Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Water Services Infrastructure
 Header Item Visit of Slovenian Delegation
 Header Item Commencement Matters (Resumed)
 Header Item Dental Services Waiting Lists
 Header Item Cancer Screening Programmes
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Establishment of Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services: Motion
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Mental Health Services Funding: Statements
 Header Item Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 248 No. 11

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Chuaigh an Leas-Chathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have received notice from Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, he proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to amend the Water Service Act 2007 or the Irish Water Act 2013 to allow Irish Water or local authorities to accept responsibility for all sewerage mains and infrastructure, including manholes, interchanges and shared pipes, including those running through non-public property, where these networks were historically maintained by the local authority.

I have also received notice from Senator Martin Conway of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to intervene urgently in a matter where a person with special needs (details supplied) has been waiting for over four months for an appointment for emergency dental surgery.

I have also received notice from Senator Maria Byrne of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to consider lowering the age for women to qualify for the national breast cancer screening programme from 55 to 40.

I have also received notice from Senator Gerald Nash of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to discuss the conditions at Whitecross national school, Julianstown, County Meath, and the need for the school replacement work to commence urgently.

I have also received notice from Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to explore what measures he can take with RTE to ensure satellite subscribers in Northern Ireland are no longer prohibited from viewing major sporting events on RTE, as well as ensuring they can access programmes via the RTE player on an equal basis with viewers in this State.

  I regard the matters raised by the Senators as suitable for discussion. I have selected Senators Ó Domhnaill, Conway, Byrne and Nash and they will be taken now. Senator Ó Donnghaile may give notice on another day of the matter he wishes to raise.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As there is a vote on the Social Welfare Bill in the other Chamber I propose that we suspend, if that is in order, until a Minister is available.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will there be another vote in the Chamber?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There may well be. I am not quite sure. I apologise to Senator Ó Domhnaill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I see the vote in the other Chamber has concluded.

  Sitting suspended at 10.35 a.m. and resumed at 10.38 a.m.

Commencement Matters

Water Services Infrastructure

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome the Minister of State. We are very understanding in this House.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I raise the matter on behalf of Councillor Joe Bonner of Meath County Council. This relates to an ongoing issue that affects not only large housing estates in County Meath but those right across the country. It is an emerging risk according to senior officials within Irish Water, whom we met last week to discuss the matter. It concerns shared drains coming from estates, a major issue in the commuter belt around Dublin in particular. Prior to Irish Water coming into existence, local authorities had the discretion to maintain or clear blockages in these drains but following a meeting with senior management in Irish Water last week, we were advised that the legislative framework restricts the company from carrying out any maintenance work on blockages in these shared drains within the confines of a housing estate, whether it is a private estate or one in the charge of a local authority.

  This creates a major difficulty where blockages exist and there are many examples occurring in sewerage infrastructure pipework between public sewer mains and manhole covers. Blockages may occur across a road in a housing estate, for example, and this could bring about major difficulties. Neighbours may have to work with each other and householders in an estate may have to apply to a local authority for a road opening licence or health and safety certification to carry out the works. They may have to provide a bond to a local authority.  The current situation is absolutely inappropriate. There are restrictions on Irish Water in regard to this. Pending a transient outcome or an outcome that would be desirable to the operator, Irish Water, and, more particularly, to the householders in this situation, I request that the legislation be amended or Irish Water provided with the appropriate discretion or that a national survey or scoping analysis be carried out by Irish Water over the next 24 months. In the intervening period, the responsibility or discretion should be provided to those local authorities that carried out the maintenance work heretofore. For example, Donegal County Council, Meath County Council and most others carried out works under the 2007 legislation.

  It is my understanding from a reply to a parliamentary question from the now Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, to the then Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, on 7 October 2015 that Irish Water was responsible for water services infrastructure, including water supply pipes or sewers extending from the waterworks or wastewater works to the curtilage of the private property. If that were the case, the problem would be solved. In fact, Irish Water tells me that is not the case. As such, there is a need for clarification here. In the event that no such clarification is forthcoming, the legislation should be amended as a matter of urgency to give local authorities the discretion to carry out these works. It is a major issue that is coming down the tracks, particularly with older housing estates where there may be infrastructural difficulties with the wastewater pipe network. I am not sure what the response from the Department is. I hope there is an acknowledgement that this is a risk and that the Department may provide some direction on solving it.

Visit of Slovenian Delegation

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Before the Minister of State replies to the first Commencement Matter, I welcome from Slovenia the State Secretary for European Affairs, Ms Sanja Štiglic, the ambassador and the other members of the delegation. They are very welcome.

Commencement Matters (Resumed)

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I join the Leas-Chathaoirleach in welcoming our visitors from Slovenia. They come from a fabulous country. I climbed one of their mountains many years ago and I really liked the country. It is similar to Ireland when it comes to rural tourism.

  I thank Senator Ó Domhnaill for providing me with an opportunity to outline the position in regard to this important matter for those affected throughout the State. I agree with him that it is an important issue. Like Councillor Bonner who asked the Senator to raise the matter, I have had many contacts from residents of estates in Meath and other counties facing the same issue. It is of concern and it needs to be addressed. We are certainly aware of it. It can cause great difficulty. While it does not happen every week, one can suddenly experience conditions that cause the problem, at which point it becomes an urgent issue for the families involved. I will take the opportunity in my reply to set out the legal position but there is a commitment to work with local authorities and Irish Water to find a solution. We have to do that.

  As the House is aware, the Government, Irish Water and local authorities are continuing to deliver on an ambitious transformation programme of the water sector in Ireland. Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has had statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provided for local authorities to act as agents for Irish Water with this relationship being expressed through service level agreements. Through these 12-year agreements, local authorities are utilising their experience and expertise in asset management and operations to provide services on behalf of Irish Water. This expertise is being combined with the considerable network and utility management experience available to Irish Water. The agreements are based on partnership, continuous improvement and the delivery of efficiencies. Each service level agreement in place with a local authority is supported by an annual service plan which reflects the required programme of transformation for that authority. It also outlines agreed objectives and standards of performance set against a budget covering headcount, goods, services and investment in the coming year. Annual service plans encompass a set of operational objectives, key performance indicators and a related budget, including payroll. The plans set out the context for the delivery of water services for each local authority for a given year.

  The Water Services Act 2007 sets down the obligations and responsibilities of water services authorities and property owners in respect of water infrastructure. Sections 43 and 54 of the Act provide that the property owner is responsible for the maintenance and replacement of any water or wastewater pipes, connections or distribution systems which are connected within the boundary of their property. This was the case also prior to the transfer of responsibility for public water services from the local authorities to Irish Water. However, I am aware, as the Senator says, that individual local authorities may, at their own discretion, have undertaken clearance works in respect of common wastewater infrastructure on private property in the past. I am familiar with cases like a particular terrace in Navan and St. John's in Kells where this has happened. At the time, the local authority did the right thing because garden boundaries had often extended out to take in some of the public infrastructure, which caused a difficulty. These works were not a requirement of the law pertaining at the time and not every local authority provided such services. Those that did acted in good faith in my opinion. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 transferred responsibility for the maintenance and repair of pipes and combined drains under publicly owned roadways and pathways to Irish Water while responsibility for storm water sewers remained with local authorities. The position as set out in legislation provides clarity on the responsibility for the maintenance of common sewerage pipes.

  Notwithstanding the legal position, I recognise the importance of local authorities and Irish Water working together to agree operational guidelines on this and other boundary type matters so as to provide clarity to householders as to the services which they can expect to receive from Irish Water working in partnership with the local authorities under service level agreement arrangements. While further legislation in this area is not envisaged, my Department is engaging with Irish Water to set out clearly the responsibilities of Irish Water and property owners in regard to water supply and wastewater infrastructure. We will find a solution to this working together with local authorities. We will not have to go down the legislation route albeit there may have been a missed opportunity at a previous stage. We can resolve it without doing so, however, and already some local authorities are making great progress, including Westmeath County Council. It is about bringing in a system whereby this can be dealt with nationally.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I thank the Minister of State for his excellent understanding of the matter. He is well aware of the issues. I acknowledge his sentiments and ask him to look at the difference between the reply to the parliamentary question asked on 7 October 2015 and the reply today. In October 2015, the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, referred to the curtilage of the private property. The reply today refers to the boundary of the private property. If it were the curtilage of the private property, it would solve the problem. It would be like the situation where the water network is within the curtilage of the property and the responsibility of the property owner and thereafter Irish Water is responsible. If we could define it as just the curtilage of the property instead of the boundary, it would resolve matters because the boundary includes the whole estate and all those parts which are in charge.

  A solution is urgently required. Having spoken to Irish Water, I believe it is very anxious to resolve the issue which has major implications for its good name. I am sure Irish Water does not want this to turn into a huge issue. I urge the Minister of State to find a resolution and to ascertain from the Department why there is a different response today to the one provided in the Dáil on 7 October 2015. The legislation has not changed in the intervening period but clarity is required. If it is possible, I ask the Minister of State to come back to me with that clarity when he has an opportunity. There is no rush.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will certainly come back to the Senator with that clarity. The reply today is similar to the reply I gave here a number of weeks ago when I addressed the matter first with some of the Senator's colleagues. I committed then and commit again to the Department finding a solution to this as it is the right thing to do. This situation leaves people very vulnerable. They cannot afford to fix the problem and the solution is often outside their boundary whereas the problem is being caused on their properties. It can cause difficulties for neighbours. In some cases, it is something that was always fixed or addressed over a period of 30 or 40 years. We will find a solution. Regardless of differing versions over the last year or two, there is a commitment to resolving the issue.

Dental Services Waiting Lists

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, to the House.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I welcome the Minister of State. I think it is my first time speaking in her presence in this Chamber. She is heartily welcome. I congratulate her on her well-deserved appointment. As a Deputy and as a former councillor over the years, I am sure she has experienced the issue I am raising today. Children who have difficulties with their teeth can become agitated, difficult and demoralised. Their parents can become anxious. They become worried and concerned. Many ordinary children who have braces on their teeth, or other dental difficulties, are bullied and suffer difficult challenges in school. We can imagine what it is like for children with special needs who have been diagnosed as needing urgent, detailed and intensive dental treatment. It causes awful anxiety and desperate worry for such children. Their parents experience unbelievable uncertainty, fear and anxiety.

  I am dealing with a client, a child with special needs, who has been identified as being in urgent need of intensive dental treatment. My office has been in weekly contact with the HSE to try to get this child's dental treatment approved. We have been told it could take up to a year, which is an unacceptable wait for the healthiest, brightest and most confident child, but is just appalling and disgraceful for a child with special needs. I believe this case warrants a special intervention by the Minister for Health. He should direct the HSE to provide the funding that is necessary for this child's dental treatment as a matter of urgency. I have received the standard Civil Service replies from the Department telling me that this is a matter for the HSE, which is responsible for managing the health services. That is fine in ordinary day-to-day situations, but in a specialised situation like this the Minister can and should direct the HSE to put this case at the top of the queue. He should instruct the HSE to provide the necessary funding immediately. I look forward to getting a favourable reply from the Minister of State on this specific case.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy): Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy I thank Senator Conway for raising this important issue. As he knows, the provision of dental and other services to patients with special needs is a priority. The public dental service of the HSE provides dental services to children up to 16 years of age, and to people of all ages with special needs, through its dental clinics. All HSE dental clinics prioritise emergency care for children up to the age of 16 and treatment for special needs patients. As it is not always possible or appropriate to provide oral health services to special needs patients in dental clinics, some dental services, including general dental anaesthetic services, are provided in general acute hospitals, particularly for patients who require special care. The HSE's policy is that general anaesthesia should, if possible, be avoided in the practice of dentistry. I am informed by the HSE that since 2012, it has been upskilling dental teams in conscious sedation as an alternative. The upskilling of senior dentists in other behavioural techniques and in sedation reduces the reliance on staff in the acute sector, thereby improving access and providing a range of modalities to dentists to treat patients with special needs. These developments, together with regular validation of waiting lists, aim to provide more appropriate and timely access for patients who require these specialised services. Nevertheless, general anaesthetic services continue to be provided on determination of clinical need.

  The HSE has advised me that it is aware of and is dealing with the delays that have been affecting patients in area 5 of the community health organisation, which includes south Tipperary, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford, due to a lack of local access to general anaesthesia in acute facilities. I can inform the Senator that three full-day general anaesthetic sessions are to be facilitated exclusively for patients with special needs at Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny. Two full days will be facilitated before Christmas, providing treatment for up to ten patients within area 5, and a further day will be provided in early January 2017 to provide treatment for a further five patients. Up to 15 patients will receive treatment under this initiative. The success of this initiative will be evaluated to assess whether it should be further developed. I am informed by the HSE that it is considering other options to provide these services in area 5. As Senator Conway has mentioned, under the Health Act 2004 the HSE is required to manage and deliver health and personal social services, or arrange for such services to be delivered on its behalf. Section 6 of the Health Service Executive (Governance) Act 2013 prevents the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual. However, it does not prevent the Minister from making representations in this regard.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I have no doubt that the Minister of State is genuine in her offer to get the Minister to make representations in this specific and unique case. I would like this young fellow to be treated at one of the sessions in Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny, which is not that far from where his parents live in Clonmel. I would like the Minister of State to ask her private secretary to talk to the HSE. If the private secretary makes contact with my office with the reply, I will most grateful.

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy I will undertake to do that.

Cancer Screening Programmes

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy. I am delighted that she is here to speak on such a relevant topic. The BreastCheck programme is currently available to women between the ages of 50 and 69. According to the BreastCheck website, "the Department of Health and Children chose this age group for screening as there is a greater proportion of women at risk of dying from the disease in this age group". However, recent statistics have shown that the greater age group is actually those between the ages of 35 and 50. Under the screening programme for women between the ages of 50 and 69, women are checked for breast cancer, regardless of whether they have any symptoms. Screening and surveillance are secondary preventive measures that aim to detect breast cancer at the earliest possible stage to reduce the rate of breast cancer death. Screening refers to monitoring those at average risk of disease. Surveillance refers to the monitoring of those known to have an increased risk of the disease. Internationally recommended surveillance imaging options include digital mammography, magnetic resonance imaging or a combination of the two.

  Every year, approximately 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 660 women die from the disease. One in ten women in Ireland will have breast cancer at some stage of their lives. I know from my own experience that women under the age of 50 are at a crucial stage of their lives in this respect. I went to school with three sisters, two of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer at the ages of 38 and 41. Their treatment has been very successful for them to date, but the fear is always there. The devastating effects of being diagnosed with advanced cancer for women under the age of 50 and their families should not be underestimated from an economic and social perspective. By the time women present with symptoms of breast cancer, it can often be quite advanced and may have spread. Approximately one in five women already have metastatic or secondary breast cancer at first presentation. Finding cancer as early as possible gives a large survival advantage in any age group.

  The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology suggest that women should have annual mammograms from the age of 40. Many countries that have a basic screening service from the age of 50 also give women the option of avail of screening from the age of 35. BreastCheck plays a pivotal role in the prevention of breast cancer. Of the 92,061 women over the age of 50 who were screened between 2008 and 2009, 4,119 were recalled for further assessment and 672 were diagnosed with breast cancer.  This represents 7.3 cancers per 1,000 women screened. The Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, recommended recently that for women with an identified risk of breast cancer an annual MRI between the ages of 30 and 49 is cost-effective compared with no surveillance. In another small cohort of women who have a high probability of breast cancer annual surveillance between the ages of 20 and 49 is the optimal strategy recommended by HIQA. It also advised the national cancer control programme on the implementation of an organised surveillance programme for women under the age of 50 in Ireland who are known to be at elevated risk of breast cancer due to these genetic or family history factors. I call on the Minister of State to consider reducing the age from 50 to 40 in the hope that this very worthwhile screening will save the lives of many women.

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy I thank Senator Byrne for raising this issue. We all have family members or friends who have been touched by this illness. I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to address the House on the national breast screening programme, BreastCheck. Population based screening programmes are an important element of early detection of cancer. BreastCheck provides free mammograms to eligible women every two years. This service is provided free of charge by the Health Service Executive, HSE, through its national screening services which also operate the CervicalCheck and BowelScreen screening programmes.

  The EU guidelines on effective screening for breast cancer recommend that screening should be offered to women aged between 50 and 69 employing two-yearly mammography. BreastCheck has been available nationwide to women aged 50 to 64 for several years. The roll out of this service to women aged 65 to 69 began in late 2015. This age extension brings the screening programme fully in line with international best practice. The additional population who will be eligible for this programme is approximately 100,000 and, when fully implemented in 2021, a total of 540,000 women will be included in the BreastCheck programme. BreastCheck continually reviews new and emerging evidence on the benefits of screening, including the optimum age range for screening. International evidence does not currently support the introduction of population based breast screening below the age of 50. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age and there is a higher prevalence of breast cancer in women aged 50 and over.

  Screening aims to detect cancer before symptoms appear. Regular screening can help to detect cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat and there is a higher chance of a good recovery. I welcome the current BreastCheck advertising campaign which aims to boost uptake rates and urges all women to take the time to do something very important for themselves by availing of the invitation to have a mammogram.

  Breast screening is one element of our comprehensive cancer control programme. As part of its work across the full range of cancers, the HSE’s national cancer control programme provides symptomatic breast clinics in each of the eight cancer centres, with a satellite clinic of the Galway service in Letterkenny. Breast cancer survival in Ireland has improved significantly in recent years due to a combined approach of screening, symptomatic detection and improved treatment. Five-year survival for breast cancer is now estimated at 82% for people diagnosed between 2008 and 2012. This is a most encouraging figure and it shows a significant improvement from 75.1% for people diagnosed between 1994 and 1999.

  In conclusion, BreastCheck is aimed at the age groups that will benefit most from a population based breast screening programme. While the international evidence in this area is continually under review, it is not envisaged at this time that the age range will be reduced below the age of 50. I take this opportunity to encourage all eligible women to avail of the free breast screening mammogram when it is offered to them. I assure the House that comprehensive breast services are also available to women in the designated cancer centres. Those of any age who have concerns about breast cancer should seek the advice of their general practitioner, GP, who will, if appropriate, refer them to the symptomatic breast services.

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I thank the Minister of State for her response. I too would encourage all women to avail of the service but I also urge the Minister of State to keep it under review and take the statistics into account because there are people being diagnosed at a younger age, which is frightening. I would like the Minister of State to monitor that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The next matter is in the name of Senator Nash but as there is a division in the other House we will have to suspend the sitting.

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I propose a suspension of the sitting until the conclusion of the division in the Dáil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Sitting suspended at 11.07 a.m. and resumed at 11.23 a.m.

Schools Building Projects

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We understand the exigencies of office. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Halligan.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I will cut right to the chase as I explained earlier. Three years ago the previous Government ensured that a commitment was made in the five year schools' capital programme to build a new school at Whitecross national school in Julianstown. The Minister of State will be aware that the Louth and east Meath areas are one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The demographics are such that the schools' capital programme initiated by the then Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, ensured that 10% of all of the new school projects in the State would be developed in that area. Apart from the new school developments, objectively, "ancient schools" and I use that term advisedly, ancient schools such as Whitecross national school in Julianstown needed to be replaced entirely.

  The conditions at Whitecross national school are appalling, they are deplorable. Teachers battle to teach in prefabricated classrooms that are too hot in the summer and far too cold in the winter. Mould appears on the ceilings and on the walls. There have been rodent infestations with all of the related health and safety risks. There is no hot water in the bathroom for children to wash their hands after using the toilets. The cold water is far too cold for people to safety put their hands under the tap. To put it bluntly, the school should probably be condemned.

  It is long past time that the new building was commenced and that the Department indicated a timeline for the commencement and completion of the work. The time for excuses has long past. The school is not fit for purpose. In my opinion - and I am not prone to exaggeration - this is a health and safety nightmare, an accident waiting to happen. The patience and tolerance of pupils, teachers and staff has worn extremely thin, particularly in recent months. All they want for Christmas, as one young person told me, is their new school. Children have told me they would forego their toys if it was a case that a new school would be developed soon. We secured the resources for the new school in 2013-14 under the then capital programme. The then Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, announced a new capital programme last year. A significant number of new schools have been built in the area in recent times that, in a sense, leapfrogged Whitecross national school. It is high time that the bureaucratic foot dragging that is delaying this project is brought to an end.

  When will the project commence? What is the timeline for the commencement and completion of the project and when does the Minister envisage that children from Julianstown in east Meath will be taught in a building that they, the staff and the parents deserve?

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I thank Senator Nash for raising the matter. It provides me with an opportunity to go through a few points with him. I know Senator Nash and if he says the school is in that state, I believe him.

  The brief for the major building project for Whitecross national school is to provide a refurbishment and an extension on the existing site to cater for a 16 classroom school. The staffing allocation for Whitecross national school is currently a principal with 16 mainstream teachers. Enrolments in September 2011 stood at 410 pupils. The enrolments in September 2015 stood at 432 which shows an incremental growth of 5%.

  The design team was appointed in March 2011 with a brief to provide the extension and refurbishment work on a phased basis with a partial decant of classrooms on the existing site. The project was included in the five-year construction programme 2012-16 and was scheduled therein to commence construction in 2014.

  Planning permission was granted in January 2014. Since then the board of management and its design team have presented a number of proposals to the Department to change the brief to one which involves a single decant and a single phase delivery during construction. This has led to significant delays in the progression of the project. The most recent decant option, which included the provision of significant levels of new temporary accommodation on site, involved an additional cost for the project in the region of €2 million - an increase in the overall cost of the project of around 40%.

  The project has reached an advanced stage of architectural planning, stage 2b, which involves securing all statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured. However, the difficulty is that the additional €2 million cost for the project arising from the board of management's single phase decant and construction proposal raised serious questions as to the viability of the project.

  The board of management and the design team were invited to a meeting with the Department in order to resolve all outstanding issues and enable stage 2b to be completed. That meeting was held on 11 November 2016 and agreement was reached in regard to the scaling back of the temporary accommodation costs, which should now allow the project to progress to the completion of the design stages. I understand that the design team is working to complete the stage 2b report for submission to the Department in the coming months. When the submission has been reviewed, the Department will revert to the school regarding the further progression of the project at the time.

  If there are further difficulties, there would be no problem with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, meeting Senator Nash to discuss the project.  Progress has been made, if not to the complete satisfaction of the Senator. A very good meeting took place with the project team from the school and there is agreement to move forward. Something significant will happen. I have been told to say that if the Senator requires a further meeting with the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, and me, we would be delighted to meet him.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I thank the Minister of State for bringing clarity to this matter. I would be happy to lead a delegation of parents, teachers and members of the school's board of management to meet the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, or the Minister of State. One of the problems I have discerned from the process is a lack of communication, poor communication or miscommunications along the way. It is a complex process. The Minister of State can imagine the frustration on the part of parents seeing a considerable number of schools in the area being built while the school they fought hard to secure a number of years ago under the schools capital programme has been repeatedly long fingered and delayed.

  We were aware that there were issues several years ago with proposals around decanting children from the school to an alternative location in Drogheda. The Department expressed concern about logistical arrangements to allow it to happen. It may have delayed proceedings regarding reaching this point in the project. It is a complex and difficult site. We all want the school to be built, in the interests of the staff, pupils and teachers.

  Julianstown school was once a very small, rural school. However, given that the area is one of the fastest-growing in the State, there has been a considerable population increase in the area, with new housing developments. Given the number of young couples in the area, the demographic profile is set to increase during the next few years. We need the school to be built as soon as possible. I appreciate the Minister of State's intervention and I will take up the opportunity to meet him, the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton and relevant Department officials to expedite this necessary project. It is very much appreciated.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan The problem was the extra €2 million, which increased the cost by 40%. The board of management and design team had a very forward-reaching meeting with the Minister and the Department on 11 November and there is an agreement to scale down. I am confident some arrangement and agreement will be made. The agreement was to scale back on the temporary accommodation, which will reduce the cost. I am confident that some arrangement can be reached that will be satisfactory to the board of management, the Senator and the pupils and families.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash The school and the principal expressed concerns about the cost of the prefabricated accommodation. I am pleased that an agreement appears to have been reached to scale it back and that it can be progressed as soon as possible.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan One supplementary question is all that is normally allowed.

Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the establishment of a special joint committee on the future funding of domestic water services, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2, statements on mental health funding, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1 and to conclude not later than 1.45 p.m. with the contributions of groups spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, time can be shared, and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 1.40 p.m.; and No. 3, Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 1.45 p.m. and to be concluded no later than 6 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I cautiously welcome the Central Bank's changes to the mortgage lending rules whereby first-time buyers will be permitted to take out a mortgage on the basis of having just 10% of the purchase price. This goes some way to addressing the situation where potential first-time buyers were paying huge rents but were unable to get a mortgage. I am happy with the changes. Although it will increase house prices, the elephant in the room is housing supply. The changes have the similar goal to the first-time buyer's grant in the Finance Act, whereby the Government is purposely increasing the prices of new builds in order to incentivise builders to build houses. I hope it does not get out of control and house prices go through the roof.

  The Government must address supply by getting rid of development levies, examining the cost of certification of houses or keeping accidental landlords in the market by introducing some form of tax credit for those who bought during the boom. I welcome the Minister's roll-out of the strategic infrastructure and speeding up of planning permissions. There is a crisis in the city. The population, especially in Dublin, is growing at a faster rate than we are building houses. We need to get cracking on building more houses in the city.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The hashtag #streetsofshame is doing the rounds on Twitter. Last night, I thought about it before I came here. It is very easy to blame the Government and the current Minister for everything. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, is trying to push the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 through the House. There are aspects to it we like and aspects we do not like, and I find the Minister more than facilitating. Last night, when I was looking at the hashtag #streetsofshame tweets, it struck me that homelessness did not arise yesterday or the day before. It was not a function of the previous Governments, although we could argue until the cows come home that it could have done some things better. Homelessness is the responsibility of everybody in the country.

  Recently, I learned of developers who have held back property in order to cash in on the rising prices in the improving economy.  I have learned of one development where houses were held back for three months in order to increase the price by €100,000 and bring the price of the houses up to close to €1 million. It looks like the cub of the Celtic tiger has grown and is about to be unleashed on us again.

  As Senators know, I give the Government a lash every time I get a chance. However, in this particular case it is grossly unfair on the Minister, Deputy Coveney. He is trying to do something and it behoves us all, regardless of our political affiliation or our beliefs in profiteering, etc., to get behind him. If he is making a mistake, that will emerge in time to come. However, I do not believe he is; I think he is trying his damnedest. I, for one, am behind him and want to support him in any way I can. I found him to be facilitating yesterday on the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill. If all Ministers were like him, we might get an awful lot more done in this Dáil and Seanad. It may be time for us to lash back a bit at the populism. Maybe it is time we told the populists, "This is nonsense. How many of you would be willing to put an extra five cent in the euro on your tax in order to cover some of the homelessness?"

