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 Header Item Credit Unions (Continued)
 Header Item Water Services Infrastructure
 Header Item Housing Provision

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English] To be very clear-----

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

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English This is an important point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will be back to the Minister of State.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien That is a different answer from the one the Minister of State gave me before.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It is exactly the same.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien It is not.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Deputy should check the record. I have checked it but the Deputy obviously has not checked it.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I will check the record. I actually asked the Minister of State to correct it before and he got very annoyed the last time I said that.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I have nothing to correct.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Minister of State is saying that the work is completed now, not that it is up and running or effective. This is obviously not a policy priority for Government. The Minister of State is contradicting himself. The Minister could answer the question too but he seems to have delegated his responsibility for that to his Minister of State because, effectively, Government has said that creating a special purpose vehicle is for the credit unions. Flatly contradicting that, however, is the fact that it has over the years engaged public money to assist the Irish Council for Social Housing to do what it says is up to the credit unions. Does the Minister of State see at any stage this year when money will be invested through an SPV to provide social housing? When he talks about providing any assistance in that regard, I have kept this on the agenda because it had fallen off the Government agenda and nothing was being done about it.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It has absolutely not fallen off our agenda. Deputy O'Brien does not like the answers to the questions and keeps trying to phrase them differently every time and tries to insinuate that I misled the House. I have absolutely nothing to change on the record. I have been very clear in saying one of the credit union bodies is ready to do this. Everything is in place. It can switch it on literally overnight once a body wants to draw down the money. I said to the Deputy last September that a credit union body had a special purpose vehicle ready to go, and it does. The Deputy might not like that but it is ready to go when a housing body wants to draw it down.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien That is a different answer.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I cannot be any clearer. That is a fact, it is true and I have no record to change. It is ready for business if a body wants to use it.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien It would be great if that was the truth.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The other section is where we grant-aided money through an innovation fund to the sector along with the credit union movement to bring forward a special purpose vehicle. It is to encourage innovation. We are not dictating to it how it develops that special purpose vehicle because we would not be allowed to do that, nor would it be appropriate. The Deputy seems to fail to understand that. I cannot work it out in the Deputy's head but that is the reality of it.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I understand. The Minister of State does not seem to understand the urgency to provide a different stream of money to provide social housing rather than buying it from under the noses of young couples.

Water Services Infrastructure

 63. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the oversight or review role his Department has with respect to the Shannon to Dublin pipeline project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16677/19]

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath What oversight or review role does the Minister's Department have with respect to the Shannon to Dublin pipeline project and would he please make a statement on the matter?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels, including responsibility for Irish Water’s eastern and midlands water supply project. This project has been in development since the mid-1990s, originally under Dublin City Council and under Irish Water since January 2014. This will be the largest strategic national water supply project in generations and will service communities across a wide area. The project will, of course, be subject to the relevant planning and other environmental consent processes.

