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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] If there are problems for individual families regarding the transition from one to the other, then we need to understand that. I will get someone to respond to the Deputy on this issue.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis It is happening a lot now-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Ellis, please.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis -----because of the legislation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin. Please, Deputy Ellis-----

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis It is a very serious situation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We know that.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will follow up on it.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I am raising another serious situation. This morning I spoke to a number of apartment owners in Kildare who are being bullied and intimidated by property management companies. Apart from other issues, those owners are now being told that the maintenance fees they have to pay are being doubled. The problem is that there is a complete lack of regulation in this area. My colleague, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, introduced a Bill in this House dealing with the issue of property management companies. That Bill has passed Second Stage and provides for an ombudsman to be put in place for the 500,000 people whose properties are governed by management companies. That would help to bring resolution to disputes in this area. I know that there have been some meetings in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on this issue. This is a vital issue because as time goes on, we will have many more management companies overseeing multi-apartment buildings. I would really appreciate support on this issue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Minister is looking at this area and I will ask him to respond directly to Deputy O'Loughlin.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The Minister for Health recently signed legislation to allow the operation of the medicinal cannabis access programme on a pilot basis for five years. Unfortunately, some of those who have a licence for medicinal cannabis in Ireland still have to go through hoops to get reimbursed for the costs of the prescription. Parents are exhausted caring for children with special and exceptional needs. One family in Waterford, the Kehoes, are having to jump through hoops to try and get this payment made. We welcome the fact that this access programme is up and running but there are still some teething problems. I would appreciate the Tánaiste raising this matter with the Minister for Health.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Cullinane has a similar question. I ask him to be brief.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I want to reinforce the comments Deputy Butler made. Deputy Gino Kenny will also be raising this issue. We have all been contacted by this family. Some weeks ago the Minister for Health was helpful regarding the case of a different family in Waterford who had a similar problem concerning their child and getting money back under the compassionate access programme. These are children with severe epilepsy. The consultants in the hospital in Waterford, as well as the general practitioners, GPs, are recommending cannabis-based oil treatment. It is necessary for them to go to Holland and elsewhere to get the money but they are not being reimbursed. The family last week was reimbursed but this family has not been. This is the Kehoe family as Deputy Butler mentioned. I ask that the HSE look at this matter in a compassionate way.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny We finally had some good news last week concerning the medical cannabis access programme. This issue stems from a situation with the primary care reimbursement service. It is an arbitrary and, at worst, highly invidious system. Two weeks ago I raised with the Taoiseach issues being experienced by two families. I am referring to the Kelly and Stevens families. It is no coincidence that they were reimbursed the next day. It was because they had been forced to go public. The family whose situation we are concerned with today also has a heavy financial burden to bear. They can afford the costs of treatment for their child, Killian, in the short term but not in the long term. It is important that the Government intervenes.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I would be concerned if families were getting the supports they need solely because individual families have had to go public and get Deputies in this House to raise-----

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny It is true.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am not saying that it does not happen but it should not happen like that.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny I know but it is true.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This access programme is very new. It is only a couple of weeks old and the guidelines are only beginning to be understood by families and doctors. I am sure there will initially be issues that we need to address, perhaps politically. We want, however, to try to get to a point where families are getting the services, supports, and access to the treatments they need without having to publicly appeal for support. That is certainly what the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is working on. I will, however, relay this particular issue to him.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The programme for Government commits to improving the quality of life for our younger and older people in the most disadvantaged communities. We all know that these communities consist of wonderful people who are under great social and economic pressures. We also know that suicide is a major issue in our society. There is a particular cluster of suicides in Dundalk, in Cox's Demesne and Muirhevnamore. The Redeemer centre has asked Pobal to fund a community audit across north Louth to identify these issues. Will the Government support this approach for a community audit to identify the gaps in the current allocation of resources in Dundalk, as well as options for the future?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This sounds like a very real issue and I will get somebody from the Department to respond directly to the Deputy.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan The Tánaiste was previously the Minister in the Department responsible for planning and housing. There is an issue with planning around the country. Everybody is talking about getting more houses into the system. Individuals are seeking planning permission and are coming up against all sorts of regulations and hoops that they have to go through. Has the Government really looked at the planning process in the context of getting more houses built? I also want to raise the issue of frivolous referrals of planning applications to An Bord Pleanála, causing delays of six to eight months for the smallest of developments. After six months, perhaps, a letter is then issued stating that the decision date is being again deferred for a further two or three months. Has the Government closely examined this issue? There are many issues in the area of housing but this is one issue where the Government could do something if it was decisive and really examined this issue in detail. This matter is holding up development and holding up young couples getting roofs over their heads.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We have introduced new legislation on planning. There have been significant changes that are having positive results. The main change is a new direct fast-track planning system that goes straight to An Bord Pleanála for large-scale housing developments

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan What about small-scale developments?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That has delivered in spades, if Deputies will excuse the pun, regarding planning applications being successfully granted in the right places. There are ongoing issues and considerations but there also has to be an entitlement to offer objections and observations. There have to be rules, regulations, guidelines, zoning and so on. That provides limits but also places statutory responsibility on the State to ensure that we are building houses in the right places. I suspect that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, certainly keeps the kinds of issues raised by the Deputy under review all of the time.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins On page 86 of the programme for Government, the Government promised to support older people in their homes, as well as the home help service. The Health Service Executive, HSE, employee assistance programme provides short-term counselling and support for home help workers who have personal and work-related problems. This is a vital service for home helpers who work long hours, sometimes in difficult and demanding conditions. Those workers may also become emotionally attached to many of the clients they work for, sometimes for a long time. The loss of an elderly client after whom they have looked for a long time is an everyday part of the job but they may need bereavement counselling. There were two counsellors in west Cork but both have now retired. The nearest counselling service is now in Cork city. Will this Government restore the employee assistance program and provide appropriate support for home care staff in west Cork or is this just another cut, through the back door, in the services provided in rural Ireland?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This is a specific question regarding west Cork. I will have to respond to the Deputy later and get the relevant person to give him the information.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan Depopulation in rural regions is still a major issue. I and other rural Deputies have seen that there is no common sense when it comes to people, and particularly young couples, who want to live in rural communities. Those who want to build homes on their family's land are being denied that opportunity. What action is the Government going to take to alleviate the difficulties faced by young rural couples who want to stay in their communities and build houses on their family's land? Adopting a common-sense and fair approach would mean we could address the depopulation issue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This is an area where we have to achieve a balance between trying to manage the extent of one-off housing and ribbon development and then trying to put in place more sustainable models for how we develop communities. I am referring to issues involved in communities living together, sharing resources and the provision of public transport networks etc. At the same time, we have to allow people to live in the parishes where they grew up and on their own land in some cases.


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