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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 977 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith] This has to be sorted, and sooner or later the Taoiseach will have to face up to it. He should not tell me he will sort it after he forces nurses out onto the streets in the month of January when the health service is creaking at its worst in terms of the crisis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy is offering a false and bogus solution, and that is wrong. It is disrespectful to nurses and midwives to offer a false and bogus solution.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith The Taoiseach is offering nothing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A pay rise is not just one-off. A pay rise is recurring and has to happen every year. The Deputy is suggesting is to settle it this year but then take the money back off them next year. That would be wrong.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I did not say it should be taken back next year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It would not just be a case of settling this claim. There would certainly be knock-on claims. We had that indication already from other unions. The Deputy's policies are so obviously a return to austerity. She does not want us to pay down our debts. She wants us to borrow more money-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett They are not our debts. They are Anglo Irish Bank's debts.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----to finance pay increases. It was those kind of mistakes that caused the situation seven or eight years ago in which people could not even imagine the possibility of pay rises and we were talking about pay cuts.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith The Taoiseach should stop digging. He sounds ridiculous.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The kinds of policies the Deputy pursues, namely, increasing debt and financing pay increases through borrowed money, are exactly the types of policies that land us in austerity.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes Leaders' Questions. Before proceeding with questions on promised legislation, I understand the Government Chief Whip has a business proposal to put to the House.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders and the Order of the Dáil of yesterday, that the amendments from the Seanad on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 shall be taken immediately following the statements post the European Council meeting and shall be followed by the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for one hour. The Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ Business or at 11.30 p.m., whichever is the earlier.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I note the European Commission has published its preparedness document on Brexit so there can be no excuses.

As we discussed yesterday, the cost overruns for the new national children's hospital are of great concern to us all. The Taoiseach said yesterday towards the end of Leaders' Questions that the costs could be higher and it seems the Cabinet was advised the costs could be higher. I ask the Taoiseach to be honest and transparent in that regard. What kind of figures are we talking about? The International Monetary Fund published a public investment management assessment report on Ireland in November 2017 in which it criticised Ireland and said the country pays more for its infrastructure than other countries and uses it less efficiently. It specifically flagged cost problems with the national children's hospital at the time, stating that discussions with Departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, "did not reveal any instances of fundamental review having been undertaken, even though there seem to have been instances where this would seem to have been appropriate, eg in the case of the National Children's Hospital." Will the Taoiseach outline the real story with the costs of the hospital and indicate when the investigations he spoke about yesterday will commence?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am not sure where this question fits in with promised legislation.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It relates to the programme for Government.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is probably an issue that should be raised by way of a special notice question to the Minister for Health. The cost of the project is €1.433 billion. I gave that figure to the House yesterday, but there are caveats to that, particularly in regard to construction inflation. The programme for Government commitment is to build the hospital and we will build the hospital.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is in the wrong place. The Taoiseach was told that but would not listen.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Please, Deputy.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The three hospitals - Temple Street, Crumlin children's hospital and Tallaght children's hospital - will come together as a single hospital on three sites on 1 January, which is only two weeks away. The satellite centre in Blanchardstown is almost finished and children will attend that by the middle of next year. Enabling works have started in Tallaght and the facility will be open in 2020. The main piece, the central campus in St. James's Hospital, will be open in 2022.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty As we look forward to spending Christmas with our families, there are many people who will not have the type of Christmas they wished for. For many, it will be the third year they will have spent Christmas Day in emergency accommodation as a direct result of the Government's policies. We see today from the Central Bank report that banks in this State hold in excess of 3,200 properties. When vulture funds are included, the figure increases to 3,715. The majority of these are family homes held by banks in which this State has a majority shareholding. For example, Permanent TSB told us last June that it had 2,000 properties. In anybody's books, it is an absolute scandal and a travesty that State-owned banks have so many empty properties when so many children and adults are in emergency accommodation, so many people cannot find rental accommodation and the property market is out of reach for so many individuals. What will the Government do about this? It is not a new phenomenon but one that has gone on year after year and there has been no action from the Government in that regard.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Deputy for the question. It is a very difficult time for families in emergency accommodation. The policy responses we are putting in place are to try to get families out of hubs and into homes as quickly as possible. My Department and the Housing Agency are engaging with the banks to take possession of their vacant stock. Almost 1,000 homes will come in through the acquisition programme being led by the Housing Agency, and more on top of that through local authorities. I will have details on that at the start of next year.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin My question is for the Taoiseach and perhaps the Minister for Justice and Equality. It is a matter I have raised many times but I am very conscious of it coming into the Christmas period. Many people, young people in particular, will be subject to online harassment and bullying over the Christmas period. It is a fact that will make life miserable for them. We had hoped in this House that the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 would be law by now. This is an important issue. I had occasion to meet a constituent of Deputy Eoin Ó Broin whose daughter committed suicide after vicious online harassment and who asked that the House name the harassment Bill "Coco's law" in her daughter's honour. Will the Minister for Justice and Equality indicate where that Bill now stands and when he envisages that we will be able to deal with this pernicious and vicious crime?

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank Deputy Howlin for the question. I agree with him regarding the priority nature of this legislation. I acknowledge a group within my Department that is working closely with Deputy Howlin and others to ensure the legislation, as drafted, can be fit for purpose. I expect progress on this issue early in the new year and I assure Deputies, in particular Deputy Howlin, that I will keep them fully informed of developments. I expect to be in a position to report progress early in the new year.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The programme for Government states the Government would be tested by the way in which it dealt with the housing crisis. As we face into Christmas, the Government's failure to deliver on its promise to address the housing crisis rings particularly poignantly in our ears. All of us were very moved by the case of Amanda and everybody was delighted to see Amanda and her family get keys to her house. The problem is that there are thousands of Amandas. There is Mohammed who has four children, one of whom has autism. Mohammed's wife has just had a very difficult birth and the family has been in emergency accommodation for two years. Gemma, who has two children aged two and five, has been homeless for a year. Ciara and her children have been in temporary accommodation for a year and a half. Elaine, who I mentioned previously, is facing possible eviction before Christmas. There are thousands more like them. Does the Taoiseach not believe he owes them an apology before Christmas for putting them through that and failing to deliver on the promises he made when he came into Government to address the hardship and crisis they and thousands of others face?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Deputy for the question. I am very sorry that families have to spend this Christmas in emergency accommodation. I have been meeting many of them this week. This is a very difficult time for parents with children, particularly at this time of year. That is the reason we brought about Rebuilding Ireland, which is a five-year plan. I wish we could get return the housing sector to a functioning state more quickly but the plan is making progress. That is the reason people are able to get keys to new homes, as has been happening throughout this year. Next year, 10,000 more homes will come into the social housing stock. Those will be real homes for families. That will not be enough in one year, but it will be progress and will help 10,000 more families, including children, over the course of next year. As we bring those homes into the stock of social housing, we will continue to help families in hubs and other families in need to find other solutions such as the housing assistance payment.


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