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Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 963 No. 3

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The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I do not mean this as a slap-down but, frankly, it would be helpful if people were not declaring victories on anything. This issue is going to divide households across the country and people should talk in a respectful tone about both sides of the argument in an effort to advance a consensus across the country that can result in a successful referendum. Of course the Government will prioritise and try to expedite legislation to facilitate the timeline the Taoiseach wants the Government to follow, which is to hold a referendum in May. That will be very tight, however, given the demands to put legislation in place and to get the balance right in that legislation, as well as the need to bring forward legislation to facilitate the establishment of a referendum commission and all the other things that must happen before a referendum can take place. As the Taoiseach said this week, the Government wishes to hold a referendum in May and we will work to that timetable.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, every Member and all the staff a happy Christmas.

I compliment the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, on working with the Rural Independent Group when we brought forward a motion on the fair deal scheme. I welcome the changes announced last night and thank the Government for incorporating them. However, they have not gone far enough. For farm families and self-employed business people, 100% of their assets apart from the house, the land or the business, is taken into the reckoning for the evaluation. It should be 10% as it is with the private houses of everybody else. It is discrimination against farm families and business people. We are seeking a meeting with the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to try to resolve this because it is the main issue. It will render farms and businesses unviable if the scheme continues assessing them at 90% for the three years. People will not be able to pay it. While I welcome the move, it will require further work. I thank Maura Canning of the IFA for all her input on this.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Primary legislation will be required in this area and the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, will have to bring it forward. There will be an opportunity for the Deputy to raise specific issues during the debate on that legislation next year, if and when it is brought forward.

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach The heads of the housing (regulation of approved housing bodies) Bill were approved in September 2015 and the pre-legislative scrutiny was completed in February 2016. There are over 6,500 people employed in housing bodies. Last year the housing bodies built 669 houses, while local authorities built 430 in the past 18 months. With the appointment of an independent regulator, does this legislation envisage proper synergies between the local authority housing departments and these bodies? There are 547 such bodies and, according to a reply I received to a parliamentary question, 13 of them are employing over 6,500 people. This has become an industry. I have thought long and hard about the problems with housing over my 25 years in local government. If we had 6,500 people working together with the diminished number of employees in the local authorities, many of the problems we have with housing would not exist.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher What is the question?

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Will the regulator provided for in the legislation be able to provide proper links between the local authorities and the housing organisations to ensure they are all working to deliver the houses that are required?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher What is the response to the question?

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach I wish to finish, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in the spirit of Christmas. Nobody spoke about the vacant houses around this country-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Santa will not be coming to some of your colleagues.

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach -----prior to my election to the Dáil. Now everybody is talking about them.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis That is not true.

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach It was talked about for 25 years but nothing was done about it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Please, Deputy. The Tánaiste should focus on the simple question on the independent regulator.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I cannot discuss the content of that legislation. However, there is a commitment to deliver new legislation, and much work has been done on it, to provide for standards and a proper register for approved housing bodies, AHBs. It is important to say-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher If we are going to expand the debate, I will end it in three minutes. Deputies can blame their colleagues and the Ministers, not me.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is a short comment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher No, I am being very fair. That is my problem, Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There is a role for local authorities and AHBs in delivering social housing. Many fantastic projects have been concluded in the last number of years through good AHBs. The legislation being brought forward is about standardisation and ensuring the AHB sector is properly regulated.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I wish to raise the lack of roll-out of broadband. This relates to the communications management agency Bill, which will provide for a single entity to manage the State's commercial communications contracts, including the national broadband plan contracts. This issue is an absolute mess, particularly in rural Ireland.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher A question, Deputy.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I will give a brief example from my parish-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher A question, Deputy. You are a national politician.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy -----where the 043 and the 071 lines meet half way. The 071 line is within 200 m of the end of the 043 line, but the six houses between them cannot get broadband. The Minister should not laugh at this.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am not laughing.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I am referring to the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton. He lives in the city. I live in rural Ireland where people do not have the service. People are moving their businesses from rural Ireland to the towns. It is not a laughing matter. I am aware that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, was opposed to decentralisation and everything else, so he does not have much time for rural people. He can keep smiling.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call the Tánaiste.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy There is a distance of 200 m within which six houses cannot get broadband. A young man who has a business there will have to move it or close it down. This is disgraceful. When will broadband be rolled out throughout the country?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Does the Tánaiste have the information?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I assure the Deputy that rural Ireland is a priority for the Government with regard to broadband and a range of other matters. I will ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, to contact the Deputy directly on the specific issue he raised.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I know I will get co-operation from Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Government has given a commitment to provide for the ability of refugees to work here, as was recommended by the Supreme Court. Can the Minister outline how he envisages that being introduced? When does he expect provisions to be put in place to allow refugees to work and what broad conditions will regulate it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Danny Healy-Rae tells me he has a question on the same issue. We will see.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae The Government committed to taking in 4,500 refugees. We are told that 55 men are being moved into Linden House on New Road in Killarney. There has been no consultation with the local authority or the Garda, whose station is on the same road. There are community schools and national schools, including the Presentation convent school and St. Brendan's College, on the same road. Some 55 men are being put into one house. There was uproar in the House after a television programme which highlighted large numbers of people staying in a single house in Dublin.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher What is the promised legislation?

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae The Minister of State with responsibility for this, Deputy Stanton, is present. Will he consult with the community, the Garda and the local authority or will he take this high-handed action without giving local people a say in what is happening?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I assure the Deputy that, in accordance with my practice, I will not give an answer that might be regarded as high-handed. The residence the Deputy refers to was closed in 2011. Consideration is now being given to re-opening it. I do not have details on the local issues involved but I will be happy to convey the Deputy's concerns that there should be an engagement with local public representatives.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae It does not have capacity for 55 men.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Please, Deputy Healy-Rae.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan On the broader issue raised by Deputy Eamon Ryan, the Government intends to have this matter resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Supreme Court by late spring next year. The Government has made a decision to facilitate the right to work of asylum seekers and applicants for refuge in the country.


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