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					Vol. 705                                                                                Wednesday,
No. 2                                                                                  24 March 2010




              DÍOSPÓIREACHTAÍ PARLAIMINTE
                PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES


                         DÁIL ÉIREANN

           TUAIRISC OIFIGIÚIL—Neamhcheartaithe

                   (OFFICIAL REPORT—Unrevised)


                                          Wednesday, 24 March 2010.

Resignation of Member         …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     307
Ministerial Appointments: Announcement by Taoiseach       …       …     …        …     …     …   …     307
Leaders’ Questions     …      …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     308
Ceisteanna—Questions
    Taoiseach …        …      …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     313
Requests to Move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 32 …          …        …     …     …   …     323
Order of Business      …      …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     326
European Union Council Decisions: Motions…         …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     351
George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill 2010: From the Seanad          …     …     …   …     352
Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad]:
    Order for Report Stage …         …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     355
    Report Stage       …      …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     355
Ceisteanna—Questions (resumed)
    Minister for Transport
         Priority Questions …        …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     363
         Other Questions      …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     372
Adjournment Debate Matters …         …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     383
Private Notice Questions
    Passport Applications     …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …      …    …   …     383
Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad]: Report Stage   (resumed)   …   …     392
Road Traffic Bill 2009: Second Stage (resumed)     …      …       …     …        …      …    …   …     401
Private Members’ Business
    Tourism Industry: Motion (resumed)      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     424
Adjournment Debate
    Hospital Services …       …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     447
    Search and Rescue Service        …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     449
    Invalid Marriages …       …      …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     454
Questions: Written Answers …         …      …      …      …       …     …        …     …     …   …     457
                                    DÁIL ÉIREANN
                                           ————

                                Dé Céadaoin, 24 Márta 2010.
                                Wednesday, 24 March 2010.

                                           ————

                    Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

                                           ————

                                            Paidir.
                                            Prayer.

                                           ————

                                   Resignation of Member.
  An Ceann Comhairle: Before proceeding with the business of the day I wish to announce
for the information of the House that I received a letter of resignation from Deputy Martin
Cullen today, 24 March, as a Member of Dáil Éireann for the constituency of Waterford and
I have laid the letter before the Dáil. In accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 167,
the resignation took effect upon receipt of the letter this morning.

                  Ministerial Appointments: Announcement by Taoiseach.
  The Taoiseach: Before proceeding to Leaders’ Questions, I wish to bring an announcement
to the attention of the House regarding ministerial and Minister of State appointments. I wish
to announce for the information of the Dáil that having informed the President that Dáil
Éireann had approved my nomination of Deputy Pat Carey and Deputy Tony Killeen to be
Members of the Government, the Presidential Commission on 23 March 2010 appointed them
accordingly. Second, that on the same day I assigned responsibility for the Department of
Education and Science to the Tánaiste, Deputy Mary Coughlin, the Department of Social and
Family Affairs to Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to
Deputy Mary Hanafin, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to Deputy Batt
O’Keeffe, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to Deputy Pat Carey
and the Department of Defence to Deputy Tony Killeen. Third, that on my nomination, the
Government last night appointed the following to be Ministers of State and agreed other
changes in the allocation of responsibilities to existing Ministers of State — Deputy John
Curran to be Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence with special
responsibility as Government Chief Whip, Deputy Dara Calleary to be Minister of State at
the Departments of Taoiseach, Finance and Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special
responsibilities for public service transformation and labour affairs, Deputy Ciarán Cuffe to
be Minister of State at the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Transport and
Environment, Heritage and Local Government with special responsibility for horticulture, sus-
tainable travel, planning and heritage, Deputy Seán Connick to be Minister of State at the
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with special responsibility for fisheries and
forestry and Deputy Mary White to be Minister of State at the Departments of Justice, Equality
and Law Reform, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Education and Science with
special responsibility for equality, human rights and integration, and Deputy John Moloney
                                              307
                     Leaders’             24 March 2010.               Questions

  [The Taoiseach.]
will continue as Minister of State at the Departments of Health and Children, Education and
Science, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform with special
responsibility for disability issues and mental heath. I propose to nominate to the Government
Deputies Cuffe, White and Connick to be Ministers of State.

                                      Leaders’ Questions.
  Deputy Enda Kenny: The absence of Fianna Fáil members on the backbenches——

  A Deputy: There are only two of them left.

  Deputy Enda Kenny: ——speaks more eloquently than any testament I might give to the
consequences of the reshuffle of the new Cabinet announced yesterday.

  (Interruptions).

  Deputy Enda Kenny: I wish Minister Tim and Minister Pat the best as they move to the
table with added responsibilities.
  It seems as if queues have become an essential part of life in Ireland today, be it queues
for passports, queues to emigrate or queues to get into accident and emergency departments
throughout the country. The only place it seems no queue is necessary is to get approval from
the Department of Finance for pay increases in certain sections of banking and NAMA.

  Deputy Brian Hayes: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Enda Kenny: The Irish people have had enough. Some 800,000 people in the public
and the private sector have taken serious pay cuts and some 200,000 people have lost their
jobs. This morning Anglo Irish Bank announced that it is to give pay increases to its staff both
here and in Great Britain. It said these staff are to be paid extra money because of extra
responsibilities arising from redundancies. This cannot be justified.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

   Deputy Enda Kenny: It goes to the very heart of the lack of fairness in this society in Ireland
today under Deputy Cowen’s disastrous reign as Taoiseach with his Government. It goes to
the very heart of that unfairness and it cannot be justified. We cannot expect the Irish people
to accept that the only sections that can get pay increases now are either those involved in
NAMA or those involved in this bank, which is to be rescued again at an inordinate price when
it brings in its disastrous results next week. What the Taoiseach has done is to link these pay
increases to a defective policy towards Anglo Irish Bank where the Irish public will be expected
to bail them out again to the extent of possibly €20 billion. I ask the Taoiseach to justify in
detail the reason he and his Government sanctioned wage increases for staff members in Anglo
Irish Bank?

  The Taoiseach: The issues the Deputy raises do not come up for sanction from Government.

  Deputy Ulick Burke: It is a State bank.

  The Taoiseach: The former leader——

  (Interruptions).
                                               308
                    Leaders’               24 March 2010.              Questions


 The Taoiseach: These matters do not come up for sanction from the Government, as the
Deputy knows or should know.
   On the particular issue, the chairman of the bank in question outlined this morning precisely
the position. There has been a reduction in numbers, extra responsibilities have been assigned
to certain staff and there is a totally new management team in place. The board has the Govern-
ment’s confidence in seeking to de-risk the bank and it is important that there are people in
situ who can do that. The chairman of the bank set out what was the position in relation to the
matters raised.

  Deputy Brian Hayes: Does the Taoiseach agree with him?

 Deputy Enda Kenny: With respect, the Taoiseach is wrong. Section 50 of Statutory Instru-
ment 411 of 2008 under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 states:

    A covered institution shall manage the business of its group at all times with a view to
  furthering the purposes of this Scheme and the Act of 2008. . . . . the Minister may require
  certain obligations of this Scheme, as he or she may specify in writing to the covered insti-
  tution, to apply to the parent of a covered institution or any member of its group as a
  condition of benefiting from this Scheme.

The Government took specific powers to deal with wages in respect of higher levels in the
covered institutions. Under this statutory instrument, which is part of the Bill passed by the
House, the Minister took the authority to indicate in writing to a covered institution that if the
scheme is being brought into disrepute, he can, in writing, instruct the covered institution in
question to obtain and maintain certain obligations. I charge that under section 50 of the Bill,
which went through the House and gave the Government authority to deal with the banks, the
Minister for Finance is entitled to instruct Anglo Irish Bank, in writing as per this section, that
these wage increases, which cannot be and are not justified, should not be paid. This is not the
time to acknowledge increased responsibility with cash. This matter goes to the very heart of
what is unfair in this country under the Taoiseach’s style of government.
  I charge that, under section 50 of the statutory instrument, where this scheme is being
brought into disrepute in the eyes of members of the public the Taoiseach can instruct his
Minister for Finance to require adherence to certain obligations. No wage increase should be
paid in circumstances in which a defective policy will result in the Government asking the
public to write a cheque the Taoiseach stated would be written irrespective of the size of the
sum involved. Section 50 gives the Government authority and power in this matter and I ask
the Taoiseach to use it. Wage increases in Anglo Irish Bank cannot be justified, are not justified
and will not be justified by Irish people.

  The Taoiseach: Anglo Irish Bank is being run at arm’s length by the new management team
and board. This is in line with best practice. A relationship framework is set out regarding what
the Minister is responsible for and not responsible for in relation to the bank. In the area of
remuneration the Minister approves any changes to general remuneration, the pay of senior
management and fees to directors. As the staff affected by this decision are not senior manage-
ment, decisions on their pay levels are a matter for management in the bank. Just as the
Minister does not set the pay levels for a——

  Deputy Bernard Allen: The Taoiseach should show leadership.

  The Taoiseach: Just as the Minister does not set——
                                                309
                     Leaders’             24 March 2010.               Questions


  (Interruptions).

  An Ceann Comhairle: Please allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

  The Taoiseach: I will try one more time. Just as the Minister does not set pay levels for a
substation chief in the ESB, neither does he set pay levels for a person who is in charge of
information technology in a bank. That is in line with best practice.

  Deputy Bernard Allen: The ESB is paying its way.

  The Taoiseach: The board and management of the bank have a serious job of work to do.
They are getting on with that job and seeking to de-risk the bank. We need people in the bank
to do the job. The chairman set out in detail this morning what are the circumstances in relation
to these matters. The relationship framework sets out the position.

  Deputy Brian Hayes: Does the Taoiseach agree with the chairman?

  Deputy Enda Kenny: The Minister’s powers in this matter are set out in the statutory
instrument.

  Deputy Bernard Allen: The Taoiseach should be a leader.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: No substation manager in the ESB is responsible for the collapse
of the Irish economy, nor is the ESB responsible for the collapse of Irish banking. Anglo Irish
Bank was at the heart of what went wrong in Irish banking and the economy and we ended up
with the State having to take ownership of the bank.
  I was surprised to learn yesterday that 70 staff in Anglo Irish Bank had received a pay
increase. How much of a pay increase did they receive? I presume that since this matter became
knowledge yesterday some inquiries have been made of a bank that is owned by the State as
to what level of increase was granted.
  Even if there was never a provision in the banking legislation to allow the Government to
take action on this matter — there is such provision — does the Government not have a policy
on pay in what is broadly described as the commercial State sector and, if so, does this policy
not apply to Anglo Irish Bank, as it presumably applies to every other State body? What is the
Government’s position on the making of pay increases in Anglo Irish Bank.
  With regard to the financial results of Anglo Irish Bank, the report for the 15 month period
ending December 2009 was expected at the beginning of March 2010 but has not yet been
produced. When will it be produced? Since the State owns the bank, will the Taoiseach indicate,
at least in ball park figures, what is the extent of the losses incurred by the bank for the 15
month period in question? According to newspaper reports, the bank lost €14 billion in the
period and we are informed its losses will be the highest ever reported by an Irish company.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that the figure of €14 billion is the extent of the losses? If they are
even remotely in that territory, will he try to explain how a company incurring losses of that
magnitude can give an increase in pay to its staff?

  Deputy Tom Sheahan: It is best practice.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Will the Taoiseach give some indication as to how much further
Irish taxpayers will be asked to dig into their pockets and how much more they will pay over
to a bank which has apparently decided to give a pay increase to its staff?
                                               310
                   Leaders’              24 March 2010.              Questions


  The Taoiseach: On the issues related to the annual report, it will be a matter for the bank to
publish the report in due course. As the Deputy stated, the report is imminent. On that matter,
the Minister for Finance has indicated he will come to the House with a full indication of
Government policy on any decisions that have to be made and recapitalisation proposals that
have to be considered in due course.
  As I stated to Deputy Kenny, the pay increases are a management matter. The bank has a
totally new management team and board.

  Deputy Joan Burton: Losses of €14 billion have nothing to do with the Government.

  The Taoiseach: As I stated, extra responsibilities have been given to some specialist staff in
the bank. I do not have the details of that, which is a matter for the management and board
of the bank. The issue, from the Government’s point of view, is that in respect of what emerges
as a result of what has happened in the bank, we want to ensure the taxpayer is protected to
the greatest possible extent.

  Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Is the taxpayer protected?

  The Taoiseach: That is the whole focus of the management and board of the bank. The board
enjoys the confidence of the Government in seeking to do this serious task and the chairman
set out the position this morning.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: That is an incredible reply. I asked for simple information, namely,
how much are the pay increases, how much losses Anglo Irish Bank has made, even in ball
park terms, and how much more will we be asked to put into the bank. The Taoiseach indicated
that we will be given this information in due course and that pay and other issues related to
the bank are matters for its management and board as if this were some perfectly functioning,
prosperous, profitable company doing its business. This is the zombie bank, the rotten apple
at the heart of what happened in the Irish banking system, which gave rise to the collapse in
our economy, for which people all over the country have been paying for the past 18 months
with their jobs, in their pay packets and living standards and in the quality of services being
produced. This is not a matter for the management and board of the bank. This is a matter for
the Government because it owns the bank.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach is head of the Government that now owns a bank
which, having apparently made €14 billion losses in the past 15 months, has just announced it
has given a pay increase to some of its staff. The Taoiseach cannot tell us the size of the pay
increase and will not tell us the size of the losses, yet he comes into the Chamber and tells us
that this has nothing to do with anything, it is a bank and, therefore, is a matter for the
management and the board. This is of public interest.
   I can refer to another provision so that the Taoiseach can do something about this, namely,
the legislation that nationalised Anglo Irish Bank. The Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Act 2009
states the Minister may give a direction in writing to Anglo Irish Bank, requiring it to do, or
refrain from doing, anything which, in the opinion of the Minister, is necessary or expedient in
the public interest. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Finance today to give a direction
to this bank to refrain from paying these increases until we find out officially how much this
bank has lost in the past 15 months and how much more of the taxpayers’ hard earned money
it will come back to look for and at least until the matter can be considered in the normal way?
                                              311
                     Leaders’            24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Eamon Gilmore.]
It is very easy to say it is a matter for the management and the board. The management and
the board are not putting up the pony here. It is the taxpayer who is putting up the money for
the losses and the extra pay. The Act that allowed the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank
gives the Minister for Finance the power to give a direction in this situation.
   I have a direct question for the Taoiseach. Will the Minister for Finance today give a direc-
tion to the bank not to proceed with those pay increases until, at the very least, we find out
the full story about this rotten bank and the extent to which the taxpayer must pony up for it?

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy is being very unfair to both the new management team and the
new board in the bank who are acting on behalf of the taxpayer.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: We own the bank.

  (Interruptions).

  An Ceann Comhairle: May we hear the Taoiseach speak, without interruption?

  The Taoiseach: We are acting on behalf of the Government and the taxpayer to ensure we
seek to protect to the greatest possible extent the interests of the taxpayer in respect of how
this bank has been downsized.
  Deputy Joan Burton How do we know that?

   The Taoiseach: That is the situation. The question here, as outlined by the chairman today,
is that a small number of people have been given additional responsibilities, as a result of the
present downsizing of the bank’s staff by more than one seventh, in order to do the necessary
work to ensure this operation discharges its responsibilities to the taxpayer.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: Will the Taoiseach tell us what is so important about these people?

  The Taoiseach: That is what is going on. If the Deputy is asking me whether we are going to
have a situation whereby we express no confidence in the new board and management, that
would be a recipe for chaos. I must ensure they get on with the day to day management of
the bank.

  (Interruptions).

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: How much is the increase?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Durkan, please.

  The Taoiseach: They have explained there are 70 people in that organisation who are taking
on additional responsibilities and they must get on with that operational job. What we must
and will do, and what the Minister for Finance will do, is to come into the Chamber to explain
exactly how we will restructure the banking system, including this bank, so that we can have a
proper functioning banking system and deal with all the issues that people complain about,
such as the provision of sufficient credit in this economy. That is the job we have to do.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: The bank is not doing any business.

                                              312
                 Ceisteanna —            24 March 2010.              Questions


                                  Ceisteanna — Questions.

                                           ————

                                  International Agreements.
 1. Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the United
National conference on climate change in Copenhagen; and if he will make a statement on the
matter. [48428/09]

  2. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his partici-
pation in the Copenhagen summit on climate change. [48557/09]

  3. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his
participation in and on the outcome of the Copenhagen summit on climate change. [3469/10]

  The Taoiseach: I propose to answer Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.
  I travelled to Copenhagen on 17 December to participate with more than 120 other heads
of state and government in the high level segment of the United Nations climate change con-
ference. The objective of the conference was to seek agreement to put in place a new inter-
national treaty on climate change as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol when its five-year
commitment period ends in December 2012.
  Ireland’s position on the international climate change agenda is advanced through our mem-
bership of the European Union. We fully supported the European Union’s approach to the
Copenhagen conference, including being prepared to raise our target for reduction in green-
house gas emissions by 2020, from 20% to 30% in the context of an international agreement
where developed countries made comparable reduction commitments and there was adequate
action by developing countries to curb their emissions growth.
   The eventual outcome of the conference, the Copenhagen Accord, was considerably less
ambitious than the one we had hoped for, particularly as it does not include legally binding
targets. However, while the overall outcome was disappointing, the accord none the less con-
tains positive elements on which future progress can be built. Importantly, the accord includes
recognition of the need to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2° Celsius. It also pro-
vides a commitment for significant financial support for climate change mitigation and adap-
tation in developing countries and the establishment of a mechanism to support action against
global deforestation.
  We must reflect and learn from the Copenhagen meeting. The process is ongoing and the
next conference of parties, COP 16, will be held in Mexico at the end of the year. Chancellor
Angela Merkel has already indicated that she will try to bring parties together in Bonn in
advance of the Mexico conference to move the discussions forward.
  The European Union, for its part, will honour all its commitments and obligations under the
Kyoto Protocol. It remains committed to emissions reductions of 20% by 2020, rising to 30%
in the event of a satisfactory international agreement, and to providing substantial funding to
assist developing nations. We remain a lead player in this respect.
  Notwithstanding that the outcome was well short of what we hoped for, I commend the
Danish Presidency and, in particular, Prime Minister Rasmussen, for their hard work in organis-
ing the conference and their considerable efforts in trying to secure a positive outcome to the
                                              313
                     Ceisteanna —          24 March 2010.              Questions

  [The Taoiseach.]
proceedings. Ireland will continue to support the European Union in its efforts to persuade all
other parties to sign up to an international legally binding deal in Mexico.

  Deputy Enda Kenny: Given that there was no agreement in Copenhagen and that the EU
had set emission reduction targets for 2020, what analysis has been carried out by the Govern-
ment or the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government? Will this out-
come impact more severely on the targets Ireland must now achieve by 2020?

  The Taoiseach: The point made is that although the European Union considers that the
Copenhagen Accord is insufficient and needs to be developed in a more ambitious and robust
legal agreement, it accepts that this was the best outcome that could be achieved at the time.
The accord should be seen as a further step forward in the ongoing negotiations towards an
effective international agreement.
   With regard to the formal acceptance of the Copenhagen Accord, the EU has maintained
its lead position by reiterating its declaration to a 20% reduction, increasing to 30% within an
international agreement where other parties make comparable reductions. That is the point.
At this point we do not have an international agreement to reach the reduction of 30%. We
have been in detailed discussions with the European Commission on an ongoing basis to ensure
we ameliorate the impact in certain sectors. Various discussions have taken place which would
recognise Ireland’s particular position, especially in regard to agriculture.

  Deputy Enda Kenny: It is clear that a low carbon economy can be very competitive. The
national climate change strategy was, in reality, a wish list without any real ownership or man-
agement concerning how targets would be achieved. Although we were close to meeting these
targets last year this was because of imploding economic circumstances which brought these
targets more sharply into focus.
   There is no international agreement and despite the importance of energy security for our
State we are a long way behind in wind provision. We need to increase what we have by 300%
to be anywhere near the targets we set ourselves. If energy security is of such critical importance
              — and it is because we import €6 billions worth of fossil fuels every year — has
11 o’clock    the Taoiseach looked at the strategy that was adopted under the national climate
              change strategy? Has he given instructions to the Minister for the Environment,
Heritage and Local Government, or whomsoever else it may concern such as the Minister for
Communications, Energy and Natural Resources — I get the names of Departments mixed up
as there are so many of them — to set out our own enhanced strategy irrespective of inter-
national agreements in order to move towards energy security which is of such importance for
everybody and for every business in the country? Has the Taoiseach motivated these people
to take action? The grid offers a recipe for much optimism.

   The Taoiseach: Although it is a more specific question for the Minister, I will give a general
answer to the Deputy. We have already reached our 15% target and we have set a further
target of producing 40% of our energy from sustainable sources by 2020. As the Deputy is
aware, we are proceeding with interconnection with the UK so that we can access the wider
regional energy market. We have brought about an all-island electricity market and, as a result,
consumers have seen improvements in the prices they pay. As we try to meet the need to
develop sustainable energy resources, we are moving to a greater degree of energy security. It
is on target as we speak.
                                                314
                  Ceisteanna —            24 March 2010.               Questions


   Deputy Enda Kenny: I understand that there are literally hundreds of millions of euro backed
up, in investment potential for alternative energy and for renewable energy. The central prob-
lem is the capacity of the grid to deal with this. Regardless of who is in government, we will
continue to lag behind over the next 20 years if that central issue is not resolved. I am aware
that EirGrid has laid out its programme for the next five or ten years. Overseas investors who
have serious money behind them want to invest in a country that they consider to clearly have
the potential for renewable energy. Although their money is ready to move, there is no capacity
for them to get an offer to join the grid for five, six or ten years to come. That is not the way
it should be. I recommend that the Taoiseach look at the grid, which is the central problem for
the entire country. Despite EirGrid’s proposals, the extent of investment waiting to come on
stream, with the consequent potential for thousands of jobs, is being seriously delayed if not
lost altogether. I suggest that the Government should really focus on such investment, which
holds enormous potential in terms of employment. As a consequence of it, our infrastructure
would improve and the country would become more attractive to internal and national
investment.

  The Taoiseach: As the Deputy is aware, the ESB and other players in the market have
considerable capital plans for the improvement of networks. It is obvious that EirGrid is
involved in the regulation of all of that. I ask everyone in the House to support the provision
of such networks. Unfortunately, we have seen many instances of exaggerated claims being
made about health and safety issues. Such issues are and will continue to be accommodated in
all circumstances. Deputy Kenny needs everyone to support the policy he is enunciating. That
has not always been the consistent view of those behind him.

   Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Everyone shares the view that the outcome at Copenhagen was
deeply disappointing. I would like to pursue the Taoiseach a little further on the action being
taken by the Government to tackle climate change. The revised programme for Government
contained a number of commitments in this regard. First, there was a commitment that the
Government would introduce a climate change Bill to give a statutory basis to the annual
carbon budget. Can I ask when we will see such legislation? The Labour Party and the
Oireachtas committee have produced their own Bills in this area. They could be moved if the
Government is not in a position to move its own legislation. Second, the Government made a
commitment to take climate change impact assessments into account when all Cabinet decisions
are being made. Can the Taoiseach outline to the House how such assessments are conducted?
When decisions are being made, is a separate climate change impact assessment document
presented to and considered by the Cabinet? Third, a commitment was made that a national
climate change adaptation strategy would be adopted. I would like to know where that is at.
Finally, there was a commitment that Ireland would ratify the Aarhus Convention by March
2010. When will the convention be ratified?

  The Taoiseach: If the Deputy wishes to get exact information on these specific policy
development issues, it would be better for his questions to be addressed to the responsible
Minister concerned. While I am keen to provide information, I do not have the details in
question to hand. The questions before the House relate to the outcome of the Copenhagen
Summit, rather than to specific domestic policy initiatives that may be undertaken by the
Government in any particular area. It would be better to table a direct question to the Minister.

   Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I accept the Taoiseach’s answer in respect of two of the four matters
I raised. I will pursue the ratification of the Aarhus Convention with the Minister for Foreign
Affairs. If the Taoiseach can tell me which Minister is responsible for the producing the national
climate change adaptation strategy, I will be happy to pursue the matter with him or her. I
                                               315
                  Ceisteanna —            24 March 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Eamon Gilmore.]
do not accept that the Taoiseach is not in a position to answer my questions on the other
two issues.

  The Taoiseach: What were the questions?

   Deputy Eamon Gilmore: If I asked him about the climate change Bill on the Order of
Business, I would be entitled to get an answer. I am simply asking when the promised climate
change Bill will be produced by the Government. I would expect him to know what stage of
preparation the legislation is at. I would also expect him to know what is happening with
climate change impact assessments. We were told such assessments would be taken into con-
sideration as part of all Cabinet decision-making. I assume that is happening. Is the Taoiseach
saying that no climate change impact assessments are being done in advance of Government
decisions on various matters, such as infrastructural investment and economic affairs? I am not
asking for the detail of particular assessments. I am simply asking how such assessments are
carried out. If the Taoiseach knows nothing about it, I presume nothing is being done about it,
like many other things in the programme for Government, and therefore there are no climate
change impact assessments. It is all very well for the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Envir-
onment, Heritage and Local Government to go to Copenhagen and give a lot of rhetorical guff
about climate change, when they are doing very little about it at home.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy is an expert in rhetorical guff.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Can the Taoiseach answer my questions? To which Minister should
I direct my questions about the national climate change adaptation strategy? What is happening
with the climate change Bill? Is the Government undertaking any climate change impact
assessments?

