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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 985 No. 4

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Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Climate change, air quality, environmental matters are at the top of the agenda for debate, particularly the proposal for a national smoky fuel ban, which is a live issue and rightly so. Approximately 28% of the population of the country experience fuel poverty and they need to be adequately protected. I suggest on this day of recess that the Minister consider substantially increasing the fuel allowance in the next budget. I also suggest that the VAT differential between the 8% on coal in the South versus the 5% in Northern Ireland would make substantial savings, particularly if the Government is contemplating introducing a carbon tax, which would cause further problems.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy should watch the clock.

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach There would be substantial savings, which could be made available to address fuel poverty.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have got the point.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This is a budgetary issue and the decision will be made at budget time.

Deputy John Brassil: Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil This is the fourth time I have asked this question since the start of the year. It relates to the wind farm guidelines that have been promised month in month out. On the previous three occasions I requested them, I was told it would be a matter of weeks. We are now approaching the summer recess. Is the Tánaiste able to give an update on when the guidelines are due to be published?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher On the same issue I call Deputy Troy.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Tánaiste will remember that a week before he moved from his previous role as Minister with responsibility for housing and planning he issued, to great fanfare, a press release stating the wind energy guidelines would be announced within weeks. That is more than two years ago. As my colleague has rightly identified, communities are still awaiting the new updated wind energy guidelines. At a time climate change is such an issue and we must embrace renewable energy, will the Tánaiste or the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government clearly outline when communities can expect the announcement of the new wind energy guidelines and when can communities affected by the erection of solar panel farms expect the announcement on the guidelines and regulations for those?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call the Tánaiste for a brief response on wind energy guidelines.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney When I announced we were close to agreeing the guidelines, it was agreeing them for consultation and there has been a consultation process since then. My understanding is that the Minister, Deputy Murphy, is very close to announcing a finalisation of those guidelines.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy After two years.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A statutory process is required.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Danny Healy-Rae on the programme for Government and promised legislation.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae The protection of farmers income is written into the programme for Government. The Tánaiste is the very man who back in 2013 advised dairy farmers to increase production. As he knows, at most 20% of calves are kept for replacement. The rest of the dairy bred calves go into beef production. At that time, the Tánaiste told people to increase production and now the Government is advising beef farmers to reduce production and plant forestry. At the same time, the Government will allow Brazilians to import beef into the European Union. How can the Government reconcile this? How can it explain to farmers that four or five years ago it told them to increase production and now it is telling them to decrease production? It is not as simple as turning on or off a tap.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have had statements on this.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae These people have invested hundreds, thousands and millions of euro in their farms.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will have to review all of this in the next session.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Yes but I ask the Tánaiste to explain this because this is what the Government is doing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The relevant Ministers were here yesterday.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae It is as simple as this. Thousands of farmers came from throughout the country yesterday to ask the Government to stand with them and support them. I ask the Tánaiste whether he will leave our beef farmers fade away and be driven out of existence. We need the Government to unite and say "No" to this trade agreement. It is harmful to our beef industry and will finish it. We are looking to the Tánaiste and the Government to come out with a clear statement saying "No" to it on behalf of the beef farmers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will vote on this in a while. We had a debate and we will vote on it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am not quite sure what the first questioner is looking for the Government to do. He seems to be suggesting we should reimpose milk quotas-----

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae No such thing. The Government is trying to con the farmers.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney -----which would be absolute nonsense. The Government has been, and will continue to be, supportive of farmers and agriculture. There has been much opportunity for debate on the potential Mercosur deal in the past two days. We have a more immediate focus with regard to protecting the beef industry in particular through the Brexit process which, of course, is a big responsibility for me and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I can tell the Deputies that agriculture and farming are big priorities for the weeks and months ahead.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Brian Stanley, who I know will be brief.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Diversification of Bord na Móna is mentioned on page 126 of the programme for Government. A total of 150 Bord na Móna workers face redundancy this year. Some of them have been made redundant. This morning, workers in Longford found out that 150 of them will be let go on a temporary basis over the next week. This is a serious situation. We are moving from brown to green and everybody accepts this must happen. The people in Laois, Offaly and Longford come from hard-working communities with a good work ethic. Many of them worked in Bord na Móna and I worked there myself. We now need to move to this transition. We are trying to play catch-up.

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

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Where will the jobs be in counties Laois, Offaly and Longford? Workers and the communities in which they live want to know this . Where are the plans for biomass supply chains? Where are the plans for major biogas and renewable energy industries? Where are the training programmes for the thousands of workers needed for the new low energy carbon build and for retrofitting?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher That is possibly a parliamentary question but if the Minister wants to make a brief intervention, he can do so.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I have given a pretty long answer to that question but perhaps the Minister wants to come in.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Deputy is moving from our brief to greener fields in agriculture but the climate action plan has set out many of the issues he has raised with regard to how we will develop renewables. Bord na Móna has been leading the field not only with regard to renewables but in recycling and new sectors. It is a very powerful agency and is using its resources to develop new opportunities in a decarbonised world. The Government will be behind those efforts.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The programme for Government includes a commitment to improve services and increase support for people with disabilities. Some time ago, I raised the concerns of people with visual impairments in Dún Laoghaire regarding the possible closure of the NCBI office. The commitment made by the Government at the time that the services would all be retained and in no way eroded has not been met. The drop in service is effectively gone since the central administrator was in there. Many of the other services on which the visually impaired community relied upon in the Dún Laoghaire office are gone. If we ring the Dún Laoghaire office now, we get an answer in Dundalk. I do not expect the Tánaiste to know about this but I expect him to look into it because a clear commitment was given to the visually impaired community that the staffing changes would not result in an erosion or deterioration of services for them by the Government.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will get the relevant Minister to come back to the Deputy on it.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis As the Tánaiste may recall, legislation was introduced by the Government to transfer people from rent supplement to the housing assistance payment, HAP. People are finding it impossible to find a HAP property or even get their landlord to sign up for one. The Department has taken the decision to stop rent supplement payments until a HAP application has been signed up to and approved. I know of a good number of cases in which rent supplement has been withheld for months, which is putting families under threat as well as making them homeless. We need to stop this practice urgently. I am sure the Tánaiste will agree there have been unforeseen consequences as a result of the legislation because people in the welfare sector are interpreting it in this way.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is the Tánaiste in a position to answer the question?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I would like to hear a bit more about it and perhaps I can come back to the Deputy on it. The idea of shifting people from rent supplement to the HAP was to provide more security. I see Members shaking their heads. HAP is a much better system for tenants and landlords than rent supplement.


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