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 Header Item Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011: From the Seanad (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn] Talented, intelligent and capable journalists got this wrong. They missed the key point for the people they are speaking to out there, which is around costs, that this Bill missed. Hopefully, we can reflect on this matter. We are coming to the conclusion of this Bill. It is welcome that we finally got it over the line, but the next Government needs to bring in real reform.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Liam Twomey): Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy David Stanton - the strategic importance and future of Ireland's only oil refinery in Whitegate, County Cork; (2) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the need for the Road Safety Authority to compile and monitor statistics on the operation of the penalty point system, especially with regard to drink-driving and dangerous driving; (3) Deputy Michelle Mulherin - the need for Pobal to provide additional funding to community service programme projects for 2016 in order to cover the increase in the minimum wage to €9.15 from 1 January 2016; (4) Deputy Joe Costello - the need to provide supports for Men's Sheds; (5) Deputy Regina Doherty - EirGrid's new sponsorship deal with Louth Meath FM radio; (6) Deputy Martin Ferris - the technical difficulties at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine preventing the processing of farm partnerships and access to the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme for those affected; (7) Deputy Pat Breen - the measures being taken to protect homes and property along the River Shannon in Springfield, Clonlara and surrounding areas in south-east Clare due to flooding and the release of waters from the Parteen Weir; (8) Deputy Clare Daly - the systemic problems in An Garda Síochána as revealed in the latest Garda Inspectorate report; (9) Deputy Brendan Smith - the need for the Minister to outline the progress in the introduction of adequate measures to support survivors and victims' families following the disappointment expressed by victim representative groups after the Fresh Start agreement; (10) Deputy Paul Murphy - the need to review the tendering process for awarding State contracts, given recent press reports on the senior alerts scheme; (11) Deputy Mick Wallace - the latest Garda Inspectorate report; (12) Deputy Dara Calleary - the need for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to discuss the increase in SME credit application rejections; (13) Deputy Niall Collins - the need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to update the House on the Garda Inspectorate report, Changing Policing in Ireland; and (14) Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice - the need for preventive measures, including the dredging and cleaning of rivers, across the west of Ireland to alleviate the problems and distress caused to home owners, businesses, farmers and road users by severe flooding.

The matters raised by Deputies David Stanton, Joe Costello, Brendan Smith and Martin Ferris have been selected for discussion.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The impact of the flooding continues to be devastating for many households, farmers and communities across the countries and there have been many complaints about a basic lack of preparedness for events of this kind. It is fair to say that storms and floods of this ferocity are happening with greater frequency and we need to prepare better as a country for such events. We need to respond better and to accelerate urgently, in particular, the installation of flood relief protection schemes across the country. In short, we need a comprehensive, co-ordinated and sustainable response and there have been many complaints across the country that it is not there. Bandon and Ballinasloe, in particular, stand out. Ballinasloe was told that the 2009 flood was a once in 100 year event and they now know that is not the case. We learned yesterday that the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, has sought a 15-strong expert long-range flood warning unit within Met Éireann at a cost of €2.5 million but the obvious question is, "Why not 12 months or two years ago?" The Taoiseach himself stated in 2012 that such a unit was needed and clearly it was not done.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Taoiseach should up his game.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The biggest issue where we really need a game-changer in terms of policy change is in insurance cover for flood risk areas. It is a key issue for businesses, homes and farmers. This is the fourth time since 2009 that flooding of this nature has occurred and many are no longer insured or cannot get any insurance.

In 2013, the United Kingdom Government, along with the insurance sector, agreed to develop a not-for-profit scheme, Flood Re, to allow flood insurance to remain widely affordable and available while allowing a sustainable transition to risk-reflective pricing over 25 years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl A question, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That was followed up by the Water Act 2014 which put legislative flesh on that bone. The UK Government's preferred option was to ensure the continued availability of flood insurance to households at risk of flooding across the United Kingdom, and it responded in kind. The fundamental question is if this Government has had any engagement with the insurance sector on such a scheme and if it will now commit to replicating the UK Government's approach to insurance in flood areas which would reflect the proactive, co-ordinated and comprehensive response that I mentioned earlier.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Clearly, the impact of a flood in any household or business is devastating. As everybody will be aware, it ruins property and destroys people's care and attention and pride for their houses and businesses. That goes without saying.

The situation has brought about an enormous community response. For its part, the national co-ordination committee has been meeting for the past number of weeks. The warning was relayed in good time in this case and there had been a co-ordination of community, Civil Defence, Garda, local authorities, Office of Public Works and others, and now the Irish Red Cross, visible all over the country in terms of the assistance that is being given.

The latest is that the Defence Forces have responded to all requests received from the principal response agencies. That has involved a deployment to eight counties comprising over 200 Army personnel, 34 vehicles and an Air Corps helicopter. The Minister of State, Deputy Harris, is available to speak about the issues of the past, the immediate response and the projections for the future in terms of schemes under construction, schemes under design and the timescales envisaged in all of these. The Minister of State goes to Bandon next week. I expect he will bring the Irish Red Cross personnel with him-----

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish He should go to Galway as well.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I will.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----have a meeting with the business people in Bandon-----

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae He should come to Kerry as well.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----and talk about the issues there. Obviously, as Deputy Martin will be aware, there were legal objections to the tendering process. Those are now cleared and the funding is in place for that scheme to go ahead in 2016, and I expect that to be adhered to. I expect the Minister of State to travel to other locations, including Galway and Crossmolina, the week after to bring the projected designs for what is envisaged there, meet the people and discuss what can happen now and for the medium term.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Government yesterday made a decision to put €5 million upfront in respect of the business premises that are flooded and within the context of the Office of Public Works flood areas. The Department of Defence is co-ordinating this with the Irish Red Cross. That is actually happening today and I hope that there will be a structure in place that will allow-----

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae We would want detailed planning.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----for prompt payments to be made here based on assessments of the damage. Clearly, with the Shannon continuing to rise, and other difficulties for bridges, roads, etc., there are issues that cannot be assessed until it clears.

  Finally, I am aware of the situation in Britain. Flood Re is a not-for-profit operation. It has been focused on by the British Government for quite some time. I am not sure-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I am sorry, we are over time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----whether it is as successful as people might have imagined but it is something that we would like to look at here. Business people who had insurance or who did not have insurance, even behind flood defences where they are working in Clonmel, Mallow or Fermoy, still cannot get insurance, and obviously that is an issue. That is why in this case we would like €5 million to be made available for businesses that have been flooded and have had this brought to them shortly before Christmas.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I mean no disrespect, but the Taoiseach's reply confirms my basic point about the lack of preparation, urgency and any co-ordinated and comprehensive response. The centrepiece of my question was an insurance scheme similar to that introduced by the United Kingdom with the British insurance sector which would provide long-term sustainable insurance cover for households, families and businesses in flood risk areas. Despite the fact that we have had increasing storms of greater severity than we have ever had previously more regularly, all the Taoiseach can say now is that he would like to look at it. I asked if the Taoiseach has engaged with the insurance sector on such a scheme for Ireland and why we have not seen it. The legislation was passed in 2014.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath On the Minister of State's watch.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is the Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Would Deputy Martin put his question, please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is the legislation. The point is the British Government went at this much earlier than anything we have seen from this Government.


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