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I would.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I would also, as would many others. However, some of those, who are out there screaming and shouting about homelessness, etc., walk over the poor divils who are lying on Grafton Street every night of the week.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Well said.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell They walk over the poor divils who are sitting there in the morning looking for the price of a cup of tea. If we are going to talk about homelessness, let us be honest from now on. Let us get behind this Minister and let us try to get him what he needs. If he fails, his political reputation is on the line, but I think the man is trying.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn The Sinn Féin group will oppose the motion on the joint committee on the future funding of water services. I want to make it clear that we have no objection to the suggestion that the Chairman would be Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh. We have no objection to him whatsoever but we have an issue with the process. The Government and the Dáil have instructed the Seanad as to who its delegates should be, which is not acceptable to the Seanad.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business?

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Yes, we propose an amendment that it be deleted from the order. They should go back and get this right, consult with all the different groupings in the Seanad and get a delegation from the Seanad that is representative of the House. That is the proposal.

  I wish to raise the issue of the health services. I am conscious that the Leader was the Chairman of the previous health committee and is very knowledgeable on the issues. I wish to speak about the hospital closest to where I live, Letterkenny hospital, where the full-capacity protocol has been deployed repeatedly this year. That means that elective surgeries are being delayed. As they are delayed, patients' conditions are deteriorating and they are waiting even longer. There are huge numbers of people on trolleys and more on waiting lists. In Donegal, there is a whole-of-system crisis when it comes to home care packages, community hospitals and right up to the main hospitals. This is because the system has been chronically underfunded for too many years.

  I appeal to the Leader to invite the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to come to the House at the earliest opportunity to outline how he believes what has been allocated in budget 2017 is anywhere near enough to start to address the scale of this crisis. On behalf of my party, I ask the Minister to review urgently the budget allocation for 2017. He needs to understand that unfortunately what has been allocated will not go anywhere near addressing the scale of this crisis. It is not acceptable to anybody in these Houses to see elderly people on trolleys with their dignity taken away. It is not acceptable to see the limited time home care packages we give elderly people. It is not acceptable that we have run down so many of our community hospitals. The system is failing too many people. We need to review the 2017 health budget urgently. The Minister should come to the House for a debate so that people from throughout the State can relay the stories from their communities directly to the Minister until we have the issue resolved.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Labour group in the Seanad will also oppose the motion on the formation of the special joint committee on the future funding of domestic water services. When the Government was formed, we were promised new politics. We now see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael dropping the whole idea of new politics when it suits them. I have nothing against the particular Senators who are proposed to be appointed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator proposing an amendment?

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I will be seeking the deletion-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator seconding Senator Mac Lochlainn's amendment?

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I second it. It is totally unacceptable. There is a need for discussion. We are supposed to have new politics. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael coming together to block the election of a Chairman by a committee is totally unacceptable

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Hear, hear. Well said.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I wish to raise RTE's announcement that it plans to outsource children's television. It is utterly unacceptable that the director general appeared before the committee this week and made absolutely no mention of it outsourcing children's television. That has been the incubator of talent for the broadcasting community and the arts. It is totally unacceptable that the director general should sit down in a committee room here knowing that this announcement is coming about and not inform the committee.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys RTE has referred to a challenging financial environment and reducing operation costs. I suggest one reduction in its operation cost is the €4,300 a month it pays to the Phoenix for full-page advertisements. While talking about a challenging financial environment, it is happy to waste that sort of money. The Minister needs to challenge whether we are getting value for money.

  We also had an oblique reference to RTE's coverage of the Dáil and Seanad. We are giving it €180 million and it has a remit for public service broadcasting. I know it has very small viewing figures, but RTE gets €180 million to cover politics and the arts. At the committee meeting, the director general said one of her journalists was discussing moving coverage of this House, committees and the Dáil to the digital platform. Yesterday, I was critical of Deputy Dooley. However, he was the only one awake at the committee and picked up on it. That is clearly what was referred to at the committee. We are giving RTE €180 million to cover the arts and politics, and the new director general is talking about moving the coverage to the digital stream and using a journalist to quietly lobby for support around the House, and is meeting journalists on a regular basis.

  Ministers are putting off decisions on the funding of public service broadcasting. We had a do-nothing Dáil and we now have a do-nothing Minister in this area. There are serious questions to be asked as to how RTE will nurture future broadcasting talent and over its oblique reference at the committee to how it will cover politics.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are into injury time.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Minister needs to take charge. The Minister has been getting a lot of soft coverage by RTE. Was he being softened up for these decisions?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I have not gone over time because I carefully watched the clock.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am afraid he has, but anyway-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I will finish on this. I want the Minister to come to this House very quickly. RTE gets a huge amount of money. It is sitting on a very valuable property site of several acres in Donnybrook. It should not consider cutting services before it liquidates that property asset.  We are in the middle of a housing crisis and an awful lot of that land could be used. We want the Minister in here and very quickly. The director general of RTE should be called back to the committee-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys -----to explain why-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is being repetitive.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys -----she did not inform the committee.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I welcome the comments by the leader of Fianna Fáil about the good news from the Central Bank providing first-time buyers with some help towards affording to purchase homes. This acknowledges the reality in Dublin that a limit of €200,000 was not feasible and that it is very difficult to find a property now in that price bracket in the capital. I note the comments of Senator Craughwell and I welcome them. I absolutely agree with him. As I listened to the Minister on radio this morning, I certainly felt that homelessness is a complex problem that has been with us and that is getting worse. Its roots lie in the past and the problem cannot be resolved overnight, but I believe the Minister is sincere and honest. He is putting forward a plan to deal with this matter. It is not a quick fix that will unravel in a few months' time. It is a plan that will prevent further homelessness and that will lead to those who sadly find themselves without homes at the moment being housed. No one in this Chamber can countenance the prospect of our children or citizens being reared in hotel rooms or being moved around. School is difficult enough for children and it is where they learn to socialise. It is distressing when they are faced with the prospect of long journeys to school or they are not clear if they can keep going to the same school for a prolonged period. This is quite apart from the fact that there are no cooking facilities in these hotels and that the normality of family life is seriously disrupted for those obliged to live in them. I know that everyone in this House would agree that we need to address this issue aggressively. I know the Minister is doing that but he is also not rushing. He is doing it in a way that is well thought out and that, I believe, will deliver for the future of the State and our children, our most important asset.

  Reference was made to Irish Water. I welcome the fact that the company is investing so much money in infrastructure. I was very pleased that the new treatment plant at Rush - where we turned the sod last week - is going ahead. We will again be able to enjoy clean water on our beaches, which are a fantastic amenity for young people and tourists. That to which I refer is happening across the State. One of the most basic things in life is clean, safe water.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the previous speaker and, in particular, with the comments of our leader, Senator Ardagh. The Central Bank and its Governor are behind the curve in respect of first-time buyers in the context of giving them an opportunity to get on the property ladder by purchasing their own homes. For the 18 months since this regulation was introduced, it was well known by most people in the property industry that it was not going to be a help of any kind. I implore the Minister to stop playing with the blinds and to open the window for all those who have been denied the dream of owning their own homes. The cost of building a house is the number one problem. It is the main impediment to kick-starting a functioning housing market. I call on the Minister to immediately reduce the VAT rate on new builds for the interim. This would certainly allow us to tackle some aspects of the homelessness crisis and the low level of supply in the housing sector.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I want to clarify a matter. The Leader and I had a lively exchange yesterday and I want to put it on the record that I have the height of respect for him. Perhaps part of the misunderstanding arose because Pro Life Campaign is a specific organisation. I am certainly in a position to say that the organisation is not - as the Leader said yesterday - well able to get money from abroad and to bring in people from outside.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Domino's Pizza.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There may be the odd widow or orphan with an Irish passport who does his or her bit from time to time, but there is nothing comparative with the massive influx of resources from foundations to organisations that are pushing for a change in the law. There are real questions to be asked about whether it is good that big foundations can pump massive amounts of money into a small country in order to engineer a change in the law that will lead to massive social change. Regardless of one's views on abortion, one should be concerned with that situation. Perhaps the Leader meant the pro-life movement generally, I cannot speak to that, but the examples given of Irish people being brought to the US at a given time do not make out that case. My desire yesterday was for clarity. I was not in any way trying to undermine the Leader but I believe he was unfair to the Pro Life Campaign in what he said.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We are all part of the pro-life campaign. I am pro-life.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris is out of order for the moment but I will call him shortly.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen We should be able to get to the point where we can actually clarify issues on their own merits without getting partisan about it. The Leader is capable of that and I will try to be capable of it also. I need to say that. It has not been the case that there has been any kind of influx of money to roll out a campaign. Would that there had been, particularly in terms of the very good educational work involved, but that is not the position. The story here, namely, that George Soros's Open Society Foundations are putting six-figure sums into Amnesty International, should not be ignored. That is a disgraceful situation.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Great. Wonderful. It should get more.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen These people used to defend freedom of conscience and now they want to destroy innocent, unborn lives. Consider the Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland or the likes of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties - supposedly a charity - which is getting money to change the law and-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What does the Senator mean by saying it is supposed to be a charity? It is a charity.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order please.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There is a debate that needs to be had-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is recognised as a charity.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The debate. I want to ask the Leader-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris is out of order and Senator Mullen's time is up.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I want the Leader to organise-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris He is a lot more out of order than I am.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, he is not. The Senator's time is up but Senator Norris is out of order.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will conclude by asking the Leader to organise a debate, in which we will not have a go at each other-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That will be the day.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Mullen will have to continue this discussion outside the Chamber.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----to discuss the precise circumstances in which it is appropriate for money to come in from abroad for the purposes of influencing the political affairs of this country. There will be different views-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----but let us start by ensuring that-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----organisations are obeying the law.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will have to halt the Senator, he has had nearly twice his time.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I want to talk about the plight of young farmers and their inability to access the national reserve scheme. We all know that farmers are the lifeblood of our rural communities and we must be proactive in encouraging young people to enter and remain in farming. It has been really disappointing, and unacceptable, that there was no national reserve in 2016. Any news that it may not open in 2017 would be extremely disappointing. In 2015 there were 6,260 successful applicants in the national reserve scheme. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, has spoken on this in the Dáil when he said that EU regulations allow for surrender of entitlements that remain unused by farmers for two consecutive years and clawback of 50% following the sale of entitlements without land. If these do not generate a sufficient fund for the national reserve, then we need to look at other options. There has been a thorough updating of maps using computer remote sensing ground inspections. This means that most land parcels have scrub, roads, buildings and other non-eligible features digitised out. It is, therefore, very easy for us to conclude that land parcels claimed by farmers in 2015 and 2016 are unlikely to be different. With that in mind, there will not be enough entitlements returning to the national reserve due to non-use. My overall point is that we need this matter addressed urgently by the Minister. If we are serious about encouraging young people to enter and remain in farming then we need to support them. We need to support them properly by ensuring there is a national reserve open to them in 2017.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I attended a briefing yesterday in the audio-visual room on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which is due back before the House shortly. The briefing was organised by Senator Black. I applaud her tenacity and work in pushing this measure in the interest of public health, and in being determined and steadfast in the face of intense pressure. We have debated the implication of this Bill at length and we know that passing it will dramatically improve the health of our nation. At the briefing, two harrowing personal accounts were provided by families that have been destroyed as a result of alcohol.  Yesterday morning, we again received a glossy production from the Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland on the envisaged structural changes that will be required for this measure. In its initial interpretation, it outlined that there would be a cost imposed on each retailer of about €50,000. In yesterday's production, there was not a mention of a single euro. What is it all about? It is about visibility and always has been. It has used the financial burden as an argument and a tool of fear. This lobby is being led by large corporate powers. It has used small retailers deceivingly to further its greedy aims.

  We are hugely cognisant of the pressures there are on small retailers. This Bill will particularly impact on businesses in the Border area in which there are already price differentials and currency variations. We should be consulting with our colleagues in the North on this matter and looking at an all-Ireland cohesive alcohol strategy. I wish to finish by thanking the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, for remaining firm on this matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine She could have easily buckled, as so many of her colleagues in this House and the Dáil seem to be doing. I appeal today to members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance to stand firm, see this lobby for what it is and improve the health of the people across our entire nation.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan In response to what Senator Reilly said earlier about water quality, this morning the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, launched the urban wastewater report, which shows that raw sewage is still being discharged from 43 areas across the country. One of the areas of poor quality is the area Senator Reilly spoke about, Rush. I am delighted to hear that there will be improvements in that area. The EPA has said that there has to be more investment in public wastewater treatment infrastructure across the country to protect public health and the environment from the adverse effects of wastewater. Let us face up to the reality.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Hear, hear.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan We are far from perfect. There are 43 areas across the country still pumping out raw S-H-1-T.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin It is time to take grave stock of our planning system as we see international headlines on the length of time it has taken for Apple to secure planning permission in Athenry. We are talking about an €850 million investment for a data centre that will be fully-fuelled by renewable energy. It was announced by Apple in February 2015 that a data centre would be provided in both Denmark and in Ireland. The sod has been turned on the Danish project and construction is under way. In this country, we are still in the quagmire of the planning process. A balance always needs to be struck. There is a balance in politics and a balance of justice in law. Much emphasis is on individual rights. However, this case is not the only one where we are bringing in the sort of jobs of the future which we aim for from an international company and for which we are repositioning ourselves. For the most part, the people of the area want the project to happen. In this situation, we see that individual rights are actually crippling the progress of a major project. It has to be acknowledged that in our democracy we have to provide a system whereby people can object and individual rights are protected. However, we have to get the balance right.

  Eighteen months after the project was first announced, An Bord Pleanála heard objections and gave them permission. We now have to wait until March or April for the matter to dealt with before the courts. It could be thrown back again to the planning process. I believe we need more of a balance. The manner in which these applications are dealt with, the lack of speed and the lack of progress in our planning system, as is highlighted when one compares our system with Denmark's, is not only a travesty for the people of Athenry, but a travesty for our country, because Bloomberg is saying today that this is what one gets when one deals with Ireland. We are already facing the challenges of Brexit. We do not yet know what the implications of the foreign investment policy of the new presidency of Mr. Donald Trump will mean for us. We can be hopeful, but not everything is clear. Something has to be done about our planning process or we will remain crippled and denied of vital development projects that the west, in particular, is crying out for and starved of.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy I wish to raise the issue of the second cath lab in Waterford University Hospital. The people of the south east, of which I am one, thought that this issue was enshrined in the programme for Government. The second cath lab was to be delivered. It was a make or break issue for the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, who was negotiating the matter. It was deemed the best deal for Waterford. A review that was to be carried out was seen as a formality. The funding was to be ring-fenced once the review was carried out and completed. In Waterford University Hospital, there is currently an 18-month waiting time for an angiogram. For an inpatient, there is a wait of seven days to have a procedure done. The case was very well made by the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, and a report was to be compiled to prove to the rest of the country that Waterford needed the cath lab.

  Difficulties then arose and the flaws were in the carrying out of the report. First, the report was based on a part-time system for a population of 500,000 people and there was a comparison with full-time cath labs across the country. Second, it was projected that the travel time from Waterford to Cork was 90 minutes, which is completely incorrect. If one lives in east Kilkenny and has to go into hospital in Waterford and has to be transferred, it would take at least an hour and 20 minutes to get to Cork. Third, the report was interfered with before it ever started because the HSE took it on itself to provide notes and a report to Mr. Herity, who was carrying out the full report. Where is this service now for the people of the south east? Many people have been involved in this, including the practitioners in the hospital and others. Those people will continue to be involved in it because people are affected by this matter on a daily basis in the constituency of Waterford and the adjoining constituencies, including my own Tipperary. I wish to commend Mr. Willie Doyle, who is leading this campaign. There will be people on the streets if this is not resolved in January. Earlier on, Senator Mac Lochlainn asked that the Minister for Health come to the House. I ask that when the Minister comes to the House, he deals with this matter as well. I would appreciate if the Leader would take this matter up as it is very serious. We have been kept in the dark since the big blow-up in September. That is not good enough. The people of the south east want to know what is going on in respect of this matter.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I want to briefly comment on the news from the Central Bank of a relaxation on the qualifying criteria for deposits on mortgages. I would err on the side of caution on this issue. The issue of housing, which has been well documented and commented on, is really a supply issue and a costing issue with regard to the State taking a large proportion of the costs associated with building a house. Therefore, pressure has been brought to bear on the Central Bank. It may not necessarily have been political pressure, but let us call it vested interest banking pressure that was brought to bear on the Central Bank. Interested stakeholders, such as banks, lobbied intensively to change these rules. Unfortunately, where there is a limited supply of housing, particularly in Dublin, and where there are increased resources being made available to allow people to bid against each other, it will drive up the cost of housing. That is what is going to happen, particularly in the capital, where there is a great demand for housing. I would certainly err on the side of caution with regard to those changes made yesterday. I do not think it is the right way to go, particularly when there is a new grant scheme being brought in by the Government at the same time. We will probably debate those issues later with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney.

  I also want to touch on the issue of free speech in the two Houses of the Oireachtas in regard to sensitive issues of social policy.  In recent days, two Members of the other House were attacked verbally by Deputy Clare Daly for their views on the eighth amendment. This is a very sensitive issue, irrespective of which side one's views are on. Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins, the latter from Cork, two honourable Independent Deputies, should not be castigated and their reputations impugned because they hold a certain view. They were called old grey-haired men who should not interfere in such issues.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris They are well able to sustain that.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill We live in a democracy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris They are not a pair of drips.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please, Senator Norris.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Those who air views such as Deputy Daly's very often cite human rights for others, but the most basic human right of all is free speech. We are elected to this House-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is what Deputy Clare Daly enjoyed.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----and the other House-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am afraid Senator Norris is out of order and Senator Ó Domhnaill is over time.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----not to shout colleagues down and derogate their views-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We take the Senator's point.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----but to listen.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Denigrate. D-E-N-I-G-R-A-T-E.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Thank you, lecturer.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Professor.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Thank you, professor. May I make my point?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is over time.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill On this issue, which will come before the Oireachtas-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask the Senator to make his point quickly.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----we should appreciate all views, regardless of whether we agree with them, and not castigate people and block their opinions. All opinions matter. That is why we are here and why we have a Parliament-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----in this country and why we are not under British rule-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill -----as we were-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris More is the pity.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill The Senator would make a great lord in the House of Lords.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Norris and ask him to be to the point.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I welcome any interruptions people want to make-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris They are gratefully received.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator might welcome them, but I will not tolerate them.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I ask the Leader-----

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris -----to raise with the Minister for Finance the issue of retirement. People used to be able to retire at 65. A measure has now been introduced whereby they must go on jobseeker's allowance between the ages of 65 and 66. It is absolutely idiotic and makes a farce of the whole idea of jobseeker's allowance. People retire and are then told they must go on jobseeker's allowance. It is an absolute nonsense.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Thanks be to God the Senator did not retire at 65. The Seanad would be an awful place.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I would like to raise another issue, which I ask the Leader to bring to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I ask them to talk to the Israeli ambassador. There is a very fine museum in east Jerusalem called the Rockefeller Museum. It has been there for many years and has a wonderful library, a collection of archaeological artefacts and so on. The Israeli authorities decided to transfer the artefacts to west Jerusalem. This is very much the kind of thing the Chinese Government did with the Potala Palace when it moved the Dalai Lama's library to Beijing and so on. It is cultural asset stripping. If the Israelis have their way, there will be nothing left whatever in east Jerusalem. What is most shocking is that on 19 July this year, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem decided after a hearing that the Israel Antiquities Authority was responsible for the antiquities of the Rockefeller Museum and that it had the right to transfer the library and the archaeological artefacts to west Jerusalem. The worst part of the judgment was the decision that Israeli law is supreme in this area and that international law has no standing whatever. The Israeli Government repeatedly takes this position. Its attention should be brought to the fact that international law does have relevance and that the Israeli Government is not immune to the operation of international law.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Last night, Mid-Ulster District Council, which comprises the old Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt district councils, voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the universal franchise in presidential elections to citizens in the North and among the diaspora. I have raised this on the floor of this Chamber quite often and will continue to do so. Sinn Féin has Private Members' time on this matter next week. Derry City and Strabane District Council will debate the same motion tonight.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is not its business.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile It is its business, and I will have Senator Norris know why.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We are a 26-county republic.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris, please.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I hope that in this instance Senator Norris will respect the international binding agreement and law of the Good Friday Agreement between the British and Irish Governments which extends, as of birthright, Irish citizenship to people in the North. I hope that we as a House will support these calls when they come before us next week. This is an issue of rights, equality and the enfranchisement of all our people. I wanted to make Members aware of this. It is, as I indicated to the Leader a few weeks ago, the inevitable kick-back one gets when one continues to deny people something that is so fundamentally important to them. At a time when we should be embedding links across the country and when we have all expressed concern about any re-emergence of a hard Border, Irish citizens in the North and among the diaspora are genuinely concerned as to what rights and entitlements they will have and what the Irish Government, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and as compelled to act as a result, will do to stand up for their interests. In a post-Brexit scenario, but also as a matter of course and a matter of right, they should have such rights.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh I wish to raise two matters. I fully support Senator Mulherin on the issue of planning permission regarding Apple in Athenry. The way it is going is a disgrace. Many people in the centre of Galway would be mad keen to get a job there. It is hugely important. Our system creates an impairment for these companies to come to Ireland and create employment.

  I ask the Leader to convey the following comments to the Minister for Finance. They concern the Central Bank and its announcements yesterday and this morning about supporting first-time house buyers and the proposal in the Finance Bill that came up recently. There are two aspects to housing loans. One concerns capital. Can a person get the money to buy the house? The Central Bank has to some degree addressed this, as has the Finance Bill. However, absolutely as important, if not more, is whether a person can repay the loan. Many of these people are first-time house buyers, young people starting on the ladder. They do not have the cashflow for the capital. Even if they get money from their parents or other family members to help finance the purchase, they still need the cashflow. I suggest that the Leader bring my comments to the attention of the Minister and that the Minister push the banks on this. For at least the first three years, interest-only repayments for first-time house buyers should be allowed. In other words, they would not pay interest on capital, which would give them the chance to solidify their jobs, start increasing their incomes and aid stability. There is also the revenue side of the matter. If an effort were made with the banks, I believe it would make a huge difference, and that, combined with the Central Bank and the Finance Bill, would open up the whole thing. The money would then stay with the house owner rather than being transferred in extra profits to the developer.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I note Senator Kevin Humphreys' comments on the announcement by RTE that it will outsource children's programming. This is a retrograde step. On Tuesday, 22 November, Dee Forbes, the new director general of RTE, appointed on 1 April 2016, was on a charm offensive at a meeting of the communications committee. She never indicated to the committee her proposals to outsource children's programmes. This is a major blow because children's programmes are very important and highly regarded. Their quality has been renowned. Some of us will remember "Wanderly Wagon", "Bosco", "The Den", "Zig and Zag"-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine "Zig and Zag"?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Yes. "Bosco" created jobs in Roscommon, where it was made. One influences a nation through its children.  If that influence is taken away and outsourced to Britain or the United States of America to save money, then it is a poor reflection. Dee Forbes was appointed on April Fool's Day but she made a fool of the committee on Tuesday because she never raised this issue at it. I raised an issue regarding "Oireachtas Report" and explained to the director general that both Houses of the Oireachtas are equal. That, however, has not been the case. Most of the time, the Seanad has been ignored by "Oireachtas Report". There was no question of transferring "Oireachtas Report" from RTE 1 to any other station. In fact, she praised the work of "Oireachtas Report", indicating to me and others that she would be expanding and developing the programme and would be in discussion with Members about this.

  The Minister, Deputy Naughten, should intervene in the case of young people's programming and call the director general to the Department. I will be suggesting to the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment that she should return to the committee to explain her decision in this regard. RTE is selling part of the Montrose site from which it will raise €50 million. Current affairs programming is very important.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The point is taken.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden If it came to a choice of reducing current affairs programming or reducing the salaries of highly overpaid broadcasters-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has gone over time.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Some of them are paid five to six times more than any Senator.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt Ten times.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Ten times.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Maybe they are worth more. If I had the choice of reducing some broadcasters' salaries to continue producing children's programmes, I would do so. It is a serious issue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Yes, but the Senator is way over time.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden This is valuable time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is not going to delay us further on the Order of Business. The Senator's time is up. Will he please resume his seat?

(Interruptions).

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I am confident now the Leas-Chathaoirleach will be on "Oireachtas Report" tonight.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Terry Leyden is out of order. I call Senator Catherine Noone.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Many of the well-paid broadcasters in RTE are getting more like ten times our wages.

  Regarding the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, there has been much talk about the separation and visibility of alcohol. My concern is that the advertising industry will start to lobby us to reduce the effect the Bill will have on its industry. The objective of the advertising measures contained in the Bill is to protect young people from exposure to alcohol marketing. Research conducted relatively recently by NUI Galway found that more than half of school children reported they were exposed to four or more alcohol advertisements per day. The majority were exposed to traditional or offline advertising while 77% of children were exposed to online advertising. For children, exposure to alcohol marketing, including advertising sponsorship, increases the likelihood of alcohol ending up in their hands and them drinking sooner. The younger a child is when they start to drink alcohol, the greater the risk they will develop harmful drinking patterns later in life.

  The Bill will return to the Seanad soon. If there is to be any reduction or removal of measures in the legislation, I hope it will not be a precedent for other industries to start lobbying us. I believe this is only the start of it.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Tomorrow the global 16 days of action campaign against domestic abuse and violence against women will start. The theme of this year's campaign is to change the conversation around the issue of domestic violence. In the recently launched Women's Aid annual report, some of the headline statistics underlined the need for action from us in the Oireachtas. Up to 42% of reported abuse occurs within marriage, 55% of women murdered in the State since 1996 were killed by their partners or ex-partners and 81% of abuse disclosed in 2015 happened in an intimate relationship.

  Too often excuses are found for instances of domestic violence after the event. Often, part of the blame is placed on the victim. We see this time and again. I appeal to the media when reporting cases of domestic violence or where women have lost their lives through violence to report responsibly on it.

  Domestic violence needs to be seen as the heinous crime that it is, perpetrated by offenders. We need robust legislation to punish these offenders and protect potential victims, as happens in other cases of crime. Why do perpetrators of domestic violence continue to do it? They do so because they know they will get away with it and will not be punished. They also know women are often confined to their homes because they cannot leave as there is no housing or rooms in refuges for them due to the severe cuts that have happened. The perpetrators know they will get away with it. It must be stopped.

  Without the consolidated domestic violence Bill and the criminal justice (victims of crime) Bill coming into effect, the Istanbul Convention will not be implemented. The protections victims of domestic violence require will not be available. The Taoiseach has said he will bring in this legislation. Promises are not enough. We need this legislation to be brought in immediately. We need to protect women and children, and sometimes men, in their own homes. That is the unfortunate state in which this country is in 2016.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I want to raise the issue of stroke survivors and the non-availability of rehabilitation facilities for them. An audit was carried out recently by the Irish Heart Foundation, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive's national stroke programme. Unfortunately, it revealed a bleak picture of the services available for thousands of people battling to recover as a result of a stroke. Thankfully, I am glad to report more people are surviving strokes. They are not, however, getting the best chance of survival because of the poor state of some of our therapy services. The after-effects for stroke patients deteriorated last year for the first time since the creation of the national stroke programme.