   The Taoiseach: The Deputy has asked three questions, rather than two. I will answer the
three of them for him. His initial requirement was that I should answer two questions. I will
answer three anyway. The climate change Bill is due during the course of this year. Questions
on legislation are usually asked on the Order of Business, when I have the information to hand.
If Deputy Gilmore wants to table a specific question on the matter, I will get the answer for
him. I cannot predict every question he might want to ask, particularly if it is outside the remit
of the questions before the House. The purpose of Taoiseach’s questions is to try to provide
accurate information, rather than to speculate. I like to give it to the Deputy accurately. He
likes accuracy.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Good.

  The Taoiseach: Great. The Deputy can take up his second question, on climate change adap-
tation policy, with the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Okay.

  The Taoiseach: If he sends a letter to the Minister, he can expect to get a reply. The third
matter raised was the question of climate change impact assessments. It is obvious that not
every Government decision is subject to a climate change impact assessment. Some decisions
do not necessitate such assessments. Climate change impact assessments will be brought for-
ward by the relevant Departments, where relevant, in respect of Government initiatives that
come forward.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Have any such assessments been brought forward to date?
                                               316
                  Ceisteanna —            24 March 2010.               Questions


  The Taoiseach: I would have to check all the memos that have come before me.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: No, I am not asking the Taoiseach to check all the memos. I am
not asking him to state how many assessments have been brought forward. I am asking him if
any assessments at all have been brought forward.

  The Taoiseach: As the Deputy knows, climate change impact assessments, like poverty
impact assessments, are set out in memos where relevant.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Have there been any climate change impact assessments to date?

  The Taoiseach: I do not have the details in front of me.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Does the Taoiseach remember any such assessment?

  The Taoiseach: I read at least 25 or 30 Government memos every week.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach cannot remember a single climate change impact
assessment.

  The Taoiseach: I did not say that. The Deputy is well aware that he is asking questions which
are beyond the remit of the questions before the House.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach should not be getting contrary.

  The Taoiseach: I am not. It is Deputy Gilmore who is into the rhetorical guff.

   Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Is it not the honest truth that the Copenhagen Summit
was an absolute disaster? Does the Taoiseach agree that the participants failed to meet their
responsibility to produce a binding agreement that would have tackled climate change effec-
tively? It is clear they did not do that. Will the Taoiseach agree that the vague and badly
written political declaration is a setback that will hit hardest those countries in the developing
world where climate change is of greatest importance? The threat posed will spell further
economic disaster for those countries in particular. Does the Taoiseach agree that what was
needed were ambitious targets in regard to emissions reductions; clear sources for the substan-
tial — and I emphasise the word “substantial” — new finance that is needed; and clear commit-
ments, measures and procedures on a range of other issues in order to limit the global increase
in temperature to less than 2° Celsius?
   Having listened to the Taoiseach’s initial response to this group of questions and his replies
to previous speakers, I am at a loss to understand what specific initiatives and actions the
Government now intends to take to ensure the next summit, scheduled for the end of the year
in Mexico, will not be a replication of the disappointments of the Copenhagen summit. Will he
spell out exactly what new, fresh initiatives the Government intends to take, given the experi-
ence and knowledge of the failures and fault lines within the entire approach at Copenhagen?
What is the Government doing to ensure that Mexico will be a summit which people can look
forward to with a realistic expectation of concrete deliverables?

  The Taoiseach: Of course there is disappointment that the ambitions of many to deliver an
accord at the last summit were not met. It was clear before we got to Copenhagen that there
would not be a consensus on a legally binding accord, but the effort was made to get agreement
on broad principles that would be converted into legal text and subsequently ratified. It became
clear, unfortunately, that major global players in this debate were not prepared to come forward
with the same types of proportionate steps as those taken by the European Union in the context
                                               317
                     Ceisteanna —          24 March 2010.              Questions

  [The Taoiseach.]
of the leadership position it has taken on this matter. In the absence of a global agreement
that would incorporate all areas and all countries that are contributing to the problem, unilat-
eral action by the European Union is not feasible. However, the European Union has taken a
leadership position on this matter and is anxious to proceed. The question of how to deal with
the evolving negotiations that may take place in the course of this year in preparation for the
next summit, with the hope of securing a better outcome, will be discussed at the spring Euro-
pean Council meeting.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Taoiseach referred to the European Union as taking a
lead position. In regard to the Government’s role and responsibility in this matter, is it the case
that we are confined in our approach in the context of our membership of the European Union,
or has the Government, on behalf of the people of Ireland, engaged with countries in Africa,
Asia and South America — the countries that have and are likely to suffer most by the failures
to grapple with climate change? Will the Taoiseach outline whether we have taken independent
initiatives and built on our work within the European Union in engaging with countries across
these other continents? Does the Government intend to do so in the lead-up to Mexico and in
the context of further opportunities that may subsequently present?

  The Taoiseach: In terms of the conduct of aspects of our foreign policy, particularly in this
area, Ireland’s voice in the world is far greater amplified by adopting common positions with
European Union partners. The idea that Ireland can engage in an individual initiative, outside
the parameters of the European Union position of seeking to grow a consensus toward an
outcome that meets the needs of the situation, is neither realistic nor achievable. Ireland is
working with partners on a common position so that the European Union can speak to other
regions in the world with the strength of a collective voice. That is a far more effective way of
pursuing our foreign policy objective of securing a global agreement on climate change than
the idea that we would progress beyond the current position of the European Union in terms
of our own particular commitments. That would have adverse economic impacts for us and
affect our competitiveness in a way that would not in any event achieve our objectives.
   We must work with others to achieve those objectives. The reality is that failure to secure
agreement does not rest with Europe; there are other countries elsewhere in the world that are
major contributors to carbon emissions and which are not facing up to their responsibilities.
Everybody must do their bit and Europe is prepared to do more — as we have indicated and
are prepared to indicate publicly — to bring momentum to these negotiations. What happened
at Copenhagen was that the prospect of agreement, unfortunately, fell away in terms of the
initial ambition we adopted. We must build on where we were at in Copenhagen and seek to
make a success of Mexico. In the context of the next series of negotiations, the European
Union will adopt its position after the spring Council.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: Does the Taoiseach agree that if the European Union is to lead on
this matter, it should first ensure that its own member states are developing their natural
resources to the extent that they can play a major part in reducing CO2 emissions? We do not
have to look far to see the failures in this regard. The Government established an all-party
Oireachtas committee but proceed to ignore its recommendations entirely. As my colleague,
Deputy Gilmore, has stated, that committee has already produced two legislative proposals,
one on climate change and the other on offshore renewable energy. Neither report has seen
the light of day, yet we hear much from Government about the importance of the commit-
tees structure.
                                                318
                  Ceisteanna —             24 March 2010.              Questions


  Second, we have neither the legislative provisions nor the grid capacity to develop our natural
resources, let alone to meet European targets. It is a disgrace. We are years behind and will
continue to be years behind in the development of ocean energy.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question for the Taoiseach?

  Deputy Seán Barrett: As Chairman of the Cabinet sub-committee on climate change and
energy security, will the Taoiseach take an active role on this issue? Will he talk to the Minister
seated beside him, who is responsible for the greatest disaster of all time in terms of CO2
emissions from transport, which are 146% above target? Will we lead by example or will we
simply go on with all this mere talk of our concern about CO2 emissions and climate change?
We have two Green Party Ministers who are supposed to be responsible in this area——

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: And two Green Party Ministers of State.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: ——who have done nothing in terms of bringing forward legislation.
They do not even have the common courtesy to follow up on legislation produced by the all-
party committee.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy put a question to the Taoiseach?

   Deputy Seán Barrett: They do not the courtesy to engage with the committee and encourage
it to proceed further in this area. Let us cut out all this nonsense that Europe is leading the
fight against climate change. Leadership starts with one’s own country. We must show that we
are developing our natural resources——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is imparting information rather than seeking it.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: ——and creating the employment opportunities that are needed.
   The Taoiseach mentioned that we are very competitive. Does he not realise that electricity
prices in the State are among the highest in Europe, which seriously damages our competi-
tiveness? Yet we have natural resources which, if they were developed, would allow us to
become net exporters of electricity.

   The Taoiseach: It is not correct that electricity prices here are among the highest in Europe.
As a result of reductions in the course of the last year, electricity prices are now below the
European average. Work is ongoing in this regard in order to improve the competitiveness of
Irish industry. We have made certain changes that sought to ameliorate the problem, partic-
ularly for business users, in order to ensure that we keep energy costs down. We are a small
island market. Despite the emergence of an all-Ireland electricity market, which has brought
its own benefits, we intend to pursue interconnection in order to become part of a wider
regional market and to secure access to other sources of energy for purchase, which will ensure
we have a proper competitive system. There has been much change and more players entering
the marketplace to assist in that. However, it is not just a question of more players in the
smaller market on this island but also securing interconnection to the wider regional market
and ensuring that this, in turn, will bring competitive pressures in terms of price and choice
to consumers.
   We are making huge investments in public transport in this city. We have only seen substan-
tial investment in public transport in Ireland in the last ten or 12 years. There are major
transport projects in various stages of preparation, while some of them are already coming
on stream.
                                                319
                     Ceisteanna —         24 March 2010.               Questions

  [The Taoiseach.]

  The Deputy asked about the Government’s position on legislative change. The Minister is
dealing with that matter. I am aware that the committee has done work in this area. The
preparation of legislation is a matter for the relevant Department and must take account of
what has been said. I am not aware of what happened at the most recent meetings between
the Minister and the committee, but it is best to work together to get an effective operation. If
an adversarial approach is taken, then it is hard to make progress but I am sure there is much
good work being done.
  The Deputy also spoke about climate change and wave energy. I met the representatives of
an American company prominent in that area who told me they were proceeding with further
capital investment here. We hope that much of the work they are doing will result in a success-
ful commercial outcome. I replied to Deputy Kenny previously on wind energy and the other
sustainable energy sources.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: There is no point in having interconnection if there is no grid to carry
the power. We are years behind on this aspect. Why are we talking about interconnection if
we have not got the grid to export energy? We have no thought of developing harbours to deal
with offshore development. We do not have the basics put in place. We do not even talk
about a road network. Do people understand that ocean energy cannot be developed without
having harbours?
  We have a transport company which has no targets——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Can we have a question please?

  Deputy Seán Barrett: ——for renewable energy in public transport. The ESB has set targets,
but CIE has set no targets. Not a single bus on the island of Ireland is run on renewable energy.
We have trains that do not even carry bicycles so that people can use them for holidays.

  An Ceann Comhairle: This is Question Time, not a Second Stage speech on energy matters.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: We have no policy on public transport to enable us to bring forward a
positive plan to show that we are really serious in this area. We have natural resources that
are waiting to be developed. People are investing their money——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Barrett, you are abusing Question Time. We need a question
and not a Second Stage speech.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: I am entitled to ask the——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I do not mind a short preamble, but not a long dissertation.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: ——Taoiseach if he agrees with the fact that opportunities cannot be
developed because of the lack of infrastructure and planning. No team has been put together
for such development.

   The Taoiseach: Developing a network and investment for such developments are huge stra-
tegic issues for Ireland. At local level there have been very visible instances of people from the
Deputy’s own party backing those who suggest that we should defer it, or go underground for
miles at huge cost. If the Deputy is for the network, then he should be consistent about it. I
am for a network and for doing it within international requirements, but I am not prepared to
listen to the Deputy saying he is committed to the issue when his colleagues say the exact
opposite in town halls all over the country.
                                               320
                 Ceisteanna —            24 March 2010.              Questions


  Deputy Seán Barrett: The Taoiseach is head of the Government. He should show leadership.

  The Taoiseach: These are the facts and I am showing leadership. I have clearly stated my
position.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: Fine Gael is in favour——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Barrett, please.

  The Taoiseach: If that is the case, then why is it being deferred? Why are we not making as
much progress as we would like to make? The Deputy claims we are years behind. Objections
have been raised in the north west, in the mid-east, and in the Border areas. There have been
calls for development, jobs, this and that, but when it comes to putting in the infrastructure,
politicians have another tale to tell because people are saying other things to them and they
want to play to that gallery as well.

  Deputy Seán Barrett: Where is the money in the budget? It is not there.

  The Taoiseach: I did not interrupt the Deputy when he asked questions and made many
comments. He suggested that nothing is being done, but I am explaining to him how the
Government is trying to promote this investment. Things are being said and done on the ground
that are at variance with the Deputy’s strong commitment to get this done as quickly as pos-
sible. Some of these things are being said by people in the Deputy’s own party. I am entitled
to make that point, and if people in my party did that, I would ask them their proposals. They
are either for this or against it. We cannot demand better infrastructure all over the country,
and then go to town halls around the country and agree with those who say they have a problem
with such developments. We cannot have it every way.
   There has been an improvement in the stock of trains and engines at CIE. There was no rail
transport investment in this country up until 1996. In the last 13 or 14 years, hundreds of
millions of euro have been invested in public transport. More is to be invested, but significant
infrastructure projects are being completed on time and within budget across this city. There
are other cities in Ireland that would love to get such projects. To hear a Deputy from Dublin
saying nothing is happening with public transport——

  Deputy Seán Barrett: I said that there is not one vehicle run on renewable energy.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I would like to ask about the question on the order paper on
the negotiations that are following the Copenhagen summit. Is the Government opening a
dialogue with the developing bloc of countries that went to the summit with specific demands
on the additionality of resources over and above that which is committed to development?
   Very little meaningful progress was made on technology transfer. It is not good enough to
say that the European Council will discuss some of the broader issues, as individual member
states of the EU are in negotiation with particular parts of the developing and the undevel-
oped blocs.
  Is it still the position of the Government and the European Council to stay in pursuit of a
legally binding agreement? Will that agreement have mechanisms of implementation that will
be the project of the UN? Alternatively, is there a slide towards a set of bilateral accom-
modations between blocs and countries that will fall well short of a legally bind agreement?
This would mean that the Mexico conference in December would be as big a failure as the
Copenhagen summit.
                                              321
                  Ceisteanna —             24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Michael D. Higgins.]

  I accept the view that a strong positive position by the EU will be of great value at the
conference in Mexico. What precise dialogue is being opened with some of the major players
who were obstructionist in the Copenhagen process? China has described itself as part of the
developing bloc, and this differs from the undeveloped bloc. The undeveloped bloc will go to
the Mexico conference claiming that they are paying the highest price in terms of loss of life
and environmental costs, yet they are getting the least. They want a clear answer on
additionality and technology transfer.

  The Taoiseach: I agree with the Deputy that there is a requirement to assist those undevel-
oped countries to the greatest possible extent, both in terms of additionality and technological
transfer. There has to be a just outcome to this matter. As the Deputy said, there are small
communities, islands and countries in the undeveloped bloc whose very existence is under
threat, given all the available scientific evidence. They have the greatest stake in this but,
unfortunately, they also have the weakest voice. As regards the values we should espouse and
articulate, the EU has been and will be to the forefront in ensuring that we get an outcome
that will do justice to those who are under the most severe pressure. I do not think there is
any argument about that.
   It is true to say that the stage the negotiations reached did not indicate what the final figure
or outward boundary would be in terms of additionality and technological transfer for those
countries. That was because no overall deal emerged. However, it is a part of the negotiations
which I agree is important and needs to be adequately addressed. In so far as one can, I hope
it can also be addressed to the satisfaction of those undeveloped countries whose very existence
is under threat, let alone for other more developed countries which have resources and are in
a better position to deal with this problem and find ameliorating measures to compensate for
any loss of capacity arising from the commitments they undertake.
  As regards the United Nations, we obviously do not want to see bilateral or trilateral arrange-
ments being made by individual blocs. We want to see an overall global agreement under the
aegis of the UN, which best provides guarantees for that. I was personally disappointed with
the arrangements in Copenhagen, which were under the UN aegis. It undermined the argu-
ments about the centrality of the UN’s ambition and involvement if basic logistical issues
regarding the organisation of conferences cannot be dealt with competently. To that extent,
one was dealing with a disorganised situation. I found it hard to believe, given the importance
of the issues that were being dealt with, but that is not germane to the debate’s issues. While
we have always advocated that the UN must be centrally involved in these issues, it must show
the capacity and competence to be the player it needs to be in order to provide a just outcome
for those whose voices, thus far, have not been adequately heard in this debate.
  I believe in working towards the UN’s common position, which does not mean that this
country will abdicate its responsibility for advocacy on these matters. In addition, it ensures
that in our bilateral relations with those affected, we have a good relationship in terms of our
UN participation in New York and elsewhere. Nobody is suggesting that Ireland is less than
committed to the issues regarding the group of countries to which the Deputy has referred.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: The Taoiseach has said that the United Nations’ role and
responsibility are clear following any future agreement. Is it not the case that individual EU
countries are effectively trading off different levels of crisis against each other? These include
the food, energy, environmental and climate change crises. My question is positive towards the
outcomes that will happen in Mexico. If, for example, technology transfer is to be left to
individual countries’ arrangements with countries receiving development aid, one will not be
                                                322
          Requests to move Adjournment of   24 March 2010.       Dáil under Standing Order 32


able to monitor the issue of additionality. In addition, the technology transfer will not be of
sufficient volume to enable individual developing countries to participate in the agreement in
Mexico. Does the question mark over some scientific activities — not the work, but the publi-
cations — mean that the United Nations has moved back from taking the lead role? I refer to
the UN taking responsibility for technology transfer as a global achievement, and for changing
the role of its institutions such as the UN Development Programme. Will this be done in such
a way that, effectively, the issues of additionality, accepting differences, survival and the balance
between the different crises——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question?

   Deputy Michael D. Higgins: This is my question: is the UN being urged by the Irish Govern-
ment to resume a more active role in being the lead agency for resolving the issues that will
go into the Mexico conference? Is there any evidence available to the Taoiseach that the UN
is resuming such a role?

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy has raised a fair point. I will take the matter up with the Depart-
ment of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we are letting the UN know that we want it to be
involved in this area. It is not a question of coming up with a deal that does not have the
necessary transparency we would like to see, so that in signing up to something these
developing countries would know exactly what they will get, and that it was additional rather
than a replacement or less than what is being suggested. There are detailed aspects to these
negotiations, which are dealt with at a technical level and need to be cleared. I do not have
the details with me but I note what the Deputy has said. I will take the matter up with the
Minister and ask him to revert to the Deputy.

              Requests to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 32.
  An Ceann Comhairle: Before coming to the Order of Business I propose to deal with a
number of notices under Standing Order 32. I will call on the Deputies in the order in which
they submitted their notices to my office.

  Deputy Frank Feighan: I seek the adjournment of the Dáil once again under Standing Order
32 to discuss a matter of national importance, namely, the continued embargo on recruitment
in the HSE which is putting lives at risk. I have raised this before on the Adjournment. It is a
matter for the Government to intervene and address this increasingly dangerous situation.
Elderly people are losing day care services all around the country because of this embargo
excuse. This is happening in my own town, in the Plunkett Home in Boyle. I ask the Minister
to address this problem. The people who built up this country must be remembered. Day care
services must be retained all over the country.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: I seek the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 32 to
discuss an important matter, namely, the ongoing fear and anxiety now shared by many
members of staff and thousands of families in its catchment area that Portiuncula Hospital in
Ballinasloe is being allowed to run down by the HSE. I call on the Minister for Health and
Children, and the HSE, to organise urgently a promised meeting with the unions involved so
that the exact situation of this vital general hospital will be made known to the thousands of
people who are expected to march in Ballinasloe next Sunday, 28 March, to show their soli-
darity with an institution that has proved its worth a thousandfold to countless families down
through the years.
                                                 323
          Requests to move Adjournment of   24 March 2010.    Dáil under Standing Order 32


  An Ceann Comhairle: Having considered the matters raised, they are not in order under
Standing Order 32.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: On a point of order, did the Ceann Comhairle receive a request
under Standing Order 32 from my office?

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have not been advised of it.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It was sent yesterday.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I will have to check. I simply do not have it.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I submitted it.

   An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that if the Deputy resubmits the matter we can deal with
it tomorrow.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It was really a matter for today, which was submitted well in
advance.

  An Ceann Comhairle: If we get into that we will set a precedent and we are going to have a
problem. The Deputy should resubmit it tomorrow and we can deal with it at that stage.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: There is a problem.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Alternatively, the Deputy can raise it on the Adjournment tonight.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Adjournment is not the greatest place in the world to raise
an issue of vital national importance. This relates to the adjournment of the House to deal with
certain vital issues.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are not on a point of order now.

   Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I do not want to be disruptive, but I do want to make the
situation clear. This matter under Standing Order 32 was submitted to the Ceann Comhairle’s
office at 10 a.m. yesterday. It was received and acknowledged in the office, yet the Ceann
Comhairle now says he has no knowledge of it.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yesterday, not today.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Yesterday morning.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yesterday is yesterday.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but the matter was referred on
to today when it was brought to my attention that there would be no matters raised under
Standing Order 32 yesterday morning.

  Deputy Frank Feighan: On a point of information, I agree with the Deputy. My matter under
Standing Order 32 was sent in yesterday morning and accepted. I support my colleague.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I will have to check, Deputy, but that is the position. The Deputy can
take it there has been no attempt to deprive him of his rights in the House.
                                                 324
          Requests to move Adjournment of   24 March 2010.   Dáil under Standing Order 32


  Deputy Enda Kenny: The Ceann Comhairle should let the Deputy read out his matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: If he submits it tomorrow for consideration it can be dealt with at
that stage.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: May I read it out, a Cheann Comhairle, since it was submitted
on time?

   An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow a precedent to be established on this matter. I would
like to accommodate the Deputy, but tomorrow will be the day to do so.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: In order to protect Members of the House, can the Ceann
Comhairle give me some indication of how a similar situation might be dealt with in the future?
For example, if some Member of the House——

  An Ceann Comhairle: No, Deputy.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: If some Member submits a similar request under Standing Order
32 tomorrow and it is not acknowledged, who has responsibility? To whom do we then make
representations? This is our right under Standing Orders.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Inquiries can be made to my office or whoever is in the Chair at
the time.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but I am not here to make
inquiries. I am here to ensure my rights as a Deputy are observed under Standing Orders.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I apologise profusely to the Deputy if his rights have been in any way
compromised or neglected. I do not know what happened to the matter the Deputy submitted
yesterday, but I will check and get back to him.

  Deputy Paul Kehoe: The Ceann Comhairle should bring the Deputy to his office for coffee.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I will consider that. In the meantime, we will move on with the Order
of Business.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, I did not come to the House
for coffee. I came for a different purpose altogether.

  Deputy Frank Feighan: Even with a biscuit?

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It is relevant to the issues that have been raised by my col-
leagues already.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have explained the position to the Deputy. He may submit his matter
again and call to the office and we can discuss the matter. I will check to see what the diffi-
culty was.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Will the Ceann Comhairle accept a private notice question on
the issue?

  An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy submits one it will certainly be considered, although I
cannot give any guarantees.
                                                 325
                   Order of              24 March 2010.               Business


                                      Order of Business.
  The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 6, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann
of a Council Decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and
the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions
of the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 29 May 2000; No. 7, motion re
proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council Decision on the conclusion of the agreement
between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the
surrender procedure between the member states of the European Union and Iceland and Nor-
way; No. 8, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council Decision on the con-
clusion of the agreement between the European Union and Iceland and Norway on the appli-
cation of certain provisions of Council Decision 2008/615/JHA and Council Decision
2008/616/JHA; No. 9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a Council Decision on
the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and Japan on mutual legal
assistance in criminal matters; No. 1, George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill
2010 — amendment from the Seanad; No. 21, Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety
Bill 2010 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 22, Road Traffic Bill
2009 — Second Stage (resumed).
  It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 shall be
decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 73, motion re tourism
(resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for
dealing with Nos. 6 to 9, inclusive, without debate, agreed to?

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is not agreed.
  Before agreeing to the Order of Business as proposed by the Taoiseach, I ask the Taoiseach
to indicate when an opportunity will be provided for this House to discuss the terms of refer-
ence of the inquiry into the recent events at Tallaght hospital. It is vital that this House has
the opportunity to debate and approve, if that be the case, the terms of reference of that
inquiry. We need to know whether it will include an investigation of the Minister’s role and
address the fact that the Minister knew by at least 15 December last of what was taking place
in Tallaght hospital, although that information was not shared with this House or with the
patients whose X-rays were not read or whose referral letters were not opened. Will the terms
of reference also address the matter of the consultants at Tallaght hospital, whom we pay
handsomely from public moneys, and whether they are fulfilling the terms of their contracts
under the current arrangement?

