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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 8

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is over time and I am going to have to object to that.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me because he knows this is also a very important issue outside his own door.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Our role as politicians and policymakers needs to be around how we debate, prepare for and implement legislation and policy. We should not get into the realm of individual planning decisions. That is what planners are there for in terms of the professionalism they show at local authority level and, ultimately, at An Bord Pleanála level should appeals be taken. I caution against this. There are many public representatives involved in objecting to certain planning decisions but we should leave planning decisions to planners. Of course, we need to ensure the legislation and policy direction they get is appropriate to the challenges we face in rural and urban Ireland and we are trying to do this now. The approach towards policy on height in Dublin and other cities is changing appropriately to the challenges of a modern, sustainable and growing city. Likewise in rural Ireland, we need to make sure the balance right between the capacity and ability of individuals who have concerns and objections to be able to voice them and for them to be fairly considered but also to ensure we can allow the right type of development to proceed in a timely manner.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney At the moment, the balance is pretty close to being right but new legislation is being brought forward that I hope will add to the discussion and improve the legislation even further.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This week, Ministers are travelling the globe promoting Ireland and, in particular, promoting Irish tourism. I want to bring to the Tánaiste's attention a contradiction in that Dublin Port Company is developing a policy that will substantially reduce the number of cruise liners coming into the country. The cruise liner business is worth €50 million in revenue. It brings revenue to the retail and hospitality sectors, particularly in Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Other areas, such as Galway, are also anxious to develop it. If the capital is not on the itinerary these other locations will lose out significantly. Dublin Port has said it intends to reduce the number of ships allowed into Dublin from 160 this year to 80 in 2021. It is not good enough for the Government to say it is a matter for the port company. There has to be a cross-sectoral approach to policy for promoting tourism. We have Ministers all over the world asking people to come to Ireland but at the very same time a company of the State-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----is saying essentially it will not happen and it is going to undermine it. There is a way out of this-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The time is up, Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----but the Government must take a hand in it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call the Tánaiste.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I am asking, in the context of the programme for Government, what the Government's response to this will be.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am very familiar with this issue. It has been raised with me by multiple sources. We have managed to build a cruise liner tourism product in Ireland that has resulted in significant expansion in recent years. We have invested in smaller harbours, such as Killybegs and Dingle, and have attracted a lot of interest from cruise liner traffic in recent years. As Deputy Martin knows, Cork will probably have more than 100 cruise liners this year. Last year, I believe 167,000 people visited the Cork area from cruise liners and we had all the crew on top of this. The figure last year was approximately 80 ships. It is true to say other ports, whether Belfast, Cork, Killybegs, Dingle or wherever, are reliant on Dublin being a significant draw as a capital city and the cruise liners then move to other cities and ports around the island of Ireland. The indication from Dublin Port that it is looking to limit cruise liner traffic in the years ahead is a big worry in terms of the overall strategy on cruise liner tourism. It is something I will raise with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Does he know where Dublin Port is?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I do not want to speak for Dublin Port Company because it needs to make commercial decisions itself.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Tánaiste. The time is up.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It has pressures it is responding to and, in the context of Brexit, doing so in an extraordinarily efficient way. It had capacity issues it needs to take into account.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Sorry Tánaiste, the time is up.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In this context, as a shareholder of Dublin Port Company, there does need to be a conversation.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin More than a conversation.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane Earlier, I asked whether the Government is considering establishing a Brexit stabilisation fund and I want to ask the question again. It is important that we use all available resources of the State to ensure we protect the Irish economy and ensure businesses, exporters and farmers are protected. We have called for a €2 billion Brexit stabilisation fund and we state it should come from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the rainy day fund. Some trade unions and others have called for a similar fund. It is necessary to ensure additional financial supports are put in place to support sectors of the economy that are vulnerable to Brexit. Two things are needed. The Government must step up to the plate financially with a Brexit stabilisation fund and the European Union needs to complement this with additional financial supports and an easing of state aid rules. The Tánaiste did not answer these questions earlier. Will he commit to the establishment of such a fund in the State? Will he outline to the House precisely what the European Commission is looking at with regard to additional supports and state aid?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The question probably needs a more detailed answer than I will be allowed to give now. At the start of the week, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, gave a very detailed statement on the predicted financial impact on the Irish Exchequer of a no-deal Brexit. What he clearly indicated is we will need to borrow money in that instance. We may well have to dip into a rainy day fund and we will have to work in partnership with the European Commission to protect vulnerable sectors that are exposed in the context of a no-deal Brexit and the type of tariff regime that could be imposed, as we saw this morning.

To simplify this into a Brexit stabilisation fund out of which all of those sectors will pull is probably to oversimplify it. What will happen instead is the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will negotiate with the key Departments packages that are necessary for their sectors, particularly agriculture. The Minister, Deputy Creed, is sitting beside me and I know the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has, for a number of weeks, been engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on how this would work.

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I reassure the Deputy and many of the vulnerable sectors this is something the Government has put a lot of thought into and we will turn it into action. It will cost money and it may well result in Ireland going back into deficit rather than staying in surplus should that be necessary but it would be wrong at this stage to raise expectations in terms of the amount of money we are speaking about.

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is a significant challenge but a challenge it will be necessary to follow through on.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will not get through everyone if we do not stick to the one minute allowed.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin In the past, I advised the establishment of a retired pensioners' alliance that would feed into public sector pay talks. This would bring together retired pensioners from throughout the Civil Service and public service. When public sector pay talks and negotiations take place there is no formal input by retired pensioners. In fact, trade unions do not normally represent them. Anomalies have arisen for various public sector pensioners in the context of the round of pay restoration and the most recent FEMPI legislation and this inequity needs to be addressed. In the context of the public sector pay stability agreement expiring at the end of next year, will the Government give access to the Alliance of Retired Public Servants to future pay talks? More pressingly, will the Tánaiste raise with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the need to address now with the alliance anomalies that most people in the House would like to see addressed?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I hear what the Deputy is saying but because there is no trade union representation it is difficult to facilitate a structured engagement that would be equivalent to that which existing recognised trade unions have. There are other mechanisms to allow sectors that do not have trade union representation to input into the process in parallel with the formal negotiations that go on. Whether this is a way to facilitate what the Deputy is looking for I am not quite sure. I would like the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, to address this in a bit more detail rather than me winging it here. Having been in the Department of Defence I know there are other mechanisms through which interests can be represented in the context of public sector pay negotiations and considerations.


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