  The audit found several interesting statistics. Almost three quarters of rehabilitation hospitals cannot give stroke survivors the recommended level of therapy. Only one in four rehab hospitals has a dedicated stroke unit. The majority of hospitals lack a stroke specialist to oversee rehabilitation. Fewer than one in three has any access to psychological services. The majority of the 26 hospitals which participated in the study have no access to community rehabilitation teams to continue therapy essential to aid recovery for patients who were discharged. We have only half the acute stroke unit beds needed to meet international standards and an even lower proportion of specialist rehab beds.

  What makes this information critical is that the incidence of stroke in Ireland is rising by 350 cases per year. Clearly, the national stroke programme needs to be urgently updated, along with the proper provision of resources to meet the needs of survivors to give them the best chance of possible survival. Will the Leader bring this to the attention of the Minister for Health?

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I raise the appointments made by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Heather Humphreys, to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, IMMA. Of the nine appointments made, only three of them were women. Concerns have been expressed to me about the artistic expertise of some of the nine appointments. I understand a broad range of expertise, not only artistic, is required for State boards. One will appreciate, however, the Government has form with appointments to IMMA.

  Gender diversity on State boards should be a key priority for any Minister making those appointments-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Senator Gerard Craughwell knows all about that.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield -----particularly in the context of the arts where women and allies have been campaigning for policies of inclusion, equality and economic parity. Will the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, be more ambitious with her appointments and give more consideration to the landscape in which she makes them?

  Separately, RTE was already raised in the Seanad today. RTE, in a statement to the Irish Independent, stated "to achieve stronger efficiencies and value for money, RTE is to make changes to how it produces young people's programmes.”  It goes on to state "RTE is not reducing its commitment to younger people's programmes, nor its spend". If so, why is this change being made? I suggest it is an ideological decision. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to the House to address the issue? I am concerned that RTE is failing in its commitment to the Oireachtas committee and young people.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 21 Senators who raised issues on the Order of Business. Senators Catherine Ardagh, James Reilly, Aidan Davitt, Brian Ó Domhnaill and Pádraig Ó Céidigh referred to the decision yesterday by the Central Bank to ease mortgage restrictions for young and first-time buyers. I thank all Members for their suggestions, which were welcome. It is incumbent on the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, and the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Philip Lane, to listen to these suggestions, some of which were worthwhile. The important point on which we all agree is that we must try to allow first-time buyers to access the property market to buy homes. We welcomed yesterday's decision and will work with the Minister to ensure there will be a supply. We need a functioning construction industry and banks that lend. The help-to-buy scheme announced in the budget will make purchasing easier for first-time buyers. It is important that we allow these measures to take hold. Everyone is concerned about the nearly 7% increase in house prices nationally this year. Reference was made to the Celtic tiger. I hope we will never return to the boom and berserk cycle, but I welcome the news from the Central Bank.

  In a genuine contribution Senator Gerard P. Craughwell referred to #streetsofshame. I have not seen that hashtag. The Senator referred to the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney. As I stated during Private Members' business yesterday, the Minister is someone who is trying. He is honourable and sincere, as demonstrated by his willingness to come to the House at times of political pressure. He accepts that he does not get everything right, but he is willing to engage and listen. The Senator is right that we should support him. I hope the Senator's thought-provoking contribution will change the landscape of politics. As Senator Kevin Humphreys is fond of saying, this is a time of new politics and Senator Gerard P. Craughwell's contribution was an extension of it, for which I commend him.

  We all have a responsibility to the homeless and for how we interact with people. Those of us who participated in the Focus Ireland sleep-out will understand it is not a choice for many; that it is forced on them. One person homeless is one too many. Whatever the ideology behind the end result, we should work together to end this scourge on society.

  Senators Kevin Humphreys, Fintan Warfield and TerryLeyden mentioned RTE's announcement this morning by its director general, Ms Dee Forbes, on the outsourcing of children's programming. Having met the director general, she is a fine person with a good CV stemming from her involvement in other media outlets across the world, but I agree-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden She is charming.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I assume that the Senators will get plenty of air time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer She is from Cork, which is a positive. It is a head start.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer In saying that, the director general should have made her announcement at the committee on Tuesday. It is the line committee that deals with RTE.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Will she be announcing "The Jerry Buttimer Show"?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am sure the pantomime that the Seanad is at times is worthy of being shown on television. All of the Senators can play whatever roles they want.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader should not encourage them.

(Interruptions).

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Gerard P. Craughwell would make a good dame in a pantomime.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Leader very much.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator knows that I do not mean that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will the Leader, please, continue his response?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Fintan Warfield referred to RTE's claim in its press statement, which I find curious, that it would reduce costs without cutting the amount of money being spent. If so, why outsource the programming? We all grew up with-----

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Ideology.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Terry Leyden showed his age by mentioning "Wanderly Wagon". I am impressed that he remembers it.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please do not encourage the Leader.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer To be fair, RTE's output of young people's programming was the vehicle that propelled many of today's stars into stardom. I hope it will continue to allow such creativity to flourish. I do not share Senator Terry Leyden's view that it will be outsourced to America, England and so on. There is a considerable amount of talent and number of creative people in Ireland who could produce such programming and I hope RTE will pursue that approach, but the issue should have been addressed at the committee.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden In-house at RTE.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I agree.

  There are three parts to the "Oireachtas Report" issue. First, it is up to us in this Chamber to give RTE a reason to cover our contributions.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It does not bother, as the Leader knows.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Second, to be fair to the journalists involved in the production of "Oireachtas Report", they are honourable and professional and do great work.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys That was not in question.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I accept that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will Senators, please, listen to the Leader's response?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Kevin Humphreys is too sensitive.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please do not get involved.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Third, the type of programme "Oireachtas Report" is should be changed. I ask Members to watch BBC's coverage of the British Houses of Parliament and the Stormont Assembly. It is a magazine-type programme. Mr. Andrew Neil's programme on BBC is much better and better reflects the views expressed in the Houses of Parliament and the Stormont Assembly. This is something RTE should consider.

  Senators Kevin Humphreys and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn proposed an amendment to the Order of Business. I would wish all Senators to be involved in the committee, but it is welcome that some of them will be appointed to it. It is extraordinary that Sinn Féin Senators are protesting about not being included in the committee, when they did not support the inclusion of Senators from across the House in the all-party health committee. They must reflect on their own position. I regret the fact that not all parties represented in the House have been included, but the Minister's motivation is honourable. He has spoken to Members on all sides of the House and wants every group - parties, Independents and aligned groups - to be represented on the committee. He has appointed an eminent and fine Chairman, whom I wish well. He will be impartial and fair. It is an important committee and the fact that a Seanadóir will be its Chairman will give it status.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Exactly. It is a recognition of the House by the Government.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has been out of order continuously this morning.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I did not hear what he said.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Do not bother with it.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I think he was talking about Bosco.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader should continue with his response which we will try to get through.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Every party, Independent and aligned group will be represented on what will be an important committee. I understand the frustration of my colleagues and friends in the Labour Party and Sinn Féin and wish more of them could be members of the committee, but the Minister has supplied his rationale and it is important that we let the committee do its work. The parties would be-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Chairman should be ex officio.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please, Senator.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It does not happen in the Oireachtas that there is an ex officio Chairman.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader is the only person who may speak.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On the point made by Senator Rónán Mullen, I will not revisit yesterday's discussion, but we should recognise three matters. Every Senator is pro-life.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I do not know of anyone who is not. Linked with the contributions of Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill, as Leader and a former Chairman of the joint committee on the protection of life during pregnancy, I respect the right of every Senator to have a different viewpoint from mine.  It is important that we cherish the right to speech and to one's opinion. I will not, as Leader, in any way try to curb freedom of speech in the House or in debate. Perhaps in my remarks yesterday I was not specific enough; I was referring to the pro-life movement in general rather than to a specific group. There was, and is, outside money being given to the movement. They brought Members of the Oireachtas abroad and they brought people into the committee system to discuss Bills. They had advisers from America during the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill legislative process. Who they were representing or who they were here on behalf of is a moot point. The point is they were here and money was coming in. Philanthropy is a very good thing. It has been the hallmark of our society. I hope we all welcome individuals, groups and organisations receiving money for the betterment of the lives of people.

  Senator Hopkins raised the issue of young farmers and the national reserve scheme. I would be happy to have the Minister, Deputy Creed, come to the House regarding that. It is important that young farmers are able to stay on their lands. I would be very happy for the Minister to come to the House regarding that issue.

  Senators Devine and Noone raised the issue of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. I commend Senator Black for her presentation in the AV room yesterday. The Bill will be coming back to the House. It is about public health and the misuse of alcohol. All of us who are public legislators accept we have a duty to protect all of our citizens. We must get legislation that is right, that will reduce the harm caused by alcohol and reduce the impact it has on the lives of people. People gave personal testimony yesterday of their lives being tarnished and ruined by alcohol. None of us will stop the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill doing its work. Minimum unit pricing is coming in and there are restrictions in terms of advertising. There is discussion about one part of the Bill. The important point is the Minister is sincere. I chaired the health committee that did pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill. We need to have a huge conversation about alcohol misuse, availability, price, advertising and how we can change the culture and ethos around the misuse of alcohol. We should all work together on that.

  Senators Mulherin and Ó Céidigh raised the very important issue of planning, in particular for the Apple location in Galway. I sincerely agree with them on the matter. I commend Councillor Peter Feeney who held a rally in Galway last week. It is important we allow for the development of facilities such as the Apple one in Galway because we need to take jobs out of Dublin and the big urban areas and into rural Ireland. That is why we welcome the announcement that the majority of jobs created in this calendar year have gone outside the metropolis.

  Senator Ó Domhnaill referred to free speech. I referred to that already. I would be happy to have the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade come to the House on the issue of the Rockefeller Museum. Senator Norris is right, no one is immune from international law. We should all work to uphold it.

  Senator Ó Domhnaill's Private Members' Bill on the diaspora will be in the House next week. I spoke to the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, who is just back from a trip to the US. Senator Lawless will be back next week. It is something we need to keep on the agenda. The Government is committed to this. The question is how we arrive at the end result. I take the point.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Can I vote for David Norris?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Rose Conway-Walsh raised the issue of 16 days of action on domestic violence against women and commended Women's Aid on its campaign. We have had this on the Order of Business in recent weeks. Senator Ardagh made a very fine contribution on it. The Senator is right. It is important that we have the legislation. The domestic violence Bill, which the Minister is committed to publishing and enacting, will be critical and it will put women and families at the centre of the legislation. We need that enabling legislation. We also need resourcing. The Senator is correct. We must protect women and children and, in some cases, men who have been abused. The Government "What would you do?" campaign is one we should get behind. We should work together to eliminate the awfulness of what is happening. If one meets women and children and talks to them about their life stories and what has happened to them, it is devastating. We all have a duty to get behind the campaign.

  Senator Gallagher raised the issue-----

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh As it is 16 days of action, can we ask for the Minister to come in as early as possible during those 16 days?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I would be happy to facilitate that.

  Senator Gallagher raised the issue of stroke survivors. We have a national stroke strategy. The Senator's point is well made. There needs to be joined-up thinking to improve outcomes, have people treated more quickly and recognise the symptoms. Yesterday, Senator McFadden raised the issue of the community geriatrician. It is about primary care and expanding the way we run our health system. It is important.

  I neglected to mention Senator Mac Lochlainn's comments on hospital services. It is important that we acknowledge that the Minister for Health has the highest health budget in the history of the State. What we need to see is a change in how the HSE and hospital groups deliver that budget. It is no good saying we have a budget of €14.2 billion. The issue is how it is administered and distributed. The Senator referred to a hospital. The former Minister, Senator James Reilly was there. Senator Mac Lochlainn and the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Joe McHugh, have been very strong on that issue. It is important to recognise we have seen greater initiatives created by the Government. One person too many on a trolley or waiting list is not good enough. The winter initiative has seen extra money. I would be happy to bring the matter of Letterkenny hospital to the Minister's attention.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I appreciate-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I cannot allow anyone in at this stage.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Can I just clarify-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will come to the Senator in a second.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I just want to clarify-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, I will come to the Senator in a second.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I nearly ran out of paper. I neglected to mention that Senator Landy raised the issue of the cardiac catheterisation laboratory for Waterford. Dr. Herity produced his report and it is gone for review. Senator Coffey also made the case for the need for such a laboratory. The Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, has been very vocal about it. There is a process under way. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I want to clarify something. Senator Buttimer is talking about the Minister coming to the House-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will be coming to the amendment in a moment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Yes.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn It is about the Minister coming to the House.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I had a conversation with the Minister for Health yesterday. He is willing to come to the House. It is important that we get legislation passed before the Christmas recess. As Leader of the House, on behalf of the Members, I ask for legislation to be initiated here. We have some legislation and we are looking for more. We can have statements after Christmas. My priority as Leader is to get legislation passed before Christmas. I thank-----

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn In fairness, the health crisis-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I appreciate that.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Housing and health are serious issues.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I appreciate that. To be fair to the group leaders, we work well together every week. We arrive at decisions on which we always try to seek common ground. The Minister is willing to come to the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be deleted from the Order of Business." Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Yes.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 27.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis. Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor. Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán. Information on Aidan Davitt   Zoom on Aidan Davitt   Davitt, Aidan.
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan. Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan.
  Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie.
  Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
  Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
  Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh   Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh   Ó Céidigh, Pádraig.
  Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Gavan and Kevin Humphreys; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone.

Amendment declared lost.

  Question, "That the Order of Business be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Establishment of Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders—

 (a) a Special Committee (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Committee’) is hereby appointed, to be joined with a Special Committee to be appointed by Dáil Éireann, to form the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. The Joint Committee shall consider the report of the Expert Commission on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, and report thereon, with recommendations, to both Houses of the Oireachtas, in accordance with paragraph (h);

 (b) the Expert Commission shall, as soon as is practicable after it adopts its report, forward the report to the Clerks of both Houses, who shall arrange for the report to be laid in the Parliamentary Library, whereupon the report shall stand referred to the Joint Committee;

 (c) the number of members of the Committee shall not exceed four, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh shall be a member of the Committee, and the other members shall be appointed as follows:

 (i) one member appointed by the Government, and

 (ii) one member each appointed by Fianna Fáil and the Civil Engagement Group;

 (d) the Cathaoirleach shall announce the names of the members appointed under paragraph (c) for the information of the Seanad on the first sitting day following their appointment;

 (e) the quorum of the Joint Committee shall be eight, at least one of whom shall be a Member of the Seanad, and one a Member of the Dáil;

 (f) the Chairman of the Joint Committee shall be Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh;

 (g) the Joint Committee shall have the powers defined in Standing Order 71(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (7), (8) and (9); and

 (h) the Joint Committee shall report to both Houses of the Oireachtas by 28 February 2017, or within three months of its first public meeting, whichever is the later."

  Question put and declared carried.

Business of Seanad

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We have gone over time and the Minister of State has another engagement but I want to be fair to all Members. May we reduce the speaking time for spokespersons from eight minutes to five minutes? I want to include every group.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I apologise for the shortening of the debate, which is a result of us taking a vote.

Mental Health Services Funding: Statements

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee We will stay for as long as we can. I very much welcome the opportunity to debate this extremely important issue. I take this time to offer my sympathies to families who have been affected by suicide, and particularly recently in Cork. The most important thing is to work together with organisations, communities, schools and those particularly affected in order to work through it.

  I welcome this debate as an opportunity to restate the Government’s and my commitment to our mental health policy and to the development of services within the mental health area. Since 2012, an extra €115 million and around 1,150 new posts have been allocated for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives. The budget this year has provided for additional spending for enhanced services of €35 million on a full-year basis to enable further improvements to access across a range of areas. Key priorities for next year's service plan include youth mental health, further improvement to child and adolescent and adult services, older people's services and further enhanced out-of-hours response for those in need of urgent services, along with the delivery of services for people with eating disorders.

  Recognising the time lag in new staff taking up posts and the completion of preparations for the introduction of these services, it is estimated that the revenue spend in 2017 associated with this increased allocation will be some €15 million. There will also be a further spend of €9.7 million in mental health associated with increased pay costs. It is my belief the increase in wages will go a long way towards realising the full implementation of A Vision for Change in the coming years. This additional €24.7 million for 2017 will see the mental health budget increase to €851 million, representing an increase of 3% over 2016 and an overall 20% increase since 2012. People are asking why we cannot spend the €20 million this year on one-off projects but the Government has given the go-ahead for the construction of a new national forensic hospital at Portrane. As I did in the Dáil, I urge those who have not visited the Central Mental Hospital to do so or meet staff, family members and patients so they can understand why this major project is needed and how it will benefit the most vulnerable people in our society. It is a significant capital investment for next year and with spending on this new hospital and other minor and mental health projects, it will exceed €50 million.

  I am very much focused on modernising our mental health services in line with the national mental health policy, A Vision for Change, and that is why we are spending over €900 million on mental health next year. Again, I know that figure is not enough but we have given the commitment that we will increase this year on year and we will stick to that commitment. In addition to the substantial ongoing financial commitment to service development, we have also commenced the process of updating our current mental health policy, A Vision for Change. My Department has recently commissioned an evidence-based expert review which will focus on the progress made to date in the implementation of A Vision for Change. Some may argue we do not need to update it but rather get working on it. It needs updating, however. The review will take into account international best practice and it will inform the next steps in the development of our mental health policy. It will also provide a solid evidence base to determine the policy direction and a basis to further improve service development in the area while shaping future policy.

  In line with the commitment given to Dáil Éireann on 6 October 2016, an oversight committee will be established within three months of the review being finalised to oversee the development of a new policy for mental health based on the outcome of the expert review. It is also envisaged that a successor policy to A Vision for Change will include a multi-annual implementation plan to inform this.  The Health Service Executive, HSE, will be directed to develop a multi-annual approach to that and to the development of mental health services.

  The increased investment in mental health services over the past number of years, at a time when funding in every Department was being cut across the board, has helped to facilitate an increase in the staffing levels of both adult and child and adolescent community mental health teams. Of the additional 1,550 new posts approved since 2012, some 1,150 have been or are in the process of being filled.

  Increased investment has also funded the development of specialist services recommended in A Vision for Change. That includes forensic, eating disorders, psychiatry of later life and mental health intellectual disability services. We are also seeing continued development of community mental health teams, improved seven day responses and liaison services, perinatal mental health, two new clinical programmes specifically for ADHD in adults and children, which is one of the newer programmes, and dual diagnosis of those with mental illness and substance misuse on which a clinical lead will be appointed in the coming weeks.

  We are also advancing the development of counselling services at primary care level and providing considerable extra funding to extend services such as Jigsaw, which offers a more informal environment in which younger people engage with each other and encourage each other to seek help.

  A Programme for A Partnership Government recognises the need to further promote awareness and prevention strategies. That is why this year we launched our national task force on youth mental health, which I chair. We have had three meetings to date. We have met with services and engaged with younger people. We held our first forum last week and I hope early in the new year we can identify and bring forward key issues and priorities on which we can begin working almost immediately.

  I acknowledge that this area needs continued investment, monitoring and attention. While services are not perfect, we have started from a very low base. As with anything, if we want to get it right and ensure the effects are long-lasting, we must not take a big bang approach but rather take our time and make sure that any changes happen for the right reason.

  I welcome today's debate. I hope it will be open and informative. I want to hear Members' suggestions and, if needs be, their criticisms, but I hope we will work together on this because we all have the same goal and want the same end result.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I am deputising today for our health spokesperson, Senator Keith Swanick. I welcome the Minister of State to the House for this debate which, as she rightly said, should be had above the political discourse.

  An important element of a functioning society is that we can deal with the issue of mental health in an adult and structured manner. Having a healthy mind is as important as having a health body. Understanding the link between mind and body is the first step in developing strategies to reduce the incidence of co-existing conditions.

  Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Good mental health is a prerequisite for normal growth and development. It enables people to lead a fulfilled life and to relate satisfactorily to those around them.

  The common characteristic of mental health disorders is that they all impact the affected person's personality through processes or social interactions. These effects are as debilitating as a physical illness yet we all know they are not treated in the same manner or with the same urgency of care. People with serious mental health conditions are at a high risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions. People with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health. Therefore, they are interlinked.

  The number of suicides reported in Ireland has risen enormously over decades from 76 deaths in 1950 to a peak of 554 in 2011. In 2015, some 451 suicides were recorded. In addition to that are those deaths by suicide that are unrecorded. Anecdotal evidence suggests, and we heard reports this week, that there are 1,000 deaths by suicide annually on the island of Ireland. Those stark figures hide an enormous societal shift during which suicide was decriminalised in 1993. Thankfully, other taboos and stigmas around mental health have long gone and it can be dealt with as any other health condition.

  Before the enactment of the Mental Health Bill brought forward by Deputy Micheál Martin in 2001, the primary mental health legislation dated back to 1945. It was interesting to note that the third debate on mental health in the current Dáil took place last week. There was also a substantial debate on mental health yesterday during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil. That has to be welcomed and it brings a new focus to mental health.

  It is ten years since the publication of A Vision for Change, which was a ten-year framework for building positive mental heath and providing accessible community based specialist services for people with mental health issues. Its terms were meant to be implemented by 2016 but, to date, just over 75% of those have been met. However, in the area of child and adolescent mental health, the figure is barely 52%. For older patients I understand the figure is 53% and for persons with disabilities, the figure is a shocking low of 19%. It is clear that those who are more vulnerable in society are getting fewer supports, and that issue must be addressed.

  There was a commitment in the election manifesto to increase the funding for mental health by €75 million, or €35 million per year, in the lifetime of the Government, which the Minister of State referred to in her contribution. That is a step in the right direction but the vision to spend €35 million for additional services in 2017 will not be met, before we even enter that year. In fact, approximately €20 million of that will not be spent. That is worrying and it falls way short of targets identified in the programme for Government.

  I want to raise a number of major issues. The staffing for child and adolescent mental health is 48% below what is required. That is a major issue. There may be staffing constraints and recruitment difficulties but the purpose of the additional funding was to meet those challenges. Two thousand children are waiting for their first appointment, with 10%, or 200, waiting for a year or longer. That is far too long and it must be addressed.

  I am not sure what the difficulties are with spending the money next year and I would be interested to hear the reason from the Minister. She addressed that to some extent but it is an issue because difficulties are being experienced. If the funding has to be spent on recruitment next year because of difficulties being experienced, why not give the additional funding, for a one year period, to community groups that support mental health activities in the community at the point of contact closest to those who are suffering with mental health difficulties? We need to adopt radical thinking, even for a one year period, to fulfil the Government commitment on the targeted spend. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say on that aspect.

  I wish the Minister well. She has a very difficult brief. I am aware she brings a lot of knowledge to the table and that she is passionately committed to delivering on this issue. Ministers in her position in the previous Government found it difficult. I am aware the Minister of State is meeting the challenge head-on, and I wish her well with that. Any support we can provide from this side of the House will always be given.

Senator Joan Freeman: Information on Joan Freeman Zoom on Joan Freeman I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. I am sure she is very busy, so I appreciate her taking the time to come here not only to clarify issues and address serious concerns facing the most vulnerable in our society, but because I truly believe she wants to have an effective dialogue about what we can do to help.

  We are both new to the roles we find ourselves in, yet we are no strangers to the mental health problems that face many people in our country. We are also aware that these problems begin with the children of our nation.  While we hear that much has been achieved in this area, the Minister of State and I know that in many areas nothing is happening. I am sure that the Minister of State is determined to address as many issues as possible during her tenure, but how can she do this when the budget she has been given is not only paltry, but offensive?

  It was announced that mental health would receive €35 million, but it was a most dishonest statement. Not only was it dishonest, it was also underhanded because the statement omitted two very important issues. First, that €35 million is to be spent over two years and only €15 million would be spent in 2017. That €15 million will merely act as a contingency fund to fill in the gaps that inevitably occur in any given year, such as pension and other natural increases. Second, what makes this even more distasteful is that we have not been told how the HSE intends to distribute that €15 million, which backs up my fear that this money will go anywhere and everywhere that the Government and HSE wants it to go. It certainly will not go towards reducing the waiting lists where more than 2,000 children are still waiting to be seen on a never-ending waiting list.

  Recently the Minister of State and I attended the very first mental health summit where there was mention of the review of A Vision for Change and the new task force, both of which are merely kicking the can down the road, something this Department is good at. We have had review after review. Ten years ago we had the "Reach Out " document on suicide. It was reviewed nine years later and another new document came about.

  At that mental health summit, we heard a woman speak about an 18-year old young man who had been buried that morning because he died by suicide. One of the pallbearers was 12 years of age. This young little fellow was waiting to be seen by CAMHS for over four weeks. This child had suicide ideation and self-harming issues. The director of mental health who said that high-risk children are being seen within a week is also terribly dishonest.

  I ask the Minister of State to provide me a breakdown of what has been spent in 2016 - how it was delivered and how it was administered. In addition how many people were truly hired this year and where were they placed?

  I beg the Minister of State not to make the mistake other Ministers of State have made by accepting the crumbs from the table as offered by the Government. She must not allow mental health to continue to be the Cinderella of social issues. Many Senators are as passionate as I am about mental health and they also want to help the Minister of State achieve a fair, compassionate and workable mandate. However, she must also be the champion for mental health. That starts with treating her Department with the same respect all other Departments are treated with. The Minister of State needs to obtain for us the status other Departments are given and obtain for us a voice that will stop being a whisper.

Senator Neale Richmond: Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond I am deputising for Senator Feighan, who cannot be here as I believe he is still on paternity duty. I welcome the Minister of State to the House and wish her continued success in a role she has really grasped from the outset.

  As we all know, mental health issues can affect any home in the country. The area is a challenge for any government and society to deal with and manage in order to improve awareness and treatments. I commend the Minister of State on her extremely proactive approach to her brief so far. It is welcome that the programme for Government states that the mental health budget will be increased annually during the lifetime of the Government and that the Government is committed to meeting the recommendations of A Vision for Change. I appreciate the Minister of State's comments on a review of that document.

  The allocation for the mental health budget for 2017 was subject to many untruths and a lack of understanding online. People often get confused when discussing the annual mental health budget. Many of us were inundated with questions to our offices asking why the entire mental health budget was just €15 million or if it had been cut. We need to be clear and unequivocal that the mental health budget for 2017 will be €851.3 million. Noting that funding of €150 million was secured in this year's budget for the new facility in Portrane, as the Minister of State discussed, I ask her to update us in her reply on the status of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, which is close to where I live. When will that institution be able to move to Portrane? Like the Minister of State, I have also visited that facility and I believe it is no longer fit for purpose.

  I fully appreciate that funding alone will not solve our problems. Much of the money cannot be spent without the staff to carry out the work. I also welcome that in this regard, training nursing places will increase by 45% in the next four years. In addition we need to see what approaches in different sectors are best performing.

  The importance of team sports and club activities cannot be underestimated in providing a solution to cultivating a healthier approach to mental health. I am heartened to see our leading national sports organisations recognise the ability they have to influence the mental health of their members. They have taken action by launching several campaigns, aimed at not only increasing awareness, but also taking practical steps to improve their players' health and welfare.