  An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot see a relationship between the matter raised and the proposal
on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: This is an important issue——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have no doubt, but there are many other ways of raising it.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——and relevant to this House. The House is entitled to
know the details of the terms of reference of the inquiry.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will have to raise the matter in another way.
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 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I would like the Taoiseach to respond because this is a
matter——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Ultimately, it is a matter for the line Minister. The Deputy may raise
the matter as a parliamentary question or a private notice question or on the Adjournment.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Clearly, the line Minister has little heed of the matter. She
was on the other side of the globe when this issue burst into the media and the homes of
concerned citizens up and down the State, but she might as well have been on another planet.
Although she is now back——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I know, but I must remind the Deputy——

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——she has yet to be accountable to this House for her and
her Department’s role in this matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: ——that we must reach a decision on proposal No. 1. There is no
relationship between the Deputy’s point and the proposal.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: There is an absolute relationship.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Absolutely none.

   Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: With respect, if you cannot see it, a Cheann Comhairle, that
is another point of concern to me.

  Deputy Denis Naughten: He should have gone to Specsavers.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I ask the Taoiseach whether the terms of reference of the
Tallaght inquiry will be brought before the House for debate and approval. I would appreciate
a response from the Taoiseach.

  The Taoiseach: An independent review is being conducted by Maurice Hayes, a person held
in high regard, and the terms of reference have been set for him. I have every confidence in
his integrity. When the report is issued it will be discussed in the House.

 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will the Taoiseach present the terms of reference to the
House?

  The Taoiseach: No. The terms of reference have been set and the chairman of the review
group appointed. His independence and integrity are not to be questioned by me and I do not
think they can be questioned by anyone else.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Nobody is questioning Dr. Hayes’s integrity.

  The Taoiseach: That is the situation.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: This House should have a role and function with regard to
the terms of reference.

  The Taoiseach: When the final report is issued it will be discussed here. In the meantime,
the important thing — in line with best practice — is to complete the clinical audit so that
people will know exactly what their situations are. That is being conducted at the moment.
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  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We are all for that, but the terms of reference should be
brought to the attention of the House.

  The Taoiseach: That is the Deputy’s opinion.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We should have the chance to debate it and indicate
approval if approval is deserved. There are major issues that may not be addressed in this
inquiry.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal agreed to? Agreed.

   Deputy Enda Kenny: I ask the Taoiseach whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs will take
time today to make a statement to the House about how he intends to manage the disruption
being experienced by citizens who wish to obtain passports at the Passport Office. The
Taoiseach is aware that every citizen is constitutionally entitled to a passport and to travel.
Those rights are being denied to citizens at the moment. Has the Government considered a
situation in which it fails to deliver on the constitutional imperative for so many citizens? If a
person who wants to travel abroad with his family books a holiday and pays the airline but
cannot travel because he cannot get a passport, there is clearly a case for him to receive
compensation from the Government, as he has lost money through no fault of his own. How
does the Government propose to manage the delivery of its constitutional responsibility to
provide passports and uphold the right to travel for people who want to leave the country?
   What is the Government’s response in cases in which people have clearly followed the pro-
cedures and have not had their passports delivered, thus incurring losses from money paid to
airlines and so on through no fault of their own? They followed the procedure but their pass-
ports have not been sent. The Government has failed to deliver on that constitutional
imperative.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is legislation promised in this area?

  The Taoiseach: There is no legislation promised. My great regret in this matter is that the
Passport Office has in the past been an excellent example of the provision of a good public
service. An industrial relations issue has arisen and the only way it can be resolved is to see
the action stopped. The impact this is having on the public is absolutely disproportionate to
the issues being raised. A forum has been established on my initiative to ensure all issues like
this can be dealt with in current discussions.
   For everybody interested in the public service and in respect to any concerns or aspirations
public servants have, ordinary public servants know why the Government had to take the
decisions it took in December. The issue for today and over the coming weeks is to deal with
the backlog that has emerged as a result of the action. The only way the backlog can be resolved
is to lift the action of not co-operating with the employment of seasonal staff that could be
brought in to deal with the matter and stop the refusal to do overtime, which would normally
be available. There are many seasonal fluctuations in the number of passports being sought at
a given time of the year, with Easter and the summer being the busiest times.
  I ask that common sense prevail and people enable temporary staff to be taken on to deal
with the backlog to try to get back to a proper service for people who need it. It concerns
people who may not be in a position of life and death but who need this service in the normal
course of events. I acknowledge that in the past we have seen that staff in the passport office
are good, committed public servants who have provided a good service. We need to get back
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to that position and the only way to deal with the matter is to have the union lift the stipulation
not to co-operate with seasonal staff, should they be brought in, and allow overtime to be
provided. That is how to get the position back to normal as quickly as possible.
  With regard to other matters, there is a forum and facilitation taking place and discussions
are ongoing. Issues can be dealt with like so and cannot be dealt with in any other forum.

   Deputy Enda Kenny: I note the union representing staff working in the passport offices has
issued protective strike notice. This issue has been very disruptive for thousands of people and
the Government has failed to put in place a system that delivers a service to citizens that they
deserve and which is their constitutional right.
  The Taoiseach has made comments in good faith about getting the working position restored.
May I take it from his comments that he clearly supports the lifting of the embargo now? Does
he support overtime being made available and the introduction of temporary workers normally
employed at this time of the year in the passport offices to deal with a backlog? If so, has the
Taoiseach communicated this, through his office, to the union and asked the Minister for
Foreign Affairs to speak directly to unions about the Government’s wishes? Is there anything
further he can add through making a statement in the House today?
  Every Deputy from every party has heard of hundreds of cases from all over the country.
People have travelled by train but were unable to get into the office. There are issues concern-
ing management of the line, with people possibly being ordered by who is travelling on Friday,
Monday or Tuesday if there is authentic proof of travel. Given that there is an extensive line
of people, there could be simple management of the queue according to who is travelling on a
particular day. That would be much more manageable.
  It is imperative that the Taoiseach ensures the Minister for Foreign Affairs intervenes and
expresses the Government’s wishes in this regard directly to the union and staff so that the
matter can be resolved.

  The Taoiseach: There is an ongoing process in place.

  Deputy Enda Kenny: I know that.

  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: It is not working.

   The Taoiseach: It began on my invitation and was agreed by the Irish Congress of Trade
Unions and the Government as employers. All the unions, including the one which the Deputy
has said has suggested protective strike notice, is involved in that process. Best industrial prac-
tice means there cannot be an escalation of disputes when there is an ongoing discussion for
the purpose of trying to find a way forward and trying to coincide the public interest with any
aspirations public servants have for their future work. We must get on with that job, which
cannot be dealt with in the context of the action taking place.
  It is a matter of particular regret to me that this is occurring in an office which has been, in
the past, an excellent example of how the public service provides an important service to the
public in a very competent and professional way with a quick turnaround. We must get back
to that position. Every year temporary staff are always taken on at this time and overtime is
provided to deal with the greater workload. That has always been facilitated and will continue
to be facilitated. It has been sought but there has been a decision not to co-operate with the
policy which must be lifted. The only way to deal with a backlog of 44,000 applications is to
see that this happens.
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  [The Taoiseach.]

   The modification of the union position this morning, moving from issues of life and limb to
trying to provide the service to everyone who needs it, will not be possible without extra
temporary staff and overtime. We must get on with the business and there is another forum
being facilitated by people who are expert in industrial relations in order to deal with general
issues. That should be allowed and we cannot have an escalation when there is a facilitation of
discussions agreed between congress and the Government as employer.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I understand why this industrial action is taking place; it is a result
of anger among low-paid public servants in particular that the Government unilaterally cut pay
and threw their trade unions out of Government Buildings last December. When issues of pay
and people’s employment conditions and contracts are approached in such a way, there is
a consequence.
   I have called for a suspension of the industrial action given the major inconvenience being
caused to the public and the difficulties being posed for people. I was glad to see yesterday a
statement and decision from the union concerned that it was prepared to vary the industrial
action. I was surprised at the reaction of the Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs,
which effectively shot down the suggestion. An opportunity was provided yesterday evening
when the trade union concerned indicated a willingness to vary the industrial action and the
appropriate Minister should have taken it positively, sat down with union representatives and
tried to work out some kind of formula that would have got over the crisis that now exists in
the passport offices. It clearly did not happen and there is now a position where there is talk
of escalating the dispute. The Government’s handling of the issue leaves much to be desired.
   There are a couple of other issues I wanted to raise with the Taoiseach. This morning he
announced the assignment of Ministers to a number of Departments, referring to the Depart-
ments as they were before yesterday. In his introduction of the motion yesterday, he said it
was intended to reconfigure Departments and rename a number of them. Is it intended to
bring legislation before the House to provide for the reconfiguration of the Departments and,
if so, when will that be introduced?
   When is the reconfiguration of the Departments to take place? For example, we were told
yesterday that matters relating to science investment and research were to be transferred from
the Department of Education and Science to the new Department responsible for enterprise,
trade and innovation. If Deputies have a question relating to science or research, to which
Department or Minister do we address the question?
   I also wish to inquire about matters relating to cost. When the Department of Social Welfare
became the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in 1997, it cost £2 million to
change the logos on its headed paper and on nameplates outside its offices. Yesterday, the
               Taoiseach announced changes in name for five Departments. There is probably
12 o’clock     a consequential change in the name of a sixth Department given that if responsi-
               bility for equality is to be transferred to the new Department of Community,
Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, then I presume the Department of Justice, Equality and Law
Reform will become the Department of Justice and Law Reform. If it cost £2 million to change
the name of one Department in 1997, how many millions of euro will it cost to change the
names of six Departments in 2010?
   The Ceann Comhairle indicated that he received the resignation of former Deputy Martin
Cullen. Although I took issue with the former Deputy in respect of certain matters in the past,
I take this opportunity to wish him well. This latest resignation means that there are now three
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vacancies in the House. When it is intended to hold by-elections in respect of those vacancies?
It is normally the case that when a vacancy arises as a result of the death of a Member, a
suitable period is allowed to pass before the by-election is held. However, the three current
vacancies came about as a result of resignations as opposed to the deaths of Members. As a
result, there is no need to postpone holding the by-elections. When will those by-elections
be held?
  The third matter I wish to raise with the Taoiseach is the Lost at Sea scheme report. I have
been putting moderate questions to the Taoiseach on this matter, which I believe should be
dealt with in a non-partisan manner. I suggested that it should be referred to an Oireachtas
committee in order that the issues raised by the Ombudsman might be dealt with. It is clear
that the Ombudsman is unhappy with regard to the way in which this matter has been handled.
In an interview in last Saturday’s edition of the Irish Independent, the Ombudsman, Ms Emily
O’Reilly, stated that the future of her office is at stake as a result of the way in which this
matter has been dealt with.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are on the Order of Business and long contributions tend to eat
into the time available to other Members for raising matters or posing questions.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Yes, this is the Order of Business and I am seeking to discover
whether the Taoiseach — in the absence of further unnecessary rancour — will agree to have
this matter referred to an Oireachtas committee in order that it might be dealt with. If this
does not happen, those of us who are members of Opposition parties will be obliged to take
the appropriate steps in order to exercise our responsibility in the matter on the floor of
the House.

   The Taoiseach: I do not know what the Deputy means by his final comment. The basic point
is that the Ombudsman presented a special report on the Lost at Sea scheme to the Houses of
the Oireachtas, at which time she invited them to “consider my report and ... take whatever
action they deem appropriate”. That has happened.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: It has not happened. That is the issue.

   The Taoiseach: Both Houses have discussed the report. I have no difficulty with the relevant
committee dealing with any of these matters. I am not involved in any phoney confrontation
with anyone. As I have done in the past, however, I am entitled to make the point that there
is no obligation on the Government to accept the recommendations in a special report.
   It is clear from the record of the debates relating to this matter that there has been an
attempt to continue with a misrepresentation of the position of a certain Member of the House.
The particular allegations in this case — which the Ombudsman, in her report, accepts were
not well grounded — continue to be made. Deputy Gilmore suggests that he wants this matter
dealt with in a non-partisan fashion. However, in the debates that have taken place it has been
dealt with in an extremely partisan way. That is the truth of the matter.
   If people want to deal with the report in a proper fashion before a committee of the Houses,
I for one am not in the business of blocking what committees want to do. I am also not in the
business of facilitating those who state that they want a matter to be dealt with in a non-
partisan way when the contents of the relevant debates on that matter suggest the contrary.
  The Ombudsman’s report sets out the position. The charges that were made against the
relevant Deputy were unfounded. However, for political reasons, Members of this House are
making efforts to ensure that the matter remains in the public domain and it is they who keep
uttering jibes, etc.
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  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: Why is the Ombudsman so unhappy about the way the report has
been dealt with?

  Deputy James Reilly: In such circumstances, the Taoiseach should allow us to deal with the
matter properly. He should read what the former Ombudsman, Mr. Michael Mills, had to say
on the matter.

  The Taoiseach: Here we go again. That is the position and that is how the matter can be
dealt with by——

 Deputy Pat Rabbitte: It is the Ombudsman who has made certain statements about this
matter.

  (Interruptions).

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, without interruption.

  The Taoiseach: I have just explained that I have no difficulty with the relevant committee
dealing with this issue. If the Ombudsman wants to come before that committee in order to
discuss the matter, that is fine. I am not involved in a confrontation with the Ombudsman and
nor have I any interest in becoming so involved. I am concerned with regard to the way people
have sought to use the report in the House in order to continue to make allegations which are
without foundation. In fairness to the person to whom the report refers, I am defending the
position that has emerged.

  Deputy James Reilly: Then the report should be brought before the relevant committee in
order that the matter might be debated in full.

  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: The Ombudsman has a strong view on this matter.

   The Taoiseach: I have just outlined the position. Deputy Reilly’s problem is that he does not
listen. He has a major problem in that regard. He has a great deal to say but he does not listen.

 Deputy James Reilly: I do listen but I have a difficulty with what I am hearing. The Taoiseach
wants to bury the report at sea.

  The Taoiseach: I am not involved in a confrontation with anybody. I am merely setting out
the legal position, the nature of the report, the basis on which it was brought before the House
and the fact that it was discussed and dealt with by both Houses. The suggestion that it was
not dealt with is incorrect. If Members want the report to be discussed further by the relevant
committee, I will not get in the way of such a process.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Ombudsman wants the committee to discuss it.

  The Taoiseach: I am not getting involved with the Ombudsman and I am not seeking any
confrontation with her. I am merely making the point that the committee can discuss the
matter further.

  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: The Ombudsman cannot be ignored in this matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, without interruption.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I much preferred the Taoiseach when he was prepared to opt for con-
frontation.
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  The Taoiseach: Deputy Gilmore also inquired about the renaming, etc., of various Depart-
ments. A transfer of function order will have to be drawn up in respect of the various changes
that were announced. That will be done in due course and in the normal way. The programme
for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, will be transferred to the new Department of
Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. The changes and rearrangements I announced yesterday are
intended to provide better services to the public. On organisational changes, realignments will
have to be made. In the first instance, there must be better co-ordination among existing
organisations and the Departments. The purpose of the rearrangements is to ensure that the
outcomes will be better for the people who need to access the services to which I refer. The
various issues that arise will be dealt with over time.
   The Deputy also inquired about costs. I made various changes to certain Departments and
I sought to indicate the new emphasis that will be brought to bear by the relevant Department
in respect of, for example, innovation. The latter is at the heart of an industrial policy that will
drive the investment strategies of businesses that will be contacted by IDA Ireland and which
will work with Enterprise Ireland. That is the purpose of what I have done. This is not the first
occasion on which name changes have occurred. Whatever consequential changes arise, must
be dealt with sensibly and in the normal way. There is nothing to disbar a Taoiseach or Govern-
ment of the day from making new arrangements or ensuring that the names of Departments
indicate what are the activities of those Departments.
  The Deputy’s first question related to by-elections. A decision has not yet been taken in
respect of the holding of by-elections.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Given that the Taoiseach has no objection to the Lost at Sea report
being referred to an Oireachtas committee, will he accept the motion on the Order Paper in
that regard which is tabled in the name of Deputy Sherlock? The issue now at stake here is as
much about the Office of the Ombudsman as it is about the report. The dissatisfaction with
the way the report was dealt with was expressed by the Ombudsman.
   The second point I wish to raise relates to the reconfiguration of Departments. When will
the transfer of functions order be introduced? Confusion has already arisen in respect of the
changes that have been made. For example, the questions on today’s Question Paper are
addressed to the Ministers for Education and Skills, Justice and Law Reform and Social Protec-
tion. Everybody seems to be confused now as to who is Minister for what and what are the
Departments. Will the Taoiseach clear up this? From when will the reconfigured Departments
take effect?

  The Taoiseach: Deputy Gilmore has experience of the House. He has known formation of
Governments in the past, even ones of which he was half part. The transfer of functions orders
will be drawn up in due course, confirmed at Cabinet and put before the Houses of the
Oireachtas or laid in the Library or wherever they are brought. In the meantime I want to see
the practical arrangements put in place. We want to see better service provided in the training
and skills area, where FÁS will liaise with what is being done in education. In the meantime
corporate accountability remains with the existing Departments until the new arrangements
are put in place. On a practical level we will get on with ensuring that the agency sits down
with the Ministers concerned and that the practical arrangements for the interface between
that wing of FÁS dealing with social welfare and the other wing of FÁS dealing with education
will proceed and make the necessary arrangements to improve co-ordination in the first
instance and work through the ultimate integration at a stage in the future which may require
legislation. That does not stop the immediate point which is to get a better service for those
who need it by ensuring that the various parts of the organisation deal properly with the new
Department. The political decision has been made and we will now deal with it. There is no
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  [The Taoiseach.]
confusion. The existing arrangements remain in place while that process begins and once the
transfer of functions orders are decided they will move to the other Departments.
  The other matter raised is——

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Deputy Seán Sherlock’s motion on the Ombudsman.

  The Taoiseach: The committee can meet and decide in what way it wants to take forward
the report. I want to make the point again that the report was brought to the House and it was
for the Houses of the Oireachtas to decide how to deal with it, consider it and take whatever
action they deemed appropriate. It is a matter for the House to decide, whatever views people
outside the House may have on it. We had a debate on it in plenary session. There is now a
request that we deal with it in committee. I am not standing in the way of that but it is a matter
for us to decide and not, with respect, anyone else. I respect everyone’s position on this but
the House decides these things.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Taoiseach’s party members voted it down.

  The Taoiseach: Yes, because their position was that we had dealt with this matter in plenary
session. However, on the basis that someone is trying to suggest that an issue arises, I do not
have an issue with anybody. I am stating that the House decides how it will deal with the report
and not otherwise.

  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: There is an issue. The Taoiseach cannot allow the Ombudsman’s lost
at sea report——

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is now 12.15 p.m.——

  Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: It goes to the very essence of our democracy

  An Ceann Comhairle: ——and we are still on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I hear what the Taoiseach is saying, that he will not stand in the
way of it being referred to committee, in which case the Labour Party will move Deputy Seán
Sherlock’s motion as soon as possible. Will the Taoiseach provide Government time for it?
  I am still confused about the Departments.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We had an explanation here——

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: We did but it does not——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are prolonging the agony on the Order of Business.

   Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Are these reconfigured Departments not reconfigured yet? Are we
still talking about the Departments as we had all got to know and love them?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The position will emerge as we go along.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy is playing a game now.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I am not playing a game.

  The Taoiseach: You are playing a game.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I only want clarity.
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  The Taoiseach: You know what the story is.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I do not.

  The Taoiseach: An announcement has been made. Transfer of function orders will be drawn
up. If you are ever in a Government yourself it will be the same story for you and when you
get it, you get on your bike and away you go.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: So nothing has changed at all from yesterday.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: In the meantime what is the legal basis of the new names?

  Deputy Bernard Allen: Is it operation transformation?

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is 12.15 p.m. and we are still on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I will not delay the Ceann Comhairle very long. With regard
to the outstanding three by-elections to this House, is the Taoiseach aware that next week we
will be but ten weeks short of a full year without a third Deputy in Donegal South-West?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, we had this previously.

 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We have not had a response, with respect, and the Ceann
Comhairle is happy to allow other speakers to go on ad nauseam.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I know, that is the problem.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I have only started so he will allow me to finish.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I do not want the Deputy following bad example.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I want an answer from the Taoiseach as to his intentions
regarding the three outstanding by-elections. One is now obviously vacant as of this morning
but one is now but ten weeks short——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Have we promised legislation in this area?

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——of a full year in a constituency in the province of Ulster.
Will the Taoiseach indicate to the House that an early — hardly an applicable word at this
point — by-election will take place in a very short period of time? Will he announce it before
the Easter recess?

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: An Easter rising.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Great humour indeed but I am assured it is not at all humor-
ous in Donegal South-West and make no mistake about it.

  The Taoiseach: No, it is just the way you say it.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The people there are entitled to have a date set. There is
one week leading into the Easter recess for which the Taoiseach proposes to take two weeks
out. Will this drift on and on and on? Will the anniversary of this——

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Yes.
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                   Order of               24 March 2010.               Business


 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——vacancy be reached and still no date set? Will the
Taoiseach give an answer to this Deputy’s question?
  With regard to the situation developing vis-à-vis the intent to centralise the processing of
applications for medical cards, something that will perhaps place the difficulties in the passport
offices in the ha’penny place——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is there legislation in this area? There are other ways to deal with this.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will there be time——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The line Minister——

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: My question is valid on the Order of Business.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not valid on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will time be allocated to address the issue of the proposed
centralisation of the medical card application processing and——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is really going to have to submit a parliamentary question
on this matter.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: To hell with this. Do you know what it is?

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate on the Order of Business.

 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I think a little bit of equity in this House would go a long
way——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, and I am doing the best that I can on the matter——

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——that Deputies would be treated in the same way——

  An Ceann Comhairle: ——but I need the co-operation of the Members.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——when they get up to speak not only from your Chair
but from other chairs across the Chamber.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I need the co-operation of all the Members of the House.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: These are relevant questions to the Order of Business. I am
asking whether the Taoiseach will accommodate——

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——the provision of time in this House——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Promised business and legislation are the basic——

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: No, the provision of time is absolutely——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I am not allowing dissertations either.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——within the ambit of the Order of Business and every bit
as valid as any other question that has been posed here since the Order of Business started.
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  An Ceann Comhairle: There are other ways and means of eliciting the information required.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will the Taoiseach accommodate time on the medical card
centralisation proposals and the fact that we are seeing an increasing effect by the measures
introduced in the budget on dental treatment services as exemplified once again yesterday by
the Irish Dental Association?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is debate promised in this area?

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: These are hugely important matters and they are not being
addressed by the Department of Health and Children. Will the Taoiseach accommodate an
opportunity for Members to address these issues here and in Government time?

 The Taoiseach: There is no legislation promised on those matters and no decision has been
made on the by-elections.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: What about the by-elections, particularly that in Donegal
South-West?

  The Taoiseach: No decisions have been made.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: No decisions made. Is it at all within the Taoiseach’s gift——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House that at this point in time there are 14
Members in the House and it is now 12.20 p.m. and we are still on the Order of Business. We
will not entertain anything other than promised business or legislation.

   Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: On promised secondary legislation, the promise was to extend the
Freedom of Information Act to the Railway Safety Commission. In view of the significant and
serious accident that occurred at Malahide, I understand the Railway Safety Commission has
issued a compliance audit safety report to Iarnród Éireann in respect of this matter. Its state-
ment of strategy states that it will conform with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act
until the statutory instrument is signed. The fact is that it is refusing to release the details of
that report.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We will try to find out whether there is promised legislation.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: We have grave concerns about the safety issues that——

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised legislation.

 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: There is. With respect, and I am not arguing with the Ceann
Comhairle——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach has advised me that there is not.

   Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: There is promised secondary legislation to sign the order in respect
of the Freedom of Information Act to find out what the safety commission thinks about what
is happening on the Malahide Estuary.
  When the Taoiseach was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, he spent €23 million on the pass-
port office in Balbriggan. State-of-the-art machines were put in there——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are not on promised business now.
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  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: ——the best in the world. Is the Taoiseach satisfied? I cannot
understand why those machines are not functioning now because they are the best in the world.
Is the Taoiseach satisfied that they are not being sabotaged?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is abusing the latitude——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: It does not make sense that the backlog exists——

  Deputy John Deasy: Go to the Israeli Embassy and ask if they have any spare passports.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: ——because they have the capacity to have a world-class delivery
service.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy’s co-operation is requested.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I will be as brief as possible. I wish to ask the Taoiseach about a house
price database being brought before the Oireachtas. The programme for Government contains
a promise that a register and database of house prices will be put in place.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised business in this area.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: It is part of the programme for Government. When will legislation on
this issue be brought before the Houses? Given yesterday’s reconfiguration, what Depart-
ment will——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question to the line Mini-
ster on the matter.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I am asking whether legislation will be brought before the House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is legislation promised in this area?

  The Taoiseach: No.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised legislation. I suggest a parliamentary question.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: That is highly unusual because the Minister of State with responsibility
for housing, Deputy Finneran, who is sitting behind the Taoiseach, issued a press statement on
this issue two weeks ago.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should allow the floor to his colleague, Deputy Tuffy.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Second, a number of Bills are passing through the Oireachtas at
present. For example, the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill is completing its passage through
the Seanad at present and will come before the Dáil some time after the Easter recess. In
whose Department will the aforementioned Bill now lie? I noticed that when the Taoiseach
spoke in the House yesterday, he referred——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We will try to find out the answer to the query on the legislation.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: —— to the greyhound industry now becoming part of the agriculture
brief. Will particular items of legislation move into other Departments?

