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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Teacher Training Provision

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] That is the highest number in any year for a decade and we will do better again this year. We have to because of the substantial demand for housing. The housing stock was increased by approximately 9,000. The Deputy is right that some councils are performing better than others, which I do not think the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, would deny for one second. He has been complimentary of some councils that have delivered on the issue of housing, but he has been critical of others that have not done so. People have been wrong to be critical of him. He was right to do so because there is a difference in performance and we should not be afraid to compliment the local authorities which do well and call out those which perform poorly. I guarantee the Deputy that the Minister is not afraid to do so.

I disagree with the Deputy on what I believe is a bit of an obsession with the different ways in which social housing is categorised. We increased the social housing stock by 9,000 last year. There are many ways to provide social housing. I have had the pleasure and privilege as Taoiseach and a Minister of travelling around the country to hand out keys to people being given a new home for the first time.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall When did the Taoiseach hand out keys?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have seen the joy on their faces when that happens. Nobody ever said to me it was Part V housing, or that it had been built by Clúid or the Peter McVerry Trust and not by the local authority and that they did not want it.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen They would like to have the option of owning it someday too.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Nobody ever said he or she did not want a nice new house in Waterville in my constituency because it had been bought directly from a developer and had not been built by Fingal County Council. No real person who receives a social house ever says that to me.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen What is an unreal person?

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar What they want is a home with security of tenure. There are many ways to achieve this. Local authorities can build social housing as they used to do in the 1950s and 1960s.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I did not know that the Taoiseach was giving them out to the dead too.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It can be done through the affordable housing bodies such as Clúid, the Peter McVerry Trust and the Iveagh Trust which do a great job. It can be done under the Part V system, under which a certain amount of houses in a new estate are set aside as social housing. It can also be done by direct purchase. Why is it bad that local authorities buy derelict and unused houses in rural areas to bring them back into use? It is good and can be done by way of a long-term lease.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy The problem is that they are not doing it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar What matters is that last year 9,000 families, more than the number in any of the last ten years, moved into social housing in secure tenancies. We should not obsess about whether it is done through an affordable housing body, a local authority or a trust or under Part V, Part 8 or section 26. That is not what matters.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy We need the figures and I want the Taoiseach to come back and give me the one for which I have asked. Does "turnkey" refer to the signing of contracts or the keys provided? We do not know. We do not know the comparison between what is cost effective, value for money and what works. We need to get the breakdown in order that the information can be evaluated. This is public information and public money. Why is the Taoiseach so reluctant to give the figures in a way that will break it down in order that comparisons can be made? Is it true that Dublin City Council only built 21 houses last year? The performance of the local authorities matters because if we are to deliver the numbers of houses needed to get a grip on the crisis, the local authorities will have to deliver. The Taoiseach cannot keep answering questions in the way he has. The breakdown matters and I want him to answer the question based on it. It has to be given. It is not acceptable that the Taoiseach is skimming over the question I asked.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am advised by the Minister of State that the figures are available. As I have seen breakdowns, I imagine that that is correct and that they are available. I think the Deputy has got it wrong. The truth is that after years of running into problems and delays when we did not have the money to do it, we are now delivering on the issue of social housing. We increased the social housing stock by 9,000 last year.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The homeless figures are going up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We will increase it by even more this year.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath There is only one problem: it is getting worse.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy does not want people to know that-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Taoiseach is getting better and the problem is getting worse.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----she is trying to make out that housing provided by an affordable housing body such as the Peter McVerry Trust or the Iveagh Trust or under the Part V mechanism does not exist.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy No, I did not. I asked-----

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar They are real houses with real people in them.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Real houses for real people.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Last Friday I had the pleasure to be in Dundalk where 120 new social homes are under construction and will soon be occupied.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Hand out the keys.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It was not done directly by Louth County Council but through an affordable housing body - Clúid. The county manager, the politicians and representatives of Clúid were there. Everyone worked together, using taxpayers' money to deliver social houses for people who needed them, but the Deputy is trying to say they do not count.

Deputies: What is the point?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I think the Taoiseach is in a parallel universe.

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 that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or the resolutions of the Dáil of 28 February and 5 March, that today the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25 shall take place at 4 p.m. for one hour, unless the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019 has concluded, in which case there shall be no sos. The Dáil shall adjourn at the conclusion of proceedings of Fifth Stage of the Bill, or at 11.30 p.m., whichever is the earlier.

In relation to tomorrow's business, the Dáil shall sit at 10.30 a.m. to take questions to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation which shall be followed by Leaders' Questions at 12 noon. Questions on Promised Legislation shall be taken following Leaders' Questions for 30 minutes. Private Members' Business shall be taken for two hours following the sos and followed by the Topical Issue debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Are the proposals agreed to? Agreed.

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Teacher Training Provision

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton This is the fourth or fifth time I have raised issues related to the incidence of autism with various Ministers in the Chamber. I do not know whether the incidence of autism in Ireland is increasing or simply if there is a better, more detailed diagnosis. This is a significant issue for parents throughout the country. At its heart is how the education of children with autism spectrum disorder, ASD, is progressed in order that they can maximise their potential. There is a complete lack of a clear career path for teachers, many of whom train at their own expense by taking courses to deal with children with autism. There is no recognition of such training as a specific stream in education. Whenever I have raised this issue, the Minister for Education and Skills has passed my questions to the Teaching Council which is locked into a tight model in which it only recognises four streams of teaching: primary, secondary, Montessori and other, and further education. It is a rigid structure. The Minister is washing his hands of the issue. There is no mention of children with autism or particular special needs. There is an intense need. In my constituency there is a relatively high number of schools, especially at primary level but increasingly at second level, in which children are in ASD classes. There is also broad agreement to develop an ASD-specific school in Dublin 15, Dublin 7 and Dublin West because of the numbers of children who are effectively in part-time education and, in some cases, not receiving education at all. Even the Taoiseach has agreed that there is need for special provision.

With regard to ASD classes, if teachers are taken out of the general primary teaching stream and received no specific training, notwithstanding their intense commitment to the children involved, it may not produce the best outcome for the children.


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