  The GAA on a national level has partnered with the HSE to support the highly shared and viewed "#LittleThings" social media campaign. Like other organisations, the GAA has seen fit to appoint a full-time community and health manager. The Kilmacud Crokes club in Stillorgan is involved in phase 2 of the award-winning healthy clubs project. It has launched its own "Crokes talks" videos. These brilliant pieces highlight how health and well-being have been integrated into the club's philosophy. It reminds everyone that they can contribute to a positive club experience for all members.

  Another club in south County Dublin, Cuala, framed its emotional well-being conversation around a topic that is very real and immediate to every athlete - achieving one's potential and how an injury, be it mental or physical, can hamper one's endeavours to do just that. Its short film "#StoptheStigma" has had more than 10,000 views on YouTube. Both these clubs have drilled this health-awareness-driven practical campaign to the heart of their members and there may be an on-field benefit as these two clubs reached the final of the Dublin county senior hurling championship.

  No one could argue that a healthy, happy, supportive and positive team spirit leads to success. Nationally the IRFU has rolled out its campaign, called "Tackle your Feelings." The purpose of that programme is to work towards creating a society where emotional vulnerability is viewed as strength and where being honest with oneself about how one is feeling is brave. It seeks to provide players with the tools to develop their self-awareness, improve their positivity and confidence, and become resilient. My club has signed up to Senator Freeman's "Mind your Buddies" campaign through Pieta House. It has worked really well in this laddish macho environment to have trained people available to talk to those who need it.

  I thank the Minister of State for her contribution and look forward to her reply. I wish her the best of luck with the rest of her work.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. She spoke about a review and she knows how I feel about reviews. The review was done adequately and very professionally by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and my union, the Psychiatric Nurses Association, and released in July. Knowledge is no good unless it is followed by action. I implore the Minister of State to forget reviews, but I think I am battling against the wind.

  Funding for mental health in this country has always been inadequate. It is just over 6% here, whereas it is 14% in Britain and the North. We have gone from 13% ten years ago to just over 6% now. The impact of the €35 million is not being felt. I highlight my frustration and desperation in addressing the issue of funding. We tried to get 24-7 crisis intervention to be taken seriously in this House and in the Dáil. Since the formation of the Government, Sinn Féin twice introduced a motion and on both occasions Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted down the 24-7 measures we sought.  It was voted down in the face of two groups, one from the Liberties and one from Cork, which we had invited to the Gallery. Both groups were families and community groups who had lost their children or loved ones through suicide and had gone through that trauma and were trying to recover from it. It is heartbreaking for them. It felt like a slap in the face when both the Government and Opposition voted it down.

  In the 2017 budget, €35 million was announced in new funding. Like other community and advocacy groups, Sinn Féin welcomes the measure as a positive step in implementing A Vision for Change. As a previous, and perhaps future, front-line worker, along with my psychiatry and nursing colleagues, I know this €35 million is being rehashed and promised every year. We never saw it on the ground. Perhaps we will see €15 million of it this year. The extra fund is coming to €15 million. It is an added investment of only 1.8% in new developments for mental health compared to the 2016 budget. This is unforgivable. I would like the Minister of State to directly respond on this point and tell us why this €35 million was masked as €35 million in new funds. The Government is doing nothing to address the sheer neglect of mental health going back decades. The pitiful investments of new funds such as these will do nothing to address the crisis among our communities across the island.

  I do not want to play politics with the issue. The people who are dying and crying out for help day after day do not want politics played. They want support, services and to get better. What is it going to take? How can we get 24-7 crisis intervention rolled out? I admire the Minister of State's bravery in taking on the role and the responsibility, given her family's trauma. I recognise her determination to do her best to ensure the services are introduced. However, it is not happening. How can we put billions of euro into banks and millions of euro into water, but cannot find resources to prevent our people dying because they cannot see hope? What brick walls are preventing this? Is there resistance within the power of Fine Gael? Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can do it. We will support whoever brings this forward, in the interest of nation, our people, families, loved ones and communities.

  This morning, on national media, did Fianna Fáil's leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, commit to 24-7 services? I did not hear it. If it is true, I welcome it and I urge the Fianna Fáil Members to talk to their leader and ensure it happens without delay. We need to see the strength of the measures Fianna Fáil is proposing. If they will improve what is on offer, Fianna Fáil can count on our support and we can advance further.

  Mental health is the most significant issue facing Ireland and the world, as referenced by the World Health Organization, WHO. Mental health affects housing, education, employment, family life and substance abuse, among many other aspects of life. Let us get this right. The Minister of State must go back to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and plead for funding to implement 24-7 crisis intervention. We can then further the other elements of A Vision for Change, over 70% of which have not been implemented. We could do it together on an all-party basis or, even better, an all-Ireland basis. My colleague, Ms Michelle O'Neill, has been in contact and we established an all-Ireland mental well-being initiative. Let us improve the health of our nation and stop the pitiful funding we provide for mental health and the perception that we are saying it is terrible but are not going to do anything about it.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I am out of breath after running here from a committee room, which must be a sign that I am not looking after myself very well. I will talk about some of the lived realities on the ground and how the task force and the Minister of State's work can reach the target groups. Last week, I gave a talk at Alexandra College in Dublin 6. The speaker before me gave an amazing speech and spoke about where in the world her friends were. When my turn came to speak, all I could think of was where my friends were and why I was not able to give the same speech. During the past six months since I was elected, I have lost four people to suicide. The only difference between me and the other speaker was inequality. How are we making the connection between inequality and access to services and help?

  Although services exist in communities, there is a lack of cohesiveness between some of the services and the community members. When services were first set up a long time ago, the community people had demanded them, especially regarding addiction. There was upward pressure. Are we missing some sort of link between the services and the community, especially for young men in disadvantaged areas who will struggle to even know how to access services and where to go? This is one of the reasons I am holding the Tallaght Talks next week. It is to try to start the conversation with young men. Some 250 people from west Tallaght are attending it and we have got local faces such as Al Porter and Paddy Holohan, the mixed martial arts, MMA, fighter, to try to act as ambassadors for the services that exist so we can shine a light on them. Although we have plenty of services in Tallaght, such as Pieta and Jigsaw, young men and women in the area cannot name a single service. While the may know Pieta exists as a national organisation, they might not know how to access it in their own locality.

  How can the task force begin to address this? While it is a community-led task force in the voluntary sector, it seems to include people who are actively involved in working in mental health in those sectors. Is there a space to develop some sort of task force that could feed the position on the ground into the main task force maybe two to four times per year so it can become more cohesive and the message can filter down to the ground to the people who need it most? In more affluent areas, people have much more social and cultural capital and they know who to ask for help. They might have people in their families who work in specific mental health areas. People from the poorest backgrounds do not have that. They do not have family members who are counsellors, psychiatrists or lecturers who can signpost the way. Is there an element of the Minister of State's work that seeks to address the people at the very bottom?

  I include those with dual diagnosis, especially in the homeless sector. As someone who has worked in the homeless sector for so long, it is very difficult to see people turned out of accident and emergency departments and sent back to the street with no co-operation between the health service and the addiction service on devising a dual approach to addiction and mental health in order to avoid people being knocked from one door to another. Our streets have become our asylums. We stopped institutional care of people who are mentally unwell. They are on the streets and in the hostels, where they are not receiving the care they need. Is there something we can do to put more resources into the homeless service and addressing mental health on the street? I met a man in a homeless hostel who had slit his throat and I had to stem the blood. I could not get him sectioned. He had cut his throat wide open and I begged to have him sectioned for his own safety, but I could not do it. Normal project workers with no background in mental health are trying to fire fight all these situations. Is the Minister of State considering those who are the hardest for mental health services to reach?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Given that we went over time on the vote, I propose that we extend our time by five minutes to allow Senator Maura Hopkins to speak.

Acting Chairman (Senator Michelle Mulherin): Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I thank the Minister of State for talking to us and debating the important issue of mental health and funding. I thank her for her continued genuine hard work in her role as Minister of State with responsibility for mental health. It is important that we are seeing an increased budget for mental health services. The Minister of State rightly said there was a need for definite improvements within the services, and any change must equate to an improvement in the service. I have a raised a number of points with the Minister of State on a number of occasions. While I understand they are operational matters for the HSE, it is very important that we implement A Vision for Change and look at how we implement changes such that they ensure improvements.  If there are changes to day centres or hostels the public, mental health users and staff need to fully understand the reasons. We need to understand the benefit of changes and those changes need to deliver improved services. I emphasise this in the context of recent experience of how the HSE has communicated with the wider public in County Roscommon.

  I worked as an occupational therapist within community mental health services and it is crucial that people have confidence in the service. They need to feel they can connect as they need to and that is a challenge for us in County Roscommon. There must be an environment and a structure that supports people, gives them certainty and helps them regain control over their lives and enjoy a good quality of life. The mental health budget spans many different Departments and many different areas of life. Senator Neale Richmond rightly spoke of the importance of sporting and community organisations in helping people to achieve a sense of well-being to face the demands of modern life. The work is cross-departmental and the youth task force is trying to engage as many groups as possible to improve people's lives.

  I understand the external report into mental health services in County Roscommon is being finalised and it is really important to have it. It was commissioned because things were not working as they should have been. It will identify weaknesses and make recommendations for change. It will create a space for people in our county to use mental services as they need them.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I want to raise the issue of suicide in Cork which in the past couple of weeks has gripped the city and county. A total of 16 people from a wide variety of backgrounds are suspected to have died by suicide, and I welcome the fact that the Minister of State is coming to Cork on Friday. It is heartbreaking for communities to lose people aged 18 years, 15, 17, 20 and 44, and I commend the Lord Mayor, Councillor Des Cahill, who is holding a multi-agency forum in Cork city hall on Monday, 5 December to help, alongside the Minister of State's intervention, to bring about structural support to enable us to eliminate this awful scourge from our society. I commend those involved, particularly Senator Freeman and Pieta House, on the way they have increased therapists in Cork. It is about all of us coming together to work, to educate, to empower, to assist and to end this awful tragedy. For any mental health advocate, be it Bressie, Conor Cusack or an ordinary person, it is good to talk and to engage and there is support there for people who need it. I commend the Minister of State on her work and I hope there is action in Cork because it has been traumatic and devastating for people.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I thank the Minister of State for her time yesterday at the dementia awareness training. The mental health reform agenda makes a clear case to me, as it has to other Senators, for the retention of the €35 million funding and some areas have been identified as suitable for the money to be spent, such as an adequate investment in peer support services and a greater availability of other social inclusion supports, like talking therapies. I am a bit late because I was speaking to Dublin Simon whose counselling service is drastically underfunded. They are anxious to extend the service and, as the Minister will know, mental ill health and homelessness go hand in hand. Other areas include the development of culturally appropriate mental health services for people from ethnic minorities and the development of mental health services for particular groups of individuals, such as people with a co-morbid mental health difficulty and addiction. A person may have an addiction or mental health issues but cannot get joined-up services as they have to go through one door or another.

  A statutory national advocacy service for both adults and children with mental health difficulties could be set up and there is a need for a dedicated funding stream for tenancy sustainment supports for people with mental health. In my Cork Simon days mental health was often a reason people lost their tenancies. This creates an awful problem for the person but it also creates problems in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. Increased staffing in community mental health services up to the levels in A Vision for Change are also needed, as are access to 24-7 crisis mental health supports. When I was in Cork Simon the dramas happened on Saturdays and Sundays or over the Christmas period when everyone else was on holidays. Mental health crises do not happen on a Monday-to-Friday basis. We need increased investment in in-reach liaison services for people in the criminal justice system as many people in our prison system are mentally unwell and not getting the supports they need.

Acting Chairman (Senator Michelle Mulherin): Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin The Minister has five minutes.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee There is a vote in the Dáil. Perhaps the House could wait until I get back.

Acting Chairman (Senator Michelle Mulherin): Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin We have other business after this.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I have to go now. I would like to address the issues.

Acting Chairman (Senator Michelle Mulherin): Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin It has to finish now, Minister.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I will have to be really quick as I have to go. We have been accused of allocating money but not spending it, or allocating it for a year ahead but not planning for the following years. There is a very firm commitment from this Government, however, that we will implement A Vision for Change. The figure of €35 million, or €37.5 million each year, has been put out there and whether it is spent year after year or all spent in one year does not make any difference as long as we plan ahead properly. Staffing has been a problem and I can get an exact breakdown of what has been spent this year for Senator Freeman. Some of it has gone in capital and some has moved away from services because of an inability to spend it. This year, €400,000 of the funding has gone to allocate 60 new places for the training of psychiatric nurses. This will increase by over 45%, to 70 over the next four years, to help us tackle the problem. Next year and the year after that we will be able to spend this money. The €35 million will be spent over two years and next year I will look for and expect the same amount. Whether it is spent in one year or over two years, the big issue is that it is spent.

  On the task force, three groups are working together at the moment. We are working with younger people and held our first youth forum this week. We had engagement from throughout the country and across the spectrum, from children in college to children in bad areas, to hear exactly what they wanted to say. A body of work is ongoing involving the Departments of Health, Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills to identify the services that exist, where they overlap, where they are not working and where we can improve them. Some 155 services have already been identified and many can be amalgamated.  We will not be issuing a report by Christmas. We will issue recommendations, some of which might require legislative change or funding. That is a work in progress and it is hard to identify exactly what will come out of it.

  As regards dual diagnosis, in the coming weeks we will be appointing a clinical lead. There is a programme being identified and worked on. Once that clinical lead is appointed he or she will pull together a team which will plan a framework on how to deal with this problem. It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as to which comes first and how one deals with the two, three or four at the same time.

  There is an interdepartmental team working with the Department of Justice and Equality. It has made recommendations, specifically on care for people while they are in prison. The next phase, which will happen in the coming weeks, is to look at the follow-on plan for what happens to people when they leave. More often than not they have more help when they are in prison than when they leave. That is the next body of work that needs to happen.

  I have to leave but perhaps I can come back to Senators on some of the issues they have raised. I can address the issues properly then. I thank the House for this opportunity and I apologise that I have to leave.

  Sitting suspended at 1.53 p.m. and resumed at 2.20 p.m.

Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 23

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 19:

In page 33, to delete lines 9 and 10.

- (Senator Grace O'Sullivan)

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson It has been agreed that amendment Nos. 19 and 20 are related and may be discussed together. Senator Grace O'Sullivan was in possession when progress was reported. I call on her to resume.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan The idea behind amendment No. 19 is to retain the ordinary majority in votes on Part 8 developments. At present, councillors can amend or reject a Part 8 development through a normal vote at a council meeting. It has not really been explained to us by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, why he is proposing this change. If the Minister gets his way in this instance, there will be a requirement for a majority vote of all of the members of a council and not simply a majority of those present at the meeting. In circumstances in which councillors may be ill or otherwise unable to attend a particular meeting, this will undermine the democratic operation of the council. It tips the balance in the favour of the executive power and undermines the reserved function held by the elected members. Essentially, the amendments allows that a majority of councillors present at a meeting is enough for that vote, rather than a majority of councillors in general.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Sinn Féin supports this amendment. In recent times, with the Putting People First changes that occurred in local authorities, there have been many questions about democracy at local levels. There were some decisions made around local community development committees, for example, which resulted in many exclusions from the process of people who they were told that they had conflicts of interest, etc. In counties such as Galway, people are very concerned that some of the decisions made were not logical. Many of the local elected representatives have been very concerned about some of the decisions taken. To reiterate what we have been saying since the debate on the Bill began, we must recognise the mandate of the local councillors in particular. It makes absolute sense that any decisions made on planning applications such as these should be made by the body of the council and by the majority of those in favour of projects.

  This is a worthy, practical and fair amendment. I know that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, was battled into submission in respect of a number of different amendments last night. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy English, will be able to take this amendment on board today.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Is the Senator saying there was a reason I was brought in?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Minister of State might be a harder nut to crack. We will do our best in any event to put the pressure on.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy English.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Government opposes both amendments Nos. 19 and 20. I am conscious of the points that both Senators have made. Unless I took them up wrong, the Senators might be on different sides of the argument.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh No.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Perhaps I misinterpreted Senator Ó Clochartaigh's comments. The points made sounded a little bit different.

  The amendments proposed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan relate to the changes proposed in the Bill regarding the Part 8 process for the approval of local authority-owned development proposals, including those relating to social housing. The Bill proposes a number of key changes to the existing processes in section 179 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Senator Grace O'Sullivan's main concern is on the provisions around the majority vote, which is that a council resolution on a Part 8 proposal will require the support of a majority of elected members. The primary purpose of the overall changes proposed is to streamline the timelines for decision-making on local authority development proposals, providing certainty for the timeframe of the Part 8 process. Under the revised procedures, the maximum timeframe for the determination of local authority-owned development proposals will be 20 weeks from the date of issue where the proposal is for public consultation.  Under the current procedures, there is no maximum timeframe for the completion of the Part 8 process. This delays the delivery of the development of proposals, including social housing proposals. The amendments proposed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan in regard to the Part 8 procedures seek to dilute the intentions of the provisions of the Bill. I will speak mainly on amendment No. 19 because I think amendment No. 20 would probably have unintended consequences.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I did not speak on amendment No. 20. I spoke on amendment No. 19 only.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson They are being discussed together.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Senator Grace O'Sullivan can come in again.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will not speak on amendment No. 20 either. I gather that it might have unintended consequences separate from what Senator Grace O'Sullivan wants to achieve. Amendment No. 19 proposes to remove the provision in the Bill that will require any resolution on the approval, variation or rejection of the development proposals of the local authority chief executive to get the support of the majority of council members. In our view, it is imperative for the local authority's vital development proposals to be considered and decided on by a majority of the totality of the elected members and not just those who are present on the day. We are trying to get people to buy into this important process, certainly when it comes to social housing projects. Issues can arise in some communities when we are trying to get acceptance of such projects. We believe it is important for the majority of councillors to be part of that process. Given that the dates on which meetings are held, etc., are agreed by councillors, they should be in a position to ensure this situation does not occur. I understand the concern that Senator Grace O'Sullivan is trying to raise. A meeting could fall on the wrong day when some councillors are not around but that can work both ways. Our view is that it is important to strengthen the role of councillors in this process. For that reason, we are providing that the majority of councillors will have to be involved when these decisions are made so that those decisions receive real community backing. We want to make sure the application of deadlines as part of the new system of fast-tracking Part 8 is not seen as a way of diluting the powers of local authority members. We are trying to strengthen their role. We are conscious that it is imperative for a majority of councillors to be involved in making these decisions. We believe amendment No. 19 would have the effect of removing them from the process. I hope the Senator will understand that we cannot accept the amendment for that reason. Our intention in framing this section of the Bill is to strengthen democracy by ensuring as many councillors as possible, and not just a majority who turn up on the day, are involved in the decision-making process. I know what can happen at council meetings. I have been attending them for years.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I remind the House that we are discussing amendments Nos. 19 and 20.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Minister, Deputy Coveney, seemed to suggest last night that a majority of members in the relevant municipal district, as opposed to a majority of the entire council, might suffice in these cases. Does that strike a chord with the Minister of State?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That will not work in every local authority. It is not our intention to dilute that. We are going to hold it as it is.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I would like the Minister of State to clarify one aspect of this matter. We spoke last night about the fast-track planning arrangements for developments of more than 100 houses. Will the Part 8 fast-track planning arrangements for councillors that we are discussing expire in 2019? As someone who served as a councillor for 20 years, I understand the Part 8 process. I wonder whether all of this will expire in 2019. As the Minister of State knows, the fast-track planning arrangements for large developments will be reviewed. I ask him to clarify the position in respect of these arrangements.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I will call the Minister of State after Senator Grace O'Sullivan has come back in.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I have proposed amendment No. 20 to provide that the decision of an elected council on a Part 8 application must be made by "the first Council meeting after the expiration of 6 weeks" and not, as the Bill proposes, "not later than 6 weeks after the receipt of the manager’s report". It is well known that local authorities typically do not meet in the month of August. Therefore, the six-week timeframe for meeting and voting on a Part 8 procedure could expire if the manager's report were delivered in July. Logically, the legislation must give practical effect to the democratic role of the elected council. Therefore, the period must last until a council meeting is held. The most effective way to achieve this is to provide for it in this legislation. Amendment No. 20 proposes that these matters should be considered at "the first Council meeting after the expiration of" the six-week timeframe.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I assure Senator Murnane O'Connor that there is no sunset clause in this aspect of what we are proposing. It will be a permanent change. As she knows, the Part 8 process can go on for a couple of years, or certainly a number of months, at the moment.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I know that. The Minister of State is saying it will be permanent.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It is a permanent decision. I think everybody will accept that.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor It is good to get it clarified. I thank the Minister of State.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I know what Senator Grace O'Sullivan is trying to achieve in amendment No. 20. Our concern is that the wording of the amendment would remove from local authority members the role we are saying we want the majority of them to have. We cannot accept the amendment because, if we understand it correctly, it would actually dilute the role of the councillors in the decision-making process.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I do not agree. I am concerned that the six-week timeframe could be very short in some circumstances. If the manager's report comes out two or three days before the end of July, councillors will not really be able to study or scrutinise it because they will be away due to the council being in recess for the whole month of August. I do not see this proposal as a dilution of the role of councillors.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The concern is that the two amendments taken together, bearing in mind that amendment No. 19 provides for the deletion of the requirement for a resolution "to be adopted by a majority of the members of the local authority", would dilute their powers. We believe the proposed six-week timeframe would provide enough time. I reiterate that when a local authority is organising a Part 8 process, it knows that it needs to avoid the August period when it is planning the timeframe. It is up to local authority members to plan this process. It would be assumed that they would not land themselves in a situation like that described by the Senator, just as we have to allow for periods when the Dáil will be closed when we are planning our business. I understand the concern the Senator is raising, but I do not believe it should be or will be an issue.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan It would be interesting to hear the perspective of Senator Craughwell or someone who has served on a local authority. I am not from a local authority background.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senators who wish to comment on local authorities are free to do so.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Yes.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I note the Senator's concern.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Sometimes things just slip through.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Exactly.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan That is what we are trying to avoid.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English There is some concern among councillors and the public that things could slip through because of the deadlines and timelines that will apply under the new arrangements. We are trying to make it clear that we do not want that to happen. We want to be very clear, so we are providing for a black-and-white six-week timeframe. If councillors are doing their jobs properly, nothing will slip through. We trust local authority staff to work in conjunction with councillors. It is a question of the planning of business. As someone who served on a council for five years, I have been through many of these processes. Everyone knows that August is not the best month for making large decisions because people do not attend council meetings in August. A council would not start a process that would end up with such a timeline. This is about people focusing on their work, making decisions based on timelines, looking at the 20-week period and actually planning it in. When we bring legislation through the various Stages in the House, everyone has to plan out their timeframes so that the legislative process can work. We are saying that from now on, we want all the timelines to be looked at, worked out, planned and co-ordinated when it comes to social housing and planning permissions. The system Senator Grace O'Sullivan is looking for should not be necessary if everyone does their job right. We are trying to make everything clear. I know from the council meetings I have attended in recent months that there are concerns about the changes in this Bill. We want to make it as clear as possible that this is about proper decision-making and not about diluting anyone's powers or confusing the issue. We are trying to make the system clearer and more straightforward so that people can have more confidence in it. The important part of this is that everyone will know the end time.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor As a former councillor, I can tell Senator Grace O'Sullivan that I agree with the Minister of State that councils normally meet in advance, or a special meeting might be called, if something is due to come up during a holiday period. I am glad this issue has been brought up today because we need to ensure local authorities are informed, particularly in light of the urgency of this Bill. We need to make sure it is right. There is definitely a process. Local authorities are very aware of it. Meetings are called if they are needed. I assure the Senator that all the information comes and goes back. I ask the Minister of State to consider my suggestion that we could write to all the local authorities to highlight this issue. It is important for everything to get through. The Minister of State knows that transparency and accountability are important. Local authorities know about this, in fairness, but it is good to highlight it.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh If I understand the Minister of State correctly, he is saying that there is a double process regarding the report that will be prepared by the local authority, that there are two safety mechanisms in subsection (c) and that for a resolution to have effect - for a report to go forward to An Bord Pleanála - it must be adopted by a majority of the members of the local authority and passed not later than six weeks afterwards. Those two mechanisms will still hold; one does not supersede the other.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Absolutely. We are trying to set out a 20-week timeframe for the process. The concern is that if one allows for the following meeting, all of a sudden there can be a delay of six to eight weeks or even longer. These additional weeks defeat the purpose of what we are trying to achieve here. We are trying to bring in very clear timelines for all involved. If there is a meeting in July and none in August, it can suddenly be the middle of September or late September. We are trying to prevent this slippage of weeks in everything we do in the action plan for housing. It is about establishing timelines for all decision-making, not just that relating to local authorities. We will try to tighten things up wherever we can because this is where the slippage occurs and that is what we are trying to avoid. I hope the Senators understand.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I very much welcome the Minister of State's explanation and clarification. As Senator Murnane O'Connor said, we are in a period of crisis. I completely understand the tightening of the timelines. Perhaps the point about communication and transparency could be explained to councillors in those terms if possible. In times of crisis, everyone must adhere to deadlines if he or she feels strongly about the issue on the agenda.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I welcome the clarification provided by the Minister of State. It will give us food for thought. If the Senator does not press the amendment, I suggest that she re-examine the position and reserve the right to contribute further on the matter on Report Stage if she still feels an amendment is necessary.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I reserve the right to do so.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English If the Senator has genuine concerns even after this debate, she should let us know. Our motive in this regard is very honest. To clarify further, she is right that the process is important. We are trying to highlight its importance by holding many stakeholder events and launches of the different documents and by writing to and meeting all the councillors. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, all our Department officials and I have made ourselves very available to meet everybody because we need to get everyone to understand the timelines involved and the buy-in in this regard. We do not at all intend to infringe on people's powers, but rather to bring everybody with us and make it understood that this is urgent. Timelines focus all our minds but they do not mean poor decisions; they just mean more straightforward, timelined decisions. Everyone has enough time to get involved in this.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Amendment No. 20 not moved.

  Section 23 agreed to.

  Sections 24 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Amendments Nos. 21 and 40 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 21:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 5 (“relevant date”, “landlord”, “tenant”, “lease”, etc.) of Act of 2004

27. Section 5(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by deleting the definition of “landlord” and substituting the following:
“ ‘landlord’ means the person for the time being entitled to receive (otherwise than as agent for another person, excepting where that person is acting as receiver) the rent paid in respect of a dwelling by the tenant thereof and, where the context so admits, includes a person who has ceased to be so entitled by reason of the termination of the tenancy;”.”.

The amendment relates to the reality experienced by many renters in Ireland. It seeks to address the concern that those who act as receivers are freed from any of the obligations and constraints placed on landlords. This will be particularly pertinent as we come to some of our later amendments which seek limitations on eviction and when we consider large-scale properties and evictions from them. I will come to that when we debate section 30. I am of the view that section 30 is deeply inadequate in that it does not serve the purpose it purports to serve, which is to protect those in middle-sized developments from eviction.