 An Ceann Comhairle: We will find out about the legislation for the Deputy. We have gone
well over time.
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 Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Does the transfer of the greyhound brief into the Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food indicate there is some difficulty with this Bill in respect of the
Department that has responsibility for it at present?

  Deputy Denis Naughten: He who lies down with dogs will rise up with fleas.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is there promised legislation in this area?

 The Taoiseach: I understand there to be some legislation on the first issue raised by Deputy
Lynch. For the purpose of accuracy, work is beginning on it.

  Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I thank the Taoiseach.

  The Taoiseach: I apologise to Deputy Lynch on that issue.
   Second, on the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill, I have a great personal interest in the
greyhound industry, which is going back to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I have a stake in some greyhounds, which might be helpful in the future.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: Are they good ones?

  The Taoiseach: I do not believe the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill will be moving with
the industry. It will remain where it is.

  Deputy Denis Naughten: The Taoiseach should walk the dogs on a permanent basis.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Taoiseach sold a pup to Deputy Gormley.

  Deputy Emmet Stagg: It was the runt of the litter as well.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Tuffy, on promised legislation.

  Deputy Joanna Tuffy: This pertains to secondary legislation. My constituency colleague,
Deputy Curran, has been promoted to the position of Chief Whip and I congratulate him. My
question relates to a matter in his new area of responsibility. The previous Chief Whip, Deputy
Pat Carey, recently spoke to the Joint Committee on the Constitution about proposals to
amend the Standing Orders of this House in respect of how business operates to give Deputies
a more enhanced role. It is in the interest of both the Government and the Opposition to do
something about this issue because it is in no one’s interest when our Parliament is knocked,
as has happened recently.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We would welcome positive thoughts on the matter, particularly in
respect of the Order of Business.

  Deputy Joanna Tuffy: This relates to the Order of Business because it pertains to Standing
Orders. In the United Kingdom, the Government and Opposition have worked together and
have come up with proposals to enhance the role of MPs there. Is something similar proposed
here? For example, one could move the Adjournment debate to the morning and make it the
commencement business.

  The Taoiseach: The Minister of State, Deputy Curran, is settling into his brief. I am sure he
will be able to discuss this matter further with his constituency colleague, Deputy Tuffy, in the
coming weeks.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Rabbitte, on promised business.
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  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Yes, this pertains to promised legislation. Arising from the controversy
that surrounded the enactment of the Defamation Act and the inclusion of blasphemy, the
Minister for Justice and Law Reform has since made an announcement to the effect that he
intends to hold a referendum to excise the provision from the Constitution. The Taoiseach
should indicate when it is intended to hold a referendum.

   The Taoiseach: The Minister for Justice and Law Reform has recently made public his inten-
tion to propose to the Government an amendment to the Constitution to delete the provision
concerning blasphemous libel. The proposal would avail of the opportunity afforded by other
planned referendums. He indicated this approach during the consideration by the Oireachtas
of the Defamation Bill. It will be considered in the context of whether and when other refer-
endums will be held.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I am grateful to the Taoiseach. May I take it, given the all-party
agreement on the proposed amendment regarding the rights of children, that it will be held in
conjunction with that proposal this year?

  The Taoiseach: That report is a matter to be considered by the Government, having been
recently published.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: Almost one year ago to the day, I asked the Taoiseach whether
the Government would ban the thousands of turf cutters on the bogs of Ireland under the
European Union habitats directive.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Have we——

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: This might be a sickener for the Ceann Comhairle——

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Members can see this is an issue close to the Ceann Comh-
airle’s heart.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Taoiseach, have we promised business in this regard?

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: No, he good-humouredly told me on that occasion that as soon
as the next fine day came, he and I would be out cutting turf.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy for the observation.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: What is the up-to-date position in respect of those thousands of
bog owners? The turf machines are trundling their way down the bog roads of Ireland and are
about to cut. Are they allowed to so do?

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: That is a matter for the arts, sports and the Gaeltacht.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: I assume the Taoiseach has an answer to this question.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must table a parliamentary question on that matter to
the new Minister.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: Should I take it that the Taoiseach has no knowledge in this
regard or has nothing to say about it at present?

  A Deputy: Can a man cut turf on his own bog or not?

  An Ceann Comhairle: He probably would prefer the line Minister to answer because——
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  Deputy James Reilly: The line Minister probably got bogged down.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: This issue could be a rerun of the rod licence controversy, the
return of which no one would wish to see.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: Where do the thousands of bog cutters stand? This is a legitimate
question for this Parliament.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised business in this regard.

  The Taoiseach: There is no promised business in this regard. The Deputy is aware that a ten-
year derogation was attained in respect of the traditional rights of turf cutters on protected
bogs. The then Minister, Síle de Valera, obtained that derogation, the length of which was
unique in the context of the aforementioned directive. This is how matters stand.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: The Taoiseach is actually stating that the cutters are banned
from this day on. This is absolutely shameful.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: This also affects the Taoiseach’s constituency.

   Deputy Denis Naughten: The Taoiseach will be busy between walking the dog and footing
the turf. I wish to raise two items of secondary legislation with the Taoiseach. The first is a
legislative item I raised with the Taoiseach in the Chamber a fortnight ago, that is, the introduc-
tion of a new statutory instrument in respect of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to
remove the exemption from the requirement of planning permission for head shops. When will
this item of secondary legislation be introduced? Second, the Government has drafted a statu-
tory instrument under the Misuse of Drugs Act to ban quite a number of products that are on
sale in head shops. The Taoiseach has informed the House that it will take three months for
approval from the European Commission. In light of the fact that the three-month period has
expired in the United Kingdom for the banning of similar substances that are to be banned
here and in light of the European Commission’s ability to give approval for the immediate——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We will try to find out about the basic query the Deputy has on
the matter.

  Deputy Denis Naughten: ——ban of mephedrone on public health grounds and given that
another young girl died yesterday in the United Kingdom following the consumption of
mephedrone, will the Taoiseach make this a priority?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is secondary legislation promised?

  Deputy Denis Naughten: Will the Government introduce a statutory instrument to ban
mephedrone and the other products immediately? When will Members have sight of the sec-
ondary legislation of the Planning and Development Act?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Reilly, on the same matter.

  Deputy James Reilly: I wish to raise the same matter and another unrelated matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Please do not.
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   Deputy James Reilly: On this matter, I asked both that this secondary legislation be put in
place and that the Minister for Health and Children introduce secondary legislation to ensure
first that there would be product liability on all the products sold and second that the Irish
Medicines Board and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland would be obliged to pass all sub-
stances for sale in such shops. This would have the net effect of shutting them down.
  While I am on my feet, I will raise an unrelated matter. The Taoiseach might confirm to
Members that there is a recruitment committee responsible for appointing senior management
to NAMA and that one person on that committee is a Mr. Maurice Keane. Is this the case
because this man is a director——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must find another way to raise the matter.

  Deputy James Reilly: I will not stop now. This is the Anglo Irish Bank——

  An Ceann Comhairle: This is the Order of Business.

  Deputy James Reilly: A Cheann Comhairle, I am entitled to find out in this House on behalf
of the people——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, but there are other ways of so doing.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy is not entitled to do so on the Order of Business.

  Deputy James Reilly: No, this is too important. I am trying to ask a simple question and if
the Ceann Comhairle allows me to finish I will sit down.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, but the point is the question is out of order.

  Deputy James Reilly: Is Mr. Maurice Keane, who is a director of Anglo Irish Bank, also on
a committee to select management for NAMA, to which his bank will be selling bonds and
loans? Is this not a gross conflict of interest?

 An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should table a question to the line Minister. I call
Deputy Durkan.

  Deputy Denis Naughten: I am entitled to a response in respect of the secondary legislation.

  The Taoiseach: I do not have to hand that information.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Costello, on the same matter.

  Deputy Joe Costello: On the same matter, I refer to the legislation in preparation to ban
certain products in head shops. On foot of the transfer in ministerial responsibility from, I
understand, the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, to the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, will
this legislation continue in train? Will the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney,
deliver the legislation?
  In the context of the Taoiseach’s trip to Brussels tomorrow and Friday, the only item on the
summit’s agenda is the financial future of Greece. The Chancellor——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We will not get into the financial issues of Greece on the Order
of Business.
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   Deputy Joe Costello: This is not just a matter of policy, but legislation. The Chancellor of
Germany has indicated that she would be inclined to expel Greece from the eurozone. What
is Ireland’s position in this regard? The alternative position of a bailout of Greece——

  An Ceann Comhairle: This is not promised business. We are anticipating.

  Deputy Joe Costello: This is relevant. If there is a bailout of Greece——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is there promised business?

  Deputy Joe Costello: ——by the other eurozone countries, what legal and financial impli-
cations will it have for Ireland?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will need to submit a parliamentary question. It is not
promised business in the House. We are on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Joe Costello: This is business.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

  Deputy Joe Costello: The Taoiseach will be in Brussels tomorrow and Friday.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We understand that.

  Deputy Joe Costello: He will be discussing one item on our behalf, namely, whether Ireland
will put forward a considerable sum of money in respect of Greece.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is seeking detailed information. Hopefully, he will get it
via a parliamentary question.

 Deputy Joe Costello: Nothing is coming through from parliamentary questions, as the Ceann
Comhairle well knows.

   An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, but we are abusing the Order of Business by pursuing issues
like this.

  Deputy Joe Costello: The Taoiseach is going tomorrow. Clearly, he has been briefed by his
civil servants, has made up his mind and knows what policy Ireland will table. We want to
know what he proposes to do.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I doubt he will tell us at this point in time what the agenda will be.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Why not?

  Deputy Joe Costello: He could give the Parliament some idea.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Feighan wishes to raise the matter of head shops, so will
Deputy Costello submit a parliamentary question to try to elicit the information he is seeking?

  Deputy Joe Costello: Will the Taoiseach answer my question and give us some indication as
to how he will respond?

  The Taoiseach: It is not in order.

  An Ceann Comhairle: This is not in order. We are abusing the Order of Business. We are
spending all day on it while there is other business is to be transacted.
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  Deputy Joe Costello: If the Taoiseach will not answer that question, will he tell the House
about the legislation on head shops?

  The Taoiseach: I would like to address that matter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have one or two other Deputies offering on it.

  Deputy Frank Feighan: If the Government can ban substances like St. John’s Wort because
of powerful lobbies, surely it can proscribe the substances in head shops. People in Ireland
must travel across the Border into the United Kingdom to get a simple substance, St. John’s
Wort, because it was banned due to the influence of major people.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Hear, hear.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Could the House get some information on this?

  The Taoiseach: On the question of the misuse of drugs, etc., work is ongoing. A cross-
departmental group is working on the legislation and we hope to have it some time in June.

  Deputy James Reilly: Will the Taoiseach confirm whether this man is on the triumvirate
selected——

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy is out of order.

  Deputy Joe Costello: Who is responsible?

 An Ceann Comhairle: I will not allow Deputy Reilly to pursue that matter on the Order of
Business. There are other ways to do so. He should resume his seat.

  Deputy James Reilly: The people are entitled to know. Surely the Taoiseach knows who is
responsible for appointing the senior management of NAMA, which will make decisions that
will affect billions of euro of taxpayers’ money.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy should sit down in his chair.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: A Navan man.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Dan Neville: On promised legislation, it has long been recognised that there is an
urgent need to amend the Mental Health Act 2001. Amnesty International has published a
good dissertation on the human rights implications of that Act. When will the mental health
(amendment) Bill, which will deal with this issue, be introduced in the Dáil?

  The Taoiseach: I understand that it will be dealt with later this year.

   Deputy Róisín Shortall: Further to the Government’s proposal on the reconfiguration of
Departments, is legislation to break up FÁS into three parts proposed? If this is not the inten-
tion, which Minister will be answerable to the Dáil for FÁS? In terms of the examination of
FÁS by the Committee of Public Accounts, which Secretary General will be the responsible
Accounting Officer?

  The Taoiseach: As things stand, it will remain with the existing Department until, as I have
said, a transfer of functions order is signed and dealt with. In the first instance and as of today,
we need to sit down with the FÁS operation. Two thirds of its operations deal with placements
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                   Order of               24 March 2010.               Business


and all of that area will be dealt with in the Department of Social Protection to get people
working together to provide a better service for the people who need it. Similarly, skills policy
will be dealt with in the Department of Education and Skills. The corporate accountability
issues remain with the main Department until such time as there is legislation that will
change it.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: I am sorry, but I did not catch that last bit.

  The Taoiseach: The Deputy asked about the final situation, that is, what the setup of FÁS
will be. Our first job is to align and co-ordinate the work being done and deal with issues of
how to proceed. In due course, whatever legislation is needed to effect a Government decision
will be effected. In the meantime, corporate accountability for the organisation will remain
with the current Department until the changes take place.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Taoiseach has had one month to work this matter out.

  The Taoiseach: We will——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot and will not have a debate on this matter now.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Just one second.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy proposed a question and got an answer.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: She did not get one.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: I did not get a satisfactory answer.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on it at this point. There are other avenues
through which the debate can be pursued.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: It is only a matter of months since the House passed legislation
on FÁS.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, please. I have a list of speakers offering. It is nearly 12.40
p.m. and we are still on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Is the Taoiseach saying that we will get new legislation for the
purpose of breaking up FÁS? Will he clarify this point?

  The Taoiseach: Can I explain to the Deputy? In due course and over a period of time,
there may well be an integration of that part of the FÁS operation into the Departmental of
Social Protection.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Has the Taoiseach not worked that out?

  The Taoiseach: Excuse me, but the first thing I am doing is providing a better service for the
people who need it and are unemployed. That is what we are doing. I do not know what
Deputy Gilmore is shaking his head about.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Government does not know what it is doing.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: It had four weeks to work it out.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on this issue.
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                   Order of               24 March 2010.                Business


  The Taoiseach: What does Deputy Quinn mean? One does not re-arrange the FÁS organis-
ation overnight or over four weeks.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: The Government dealt with decentralisation in secret.

  The Taoiseach: What one does is indicate which parts of the operation will deal with which
Departments. One gets them to sit down and co-ordinate their works so as that people who
need their service get a better service than the current one. Over time and as one deals with
the IR issues, one makes whatever arrangements are necessary in terms of the organisation.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: It is a basic thing.

  The Taoiseach: In the meantime, one makes sure that the service is better for the people
who need it. We are one of the few countries in the world that do not have a placement service
in line with those who receive the benefits. That is what we must get on with. That is what the
OECD report states.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Yes, but we expected that the Government would have worked it
out and would know at this stage whether legislation would be necessary.

  The Taoiseach: That will be the outcome of this.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on this matter on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What has the Taoiseach been doing for the past month? Is this stuff
just off the top of his head? Does he know that it is quite important?

  The Taoiseach: Look at the OECD report.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Is it off the top of his head or is legislation proposed?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, please.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: This is important.

  The Taoiseach: Yes, it is.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is nearly 12.40 p.m. and we are still on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: It is too important for soundbite politics.

  The Taoiseach: Exactly.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What thought has gone into it? Will the Taoiseach make a statement
on whether FÁS will be broken up?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, please. The Deputy will need to find another way.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: What other way? This is the way.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: How else is the Government going to do it?

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: It does not have a clue. It does not know what it is doing.

  The Taoiseach: Legislation will be required in due course.
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                   Order of               24 March 2010.              Business


  An Ceann Comhairle: This is the Order of Business.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Will there be legislation?

  The Taoiseach: Yes. I am sorry for saying this on the Order of Business, but the important
point is that we must get this part of that organisation to work with the services provided by
social welfare to improve the choice for people in that area. Similarly, the skills training part
will deal with the Department of Education and Skills. I outlined in a statement to the House
yesterday the purpose of this and how we will proceed with it. This must be arranged, co-
ordinated and then proceeded with.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: No one is arguing with me about doing that,——

  The Taoiseach: That is the Deputy’s problem.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: ——but there needs to be a statutory basis for it.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes the Deputy’s questions for the moment. Legislation is
coming, so the Deputy will have the opportunity then.

  The Taoiseach: I have explained.

 Deputy Róisín Shortall: Is the Taoiseach saying that there will be legislation to break up
FÁS?

  The Taoiseach: In the first case, and as I said to Deputy Gilmore, a transfer of functions
order must be made. There will then be co-ordination between what is happening in that part
of the FÁS organisation and social welfare. Over time as we deal with the IR issues, we will
deal with the overall integration of the service. That is what is going to happen. Whatever is
required legislatively to achieve that will be proceeded with. End of story.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We will not have a debate now.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: This is an important point.

  The Taoiseach: Deputy Shortall is just having an argument.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I really cannot allow it. I have shown the Deputy much tolerance on
this matter. She must resume her seat.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: FÁS is a major semi-State organisation and it is important that we
know whether the Government will introduce legislation to break it up.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall is abusing the Order of Business. Will she resume
her seat?

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Can the Taoiseach clarify this point?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: If the Deputy cannot understand the answer, we will get someone
to explain it to her.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: That is patronising nonsense.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Will Deputy Shortall resume her seat? I ask for her co-operation.
                                               347
                     Order of            24 March 2010.                 Business


  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Does the Taoiseach intend to break up FÁS? Has he worked this
question out?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Read the transcript.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Deasy.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: These decisions are important for the 437,000 people who are unem-
ployed. How will the Government do this?

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach does not know.

  The Taoiseach: I do.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach does not have a clue.

  The Taoiseach: I worked it out beforehand.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: He had long enough to think about it.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputies, please.

  The Taoiseach: I explained this to Deputy Shortall. I know the game the Deputies are play-
ing. It is very simple.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: We are not playing a game.

  The Taoiseach: They are.

  (Interruptions).

  The Taoiseach: We are in the business of making sure that services are provided and that
the placement services in FÁS work with social welfare to provide a better outcome for the
people who need them. That is what we are doing.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: A statutory basis is needed for doing that.

  The Taoiseach: Deputy Shortall——

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Where is the statutory basis for that?

  The Taoiseach: I cannot get involved in this. I am sorry. There is no point.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, you must find another time to raise this issue. I call
Deputy John Deasy.

  Deputy John Deasy: I wish to raise an issue of——

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Taoiseach has not a clue where he is going.

  Deputy John Deasy: I ask Deputy Shortall to allow me to raise an issue.

  The Taoiseach: It is Deputy Shortall who does not have a clue.

  Deputy John Deasy: I am about to raise an issue of life and death but I will not act like her.
                                               348
                   Order of              24 March 2010.               Business


  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Deputy Deasy should stop acting as Ceann Comhairle.

  Deputy John Deasy: The question I raise arises from a decision which affects the Irish Coast
Guard search and rescue service for the south and south east. A decision was made recently
to increase the budget over ten years but the decision had the effect of downgrading the service
in Waterford after 2013.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Deasy, you know it is not appropriate to raise this matter on
the Order of Business. You should raise it on the Adjournment or put a parliamentary
question.

  Deputy John Deasy: There is an immediate timeline involved in this.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: There is a question on this matter on today’s Order Paper.

  Deputy John Deasy: A contract will be signed within the next week. We must question the
wisdom of spending a considerable sum of money on the coast guard while at the same time
downgrading the service.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, please submit a request to debate this matter on the
Adjournment.

   Deputy John Deasy: Two days ago, the Minister for Transport said the coast guard had
issued the recommendation. We met with the coast guard a couple of days ago and they told
us they did not issue the recommendation but that it had been issued by the Department
of Transport.

  An Ceann Comhairle: A parliamentary question is on today’s Order Paper on this matter. It
will be dealt with.

   Deputy John Deasy: It was not true to say the coast guard issued that recommendation. That
is the key point. That was made clear to five or six Deputies when we met the coast guard two
days ago.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Deasy, you will be able to pursue this matter. A parliamentary
question has been submitted on the subject.

 Deputy John Deasy: We have only one week to revisit this issue before the contract is signed.
This is a matter of life and death for fishermen and others who use the water after 2013.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It does not only apply to the water.

  Deputy James Reilly: Deputy Dempsey is a very knowledgeable chap, I must say.

  Deputy John Deasy: Why did the Minister for Transport lie about the coastguard?

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: With regard to the reconfiguration of ministerial responsibilities,
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív has had responsibility for community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs.
Deputy Pat Carey’s brief does not include rural affairs. There is genuine concern among people
involved in rural affairs. I have received calls on this and I ask the Taoiseach to clarify the
matter.
                                              349
                   Order of              24 March 2010.               Business


  The Taoiseach: Let me clarify this matter for Deputy Deenihan. I know he has a genuine
interest in this area. The rural social scheme goes across to the new Department of Social
Protection but responsibility for voluntary community and rural affairs remains in what is now
Deputy Pat Carey’s Department. The rural social scheme has gone with other community
employment schemes and they will all be dealt with by one Department. At present they are
spread among three Departments.

   Deputy Mary Upton: I am afraid I must mention the dogs again. The horse and greyhound
industry has been bounced back into the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but
it is not clear how funding for the horse and greyhound fund will be put in place. The former
Minister, Deputy Martin Cullen, recently said that the general Exchequer cannot continue to
fund this. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, recently
told Deputy Joe Costello, with regard to gambling——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Upton, this has nothing to do with promised legislation.

  Deputy Mary Upton: These are very important points relating to the funding of this industry.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I know they are but it is not appropriate to raise them on the Order
of Business.

  Deputy Mary Upton: Deputy Dermot Ahern told Deputy Joe Costello, “The Deputy can
expect the publication of legislative proposals in the normal course”. That was said in relation
to gambling. I raise the issue of Internet gambling and a tax take from it. When can we expect
some progress to ensure that the horse and greyhound industries are supported and made
viable in the future?

  The Taoiseach: Work is ongoing on that matter.

  Deputy Mary Upton: What does that mean?

  The Taoiseach: It means we are seeking ensure a sustainable method of funding a very
important industry. Work is ongoing. When it is complete the Minister will bring proposals to
Government and we will consider them and deal with the matter.

  Deputy Mary Upton: Are we likely to be able to ensure that there will be adequate funding
that does not call on the general Exchequer to support those industries?

  The Taoiseach: That is the objective of the exercise.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It is generally accepted that lack of adequate regulation was the
cause of the considerable problems experienced in the banking industry. Legislation is promised
to address the question of the necessary enhancement of the regulatory functions of the Central
Bank. Legislation is also promised to consolidate and modernise financial services in accord-
ance with the Government’s better regulation agenda. This agenda was published two years
ago and considerable time has passed since then. Both Bills are deemed to be essential and the
need for them is accepted. What progress have those Bills made? Have the heads of the Bills
been agreed? Are they in the course of being brought before the House and when might
they appear?

  The Taoiseach: The first Bill will come before the House next week and the second Bill in
the summer.
                                              350
       European Union Council Decisions:   24 March 2010.         Motions


                         European Union Council Decisions: Motions.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy John Curran): I move:

   That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under
Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of
freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty
on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of
the following proposed measure:

  a proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the Euro-
  pean Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application
  of certain provisions of the Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal
  Matters between the Member States of the European Union and the 2001 Protocol thereto,

a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 13th January, 2010.”

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy John Curran: I move:

   That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under
Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of
freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty
on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of
the following proposed measure:

  a proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the Euro-
  pean Union and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the surrender
  procedure between the Member States of the European Union and Iceland and Norway,

a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 20th January, 2010.”

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy John Curran: I move:

   That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option of discretion under
Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of
freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty
on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of
the following proposed measure:

  a proposal for the Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the
  European Union and Iceland and Norway on the application of certain provisions of
  Council Decisions 2008/615/JHA on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, partic-
  ularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime and Council Decision 2008/616/

    JHA on the implementation of Decision 2008/615/JHA on the stepping up of cross-
  border cooperation, particularly in combatting terrorism and cross-border crime, and the
  Annex thereto,

a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 21st January, 2010.”
                                                351
          George Mitchell Scholarship Fund   24 March 2010.   (Amendment) Bill 2010: From the Seanad


  Question put and agreed to.

  Deputy John Curran: I move:

     That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under
  Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of
  freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty
  on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of
  the following proposed measure:

    a proposal for a Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the Euro-
    pean Union and Japan on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,

  a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 13th January, 2010.”

  Question put and agreed to.

       George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill 2010: From the Seanad.

  The Dáil went into Committee to consider an amendment from the Seanad.

  Seanad amendment No. 1:
    Section 3: In page 4, line 10, after “manager” to insert “with the consent of the Minister”.

  Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): I
am happy to bring George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill 2010 back before the
Dáil. All stages of the Bill were taken in Dáil Éireann on Thursday, 18 February and in Seanad
Éireann on Tuesday, 23 February 2010. I am now seeking the agreement of Dáil Éireann to
one amendment made in the Seanad to section 3 of the Bill.
  Section 3 amends subsection 2(3) of the 1998 Act, which comprises a number of general
provisions relating to the establishment, scope and management of the George Mitchell scholar-
ship fund, with particular reference to the accounts of the fund. The Seanad amendment
ensures that accountability arrangements for the annual audit of the fund are further strength-
ened. The amendment ensures that the auditor, which the fund manager is obliged to appoint
each year, is appointed with the consent of the Minister.
  The George Mitchell scholarship fund is held, controlled and managed in the United States
by a fund manager, currently the US-Ireland Alliance, on behalf of the Minister for Education
and Skills. Under the existing agreement the fund manager is required to provide the Minister
with a copy of the audited accounts of the fund on an annual basis. During the debate on
Committee Stage in the Dáil it was suggested that consideration should be given to having the
Minister actually appoint the auditor each year. I explained then that given that the fund is
managed in the United States it is considered more appropriate that a US based audit firm
conduct the annual audit of the fund. The present arrangement, whereby the fund manager
appoints the auditor, has operated since 1999. Copies of the audited accounts are also conveyed
each year to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General before being laid before the
Houses of the Oireachtas. It is also considered more practical for the fund manager to select
the firm to conduct the annual audit in the ordinary course of events.
 Under both the existing and draft new agreement the Minister can request, and the fund
manager must permit, additional independent auditors to examine the records relating to all
                                                  352
          George Mitchell Scholarship Fund   24 March 2010.   (Amendment) Bill 2010: From the Seanad


matters of the agreement. Having considered this issue in some detail, however, I am satisfied
that having the fund manager appoint the auditor each year with the consent of the Minister
makes for an improved arrangement and on that basis I brought forward this ministerial
amendment.
  I add that my Department is also arranging for the draft new agreement with the alliance to
be amended to reflect this provision once the amending legislation has been passed.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I thank the Minister of State for coming back to the House on this
matter and for taking the unusual step of accepting an amendment in principle from this House
and formally proposing it in the Seanad with the clear knowledge that he would have to bring
the Bill back to this House and thereby lose a certain amount of operational time. I appreci-
ate that.
  I will briefly explain the reason we tabled this amendment. Some concerns were expressed
about the operation of this fund and some ill-informed comments were made which have been
distractionary. In view of the variable standard of accountancy practices worldwide, it is not
necessary for the Minister to be in the driving seat in terms of the nomination or identification
of either an accountancy firm or a manager but it is necessary for the Minister to have some
oversight or final say and to be satisfied on behalf of taxpayers that the selection was appro-
priate and those concerned are professionally competent to do the work involved.
   Suggestions were made to the effect that this fund represents a great deal of Irish taxpayers’
money being allocated at a time when there are cutbacks and constraints in other areas of
expenditure in education, but Deputy Brian Hayes and I have held to account in that regard
the Minister of State and the Minister. In the ill-informed commentary against this project an
understanding of what an endowment fund actually is has been obscured. An endowment fund
is a once-off lump sum of capital allocated for a particular purpose, surrounded by proper
trustees, fiduciary requirements and safeguards, and the income derived from that once-off
fund would go towards the funding of the scholarships. In other words, it is not the case the
€20 million in the fund will be disbursed over a period of time and once it is all allocated the
trustees will come back and seek more money. Such a fund is a fairly standard procedure in
many educational institutions. There are chairs endowed in Trinity and UCD. A once-off capi-
tal sum is set aside and made available and the income derived from that fund is deemed to
be adequate to fund the exercise, in this case to provide for approximately 12 students under
the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund.
   I want to repeat a point, as I want to put it on record in view of what has been said by way
of ill-informed comment elsewhere. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the St.
Andrews accord and the other agreements, Hillsborough being the final one, we have finally
reached a stage in our relationship with the other island and the Unionist community in
Northern Ireland, it having been bedevilled for centuries. That bedevilled relationship found
its way across the Atlantic and was reflected in the activities of many Irish Americans in trying
to help their former homeland to come to an accommodation as to how we share these islands
together. This has been successfully achieved. It is, to borrow a phrase from the Italian Commu-
nist Party, a classic historical compromise. We now need to reach out to a much wider
American community who have no Irish connections, no Irish antecedents and no reason to
be aware of what Ireland, and Britain for that matter, have achieved or not achieved in the
past. The option presented to Americans to study here in some of the best universities in
Europe, as international rated agencies have testified, will give us in Ireland an opportunity to
reach out to new cohorts of Americans who have no knowledge, experience or familial ties
                                                  353
          George Mitchell Scholarship Fund   24 March 2010.   (Amendment) Bill 2010: From the Seanad

  [Deputy Ruairí Quinn.]
with this country. Hopefully their experience of studying in top class universities here will
open up new opportunities to achieve the kind of knowledge-based economy and international
collaboration which is one of the objectives of the Government and one of the specific
responsibilities for which the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, has direct responsibility. I
thank him for accepting the amendment and for bringing it back to the House.

  Deputy Brian Hayes: I congratulate Deputy Quinn on proposing this amendment in the
House and the Government, through the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, for accepting it
and tabling an amendment in the Seanad. It significantly strengthens the Bill for the Minister
of the day to have such oversight in working with the alliance to ensure there is clarity on the
question of accountancy practices and the usefulness of the funds that are in place. The
inclusion of this amendment is a significant improvement. I congratulate Deputy Quinn and
the Minister of State on amending the Bill in this bipartisan way.
   I wish to make two comments. We have a tremendous opportunity to tap into the potential
of international education and to create in this country a destination for many international
students who want to come and study here. Last week I produced a paper on behalf of my
party which highlights the potential over a five-year period — similar to what has been done
in New Zealand and in Britain — whereby we could virtually double the number of students
coming to this country and double the yield in that respect. At present the yield accruing is
€900 million made up of €500 million on the English language side and €400 million in higher
education. There is no reason we could not achieve that over a five-year period. The potential
for extra jobs is enormous.
  We have a tremendous location. We are an English speaking country in Europe and ours is
a safe community. We have diaspora not only in the United State but throughout the world,
as Deputy Quinn said, comprising second generation Irish people in the United States in part-
icular. We need to market our country.
  This fund is good for our country, for employment and for universities. I spoke to the pres-
ident of UCC some time ago and that university is ahead of the game here. Some 10% of its
total student cohort is made up of international students. The main benefit to be gained from
such a measure for a university is not only monetary but that of the participation in tutorials
of international students alongside our students and they being part of the same examination
process and upping standards for our students. With the George Mitchell scholarship fund,
which emanated from the Northern Ireland peace talks, we have managed to put in place a
scholarship programme for American students. We need to consider if we could put in place a
scholarship programme for the Asian, Chinese or the Indian markets, which would result in
our having ambassadors who would come to this country, obtain opportunities through higher
education and then return home and sell Ireland indirectly in their home countries.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Yes.

  Deputy Brian Hayes: One of the proposals in the paper we produced last week is that we
would extend the excellent idea of George Mitchell scholars to other parts of the world in the
next few years.
  I am grateful to the Minister of State’s Department which sent me, on foot of my request on
Committee Stage, a detailed breakdown of the number of scholars under the George Mitchell
scholarship fund initiative in each year since 2001 and it showed the variety of colleges, North
and South, in which they studied. It is important that scholars be allowed to study in prog-
                                                  354
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage


rammes in the institutes of technology in the next few years. While Trinity, UCD, UL, DCU,
the Queen’s University, Belfast, are the typical traditional colleges, we have an opportunity to
market many of our excellent institutes of technology during the next few years. That would
be good for them and good for the scholars.

  Deputy Seán Haughey: I thank the Deputies for their contributions and co-operation on this
legislation. In particular, I thank Deputy Quinn for bringing forward his proposals to ensure
more accountability. I agree with him on the broader objectives of this legislation and on what
he said in the context of the peace process and so on. I thank him for his contribution and for
his suggestions to improve accountability.
  I agree with Deputy Brian Hayes that the promotion and marketing of international edu-
cation is now a priority for the Government and Enterprise Ireland has a key role in that
regard. I would be interested in considering the Fine Gael proposals in that regard. I thank
Deputies again for their co-operation. It will be possible to raise with the alliance the views
expressed by Deputy Brian Hayes on institutes of technology.

  Seanad amendment No. 1 put and declared carried.

  Seanad amendment reported.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Noel O’Flynn): A message will be sent to Seanad Éireann
acquainting it accordingly.

Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage.
  Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
(Deputy Conor Lenihan): I move: “That Report Stage be taken now.”

  Question put and agreed to.

      Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad]: Report Stage.
  Deputy Simon Coveney: I move amendment No. 1:

    In page 7, line 48, after “system” to insert “for both employees and the general public”.

I acknowledge that the Minister of State has accepted a significant number of the amendments
Deputies proposed on Committee Stage. The purpose of this amendment is to improve the
definition of the term “safety case” and ensure it achieves more than currently proposed. Under
                the current wording, the term “safety case” means “a document describing the
1 o’clock       components of the safety management system relating to the designated pet-
                roleum activity concerned”. The amendment proposes to add, after the words
“safety management system”, the words “for both employees and the general public”. As I
noted on Committee Stage, the definition of the term “safety case” must be watertight to
ensure a petroleum activity or project that involves the laying of pipelines or bringing ashore
of gas or oil is safe for the employees working on the infrastructure and members of the public.
   On Committee Stage, some confusion arose as to whether my reference to a safety case
related to workplace safety, which is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Authority.
This is not the purpose of the amendment, which is to ensure that if, for example, a gas pipeline
is being constructed, all the safety measures should be outlined in the safety case being made
when the relevant company applies for a permit to proceed with the project. This would ensure
those working on the pipeline or members of the public living nearby would be catered for as
                                                      355
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage

  [Deputy Simon Coveney.]
regards the safety case. While I do not intend to cause a fundamental division on this issue, I
believe the proposed wording improves the definition.

   Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
(Deputy Conor Lenihan): I thank Deputies Coveney and McManus for their wise contributions
on Committee Stage. I indicated on Committee Stage that the Health and Safety Authority
has responsibility for occupational safety and requires in-depth reporting in the context of
demonstrating inter alia that a major accident prevention policy and safety management system
for implementing it have been put into effect and that major accident hazards have been iden-
tified and the necessary measures taken to prevent such accidents and limit their consequences
for people and the environment.
  The health and safety interests of employees are regulated by the Health and Safety Auth-
ority. Any reference in this Bill to a requirement that a petroleum safety case should address
the interests of employees would cause regulatory ambiguity and lead to confusion between
the Health and Safety Authority and the Commission for Energy Regulation in trying to dis-
charge their respective statutory obligations. For this reason, I do not propose to accept the
amendment. Having pursued this matter in a non-partisan manner, I am certain the Deputy
will understand my position. I genuinely believe the suggestions made by Opposition Members
on Committee Stage were very helpful in improving the Bill.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Acting Chairman: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendments No. 2 and 3 as they
do not arise out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 24 are related to
amendment No. 2 while amendment No. 18 is consequential on amendment No. 16. Amend-
ments Nos. 2, 16, 17, 18 and 24 may be discussed together.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendments No. 2 and 3.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 2:

    In page 8, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:

    “‘safety framework’ means the risk-based petroleum safety framework established under
    section 13I;”.

As amendments Nos. 2, 16, 18 and 24 were not referred to on Committee Stage, they will be
recommitted. I propose to discuss the amendments together with amendment No. 17. The core
objective of these amendments and a number of further amendments which I also propose to
recommit is to provide the maximum level of clarity to everyone with an interest in the develop-
ment of the new safety regulatory framework.
   The primary purpose of the Bill is to establish a national risk assessment safety framework
based on international best practice, as recommended by Advantica following its safety review
of the Corrib gas pipeline. A risk assessment framework is a regulatory mechanism that will
require petroleum undertakings to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Commission for
Energy Regulation that they have reduced and are managing safety risk to a level that is as
low as is reasonably practicable. Having reflected on this core purpose, together with the con-
sultation methodology underpinning the establishment of the new safety system, and having
reflected on the contributions of Deputies during the Committee Stage debate, I am proposing
a number of amendments that will further clarify the language used in the legislation to ensure
clarity for all parties interested in the formulation of a new safety framework.
                                                      356
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage


  I consider it necessary in amendments Nos. 2 and 16 to reference explicitly risk assessment
both in the definition of a petroleum safety framework and in reference to that framework in
the body of the Bill in section 131. Amendment No. 18 is also being proposed in the interests
of clarity in that it sets out in a more comprehensible manner which are the specific bodies to
be consulted by the commission in establishing the petroleum safety framework.
   With regard to the timeframe for the implementation of the safety framework, Deputy
McManus proposes that this new system should be both established and implemented within
six months. While it is my intention that the new system is implemented at the earliest possible
opportunity, given the range and depth of consultation necessary to ensure we introduce the
most robust and effective system, I do not believe this is achievable in the timeframe suggested
by the Deputy. For this reason, I do not propose to accept the amendment.
  To ensure the petroleum safety framework is introduced without undue delay, however, I
am proposing to reduce the timeframe by which the Minister may give a direction to the
commission with respect to the publication of the safety framework. Amendment No. 24 now
proposes that where the safety framework has not been published within six months of the
commencement of the safety framework provision, the Minister may direct the commission in
writing to publish it not later than the date specified in the ministerial direction. I am, therefore,
leaning towards Deputy McManus’s proposal for a six month timeframe rather than the original
eight month timeframe. I have moved halfway towards the Deputy’s position, while reserving
the right to give a direction as opposed to imposing an absolute time limit of six months.

  Deputy Liz McManus: I welcome the Minister’s amendments and I am willing to withdraw
my amendment No. 17. It is noteworthy that the Minister is introducing, in amendment No.
19, a provision which allows for public consultation on a draft of the proposed safety framework
where an invitation is made by the commission “by means of a notice to that effect published
in a newspaper circulating within the State and published in the prescribed manner”. This is a
welcome change.
  Following our discussion of this issue on Committee Stage, I commend the Minister on taking
an open approach to the legislative process. I also welcome his decision to incorporate the
timeframe, at least in part. On reflection, I accept that issues arise which require time to
address. It is not my intention to set unreasonable time limits. The approach taken by the
Minister is fine and I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 3:

    In page 10, to delete lines 1 to 8 and substitute the following:

      “13C.—This Part applies to any petroleum undertaking that—

         (a) proposes to carry on a designated petroleum activity, or

         (b) is carrying on an established petroleum activity.”.

This amendment was not mentioned on Committee Stage and, therefore, it is being recom-
mitted. On Committee Stage I introduced amendments aimed at removing any ambiguity from
the transitional nature of what is termed an “established petroleum activity”. An established
petroleum activity is one that is being carried on by an undertaking at the time this Bill becomes
law. The purpose of this amendment is to introduce further clarity to the scope and intentions
of the Bill. I imagine it does not pose any major issue for the Opposition but that is a matter
for the Deputies concerned.
                                                      357
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage


  Deputy Simon Coveney: I have no issue with it.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendments.

  Acting Chairman: Amendment No. 4 arises out of committee proceedings. Amendment No.
19 is related and amendments Nos. 20 to 23, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No.
19. Therefore, amendments No. 4 and 19 to 23, inclusive, may be discussed together.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I move amendment No. 4:

    In page 10, line 49, after “designation” to insert the following:

    “through a formal public consultation process with a fixed timeframe”.

This is the nub of the issue for me. If we are serious about learning from mistakes made during
the fiasco of trying to bring ashore gas from a very significant gas find in County Mayo, a
situation where almost everybody to date has been a loser, we must ensure, from the very
outset of a process, that there is public consultation. We must ensure we do not merely say, as
the wording of the legislation stands at present, that we will give interested persons, organis-
ations and other bodies an opportunity to make representations but also that we will be pro-
active in informing and consulting people and listening to what they have to say. That is the
basis of my amendment.
   I recognise the Minister of State has introduced his own amendment to a later section of the
Bill, on page 14. I shall wait to hear what he has to say before withdrawing my amendment.
However, I am very serious when I say to him that we must ensure we push information at
people. Otherwise, conspiracy theories develop which lead to all sorts of problems. Communi-
ties dig in their heels and find very imaginative ways of preventing legitimate projects from
moving ahead. We must ensure that the mistakes which were made by many people in the
Corrib situation, including the company and policy makers, do not happen again. This is for
the benefit of communities as well as for the country and will bring energy security benefits to
consumers by bringing oil and gas ashore.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I propose to consider amendments Nos. 4 and 19 to 23, inclusive,
together. Their common feature is a desire to achieve an appropriate level of public consul-
tation. Deputy Coveney’s amendment seeks to add a formal public consultation process to the
designation of petroleum activities. Having listened to the views expressed by Deputies
Coveney and McManus on Committee Stage, I now propose to amend the Bill explicitly to
require a formal public consultation process to be carried out by the commission in establishing
the safety framework. As this framework will set out the designated activities, it will afford the
public an opportunity to comment on such activities prior to the implementation of the
framework.
  I do not propose to accept Deputy Coveney’s amendment in respect of a formal public
consultation process specific to the designation of petroleum activities. However, I point out
that under section 13(D)(3)(a)(ii) of the Bill the commission is required to “give interested
persons, organisations and bodies an opportunity to make representations to it” in respect of
the proposed designation of petroleum activities.
  Amendments Nos. 20 to 23, inclusive, are technical drafting amendments requiring the
renumbering of ensuing provisions consequential on the insertion of the new public consul-
                                                      358
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage


tation provision. I hope the level of formal consultation on the framework will assuage the
Deputy’s concerns regarding the information issue.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: The problem here is that when there is a consultation process during
the construction of the framework — in other words, when we make general rules concerning
safety issues, the putting together of safety cases and getting safety permits from the CER —
the chances of communities participating in that process are nil, unless they know the project
will affect their area. If we had decided ten years ago to have a public consultation process
regarding safety framework issues for national policy on petroleum activity, nobody from
County Mayo would have made any contribution. They would have been getting on with their
normal lives, whether farming or whatever. It is only when a project threatens a community
locally, where a pipeline is to go through its land or its neighbours’ land, or when a terminal is
being built in an area about which the community has concerns, that people engage.
  That is the difference between what I propose and what the Minister proposes. He proposes
that we have a public consultation process which will be high level and will not involve local
people. People will not focus on it unless their local environment or community is threatened.
We are talking about specific projects which are not very common; they are not a-dime-a-
dozen. There are very few specific projects of this kind likely to occur in Ireland. One could
count them on one hand. Regarding the specifics of a project, the proposal is that it is up to
people or organisations to make representations to the CER as opposed to there being a formal
information and consultation process.
   I believe we are making a mistake here. I recognise the Minister has come some of the way
and that he said it is normal practice in most parts of the world not to have consultation
processes. However, Ireland is not the same as other parts of the world. We have specific
problems in this country in terms of an acceptance of the kind of project we are trying to build
in County Mayo. I realise the Minister’s concern is that if we open up a public consultation
process for every individual project, we will go on for ever. I agree with that concern. That is
why we should put a timeframe in place. The problem is that we are going on for ever in any
event because local communities, not having been involved at an early stage, develop a resist-
ance to projects. This resistance is sometimes valid, sometimes not, but in my view it could be
dealt with by having an earlier public consultation process. Otherwise what will happen is what
is happening now. We are still putting public consultation processes in place in County Mayo.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan, still goes
down to set up forums and discussions and all the other things that had to be done to try to
address people’s concerns. That is why I believe the Minister of State is making a mistake
on this.
  I recognise I come from the minority side of the House so it will be hard to get this changed.

   Acting Chairman: The Deputy’s contribution extended to three minutes and 20 seconds when
it is usually for two minutes, as he will know. He got great latitude.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I thank the Acting Chairman for his latitude.

  Acting Chairman: I know the Minister of State will be brief.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I will. I welcome the Deputy’s support and that he may not press
this issue. It is not common in other jurisdictions to have consultation on the safety case. I am
extremely worried about this point, as I believe are all other Members given that worry was
certainly reflected during the Committee Stage discussions — I was very happy about that. The
unconscionable delays associated with the Corrib project are not something we should be proud
                                                      359
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage

  [Deputy Conor Lenihan.]
of, either as a Government or as a country, in terms of how we handle very large investments
that are very valuable to this country in energy security and revenues to the State.
   I hope the Deputy will bear with me and perhaps consider withdrawing his amendment
because we must try this process and make it slimmer and faster while having a requisite level
of public consultation. It would be dangerous to open the safety case to a public consultation
procedure because there is no end to that. I need not remind the Deputy that some of the
people who have opposed this project will never be happy unless Shell move away from this
country. They impose a comparison to the Niger Delta which I do not share or see as being
relevant. That is the kind of mindset one is dealing with regarding some of the people involved.
I am somewhat sceptical of consultation measures and fora of one kind or another that facilitate
serial objectors, who are wired up on some kind of ideological or subversive viewpoint, to
continually ambush something that is clearly in the national interest.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I have made my case, which is that I think we are settling for a
lesser solution.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Acting Chairman: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendment No. 5 as it does not
arise out of Committee Stage proceedings. As amendments Nos. 14 and 26 are related to
amendment No. 5, they may be discussed together.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 5.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 5:

    In page 11, to delete lines 10 to 12 and substitute the following:

      “(v) the Irish Aviation Authority, and

      (vi) such other persons as may be prescribed by order by the Minister.”.

There was some debate on Committee Stage about the bodies that should be specified for the
purposes of the various safety framework consultation processes that are required under this
Bill. In order to ensure it will always be possible to consult the appropriate bodies, I am
proposing to provide by means of these amendments that the Minister may, by order, add an
additional body he considers appropriate to the list of specified bodies to be consulted for the
purposes of the designation of petroleum activities, the safety framework itself and the safety
case guidelines. This amendment has been proposed in deference to the discussions that
occurred on Committee Stage.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I do not understand why my amendments Nos. 6 and 15 have not
been grouped with the amendments before the House, as they deal with more or less the
same thing.

  Acting Chairman: They are next.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: The amendments are linked.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I did not make that decision — it was made by the Bills Office.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: The Minister of State’s amendments are welcome.
                                                      360
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.   Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage


  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I am not blaming the Bills Office.

  Acting Chairman: I will deal with this question, if the Minister of State does not mind. As
Deputies are aware, amendments Nos. 5, 14 and 26 have been grouped together. The Minister
of State has explained that it has nothing to do with him. Does Deputy Coveney have anything
further to say on the amendments before the House?

  Deputy Simon Coveney: No, I am happy.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendment.

  Acting Chairman: As amendments Nos. 6 and 15, which arise from Committee Stage pro-
ceedings, are related, they may be discussed together.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I move amendment No. 6:

    In page 11, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

      “(vi) the relevant local authority.”.

These amendments relate to the matter the Minister of State has tried to deal with in amend-
ment No. 5, which we have just accepted. It is regrettable that his amendments do not make a
specific reference to local authorities. Individual projects may affect local authorities from the
perspectives of planning and access, for example. Local authorities are in the middle of this
stuff, for all sorts of reasons. I cannot understand why the Minister of State wants to deal with
the issue I am raising by including a reference to “such other persons as may be prescribed by
order by the Minister”, rather than by simply referring to “the relevant local authority”, as I
suggest. I would have thought that in this context, local authorities are as important as, if not
more important than, the Department of Health and Children, the National Standards Auth-
ority of Ireland or the Department of Transport. If the Minister of State plans to make that a
reality by order, I will accept what he is trying to do. I do not see why we are not referring
specifically to local authorities. Surely there should be consultation between the Commission
for Energy Regulation and local authorities on this issue and similar issues.

  Deputy Liz McManus: I support Deputy Coveney’s amendment. It is an indication of a
certain mindset that a reference to “the relevant local authority” was not included in this
legislation as a matter of course. If we are to take local government seriously, we need to
incorporate this kind of provision into law. Like many of us, the Minister of State is probably
aware that there is a great disconnect between the public and the State at present. There has
been a certain loss of confidence. Local government will be a very important part of the resto-
ration of trust. I regret the failure to include a reference to “the relevant local authority” as a
matter of course. It should be seen as an essential part of the provision of a safety framework
that reflects the needs and concerns of people at national and local levels.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: The bodies to be consulted during the designation of petroleum
activities and the establishment of the safety framework and guidelines are specified for two
reasons. First, such specification will ensure that any potential for regulatory overlap is kept to
a minimum. Second, it is important to draw on any specific experience or expertise an individual
body might have. A local authority would not generally be in a position to bring petroleum
safety expertise to the table. There is no potential for regulatory overlap between a local
authority and the CER.
                                                      361
        Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction)   24 March 2010.    Safety Bill 2010: Report Stage

  [Deputy Conor Lenihan.]

