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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1001 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] I will check for the Deputy what allocation from that €87 million in July found its way to Kerry. I will also follow through with the cases raised by the Deputy and will forward those to Irish Water.

We understand the centrality of Irish Water and water infrastructure to the development of towns, to the facilitation of house construction and to the facilitation of industry. We are determined to give it a higher prioritisation in capital allocation because it represents a key part of our capacity to deliver housing and development in the regions. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, will bring a policy paper to Government in the coming weeks to set out a route map to achieving this ambition.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I thank the Taoiseach very much for that reply. On sewerage schemes, Irish Water seems to want to work in areas where infrastructure is already in place. Unfortunately, there are areas in County Kerry that have no schemes whatsoever, which is hard to believe. Places such as Caherdaniel, Scartaglin and Currow have no schemes at all. How are these areas supposed to develop? How are they supposed to grow? How are we supposed to cater for the future needs of young people who want to live and work in those areas? Planners and national policy always seem to say to people we would rather people live in the village than be looking for planning in the countryside. I have always made the argument that people should be allowed and encouraged to live in the countryside. National policy seems to want to put people into towns and villages, while at the same time people in places such as Caherdaniel, Scartaglin and Currow have no scheme whatsoever. That is ridiculous. We have to ensure that works and funding are put in place.

I want to highlight the holy show of how the work is actually carried out. I declare what could be perceived as a conflict of interest in this, but when it comes to work with the council we have recently heard that it has sought to tender all the work for Irish Water in counties to one individual. That is wrong. We should be keeping in place the smaller contractors in their own areas who have worked diligently along with council staff for many years in providing an excellent service day or night. Again, I thank the people who work for Kerry County Council and I compliment them for their efforts seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I thank the Deputy for his remarks. Generally it is the policy to try to have as much development in towns and villages as we possibly can. Part of the reason is the high cost of infrastructure and the disproportionate cost if new schemes are being developed. We have to prioritise. In Deputy Healy-Rae's first contribution he identified a range of schemes that needed investment, such as in Killarney and other towns. They need to get priority in the allocation of capital.

On the urban and waste water, to be fair, the Environmental Protection Agency's recent report demonstrates that Irish Water is making progress and is improving our wastewater systems. Irish Water has reduced the number of priority wastewater sites listed by the EPA and has increased the number of large towns and cities that now meet the required European Union standards for wastewater discharges. The agency itself will say that it has a long and complex programme of work ahead to deliver wastewater services that fully meet the required standards. To be fair all around there is an historical large agenda of work and progress has been made. Significant capital moneys will be allocated. It is about getting on with the work and getting it done.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar chúrsaí iascaireachta agus go háirithe ar pholasaí an Rialtais, polasaí a foilsíodh i 2019 agus a cuireadh i bhfeidhm ó Mhí Eanáir na bliana seo. Bun agus barr an pholasaí sin - polasaí maith a bhí ann - nach raibh cead ag na trálaeir mhóra a bheith ag iascaireacht taobh istigh de 6 mhuirmhíle ar fud ár gcósta. Faraor, chuir an Ardchúirt an polasaí sin ar neamhní an lá deireanach de Mhí Iúil. Ó shin, tá bearna mhór ann agus tá na trálaeir mhóra laistigh den limistéar sin. Tá mise agus Teachtaí eile ag déileáil le neart gearán ó dhaoine atá thíos agus atá thar a bheith buartha.

My question relates to a policy directive by the Government that came into effect in January 2020. It was published last year and prior to that there was a whole, long history and entry into this policy. The idea and the concepts behind the policy were excellent. They sought to have a sustainable fishing industry within the six-mile zone. More particularly, the documents that accompany the decision and the consultation process said it was to improve the protection of coastal environments and essential fish habitats and to benefit biodiversity and commercially exploited fish stocks. It was to have socioeconomic benefits for the smaller inshore boats and fishermen and saw the importance of diversification opportunities, with more jobs and a more intimate connection between fishermen, consumers and businesses in the area, among many other advantages. That was brought in after a consultation period. As I said, the decision was made in March 2019 and the policy came into effect in January this year. Three boat owners, or their companies, took a case, which was successful on very narrow grounds. On the last day of July 2020, the High Court issued a very detailed and comprehensive judgment. Many arguments were put up by the three big boats. None of them was upheld by the court except that the Department had failed in its consultation process. Simply, the consultation process was faulty. Once the Department went down the road of the consultation process it had to do it right. Unfortunately, it did not and now we are in the situation where the policy is gone. Mar a dúirt mé i nGaeilge, tá sé ar neamhní. It is not valid. We now have a serious gap and the trawlers are back in Galway Bay and in others bays on coasts throughout the State. What is the Taoiseach doing about that? The consultation process was faulty. To me, it was a relatively simply matter to accept the judgment of the High Court and go back to do the consultation process properly given the importance of the contents of the policy in question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Táim buíoch don Teachta as an gceist seo a ardú. Aontaím go bhfuil an polasaí a bhí ann roimh chinneadh na cúirte ceart ó thaobh bac a chur ar trálaeir mhóra teacht isteach laistigh de 6 mhuirmhíle ón gcósta. Is oth liom a rá gur olc an scéal é go bhfuil na trálaeir mhóra ar ais laistigh den limistéar sin. Níl sé sin sásúil i gcomhthéacs an pholasaí a d'fhoilsigh an Rialtas a bhí ann i Mí Eanáir na bliana seo. Caithimid athmhachnamh a dhéanamh air sin agus mar a dúirt an Teachta, caithimid athmhachnamh a dhéanamh ar an gcomhfhreagras agus ar na déileálacha leis an bpobal agus caithimid slí ceart a chur i bhfeidhm.

I take on board what Deputy Connolly has said. I will engage with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on this specific issue, on the aspects of the High Court's decision that undermine the policy and on the moves the Department proposes to take to rectify that, if that is possible. I take on board what the Deputy said and will pursue the matter with the Minister with a view to seeing if we can develop a consultation process or other processes that would meet the requirements of the High Court decision.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That was July. We are now in November. Nothing has happened. The Taoiseach is not even clear whether an appeal has been taken. I do not wish to put the Taoiseach on the spot but we know that from July the substantive judgment was given. The order might not have been perfected. Is an appeal under way? If there is an appeal it would not seem to be a very good way to proceed because there will be a further delay.

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