  On the wider question and the reality faced by many people, we have all heard about the cases, letters arrive in our offices all the time and we read the newspapers. Families are becoming homeless and suffering evictions. I will not go through all the statistics relating to the increased level of family homelessness because I am sure we will hear them again and again during this debate. We want to ensure that some brake is placed on this and that those who act as receivers are not exempted from their responsibilities which should be afforded to landlords. They may be receivers in respect of property, but where those properties are tenanted, those tenants are entitled to protections and the same rights as any other tenants. If we are serious about protecting tenants and those who are very vulnerable in residential property, we need to make sure, regardless of whether the buildings in which they live are owned by landlords or managed by receivers, that they are afforded the same protections as all tenants. The amendment seeks to address what I believe is an anomaly. I think it is a recognised anomaly. We are putting forward our proposal. We have tried to make a separation between those who act as agents, such as professional property management companies, and those who act as receivers and are simply seeking to maximise return. Yes, a receiver has a responsibility to maximise economic return, but that should not be an excuse to abrogate the rights of the tenant to suitable protection. This is the basis of our proposal. Others have identified opportunities to bring these points in later in the Bill, and I look forward to hearing their suggestions.

  I strongly urge the Minister of State to consider the amendment. We would be happy to work with an alternate wording but we need to recognise the reality that it is the receiver in many cases that makes the decision to put people, including families, out of their houses. We need to find a way to capture that.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I concur with the proposer. This is an excellent amendment. There are other areas in the Bill where it could be accommodated, but Senator Higgins makes a very good and valid point. I have received a substantial amount of correspondence particularly in the last year - the correspondence grows as the problem grows - about tenants being told they have to get out of RAS and various other housing schemes. The argument is that it is not a matter for the receiver, but for the landlord. Furthermore, landlords are contacting tenants, which is unacceptable, to put pressure on them, as opposed to going through the council. The local authorities have responsibility in this regard. We need to address this issue. The Minister of State's Department needs to address it. I have made representations to a number of councils. My council, the one from which I have come and which I know best, says the landlords have stepped in. The landlords deal with the council. They are organising. They have an obligation to ensure continuity of appropriate accommodation and housing for tenants in RAS. I speak specifically about RAS because this very day a woman and her son approached me and told me about the harassments they have received from a landlord who says the son must leave his accommodation because the landlord cannot meet his mortgage repayments. He is under pressure from the banks. However, the landlord has said that if the family give him €300 or €400 in cash under the counter as a top-up - the payment is currently €1,800 or €1,900 per month - he will not put pressure on them. The story goes that he is pressurising them because the banks are pressurising him to take his property. He has fallen into arrears on his mortgage. That is unacceptable. The experience I have picked up time and time again in recent months is that when people contact the council, it does not want to know. No RAS landlord should harangue or harass a tenant. They should refer to the arrangement, which is RAS, through the local authority.

  This is a very valid amendment. There may be other places in the legislation where such a provision should be added. There absolutely needs to be protection for tenants because many people are taking advantage and saying that there is a downturn in the economy, that their properties have gone into receivership, that they are overexposed or that they cannot meet their financial repayments. By golly, that is grossly unfair to other people who consistently provide a marketable rent for that accommodation. I endorse the amendment.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I agree with much of what the previous speaker said. The example he gives is very disturbing. He is absolutely right that the arrangement is between the landlord and the council and that the landlord should not harass or interfere with the tenant. Furthermore, if the landlord's story stood up, money under the counter would not be any good to him or her because it would not be declared and he or she would be in trouble.  I want to come to the amendment itself. I hope this will be addressed. I know it is a little bit premature and the regulations are coming out in the next couple of weeks. I appeal to the Minister to react and accommodate the spirit of what is being put forward by Senator Higgins in those regulations. As I listened to the debate I began to think back to The Grapes of Wrathand the big nameless entities behind the bulldozers that moved all the people off the land. I do not want to get over-emotive or over-descriptive but we have to protect our citizens from the faceless, nameless people who say they are only acting on behalf of somebody else who told them to do it. When people are evicted from their homes there is nothing in it for us as a society. Individual landlords can have difficulties, including, for example, the accidental landlord. We will discuss that later as there are amendments around that issue. I hope the Minister will take on board the sentiment behind this amendment in regard to the regulations to be brought forward in a number of weeks' time. On that basis I ask that the Senator withhold or withdraw the amendment. In light of the fact that most of us in the Chamber agree on the spirit of the amendment, it is premature and pre-empts the regulations that are coming in soon.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I would like to take a step back. We have all, through our offices, dealt with families who have been in huge distress. I am reminded of one particular family who this time last year were being forced out of their home. It was a mother with three children and they had absolutely nowhere to go this time last year. It was this specific situation where the house had gone into receivership and was being sold off to the highest bidder by the receivers. What the amendment is trying to do is swing the pendulum in favour of the families. We have been hearing much talk from the Minister of State and from the Minister that this is all about protecting families and keeping them in their homes. That is exactly what this amendment is trying to do. There are families who through no fault of their own find themselves in the situation where the house has gone into receivership. Or the owner, for whatever reason, has got into trouble with the bank or a vulture fund has bought the mortgage and families are being told that they have to move out. This is a very practical, necessary and crucial amendment.

  I respect what Senator Reilly has said but now is the time for passing legislation and for agreeing to amendments. If some subsequent legislation comes in to strengthen or to supersede this legislation, then let that be so, but we are here today to do a job which is to amend the legislation. We have often heard about legislation coming down the road and sometimes that road can get very long. Lots of cans are kicked down the same road so I would be conscious that we need to agree to these amendments here and now. I do not see any reason the Minister of State cannot accept the amendment. Hopefully, he will take it in the spirit it was made. We are coming up to Christmas and we may have families who find themselves in a similar scenario to the families I saw last Christmas. If we can do one good job here today, it would be to accept this amendment and to close off this loophole which would mean that the continuity of tenure that a family has in their home would be sacrosanct. We would be saying, as a basic principle, that families need to be kept in homes. If there are financial difficulties, then they should be sorted out in the background but the families should not be turfed out on the street. I wholeheartedly support this amendment.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor For clarification purposes, I wish to talk about the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and the housing assistance payment, HAP, as there is much confusion. It is my understanding that RAS really is no more. Anyone who is on RAS will stay on it but we now have HAP. I think this is working, and in fairness it works with the tenant and with the landlord. Will the Minister of State explain, with regard to HAP, who will enforce the works that need to be carried out on the houses that are in the HAP scheme? Normally this work is done through the local authority but staffing is an issue. This aspect of HAP is a major issue for tenants who find their heating or their stove is not working properly. They come to us because of the new HAP scheme. It needs to be addressed. When the Minister brings in a scheme that works with the local authorities and the landlord, there needs to be enforcement and a protocol so that councillors and Senators can explain the new scheme and what happens.

  With regard to rents, it is so important that people are looked after on this new scheme. Anybody who was on RAS has now been taken off their local authority housing list, unless they have been on the list since 2011. I want the Minister of State to address this in the Bill, that is, that anybody who is on RAS is now entitled to go back onto the local authority housing waiting list, which is crucial. People deserve this in the long term and it really needs to be looked at.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I want to acknowledge that a former Senator, Aideen Hayden, has done substantial work in this area. She has been particularly good and strong in highlighting this landlord and receiver issue. Threshold has also produced some interesting material. I respect and I am happy to work with all parties on this but we do need to find some way to address it in this Bill. The Threshold figures show that in the second quarter of 2016, receivers were appointed to 991 buy-to-let properties. An additional 305 properties were taken in to the banks' possession in the same quarter so that in one quarter of the year more than 1,000 properties were going through this process. This is part of the pressing crisis. We worked, I hope constructively, with the Government on planning issues when it was trying to bring in emergency measures to deal with the crisis. We will come to that in later amendments. While we want to see long-term changes, and it would be wonderful to have a long-term policy that changes the nature of tenancy and renting to make renting and secure tenure a real, viable option for people in the longer term - we also have an immediate crisis that comes through. This loophole is more pertinent than ever because we are looking at an extraordinary volume of properties in the hands of receivers. This does not simply relate to eviction. It applies even to the most basic things such as a notice period. We do not want to invoke Christmas, but the fact that people are not even given the basic courtesy of the long established, and I believe still inadequate, notice periods, and all of those normal conventions, is unsafe. I do not believe it is intentional but it is a loophole that is being exploited. I urge the Minister of State, even on Report Stage, to consider it and to work with us to potentially find a way to strengthen it and in some way address it. I recognise it will take another amendment, amendment No. 40, and maybe that will be proposed separately.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson They are being discussed together.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The amendment is addressing the same issue and we have heard others speak on it. We are certainly not attached to our wording on this but this loophole is being exploited, it is dangerous and we need to close it down. It is part of the immediate action package that the Minister of State is putting to this House. I do not believe we can address the immediate actions required by the construction industry and not address the immediate protections demanded by citizens in Ireland, families who are resident in houses, given the danger. We do not want to increase the problem. I will come to that later in another section but I believe that the scale of this problem will only intensify in the next two to three years. That is why it needs to be acted on now.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I thank the Senators for the issues they have raised on both amendments and in the general conversation also. We absolutely appreciate what the Senators are trying to do with the amendments and the intention behind them. We are totally with the Senators in recognising the need to address this issue. We have no issue with that whatsoever. During the consultation period around the rental strategy, this issue came up quite a lot. More than 400 submissions were made and there were several days of consultation. We totally understand what the Senators are trying to achieve. However, we believe that to introduce it at this time would be premature having regard to the forthcoming strategy in a couple of weeks' time. The Senator has said that she is willing to work on the wording of it on Report Stage so I ask her to give us a couple of weeks to publish the rental strategy to see what is in that and if it addresses her concerns. If it does not, there will be opportunity at a later Stage on this Bill to add to it, if needs be. I believe it is slightly premature. I know the Senator's intention is right but we are producing the rental strategy.  There has been a lot of consultation involved in it and a lot of good will come out of that strategy. It is not a strategy that will sit on a shelf; it will be implemented by legislation straight away, if required, or this legislation will be adapted. The Department and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, are not publishing strategies just to sit them there; they are being put into motion straight away. Perhaps the Senator will consider holding off until Report Stage to see how we deal with this.

  In circumstances where a receiver is appointed to a rental dwelling, it can cause confusion and stress to tenants. Already this morning I had a phone call from a person who is living in fear of a receiver being appointed again because it happened before. It is not a satisfactory arrangement. I do not condone how the banks carried it out. Even the appointment of a receiver causes great stress and fear. People question what will happen and who they will talk to. It is essential that the rights of tenants are protected. The Senator is absolutely right and we agree with her. While the circumstances of each case may vary depending on the terms of the mortgage or charge under which a receiver is appointed, the policies and procedures of banks in appointing receivers must not affect the statutory or contractual rights of tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act. The Senator mentioned the terms of notice. That does not change if a receiver takes over the management of a property. It does not change under existing law and should not change. However, the appointment of receivers to rented dwellings is a symptom of other problems in the rental sector. High levels of landlord indebtedness are leading to insolvency and repossession. This reduces the availability of rental units by ending tenancies, aggravating the basic problem of limited supply, which is the fundamental cause of the difficulties we are experiencing in the rental sector. A major pillar of the action plan for housing, Rebuilding Ireland, is to keep people in their homes, exactly as the Senator has said. We need to stop the numbers increasing. That means we have to do all we can to keep people in their homes. We are with the Senator on that. We do not want the numbers to increase. We are trying to get ahead of the numbers, if at all possible.

  Rebuilding Ireland commits to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector. We are determined that the strategy will provide the vision of the role that the rental sector will play in the short, medium and long term in the context of the Government's objectives for the housing sector, which are set out in Rebuilding Ireland. Finding a solution to encumbered buy-to-lets is an important focus for that strategy. In that context we are examining the possibility of further amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that could help to bring greater clarity in this area and would be benefit to tenants and receivers alike. It will deal with the concerns the Senator has raised today. The preferred solution is to provide that where a person is appointed as a receiver to carry out the functions and exercise the powers of a landlord under tenancy, that person will be considered to be the landlord for the purposes of the 2004 Act. However, the interplay between receivership law and the Residential Tenancies Act is very complex. It is imperative we do not make any amendments that make matters worse or lead to legal uncertainty. The fundamental objective of any amendments must be that tenants' rights are protected and that clear and correct information is available to any tenant affected. Therefore, we cannot accept these amendments at this time. I hope the Senator will believe me when I say it is not that we do not want to deal with the issue. We know we have to. We think it is best dealt with in the strategy. It will also require a lot of legal advice to tease through the complexities of the two laws as well. The Senator might take on board what I am saying about that.

  A number of other issues were raised that are not necessarily to do with these amendments. I will address them later. The rent strategy should address most, and ideally all, of the concerns the Senator has raised today. It will be published in the next couple of weeks. It will be implemented and the legislation will follow that straight away.

  On the new HAP scheme, Senator Murnane O'Connor is right that it is generally replacing the use of RAS in most cases. It is being rolled out to the last nine local authorities next week, the first week of December. At that stage it will be available to every local authority apart from the four Dublin ones, where it is only used to tackle homelessness at the moment, but it will be rolled out to the Dublin authorities later. The Senator is right that it will generally replace RAS. It is working quite well. There are more than 14,000 households and over 10,000 landlords using the system. I have not heard any complaints and I have been all over the country with it. It is working very well. It is a major part of our solution. It gives people great security. The minimum is two years and in most cases it is actually five or six years. In that situation, the property has to be at a certain standard even before the agreement is reached. It has to pass certain standards. If it slips below that standard at any stage, the tenants have to notify the authority and the authority will make sure the work is carried out. The local authority will not carry out the work. It will not be local authority staff. It is the landlord who owns the property and has to keep it to a high standard. It is very clear in that. It is very tight legislation. There is a team of people based in Limerick who are constantly on the phone to landlords and tenants and they act as the go-betweens. It is a special kind of delivery office for that particular project. It is working quite well. I do not share the Senator's fears but standards have to be reached.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I thank the Minister of State. Staffing is an issue that needs to be addressed, particularly when there is something urgent, such as heating or a leaking roof. Perhaps the Minister of State will keep that in mind.

  To return to the Bill and the amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil, we need to clarify that at present, lenders or receivers may seek to evict a tenant without giving them notice required under law. That is true. This amendment would make it that where a bank or vulture fund appoints a receiver to a rented property, they should be required to take on all the responsibilities of the landlord. That is essential. It means that receivers would have the exact same obligations as the landlord to existing tenants with regard to Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act, such as provisions relating to security of the tenant, maintenance and upkeep of the rented property, which is very important, and the notice to quit provision. The amendment also attempts to avoid legal situations that exist at present for tenants whose landlords are in receivership where landlords are still solely and fully responsible for returning the tenant's deposit even though they are in receivership. That is an issue. This amendment also creates an obligation on the receivers to make sure the deposit is returned in full. That is an issue I, like others, face every day. People are coming into my clinics because nobody is taking responsibility. This needs to be addressed in the Bill.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I listened very carefully to the Minister of State as he gave his response. With all due respect, I felt the logic behind the response was nonsensical. To tell us there is a strategy coming in a number of weeks and there will be legislation based on that is asking us to buy a pig in a poke. It is asking us to take a punt on legislation we do not have before us. Our job is to scrutinise and try to improve the legislation we see before us. I appreciate the Minister of State is genuine about addressing the housing situation. I do not know if he, as I have, has spent a day in the repossessions court. I did so recently and it was an absolute eye-opener. I recommend that all elected representatives do it. What is going on is quite scary. The types of organisations that are mentioned in the two amendments put forward here are absolutely ruthless. I saw situations in the repossessions court in Galway where there are people who have made every effort to repay mortgages and are still paying a vast amount of the money they are supposed to pay yet these ruthless companies are still going after them for the tiny bit that is left. In some cases, I saw mortgages paid up to almost 80% or 90% but these companies, which I better not name, are still going after people to try to repossess and take houses off them. Some of the registrars are very good and they do not buy into that if people are making a genuine effort. It goes to the ethos of the companies behind this, which are just big money vulture capitalists in many cases. There are many examples across the country of this happening.

  What this amendment is trying to do is to protect people in houses. The Minister of State may say there is strategy coming forward in four weeks. It will be Christmas then. When will the legislation come through? It will be spring and into the summer next year before that legislation is passed through the Houses. How many more households will be in a position where they are getting turfed out of their houses by these ruthless receivers? If we could only save a fraction of those families from destitution and being put out of their houses by inserting these two amendments here today, we should do it. The logic for it has been very well argued. I call on all sides of the House to support these amendments. If the Minister needs to bring in subsequent legislation in the spring, if it supersedes this and improves the situation, we will look at it at that stage and support it. It is incumbent on us to do this. We cannot go back to people who are ringing us up saying they are going to be turfed out of their houses because the receiver has come in and said they have to leave and tell them we had a chance in the Seanad but we have to wait for another couple of months before we can put the proper legislation in place to protect them. We will fail in our duty to those people if we do not accept these amendments.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On the amendments, we all accept there is a need to protect people. In acceptance of that overarching principle, there is common agreement that something must be done. I hope the Minister and Minister of State will give consideration to the principle of the amendments. The Minister of State mentioned the rental strategy. I accept that is coming. I believe in the Minister and Minister of State's bona fides and sincerity. Does the receiver not have an obligation and responsibility as well? How can we differentiate between the receiver and the landlord?  The receiver de facto becomes a landlord in some cases and he or she has a responsibility and obligation. Like Senator Ó Clochartaigh, we all work and live in the real world. On occasion receivers or whoever comes under that umbrella do not live up to their responsibilities or duties. All of us have received phone calls, texts and e-mails from members of the public in our communities who have suddenly been told that their house is being sold, it will be put on the market and they must vacate the premises by a certain date. In some cases it turns out the receiver, fund or whoever is managing the account is not selling the house but using the occasion as a ruse to get people out of the house. That development is a worry.

  I heard the remarks made by the Minister of State and know he is putting something in place. I hope that the principle behind the amendment can be built upon.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leader is correct that the function of a receiver has been split by the amendment. The job is to maximise whatever he or she can get for the assets that he or she has been given. We have a rising housing market. Therefore, the receiver will want vacant possession and that will result in people being put out on the street.

  I support the comments made by Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I, too, have been in repossession courts and seen the ruthlessness of some banks. I was delighted to be in one particular court where a judge told a bank, after eight appearances, that the judge would give the house to the occupant and asked the bank to go away as it could not produce the paperwork.

  I agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh that we must be careful because the problem exists now. The Minister of State has a difficulty because he will bring forward proposals at some future date. If he allows the legislation to go through without the amendment we will find ourselves in a situation where people are put out on the street. I ask him to accept the amendment as it will not damage his Bill but will keep people in their homes.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English To be clear, the contractual rights of tenants, under the Residential Tenancies Act, are protected even with the presence of a receiver. That provision does not prevent a receiver from trying something or bringing a person to court. The rights of tenants still exist and the courts know their job. It is not a case that thousands of people have been put out of their houses and plenty of people go to court. As Senator Craughwell has correctly said, the courts system and registrars afford people protection and give them every chance to remain in their homes whether they are owned or rented. The number of people affected is often exaggerated but it is a problem. Senators should not give the impression that a few thousand people are affected by this every week as the number is a lot less. We want to stop the problem.

  In respect of the amendments, we are not saying "Trust us as it will be grand in a week's time." We are in the middle of a rental strategy. We had a consultation process that included workshop days for people. We also invited people to submit written submissions and received 476 written submissions that cover a range of issues. All stakeholders on all sides of the equation are involved in the process.

  In terms of due process, we will have a better strategy and solutions if we are allowed to finish the process. All we need are a couple of weeks. The process may be finished before this Bill finishes its run in both Houses. I remind Senators that there will be time and space available to make changes here, if required. I appeal to the logical side of Senators who want to bring in good legislation and I urge them to allow us to finish the consultation process. Many concerns have been raised here today and all of us want the strategy to address the problem.

  Senators have mentioned that they have dealt with clients who are dealing with the issue of repossession. People come to my office every week with the same problem. My background is in finance and I spend a lot of time every week working with clients who have found themselves in this situation. I try to help people to work through their issues and that is what Deputies and Senators do. Therefore, I am well aware, as is the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and our officials, of what must be done and we shall try to address the issues in the rental strategy.

  I believe Senators will be happy with the solutions generated by the process. The interplay between receivership law and the Residential Tenancies Act is very complicated. Bringing in amendments, outside of the full consultation process, might not have the desired effect. They might complicate the legislation and lead to other problems. I ask Senators to allow us a little time to finish our work. Most Senators are reasonable and want us to get things right. We want to get the legislation right so we all want the same result. We are in the middle of a strategy that is nearly finished. Many people from all sides have engaged in the process. We want all stakeholders to engage. We will bring forward a rental strategy that will balance the security of supply and the rights of tenants. The strategy will also attract more professional investors that will be better in the long run for people who want to rent. The strategy is a genuine attempt to fix the issue. As most Senators will agree, the Government does not want to put the issue on the long finger. I ask them to consider the implications involved and to remember that the Government wants to get things right. I ask Senators to give us a bit to time to finish our work that I think will address the problem.

  The action plan includes a mortgage-to-rent option that we are revamping and will relaunch. The initiative will deal with many clients who are in a similar situation but need extra help. A strengthened mortgage-to-rent option will be of major help to thousands of families and it has already helped a couple of hundred families.

  In respect of people who are being pushed for higher rents, when some people receive a letter from the receiver or get the nod from the landlord demanding extra rent they panic and either leave straightaway, return the keys or do not engage. I can assure the Senators that over 9,500 individuals have received increased rent support by engaging. The State, through its agencies, gets involved with the landlord, receiver or banks to negotiate a fairer rent. That rent has been paid in over 9,000 cases and kept people in their homes. There is a process available. I am not saying there are cases where the receivers do not engage. I am saying there is a process that has helped many families and prevented them from being made homeless. The State will try to use the initiative more.

  Since July we have increased the rent ceiling by up to 20%. I have engaged with local authorities and, following my analysis, I can say that for most of them the increase in rent sought has not reached the 20% ceiling and instead has reached 8% or 10%. That means there is more space for manoeuvre. We are in a position to deal with demands for a rent increase when they are teased out. Solutions are available and there will be more solutions provided in the rental strategy. The amendments we are debating are genuine but they are slightly premature.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I am quite flabbergasted by the Minister of State's answer. This legislation has gone through the rigours of his Department. The Government is trying to react quickly to an emergency situation. The Fianna Fáil and Independent Senators have done their homework and drafted amendments. This is the Parliament where we are supposed to consider the legislation before us and bring forward amendments. I do not believe the legislation and amendments should be kicked to touch.

  The Minister of State has mentioned figures. He has said that he felt the number of people who find themselves in this type of situation is not that huge. The Peter McVerry Trust has been very good at giving us statistics. It states on its website:

Statistics on homelessness are important in helping to analyse and understand the issue. However, it is important to note that these numbers cannot convey the personal trauma that homelessness can bring.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Hear, hear.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Statistics must be considered. According to the figures available on the website of the Department of housing there were 6,709 people homeless in September 2016 of which 4,283 were adults and 2,426 were children. Let us look at mortgage arrears, which is probably the area that these amendments would affect, where there were 109,134 mortgages in arrears. The final figure on the same sheet is even more interesting. At the end of quarter 2 2016, figures show that 2,468 properties, comprised of principal homes and investment properties, were repossessed or surrendered. That statistic proves we are not talking about a small number of people or something that has happened out of the blue of which the Department is unaware. We are very much aware of this scenario. We are all aware that the repossession courts deal with hundreds of people in every District Court area across the country. I do not buy the argument made by the Minister of State that we should think about the implications of the amendments. The amendments tabled have been thought through and are logical. I urge the Senators who proposed the amendments to push them to a vote. Let us do our job here today and stand up for all of the families who are in danger of being turfed out of their houses between now and Christmas and beyond.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Nobody is trying to hide the figures or dilute them. We publish them. There is a perception that thousands of repossession cases are going through the courts every week. I am well aware of the numbers of people in temporary accommodation, who are homeless or on the streets. It is totally unsatisfactory. The numbers are far too high. There is no issue with those figures. It is not a case that thousands of people are being dragged through the courts every week to have their home taken from them. Senator Ó Clochartaigh knows that. There is no point in scaring people at Christmas time.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh There were 100 cases at the last hearing in Galway.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English My point is that there are not a thousand cases per week. That perception is being created. People are living under too much fear. We are trying to help people by providing protection.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh It is kicking to touch.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Absolutely not. I am appealing to people's logic. We have consulted all the stakeholders as we want them to buy into this legislation. We have discussed many strategies and I believe one of the most successful ones was the science strategy. Everybody got involved and everybody bought into the strategy. Similarly we are trying to bring to fruition a rental strategy that everybody has been involved in as stakeholders and can get involved in, buy into it and help to implement it. If in the middle of the work on this strategy, just when it is about to be published, we make amendments and changes, that is not the way to do business. Senator Ó Clochartaigh is quite entitled to table the amendments, but I am suggesting that he wait.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor We will introduce this amendment on Report Stage but it is important that this issue is sorted for tenants who are in a no-win situation. I know the Minister of State will revert to us on Report Stage. I will wait until the Minister of State has the reports and I ask him to come back to us at that time.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy During the debate last night, I am not sure whether the Minister of State had the opportunity to address the subject as he was only in the Chamber for a short time.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I did not get the chance to do so.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy The Minister did, but it is a case of live horse and eat grass. We are being told that the amendments we have tabled will be dealt with down the line. The problem is that the housing crisis is not improving or getting any better. It is getting worse. I am not being dramatic. I know there is no quick-fix solution to the problem. I was part of the previous Government that was trying to put the building blocks in place to try to solve it. It will take time to solve it. I asked last night and I repeat it now whether the Minister of State will give a guarantee that he will deal with this specific issue in the legislation he is bringing forward in a couple of weeks?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am trying to speed up the debate. I do not want Members to be repetitive.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy This is my first time to speak this afternoon. I will leave it at that.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I understand where the Minister of State is coming from but I wish he would understand where we are coming from. Last night the Minister, Deputy Coveney, was magnanimous enough to accept an amendment and say he would table his own amendment to it on Report Stage. Nobody wants to scare people, but we must be realistic and we must be honest as well. Even if only ten people were brought before the courts each week, it is ten too many.

  When a receiver takes responsibility for a property, that receiver is obliged to maximise the value of the property or the value of the asset. At the end of the day the receivers are chucking people out on the street. We know this. Let us not scare people, but let us be on the side of people rather than on the side of the banks or the receivers. The Minister of State can accept this amendment and amend it if he thinks there is something wrong with what is being put before him. We have to send a signal to receivers, banks and the people that our primary concern is for the citizens of the State and for the citizens' homes.

  There is a reported increase of 35% in homelessness in Dublin. I am getting word from Galway and from all over the country about homelessness. This is nothing new. We are used to it at this stage. That is probably what is wrong. We are getting used to the notion of pumping billions of euros into the pockets of hotel owners. Let us do something right for citizens.