   The Bill already provides a basis for the CER to seek input from interested individuals and
organisations, including local authorities, when designating petroleum activities and developing
safety case guidelines. The critical point is that local authorities can be consulted even though
they have no particular or specific expertise in the area of safety statements or frameworks. I
assure Deputies that local authorities can be included in the CER’s consultation. However, I
suggest that to give them some kind of safety or expertise remit would, in effect, be to give
them a power that would not be well judged. Such expertise does not reside within such organ-
isations.
   I have outlined that, as a result of amendment No. 19, the Bill will provide for a formal
public consultation on the development of a safety framework. We have also discussed amend-
ments Nos. 5, 14 and 26, which provide that the Minister may prescribe other bodies that must
be consulted. Taking all these factors into account, I am satisfied that the Bill provides that the
CER can consult a local authority if it considers it appropriate to do so. Local authorities will
also have a good opportunity to independently provide input, if they consider it appropriate to
do so. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept these amendments.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Acting Chairman: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive,
as they do not arise out of Committee Stage proceedings. As amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are
related, they may be discussed together.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 7:

    In page 11, to delete lines 39 to 43 and substitute the following:

      “13G.—The principal objective of the Commission in exercising its functions under this
    Part is to protect the public by fostering and encouraging safety as respects the carrying
    on of designated petroleum activities.”.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 have been tabled for reasons of clarity. I am anxious that the
intention of this Bill is clearly understood when the Commission for Energy Regulation under-
takes the various public consultation processes that are required. The CER is being conferred
with a number of functions under this Bill. The intention of this amendment is to identify that
the key goal among these sanctions “is to protect the public by fostering and encouraging safety
as respects the carrying on of designated petroleum activities”. It is really an issue of clarity.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 8:

    In page 11, line 46, to delete “object” and substitute “objectives”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 9:

    In page 12, line 7, after “safety,” to insert the following:

    “which may include specifying standards and codes of practice referred to in section
    13L(3),”.
                                                      362
                    Priority              24 March 2010.               Questions


This amendment has also been tabled for reasons of clarity in the context of the expanded
public consultation process for establishing the safety framework. It provides that the codes of
practice and technical standards used in setting the minimum safety benchmark to be achieved
by developers will be specified in the safety framework. The individual details will be set out
in the safety case guidelines that are specific to each designated petroleum activity. By specify-
ing codes and standards within the framework, the CER can recognise the best practice which
a petroleum undertaking must, at a minimum, apply. This does not obviate the responsibility
placed on petroleum undertakings to reduce their safety-related risk to a level that is as low as
is reasonably practicable. An additional benefit of setting out the relevant codes and standards
in this manner is that it will remove any ambiguity as to what the appropriate code or standard
for each designated activity will be.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendments.

  Debate adjourned.

  Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

                               Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed).

                                       Priority Questions.

                                            ————

                                         State Airports.
  59. Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the decision to
terminate the facility management procurement process relating to terminal 2 at Dublin Air-
port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13065/10]

  60. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his
recent decision to allow the Dublin Airport Authority to operate terminal 2 within the bench-
mark set by the Commission for Aviation Regulation; the reason he initiated and then dropped
a facility management procurement process to find an operator for terminal 2 and thereby
incurred a significant cost to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
[13025/10]

  Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and
60 together.
  The May 2005 Government decision on the construction of the second terminal at Dublin
Airport provided for the selection of the operator of the terminal through an open tender
process organised by an independent group. Consultants were appointed by my Department
in 2008 to advise in the first instance on an appropriate facilities management procurement
process. Having considered the consultants’ report at the end of this first phase, I mandated
the consultants to proceed to organise the procurement process.
   The formal procurement started in July 2009 with pre-qualification submissions received in
late September 2009. Following the evaluation of the pre-qualification submissions, the consult-
ants reported that none of the candidates had met the minimum requirements for pre-qualifi-
cation. Furthermore, having completed a market debrief process, the consultants concluded
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                    Priority              24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Noel Dempsey.]
that there was a low probability that the process, if restarted, would prove successful. Unfortu-
nately, I had no option but to terminate the procurement process in light of this advice.
   Following the decision to terminate the facilities management procurement process, I
announced, on 10 March, that I was mandating the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, to operate
terminal 2, while requiring it to demonstrate that it could do so within a benchmark set by
the Commission for Aviation Regulation, CAR. In this context, the Dublin Airport charges
determination for 2010 to 2014, made by CAR in December last year, has set very specific and
stringent operating cost targets for operating an efficient terminal 2. I have asked the DAA to
report back to me within three months on its capacity to operate terminal 2 satisfactorily with
effect from November 2010.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: It is my understanding that the DAA did not participate in the pre-
qualification competition and was not asked to do so. It seems the DAA was effectively taken
into the winners’ enclosure while others were excluded. Why was the authority not required to
take part in the pre-qualification procedures? In respect of those companies that did partake
in the process, did the consultants make any recommendations? The Minister indicated that
none of the applicants qualified, but did the consultants make a judgment as to whether any
of the companies, despite not qualifying, had the capacity to deliver the requirements they did
not meet on technical grounds?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The DAA participated in the process in the sense that it was involved
in consultations on standards and so on in regard to the second terminal. However, it did not
participate in the tender procedure. The process that was recommended to me was that the
DAA would submit a benchmark for the operation of the terminal. The idea was that when
we decided which facilities and so on would be managed, the authority would submit a price
in a sealed tender document. That was one part of the process. The applicants we invited to
tender formally would then submit their prices for running the terminal. If any of those prices
were better than the benchmarked price set by the DAA, then that company would win the
tender process. However, it did not get to the stage of benchmarking because none of the
applicants was found to be qualified.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Does the Minister not agree that this looks to the public like
he has simply blown away €700,00? First, the Department spent €200,000 directly on a process
which did not seem to offer any type of result. I understand three companies — Goodbody
Corporate Finance, Matheson Ormsby Prentice and Mott MacDonald — were involved in that.
Did they fail completely to offer any type of basis for a competitive tender? Were they at fault
in this regard? Second, the Department allocated €500,000 to the DAA for providing what
amounted to some type of a benchmark. Did the Department not already have from CAR the
Dublin aircraft charges determination for 2010 to 2014? Did the Department spend money
twice in order to obtain the same result in each case?
  In regard to the pre-qualification tenders, did the major companies in Europe with which we
are familiar, including Ferrovial, British Airways, Servisair and so on, participate? Will the
Minister indicate which companies put in any type of tender bid to operate the terminal? Has
this entire process merely been a €700,000 scam to enable the Government to come forward
and say to workers in the airport that their wages must be slashed by 40% or 50% because
terminal two cannot afford them at existing rates? Does the Minister agree he has gone through
an elaborate charade that cost the State €700,000 and which next year my colleagues and I in
the Committee of Public Accounts will be investigating? The €700,000 squandered is in addition
to the Minister’s ongoing bill of some €110 million.
                                               364
                    Priority              24 March 2010.              Questions


   Deputy Noel Dempsey: Once again the Deputy has provided some lovely rhetorical
flourishes.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I have set out the reality.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The decision in regard to the running of the second terminal was
made prior to my time as Minister for Transport. I was required to implement the Government
decision to put forward an alternative for running the second terminal at Dublin Airport, which
had been requested by most people both inside and outside the industry, as well as by most
Members of this House with the exception of Labour Party Members. I do not have available
to me within the Department the expertise, skills and knowledge to conduct that process but I
had a Government decision which said I must do so.
   Therefore, we employed consultants to advise us, first, how we might go about such an
unusual process. It was originally envisaged that it would be fairly straightforward to put a new
operator in place in the new terminal. However, significant complications arose from a legal
standpoint in that the DAA owned the land on which the facility was built and thus might be
found to own the terminal. The cost of hiring the consultants was partly met by us and partly
by the DAA itself. The function of these consultants was to guide the process in order to secure
the best possible deal and the most effective and efficient terminal 2. As it turned out, there
were seven or eight bids, as I recall, but none met the minimum standards.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Can the Minister name the bidders?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I cannot do so. I am not even sure I should be——

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I shall submit a freedom of information request.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy may do so if he wishes. I do not have the information.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: That is what is wrong.

   Deputy Noel Dempsey: I saw the list at the time but do not have it with me. From recollec-
tion, most of the companies that are involved in this type of business were represented in
the tenders.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: The key point is that some of the companies that tendered are
multi-billion dollar companies which run airports throughout the world and have larger budgets
than the DAA and better qualified staff. Yet they were excluded from this process on technical
grounds. The DAA was never in the race until the race was over, and it got the job without
having to undergo proper due process. The authority got a sweetheart deal which facilitated a
State monopoly at Dublin Airport to the detriment of consumers. Costs at the airport will be
higher as a result. The Minister does not know what the DAA will charge, having given it three
months to come up with God knows what figures.
   We want competition, choice and reduced costs. Is it not a fact that the whole process was
a con job to put the DAA in charge of the airport as a State monopoly, and to put the maximum
burden on taxpayers as a result?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is absolutely incorrect in his assertion. The fairest way
of doing this was to get the DAA to put in its price at the appropriate time, and then give
everybody else the opportunity to put in their prices. If there was a cheaper price than the
DAA price, it would then have been taken. Unfortunately, if people do not comply with a
tender document, whether for technical reasons or otherwise, as the Deputy is implying, we
                                               365
                    Priority               24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Noel Dempsey.]
cannot ignore the process. The Deputy would have me before the Committee of Public
Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor General if I interfered with a tendering and pro-
curement process——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Was the DAA in a tendering and procurement process? It was not.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: ——in any way at all. The Deputy made the assertion that this
will cost taxpayers, but that is not the case. When this process was finished, CAR issued a
recommendation on prices at Dublin Airport that is very stringent and that will keep the cost
very tight for Dublin Airport.

   Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I have the request for tenders in my hand that the Minister
issued in April 2008. It is a very unusual document as it states that the Minister reserves the
right to terminate the assignment after the end of the first phase. This means that there would
only be a pre-tendering phase, which is something I have not seen in similar documents. Does
this not confirm the point that we went through a kind of charade? Why was this necessary
when we knew that the Commission for Aviation Regulation was making its own determination
of airport charges?
   Terminal 2 is a wonderful investment. It is a magnificent building and a wonderful piece of
infrastructure for the nation. I commend those who designed and organised it. I do not believe
that people should be flying out of a greenfield site without normal comforts when they are
about to go through very stressful travel. I commend those people, but it is important that the
terminal is efficiently run. Aer Rianta International was a proud standard bearer for our coun-
try and competed successfully for many airport management contracts in places such as
Birmingham and other places in the US and Europe, so why did the Minister not ask the DAA
to put its best case forward, given that it has competed freely and successfully before?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The DAA was going to get the opportunity to put its own best case
forward. That was part of the process.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: That was the end of the process, not the beginning.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It was part of the process. The consultants came forward with the
proposal that it should be a two phased thing and should be benchmarked. The right to termin-
ate the competition at the end of the first phase was included in the document just in case
there was no second phase, so that we would not fork out €800,000 to the consultants for a
phase of work that they were not going to do.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Government spent €700,000 instead.

                                      Air Rescue Services.
  61. Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has decided to
downgrade Waterford search and rescue helicopter services to a 12 hour service; the impact
this will have on an emergency situation; the savings that will be made; if he will provide details
of the new contract for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13067/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: A procurement process for the Irish Coast Guard helicopter search
and rescue service is currently taking place. As the process is ongoing, there are constraints on
what I can say, but I will be as helpful as possible. The request for tender, which was drawn
up with the assistance of various stakeholders, aims to improve the service nationally through
                                                366
                    Priority               24 March 2010.              Questions


the provision of modern helicopters that are safer and more effective than the current 40-year
old Sikorsky S61s.
  Bidders were required to quote for a number of alternative options in which the target level
of service could be provided. Among these were a 24-hour operation at four bases; a 24-hour
operation at three bases; and a 24-hour operation at three bases and a 12 hour operation at
one base, the choice of which was to be made by the bidder.
  A preferred bidder has now been nominated. The annual cost will increase very substantially
as a result of the provision of modern helicopters, but will deliver a marked improvement in
the capacity, range, speed and capability of the service. This has enabled the Government to
select the option which involves 24 hour availability from three bases and 12 hour cover from
one base, while still delivering the required level of service. As a result, the additional funding
that will have to be found to meet the cost of the service is somewhat reduced.
   There will be no change in the 24 hour availability from the Waterford base before July
2013. While a 12 hour contract is to be negotiated for the subsequent period, the Government
is committed to keeping this position under review in the light of the operational requirement
at Waterford and the availability of funding.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: A 24 hour service at four bases that costs €27 million per annum
will be changed for a 24 hour service at three bases and a 12 hour service at one base, which
will cost €50 million. That is unacceptable, particularly to the people of the south east. Why is
the Minister doing this? Why is the Minister reducing the time cover? Notwithstanding that we
will have a different calibre of helicopter, surely it will take longer to go from Dublin to
Waterford and from there to a distressed ship. If there is a 24 hour service already in existence,
why should people have confidence in a 12 hour service? It is not acceptable. The savings come
to €1 million per annum, but the Minister wasted most of that on the DAA competition, so
surely he could provide a 24 hour service at four locations for safety reasons.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is incorrect in stating that there will be a 12 hour service
anywhere along the coast. There will be a 24 hour service right around the coast. The Waterford
base could go to a 12 hour service after 2013, but there will be a 24 hour search and rescue
service in all parts of the coast. The reason we can do this is that the helicopters involved are
55% faster than the current helicopters. They are much larger and are much more capable of
manoeuvring around clouds and at night, so the service will be improved. That is reflected in
the fact that we are nearly paying twice the current rates.
   The question of whether Waterford will be a 12 hour or 24 hour base will not arise until
after 2013. It will be kept under review at that stage. The contract negotiations are ongoing
and we will try to get the best value possible. The important thing is that we will have a 24
hour search and rescue service all over the coast.

   Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: The Minister’s decision is wasting money and putting lives at risk.
If there is a 12 hour service in Waterford, then the helicopter will come from elsewhere for the
other 12 hours. No matter how fast it is, it will not get five miles off the Waterford coast by
the time a helicopter in Waterford could do so.
  The south-west coast of the UK is currently served by the AW139 helicopter, which is basi-
cally the Air Corps helicopter. If that is good enough for the UK, why is it not good enough
for Waterford and for Ireland? Was the Air Corps asked to tender for this process? The Air
Corps helicopters can provide a 24 hour service and the same safety that is provided by the
British authorities. It is not good enough.
                                                367
                    Priority              24 March 2010.              Questions


  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is absolutely right. It is not good enough. The UK
service is not acceptable at all to me, nor is that kind of helicopter. The reason we are going
for this helicopter — the newest of the Sikorsky models — is precisely because the other ones
are no longer suitable.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: They are being used in the United Kingdom.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I do not care where they are being used. The helicopters we are
bringing in are the best for this. They are purpose built and are safer if they have to make a
crash landing.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: They will not get there on time.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: They can carry more personnel, have a longer range and are much
better and more effective.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: They will not get there on time.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy says he wants that helicopter in the UK. He should
consult with his members down there. They do not want an inferior service.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: They do not.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I am not going to give them one. I am going to give them a better
service.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ceist sesca dó. I want to move on to the next question.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: If the 12-hour one is there, the fact is that it will not be there for
24 hours. The final point is who owns the helicopters? At the end of this period the Canadian
company will have the helicopters, whereas if the Air Corps had them it would have them for
ever. That is the other point; the Minister is wasting good money.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Please Deputy, I must call the next question.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Air Corps was asked about this and it does not want anything
to do with search and rescue.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Were the Air Corps asked, or the Department of Defence?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Air Corps, specifically.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: I do not believe it was.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ceist sesca dó, le do thóil.

                                        Railway Safety.
   62. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will publish in full
all reports he has received into the collapse of the Broadmeadow railway bridge, Malahide,
County Dublin; if he has met Irish Rail and the Railway Safety Commission to discuss this
matter; the steps that he is taking to address the gaps in the railway safety monitoring system
and the perceived loss of corporate memory in Irish Rail; if he is reviewing the level of funding
allocated to the RSC in 2010 as a result of the Broadmeadow viaduct collapse; if he has
                                               368
                    Priority              24 March 2010.              Questions


requested a full report on all bridges on the permanent way; and if he will make a statement
on the matter. [12768/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Railway Safety Act 2005 put in place a strong and modern
legislative and regulatory framework for railway safety in Ireland. The legislation established
an independent safety regulator in the Railway Safety Commission and an independent office
to investigate accidents, the Railway Accident Investigation Unit.
  In accordance with the statutory framework, an independent investigation is being carried
out by the Railway Accident Investigation Unit into the collapse of the Malahide viaduct. I am
aware that Irish Rail carried out its own internal investigation and recently published a sum-
mary of this report. The company has also submitted the report to the Railway Accident
Investigation Unit.
  The Railway Accident Investigation Unit is required to publish its report not later than 12
months after the date of the incident. Until this statutory investigation is complete, it would
not be appropriate for me to make any comment on the causes of the collapse or the actions
that are required as a result, notwithstanding the fact that Irish Rail has published its own
internal report.
   It should, however, be acknowledged that significant progress has been made in the past ten
years in improving safety on the railway network through the investment of almost €1.2 billion
in Exchequer funding over that period. In 2010, notwithstanding the difficult Exchequer fund-
ing environment, a further €96 million has been allocated to Irish Rail as part of the continuing
investment in railway safety.
  The Railway Safety Commission is funded by a combination of Exchequer funding and a
levy on railway undertakings. The budget for the commission and the accident investigation
unit in 2010 is €2.53 million.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: All we have is a summary of the Irish Rail report. Although
we only have a few pages of summaries and recommendations, it highlights an appalling failure
by Irish Rail management and the Minister to look after the permanent way. Only for the
bravery and courage of a driver, and the warning we got from the Malahide sea scouts, Deputy
Dempsey would certainly not be here today as Minister for Transport. In addition, the manage-
ment of Irish Rail would have changed dramatically. We came within a hair’s breadth of a
desperate tragedy.
   The findings of the report are astonishing. It mentions a misunderstanding and says that as
time progressed, the importance of maintaining the weir profile was no longer fully appreciated.
In other words, the Irish Rail engineers did not realise that the Malahide viaduct comprised a
series of piers built on top of an underlying structure. They had forgotten the basic structure
of one of the key bridges in the rail network. Is that not an appalling indictment of maintenance
in Irish Rail?
   Since the disaster, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland has informed me that original
drawings of the Malahide viaduct and other drawings over the past 150 years are available in
the society’s office in Heuston Station. I have a photograph taken 30 or 40 years ago of a train
crossing the viaduct. The relevant information was clearly there, yet the report’s astonishing
finding is that people in the company had forgotten basic maintenance procedures.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I agree with the Deputy on one thing — that a very serious incident
was averted by the quick thinking of the driver in question. We should all be grateful for that.
I have two roles concerning rail safety, which are to ensure that the policy is correct and to
provide as much money as possible for that. In both of those duties, my predecessors and I
                                               369
                    Priority               24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Noel Dempsey.]
have discharged our functions as we should. I agree with the Deputy that what is contained in
the Iarnród Éireann report, about forgetting in some ways what they should have been doing
concerning the maintenance of the viaduct structure, is frightening. I certainly hope that the
lesson has been well learned by the company itself. I do not propose to make any further
comment on the specific findings because once we have set up the statutory body, the report
of which will be public, the proper time to comment is when we have all the facts.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When will we get the full report and the other two reports
that I understand are in train? The Minister has a responsibility nonetheless. The Railway
Safety Commission has only four inspectors for 2,000 km of permanent way, which we are
beginning to add to now. It is an astonishingly small resource to monitor all that work. The
Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport was told that the Railway Safety Commission has
never examined this bridge.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: That is right.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: They had not looked at Rogerstown. Has the Minister asked
Irish Rail’s management to make specific changes concerning maintenance and the manage-
ment of maintenance? Has he asked the company if all the major railway bridges in the country
have been inspected, including Rogerstown, Malahide and elsewhere?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: From inquiries I have made, I am aware that the company has
reviewed all its procedures in this respect. It has examined similar structures. The Railway
Safety Commission is not meant to do the job of the railway company. The inspectors are
supposed to spot check, but the rail company and its linesmen are involved in ensuring that
the track is up to date.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: They did not know it either.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I await with interest the report as to why they did not know that, if
they are the experienced people in this area.

                                   Weather Damage Repairs.
  63. Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a detailed
assessment of the €180 million cost for repairing damage caused by the recent weather con-
ditions as estimated by county councils; the details of the cost involved for each county council;
and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13069/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I will provide a table setting out the returns received from county
and city councils. It covers the estimated cost of the response to the recent flooding and severely
cold weather, and of road repairs arising from those weather events. The total estimate is
almost €198 million. This information is being assessed by my Department at present.
   When deciding on the allocation of over €412 million in Exchequer regional and local road
grants for 2010, my priority was to protect the existing investment in the roads network and to
target carefully resources to address, on a priority basis, the most urgently required repairs
resulting from the extensive damage caused by the recent severe weather. With that in mind,
I simplified the grants structure and gave more flexibility to local authorities to direct funding
to these priorities.
  These grants, which supplement expenditure by local authorities from their own resources,
represent a very significant investment at a time when public finances are under severe press-
                                                370
                    Priority              24 March 2010.               Questions


ure. They bring the total Exchequer investment in regional and local roads since 1997 to over
€6 billion.

                 County Council                                          €

CARLOW                                                                7,633,815
CAVAN                                                                 5,784,678
CLARE                                                                 9,325,000
CORK                                                                 22,117,530
DONEGAL                                                               9,878,179
DÚN LAOGHAIRE/RATHDOWN                                                2,140,078
FINGAL                                                                3,160,000
GALWAY                                                                6,143,682
KERRY                                                                12,490,880
KILDARE                                                               3,606,000
KILKENNY                                                              5,645,000
LAOIS                                                                 3,082,239
LEITRIM                                                               4,270,407
LIMERICK                                                              2,810,000
LONGFORD                                                                750,160
LOUTH                                                                 1,726,430
MAYO                                                                  6,924,393
MEATH                                                                 4,666,459
MONAGHAN                                                              8,255,377
NORTH TIPPERARY                                                       3,177,435
OFFALY                                                                2,810,000
ROSCOMMON                                                            14,792,453
SLIGO                                                                 3,391,197
SOUTH DUBLIN                                                          1,205,953
SOUTH TIPPERARY                                                       6,167,911
WATERFORD                                                            10,355,038
WESTMEATH                                                             2,995,370
WEXFORD                                                               8,692,850
WICKLOW                                                              14,641,320

Total                                                               188,639,834



                  City Council                                           €

CORK                                                                  7,254,663
DUBLIN                                                                  418,597
GALWAY                                                                  334,826
LIMERICK                                                                694,230
WATERFORD                                                               580,000

Total                                                                 9,282,316



  Deputy Shane McEntee: I thank the Minister for his reply. The question concerns getting
more money, but it is not easy to obtain. Last Saturday, I visited Kerry, which is the last of the
counties I have visited over the past three months. The last time I was there was in 1991.
                                               371
                    Other                 24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Shane McEntee.]
People all over the country are saying that they will spend their holidays at home this year,
given the value offered by hotels. In addition, improved roads to Galway, Cork, Limerick, the
south east and Belfast now have shorter journey times. One can nearly do such journeys in
half the time due to the fantastic road network. However, money needs to be invested in a lot
of smaller county roads where holidaymakers go. Many accidents take place on these roads.
   We have had a good month or six weeks of repair and much work has been done in county
councils around the country. Is there anything more that can be done? We have a new Minister
for Tourism, Culture and Sport; I have no doubt she will do a great job and I wish her well in
              it. People will be spending holidays at home this year and we do not want to lose
3 o’clock     any lives because of potholes or bad upkeep of verges on the roads. Can €2
              million or €3 million extra be given to each county to make sure our roads are
safe, so that when people decide to holiday at home they will come back with only good
memories?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Like the Deputy, I encourage as many people as possible to take
their holidays at home. The answer to his question about whether there is any more money for
local or regional roads is that I do not have any more money. I have provided the maximum
amount of flexibility and the feedback from local authorities, obtained from my talks with
officials, has been positive. They have been given the freedom they need and the system is
working well. If the local authorities require further changes within the allocations provided, I
will try to be as flexible as possible without compromising other aspects of the roads prog-
ramme. However, I do not have extra money and I do not expect to.

  Deputy Shane McEntee: Before we reach the peak holiday time — perhaps in three months
time — the Minister might review that.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I will always be delighted to receive extra money from anybody.

  Deputy Shane McEntee: Which we will spend at home.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That concludes Priority Questions.

                                       Other Questions.

                                           ————

                                       Taxi Regulation.
   64. Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when the Commission for Taxi
Regulation will be incorporated into the National Transport Authority; and if he will make a
statement on the matter. [12774/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The National Transport Authority was established on 1 December
last. In accordance with the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, the Com-
mission for Taxi Regulation will be subsumed into the National Transport Authority, at the
request of the authority, on such day as the Minister appoints by order.
  Discussions are currently taking place between the National Transport Authority and the
Commission for Taxi Regulation on the details of the assimilation process, such as the inte-
gration of financial and information technology processes. It is important that the assimilation
takes place in a manner that ensures an effective transition to the new institutional arrange-

                                               372
                     Other                24 March 2010.               Questions


ments. I expect this process will be carried out expeditiously and that the integration of the
two organisations will be completed over the course of this year.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Is the Minister saying that by the end of 2010 the Commission
for Taxi Regulation will be based completely within the National Transport Authority? The
authority will then effectively be the regulator. I understand that according to the Bill that we
put through the House, the current taxi regulator is the last such regulator.
  Is the Minister aware of the considerable unease in the taxi industry at present, with many
taxi workers feeling it is impossible to earn a decent living under the current conditions and
the current regulator? People are going out for three or four hours and coming back with €15
in their pockets, then having to work all night in chaotic circumstances. Has the Minister met
representatives of the Irish Taxi Council and, if not, is he prepared to meet them? Will he meet
with other representative taxi bodies?
   Will he address the major concerns of the council with the Commission for Taxi Regulation?
It is concerned, for example, about the nine-year rule for cars, under which many taxi drivers
will be obliged to replace fine cars that are now around nine or ten years old. In the current
circumstances, they will find it difficult to get credit and pay back loans. Will the Minister ask
the regulator to review this rule? Many taxi drivers have large cars with two-litre engines in
fine condition which may be more than ten years old. Will he consider any of the other issues
raised by taxi workers, particularly that of a moratorium on the issue of taxi plates?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Over the last couple of years I have met representatives of the Irish
taxi industry — the established representative bodies which have been there for some time,
some of which are unions or members of unions. They are involved in the consultative process
that is currently taking place with the Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation.
The advisory council stated in a letter to me dated 16 March 2010:

    The industry representative bodies which sit on the Advisory Council have fully engaged
  with the proper consultative processes and have played their part in progressing a number
  of initiatives such as the forthcoming introduction of Wheelchair Accessible licences only for
  taxis and hackneys, stricter rules on transferability of licences, new vehicle standards and the
  new Driver Skills Development Programme.
    Clearly, not only is this kind of engagement the correct and proper route to take, it is also
  the most constructive for all parties. The Irish Taxi Council [which is the group the Deputy
  mentioned] ‘demanding change’ whilst disrupting the general public cannot possibly be a
  successful route to improvement of standards.