The Water Services Act 2013 requires the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, to provide consent for all commitments for capital expenditure above a certain threshold. This is a financial control and not a project consent. In this context, given the scale and importance of the eastern and midlands water supply project and recognising the statutory role of the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities as independent economic regulator of Irish Water, including its role in reviewing Irish Water’s capital investment plans, I have requested the commission to undertake a review to support my decision in relation to the major capital commitment consent that will be required closer to construction stage. The review has commenced and I expect to receive a report by the end of 2019.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I do not know if the Minister is getting any lessons or if he is in the slow class because today we have seen the report on the children's hospital. Some time ago I submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister seeking information on the proposed and projected cost of this pipeline to bring water through Tipperary to Dublin. I was told the Minister had no responsibility for this matter and that it was a matter for Irish Water, yet last February he asked the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, CRU, to carry out a review of the eastern and midlands water supply project under section 40 of the Water Services Act 2013. At that time he said he was doing this to enable the Department to have full consent for all the commitments for the capital expenditure above a certain threshold. On the one hand, the Minister seems to have no oversight of this project, and on the other, he needs to get the CRU to sign off on projects like this. Which is it? Cén scéal? I remind the Minister of another massive capital expenditure project that another Minister entrusted to the responsibility of another board, the national children's hospital. We know where that is.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I was not clear from the Deputy's follow-up question whether he supports the project or whether he thinks it is necessary.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is not. No.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy That is an important thing to know because it absolutely is necessary-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath So is the children's hospital.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy -----and perhaps attempts by the Deputy to undermine the project now that we have the motivation can be viewed in that light. Of course the CRU has a central role here and I have asked it to do a verification process to give further comfort to the different elements that are involved as part of the financial consents that will be given. I have already given consent for more than €40 million last year for the planning stage of the project, and I am in consultation on consent for additional money for 2019, up to an amount potentially of €60 million for further work that will be undertaken through the ministerial consent process for the project. There are several different consents in place between me and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform as the project goes through the various stages of lodging the planning application and consent to undertake the capital improvements and everything else. As we go through that process we review the different assumptions around the capital costs of the project.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath This pipeline has been described as one of the most important infrastructural projects in the history of the State. The Shannon-Dublin water pipeline will cost more than €1.2 billion, and if it is like the children's hospital, it will cost twice that. It is intended to supply 40% of Irish households unconnected with, and around, Dublin with water from the River Shannon by 2025. It will go into a leaking system that is leaking nearly 60% of the water. We should be in kindergarten. I do not deny the people of Dublin water and we are not mean spirited in Tipperary or in the Shannon region either. Fix the leaks. Sort out the water problem first.

Does the Minister have oversight or not? I tabled a parliamentary question and he said he has not. Now he says he has. This will be another national monument of embarrassment to the Minister and the Government for 2025. It will look for an extension to 2030 because it will still be leaking into the ground. Fix the leaks and preserve the very valuable resource of treated water. It is pointless pumping treated water into a creaking system. If the Minister was a householder with a well that was giving trouble and he could not keep running pumps to supply the water in the well, he would fix the leaks first, and very fast. This is public money and he can do what he likes with it with no accountability.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Deputy should please not use what has happened with the children's hospital to try to undermine a very important capital project. Based on the Deputy's logic, we would not make any more capital investments.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Accountability. The Minister is twisting it now. I want accountability.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy This project is not just for Dublin, but if it was, given the leakages that we know we have in Dublin, even if they were fixed, it would not give us the redundancy and contingency supply that we need. A total of 40% of the Liffey flow is taken into the water system. We need to reduce that. Of course we need to fix the leaks as well, but we need to think of the planned projections for populations that will come into the city and the need for between 10% and 15% headroom above what we will need to produce for that extra population.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There is no accountability.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy At the moment we have less than 1% headroom. In conjunction with the money that is being provided to fix the leaks in Dublin, which will happen and will take time----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath What year?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy -----we also need to have a new project for water supply and water security-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is worse than Mexico in Dublin.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy -----for the east and midlands.

Housing Provision

 64. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if legislation will be brought forward to declare statutorily a homeless and housing emergency in view of the homeless figures of more than 10,000 persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [16664/19]

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy Will the Minister bring forward legislation to declare statutorily a housing and homelessness emergency in view of the fact that homeless figures now exceed 10,000, including 3,780 children? Will he respond to the criticisms of Government housing policy by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, who said housing is stability, security, dignity and, crucially, housing is not a commodity.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is underpinned by more than €6 billion in funding to support the delivery of 50,000 new social housing homes and 87,000 other housing supports by 2021 while also making the best use of the existing housing stock and laying the foundations for a more vibrant housing sector. A significant number of initiatives continue to be implemented under the plan to address the range of complex and deep-seated issues in the housing sector arising from the economic downturn. These include the accelerated delivery of social and affordable housing as well as increased protections for those in the rental sector.


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