  There are brilliant people in the Department who can tweak or change this amendment. We need to nail down property, as it were, in order that people can face into Christmas. While I always think it is a bit glib when they say a puppy is not for Christmas, but similarly a house is not for Christmas either. We need to give people some degree of security as they go forward and we have to put a stop to those who are maximising the assets, particularly in a rising market. I request the Minister of State to accept this amendment and amend it on Report Stage.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Appointing a receiver does not do away with the obligations under the statutory law, the Residential Tenancies Act.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy If they are going to sell the assets.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It does not change that. That does not mean that receivers will not try things but it does not change the contractual law. People are protected. The amendments that have been tabled do not address all the concerns that are being raised. I think Senator Higgins has not claimed that.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Minister of State should bring a better one forward.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English She is not claiming that. There are other issues to be addressed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan On Report Stage.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English In response to Senator Landy, we believe the rental strategy will address the concerns raised. We are in the middle of a process, that is nearly finalised. There will be time before the Bill has gone through all Stages in the Oireachtas to amend it if needs be, and if new legislation is required for other areas, we will publish that straight away. We genuinely want to tackle this problem. We are ad idem. Even one case in the courts is one too many. I said we should not try to exaggerate the number of cases. I try to deal with facts. The facts of the situation are that there are far too many people today who are homeless, in temporary accommodation or on the streets. That is not satisfactory. It is not good enough. We are not desensitised whatsoever. There is a very strong commitment that by June next year, nobody will be living in hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation. One cannot get a stronger commitment than that.

  On the question of whether we can reach that target, I would say we can. I think that in the next month or two we will see the figures going in the right direction. That will still be far too many. This year 72,700, if not more, will have left homelessness and will be living in permanent accommodation. Progress is being made. It is not enough because the numbers coming onto the homeless list are still too high. There is movement because of the efforts of everybody and because of cross-party actions. People have voted to allocate €5.5 billion, which is a great deal of taxpayer's money.

  The funding and extra resources in terms of manpower are now in place and all the Departments are on board. The agencies involved in working with people on the streets are getting the extra resources. We will see the change. The Senator is correct that a 35% increase on the figures from this time last year is a stark figure and is far too high. That is the reason we must address it.

  As I said to Senator Higgins, a major part of the strategy is to keep people in their homes, which is the intent of these amendments. We are with the Senators on that, but we cannot accept these amendments. They are premature and they are legally very complicated in regard to the law.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins What I am pointing to here is important and affects whether we put the question. I will not reiterate all the points that have been made. Senator Craughwell touched on something which is the core of the issue, namely, that at the moment the key responsibility of receivers is to maximise economic return. That is their only imperative. They do not have another mandate clearly set out which they choose to ignore. This amendment does not solve every issue and does not do away with that work, but it does place a double responsibility and ensures receivers also fulfil the function of landlord. It is very explicit. It is not an attempt to solve every problem. I do not believe it is a matter of a massive evaluation of our rental strategy. It is an active loophole. Elsewhere in the legislation, and we will come to it, the Minister of State is trying to close other loopholes, such as we saw in Tyrrelstown. This is an immediate unforeseen loophole. This is not asking for a radical change in strategy. I do not even think it is a part of the strategy. It is a direct specific problem, identified and recognised by the Minister of State, which is to say, where there is a receiver, who is acting as landlord?  The question is who is acting as landlord when there is a receiver? Who do tenants have to act as landlord and who is responsible and culpable? It is very simple. I will be clear because this affects whether we push the point today. It will not be a satisfactory answer for the Government to say it will deal with this in a rental strategy. It needs to be dealt with in this legislation. I do not believe it is pre-emptive or disrespectful to those who contributed to the strategy. The Government can look to further protections and a long-term vision for renting within the strategy. This is to close a loophole. We are absolutely willing to work with the Government. We are happy to work with Fianna Fáil on its amendment. Something needs to go into this legislation. If it does not go in today, it needs to go in on Tuesday. We are absolutely willing-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has made the point.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins It affects whether we press a vote right now so I am asking the Minister of State to confirm that he will look-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will come to the Minister of State in two minutes. I want to hear a couple of others first.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins -----to see if he can put forward an amendment. It affects the vote. Can the Minister of State guarantee that we will have the opportunity to vote on our amendments on Tuesday because we will be voting on them and the decision is between today and Tuesday?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I assure the Senator they will have to be voted on.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I am happy to withdraw the amendment if we get the guarantee that the Minister of State will look at introducing an amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will hear that in a minute but before I hear the Minister of State I call on Senator Ó Clochartaigh and Senator Craughwell.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh For clarification-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are going around the House, so the Senator should be brief.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I have not opened my mouth yet. Mind-reading is a great skill altogether. The Minister of State has mentioned the strategy that is coming forward and that it will be underpinned by legislation. Can the Minister of State clarify what the name of that legislation is? Where is it at the moment? Is it actually on the legislative programme? When will it be published so we can look at it? That is very important in the context of the decision that is to be made. I echo the sentiments of the previous speaker. This needs to be put into this legislation unless the Minister of State can be very convincing between now and Tuesday.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I ask my colleagues not to press a vote on this because if the Minister of State is steadfast in his opposition to the amendment we will bring it back on Report Stage. This is not going away. It would be much better if the Minister of State was to accept the amendment now. Senator Higgins put the case eloquently in the last few minutes. The Minister of State should accept the amendment. It will not kill the Bill but the Minister of State runs the risk of killing the Bill if he does not accept the amendment. That is something the Minister of State has to think about. We are talking about people's lives and homes. It is, as Senator Higgins said, closing off a loophole. That is all it is doing.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does the Minister of State want to reply to those few points?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English To be very clear, the strategy will not be published by Tuesday. I am not going to tell a lie. We have to have our strategy finished. That is what we desire before we bring in any changes. There might be time before this is finished in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The strategy might be published and we can make amendments to the Bill if need be at that stage. If we do that, it would come back here again. I believe the strategy-----

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins There is a possibility of an amendment on Report Stage.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English We will look at that before Tuesday and see if we can help the Senator. Our aim is to have a strategy finished first and then we can make the changes. Senator Ó Clochartaigh asked if we have legislation published. We do not because we want the strategy first. The legislation will follow. We can be amending legislation and we can make changes to some of the existing Bills as well. If new legislation is required, it will be published and it will not be delayed. That is what we are saying. We are not publishing legislation because we want the strategy first. Many of the issues Senators have raised, particular those about the courts, are not actually what these amendments are trying to achieve at all. That is not what these amendments are about at all, if one actually reads the amendments.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh They are the backdrop to it.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I accept what the Senator is trying to do but they are not in these amendments here. On the issue of the courts and people's properties, they are protected under existing laws and those laws are not diluted by the receiver. The issues Senator Higgins raises are other issues which I accept need to be addressed. They will be addressed in the rental strategy, maybe in a clearer, less complicated way. This is entering into a very complex legal area which might not give the desired effect. That is what I am saying to the Senator. If she gives us a little bit of time, I will try to bring forward something before Tuesday that might help her in her decision. I cannot promise we will have something that will suit her by Tuesday but I will certainly arm her with what I have.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We will have the opportunity to vote on it on Tuesday so we will withdraw it now. I want to be clear.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will, of course.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Senator can vote on it on Report Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is amendment No. 21, that the new section be there inserted, agreed to?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins No. I withdraw the amendment, reserving the right to reintroduce it on Tuesday with the promise of a vote that the Minister of State has given.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Perfect.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am going now to amendment No. 22. What is the status of amendment No. 22?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins It has not been proposed yet.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 22 to 25, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move amendment No. 22:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27. Section 19(2)(b) of the Act of 2004 is hereby repealed.”.

I will also discuss amendment No. 23 which relates to rent certainty and proposes that any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided for by the consumer price index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.

  This is the third time I have spoken in this House about the need for rent certainty. Each time I outlined that such a measure is supported by a range of civil society groups from Impact to the Simon Communities of Ireland. Such measures would be backed by employers. In Cork, Apple is having huge problems recruiting people because of rising rents. Such measures are already in place in Europe in countries such as Sweden and France.

  Each time I have outlined that rent certainty would stem the tide of homelessness. The measures that have been taken in Rebuilding Ireland are certainly having an impact but the problem is it is a revolving door which more people are coming through because of rent increases and situations, like those described, that are caused by receivership.

  In addition to addressing homelessness, we are also creating homelessness by failing to act in key areas. Other Members have also raised the need for urgent action on rent certainty. Each time we raised it, the Government told us to wait, that it had a plan and this plan was coming in the form of the rental strategy. With all that in mind, I was shocked when the Taoiseach said in the Dáil this week that he was not aware that the two-year rent freeze will begin to come to an end in 11 days' time on 4 December, for anyone who has been in a tenancy since 2014. The Taoiseach's comments proved that the Government is not taking the issue of rising rents seriously, that he has not been briefed and that the much lauded rental strategy has not been discussed. If it had been discussed, the Taoiseach would have known that the rent freeze is ending and he would have known what is planned to replace it but when asked and questioned, he was not able to answer.

  David Ehrlich of Ireland's biggest landlord, IRES REIT, on the other hand, is fully briefed on the issue. He said last week that we have never seen rental increases like this in any jurisdiction that we are aware of. He went on to say that he, who is benefitting from all of this, feels bad for the Irish people. We need action. People cannot wait for the market to fix itself. The market is broken and it needs regulation and it needs it urgently.

  Our amendment provides a common sense response and, with nothing else on the cards, I urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment and provide reassurance to the thousands of tenants out there that their rents will not spike again when the freeze ends on 4 December. I know the Minister of State will talk about the rental strategy as the answer to all of that but we need facts and figures. When will the rental strategy be published? What day? Will it have legislative underpinnings? We are talking about legislation now. We all know we have rooms filled with strategies that are not implemented in this country. It is no reassurance to hear this will be dealt with under the rental strategy. I would like the Minister of State to accept the proposed amendments. If he cannot do that, will he give us facts and figures, like Senator Ó Clochartaigh has asked for, around the rental strategy?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh This is the third time Sinn Féin has brought forward propositions to these Houses on rent certainty. We absolutely believe it is necessary. I believe from statements that have been made by other parties, which have opposed some of the legislation we brought forward previously, that they may be having a change of heart. It is absolutely essential. We are seeking increases of over 14% in rents in places like Galway. The type of rent increases that people are suffering are unbelievably astronomical.  To say that a modest measure on linking rents to the consumer price index, CPI, cannot be acceptable to a Government is unacceptable to us. A plethora of issues relate to the rent certainty matter and the private rental market. I hope to God that we are not going to hear another diatribe about an upcoming rental strategy in four weeks' time and that the questions will be dealt with then. Now is the time.

  As regards these amendments, I put it up to Fianna Fáil. It needs to get on board with rent certainty because the issue is out of control. People in receipt of RAS or HAP have been unable to find suitable accommodation in many towns and cities for years. Many of them have had to make under-the-table payments to landlords to top-up their rents. Even then, they find that they can no longer keep up with escalating rents. The Government has not proposed credible proposals to address these issues. The measures that were introduced by the previous Government under Deputy Kelly did not have the impact intended. There is a crisis.

  Rent certainty is not only good for the tenant, but for the landlord. If any reputable landlord who is trying to manage his or her finances has rent certainty, at least he or she knows whether rent will increase of decrease if it is linked with the CPI and can manage that investment over years and talk to financial institutions. If landlords are in negative equity, they can put together plans to get themselves out of trouble based on rent certainty, but volatility in the free-for-all market is unacceptable. It is forcing families into homelessness, sleeping in cars or on the streets or moving into hotel rooms. These amendments must be passed. Third time is lucky, but that depends on Fianna Fáil getting on board. We have the numbers in the Seanad to pass the amendments. If Fianna Fáil stands with the people and the sentiments that have been expressed by some of their representatives in recent weeks are real, it will stand with us on these amendments and ensure that, whenever the Bill is passed, the matter of rent certainty will be included in it. People will thank us for it.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Yesterday, the Central Bank made changes in mortgage requirements. A great deal of work has been done to assist people in buying their homes, but if they are in rented accommodation in a major Irish city, they can forget about it. Rent takes every penny they have. During the negotiations on the programme for Government, I requested that rent be taken into account as savings and that 100% mortgages be allowed. If a person has shown an ability to pay rent of €1,500 or €1,600 per month, how could he or she save anything?

  The Civil Engagement group has proposed a practical, realistic and simple amendment. One would have to be brain dead not to pick up on what the group is saying. It is wrong that landlords are allowed to make supernormal profits at the expense of the hard-working people of this country, most of whom have not had a pay rise since 2008. I would love to compare rents in Dublin in 2008 and today. I know what my children and relatives are paying. Some of their rents have increased. Others have good landlords and their rents have not increased at all because they have been good tenants. Those are decent, civic-minded landlords. In other cases, however, landlords have taken people for hundreds of euro every year.

  The amendment would provide certainty. No one would lose. Landlords would get their rents in line with the CPI and the tenants would know where they stand. It is a wonderful amendment and I ask that the Minister of State take it on board. If he is unwilling to do so, I will join with my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh, and tell Fianna Fáil to get behind it. This amendment deserves 100% support in the House.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy We were given promises on future legislation. In recent days, my party has, through our spokesperson, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, published a Bill on rent certainty. To paraphrase Senator Craughwell, the issue is so simple, it is outrageous. We are discussing linking rent to the CPI, which is the best measurement.

  All sorts of excuses have been found for not doing anything about this issue. What happened with Senator Grace O'Sullivan's Bill yesterday was an example of how, whenever someone on the Opposition benches proposes a good idea, other parties run to publish similar Bills, including those in government. This amendment saves everyone the bother. If the Minister of State or his back room team have a better idea on how to deal with this situation in separate legislation, let us in on it today. Otherwise, this amendment is the way that it should be addressed. The road is only so long and eventually the can reaches its end. For the Government, the end of the road in terms of rent certainty is coming. If the Minister of State is not going to accept the amendment, what is the detail of what the Government intends to do? I do not want to be told that it is examining the issue or will have a measure ready. I want to be told what the Government will do that will be better than what this amendment would do. Otherwise, I will support the amendment.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan In principle, I support the legislation. We are trying to give legal effect to the Rebuilding Ireland document, which is a Government policy. Having watched webcasts of some of last night's debate this morning, though, it is clear that this is rushed legislation. There are whole segments that the Government has to get further detail on, it is working on the regulations, it might have something next week, etc. Rushed legislation is bad legislation. The Government is under pressure and the Minister with responsibility, Deputy Coveney, is keen to get this going, but if we should put the brakes on the Bill for a week or two in order to get it right, he should do so. Everyone would agree.

  The Minister of State might clarify for the House the rental strategy. Importantly, the Government has indicated that it wants to introduce a rental strategy. The Summary of Social Housing Assessments was last filed in the Department in 2013, yet there is a housing crisis. Another is under way for 2016, but surely it should have been completed by now if the Minister of State knew that he was coming to the House to discuss a housing strategy and so on. I will point to page 26 of 34 pages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are discussing an amendment on rent certainty, Senator, not past documents.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan This has to do with the amendment and the Government's rental strategy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We do not want a Second Stage speech.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I will finish, if I may.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Of course.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I will point to page 26, which has a table listing the current tenancy tenures in the 31 local authorities. Its columns are private rent with rent supplement, private rent with no rent supplement, living with a parent, living with a friend, emergency, owner-occupier, other categories and the grand total. This information is critical to any policy, but the Government does not have it. I had that confirmed for me today.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will hear from the Minister of State in a minute.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan May I finish? We have an allotted time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is delaying unduly.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I am not. Let me continue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Carry on. Please, speed this up.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I am not catching a train to anywhere.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan For the record, I do not believe that I am either.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I am glad.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy It will be the midnight express.

(Interruptions).

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Irish Rail does late night trains to Kerry now.  Will the Minister of State tell us when he will produce the strategy? I am prepared to wait if he says it will happen soon.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will hear the Minister of State.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Will you let me finish, please?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not want the Senator to pre-empt what the Minister of State might say.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I am not pre-empting what he might say. I asked him whether he would share with us when he was going to produce the rental strategy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Of course. He heard that, I think.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan The Minister of State is half your age and was well able to hear it. He might tell us what the position is on the strategy. I also want him to give us some facts and provide some information. Will he be in a position to bring the 2016 document to us next week? That is going to come up on us and it will be relevant. The more information he has for us, the stronger his case will be in convincing us.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I agree with previous speakers. Rent certainty is important. I, too, am keen to hear on what the Minister of State and the Department have been working. I firmly believe the homeless crisis is partly due to high rents. This relates to people who are not placed on local authority housing lists because they are above the limit. I have a major issue with this. This issue must be addressed and I have said as much to the Department. A limit of €27,500 for a couple to be placed on a local authority housing list is unacceptable when in neighbouring counties it is €30,000 and €32,000. All of these factors are preventing people from being placed on local authority housing lists. Then, all of a sudden, they cannot afford to pay rent. Therefore, rent certainty is vital for local authorities also. I am keen to hear the views of the Minister of State.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Will the Senator support the amendment?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We have put forward a number of amendments. I realise Sinn Féin has tabled an amendment, while we have a slightly different one. There are two versions and I am keen to highlight two or three important facts.

  Rents are running away. I have the figures before me. In some parts of the country there have been 19% increases over a period of one year. Across the country the average increase has been 12.5%. Incomes are not increasing by 12% a year. That is why people cannot wait another year for legislation. They need to be able to plan for what will happen in the next year. They are enrolling children in schools, yet they are not sure whether they will be able to continue to live in the neighbourhood and whether their children will continue to be able to go to the same schools. They cannot plan their lives. Rents are higher now than they were during the boom. They have skewed the financial relationship in the sense that they are not bound in any way to any other indicator in the economy. The only indicator to which they might be tied is the ludicrous GDP figure of 26%. We are not seeing these crazy scale-ups in rents anywhere else. It is both an emergency and a crisis and the cost is being felt not only by families but also by the State. We see it in industrial unrest and protests. When we dig down into many of the other issues that come up in the House, it comes down to people believing they cannot afford to pay rent. The Minister of State knows it has been a key issue in many of the industrial relations disputes we have seen. We need to tackle the issue.

  We have tried to be accommodating and set out two amendments. Will the Minister of State accept at least one of them? In one amendment we have set out a proposal on rent certainty. In the other we are proposing something different. The Minister of State is asking us to suspend the normal practice in seeking planning permission. He has said this is an emergency and that the Construction Industry Federation has stated it is an emergency which requires special new measures. We are suggesting it be tracked within the same dates. The proposal is separate from the rental strategy, no more than the Minister of State would suggest the fast-tracked housing strategy was a suitable long-term strategy to manage planning permissions. It is made clear that this would not be our long-term model for planning permissions. It is an emergency measure. Our second amendment explicitly proposes that we link rent increases to the consumer price index until 31 December 2019, the same date to which the Minister of State has asked the House to support the fast-tracked and unusual planning arrangements. If we are providing for emergency planning measures while the conversation on planning is ongoing, we could introduce emergency measures to provide rent certainty and still have an ongoing conversation on the rental and tenancy strategy to be followed. This is a simple amendment.

  We are discussing a crisis that will land on the Government's plate. My colleague has spoken about 4 December being the expiry date of the current arrangements. Those in charge of this area are perfectly aware that this is their opportunity. We are going give a gift of a vast hike in rents in January unless we make this amendment. This is an opportunity for the Government to control it. It would not be carte blanche; it is a simple measure. It would be tied to the dates the Government has identified. That is the purpose of amendment No. 24. Even if the Minister of State is not minded to accept amendment No. 23, I call on him to consider and accept amendment No. 24. It is important that he give that signal now before we make our decisions on what amendments we will press in the House today.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The amendments relate to an issue which we all agree probably has the highest priority. We all know it is a major issue in driving up the homeless figures. Our motivation in the action plan for housing is to increase the supply of housing, while increasing security of tenure. Most people accept that increased supply is the answer to most of our problems. Everything we are trying to do will serve to increase rather than discourage supply. I realise the motives of Senators are also to seek to solve the problem.

  The pressures in the rental market are acute and being driven by several factors, including rising demand, lack of supply and the high costs indebted landlords face in servicing their loans. This is borne out by the latest data quoted today which show rents are rising throughout the country. I am not denying that they are too high and we are fully aware of the pressure people are under in the rental market. Certainly, we appreciate and understand the motivation behind the amendments. Having said that, we strongly believe the proposal that rent increases be tied strictly to the consumer price index in a blunt way would exacerbate an already chronic supply problem by forcing existing suppliers of properties to exit the market and by discouraging others to supply them in the fudure. It would also be inappropriate, given the vastly different market conditions in different parts of the country. However, we believe rent predictability, underpinned by a sustainable investment environment, is something that could be of benefit to both tenants and landlords. We have discussed this issue in the Dáil on two previous occasions and will discuss it again next week in the context of the document Rebuilding Ireland. We fear the Senator's proposal is a blunt instrument and we are trying to come at the issue from a different angle. In Rebuilding Ireland we are committed to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector. I realise I am driving all Senators mad by referring to this continually, but I cannot change the story which is the same as it was ten minutes ago. The rental strategy will be published in a couple of weeks. It is close to being finished and has involved a great deal of consultation. Many Members of this House and many political parties have made submissions.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I am becoming more worried about the strategy as the Minister of State continues to speak.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will bring the issue to a head in one minute.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I do not share the concerns of Senator Higgins because I know that the document will bring many solutions and that it is part of a process. We need a proper process to provide solutions across the board. We need to increase supply in the market, as well as increasing the level of service, quality, security and choice. That is what we are trying to do. In fairness, at the end of her contribution Senator Colette Kelleher referred to putting this forward in the absence of anything else. I cannot convince her, but I am asking her to believe us. We will bring forward the strategy in a couple of weeks and it has been designed to deal with much of this. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to provide for security of tenure and choice to increase supply. The strategy will give people confidence to tackle the issues that Senators are keen to tackle in the rental market. We believe it will help us to achieve more. There will be a major focus on supply, but the process will also involve new mechanisms for setting and reviewing rents.

  Every political party, many members of the public and other stakeholders in the rental sector have had an opportunity to contribute in writing to the rental strategy. I know that many Senators have done so and the submissions made have been valuable in developing the strategy. They have all been teased through. A total of 475 submissions in total were received and several hundred were similar. Certainly over 150 covered different points of view, issues and ideas. There is, therefore, more than one way to deal with this, as I know Senators appreciate. We have put of all these ideas into the pot to try to determine the best strategy to develop and the plan is to publish it in a couple of weeks. It is close to being finished and we will launch it in a couple of weeks.  It will set out a realistic, targeted plan for dealing with the serious issues we are discussing here today.

  However, we are not ready to make amendments to the Bill that pre-empt the policy proposals in a strategy which is not yet finalised. To legislate blindly on foot of policy which is not fully developed risks exacerbating the problems we already face. We may well introduce significant amendments on Committee Stage in the Dáil on some of the matters we are discussing today, but we need to ensure that any amendments on rent predictability balance the concerns and rights of tenants and landlords and are put forward as part of a comprehensive package of measures. It is that package of measures I ask the Members to give us time with; it will be a couple of weeks. It will be published before this is finished in the Dáil. We will make amendments then if need be and they will be back here for consultation. I recognise the concerns expressed here today and understand and appreciate that considerable time was taken to put the amendments together. We have had this conversation on a couple of occasions here and in the other House so I know people are getting frustrated. I accept that completely. I am not asking Members to buy a pig in a poke or to wait a year. These are changes that will be introduced in the next couple of weeks and I appreciate that I am asking the Senators to accept something they cannot physically see.

  Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act set out in the Bill form only a small part of what will be announced in the strategy. We will have more in a larger package, which I think Senator Higgins accepts. I ask Members to bear with us and not to judge these amendments as the complete picture but to wait for the publication of the strategy in the next couple of weeks. It will be the roadmap for solving a great deal of the crisis. It is up to Senators, but we are genuinely trying to put a strategy together that brings all thoughts and views together. Senator Boyhan asked if we were designing the strategy blindly or were unsure of the figures. The 2016 figures are more or less complete and we will publish them before 2017. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, and I have visited local authorities over the past couple of months and have been getting a picture of the figures as we have gone along. We have seen what the trends are and those figures are part of our plan. The strategy and the legislation are not actually about the figures; they are designed to put in place the processes, solutions, choices and toolkit we need to address all these issues. Regardless of how bad the figures are or whether they are improving, this is the toolkit we need to address the issue. That is why we are saying that we are bringing forward a package of measures. That said, we are keeping the figures in view and the Senator is right that we have to bear in mind how serious they are.

  According to the 2013 figures, there were 89,000 people on the housing lists at that time. Some local authorities are very black and white about how they put their lists together while others are a bit flexible with the rules. We will have updated figures. Those figures covered different people in different situations and accommodation types. We have to be realistic about the fact that those figures at some stage went up but might have come down by the time the strategy is published at the end of the month. The majority of people on those lists are actually in accommodation. Some are looking for different types of accommodation while others are happy to get assisted rent. Others want a social house. There are different solutions and we have to bear in mind that not all of those people would take a house tomorrow if one were offered. Our priority has to be those people who are under major pressure and who are being forced out of their houses by high rents and who are in temporary accommodation today, which we know is nearly 7,000 people. They have to be our priority. It is our commitment to deal with that and to put in place greater protections for those who are in rental accommodation to ensure that they do not end up homeless. That is what we are trying to do. It is not about publishing those figures in time for this strategy. This is about the toolkit, the measures and the solutions to tackle it regardless of the figures. The finance is there to drive it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan There is clearly a difference. The Members have all stated their positions. Do people want another word? If so, I ask them to be as brief as they can. We can bring it to a head because the Members have stated their differences.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh With all due respect to the Chair, trying to stunt the debate is not acceptable.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, I just do not want repetition and people going round the houses.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh We certainly do not want repetition, but this is a very serious issue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, I have called you so please get on with it.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I will get on with it but I certainly will not be hindered in points that I want to make and I will not be repetitive.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will not be hindered. I have called him.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh There is a real dichotomy in terms of the debate we had last night with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State here today. Last night, we were being told the legislation had to go through quickly and that it was really important to address all the issues in the private rented sector, etc. Today, because a different issue of rent certainty is being raised, which Fine Gael opposes ideologically, that can be kicked down the road because, apparently and according to the argument, it has not been thought through fully. On the one hand, we are being told-----

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I want to come in. I have listened to this-----

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I have the floor.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will bring in the Minister of State in a second. I cannot bring him in until Senator Ó Clochartaigh sits down.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Will the Senator give way for one second?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I will not.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am listening and we have had this debate.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Minister of State will have an opportunity to speak.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, the Senator is entitled to speak and he is not giving way, unfortunately.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I am not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am waiting for the Senator to finish.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I thank the Chair.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will call the Minister of State immediately after.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Fine Gael is ideologically opposed to it. On one hand, the Government was happy to push though those parts of the legislation we opposed yesterday but, on the other, when it comes to a different ideological position on rent certainty, which is the fundamental issue here, the Government drags its heels. Families facing rent reviews in the coming months could see their rents jump by 10% to 20% and they need solutions now. That is why we need to address the issue here. If it was introduced two years ago during the term of the last Government, the average family renting in Dublin would now be €2,000 better off. It is time to bring it in. A form of modern rent regulation is in use in many other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France, and even the local authorities for which the Minister of State is responsible have a form of rent certainty with the setting of differential rents.