I agree with the advisory council that the way to change any regulations with which people
have a difficulty is through the consultative process and not by disrupting the general public,
who have enough hassle in their lives.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am relaying to the Minister the deep concerns I have heard
from taxi workers in every part of the country — not just those represented by the Irish Taxi
Council but also those represented by six or seven other bodies, including SIPTU. They all feel
we need a coherent taxi service that is up to international standards and run in a different way.
The continuous antagonism between taxi drivers and the regulator, as they see it, must end.
We need a better service but one in which workers can earn a decent living. That is the reason
people want the Minister to intervene.
  It will be on the Minister’s own head if there is further disruption in coming weeks, because
people want to meet him to tell him about their concerns. There are almost 50,000 taxi drivers

                                               373
                     Other                24 March 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Thomas P. Broughan.]
and more than 27,000 taxi plates. The situation has become chaotic and is out of control. We
need a service that is well organised and also provides people with a good living.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is not reflecting the views of the established taxi organis-
ations on the current process. The taxi advisory council, whose letter I quoted and which
represents these organisations, is satisfied with the level of engagement and accepts that things
are happening and that change is taking place. It is part of the process of consultation. I accept
the Deputy’s point that whether people are in the Irish Taxi Council or some of the other
representative bodies, they are in difficult circumstances. However, this is a result of the state
of the economy, and there is no easy solution except to restore the economy.
  With regard to achieving change in the taxi regulations and the implementation of recom-
mendations made by other bodies, including the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, the
proper way to do that is not by engaging in disruptive behaviour——

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: They asked to meet the Minister.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I have no function in negotiating any changes.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The remit of the Minister for Transport includes public
transport.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Yes, and I have appointed by law — in an Act passed by this House
— the Commission for Taxi Regulation to regulate the industry. It has established extensive
consultative processes that can be used by the Irish Taxi Council on an individual or collective
basis, or any other way it wants, so that it does not have to disrupt traffic.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: There is no harm in meeting people.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: There is no way we can respond to bully-boy tactics from anybody.

                                     Road Traffic Offences.
  65. Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport when the Road Traffic Bill
2009 will be enacted; when the reduced blood alcohol limits will be introduced; his views on
the Road Safety Authority survey that stated that one in three drivers believes it is acceptable
to drink and drive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12873/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Road Traffic Bill 2009, which is currently before the Dáil for
Second Stage consideration, provides for the lowering of the legal blood alcohol concentration
to 20 mg per 100 mL for learner, novice and professional drivers and 50 mg per 100 mL for
other drivers. The lower limits will be introduced following the enactment of the Bill and
when the necessary evidential breath testing, EBT, instruments for testing at the lower limits
are available.
   The Medical Bureau of Road Safety has commenced the procurement process for the new
EBT instruments, following which the new instruments will be evaluated and tested by the
bureau over a six-month period. The Road Safety Authority’s recently published national sur-
vey of driving attitudes and behaviour shows a 71% level of approval for the new 50 milligrams
limit and 73% in favour of the 20 milligrams limit. The survey also shows that 61% believe the
legal limit of alcohol is one drink, after which a person should not drive, and 90% indicated
they had not driven a motor vehicle in the past 12 months after consuming two or more
alcoholic drinks.

                                               374
                     Other                24 March 2010.               Questions


  Overall, the RSA survey results show a significant hardening of people’s attitude towards
drinking and driving in the country and indicates a profound change in the public’s attitude
over the past decade.

   Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: On this the House is ad idem. I very much welcome the results of
the survey from the Road Safety Authority, which shows the profound change over a period
of years in public opinion. The voices in this House which have argued for a reduction in the
alcohol limit have been proved to be in tune with public opinion. Unfortunately, there are the
likes of Deputy Mattie McGrath in this world who do not want change and have articulated a
view that one can drink and drive. That is no longer acceptable.
  Will the Minister continue, with the Road Safety Authority, to provide a budget particularly
for bringing about awareness of the effects of drink on people? The key point is that no matter
how low the levels of drink, it can affect how people drive.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I agree with the Deputy and it is my intent to continue to support
the RSA in its education profile. It is a good example of at least one area where across parties
people have been constructive and positive in the implementation of policy and the highlighting
and support of issues that needed it. I hope it will continue as it is a matter of life and death
as far as I am concerned.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The best briefing I got on the Bill as it stands was from Ms
Susan Gray, Ms Donna Price, Ms Ann Fogarty and Ms Teresa Leonard. They are great road
safety activists from the PARC organisation and they are very anxious to meet with the Mini-
ster when the Bill emerges from the House. I wonder if he could facilitate such a meeting as
these people have a deep understanding of the issue; each of them suffered an horrendous
tragedy in their own family, which has been the basis of their terrific campaign over recent
years to bring about safer roads.
  We hope the Bill will begin Committee Stage soon and the Minister might indicate when
this will be. We clashed before about the evidential breath testing, EBT, machines so what is the
timeframe on the recalibration of the machines? Issues have also been raised about intoxilyser
machines which will be in Garda stations and the fact that their tolerance is too high compared
with the UK and Northern Ireland. Has the Minister any views on that?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The process involving the testing, tendering and purchase of
machines started on the day I put the Bill into the public domain. I did this in order to cut at
least six months off the normal time taken to procure such instruments. The largest and most
complex part of the process relates to the EBTs. The current versions, approved and supplied
to the Garda stations, could be recalibrated to the 50 milligram limit but could not be recali-
brated to the 20 milligram limit. I have asked the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, MBRS, to
purchase the new generation of EBT instruments, which will be capable of measuring all the
range. It has begun the process and we are coming to the end of the process where people
identify and submit interest in tendering.
  Samples must be evaluated by the MBRS and these are tested over six months, which will
be in the latter half of this year. At the end of that period, towards the end of this year, it is
expected that they can be approved by January 2011. They are then moved to Garda stations
and over a period of approximately six months they will be installed in Garda stations and
gardaí will be trained in their use. They will be ready for operation by that summer.

  Deputy James Reilly: I join with others in congratulating the Road Safety Authority on this
turnaround and the reduction in deaths so far this year. We have our fingers crossed as the
chairman as indicated that we could end up with a sudden shock over just one long weekend.
                                               375
                     Other                24 March 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy James Reilly.]

   I know the Minister has covered the possibility for gardaí to form an opinion that somebody
is under the influence of a drug other than alcohol but will the availability of testing kits be
further explored so that gardaí might quantitatively and qualitatively know that somebody has
been taking an intoxicating substance that could influence driving?

 Deputy Noel Dempsey: That is something which has exercised everybody on all sides of the
House. The impairment tests are being legislated for.

  Deputy James Reilly: They are welcome.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Gardaí can also form an opinion and do a test later. We are working
with the EU to see if we can get a roadside testing kit that would assist in the issue. I assure
the Deputy that we will pursue the matter and try to ensure an effective testing system for
drugs other than alcohol.

                                        State Airports.
  66. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he is currently examining
proposals for the development of any new aircraft maintenance or engineering initiatives at
Dublin, Cork or Shannon airports; if he has been briefed by an airline (details supplied) on
that company’s original plans for hangar 6; if his attention has been drawn to the location of
this airline’s proposed new maintenance investment; and if he will make a statement on the
matter. [12789/10]

   76. Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with
the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Dublin Airport Authority and an
airline (details supplied) regarding hangar 6 at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement
on the matter. [12826/10]

   94. Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Transport the contact that was made to
him in relation to the proposals to create 500 jobs at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a
statement on the matter. [12836/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 76 and 94 together.
  I have not received proposals for the development of new aircraft maintenance or engineer-
ing initiatives at Dublin, Shannon or Cork airports. In any event, these would be matters in
the first instance for the Dublin Airport Authority, which operates the three State airports,
and for the relevant development agencies.
  I have not had discussions with Ryanair on its plans for hangar 6 at Dublin Airport, nor
have I been specifically briefed by the company on other locations for the company’s proposed
new maintenance investment. I have been in close contact with the Dublin Airport Authority
and my colleague, the Tánaiste, while she was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment,
on the use of hangar 6, which is leased to Aer Lingus.
   In recent correspondence with Ryanair, the Tánaiste has confirmed her wish to focus con-
structively on the possible alternatives to hangar 6, which include the use of available existing
hangar space, new builds on available sites on airport land or some combination of the two.
The legal position on hangar 6 has been set out comprehensively by the CEO of the DAA in
his statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport on 24 February.

                                               376
                     Other                 24 March 2010.              Questions


  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: During the controversy, was the Minister briefed by Mr.
Michael O’Leary or others in Ryanair on the proposal for hangar 6? Does he have any infor-
mation on where the much-talked of jobs were located? I did not notice it mentioned in any
press release from Ryanair.
   We got a good report from Mr. Barry O’Leary of the IDA at a meeting of the transport
committee. He mentioned that hangers 1 to 6 were increasingly occupied by Aer Lingus, Ryan-
air, Dublin Aerospace and a garage operation. He told us hangars 3 and 4, which were then
fully available to Mr. Michael O’Leary and Ryanair, were in a process of negotiation for a
major maintenance project. Is the Minister aware of this?
  With regard to aviation jobs in general, it is my understanding that since mid 2008, Ryanair
removed approximately 500 jobs from the three main Irish airports in Dublin, Shannon and
Cork. Was the Department given any information on this? I tried to raise this with the Minister
on a number of occasions but I did not notice my Fine Gael colleagues jumping up and down
about the loss of 500 critical jobs. Those were real jobs which would have been created at the
three main airports but they have now gone elsewhere. Does the Minister have any comment
to make on the matter?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: No, I was not briefed by Ryanair at any stage. I did not seek a
briefing in respect of the hangar 6 issue, nor did I receive one. I was, however, fully briefed by
the then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment at that point.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: She is still Tánaiste.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Yes. I also had meetings with officials in my Department and their
counterparts from the then Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Furthermore,
I had brief discussions with representatives of Aer Lingus at one stage. I was, therefore, fully
briefed about the matter while events were unfolding.
   Hangars 3 and 4 were available to Mr. O’Leary at the time. One of these hangars is similar
in size to the facility at Prestwick, while the other is larger. For some strange reason, however,
a facility the size of that in Prestwick did not appear to fit the bill in Dublin. As the Deputy is
aware, Dublin Aerospace had an interest in some of the buildings at Dublin Airport. Sub-
sequently, that company established operations in hangar 5 and part of hangar 1. In addition,
an aircraft painting company was due to move into certain of these buildings. The contract in
that regard was awaiting signature prior to my departure abroad to carry out my duties for St.
Patrick’s Day and, as far as I am aware, that contract was signed. Much of the hangar space
that was available at the airport is no longer unoccupied.
  I cannot inform the Deputy with regard to the exact number of people Ryanair has made
redundant in Ireland during the past ten to 15 months. I cannot argue against the figures he
provided. As a result of cuts on routes from Shannon, Dublin, etc., I have seen a number of
different figures from Ryanair in this regard. Announcements of job cuts of that nature on the
part of Ryanair are usually accompanied by a tirade of abuse against the Government, individ-
ual Ministers, the DAA or whomever. The purpose of this is to distract attention away from
the fact that such jobs are going elsewhere. That was the case in this instance, when Ryanair
decided to try to create as much of a smokescreen as possible. That is par for the course with
this company.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: That is a disgraceful comment. The Minister has launched an attack
on a company that creates jobs. Over 432,000 jobs have been lost in recent times. Deputy
Dempsey is the second Minister to indicate that he neither met or sought a meeting with

                                                377
                     Other                24 March 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Fergus O’Dowd.]
representatives of Ryanair in order to discuss that company’s proposals. Is it not a fact that
Ryanair wrote to the Department, etc., stating that it wished to create 500 jobs? However,
those in Government did nothing about it. Is it not the case that last week some Government
Ministers went the extra 10,000 miles in order to try to attract jobs from New Zealand or
wherever? Not one of them thought to travel to Dublin Airport in recent months in order to
secure jobs. Instead of flying around the world, the Ministers to whom I refer should have
sought a meeting with Michael O’Leary in order that they might discuss his plans with him.
   Is it not a fact that the Minister failed to do this? His fundamental duty of care is to try to
attract jobs to Dublin Airport. He is the line Minister with responsibility for the DAA but he
did not seek to attract these jobs. He has again attacked, in a disgraceful fashion, a company
which has created thousands of jobs and which is one of the largest airlines in Europe. This
illustrates the Minister’s completely callous attitude to the company in question and the jobs
it creates.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I am only stating facts. I have the utmost regard for the achievements
of Ryanair, which has created jobs, brought down the cost of air fares, etc. I have no difficulty
acknowledging that. Ryanair is an Irish company and on a number of occasions my Department
has been obliged to make representations at European level in respect of cases it has brought
to its attention. I do not have a problem with regard to being even-handed in respect of this
company. Equally, I am entitled to express my views. If the Deputy can find something untrue
in what I said with regard to the tactics that are used by Ryanair, he can inform me of that fact.

  Deputy James Reilly: There is little point in rehearsing the history of this matter. It is clear
to everyone that an opportunity was missed. Will the Minister outline his view on the current
position at Aer Lingus? Staff are being threatened that they will be let go and then re-
employed. All the while, they have also been informed that they will be able to avail of Govern-
ment redundancy packages. Is this not an abuse of both taxpayers and the workers at Aer
Lingus?

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: These questions relate specifically to Dublin, Cork and
Shannon airports.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The matter to which the Deputy refers has been the subject of
discussions at the LRC and is now the subject of a ballot among staff. I hope there will be a
positive outcome for the company and for the employees concerned.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: It appears Mr. Mueller and the Aer Lingus management team
were on the verge of acting illegally in the context of the course they were allegedly going to
pursue in respect of vulnerable cabin crew. It must be noted, however, that the wages and
conditions for such crew appear to be set in Ryanair’s headquarters. That is one of the diffi-
culties that arises. I reiterate that ten aircraft — which were making an important contribution
to the economy — were withdrawn from this country and we have not had an opportunity to
discuss the issue in the House. My colleagues in Fine Gael did not think the Ryanair cuts
worthy of being raised here.
  A few weeks ago the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Inno-
vation, Deputy Calleary, informed Senator Brendan Ryan and I that the process relating to
the globalisation fund is so long and convoluted that it will be the end of the year before
moneys will become available to the 800 former employees of SR Technics. Many of these
individuals are commencing courses in aviation engineering at DCU and other universities.

                                               378
                    Other                 24 March 2010.              Questions


They already trained as engineers and are now intent on moving one step up. However, the
colleges do not have the funding to facilitate them in this regard. There will be an eight month
wait before funding becomes available. In view of the importance of aviation to the country
and its economy, would it not be possible for the Government to assist these young men and
women in completing their training?

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is broadening the scope of the question to an
unacceptable degree.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: My final supplementary is related to the original questions.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: At least Deputy Reilly’s supplementary was somewhat related to the
matter under discussion. I do not know the answer to Deputy Broughan’s question on the
former employees of SR Technics and the globalisation fund.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The process is extremely slow.

 Deputy Noel Dempsey: I accept that. I will take the matter up with the Minister for
Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to see if something could be done for those involved.
   The Deputy also referred to the difficulties at Aer Lingus and the cuts that have been made.
I accept that the process involved is very painful. I do not know where the wages, etc., are
being set. I am not sure they are being set by Ryanair or anyone else. The aviation industry is
experiencing an extremely difficult period. Aer Lingus needs to continue with the process it
currently has in train in order to try to survive. Sacrifices were made by Aer Lingus employees
in the past. I am of the view that the case which has been put forward to the effect that cabin
crew previously made major sacrifices is not unreasonable. Unfortunately, as a result of the
downturn in both the economy and the aviation industry, they are being asked to make even
further sacrifices. I am confident that if Aer Lingus can achieve what it has set out to achieve,
there are better times ahead for both it and its staff.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Ryanair is one of the largest airlines in the world and has 231
aircraft. Aer Lingus, another excellent company, has only 45 aircraft. The difference in scale is
massive. It would have been great had we attracted additional Ryanair business to Dublin
Airport. I would fault the Minister and the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills,
Deputy Coughlan, for not taking action in this regard. A year ago, Ryanair proposed to create
500 jobs at Dublin Airport. Now, however, those jobs have disappeared.
  We have no control over Ryanair, which is the only airline that is creating jobs in the
aviation industry.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: And taking jobs out when it suits it.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: It is reducing costs and overheads. The State has an influence
through the Government being a shareholder in Aer Lingus. That is the point. However, I
accept what the Minister stated. The Aer Lingus company is under excellent management now
and it is time for both sides to get together — and most people are together on it — and vote
on it, seal the pact and save the airline.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I agree with the Deputy that it is wonderful to have an airline as
commercially big, powerful and strong as Ryanair. I have no difficulty accepting that and stating
that it is a good thing which has helped competitiveness in the aviation sector here also and
that is extremely important. From the point of view of these jobs, every facility was given to

                                               379
                     Other                24 March 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Noel Dempsey.]
Mr. O’Leary and the Tánaiste met him because it was her area of responsibility at the time.
The best thing I could state is that if anybody really wants to know how serious the situation
was they should look at the evidence given before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Trans-
port and the behaviour of the witness before that committee and form their own judgments.

                                         Rail Accidents.
   67. Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Transport the discussion he has had with
Irish Rail over failed safety monitoring systems prior to the collapse of the viaduct at Malahide,
County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12837/10]

  79. Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the steps taken to ensure safety
on our railways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12804/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 79 together.
  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 62, answered today.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: The key point is that journal 143 of the Irish Railway Record
Society, which can be referenced very easily on the Internet, would indicate to Irish Rail, the
Minister, me or anyone who cared to look at it, the issue of the Malahide viaduct and how it
was constructed. There is a 12 page article on it by a gentleman who works for Irish Rail,
Oliver Doyle. I find it entirely unacceptable that Irish Rail can have a self-serving summary of
the conclusions of the report without the complete report being published. Is it not a fact that
Irish Rail should publish the complete report?
   The regulator, which is the Railway Safety Commission, has served a compliance order on
Irish Rail with regard to the Malahide viaduct, the content of which it is refusing to disclose.
To have confidence in railway safety, and Question No. 75 from Deputy Jim O’Keeffe also
covers this, we need to know exactly what the Railway Safety Commission specifically stated
to Irish Rail about the Malahide viaduct. That should not and does not in any way prejudice
the accident investigation unit, which is an entirely different and separate activity. I want to
know what is going on, what the Railway Safety Commission knows and what it stated.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I hope and expect, and by law I know, we will get the report from
the railway accident investigation unit, which is independent of, but part of, the Railway Safety
Commission. I agree with the Deputy that the maximum amount of information must be made
available and made public. However, all of the facts and investigation should be completed
and then all of the information should be made available. The report has to come out within
12 months from when it was commissioned so a maximum of four months remains. It can do
the report earlier and I hope it would be in a position to do so.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Separate to anything else, the Railway Safety Commission has made
a finding on the Malahide viaduct and I believe the contents of that report are very significant
and I want to know what they are. The key issue is that the Government promised to make
the Railway Safety Commission operate under the Freedom of Information Act. The statement
of strategy of the Railway Safety Commission, which is on the Internet, states that pending
that order being made it will abide by the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act and make
information available in a free and proper manner. It is refusing to do so. It creates concerns
for me and all travellers on that line that it refuses to do so. It is not good enough. I should
not need to have a conversation with the person who is acting head as that person should
                                               380
                    Other                 24 March 2010.              Questions


respond to my freedom of information request, which is an entirely separate matter to the
railway special investigation unit.
   I do not know whether the Minister has the same view but I believe Irish Rail’s attitude to
all of this is shameful, disgraceful and self-serving. Hundreds of people could very easily have
died in that accident. It did not do enough to make it safe. In 1998——

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should ask a question and not give information.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: ——an initial report on safety adequacy found that it was one of
the most potentially dangerous locations in the country for a rail accident.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Will the Deputy provide me with a note on what he has raised? I do
not want to give a commitment that I will be able to give the Deputy that particular report
because as I understand it the report may feed into the investigation unit. I agree that we
should have maximum information if it will not prejudice the investigation.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I support the call. We should have the three reports in full.
The bit of information we have raises many questions. It reaches a damning conclusion but it
raises many questions. Was the Minister shocked by the reference that the 2006 scour report,
which Irish Rail conducted, decided it would investigate only underneath the piers six years
later, in 2012? That seems an indictment of maintenance procedures. It is incumbent on the
Minister to publish it. Questions must be raised about the Railway Safety Commission. We
passed the Bill to establish the commission five years ago and it was established four years ago.
It has very small resources and I felt its performance at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas
Committee on Transport was not sufficient and that was before this near disaster occurred.
Will the Minister review everything about the Railway Safety Commission? The history of
recent years reveals that a series of regulators, from the banking industry to building control,
was not just light touch but non-existent. Was railway safety part of the same cancer, in other
words non-regulation? The Minister should look at the commission as well as at Irish Rail.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is being unduly harsh on the Railway Safety Com-
mission, if he does not mind me saying so. We have had an excellent record up to this particular
incident, which I agree could have been a huge disaster. Once we have the report I want
maximum disclosure and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport could review it. If issues
arise for any agency, body or the company itself we should discuss them.

  Deputy James Reilly: I support my two colleagues’ call for full transparency on the investi-
gations taking place. The Government has a terrible tendency to delay reports. It is eight years
since a young child died in care and we are receiving the report now. However, I will stick to
the Malahide issue, which was extremely serious and in which several hundred people could
have drowned. The report and the bit of information we have to date suggests that nobody
knew and it was nobody’s fault because people left and they did not tell other people. What sort
of a company are we running? We are back to PPARS — nobody is responsible or accountable.
Fortunately, nobody was killed. Is this lack of culpability, responsibility, accountability and
transparency in a semi-State body acceptable to the Minister?
  It is not acceptable to me or to people in my constituency or elsewhere in Ireland.

   Deputy Noel Dempsey: Everyone should be fully accountable for actions or lack thereof in
particular areas within this company or any other. However, the normal manner in which this
is done is within the company. The board, in the form of the chairman and board members, is
there to do so.

                                               381
                    Other                 24 March 2010.              Questions


  Deputy James Reilly: They are not doing so.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I reiterate it is my understanding that apart from the separate investi-
gations to be conducted by the Railway Accident Investigation Unit, RAIU, Irish Rail also
conducted its own internal review and report in this regard. All the details and data have been
passed on to the RAIU and I am sure this also will be referred to in the report. I agree with
the Deputy on one point, which is there should be transparency and openness and people
should know the exact position. However, people should be given the opportunity to do a
thorough job in investigating before producing a report.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Will the Minister sign the requisite freedom of information order?

                                    Road Traffic Offences.
  68. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether national road
safety has been compromised after 18,000 drivers who had committed road safety offences got
away without a single penalty point being applied to their licences; the proposals he is
developing with the Department of Justice and Law Reform to address this problem; and if he
will make a statement on the matter. [12798/10]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It is important to state at the outset that more than 70% of fixed
charge notices are paid within the statutory prescribed 56-day period and that penalty points,
where appropriate, are applied as a consequence of making such payments. Where fixed charge
notices are not paid, the matter is dealt with by way of summons to appear before the courts.
There is already an obligation on a person appearing before a court charged with offences
under the Road Traffic Acts to present his or her driving licence to the court. However, the
Road Traffic Bill 2009 amends existing provisions to facilitate administrative procedures in the
courts by obliging a person to also bring a photocopy of his or her licence for presentation to
the registrar, clerk or other principal officer of the court.
  This proposed amendment arose during the extensive discussions with key stakeholders,
including the then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that preceded the drafting
of the Bill. The Bill also includes a number of provisions to facilitate the endorsement of
penalty points where a licence record does not exist and for foreign driving licence holders, as
well as to bring foreign driving licence holders into the scope of the application of sanctions
for road traffic offences, including a disqualification from holding a driving licence.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The public were shocked to learn that so many drivers had
got away on this technicality. Moreover, when this was allied to the issues concerning non-Irish
national drivers and drivers from Northern Ireland, people concluded that the penalty points
system is a farce. Has the Minister made further progress in respect of the mutual recognition
of penalty points with Northern Ireland?

