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 Header Item Bord na Móna (Continued)
 Header Item Vulnerable Persons Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 974 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton] It will be working with local authorities and taking on board ideas which come forward from them. It will also be working with local enterprise offices and the midlands regional skills fora to develop initiatives. In turn, these can be enabled through the €1 billion rural development regeneration fund and regional enterprise funds from Enterprise Ireland.

Bord na Móna is envisaging the development of tech hubs and enterprise centres which could create opportunities. An application to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund will be prepared with the trade unions and Bord na Móna to draw on that source.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley The key issue is that we do not want the midlands to become the rust belt of Ireland. Last week, when I met Bord na Móna’s chief executive officer, Mr. Tom Donnellan, and some of his staff, he outlined how the company has plans for waste to energy, horticulture and aquaculture. Bord na Móna has a site on the ring road in Tullamore. There is the Cúil na Móna site used by AES Waste Collection Services, a Bord na Móna company. It is located at the Togher intersection at Portlaoise, literally at the crossroads of Ireland.

I am glad to hear that the Government will make an application to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. We also we need to look at the current subsidies for the burning of peat that are due to be phased out. In the context of the climate action fund, €500 million has been earmarked under the national development plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bord na Móna has a big part to play, not just in the midlands but also nationally, in moving towards a green, renewable and sustainable economy.

Deputy Martin Heydon: Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon I thank the Minister for his reply and welcome the confirmation that an application will be made to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. In many ways, the change in structure of a firm of this size is the equivalent of the closure of coal mines in Wales in the 1980s. It will have a big impact across the midlands, particularly in Kildare where so many of Bord na Móna’s staff are located.

For the past 85 years, Bord na Móna did not just generate power for homes and villages, it also created employment. Having met the company’s chief executive recently, I was heartened to hear of the ambition the company has for its future. What supports will the Department give to the company as it seeks to fulfil its ambition to become the largest renewables company in the country? It is focusing on its greatest asset, its landbanks, and on aquaculture and other aspects. How can Bord na Móna secure a portion of the climate action fund to support many of the jobs which will be developed in the green sector?

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome his statement to the effect that the ESB will proceed with the planning applications to which I referred in the coming weeks. We look forward to that because it guarantees the remaining workforce in the peat harvesting area meeting expected demands. The blueprint for such permissions was set and a precedent was created with the Edenderry application, which was eventually successful in the courts in recent years.

I also welcome the commitment to apply to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for specific targeting in the midlands region. The Minister said that the board, various local authorities and others can make applications to existing financing arms of the State, whether it is Enterprise Ireland, the rural regeneration programme and so forth. Will the Minister commit to a specific forum to deal with the offshoots of this decision and the ongoing transition that is taking place? Bord na Móna has been the driver of economic life in my county and those adjacent to it for 80 years. The effect will not only be on the workers and their families but also on communities and ancillary businesses and services offered in the region. They will be decimated unless there is a specific concerted effort to deal with this issue. That is why we want funding specifically targeted not only from the European globalisation fund but from the State, whether it is from the ring-fencing of revenue carbon tax revenues and the public service obligation saving that will be there from next year on.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton We have no intention of allowing the midlands to become a rust belt. I was the Minister who introduced regional action plans. It was the first time ever the State developed bottom-up regional enterprise plans for which we allocated €250 million in regional enterprise funds. That was the first time we had such a concerted approach. Under that, we have established an implementation committee for driving regional opportunities in the midlands. That is the vehicle we will use to work with Bord na Móna, which is a strong commercial State body with 80,000 ha of State lands, significant assets and experience, as well as a strong brand. There is a commitment to drive this forward.

We have the structures in place to address the needs. We have made funds available. The regeneration fund is €1 billion, the climate action fund is €500 million and the regional enterprise fund is €250 million. Every proposal will get a proper chance to be developed. Bord na Móna is doing exactly that. It is a powerful development agency with strong assets and best placed to drive this forward.

The creation of individual task forces does not add value when we have an implementation committee dedicated to the work of driving the midlands region forward. It has the leaders of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, along with all the key players and the private sector, driving those projects. That is the structure we need. They are tried and proven. We set a target of 14,000 jobs for the midlands region and that figure has been exceeded in the period.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen There has only been one IDA Ireland site visit to the midlands this year.

Vulnerable Persons Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am delighted to have the opportunity to debate the Vulnerable Persons Bill 2015, which I submitted quite some time ago. It was No. 1 in the lottery system but every second week at the business meeting it was not drawn. I thought it was stuck to the bottom of the raffle drum.

I thank Ms Sarah Ekada, who, while completing an internship with my office, was instrumental in the development of the Bill, along with David Mullins and my daughter, Triona. What is also remarkable about Ms Ekada is that although her family originally immigrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she has sought to advance at all times the welfare of our own most vulnerable citizens. Today, she cannot attend this debate as she is at a conference in France doing this very work. She is a person of deep faith with a commitment to human dignity and for that she is to be commended. She is a credit to her family.

Elder abuse is one of the most serious and vicious activities that can be perpetrated upon vulnerable persons. It often takes place in great secrecy, hidden even from other close members of the same family who may be unaware of what is taking place. We know parents want to help their children. They want to be able to assist them where possible, including financially.

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