  There has been a great deal of talk about supply and demand. I did a little economics in college and my understanding is that when a commodity is scarce, its value increases. We have a commodity in housing at the moment. What is happening here is that the lack of Government action on rent certainty is making the commodity of a house more valuable. Therefore, the people who have control of those houses are putting the rents up. That is having the knock-on effect which means the properties below that will also rise. It is defeating the purpose of the Government's own policy around social housing and the HAP scheme. The Government is being pressed and pushed to make more money available to people who cannot pay their own rents. This is counterproductive to what the Government says it is trying to achieve.

  This is an ideological question of whether one is in favour of rent certainty or not. My reading of what the Minister of State says is that he is not in favour of rent certainty. He can give his own reasons for that. I have my own opinions as to why that is true. What I want to determine is whether the rest of the Seanad is on the same wavelength when it comes to rent certainty. I welcome the fact that Senator Landy has said the Labour Party is, and we have half an indication from Fianna Fáil of what it will do.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor We are waiting for the Minister of State's reply.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Minister of State has replied and Fianna Fáil should have an opinion on rent certainty.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No debate between Members, please.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh It is important to note that after the debate in the Dáil on rent certainty, Deputy Sean Fleming said that it was immediately necessary to provide that those people who were in houses had to be allowed to stay in the houses they were in by linking rent to inflation because landlords would put rents up. That is what has been happening and that is what will happen. We are either for rent certainty or we are not. It is time to get off the pot, to vote in favour of these amendments and to put rent certainty in place for citizens.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does the Minister of State want to say something very briefly? I will call Senator Higgins then.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Senator cannot keep saying it is kicking the can down the road. I am promising him that he will have a rental strategy in a couple of weeks.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy It could be anything.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It is pointless to continue on another hour with everybody saying the same thing.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is why I am saying we should bring it to a head.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am telling Senators that it is coming in a couple of weeks. Have I ever told a lie in this House? No, I have not.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Will the Government introduce rent certainty?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I stand on my record. The House will have it in a couple of weeks. To be very clear, rent security, rent capping and other issues are not matters of ideology. Around the Cabinet table and in the Houses we have a mixture of decision makers of all ideologies. There is no issue there. It is not about the ideology; it is about getting the right package to provide protection, security and increase supply. There is a danger of affecting supply. If one had affected supply a couple of years ago, there would be a worse problem today. We are trying to get the balance right with a package that does not cut off supply.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is not going to cut off supply.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am referring to the situation generally. The rental strategy is about the full package which will deal with the issues right across the board. I assure Members that it is not about ideology but about trying to get it right to tackle today's concerns without cutting off supply for those who might be homeless in future or come onto the list.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Higgins.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh That is nonsense.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, Senator Ó Clochartaigh, I have called Senator Higgins.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister of State may not see it in terms of ideology, but what we are talking about here is analysis. We have been very co-operative but I am now far more concerned than I was at the beginning of the debate or even 25 minutes ago on the rental strategy because I have heard the analysis the Minister of State is putting forward and it does not stand up.  What he is telling us is not accurate. The analysis is not correct, which makes me worried about the rental strategy.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English There is a difference.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister of State said there is a concern. First, he said it is all about supply. It is about supply but it is also about opportunism. What we have seen in the rental sector is opportunism.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Hear, hear.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister of Sate said he believes that if we were to look at something like rent certainty we would suddenly have-----

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That is not what I said.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister of State said there is a danger that they would leave the market.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English No. I said that we need a complete package. I ask the Senator not to misquote me.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins To quote the Minister of State, he said the concern in terms of the market closing is that fewer properties would become available for rent if we were to introduce measures in this regard. That does not stack up, given that those who are making money from the rental sector are making money at a different level from any other business in Ireland.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Exactly.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Many benefits have been put forward and there are landlords in economic difficulties who may have over-stretched themselves in other areas, but what we are talking about are the returns from the rental sector in Ireland which are outsized. I would add, for clarification, that we have mortgage interest relief for landlords in a way that we do not have for those who wish to purchase houses. Banks have seen the opportunity and they are also offering interest only mortgages. Mortgage interest relief is being offered at a high percentage, up to 80% - I would have to check that but I believe that is the percentage - and interest only mortgages are being granted. Let us be realistic about the position when talking about those who want to buy houses. In Dublin 1, a person would pay €709 per month on a mortgage but would pay €1,300 per month in rent. Those who are speculating in the rental market are in a far better position to get mortgages. The measures provided in terms of first-time buyers are tuppence worth compared with the benefits that have been given to those who wish to purchase, from the capital gains tax waiver right down to mortgage interest relief.

  The Minister of State is now giving us the same line we have seen cited by those advocating for landlords, the few honest ones, as my colleague said, who admit they feel sorry for the people they are fleecing, and that is why I became concerned about this. They are large operators and many of them will be leaving town in four years' time when they claim their capital gains tax relief, and we will come to deal with this aspect later. They can afford to be honest. The Minister of State suggested that rent certainty or some system of managed rent increase would jeopardise the availability of property in the market. What will we do then? Will we have rent increases of 10% to 14% for the next few years? We will increase the housing assistance payments and rent supplement. We will have everybody protesting on the streets because they cannot rent a house. They will not be able to book their children into schools or plan their lives. People in Ireland are managing a 10% to a 19% increase every year. I was willing to work with the Minister of State. We have withdrawn all our other amendments. We have not pressed amendments to a vote. I heard him say this is a hugely complex issue. If he wants to improve on our proposal, he can do so. We hear about the wonders of Dáil Committee Stage and the fabulous changes that can be made on it. Will the Minister bring this Bill through the Dáil and improve on it as it proceeds? We cannot let this legislation out of this House in the condition it is in.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English A Leas-Chathaoirligh-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask the Minister of State to be brief as three more Senators wish to contribute.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We need the Minister of State to indicate his position on this; we have had no indication from him on rent certainty.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will hear from the Minister of State on that point.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy A Leas-Chathaoirligh-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will call the Senator next. The Minister of State just wants to answer Senator Higgins's point. I ask him to be brief.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy Is the Leas-Chathaoirleach impartial or will he give way to the Minister of State on every occasion?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am impartial here but I am in the Chair. I call on the Minister of State to be brief in answering that point.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English To be helpful, in case Senator Higgins misinterpreted what I said, this is about the overall package. We do not want to do anything which on its own might or might not affect supply. I mentioned supply and having supply would solve all our problems. We have a shortage of houses.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins So the Minister of State will give landlords what they want.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That is not what I am saying. We need more houses. We do not want to affect supply.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That is nonsense.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English What I am saying to the Senator who put forward the amendments is that we believe in a package that deals with all these issues. One or two measures in a toolkit will not suffice; we need a full toolkit, a full package, that deals with all the concerns. The point I made was that this is not coming from an ideology, rather it is to make sure that we do not affect supply. It is to get the balance right in the package. We accept that involves increased security and that it involves increased services around the rental sector, and choice and options. This is about bringing forward a package in its entirety, and that is what the rental strategy will do. That is what I am asking the Senator to allow, just in case she picked me up wrong on that.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy I wish to take this opportunity to welcome two special guests, Jackie Foy and Patrick O'Gorman, who are in the Gallery. They are very welcome here.

  I want to ask the Minister of State a number of questions. He has talked about asking us to wait. I have asked him four times since I came in here two hours ago to go into some detail on what he intends to bring in on rent certainty. He mentioned that in excess of 240 submissions were received. Can he tell us from where they came because it seems they have come from the lobby that represents landlords?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English They came from the Members of this House.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy From where did the rest of them come? Of course, submissions came from us; we are politicians. That is the first question I want to ask the Minister of State.

  The second point I want to make is that the Minister of State answered very unclearly every question that was put to him today. He is obviously well trained by Vincent Browne. He is probably one of the people who appears on his programme most often, so this must be a walk in the park for him. What we are saying is not influencing or impacting on him in any way because he is not answering any questions we have asked him.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We cannot have Second Stage speeches now. I remind the Senator that we cannot mention people who are outside the House.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy I can make whatever statement I like as long as I am not calling anybody out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator cannot mention people outside the House. I ask the Senator to deal with the amendment.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy If the Minister of State is not going to deal with what is proposed in the three amendments grouped together, in terms of the consumer price index, CPI, he should at least tell us how he will deal with the issue. We cannot be expected to not put amendments to a vote if he is not going to tell us at least what he intends to do. With respect, he should do that as a matter of courtesy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Craughwell to be followed by Senator Murnane O'Connor.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Minister of State asked us to trust and believe him. I believe him to be a decent man. A year and half ago when dealing with the Betting (Amendment) Bill, I was asked by a colleague of his to believe that there was other legislation coming forward, which I did, but it is now a year and a half later and I have not seen that legislation. I am not questioning the Minister of State's bona fides but it does not always follow that he has the authority or the ability to bring forward what he says he will. We are talking about this affecting supply. Will we see 90% of landlords in the country run to the hills because they can no longer make their super normal profits or will they be happy to take the profits they currently have and add the rate of inflation in the consumer price index to them? They are creaming it at the moment.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Some are.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Yes, but that needs to be clarified.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It is a business.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Very few are not.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Some are.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I believe I have the floor. The bottom line is that we have a number of different amendments all dealing with the same issue. The Minister of State can choose any one of them and, as suggested by Senator Higgins, he can take this Bill to the Dáil, modify it and make of it what he wants, but one way or the other I plead with my colleagues to put this amendment to a vote today because it needs to be put to a vote.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor For clarification, as a public representative and a Senator, I know people who have been renting from particular landlords for years who are quite happy to stay renting. People have come to my clinic and told me that they are happy to continue to rent because they have good landlords.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That is fair enough.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor That needs to be considered but it is not being considered. There are good landlords who look after their tenants. There is some confusion over that.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The majority-----

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Nobody is suggesting otherwise.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Allow Senator Murnane O'Connor to continue without interruption.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Rent certainty is important. That is a definite; there is no doubt about that. Having, as a councillor for years, dealt with people who were looking for houses, the only forward is to build and buy. Rent certainty is not the biggest issue here; rather it is the lack of supply. The amount people are paying needs to be addressed. We need to buy houses and if we do not, we will not be going anywhere. We need to buy and build - that is the problem. Rent certainty is an issue, but renting all the time and not building or buying will not solve the problem; that is only taking money from the Department and putting it towards rented accommodation. As we go forward-----

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I 100% agree-----

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Hang on.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I must-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Just a moment, Senator Higgins.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Hold on.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson One moment, please.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I think-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Just a moment, Senator Murnane O'Connor.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will let Senator Murnane O'Connor finish her point.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I ask Senator Higgins to hold on a second. Everybody-----

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I want to clarify-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I have been observing this debate from my office-----

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Senator Higgins has made her point about five times.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins No.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor She has.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Hold on a second.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I agree with Senator Murnane O'Connor about rent and buying. That is all I want to say.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Higgins will have an opportunity to contribute further if she wishes. I have been here for the past hour. I observed the debate for the hour I was not here. Some Senators are interrupting others when they are trying to make their cases. Everybody is getting an opportunity to contribute. I ask Senators to give the person in possession of the floor an opportunity to make his or her point. I ask Senator Murnane O'Connor to finish.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Dealing with local authorities all the time and having clinics to which people come, I see in Carlow, on Wednesday mornings, when we have our homelessness clinic, people sleeping in cars. I set up a food kitchen with the local priest and a few members of a committee - there is a crowd of us - to make sure that people are getting fed, so I understand what is happening. However, there definitely are landlords who provide a great service. Rent certainty is definitely needed, but the only way and the only answer to the housing crisis and homelessness is to build and buy. Until that is sorted, we will not get the housing crisis sorted.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I proposed the amendment causing all the trouble. I fully agree that the only way we will solve the housing situation in this country is through supply. That is why we were all very supportive yesterday. I voted with the Government. I can understand why we have to fast-track planning applications in order that the supply side issue is dealt with, but we cannot forget the thousands of people living in the rental sector. They are young people, older people and families. Rent certainty is an important measure to address their present and probably continued conditions. I apologise to the Minister of State. I would love to be able to support him but I have heard about the rental strategy, I know it will be published in two weeks, but I have seen no detail on the rent certainty measures contained therein. If I had, I might be able to support him. Therefore, I am, with reluctance, being awkward about this because he has not outlined any specifics and has not been able to convince me.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That is fine. I totally accept that the Senator must press her amendment. I am only setting out the position as it stands. With respect, I always answer questions. That is one thing I will do. Be it Senator Kelleher or anybody else, I will answer to the best of my ability. If I do not have the answer, I cannot give her the answer. With respect to our process-----

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy I think the Minister of State has the answer.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English We are involved in a process of consultation. More submissions came in today.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher Two weeks.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That is fine. I am not trying to convince the Senator not to press the amendment. She can do so. I am just informing her of the progress of the process. I give her my commitment that the strategy will be published in a couple of weeks' time. However, I will not announce policy decisions that have not been made. I cannot do that. I can just tell her that that strategy will bring forward a package which should deal with all the concerns she has. I share those concerns, we share them, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, shares them, and the Department shares them. However, I cannot ask her to believe in something I cannot give her, so it is fine for her to press the amendment. I can only tell her the processes we underwent. The latest figure for submissions to have come in is 475. More have come in since then. As of today, everybody - all stakeholders - are still e-mailing their thoughts and views. We made sure that people from all parties and everybody from all spectrums of the argument would be invited to the first workshop day for stakeholders, and they came to it. I sat at some of the tables. Landowners and people fighting for tenants' rights were all at the one table discussing the issues and trying to thrash out how we can best deal with them. The only way we can do this right is with a package and a toolkit that addresses many concerns. I am not holding these back from the Senator. I do not have them. We have not worked out the best ones yet. We have ideas and notions, but there is a decision to be made about the policy, which must be formulated. As soon as it is put together, the Senator will hear about it. It is best that it comes out as a package because we have had drip-feed over the years of ideas about rental security and everything else which has not helped the market, tenants or landlords.

  This is a package that deals as best we can with all the concerns. That is what will come forward in a couple of weeks' time. I will not give the details of it to the Senator today because I do not have them. If I did, I would give them to her. I ask her to trust me. If I had the details of it, it would save me two hours of debate. The strategy is a genuine attempt to deal with the issues raised. I have repeatedly said that I do not expect the Senator to accept something I cannot give her. I therefore have no issue with her pressing her amendment. I totally accept that she has to do so. I can only explain to her what we are trying to do. I believe that we will be in agreement on publication of the strategy, but that is a few weeks away. I cannot bring her there just yet although I wish I could. We understand we must address all the issues surrounding the rental sector because we accept that many people, either by choice or lack of choice, want to rent. When I say by choice, I mean a desire to rent and to continue to do so because of one's job, the way jobs move around and flexibility. We therefore want to encourage much more purpose-built housing to rent which will improve the service received in rental properties. We want to encourage more investors into building. Others do not have a choice and must rent. We must accept that as well. People want more security of tenure. They want to know the bigger picture for their families. We accept all that and believe a rental strategy will deal with it. The publication of the strategy is a couple of weeks away.

  Our concern was that these amendments are only part of what could be an overall package. The provisions they make might be in the strategy but they do not form the full strategy. We therefore cannot accept the amendments in this legislation, but the strategy will be published before the legislation is completed. That might help the process, but by all means the Senator can press the amendment. That is not being awkward; that is democracy. She is doing the right thing. I have no issue with that at all. I can only inform her of our position as best I can. It is a genuine attempt to try to bring everyone together. With all the stakeholders involved in the process, and as with any strategy in which I have been involved, it is best that one sees out the process, that the voice of anybody who took the time to make written submissions, come to meetings and follow on with further meetings is heard, that all their thoughts are processed and that we formulate a policy on such a basis. There are people in this room who made submissions for the strategy. Every submission is being considered and analysed, and we will pick the best when we bring the strategy forward in a few weeks' time. We cannot accept amendments today. That is our position.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I want to make a few points about the landlord-tenant relationship. I see the Minister of State being pounded on the basis that he has ideological objections, and this by people in this House to whom the term "ideology" is not exactly a stranger. I support what was said a few moments ago about the landlord-tenant relationship. I have been a landlord in respect of one property. I remember reducing the rent in the immediate aftermath of the crash because I thought it was the just thing to do. I believe that the great majority of landlords want certainty too.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor They do. Hear, hear.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell They want decent tenants. They do not want people regularly going in and out of their properties. They do not want turnover of tenants. If one defines "rack rent" as the most one can charge in the market, most landlords will seek to let properties at 20% less than that for a no-hassle, predictable existence. That is the first thing about landlords. They do not all exploit tenants. The great majority of landlords I know of want to have a good, stable relationship with the tenant which is satisfactory to both sides. In this day and age of advertisements on the radio and television asking who repairs the boiler when it breaks, who repairs the washing machine when it breaks down and who carries the can when the dishwasher breaks down, landlords and tenants must have give-and-take relationships, not ones in which they are at each other's throats.

  Secondly, there is a sense - this is the ideology about which I get worried - that people want to turn landlords into building societies. In other words, they want the property to be provided at a particular rent because it is a home and because they believe the positions of a mortgage ower and a tenant are more or less the same. They are qualitatively different. Most landlords do not want to be in the position of a building society. They do not want simply to take a defined benefit over 30 or 40 years in respect of providing a home to a family. There is a delicate balance between the model of the person who owes the mortgage and credit provider, to which many people aspire, and the tenant-landlord relationship, and they are not the same relationship. Each case is a different animal. I only mention this because landlords have particular rights. Building societies can sell off or refinance their mortgages. They are effectively just legal instruments.  For most landlords, however, it is not simply a matter of a paper transaction with money coming in. It involves management, care of the property, deep concern for how it is being looked after and worries about all the issues that arise from being a landlord. Therefore, it is not the same thing. Anybody who believes it is the same is deluding himself. The relationships are radically different.

  Bearing in mind the various amendments now under discussion, saying that the CPI is to be the determinant in respect of a tenancy is not fair, in a number of ways. The rate is currently approximately 0.5% or 1%. Using the CPI is not fair to a landlord who is asked by the tenant to invest in the property. It is not fair to ask somebody in this position to redecorate the house and take 0.5% or 1% extra the following year. It is not fair to a landlord who has to replace the cookers, washing machines, etc., that CPI applies to him because people believe other people are currently being exploited. I have absolutely no doubt that some people are being exploited so I am not saying there is no force in the argument for rent certainty of some kind. Given that we are talking about the rate of inflation, to simply say all rents are effectively frozen for three years, an indefinite period or a period that a Minister can extend indefinitely is simply not the way to attract more money into the rental market.

  For every home that is let at present, the landlord always faces the option of continuing to be a landlord or cashing in his chips and selling the property to somebody else. That is a choice that every landlord makes. He must ask whether it is worth the candle. A landlord reaching 70 or 80 years of age might ask whether he or she wants to continue to be a landlord or sell the property. These are the kinds of issues on which people have to make up their minds. In that context, to say to them that their rent levels are frozen is not the correct way to determine whether the purchaser of the property will be a family moving in or a person who desires a buy-to-let arrangement. We have to examine the dynamics of the market and ask what kind of money will come into it.

  Consider the circumstances if Joe Soap has two apartments in Dublin and decides to cash in his chips because he is getting old, wants certainty in his life, wants to provide for himself, or wants to emigrate, for example. If that person's property is put on the market, the people buying it will be asking whether they are buying it to live in it or buying to let. People making an investment in that context are going to look to what is the law. If the law implies one should forget about any rental increases and that one is stuck with CPI if one lets the property, it will have an adverse effect on the number of people willing to put money into property for the purpose of letting it out to others. One can have an ideological objection, based on the view that everybody should own his own home or be able to mortgage his own home and live in it as a buyer–occupier, for example, but the real question about a measure of this kind is whether it will do more damage in two to three years in terms of money going out of the property market owing to a lack of investment by landlords.

  This country is filled with good intentions. Some time ago, some bright sparks in Dublin City Council or the Minister of State's Department came to the view that they would wipe out the scandal of people living in bedsits in Dublin.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone That created more problems than it prevented.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Those concerned believed they knew better than others and that they would decide it is sub-standard housing. Some 8,000 to 12,000 people were thrown out of their homes. I have never heard anybody stand up and say, "I am sorry; that was a mistake and I got it wrong." I am saying the same about this measure. If we introduce a rent freeze, who will stand up in five years and say it was a bit of a mistake, with money having fled the property investment market as time went by and things getting worse rather than better?

  If the Senators put this to a vote, I will be voting against their amendment. I just wanted to put my rationale on the record rather than having to explain it afterwards over a cup of tea with my good friends who are proposing the amendment.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We need to conclude because I am conscious of the many other areas we need to address. While we have heard the stories and many of us know landlords who are excellent - I have not derided landlords in any way - what I have spoken to was not ideology; I stated the facts. I am sure there are wonderful landlords making fabulous and considered responses to the market but we have seen an average increase of almost 12% in one year. That is the fact. This is not to say all landlords hiked their rent by 12%. It is the average and that is the fact, and the fact that it is the average is worrying because it means that for every good landlord, there is a landlord who is increasing above 12%. Mr. David Ehrlich, Ireland's biggest landlord, said his company has never seen rental increases like these in any jurisdiction of which he is aware. Such individuals believe there are no brakes.

  It was said we want to have a balance but my point is that the balance does not exist at the moment. We put forward two proposals, one immediate and one long term. If one wants to debate whether the CPI should be used and the nature of the appropriate indicators, one should note we have been begging the Government to come forward with a statement as to where it believes the markers or indicators might be. We have not heard anything in that respect. There is nothing allowing a different indicator to be added.

  Senator Michael McDowell referred to the CPI being low but the GDP figures are also not a very good indicator. Admittedly, we need to find the right indicators but this sets the idea that there is predictability. If one wants to amend it further, one could do so at a later stage. We have a time limit. It is the same time limit that has been estimated as the period needed for supply. The date 31 December 2019 has been stated as the date on which the Government believes we will have moved out of the emergency context in terms of supply. We have a void and opportunism in the meantime. It is not from all landlords based on a view that landlords are evil but from those who are seeing and taking an opportunity. It is creating social instability in the State.

  We will not press all our amendments in the House today but we will press one. I urge the Minister of State to return on Report Stage with a proposal. It is not enough to say "rental strategy". He needs to give us his indicators. He can change them as the legislation proceeds. We are in unsafe circumstances.

  We will withdraw amendment No. 22.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson We will address that in a moment. Two of the Senator's colleagues are offering to contribute.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I am conscious of time.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Absolutely, but it is important that everybody be heard.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am very conscious of time and I would not normally speak when we are having such a long debate on one section. I welcome the balance that has been brought to the debate by Senator Michael McDowell. I am a landlord by default. I rent out a property in respect of which I reduced the rent by way more than 20% during the crash. It is also in negative equity. Last week, the boiler was broken. I am not on the kind of wage that could sustain huge costs on a property.

(Interruptions).

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I know many people like me. I am serious. There is a perception in the debate that all landlords are creaming it and trying to take advantage of tenants. I welcome the balance that has been brought to the debate and agree with the sentiments that have been expressed. There are some that would take advantage but this is the case in any business. There is a perception that all lawyers are earning a fortune but some are doing well just to make ends meet.  We must have a little bit of balance in the debate.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan With permission, I want to use the "C" word in the Chamber.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Oh God.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I am sorry but I have to.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Through the Chair and without interruption.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash Comrade?

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan The word I was going to use is "class". What we have in here, and I welcome it in one respect, is a debate between the interests of the different classes in our society. I must hand it to my colleague Senator McDowell - who is a gentleman, to be fair - who made a very good case for the landlord class, for the people who have wealth in this country and for the people who have done very well through the ten years of austerity.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone A lot of them have other sorts of debt.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Gavan, without interruption, please.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I thank the Acting Chairman.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Second holiday homes and all that.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I acknowledge, and am glad to see, that those of us on the left in this Chamber are united again today. Now I turn to Fianna Fáil who, before the last election, described themselves as a centre-left party. We have spoken about rent certainty and I heard my colleagues - for whom I have great respect - say that we need rent certainty. There is, however, no point in talking about it. We must do something about it and this Chamber is where we have to do it. It is funny how, whenever we actually have to do something about rent certainty, the response is always "We are not ready now". I do not like to be unpleasant to the Minister of State, because on a personal level he is an absolute gentleman, but we cannot believe him because Fine Gael's record is appalling and it is a landlords' party. Senator McDowell is proud to be a landlord, and fair play to him. Fine Gael is a landlords' party but I want to tell a different story. This is a true story from my Monday clinic in Limerick. Two people are being evicted as we speak with their three young children. They will have nowhere to live at Christmas. They happen to be Travellers. They are the very best of people whose neighbours are gutted to see them being forced out onto the roads. They will never get a house through HAP because landlords do not rent houses to Travellers, unfortunately. This is one thing the landlord class never does in this country. We need rent certainty and protections for people like that and we cannot afford to wait a few weeks until the Minister of State is ready. Let us be frank, in the 90 years of the existence of this State, there have never been decent rights for tenants here.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey That is not true.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan The reason is that we have always had conservative government of one type or another. Let us not have crocodile tears on rent certainty and "We will get there in a few weeks", because the Minister will not. We know he will not. This issue is one of class. I am proud to see everyone here on the left standing together. Clearly the Minister of State, Deputy English, Senator McDowell and the others from Fianna Fáil are standing together also. They are landlord parties and they have no interest in tenants and they should be ashamed to be rejecting this amendment on rent certainty.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Rather than go back over the whole debate from the last hour, for those who have only just joined us-----

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan We were watching it all the way.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Senator Higgins asked for a Government response and said Senators were begging the Government for a response. I have said that the Government did not want to bring forward its response based on a whim, an ideology or any kind of class. Our response will be a full policy, worked out and thought out and produced in a couple of week's time. There will be the full package, a toolkit and regulation to go with it.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Waffle.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Minister of State, without interruption, please.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I have said repeatedly that I do not expect people to wait for that. Senators can make their own decisions today. The Government's response will be within a full policy and not just giving one idea or one notion. It will be a full package and policy. People ask what Fine Gael is as a party. I can tell them that we are solutions-focused and driven.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh For whom? Solutions for landlords.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has been very clear that the strategy should be focused and solution driven. Most Senators in this House have genuinely wanted to approach this from a solution perspective. Whether one is a landlord or a tenant, all of us here want to end the situations where people do not have permanent accommodation.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I remind Senators that there is a room outside for consulting if they want it.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will say it one more time. It can only be achieved through a balanced package and by bringing forward informed policy that tries to bring with us as many stakeholders as possible with this agenda to get it right and to get backing for it. That is what we are doing. It will be published in a couple of week's time. That is as much as I can tell Senators today. I have told Senator Craughwell previously that the Minister and I have said the strategy will happen in a couple of weeks - the full policy response with solutions focused across the board. It is about a balance. We do not come to this from any ideology or any class - that is not us. As a party we represent many people from all across society-----

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Fine Gael believes in the free market.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Do not try to put us into a box. That is not what we are about.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan You are the box.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor It is important that this Bill goes through. I have been a Senator for seven months and not once has Sinn Féin agreed to anything. They have looked for a votáil on everything. They have disagreed on everything-----

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Not true.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor -----that has come up here. I have been sitting at the front beside the Sinn Féin Senators, and I am very fond of you by the way-----

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan We will talk later.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor -----but Sinn Féin have absolutely agreed on nothing. We have an emergency housing crisis and if Sinn Féin was interested, as are other parties, then we would be trying our best here today to make sure that we get everything sorted for these people in the housing crisis.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan On behalf of the landlords.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor No. I represent everybody. As a councillor and Senator I am proud to say that I represent everybody-----

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Not today.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor -----as does Fianna Fáil. I ask the Minister to get solutions here today. Can we move forward to make sure that we get this housing plan passed so the people of Ireland, the people who come to my clinics, who are living in cars-----

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Will Senator Murnane O'Connor support the amendment?

