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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item International Relations

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 968 No. 7

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Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward On the answer to the Kerry problem here, perhaps a special hour every week for the Kerry Members on their own would answer the problem.

On page 105 of the programme for Government there is a commitment to ensuring that "every young person is enabled to reach their full potential". Juvenile arthritis is holding back up to 1,500 young Irish people from leading full and vibrant lives. I understand that the World Health Organization recommends six rheumatologists for a population of 4.7 million but in Ireland, we only have two. The Irish Children's Arthritis Network is a volunteer charity supporting children who are living with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and their families in Ireland. The charity informs me there were 793 children waiting to see a consultant rheumatologist as 2017 drew to a close. It also revealed that the national average waiting time in 2014 was 125 days, which had increased by 2016 to 169 days. I understand that some children have had to wait for up to three years for service. By international averages we should have six rheumatologists for 4.7 million, but we only have two. We should have at least six.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are currently two consultant rheumatologists who care for children with juvenile chronic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions. They have been relieved of their duties to look after adult patients in order that they can now concentrate full-time on paediatric patients. The Deputy is quite correct. The international guidelines suggest that we should have six full-time consultant paediatric rheumatologists. We now only have two. It is intended as part of the HSE service plan for next year to approve the appointment of a third and then move on from there. We will not get four in a year, unfortunately.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick All in this House will agree that Ireland has a housing problem. Many constituents call to my constituency office to complain that they cannot get planning permission to build their dream house because of local needs. If one looks at the advertising in newspapers, the first thing one sees is "subject to planing permission" and then the dreaded words "local needs". I do not think it is fair to stop people living in the countryside. People nowadays will commute to the nearby towns and cities. I live in County Louth, where a home house has to be within a certain radius of the site. In my neighbouring county, County Monaghan, they cannot wait to get people to come and live in the countryside. My questions to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, are whether we can get rid of local needs provisions and whether we are breaking European law by using the words "local needs".

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Deputy for the question. I have no role in individual planning decisions made by local authorities. In Project Ireland 2040, we have signalled some new aspirations for the country concerning where and how we build our houses. There have been some changes and some comments at the European level that are being reflected upon by the Department at the moment but until such time as those new guidelines come into place, the current guidelines are the law.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny Last week I visited Sligo University Hospital. While there, the manager told me about the recruitment of senior staff. It is an issue all over the country. It can take up to nine months for public hospitals because of the recruitment process and the various stages they have to go through with the HSE, whereas a voluntary hospital can carry out exactly the same recruitment of a senior consultant in nine weeks. There is a serious problem here. I was told of a case where a similar post was advertised by a public hospital and by a voluntary hospital. The voluntary hospital had the staff member in place in just over two months, whereas the public hospital took almost a year to do the same. The problem was not that the staff were not available, it was the process and the length of time it takes. Can the Minister for Health look at that and come up with a solution, so that when we have staff shortages in our hospitals we can actually fill them quickly?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I thank Deputy Martin Kenny. I will indeed take a look at it. The HSE is already looking at how it can streamline its recruitment process. It is worth saying, however, that despite the recruitment challenges, we have more doctors and nurses working in the health services this year than last year and had more last year than the year before. We are always looking at ways to further streamline the process.

Deputy Tom Neville: Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville My question relates to promised legislation concerning the high costs of motor insurance. While I welcome that there has been a decrease of approximately 20% according to the Central Statistics Office, I seek the current position regarding the legislation on the national claims information database. What point has that process reached? When do we expect to complete it, that is, as much as possible in order to put the pressure back on the industry stakeholders to solve this problem?

