transport, the families of the bus drivers and people at large, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has yet to climb out of his ivory tower to do something about it. My question about promised legislation concerns a group of people who cannot avail of public transport. I refer to those with severe disabilities who are on low incomes. A commitment was made by the Government to provide for a scheme to make individual payments as a contribution towards transport costs for these people. The Government has a role to play in helping these individuals, who are socially isolated and have difficulty accessing so many different types of services. What is the progress in respect of this matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will have to update Deputy O'Loughlin on the progress made there.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae Promises were made in the programme for Government that in light of the fact that many rural Garda stations were closed, policing in rural areas would not be compromised. However, we find the Killarney division of An Garda Síochána is very short on numbers. Indeed Ballyduff Garda station, which is located in a town that has experienced of robberies, which was never signalled to be closed and which has had a lot of work done to it, does not have a garda.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Promised legislation.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae It was promised that rural policing would not be compromised by the closure of Garda stations. Why is the Government not giving the numbers required to the Killarney division?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I can confirm that there is ongoing recruitment to An Garda Síochána. A total of 800 recruits will enter Templemore this year. The Deputy will have seen the advertisements for 300 Garda reservists and 300 civilians, so there has been ongoing investment by this Government and that which preceded it to ensure we have adequate numbers of gardaí throughout the country. Their deployment is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster County Louth has seen the highest increase in rents at over 17%. I raised this issue with the Taoiseach several months ago when I asked him to include Louth in the rent pressure zones. It appears that the Taoiseach has not acted on that. I also made him aware that there were over 4,000 people on the housing list in County Louth, that there is a chronic shortage of private rental accommodation and that the little accommodation that is there is either unaffordable to most or landlords will not accept the housing assistance payment. Perhaps the Taoiseach does not give a damn about it. If this is not the case, will he give a commitment here today to include County Louth in the rent pressure zones given that it has the highest increase in rents and will he give a date as to when he will do that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government monitors these things on a regular basis. The special housing unit in the Department has full access to all rent increases, which is why the Minister has already expanded the rent pressure zones. I will bring Deputy Munster's comment to the Minister's attention today.

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin Could the Taoiseach give me an indication as to the progress in providing full medical cards to all children in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance? This is a major issue in my constituency of Sligo-Leitrim and in south Donegal and west Cavan. When will these children receive these cards?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A total of 10,000 children are involved. That Bill has gone through the Houses so these cards should be on the way. I think a date was fixed for it but it was decided by Government and the Bill has been put through so that should happen very quickly.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny I know that the redress scheme for people who were born in mother and baby homes came before the Cabinet yesterday. We had a lot of fine words of compassion here a couple of weeks ago but for many people, what happened yesterday seems to be the opposite. Is the Taoiseach prepared to commit today regarding what he will do to look after these people who were the victims of an abusive situation that was Government policy in the past? What can be done to provide redress to these people, many of whom are getting old and need to see that it is not just a matter of fine words in this Chamber but that the Government will act on their behalf?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This is an interim report. Obviously, it has major implications. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs set out the views of the Cabinet and Government on the report yesterday. The Government is conscious that the commission has made no findings to date regarding abuse or neglect and believes it would not be appropriate to deal with the questions of redress in advance of any conclusions that will be reached by the commission. In addition, the redress scheme that was there was complex to administer and often difficult for applicants. The Comptroller and Auditor reported recently on the 2002 residential institutions redress scheme and highlighted the cost to the State, the diminution in the value of the offers made by the congregations, the need for evaluations and lessons learned. The focus will now be on assisting those who were unaccompanied as children in the mother and baby homes with a view to offering very meaningful supports that will be of genuine and practical value to them. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will consult representatives further about this. We want to do this in a way whereby the State will help and support these people - through the provision of appropriate services - in respect of this aspect of their lives. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is working with Tusla to support the provision of information to assist former residents who may wish to establish when they resided in a mother and baby home. This might involve very painstaking work on a matter that is obviously very personal for some people who want to find out where their mother was or who she was. Dr. James Gallen from Dublin City University has been asked to assist in the design of a model of transitional justice as a means of giving voice to former residents of mother and baby homes and county homes. The Minister will carry out a scoping review of the commission's existing terms of reference to see if amending them would enhance the existing work and help to resolve related questions.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (amendment) Bill is promised legislation that is eagerly awaited by the private and public sectors. What is the anticipated progress of the Bill through the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It will not be taken this session. The heads of that Bill are in preparation but I doubt if it will appear before the end of the session.

Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2017: Vote 29 - Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

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