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

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish] Penalties for those caught in the act of illegal dumping are not strict enough. It is ridiculous that a person caught on CCTV in the act of illegal dumping cannot be brought to court. It was recently reported that illegal dumping is costing local authorities up to €90 million a year to clean up and this does not factor in the time and effort put in by Tidy Towns committees and other volunteers. There is increased frustration that little is being done to tackle this problem which is getting completely out of control. On two separate occasions I have asked for a task force to be established, consisting of An Garda Síochána, departmental officials and local authorities, to deal with this situation. They must be given real powers including the power to use CCTV footage and the power to seize vehicles and equipment involved in illegal dumping with severe penalties imposed for those caught in the act and for the release of these vehicles.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. There should be no tolerance of illegal dumping which is an attack on our environment, communities and landscape. Penalties for illegal dumping are significant. People who are found responsible for unauthorised disposal of waste are liable to a maximum fine of €5,000 on summary conviction and-or imprisonment of up to 12 months, and to a maximum fine of €15 million on conviction on indictment and-or imprisonment for up to ten years. The upcoming circular economy Bill will also consider further changes to the fixed penalty notice system.

The Data Protection Commissioner provides guidance concerning statutory obligations placed on those using CCTV systems to collect personal data, and the rights and redress mechanisms available. My understanding is that the Data Protection Commissioner has written to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications concerning data protection issues with the use of CCTV cameras for litter and waste enforcement processes. Her view is that the legislation provides local authorities with the power to prevent and investigate, and protect and prosecute littering and dumping, but do not provide for the processing of images taken by CCTV. That is currently being considered by the Minister and his Department.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath A number of driving instructors have begun a campaign to allow essential driving tests, EDTs, to continue during the extended level 5 restrictions. We know how long that will go on for. They are also trying to set up their own union. Currently only essential workers who have been allocated driving tests are allowed to do the pre-test lessons. Surely if it is safe for one cohort of essential workers to do their lessons, it should be safe for them all, including the compulsory 12 EDT lessons. Another group of non-essential workers is awaiting tests and EDT lessons, and a further group is awaiting theory tests and driver licences. Will the Government consider changing the legislation to allow for EDTs and normal driving lessons to resume for essential workers? There will be an enormous backlog - there already is - at the end of the pandemic and these driving instructors need to be supported.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am sympathetic to the case he is making. I am not an expert in the area by any means. It is such a shame when we had got on top of the backlog of driving tests that we now have a very big one again. It limits people's freedom and their ability to take up employment. Later I will speak to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, to let them know that the Deputy has made some suggestions in this regard.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Arkle Resources has an exploration licence for lead deposits in Inishowen. It has continued to work during the level 5 restrictions. Does the Tánaiste believe that is appropriate? The licence is up for renewal on 10 April. Will he instruct the Department not to renew that licence given that it has continued to work? It is also affecting a special area of conservation, namely, the Magheradrumman Bog SAC.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The company may only continue to carry out those works if it is exempted under the regulations. Without having the details in front of me, I cannot say whether it is exempted. Obviously, it can only carry out that work if it is exempted under the public health regulations. The extension of the licence which flows from the Deputy's question would depend on the answer to that question and will be a matter for the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Deputy Chris Andrews: Information on Chris Andrews Zoom on Chris Andrews In 2015, an amazing, young, bright, lovable individual, Lorcan O'Reilly, was stabbed to death not too far from here in Dublin's inner city. Many steps need to be taken to tackle the rise in knife crime throughout the city and that needs to start with dialogue with the families most affected by this brutal crime. The Minister for Justice has committed to engaging with Lorcan's mother Jenny. I ask the Tánaiste to ensure the Minister for Justice keeps this commitment and engages with Lorcan's family, and puts in place any resources needed to tackle knife crime.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am sure the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, will want to honour any commitment she has made on the matter. We all extend our condolences to the family. As the Deputy will appreciate, knife crime is a complex issue. He will be familiar with some of the studies from London and Glasgow as to which actions can help and which ones do not. It requires a response that is not just about criminal justice but is also a comprehensive social response. I know that the Minister has been apprised of that.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould Tragically, another man who was sleeping rough has passed away on the streets of Cork. I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends on his passing. Shockingly, we have no way of knowing the number of people engaging with homeless services who passed away either in Cork or nationally because there is no database. The Minister has confirmed this to me. Without the full figures and without knowing the circumstances of these people, we are unable to put in the supports necessary to prevent people from dying on the streets. We need more shelters with wrap-around services to protect them. Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to put in place a regional executive to collate these figures so that we can protect homeless people and try to prevent this from happening?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am also very sorry to hear about that man's passing. I know the Minister is already aware of the issue. Having more accurate and up-to-date data on people who are in touch with homeless services would be very useful. As the Deputy knows, people who are homeless, just as people who are not, die for all sorts of different reasons. Having more information on that and the precise cause of death would be useful to everyone.

Deputy Johnny Mythen: Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen As the Tánaiste is aware, IVF treatment is provided through private practice. I have been contacted by couples in Wexford who are very concerned about this issue. We know that the most precious resource in any country is its children. We know that one in four couples struggles to start a family. However, IVF costs at least €5,000 and up to €9,000 with add-ons, which puts financial strain on many couples who are desperate to begin a family. Is the Government willing to subsidise at least three cycles of IVF? Would it be possible to include this in the next budget? What has happened to the €3 million that was supposed to have been set aside by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, for this purpose in 2017?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar IVF treatment and assisted human reproduction treatment are tax deductible at the standard rate and most of the medicines people may need to help them in their treatment are covered under the drug refund scheme. That still leaves couples bearing a very large cost if they need to avail of IVF services. Money has been set aside to help people with the cost of IVF, to do it through the public system. The last I heard was that it was the strong view of the Department of Health that we should introduce a law regulating this area first because this treatment is not regulated in Ireland at the moment, which causes significant difficulties. The view is that the legislation should be brought forward giving us a clear law on what is allowed and what is not, and then fund treatment on that basis.

Deputy Patricia Ryan: Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan Page 112 of the programme for Government states that the Government will honour Ireland's commitment to recognise the state of Palestine. Last month, Israel issued tenders for 2,500 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the decision to build new settlement units and said the Israeli Government is racing against time to eliminate any remaining possibility of a two-state solution. All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal under international law and by much of the international community. When will the Government fulfil its promise to recognise the state of Palestine?

Last Updated: 16/03/2021 17:07:13 First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page