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy The cost of insurance working group has been working pretty hard on this. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is drafting the legislation at present and we hope and expect that the Bill will be published before the end of this session.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputies Michael Harty, Joan Collins, Mary Butler and Frank O'Rourke - to discuss the availability of the FreeStyle Libre drug for management of type 1 diabetes; (2) Deputy Niamh Smyth - to discuss investment in the emergency department at Cavan General Hospital; (3) Deputy Dara Calleary - to discuss the reduction by the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland in services at the Mayo Alzheimer’s unit in Castlebar; (4) Deputy Charlie McConalogue - the need for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss his decision to introduce electronic tagging on all sheep later this year; (5) Deputy Tom Neville - to consider the upgrade of rural town and village sewerage schemes in rural Ireland and to further foster housing development; (6) Deputy Peter Burke - to discuss the practice by the HSE regarding patients in nursing homes awaiting ward of court procedures; (7) Deputy Marc MacSharry - the need for the Minister for Health to immediately address the lack of adequate personnel in physical and sensory disability services including occupational therapy in the Sligo area, which is now by the admission of management at crisis point, and if he will make a statement on the matter; (8) Deputy John Brassil - to ask the Minister for Education and Skills to reverse the decision to refuse grant aid to Scoil Naomh Erc, Glenderry, Ballyheigue, County Kerry, for the provision of additional accommodation and to ask the Minister to clarify the grounds on which the school is being refused; (9) Deputy Clare Daly - the need to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Ann Lovett; (10) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - to discuss the ongoing crisis in Gaza; (11) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the investment in mental health services in community healthcare organisation, CHO, area 8; (12) Deputies Jackie Cahill and Eamon Scanlon - the need for the Minister for Finance to explain why the rules and regulations on State procurement contracts offer no protection to local subcontractors in the event of the main contractor being unable to complete the contract as agreed with the State; (13) Deputy Brian Stanley - to discuss with the Minister the plan for St. Francis school, Portlaoise, which is proposed to be situated on the site of former St. Paul's school, Borris Road, Portlaoise; (14) Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire - to discuss driving test waiting times in Cork; (15) Deputy Bríd Smith - the cervical screening scoping inquiry; (16) Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin - the reinstatement of the Coughlanstown Road, Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare; (17) Deputy Mick Wallace - to discuss disbanding the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, immediately; (18) Deputy Robert Troy - to ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to explain why an application for a family resource centre and childcare service for McKeown Park, Longford, was refused; (19) Deputy Eugene Murphy - the external independent review of maternity services at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe; and (20) Deputy Catherine Connolly - the serious crisis that has emerged for Galway students due to the proposed 18% rise in rent in student accommodation, in a city that has designated rent pressure zones, leading to real fears for the students that they will be homeless for the academic year.

The matters raised by Deputies Michael Harty, Joan Collins, Mary Butler and Frank O'Rourke, Peter Burke, Dara Calleary and Richard Boyd Barrett have been selected for discussion.

Business of Dáil

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Can I make a point of order before we start Taoiseach's Questions? It is one addressed to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle or the Ceann Comhairle. It arises out of the data protection legislation that was referenced during the course of questions. We had a briefing for all the individual Members and staff in the House on the implications for Members of the House of the new data protection regime. Unfortunately, that briefing is now entirely redundant because the Bill has been substantially amended. I ask for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to arrange for a full briefing for Members and staff on the implications once the final Bill is enacted.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I will give the Minister for Justice and Equality the opportunity to reply.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I would very happy to so engage. I think it is important. My officials in the Department of Justice and Equality might be involved in an all-party briefing.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I believe it should be the commission that organises it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I know that the Houses have engaged outside private consultants-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Yes.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan -----to engage in briefings for Members. I would have thought it appropriate that my officials and I might be involved. I would be very happy to take on board the suggestion of Deputy Howlin, if indeed I can take it as a suggestion. Maybe I will make early contact with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's offices and we can arrange this on an all-party and independent basis.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I can assure the Deputy that I will bring it to the attention of the commission.

Ceisteanna - Questions

International Relations

 1. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar further to the reply from the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to Parliamentary Question No. 21 of 25 January 2018, the status of the proposal to double Ireland's global footprint by 2025. [19091/18]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Plans to double Ireland’s global footprint by 2025 are advancing. As I have previously stated, that does not necessarily mean a doubling of agencies, embassies, staff or budget – though we are and will be expanding these where appropriate. It means taking the steps necessary to double our impact around the world. The exercise will enhance Ireland’s visibility globally, extending our international influence. It will position us for trade and investment growth in new and existing markets. This is especially important as the UK leaves the European Union.

It will also benefit our citizens when travelling or living abroad and will support deeper engagement with our diaspora, including through new and creative platforms.

It will help showcase our culture to the world, and better communicate the benefits of living, working and studying in Ireland.

The Government has already taken a number of important steps to deliver this goal, including through the decision to open new embassies in Chile, Colombia, Jordan and New Zealand, as well as consulates general in Vancouver and Mumbai.

In support of a strategic approach to deepening engagement with Germany, the Tánaiste recently published a review entitled “Ireland in Germany: A Wider and Deeper Footprint”, making important recommendations, including opening a new consulate in Frankfurt, the financial capital of the eurozone.

In addition, during my visit to the United States for the St. Patrick’s Day period, I indicated our intention to expand and reinforce our footprint there, including through advancing our economic and other interests on the west coast. I also announced Global Ireland, an initiative to help us communicate in a more coherent, compelling and streamlined way to an international audience.

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