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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy] This is catastrophic. It is not a friendly deal or environmentally friendly. It will clear out small farming families. The Government must face down this deal.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Taoiseach has given a commitment on behalf of the Government to produce an economic evaluation of the Mercosur deal. Will he follow the example of French President Macron to include an assessment of the environmental impact of this trade deal? Such an evaluation would expose the fact that the carbon footprint of Irish suckler beef is 35 times less than that of beef produced in the Amazon basin in Brazil. This is a bad deal for rural Ireland and for global climate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The answer to both the Deputies' questions is "Yes" on both accounts. We currently have a political agreement between the EU and Mercosur. It will be about two years before we have a legal text. We will have an opportunity to vote on it but I certainly will not hesitate to vote against any trade agreement that I believe is not in Ireland's economic interest and will form alliances to block it if possible. Whatever happens, we will do everything we can to ensure that the interests of Irish beef farmers are protected. That means making sure that South American beef producers have to meet the same food safety and traceability standards that our farmers do, ensuring that South American countries have to honour their commitments to climate change under the Paris Agreement and compensating farmers for the loss of a market, perhaps by opening up other market opportunities in places such as Japan, Mexico and China. We will do a full economic and environmental assessment on the consequences of the Mercosur deal, recognising the fact that this is a market of 250 million people and while there may be losses for some sectors, there could be significant benefits for others. We need to look at that in the round.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Earlier this morning, the Taoiseach said that his preference was for Irish people to own their own homes and that he supported that. I do not know how he can match that to his complete disregard for the 3,200 family homes that are now being sold to vulture funds by Ulster Bank and the 400 buy-to-let homes also included. These are families that tried to set out to do what the Taoiseach suggested and buy their own homes. They have been restructured on a number of occasions. The Government is not offering those families any support with regard to the restructure that is now required as they are sold to vulture funds. What he said this morning about the protections in terms of the home travelling with the loan is simply not true in practice. The Taoiseach knows this, yet he will not introduce his own legislation to provide that protection. He dismissed the leader of Sinn Féin this morning about Deputy Pearse Doherty's No Consent, No Sale Bill. The Taoiseach could order that Bill to be before this House today if he so wished. The time has come for the Taoiseach to examine the legislation that is there and to bring legislation forward.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Last week, the CEO of a vulture fund told its investors that Ireland is the gift that keeps on giving. By God did they get another gift yesterday when Ulster Bank announced that it was selling nearly 4,000 homes, including 3,200 family homes. There are up to 10,000 real people in those homes whose loans are now being sold to a vulture fund. The Taoiseach simply does not understand what happens when a loan goes to a vulture fund. I stood here and told him what happened with the last sale to a vulture fund by Ulster Bank. The fund sent letters to loan owners to tell them that they had to clear all of their loans, the €200,000 or €300,000, within 30 days. Banks do not do that. Vulture funds do because they only have a short-term interest. The Taoiseach said that he cannot dictate the pace of my legislation, the No Consent, No Sale Bill. Is it not true that the Taoiseach and the Government are doing their damnedest to try to block that using the mechanism of the money message? The Taoiseach's Government has facilitated this sale. The Fine Gael Government met the vulture funds 125 times. These are the same vultures that refused to come before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, to answer the questions of parliamentarians elected on behalf of the Irish people. The Taoiseach needs to act now. We need to stop this type of sale to vulture funds and to protect homeowners who need the protection of the State.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I would be happy to answer the Deputies' questions and charges if I am permitted to do so. The vast majority of people in Ireland own their own home. Approximately 68% of Irish people own their home and I want that to be a reality for people in their 20s and 30s too. That is why our housing policy is all based on the concept of home ownership, increasing supply and allowing people to acquire their own home which would be their home and private property. If a loan is sold on, the person continues to retain the same contractual and consumer rights as he or she had before. We should not scare people by claiming the opposite.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Not in practice and not before the courts either.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We have to consult with the Central Bank about the legislation that the Deputies mention.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty It has already been done.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There is a real concern, which should be recognised in this House, that as is so often the case, well-intentioned legislation can be counterproductive. The result might be the shutting down of mortgage lending in the State, making it harder for young people to get a mortgage for the first time.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness That is rubbish.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Nobody has even suggested that.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach should be allowed to speak without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It would cause mortgage interest rates to rise for others.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Taoiseach keeps meeting the vultures.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty It is about time that the Taoiseach stood up for all the people.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is a real risk in such legislation.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Scaremongering.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness That is rubbish.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is well-intentioned legislation that actually hurts many people, making it harder for them to get a loan in the first place. It increases interest rates for those who already have a loan. Once again, when the truth is spoken in this House, they cannot take it.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Taoiseach keeps on rolling out the red carpet for the vultures.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Taoiseach is sacrificing ordinary Irish families who try to do their best to make payments to these banks.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Doherty is being disorderly. I call Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae The construction industry has called on the State's environmental watchdog to reclassify for recycling and reuse of demolition rubble that comes from building sites. There is no place in Cork to process crushed concrete. The nearest licensed facility is in Waterford. The Construction Industry Federation, CIF, is asking the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to reclassify crushed concrete to give the industry the option to reuse and recycle the material in a more environmentally friendly way. These products should be reused as an aggregate on existing projects but this is not easy as the current interpretation of regulations does not allow for that. It is allowed in other EU countries. Can we not do the same as other EU countries? It would help the construction industry and would be of benefit to all concerned.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Deputy will know that the EPA is independent in its evaluation of such matters but I am sure that it will give due attention to the request by the CIF and I will get a reply for the Deputy.

Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony This question is for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Taoiseach might ask him to get back to me about it. I am looking for the results of the public consultation on the new pilot quota balancing scheme for fishing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is an important issue. I will see the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine tomorrow morning and will ask him to contact Deputy Murphy O'Mahony with a reply.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins The programme for Government addresses insulation of homes in the section under climate change and the environment. People who receive fuel allowance, and those meeting other criteria, can have their homes insulated under the warmer homes scheme. With just half the year gone, the budget for insulation of homes has been totally used up. This scheme is very important to the people of west Cork and throughout the country to help them to cut down on the use of fossil fuels when their homes are insulated. Will this Government provide funding for the much-needed scheme so that it can continue until the end of the year for the rest of the waiting list and so we can meet our environmental targets?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton This is a free scheme, so everyone who applies can be considered. It has not used up its budget but nonetheless there is no doubt that there are pressures on the funding and it has to manage its resources carefully to stay within budget. It is a very popular scheme because it is 100% funded by the State. As the Deputy knows, the Government is considering, as part of its climate action plan, an approach that would look at the aggregation of a number of properties so that we would have a better area-based and easier to use scheme in future.


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