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Finance Act 2004 (section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2020: Motion (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke] In projects such as that, there must be somebody who is able to co-ordinate all the State agencies so there is no undue delay. We are discussing €709 million that has not been spent. Part of the reason for that is the lack of co-ordination between different State agencies, local authorities and other people involved. It is something we must examine.

I wish to return to the health sector, particularly mental health facilities. I recently spoke to somebody who is working in a mental health facility in which nine of the 27 people in the facility died. The facility had six residents per room. When Covid-19 arrived it was not possible for the facility to control it. A number of mental health facilities have not received adequate funding over the last number of years. They have to be refurbished and upgraded to ensure they can provide the proper standard of care that people deserve. These are some of the issues we must focus on and ensure that with any project that is identified, be it in Cork, Dublin, Galway or Donegal, there is not the delay that appears to be occurring in many projects. These projects have been identified and deemed urgent yet, two years later, we find there is very little progress made. We must review that. Due to the various issues that Covid has revealed, the prioritisation of healthcare facilities more than any other facilities is necessary to ensure we can deliver a healthcare service and that we have the facilities in which to do so.

Those are my thoughts on this issue. It is important to look at the mistakes that have been made in the last number of years and to plan for the future. We must also plan to ensure we can deliver in a timely manner. I acknowledge the Minister's work and the work of all departmental officials. They work extremely hard within the rules, but sometimes we need to change the rules in order to deliver on time and within budget.

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú This is a technical measure, but it provides an opportunity to speak about necessary capital projects. I wish to add my voice to those of other speakers who spoke about difficulties with the audit system, the planning system and with moving major capital projects forward, be they schools, hospitals, certain housing developments and the like.

Representatives of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII. and the National Transport Authority, NTA, attended the transport committee meeting yesterday and they spoke about the difficulties they have with the planning process. We are all aware that from time to time local residents are not necessarily happy with situations. Sometimes there are projects in planning for years, but they may lie dormant and the conditions change. This can be brought to the attention of TII or some other agency. The difficulty is that the agency accepts that there are demographic changes, geographical changes and certain things that must be taken into account, but it has to re-enter an entire new process as regards planning, so the projects are put back. The Ardee bypass is one such project. This must be circumvented. It is a matter of a process that works for the project leader, whether it is TII or the local authority, and for residents, whereby one can get into pre-consultation and get the problems dealt with as quickly as possible.

We need to get to a greater level of audits and pre-planning. We all know the difficulties relating to the housing crisis, but within that there are areas such as Blackrock and Haggardstown in my constituency where a number of housing developments have been built. There has been a serious increase in population, especially of the young population. That impacts on the need for schools, be they primary or secondary. We need a better system to address this across the board.

It would be remiss of me not to deal with the fact that Louth County Council has two major requests in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage at present for urban renewal development funding. The port access route in Drogheda is absolutely vital for the future of Drogheda and impacts on every issue ranging from housing to everything else. I would not be allowed to speak in the House again if I did not mention that, as it is constantly being championed by Deputy Munster and Councillor Joanna Byrne. I must also refer to the fact that the county council has an application in respect of Linenhall Street and Bridge Street to finish the work that is necessary to improve the centre of Dundalk. There is a wider body of work that must be done with regard to urban planning into the future, given the changing nature of urban centres.

We have to grasp this opportunity. I am aware of many of the national development plan submissions and the national development plan is being dealt with by the Minister. We must examine how we can put a better system in place as regards planning.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than one person died every week in Ireland as a result of asthma. One in five children and one in ten adults in Ireland have asthma. One in 14 people in Ireland have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD. There is no doubt that these people are more likely to be hospitalised or to die as a result of Covid-19. Energy poverty has an adverse effect on health and cold, damp housing exacerbates these respiratory problems. I believe energy efficiency is the primary tool in tackling energy poverty. One in four people in Ireland today cannot afford to heat and light their homes. There is a moral imperative to ensure that everyone can afford to pay for their lighting and heating.

Budget 2017, which was my first budget as a Minister, saw a significant increase in investment in energy efficiency. That was expanded again in budget 2018, in which we looked at far deeper energy-efficiency upgrades. I was lucky to be able to secure, as part of Project Ireland 2040, a €4 billion budget for carrying out deep retrofits and energy efficiency to take dirty fossil fuels out of our heating systems, including in all homes, by 2035. The climate action plan brought that target back to 2033. However, as I said when Project Ireland 2040 was launched, it was not about the commitment and the targets, but about delivering on the targets, which would be the key challenge. One of the main measures relating to energy efficiency and particularly fuel poverty is the warmer homes scheme. Historically, that was focused on smaller, shallower measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes, but, as Minister, I provided the funding to carry out deep retrofits of homes across the country and dramatically expanded the investment in that in 2018. As a result, 5,255 homes had a retrofit carried out in 2018. These homes are occupied by people who are on social welfare and do not have the resources to carry out the type of retrofit that is needed for many homes and the older housing stock across the country.

In 2019, however, the number of homes retrofitted fell by 40% compared to what was achieved in 2018. Last year, 2020, it collapsed with a 70% reduction in the number of homes retrofitted compared to 2018. Today, there are approximately 7,000 families who are reliant on social welfare waiting for approval to have their homes retrofitted under that scheme.

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