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor -----will be housed?

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan The Minister, Deputy Coveney, is back in the chair and he makes the decisions. This would depend on my vote, if a vote were called. Can the Minister commit that this rental strategy will be published no later than February? There is a sense of urgency in the debate. I refer to two or three weeks to let the Minister decide if time has to be done. I have constantly come in to this House and said that rushed legislation is bad legislation. Let us deal with it within a month. Give us a deadline and a time and we will decide then.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I welcome the Minister.

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I was getting texts from the Minister of State, Deputy English, encouraging me not to get involved in this debate-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan That is an honest assessment.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney -----or to extend it for another half an hour, but when I started to hear the Sinn Féin mantra that Fine Gael is the landlord party, I-----

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor You had to rock up.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney -----I texted him back to say I will be making a contribution. We had the same mantra on social housing and then we produced a housing strategy that will add 47,000 social houses to our social housing stock. We had the same mantra on homelessness and even people such as Fr. Peter McVerry would say that the current strategy is the most comprehensive that has ever been put in place. Now it is about the implementation. I approach the current housing challenge and pressures from a pragmatic perspective where we try to make evidence-based decisions. The truth is that if we simply approach the pressures and strain faced by many tenants today with a view to protecting them but ignoring how the market functions and how State intervention in the market functions, then we are only solving half of the problem. The key issue is that we are dramatically short of supply. We have many vacant properties that we need to get back into use. We have many sites that have planning permission and zoning that can help to alleviate the problem. We have spent nearly two days discussing how we can put in place a streamlined planning process to encourage a lot more large-scale development, much of which will be social housing. In my view, however, the most difficult balance to get right in the housing strategy is the rental sector. This is why we did not rush it in the first 74 days when we produced the housing strategy. We made very clear in that strategy - although some chose to ignore it - that what is in the strategy with regard to rent is not the full picture because we needed more time to consult with people to get the balance right. Believe me when I say some momentum is now starting to build in the construction sector that over time can help to solve a lot of these problems that are linked to a deficit in supply. We must ensure that we do not undermine that momentum and the appetite for investment in projects right across this city and the country.

  At the same time, I do accept that many tenants are under extreme pressure and at the sharp end of that we are seeing families being driven into homelessness, which I have spoken about earlier today.  We need to do more to prevent the unsustainable level of rent inflation that is happening because of a dramatic supply shortage. It is not easy to balance those two. People have made pretty coherent arguments on both sides today. We have invited all sides to make written submissions during a consultation process that will produce a new rental strategy by the middle of next month, not February. If we can use the Committee Stage of this legislation in the Dáil to accommodate any legislative change that may come with that, I intend to do that. If we do that, the change will have to come back to the Seanad before the Bill can be finalised and Senators will have an opportunity to debate and discuss it then. I am not willing to support amendments that are well-meaning but may not fit into the difficult balancing act that I have to achieve in the rental strategy we will launch in three weeks' time. I made this approach clear on Second Stage and I am consistent about this. When we launch a rental strategy, if legislative change is required, we will use this legislation to do it straightaway. We do not want to create a long time lag between stating an intention to intervene in the market and not do so for three or four months because we need to bring new legislation forward and to have the market compensate and adjust for any intervention that may or may not take place. We need to ensure that anything we do takes effect quickly, which is why this legislation is the appropriate way to do that. However, we are not ready yet. We will be in a few weeks’ time and I ask people to recognise that. We are working with other parties to find a compromise that is sensible, will not undermine supply and will protect tenants in vulnerable and pressurised situations.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I appreciate that the Minister is giving us a lot of time in the Seanad. This is a very important Bill. In the first part of the debate yesterday, there was much pressure to get the legislation through because we needed to enact it immediately. At the same time the Minister says that he will propose amendments in the Dáil and change the legislation which will have to come back to the Seanad.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I said if that happens, it will have to come back to the Seanad. The Senator should not twist what I am saying.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I understand the procedure but therefore the legislation before us is half-baked. We are putting forward proposals to change it. We are suggesting that rent certainty be included as part of the legislation. If, after the consultation process and debate on what has been proposed, the Minister decides to tweak, amend or change that, he can bring in amendments to tweak the ones we have put forward, so why not accept the principle of rent certainty at this stage to give people an indication that we are thinking seriously about this? In my opinion, the Minister is ideologically opposed to rent certainty. If he is, he needs to tell us that now.

  Fianna Fáil needs to get off the fence and tell us whether it is in favour of rent certainty, rather than issuing press releases to the media. This is the Parliament. It has been half-indicated today but is it party policy or not? We will push these amendments to a vote because we have called for this several times and we have seen Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael oppose attempts by Sinn Féin to bring rent certainty Bills through these Houses. The Minister either is or is not considering rent certainty as part of the solution. He should tell us now which it is, stop wasting our time today, withdraw the legislation and bring it back when it is ready. We will support the Minister if it is up to scratch when he comes back to us in four or six weeks’ time with the new amendments, based on what has been said in the consultation process. If it seems to do what it says on the tin and if it lives up to the promises and the rhetoric of the Minister of State that this will be an all-encompassing solution to the rental crisis, we will support it.

  It was said that Sinn Féin has not supported measures that have come through the Houses. The Minister knows that is not true. He has worked very well with Deputy Ó Broin on legislation and he has supported the positive elements of it. Our party has done that and will continue to do that. Where we are critical we will make the arguments and the points because people come to our offices day in, day out and tell us how much the spiralling rent increases, of up to 10% to 13% in Galway, are costing them. It will continue unless something is done immediately so the Minister should either do it immediately or rescind it.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I want to support the Minister. I believe what he has just said and that he wants to bring back something which will solve all our problems. There is a danger these amendments will be pushed to a vote, which I would prefer did not happen because it would give the Minister a chance. I do not subscribe to the ideology nonsense. There are as many working class members of Fine Gael as there are of the landlord class.

  I believe the Minister is trying to do something right. If a vote is not called on this today, is there any chance the Minister could come back and offer a fig leaf on this next Tuesday on Report Stage, to give people some degree of confidence that there will be certainty? This has gone on for two hours and could go on for another two. I do not want to see that happen. The ball is at the Minister’s feet.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion and we have heard strong arguments on all sides of this debate but we need to distil this legislation to one thing: increase the housing supply in a short time. I have no doubt this will have a positive impact and will house many of the people we talk about in this House and in other chambers. It will also have a positive impact on the rental sector. The market needs more housing to have a normalised rental sector. The pressure is building because we do not have enough houses.

  I respect Senators on all sides making their cases but I reject totally the Sinn Féin accusation that my party represents only the landlord class. I come from a working class area and family and I have always represented working class people and I make no apology for that. Sinn Féin’s accusations are wrong.

  The proof is in the pudding, in this Government and Minister, who is not only bringing in this legislation to intervene in a positive way but is providing increased funding for housing, which is unprecedented in the history of this State. He is providing increased funding to support the rental sector and the homeless sector. We need to work together. I do not want to accuse parties of playing games but that is how it seems to me. If we are serious about increasing the housing supply we should work together however we can to bring this legislation forward. It is temporary. It will last only three years with a possible extension of two years. Let us bring it forward to see how it works and evaluate it then with whatever Minister is in place. I appeal to all parties to work together to bring this legislation forward. We have been debating this amendment for almost two hours and there are many more amendments to go. I agree with the Fianna Fáil Senator who said let us bring this forward in a positive way. There will be Report Stage, and the Minister can speak for himself, but I appeal to all sides. There are people watching this and it is becoming farcical.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan The proof is not in the pudding. It is in rent certainty and that is not there.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Colleagues have spoken at least half a dozen times and then they make the point that we have been here far too long. We would not be here far too long if the points could be made once or twice. While colleagues feel it necessary to speak again and again I have no option but to allow that happen. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. I am in the hands of my colleagues. If they want to speed it up they should speak once and make their point and maybe come in once more to make a supplementary point. If they want to continue, that is fine.  Does the Minister wish to make a comment?

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I wish to make a clear point on my own behalf. I am doing what I said I would do. On Second Stage, I said if the rental strategy we will launch in a few weeks' time gives rise to a legislative requirement, we will try to use this legislation - whatever Stage it is at when we launch - to ensure that can take effect quickly. That is what I said and that is what I am saying now.

  Unless a majority decides to vote me down, I will not accept an incomplete approach to rent certainty, rent predictability, intervention in the market or whatever one wants to call it. I am not into the ideologies of it. I am trying to fix the rental market which is fundamentally broken. People are suffering every day because of that. They are coming to all our offices as a result.

  There are two sides to this story and we have to try to get the balance. Without landlords and without investment, we do not get increased supply unless the State is to provide homes for everybody in the private rental market, which is not going to happen. We need to ensure we have a functioning market. We also need to respond to the fact that what is happening in the rental market in parts of Ireland now is making life impossible for some people. We need to respond to that and we will.

  I will not make an effort to try to please people in the short term. At the start, I said I could not accept an amendment in this area until we have a complete picture. We will have a complete picture in a few weeks and that will be the time to amend this legislation. The only reason I mentioned that if we do that it will come back to the House was to try to be helpful to the Senator. The Senator tried to spin that into a negative and suggested we should just stall the process until then. We are trying to get emergency legislation through. This is emergency legislation. The reason I brought it to this House was to try to get emergency legislation through. There is a load of stuff in this legislation that needs to happen, one way or the other. If we decide to use the legislation to try to facilitate something around the area we have been talking about for the past two hours, let us also do that; but let us not delay the process in an effort to do that. I cannot be clearer on that. That is consistent with what I said at the start and I hold to that position now.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The emergency is in the households that are paying the increased rents. In places such as Galway we have had increases of 13% in the past year.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We can all give examples.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We have moved to the other section; this is the previous section.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Higgins, I have already explained that while there are colleagues who wish to contribute to this amendment and this section, there is nothing I can do other than allow them to do so. That is what Senator Ó Clochartaigh is doing and he is entitled to do so.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone He is intentionally doing it.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Hold on, Senator. Irrespective of whether he is, that is open to him. The only person who knows that is himself.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Absolutely.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson As long as there are colleagues who want to contribute, I will not prevent them from doing so. We have an hour and five minutes left, based on the order of the House. When it comes to the time, I do not want the same people complaining that we have run out of time.

  I ask Senator Ó Clochartaigh to continue without interruption.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Acting Chairman's intervention is very important. Nobody is trying to prolong the debate in any way, but we are trying to argue the case of the people who have asked us to argue the case. We will continue to do that.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I accept that.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I asked the Minister a very direct question. Does he believe in rent certainty? Is it a policy he would buy into? This is something that has happened a number of times over the past six years while I have been in this House. We are being asked to put our intention into legislation that will come down the road which does not deliver. To me that is buying a pig in a poke. We need to adjudicate on the legislation before us. I suggest that we put rent certainty into the legislation and the Minister can subsequently amend it in the Dáil if he is not happy. We really need to do that because the emergency is in those households tonight, not next week or next month.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I ask Senator Higgins if the amendment is being pressed.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Basically, I do not believe the question has been answered. The Minister has said this is emergency legislation. Our amendment No. 24 is also an emergency measure. I do not intend or do not want to press amendments Nos. 22 and 23. However, I know that it is co-signed so I am not sure what the protocol on that is.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson It is down to the mover and that is why I called Senator Higgins.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will withdraw amendment No. 22, reserving the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage. Amendment No 23 states-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson We need to deal with amendment No. 22 first. Is the Senator pressing amendment No. 22?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will withdraw and reserving the right-----

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh On a point of order, as co-signatories, can we press the amendment?

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson That is fine. I have to ask the first name first. Senator Higgins does not wish to press amendment No. 22.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will not press amendment No. 22, but I reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Amendment No. 22 is withdrawn, by leave of the House. Is that agreed?

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh It is not agreed.

  5 o’clock

Question put: "That amendment No. 22 be withdrawn."

The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 10.

Níl
Information on Victor Boyhan   Zoom on Victor Boyhan   Boyhan, Victor. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie. Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.  
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.  
Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Colette. Kelleher and Grace. O'Sullivan; Níl, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh.

Question declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendment No. 23 has already been discussed.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 23:

  In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27."

The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:

“19A. Any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided for by the Consumer Price Index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.”.”.

We will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage. I urge the Minister to give us further assurance in this area.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 24:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27. The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:
"19A. (1) Any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided by the Consumer Price Index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.

(2) The provision outlined in subsection (1) will remain in effect until 31 December 2019 at which point the Minister may by order extend the specified period which this section will continue to apply."."

I regret the time pressure under which we are operating. I would like to press this amendment as it specifically addresses an emergency measure timed to coincide with the emergency measures on planning. However, given the exigencies of time I will withdraw it and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage as I believe this is an essential measure. I urge that action be taken on it on Report Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The amendment has already been discussed. There can be no further debate on it.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I move amendment No. 25:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
"27. The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:
"19A. Any subsequent setting of the rent under the tenancy by way of a review of that rent shall not be greater or less than the level of inflation as indicated in the Consumer Price Index as calculated by the Central Statistics Office at the time of the rent review.".".

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 20.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary. Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette. Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall. Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie.
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan. Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
  Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Maura. Hopkins and Gabrielle. McFadden.

Amendment declared lost.

SECTION 27

Question put: "That section 27 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 8.

Níl
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie.  
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.  
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Maura. Hopkins and Gabrielle. McFadden; Níl, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh.

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTION

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 33 to 37, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive. Amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive, may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh I move amendment No. 26:

In page 33, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"28. The Act of 2004 is amended in section 28(2)(a) by the substitution of "for an indefinite period from" for "for the period of 4 years".".

Amendment No. 26 concerns changes to the duration of a standard tenancy from four years to a period of indefinite duration in order to provide tenants with real security of tenure. We are asking for this change to be made to the 2004 Act. In light of tenants' concerns that they could be asked to leave their homes after a four-year period, we are looking to insert a provision relating to indefinite duration as opposed to four years to give more security to people in private rented accommodation. I will speak about the other amendments at a later stage.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will speak about section 30. There are a number of amendments in this area. We have tabled a number of amendments that identified our concern, which I believe is shared, and has been expressed, by Fianna Fáil and others in the House, about the definition of a medium-sized dwelling. We understand that section 30, to which these amendments relate, is designed to deal with concerns such as the situation we saw in Tyrrelstown where people received notices of eviction en masse. We have suggested that five might be a more reasonable determination of that medium-sized dwelling. We have also put forward ten and a number of other numbers but our main number of five, which is where we find agreement with our colleagues in Fianna Fáil, because we know that only 6% of landlords would have properties with five or more dwellings. We are only tackling the larger landlords if we talk about units of five or over. These are situations where those landlords are selling their properties and transferring them for remuneration. Unfortunately, this is being used as a loophole and opportunity to give summary evictions.

  In respect of the other constructive proposals we have put forward here, while section 30(2) seems to protect people from these mass evictions, we believe section 30(3) undoes all the good work of section 30(2). Section 30(2) seems to say that tenancies should not be terminated at a point of sale but one could drive a coach and four through the provisions in section 30(3) and we believe any landlord could do so. One of the provisions relates to where there is a 20% increase in the price if a landlord sells it with vacant possession. We put forward a number of amendments in that regard. Do we at least talk about 30% or withdraw that entire subsection? I will not go into the detail of our proposals here but I reserve the right to reintroduce them and possibly further amendments to tighten up section 30(3) on Report Stage.

  Landlords will always be able to say that they can show that they would get 20% more if they sold with vacant possession. When one has 10% to 12% increases in rental prices, putting this provision in creates a contravening factor that will damage the possibility of introducing rent certainty in the future. The Minister of State talked about balance. This provision will be used to justify rent increases because it would be said that otherwise, there would be a 20% gap between what people are paying and what someone in the open market would pay and that could be used as a justification for evictions down the line. If we are really being careful, we need to be careful about this exception as it is put here. In respect of the exception that suggests that undue unfairness or undue hardship on the landlord is a key concern, we feel the term "undue unfairness" is not specific enough. It is too vague. If one looked at the large-scale professional investors who are in Ireland, we feel they will be able to match that.

  We need to be realistic about the scale. I have reports from Hooke and McDonald which say that at the end of 2014 alone, under the capital gains tax waiver, more than 3,000 residential units were purchased by international investors. They explicitly say that they are purchasing them to hold for seven years. We will see mass expiration of that rate in three years' time. The measures ran from 2012 to 2014. As the seven years expires, many of those vulture funds will move to other territories such as the UK or the US - anywhere that is in crisis - and find the opportunities. They will be selling on a large scale and there will be a huge transfer of assets. I know the Minister has spoken about professional landlords. If there are professional landlords or international landlords who want to move in, they are welcome but let them take houses with tenancies intact because the vulture funds which will be leaving town care nothing for public reputation. Only legislation will constrain them and the legislative constraints here are ineffective and meaningless. I cannot think of a single fund or a single situation in which they would not be able to meet these standards, get their exemptions and get the right to evict en masse. It is a very urgent and pertinent issue. I realise the Government intends to deal with it but we need to show serious action. I reserve the right to reintroduce all our amendments to this section on Report Stage. I would also flag that we may introduce amendments which relate to section 42 and Part 4 tenancies on Report Stage.

Senator Denis Landy: Information on Denis Landy Zoom on Denis Landy I am speaking to my amendment, which is amendment No. 30.  Its purpose is to highlight the fact that section 34 of the 2004 Act sets out the unlawful grounds for terminating a tenancy by a landlord. Our amendment deletes paragraph 3 of the table which permits a landlord to determine a tenancy simply on the grounds that he or she intends to sell the property within three months. This ground is often relied upon by receivers to gain vacant possession of a property.

It is worth noting that the National Economic and Social Council has recommended that Ireland adopt the same approach to allow tenants to remain in houses that are being sold. The council has stated that removing sale as a reason to end a lease would significantly improve secure occupancy and recommends that this measure be adopted for Ireland. The council notes that while one view is that this could reduce the price those selling rental properties could achieve compared to the price of vacant possession, the more the Irish rental system is driven by long-term yield rather than changing asset prices, the higher the value purchasers will put on properties with an existing secure rental stream.

We have all received correspondence from concerned citizens writing on behalf of Focus Ireland. The correspondence points out that other countries have found solutions to this problem of the desire of landlords to vacate houses they intend to sell. In Northern Ireland, for example, banks that repossess on foot of buy-to-let mortgages are prohibited from evicting the tenant and must sell the property with the tenant still in place. This seems fair. The loan was offered specifically to create a buy-to-let home and it is wrong for the bank to dispossess a tenant because its investment did not make the money. Many such houses were included in section 23 tax relief in this country.

We do not subscribe to the idea that a landlord needs five, ten or more than 20 houses to be brought in under the legislation. If I went onto daft.iethis minute, I would not have any way of knowing whether a property I wanted to rent was owned by a professional landlord or a landlord with one property. If that landlord decided to sell the property in 12 months, I would be excluded from the protection of the legislation if he did not have 20 or more properties. That is as daft as the name of the website. It makes no sense. We have to protect all tenants, not just those who happen to be tenants of landlords with five, ten or more than 20 houses. I will be pressing the amendment.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor We welcome the amendment of the Residential Tenancies Acts to enable tenants to remain in situ if they live in developments that are being sold. The lack of security for tenants is a major issue inhibiting the development of a strong, reliable rental market in Ireland. Unlike the European norm, Irish leases are primarily short-term, which generates great uncertainty for families and other long-term renters, and limits the appeal of renting for those for whom home ownership is not a preferred option, in particular families with children who require stability and certainty rather than the current situation where tenancies can be brought to an abrupt end. That is the major issue here.

  Why should householders in larger developments enjoy greater security of occupancy than other tenants, however? We believe the criterion of 20 units should be reduced to five units. The Bill is all about security for families and children. It is not about landlords. We have a duty to the children and families of Ireland to ensure they have a secure home. To do so, we must ensure we can provide them with a rental scheme that will make them secure and that they are not worried every year about whether they are going to be evicted. I ask the Minister of State to reduce the number of units from 20 to five to assist those in rural parts of counties like Carlow. This needs to be addressed.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The purpose of amendment No. 28 from Sinn Féin is to prevent any landlord who bought a property with a buy-to-let mortgage or who availed of a section 23 tax relief to purchase a property for the purposes of renting or who is a professional landlord with three or more properties from issuing a notice to quit on the grounds that the property is to be sold. This amendment would have two benefits. First, the tenant gets greater security of tenure and, second, it would ensure that the property would remain in the private-rented sector, which is an important point. I echo the sentiments of Senator Landy and others that this is about protecting the rights of tenants. We have seen situations like Tyrrelstown where vulture funds have bought up swathes of property and then evicted people almost immediately. We are trying to stop that happening. It is important that tenants are not only allowed to stay but that they stay as part of the private-rented sector. I hope the Minister of State will be open to accepting these amendments.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will deal with the amendments in one go. On security of tenure, including the termination of tenancies for the purpose of sale, the strategy, as I said earlier, will examine all options to improve security of tenure for tenants. This will include scope for a move to indefinite leases to replace the Part 4 four-year tenancy and incentives for landlords to waive their right to terminate a tenancy in the event of the sale of a property. For that reason, we cannot accept amendments Nos. 26 to 29, inclusive, as they pre-empt the proposals in the strategy relating to security of tenure. I went through a lot of that earlier and will not go back through the whole thing again. As I said, the strategy will be a toolkit to deal with the various issues. I ask Members to please wait for a couple of weeks, although it is up to them.

  Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 propose to reduce the number of dwellings in the Tyrrelstown amendment from 20 to five or 20 to ten, respectively. We have not been of that view that these should be accepted, but to be fair it is an issue all sides are raising. Report Stage is on Tuesday and it is something we can look at between now and Tuesday. The whole idea was that anything above 20 was definitely in the medium to large area. We can look at the figures around the five or ten before Tuesday. I am not promising to accept the proposals but we will take a real look at it and come back to the House before Report Stage on Tuesday given that it is an issue most Members are raising. We acknowledged that the amendment proposed was limited in scope, but that it was right to send some message to the market in that regard. We want to deal with this in the overall rental strategy also. We do not want a repeat of what happened in Tyrrelstown.

  Amendments Nos. 32 to 37, inclusive, relate to the exemption in the Tyrrelstown amendment. Amendment No. 32 proposes to delete section 33A entirely. Amendment No. 35 proposes to delete that part of the provision relating to hardship. Amendment No. 36 proposes to remove the words "undue unfairness". We then look at the breakdown. Section 30 relates to constitutional issues in respect of property rights due to the restrictions in place in circumstances where landlords seek to sell a property. There are a couple of issues we can look at there in terms of the wording of the amendments on Report Stage. Amendments No. 33 and 34 relate to the figure from 30% to 40% and I am not accepting them. To make them would not be fair. We will listen to the arguments again on Report Stage but we are not on for accepting them now or for lifting that figure. The figure of 5% is quite high. I understand that it is argued that the daft.ie report showed an average of 10% or 12% but that is probably over the last year. I am not sure it would be as easy to show a 20% loss as Senator Higgins thinks but we might listen to the argument again on Report Stage. We will look at it over the weekend. We will also look at the wording.

  Amendment No. 37 relates to the definition of "market value" for the purposes of the section and proposes that it be determined by an independent State body. I am not accepting the amendment because where a tenant is served with a notice of termination under the section and does not believe the exemption in sections 3A or 3B applies, he or she may refer a dispute to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. The board is an independent statutory body with quasi-judicial powers. Any order made by an adjudicator may be appealed to a tribunal which holds an oral hearing for that purpose. The tenancy may not be terminated during the dispute process. No other body could provide such a robust and independent assessment of the market value of a dwelling in these circumstances and, as such, I do not propose to accept the amendment. In short, it is unnecessary, which I hope people understand.  The Private Residential Tenancies Board is quite sufficient to do that job.

  Amendment No. 39 would require compensation to be paid to tenants where their tenancies are terminated. If compensation were to be granted in these cases, assuming lawful notification and all other requirements had been met by the landlord, there would seem to be no reason a tenant in a Tyrrelstown situation should receive compensation while a tenant in any other tenancy where the Tyrrelstown situation did not apply should not also be eligible to be compensated if a tenancy were terminated on the ground of sale of property. In other words, the measure would be unfair on other tenants. As such, I cannot accept this amendment. It is not something that one could have for every tenant, so it would not be fair to bring it in for anybody. We are not prepared to accept that amendment.

  On the other suggestions, we will look at tightening up the exemptions around that and the wording. We will come back to the Senator before Report Stage on Tuesday next, if that is okay.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Reilly must be brief.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will be brief. I thank my Seanad colleague, Senator Coffey, for allowing me in. I wanted to speak to amendments Nos. 30 and 31.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am afraid Senator Reilly will not have time.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will not speak to them. I merely want to mention I support-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator can only add a sentence or two. It is 6 o'clock.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Sorry, with respect, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, if you do not interrupt me, I will be one minute. If you keep interrupting me, we will be standing here for five minutes, back and forth.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will not, because I am in the Chair, it is 6 o'clock and I am going to the Order of Business as agreed by the House.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will be standing and you will be sitting. All I want to say is that I very much appreciate the sentiment behind this, that tenants need security and they should not be victims of the sale of properties. We understand and accept that there those who buy properties, and I object to some of the language used by Sinn Féin Senators earlier when they spoke about this being a class issue. If one considers two retired nurses who invest in a home for one of their children later in life and a bit an investment in terms of their pension to be a class set aside, I reject that out of hand.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Hear, hear.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly There are many who, because of the paucity of their pensions, look to pensions in houses. I want to see and hope the Minister of State will consider some reduction in the number of 20 units, but I would not tie his hands.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan As it is now 6 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Seanad of this day: "That amendment No. 26 is hereby negatived, that section 28 is hereby agreed to, that the Government amendments undisposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that the Schedule, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that the Title is hereby agreed to, and that the Bill, as amended, is hereby accordingly reported to the House."

Question put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 9.

Níl
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Maura Hopkins and Gabrielle McFadden; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh..

Question declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Next Tuesday evening.

  Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 29 November 2016.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Next Tuesday at 11.30 a.m.

  The Seanad adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 November 2016.


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