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 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists (Continued)
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 978 No. 8

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Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I agree with what the Deputy said. I assure her that we will do that. I will take the opportunity to put some of the new measures to deal with outpatient waiting lists that are being tried in the University Hospital Galway on the record of the House. There is a urology pathway pilot scheme which should result in significant progress on wait times. The plastic surgery service in Galway has been running an innovative "see and treat" clinic. This involves patients attending outpatient appointments and, where a minor surgical intervention is required, receiving it on the same day. Approximately 220 patients were treated in this way last year. The National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, agreed to fund this initiative from September 2018 onward, with an additional 143 patients accessing the service. Galway University Hospital has also put in place virtual clinics for ear, nose and throat, ENT, and vascular services. This is only appropriate for certain conditions, but should result in an improvement.

We have an issue with patients not attending and the hospital is working on this. Some 8,494 new patients and 28,689 review patients did not turn up for their appointments in Galway University Hospital in 2018. I am not blaming the patients but these figures show that there is a need to maximise attendance. The hospital is looking at a text reminder service and at overbooking clinics so that, if some people do not turn up, another patient will be waiting to be seen. Saolta is going to continue to work on that. I will certainly reflect on the Deputy's comments. We will make sure that Saolta and Galway benefit from the additional resources we have in place for outpatients and inpatients for 2019.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I would have liked the Minister to address the issue of paediatric diabetics in Galway University Hospital in his commentary. Perhaps he can come at it again. This is an ongoing issue. Patients have to go to Limerick or Dublin for some services. It is an ongoing outpatient issue. Perhaps it is due to hospital appointments or something like that - I do not know - but this issue, which affects children, is often raised in my office. I welcome the fact that progress is being made in the area of ENT services. Issues with the ears, nose and throat can affect everyone from the very young to older adults. Everything the Minister has said today is welcome, but action on delivery is what we are really looking for. The results will only be known when the figures come to hand.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising the specific issue of paediatric diabetics. I will certainly look into it and either myself or the HSE will revert to her directly to see if we can make improvements in that regard. I thank the Deputy very much for highlighting the issue.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Gnó na Dála - 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, that, in relation to today’s business, Tuesday proposals No. 1 and 2 as contained in the first revised report of the Business Committee are hereby agreed to and, in relation to Thursday’s business, the Dáil shall sit at 10 a.m. to take statements on the nurses’ and midwives’ strike to which the following arrangements shall apply: statements of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes; following the statements, each party or group shall have five minutes each which shall consist of alternating questions and answers; there will be a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State; and all Members may share time. Oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform shall take place immediately following the sos.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell Is that agreed? Agreed.

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee Report

Deputy James Browne: Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne The electoral boundary committee was established by the Minister of State on 13 December 2017. It was provided with its terms of reference, which were set out. Its report on 13 June 2018 set out the boundaries in a clear and independent manner. A boundary committee is an independent body charged with setting out the boundaries for elections. For clarity, section 28 of the Local Government Act 1991 provides that "A boundary committee shall be independent in the performance of its functions." Under section 32(2), the Act states: "The committee shall if so requested prepare and furnish to the Minister a report in writing which shall include its recommendations". This was done. The Act goes on to say "the Minister shall publish the report and shall have regard to it". The word "regard" is not meaningless.

The committee very helpfully pointed out by way of additional background that the last such local electoral area boundary committee was established in November 2012. It reported on 29 May 2013, 12 months in advance of the 2014 local elections. The recommendations of the report of that committee were accepted in full by the then Minister and statutory instruments giving them effect were made.

On 11 January the Minister of State signed a statutory instrument in which he deliberately changed the boundaries recommended by the independent boundary committee for County Wexford in respect of the upcoming local elections. This has created farcical situations in County Wexford. For example, people from Oilgate, some of whom live only 4 km from Wexford town, will now have to drive 40 miles north, through Enniscorthy, to attend civic offices in Gorey for help. People who only live 1.5 miles south of Enniscorthy town, who vote in the town, and who consider themselves to live in its suburbs are now being told that they are Gorey people. They now have to go to Gorey rather than to the town where they do their shopping, where their families live, where their kids go to school and where they have spent their entire lives.

Why did the Minister of State make these changes? Why did he take the electoral area of Kilmuckridge, which an independent boundary committee recommended be an electoral area of Enniscorthy municipal district, and attach it to Gorey? The committee was made up of experts and it spent time considering this. I have no doubt that the committee wanted Gorey to have ten councillors, but it certainly would not have done it in this way. The committee took the areas of Ferns and Kilbora out of the Gorey municipal district and put them into that of Enniscorthy. These areas are halfway along the road between Enniscorthy and Gorey towns. I have no doubt that if the committee wanted Gorey to have ten councillors, it would have left Ferns in Gorey. It certainly would not have done it this way.

I cannot express the level of disbelief and anger felt by people, especially people in the south of Kilmuckridge municipal district. Glenbrien is pretty much a suburb of Enniscorthy. The people of Glenbrien were bemused when I was out there two weeks ago trying to explain to them that they are now Gorey people. The people in Oilgate are just laughing at the idea that they are part of a town they have no connections to. There might have been some rationale for Oilgate to be put into Wexford town, because parts of it are closer to Wexford town, but most people in Oilgate do their business in Enniscorthy. Putting Oilgate into Gorey, however, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I want a clear explanation as to why the Minister of State did this, because it was a personal request of his rather than a recommendation of the Department. I am curious as to why he sought this change.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan): Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan First, it was not a personal request. The report conducted by one of the committees in respect of municipal districts recommended changes to nine or ten areas that were in conflict with stated Government policy.

Changes to local electoral area boundaries may only be carried out following the completion of a review by an independent boundary committee. As Deputy Browne pointed out, these committees are established under section 28 of the Local Government Act 1991. The Act states that the Minister must have regard to the report of a boundary committee before deciding on whether to make an order amending local electoral areas. The key phrase there is "local electoral areas". In this case I set out the terms of reference for the boundary committee myself. Section 28 deals exclusively with local electoral areas. In this instance the reports of both committees in respect of local electoral areas were adopted in full. I established two independent groups, committee No. 1 and committee No. 2, in December 2017 to review and make recommendations on local electoral areas having regard to, among other things, the results of the census of 2016 as well as the commitment to consider reducing the size of territorially large local electoral areas and to ensure adequate levels of representation for towns and urban centres.

Concerns had been raised by a number of local authority members across different areas and by the Association of Irish Local Government about the territorial size and configuration of some of the local electoral areas specified following the last boundary review. The demands on councillors in territorially large areas are greater than those on councillors in more compact areas, even when member to population ratios are broadly similar. This can arise due to distance, travel time and the difficulty in keeping abreast of local issues. A further concern which had been raised was the perceived loss of focus on some of the large urban centres by virtue of their inclusion in territorially large local electoral areas.

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