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

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1001 No. 1
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Why? The Deputy is correct that it has the potential to be a significant catalyst in the development of housing. Generally, because of Covid-19, we will probably get 17,000 or 18,000 houses completed this year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you Taoiseach. Time is up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Of that number, 9,000 will be public housing. Next year, there will be up to 12,500 social houses out of a potential 25,000.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you Taoiseach. Time is up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We have a long way to go. We need to get master plans and developments off the ground to get the houses built.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you Taoiseach. I call Deputy Bríd Smith.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Exactly two weeks ago, I raised the case of the imminent deportation of two care workers from Zimbabwe. I see yesterday Deputy Gannon raised the same issue. The Taoiseach's response to him was: "I do not know the individual cases [about those working in the health service]...If Deputy Gannon has the details [please pass them on]... I will follow them up." When I raised it with the Taoiseach two weeks ago, I passed on the details. I then found out that the Taoiseach's civil servant passed them on to another civil servant who passed them on to yet another civil servant who then got INIS, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, to write back to the women to confirm their deportation.

These are women who work in our health service. They may be the same two Zimbabweans who Deputy Gannon referred to yesterday or they may be different ones. If they are another two, then more shame. How does this system work? The Taoiseach says he will take it up and then he kicks it around the civil servants. It then goes back to them to reaffirm that they will be deported. Will the Taoiseach give us an answer that he will deal with it and not kick it to touch with various Departments? Will he actually deal with it and allow these brave health workers, who have worked through the worst of the pandemic-----

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

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith -----live in this country with respect?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Maybe the Deputy can deal with it a bit better as well in terms of process.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I am not the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have helped people who were on the imminent deportation list. Why? Because people contacted me and gave me the cases personally. I would have seen to it and engaged with INIS and with the relevant Minister of the day, even when I was in opposition. I did not make a song and dance about it. I just dealt with it.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith But the Taoiseach did not deal with this.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I take the Deputy's point and will follow that up. Coming in out of the blue raising cases is fine. The Deputy is entitled to do that and it creates profile for the issue. I am not so sure, however, it actually advances the case of the individual concerned. I do not think-----

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I did not-----

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have the floor.

  I did say genuinely to Deputy Gannon that I do not think anyone should be deported to any red zone country during the Covid pandemic. Equally, if people are working in our health service, we need to ascertain their status in our health service and see if we can retain them.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Nothing happened. I sent in the details. This is ridiculous.

Deputy Matt Shanahan: Information on Matt Shanahan Zoom on Matt Shanahan The new contract for air search and rescue services is to be tendered in the next 12 to 18 months. It is currently serviced by a ten-year contract with CHC which includes provision of patient transfers from University Hospital Waterford. The contract is estimated to cost between €70 million and €80 million per annum, €700 million to €800 million over the ten-year lifespan. CHC is a private company and many more will be interested in this tender.

Can we not consider using our Defence Forces and Air Corps to deliver most of this service? At the end of the contract, the State would then own the helicopter and monitoring assets. We do not employ private security firms to police our streets. Instead, we invest in the Garda Síochána and our public services. How much of this €700 million to €800 million will we allow to bypass investment in our State rescue and Air Corps services?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Again, I am uncomfortable dealing with procurement issues generally on the floor of the House. Procurement processes should be independent of the House.

I take the Deputy's more general point on the State investing more in its own capacity in air rescue, the Coast Guard, our Defence Forces and the Air Corps. Some progress is being made in terms of recruitment to the Air Corps. I would be happy to see a greater investment. The commission that will be established shortly to examine the future of our Defence Forces will take that issue under its wings.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The whole population is under severe pressure dealing with this Covid situation. Importantly, for the farming community, it is a lonely place and farmers find it hard to get labour if they get sick or whatever.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, however, are insisting on doing sheep welfare inspections. This is ridiculous. They should be supporting these farmers because it might take days to round up all the sheep on hill and mountain farms. One needs good weather but with fog, rain and short days many farmers are unable to do it. This is putting huge pressure on farmers in my and other constituencies who are forced to do this. Can the Department not use drones or some other technology to deal with this?

I always support departmental officials but they need to be supporting farmers now, both physically and mentally. These farmers are under huge pressure because they cannot get staff if they get ill or Covid. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to call off the wolves here?

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

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath These sheep inspections can be done by drones. Support the farmers; do not terrorise them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin To be fair, wolves have not been reintroduced yet in the country.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I did not say that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I am only jesting. I will follow it up with the Minister, Deputy McConalogue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is a serious issue. Why is the Taoiseach making light of it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will follow it up with the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Taoiseach will follow it up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will talk to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine about the sheep welfare inspectors. I am not aware of the potential for drones to monitor sheep on the headlands. Maybe the Department can explore that as well.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Last week saw a catastrophic landslide on a wind farm construction site at Meenbog in County Donegal. There is quite a lot of video footage showing the extent of the environmental disaster and its impact on a sensitive location. It makes for stark viewing.

The potential for a disaster such as this was well flagged by campaigners due to the inadequacy of the governance of the industry. A review was started by the Fine Gael-Labour Government in 2013 but it still has not concluded.

Will the Government commit to a comprehensive review of the outdated 2006 guidelines once and for all in light of the Meenbog disaster and the Derrybrien site which has cost over €2 million in fines, while clocking up €15,000 more every single day due to Government inaction?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I am aware of the peat slide near Meenbog wind farm, Barnesmore Gap, south of Ballybofey, County Donegal, which is under construction. The matter is being actively investigated by several statutory agencies, led by Donegal County Council. It involves the Environmental Protection Agency, Irish Water, the Loughs Agency, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, as well as the Northern Ireland Environment Agency having regard to the fact that the development is a transboundary project. A cross-Border multiagency meeting was held yesterday to co-ordinate a response to the significant pollution event that is impacting the Mournebeg River resulting from a bog slide in the townland of Meenbog, Ballybofey. All works have been suspended on this site.

On the issue of guidelines around wind farms, I am anxious to progress these. More generally, if we are committed to phasing out the use of fossil fuels, as is key in our climate change agenda, then we will need more wind energy. Offshore wind energy represents the future. It is something in which we need to invest very significantly and-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you Taoiseach. Time is up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----we will. Over time, the potential of offshore wind energy will outstrip onshore wind energy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you. I call Deputy Barry.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry Yesterday was a day of mass repression in an EU country, namely, Greece. Up to 6,000 police were mobilised against workers' protests. They used tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades. More than 100 people were arrested, elderly people were beaten on the streets, a communist MP was injured and a journalist arrested.

The marches have been called by organisations of the Greek left, including the KKE, Antarsya and Xekinima. They called people on to the streets on the anniversary of the student uprising of 1973 which led to the overthrow of the dictatorship. They were also protesting against the Greek Government's decision to tear up the eight-hour day rule and forcibly to compel people work an extra two hours per day. The Greek Government used Covid regulations stating that only a maximum of three can gather. The demonstrators were masked, however. How can a government declare war on working class people but yet make it illegal for ordinary people to fight back?

Is the Taoiseach prepared to make a protest to the Greek ambassador about the scandalous actions of the Greek State on the streets of Greece yesterday?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will undertake to get a comprehensive report from my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs on what happened. I am not in a position to make any judgment this morning on what the Deputy has asserted.


Last Updated: 07/04/2021 16:16:41 First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page