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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 958 No. 1

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Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is the assertion that has been made. I ask that the Official Report be looked at. I do not know these people. I have no axe to grind one way or the other but it has been stated in the House that people told lies in their evidence to the court.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The matter will be examined.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan We will see if it is repeated outside.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It has to be examined because it is a precedent that, in my view, opens up all sorts of new horizons about which we need to be very careful in the House.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Would Deputy Paul Murphy repeat it outside?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The matter will be examined today. I call Deputy Joan Collins.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I support Deputy Paul Murphy in his call for a public inquiry. I want to take up-----

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry Hear, hear.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan There is a shock.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Order.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins This is a democratic Dáil. We have been elected by our peers to be in here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes, Deputy, but-----

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor: Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor So was Deputy Burton.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl -----this is Leaders' Questions.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I want to take up the issue of the new research study that was published this morning, namely, Investing in the Right to a Home: Housing, HAPs and Hubs by Dr. Rory Hearne and Dr. Mary Murphy. The study was conducted as part of a Europe-wide examination of how to strengthen social investment. It says that the housing crisis has not yet peaked and is likely to escalate over the next five years. It also states that families can be severely damaged and traumatised from living in emergency accommodation, including family hubs. This study is based on international experience and research into Irish emergency accommodation. Does the Taoiseach agree that families and children should not - as the report and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission recommend - spend longer than three months in emergency accommodation, including family hubs, and that this should be legislated for and there should be a commitment to close all hubs by December 2019? Does he agree there is a danger, as the study says, that the newly established family hubs could become a form of direct provision for poor families?

The report finds that the major reliance of successive Governments, particularly in the context of Rebuilding Ireland, on the private sector to provide social housing has contributed to the problems now facing the State where two thirds of new social housing has come from the private rental sector? The report finds a core tension between Irish housing and economic policy with one trying to address the social housing crisis and the latter encouraging and relying on the private market to deliver investment in housing. The report states that the absence of State investment in social housing negates the rights of the vulnerable. It also states that the housing assistance payment - a payment to households on the social housing list but living in the private rented sector - is not a valid mechanism to meet the right to housing. While the report makes this argument from a security of tenure perspective, it also notes that, from a cost perspective, direct-build social housing presents a far greater return on State investment and thus is a more cost-efficient policy option.

There are other points I want to make but I will conclude on this. Even Rebuilding Ireland's inadequate targets are not being met. The relevant figures show that just 200 new social housing units were built in quarter 1 of this year. There will be fewer than 1,000 new social housing units built this year, which is less than a third of the Rebuilding Ireland target of 3,200. Of the €1.3 billion budget for so-called social housing this year, just a quarter, approximately €390 million, will be capital investment in the new build social programme. The real test for the Taoiseach, his Government and his commitment to human rights and equality is whether he is prepared to say that enough is enough, that this is an emergency and that no family will spend longer than three months in emergency accommodation. He should put every resource available to the State into undertaking an emergency social housing building programme, beginning in the next month, in order to meet the target of 5,000 social housing units a year. This has to be done and the problem must be faced up to.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The intention of the family hub, of which 15 are advancing or have been delivered in Dublin, with a further three in Limerick, Cork and Kildare, is to ensure that families no longer have to spend time in commercial hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation except in extreme or exceptional situations. Staying in a bed and breakfast establishment or a hotel is not appropriate for families. This type of accommodation is much preferable to the situation we have at the moment with people staying in bed and breakfast establishments and hotels. It is not considered to be a long-term housing solution. It is absolutely not the intention. It is only intended to be a short-term solution while people are provided with houses, apartments or proper accommodation under the social housing support system, whether through rent supplement, HAP or social housing.

In terms of the progress being made on the implementation of the Rebuilding Ireland plan, it is important to point out a few things. Planning permission has been granted for 16,375 new homes in the past 12 months, which is an increase of 26%. Commencement notices have been issued for 14,192 new homes nationwide, which is an increase of 38%. When it comes to housing completions as measured by ESB connections, in the 12 months up to the end of March 2015, it reached 15,684 homes across the country, which is 19% on the previous year. We are, without doubt, seeing an acceleration in the provision of housing and house-building. We are way behind where we need to be but we are now moving in the right direction. In terms of social housing there is a pipeline of 600 social housing projects involving the construction of over 10,000 homes at various stages in the process. There are currently 130 schemes under way on sites nationwide building over 2,400 homes. These include large-scale sites brought forward for mixed-tenure housing such as O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin City Council, Kilcarbery in South Dublin County Council and also in Fingal.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins There are 90,000 people on the housing waiting list. There are also the silent homeless living in overcrowded accommodation. There are also those who are in emergency accommodation. The reality is that the issue is not being addressed. We have not even reached the peak of this housing crisis and we are not addressing what we should be doing over the next five to ten years. The fact is that we are not short of solutions. The report outlines many - as NERI and others have done - in terms of the State stepping up and delivering and leading the supply of social and affordable housing, something it has resolutely failed to do up to now. Instead, it is waiting and encouraging the private market which this report shows will not deliver social or affordable housing. We need to increase our capital expenditure funding to at least €1 billion a year in order to deliver funding to local authorities and housing bodies to enable them to build a minimum of 5,000 units a year. It has been said to the Taoiseach here today that these hubs can possibly become the direct provision centres of the future. He has heard it and he has had to respond to it. He has to deal with this emergency and meet with this group, Rory Hearne and the housing committee to go through this report. It is really crucial that we deal with these issues now and not let this continue.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have met Rory Hearne on occasion in the past. I recall he was student union president in Trinity when I was a student there and I think he may even have been an election candidate for one of the left-wing groups more recently than that. I met him not too long ago at a running event in the Phoenix Park where he was less than pleasant, to put it that way. It certainly was not the kind of polite conversation I would expect from a university academic.

There are 90,000 people on the housing list but very many, if not most, have houses and apartments. However, these are houses and apartments that are being provided to them through rent supplement or the private rental sector and they want different houses or apartments that are more appropriate to their needs. It is important to recall that of those 90,000 on the housing list, the majority are in houses or apartments, just not the permanent homes they would like to have and which we would like them to have.

The Government total commitment to social housing is a commitment of €5.35 billion so it is pretty much €1 billion a year, if not more. That is intended to deliver 47,000 social homes by the end of 2021.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Taoiseach. That concludes Leaders' Questions.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will proceed to Questions on Promised Legislation. Before we start, can I point out that we have 30 Members offering on promised legislation.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin May I raise a point of order?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I objected to the Order of Business yesterday on the basis we needed some more time to reflect on the proposal to change Operation Pontus into Operation Sophia. My understanding is that an amendment was brought in at 10 o'clock this morning simply to increase the time. My intention was to raise it today and ask that the matter be deferred entirely but I was not notified that there was to be an amendment to the motion. There is a House of Lords report today that people will be informed about. It has looked in some depth at the operation and its success. We should have an opportunity to reflect on it before we make a decision to pass the motion and commit our naval service. My request to the Government is to defer this motion until the new session. Can that be considered, please?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before calling the Government Whip to address that particular proposal, I remind all present that a revised proposal to increase the allocation of time from 40 minutes to 80 minutes was agreed by the House at 10 o'clock this morning in an attempt to take on board Members' concerns.


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