   Deputy Noel Dempsey: This is being done jointly with the United Kingdom and at present
we await a report from the United Kingdom’s authorities in this regard. The United Kingdom
is the lead authority on this issue as we were the lead authority, with Northern Ireland, regard-
ing the mutual recognition of disqualifications and, consequently, we are in their hands to an
extent. While progress is being made, I acknowledge there will be a three to four year period
before the two systems can be aligned.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: While I accept the Minister has made progress in this regard, cars
from Northern Ireland still drive at extremely high speeds on the M1 every day of the week.

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When will the authorities be able to deal with this problem effectively? The Minister has
acknowledged this is a serious matter and I am surprised it has not been dealt with heretofore.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: As I stated in my response to the previous question——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: I apologise as I did not hear all of it.

 Deputy Noel Dempsey: In that regard, we await a progress report from the United
Kingdom authorities.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

                                Adjournment Debate Matters.
  An Ceann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which
notice has been given under Standing Order 21 and the name of the Member in each case: (1)
Deputy Joe McHugh — the need to revise the rules in respect of the areas in which boats of
15 m and smaller can fish; (2) Deputy John O’Mahony — the difficulties encountered by
farmers on Clare Island and other islands off the Mayo coast in respect of REPS; (3) Deputy
Paul Connaughton — the continuation of services at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County
Galway; (4) Deputy Joe Carey — the provision of funding in respect of the opening of the
dementia unit at Clarecastle Day Care Centre, County Clare; (5) Deputies Brian O’Shea,
Simon Coveney, Paul Kehoe, David Stanton, John Deasy and John Browne — the proposed
downgrading of the coastguard helicopter service based in Waterford; (6) Deputy Seán
Sherlock — the need for the Revenue Commissioners to allow greater flexibility regarding the
collection of VAT and income tax from small and medium businesses; (7) Deputy Deirdre
Clune — the need to restore teaching posts to Togher girls national school and Togher boys
national school, Cork; (8) Deputy Joe Costello — the need to address the issue of invalid
embassy marriages; (9) Deputy Emmet Stagg — the removal of special needs assistant posts
from St. Raphael’s special needs school, Celbridge, County Kildare; (10) Deputy Aengus Ó
Snodaigh — the need to reverse the cuts in the Young People at Risk Local Drugforce projects;
(11) Deputy Róisín Shortall — the negative implications for school children in disadvantaged
areas of the proposed abolition of the supply panel; and (12) Deputy Jimmy Deenihan — the
continuing failure of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to appoint a district
superintendent to sign off on more than 400 REPS plans in the Tralee office in County Kerry.
  The matters raised by Deputy Paul Connaughton, Deputies Brian O’Shea, Simon Coveney,
Paul Kehoe, David Stanton, John Deasy and John Browne and Deputy Joe Costello have been
selected for discussion.

                                  Private Notice Questions.

                                           ————

                                    Passport Applications.
  An Ceann Comhairle: I will call on the Deputies who tabled questions to the Minister for
Foreign Affairs in the order in which they submitted their questions to my office.

 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans he has in place to
ensure that applications for passports are processed without delay; and if he will make a state-
ment on the matter.

                                              383
                    Passport                24 March 2010.              Applications


  Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will undertake neces-
sary actions to end the impasse at the passport office; if he and high ranking officials in both
the Department of Foreign Affairs generally and those with responsibility for the passport
office itself will engage in direct dialogue with union spokespersons; if management at the
passport office will also address issues within its area of responsibility, including the availability
of passport printing machines and management of queues at the office; and if this will be
treated as a matter of extreme urgency for the many people who are in need of having their
passports renewed for planned trips over the coming days, as well as seeking a fair resolution
to the matter for all workers in the passport office.

  Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Dick Roche): I apologise
for my late arrival in the Chamber. First, as a former public servant and as a former member
of the union which is in dispute, I deeply regret what has been happening within the passport
office. I believe the union has made a fundamental error. I do not make this point as a union
basher as most Members who know me will know the opposite is the case. I have much time
for this union and in particular for its leadership, which showed great leadership and courage
during the recent referendum campaign in particular. However, I must apologise on behalf of
the Department and the Government to those who have had their plans destroyed or certainly
upset, as well as for the extraordinary inconvenience, suffering and frustration that has been
caused by the delays in the passport service.
  The second point I should make is that over its long period of operations, the passport office
has been a good operation. It issues up to 600,000 passports per annum or approximately 12,000
passports per week and during peak periods, it handles approximately 20,000 passports per
week. Consequently, the capacity exists and were people working to rule, it could be used
to purpose.
   Deputy Timmins has made a number of important propositions outside the House, for
example, augmenting current staff. As he is probably aware, this would be normally the case
at this time of year, but it is not currently possible. The passport service must operate to
international standards, including those drawn up by international organisations such as the
International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, and the US Department of Homeland Secur-
ity. Unfortunately, there is no room for shortcuts in the process. It must be handled in a
professional way.
   Since the Passport Office operates with large volumes, any curtailment of processing would
soon lead to a major backlog, as we are seeing. The CPSU action has resulted in a build-up of
44,000 applications in the system. Last Friday’s action was particularly regrettable, as it
undoubtedly caused a considerable amount of disruption. Long delays in processing passports
has resulted in a collapse of confidence in the system, a legacy with which we will all need to
deal. In other countries that previously experienced a loss of confidence in their passport
systems, only a return to guaranteed turnaround times restored confidence and, consequently,
a lessening of pressure at public counters. The Minister and I are acutely aware that a loss of
confidence will take a significant time to overcome, that frustration has been caused and that
there will be an IR legacy.
  The industrial relations action is slowing down the overall process. As Deputy Timmins
pointed out, the CPSU has blocked the recruitment of temporary workers, which would have
been normal at this time in the Passport Office. Demand for passports is seasonal, but it is
11% greater this year than it was last year. As concern has set in during recent days, a flood
of passport applications into the system is adding further to the problems.

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                    Passport               24 March 2010.             Applications


   As Deputies know, there was a particular problem last Friday when the CPSU provided the
Department with only very short notice of its intention to withdraw from public counter
services. It was not possible to advise all callers directly as to their actions and the passport
service management advised on its website when notice of the position was received on Thurs-
day. The difficulties with the public office did not start last Friday. They had been building for
a number of weeks. The Department appealed to the unions to put off their strike action last
Friday. The Minister, Deputy Martin, made the same appeal last night, an appeal that I renew.
It is not in the interests of the public service to be in conflict with the general public. Those
who are suffering are members of the general public.
  On 16 March, accommodation and sophisticated equipment in the Passport Office were
destroyed. It is important to put on the record that they were destroyed by a water leak that
occurred overnight despite the suggestion that they might have been destroyed otherwise. That
a production unit will be out of commission is adding to the difficulties. The two remaining
production units were receiving the normally scheduled preventative maintenance, work that
concluded yesterday. With one unit out of action for the medium term, it was prudent to ensure
the other two units received their scheduled maintenance.
  The Deputies asked about the further action that can be undertaken. The Minister has asked
the union to consider its position, particularly on the employment of additional personnel. The
backlog will take some time to clear. It is in everyone’s interests, including those of the public
service unions and their relationship with the general population, to accede to the request.
Suggestions have not been made just by our side of the House, but from the other side of the
House as well, to curtail the action.
  Having said this, I appreciate that the unions have a job to do. It is not easy for unions,
particularly those representing lower paid public servants, to accept the types of restriction that
recently needed to be placed on pay. However, it is a time of sacrifice across the economy. No
part of the public sector system should impose additional hardships on families at this time of
year. I would welcome any supplementary questions.

   Deputy Billy Timmins: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing this Private Notice Ques-
tion. I also thank the Minister of State for his reply. I have a number of questions for him.
Does he agree that the reason for this difficulty in the first instance is the Government’s policy
of pay cuts? Had it followed Fine Gael’s advice and started enacting pay cuts above the €30,000
level, it would have been carrying out a far more equitable policy. The decision to reverse the
pay cuts in respect of the higher paid added fuel to the fire.
  Does he also agree there is an implicit right in the Constitution to travel? Thus, an individual
has a right to transport, a right that the State should be in a position to honour. The European
Convention on Human Rights, to which we are signatories, recognises the freedom of move-
ment. This indicates that a State should be in a position to issue passports to its citizens. Does
he agree that it is outrageous for the general public to be inconvenienced in such a manner?
Members of the public are innocents in this matter. Some are queuing at the Passport Office
and thousands more are waiting at home awaiting their passports.
  This is not a question of someone hoping to go to the Costa del Sol for a holiday. It is a
question of students going abroad on educational matters, people going abroad on personal
appointments and business people travelling. They have all been inconvenienced. The general
public cannot be held to ransom by one of the State’s unions. It is inappropriate. This is not a
go slow. Rather, it is a strike in everything but name.
  Does the Minister of State also agree that the Passport Office has provided an excellent
service to date? It is a credit to the advances made by sections of the public service in recent

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                    Passport               24 March 2010.              Applications

  [Deputy Billy Timmins.]
years. This work to rule has brought the office into disrepute, undeservedly so in some sense.
The workers are being held to ransom by their union leaders.
  At a committee today, certain issues were raised, including the extension of the valid period
of passports as per section 9 of the Passports Act 2008 and the issuing of emergency travel
documentation as per section 15 of that Act. It would appear both sections, due to security
difficulties and international agreements with the aviation organisations, are not options.
   Two options are available. First, the dispute could be ended. Will the Minister of State
confirm whether approximately 50 temporary workers have been sanctioned to do the work
and clear the backlog within a few weeks? Temporary workers are taken on every year during
this peak period, but the CPSU has placed an embargo on their being taken on board. It has
also placed an embargo on overtime. That a machine is out of commission is irrelevant to the
time taken to process applications. The CPSU action is the only blockage. Are temporary staff
available to come on board straight away and clear the backlog? Will the Minister of State join
me in asking the union to call off the go slow, which has been of considerable inconvenience
to the public? We have seen the difficulties it has caused people in recent days.
   Second, we could outsource the service. If the State cannot guarantee through its public
service that members of the public can travel freely by getting a passport, we should outsource
the service. In 2008, a KPMG report suggested that the passport service should undertake a cost
               benefit analysis of producing passports in-house and outsourcing that production
4 o’clock      before the end of the useful life of the current APS hardware. The same report
               outlined how the Netherlands, UK and Denmark have outsourced their services,
which have operated successfully since. Has this cost benefit analysis been conducted? Does
the Minister of State agree that, if the dispute is not resolved, the facility should be outsourced?
We are here to serve the public interest, not any sectoral interest.

  Deputy Dinny McGinley: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Dick Roche: I acknowledge that Deputy Timmins made suggestions with a view
towards helping. However, escalating the conflict with the trade union would not necessarily
help. I agree with him that the union should give serious consideration to reviewing and revers-
ing its position on overtime and the taking in of temporary staff. Many of the temporary staff
are people who have been employed over the years in this capacity. It is strange, to put it no
stronger than that, for a trade union, at this particular time, to take a view that employing
additional staff is a wrong thing to do.
  I do not agree with Deputy Timmins that simply blaming the paycut policy of the Govern-
ment is a solution. This is a reality which we all face. Of course, I have no doubt I would make
the same point if I were sitting across the House.

  Deputy Billy Timmins: Deputy Roche soon will be.

  Deputy Dick Roche: We are borrowing more than €340 million per week just to keep the
public services ticking over. A very high proportion of that is going on pay. It is clear that the
Government, whoever is in government, must balance the books. We cannot continue to bor-
row at that level. It would not be wise or prudent to talk about reversing this situation. In fact,
I would be absolutely opposed to that.
  I agree with Deputy Timmins that it is a citizen’s right to travel. It is a fundamental right
and enshrined in national and international law, the Lisbon treaty, the Charter of Fundamental
Rights and the many measures we have enacted. That is why the action taken by the trade

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union in this case is singularly ill-advised. It will create bad feeling between the union and the
general public, who are being grotesquely inconvenienced. There is something fundamentally
wrong, in the 21st century, in people having to queue from 3 a.m. I heard a lady from Donegal
speaking on a radio programme earlier today. She said she left her home at 3 a.m. to come to
Dublin because a passport was urgently needed for a child who wants to travel to engage in
some activity. That is wrong. Public service unions, notwithstanding industrial relations dis-
putes, must be aware of this.
   I am not entirely convinced that outsourcing public services is the best way to go. I have
never been a big fan of outsourcing public services. However, the Deputy is right when he says
outsourcing has worked very well in the Netherlands and is working in the United Kingdom. I
am not sure of the precise position in Denmark. In so far as it is possible to run an efficient,
effective and cost-effective service, we should do so within the public service. That is why I
think the action of the trade union in this case is so ill-advised. In terms of the long-term
relations between unions and the public it is an ill-advised action. I join with Deputy Timmins
in calling on the Civil and Public Service Union to reconsider this, reverse its action, resume
overtime and allow temporary workers to take up their positions.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing us to raise the
private notice question and I am grateful for the Minister of State’s replies so far.
  We had an opportunity earlier today of raising some of the issues at the Joint Committee on
Foreign Affairs. The meeting was attended by senior officials of the Department of Foreign
Affairs, who were forthright and complete in their answers. Nevertheless, I will make a few
important points.
   First, there is no point in imagining there is not a background to this dispute. It is that the
burden of the fiscal adjustment has fallen overwhelmingly and disproportionately on the very
large number of people in the lower grades of the public and Civil Service. I will not dwell on
this but I say it as a former Minister who looked at a small army of civil servants who were
very far below those on middle and high incomes. In fact, some of the lower civil servants in
my Department would have qualified for family income supplement, such were their circum-
stances. That is a factor. That being said, the advancement of their working conditions should
not be at the cost of quenching the right to travel and to hold a passport with such grievous
discomfort as is taking place, in Molesworth Street in particular.
  The Minister of State may be sympathetic to the following point. Given my introduction to
my supplementary question, it would be appropriate to locate this issue in the general context
of the talks between the Government and representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade
Unions. There is considerable merit in that. The issues at the background of this dispute are
not particular to it. They are elsewhere as well. If progress is being made in the talks between
Government, the ICTU and mediation forces it would be useful to attach this dispute as quickly
as possible to that process, giving, as it does, the opportunity of transcending the particular
difficulties.
  Second, if a backlog of 44,000 is threatening to rise to 50,000 it would be useful to arrange a
place for queuing to take place in less distressing conditions and to break the large number of
cases into categories. This could be done through the tracking system, which would give people
an idea how long they will be waiting.
  I share the Minister of State’s reservation about outsourcing. It has not been the success
people claim. Outsourcing of passport provision depends on the capacity to produce a secure
document, to meet security conditions and to achieve international acceptability.
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  [Deputy Michael D. Higgins.]

  Members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs heard how Ryanair, for example, has
rejected out of hand the suggestion that it would, like other low cost carriers operating out of
Belfast and other airports, accept other documents as photographic proof of identity. I find
this extraordinary. Some low cost operators flying out of Belfast are doing this but Ryanair has
said flatly that it will not even consider it. If we are, correctly, to stress the constitutional right
to travel as something which should not be defeated by the trade union right to representation
neither should the constitutional right to travel be defeated by intransigence and by putting
identification verification conditions in place which have no legal basis. These requirements
have no legal basis in European law. In fact, they are in contravention of certain aspects of
European law. Even as one is dealing with an emergency, every attempt should be made to
remove as many people as possible from the 44,000 so that one has a smaller volume to deal
with when a resolution is achieved. Measures, such as extending the validity of passports and
seeking forms of renewal not located in Molesworth Street, have been proposed to achieve
this reduction.
   The rejection by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the CPSU statement as being “too little
too late” is unfortunate. Waiting for the moment when the union is forced to withdraw all of
its actions before a resolution is possible will prolong the dispute. I would have preferred if
yesterday’s CPSU statement had been seen as a window of opportunity. I appeal that it be
revisited and that the dispute be attached to the talks between Government, congress and
mediation. This may offer us the shortest possible journey to a resolution.

  Deputy Dick Roche: I thank Deputy Higgins, particularly for his last point. If this is seen as
a battle to the death on issues of principle, the people who will suffer most are those queuing
outside. Ultimately, the reputation of a good service will suffer too. The reputation of public
administration, which has already taken a hit because of certain types of industrial action, will
also suffer.
   I will mention to the Passport Office the issue of proper queuing arrangements. There is
something fundamentally undignified in the 21st century in people having to queue outside
from three or four o’clock in the morning. That is not acceptable. I am not sure how we can
deal with the queuing issue but I will certainly make that point.
   Deputy Higgins also mentioned the intransigence of a private operator. Public administration
is where bureaucracy is supposed to exist and not in the private sector. One would have thought
Ryanair would be a little less bureaucratic and a little more open, provided security require-
ments are met and proper proof of identification is presented.
  Deputy Higgins also made a very useful suggestion that the backlog of applications should
be broken into different batches of those which are urgently required and those which are not.
Given that we are approaching holiday time and everybody is making arrangements, in light
of the current publicity surrounding the issue, it would be difficult to persuade anybody that
his or her case is less urgent that somebody else’s case.
   The Deputy also mentioned the talks that are under way. They are at a very preliminary
stage. We have to deal with the trade unions in good faith and make it clear that they under-
stand fully the difficulties facing the Government. We do not have any wish to be at war with
the trade unions. We certainly do not have any wish to be at war with public servants, partic-
ularly low paid public servants. The Deputy is correct in saying that the pay of clerical officers
and clerical assistants, the grades represented by the CPSU, are not grand salaries. I accept
that. I served with some people in those grades and I was a member of that union and of its
executive. Returning to the Deputy’s first point, the burden of adjusting should not fall, as the

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Deputy said, on junior public servants. It certainly should not fall on citizens who have legit-
imate business with which to deal and many of whom have urgent business with which to deal.
   I handled a matter raised by a person from Donegal, which was brought to my attention
over the weekend. The person had to travel to New York to see a person who was dying. In
all humanity that is a case that is critically urgent and the system should be able to handle that.
I heard Deputy Timmins mention a case earlier of young people who are due to travel abroad
for particular reasons, that they do not have a passport and that they perhaps should have
applied for one six months ago.
   We have had an excellent passport service. I fear greatly that there will be a legacy in this
regard and in that respect I draw attention to the point I made, a point Deputy Timmins made
and a point that was implicit in what Deputy Higgins said. The trade union took a step forward
last night and it has shown great leadership on issues in the past. I mention in particular the
general secretary of the union who has taken something of a lambasting in recent days. I ask
that the trade union rescinds this action and allows the 50 staff who have already been passed
to come in and to allow them to work overtime. We can continue the discussions. At the end
of the day this dispute will be resolved. Everybody realistically knows that it will have to be
resolved by discussion. It certainly will not be resolved by imposing any further hardship on
the travelling public in this country. I thank the Deputies for their contributions.

  Deputy Dinny McGinley: It is appropriate that we have an opportunity to discuss this crisis
this afternoon. I, on behalf of my colleagues, thank the Ceann Comhairle for providing us with
this opportunity. As the Minister of State will be aware, coming from Donegal, one of the jobs
a public representative is asked to do is to arrange for the processing of a passport application
in Dublin in emergency circumstances. I must compliment the officials and staff in the Passport
Office on the service they have provided down through the years. They have been co-operative,
obliging and have looked after us in emergencies, as have the officials in Iveagh House in
helping to process a passport in emergency circumstances at a weekend.
  The queue that had formed outside the Passport Office by 8.45 a.m. when I was passing it
along Molesworth Street and down Kildare Street was unbelievable. That cannot be tolerated.
We have to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
  The Minister of State mentioned the case of a person from Donegal. A constituent of mine
had to travel by motorcycle from Donegal to Dublin to collect his passport before 1 p.m. last
Friday. Thankfully, he got it and then he travelled back to Donegal.
  Many people in the country who have applied for a passport do not know the status of their
applications. I have suggested to some constituents that in emergency circumstances where a
person has to travel, be it on a holiday or for some other reason, any person who was born in
this country prior to 1949 is entitled to apply to the British Embassy on Merrion Road for a
UK passport, which would be processed in two or three days. I do not know if that is widely
known. There are people in Donegal and in other parts of the country who are at their wits
end and they will head to the British Embassy. If what is happening in the Passport Office on
Molesworth Street continues for much longer, one will see a queue forming outside the British
Embassy. I have recommended to a number of people in emergency circumstances that if they
cannot obtain a passport through our Passport Office to apply for a passport to the British
Embassy and that they will be facilitated. I do not know what is the view of the Minister of
State on that. He probably does not qualify for such a passport on age grounds. It was a
declaration of the Republic that anyone born here before 1949 is entitled to the UK passport,
but I believe that would be the last resort for people. This problem is causing widespread
consternation and the greater the distance one is from Dublin the more difficult one finds it.

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  [Deputy Dinny McGinley.]

  It is great that a passport facility is in place in Cork. The passport service should be
regionalised. There is no reason a passport office could not be provided in the north west,
Galway and the south west. When the dust settles and this dispute is resolved, that solution
should be considered.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The case has been put to the Minister of State to declare his eligibility
for such provision and we will wind up the discussion.

   Deputy Dick Roche: I would not necessarily agree. We should solve our own problems here.
It took us long enough to get independence and to get to this stage.

  Deputy Billy Timmins: It would not be a satisfactory route to take but if the Government
cannot facilitate people, they may have to do that.

   Deputy Dinny McGinley: If people cannot get a passport, they do not have any other alterna-
tive. I am not recommending it.

  Deputy Dick Roche: We had a much more peaceful exchange before Deputy Ring came in;
he probably qualifies for such provision.

  Deputy Dinny McGinley: It is true that one can qualify for a British passport on those
grounds?

  Deputy Dick Roche: It is. This is a serious issue and it is a reflection on the current state of
affairs. Like outsourcing, I am not sure that this is the solution. The solution is in our own
hands. I join the Deputies who made the point that we would ask the trade union to allow staff
to work overtime, to rescind this action and allow the additional staff to come on duty. I thank
the Deputies for their contributions.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes the——

  Deputy Michael Ring: A Cheann Comhairle——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a query on this matter?

  Deputy Michael Ring: I have a question.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will have to brief.

  Deputy Michael Ring: Does the Minister of State believe it is right that a person living in
Blacksod, Erris or in Westport in Mayo——

  Deputy Billy Timmins: Or a person living in Grafton Street.

  (Interruptions).

  Deputy Michael Ring: Allow me to ask this question because this is not a matter of fun;
there is a passport facility in Cork. If a problem arises concerning a passport application of an
applicant from Westport or Bellmullet, the applicant has to take the train or drive to Dublin
to sort out the matter. This has happened on numerous occasions. That has been the position
before this dispute arose. I have a simple question for the Minister of State. Has he or the
Government any plans in this respect? Why should people have to travel to Dublin to get a
passport? The Government has a policy of decentralisation. Why must people from my county

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have to travel to Dublin to get a passport? More people from County Mayo than from any
other county have queued outside the Passport Office today because there is not a passport
office in County Mayo. That needs to be examined. We do not even want an office; we need
a facility where people can get a passport rather than having to travel to Dublin to get one.
Does the Minister of State consider that is a reasonable request?

  Deputy Dick Roche: What is not reasonable is that any citizen, whether he or she is from
Blacksod, Erris, Bellmullet or Donegal, should be inconvenienced. That is not reasonable. I
am not sure about the practicalities of having a passport office in every county.

  Deputy Michael Ring: One should be provided in the west.

  Deputy Dinny McGinley: In the north west.

  Deputy Dick Roche: It was a good idea to open the office in Cork. I think it is working well.

  Deputy Kathleen Lynch: It is an excellent service.

  Deputy Dick Roche: In the fullness of time perhaps the other issue should be examined.
Sadly, wise as the Deputy’s suggestion may be it will not solve this dispute right now.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I know that.

  Deputy Dinny McGinley: When the dust settles that suggestion should be considered.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: There should be an office in Galway.

  Deputy Dick Roche: It may well be something that should be considered, but I am not in a
position to do that. I recognise the validity of the fact that there has been a call from Deputies
for further decentralisation of the service. I am not in a position to give an undertaking on that
and the Deputies will understand that.

   Deputy Billy Timmins: Can the Minister of State inform me if the Government has any plans
on how it might deal with the issue of passports or has it definitely ruled out the concept of
outsourcing the service? The Department was asked to examine that option by KPMG in 2008.
If this dispute continues, we cannot allow the public to be held to ransom. We must examine
a mechanism to provide for the issuing of passports. That is our first obligation.

   Deputy Dick Roche: I agree with the Deputy that there is an issue to be examined here. I
have put my own views on outsourcing on record; I am not a fan of it. We should deliver public
services through the public service. That is my general view on this and on other areas, but the
reality is, as the Deputy knows as well as I do, that even if there was a decision in the morning
that the service was to be outsourced, it would present significant logistic difficulties to get
to that point. It would not solve this dispute. The only solution is for the union to rescind
its action.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Arising from the Minister of State’s comment that the talks
between the Government and mediation facilities are at a preliminary stage, is there not con-
siderable merit in asking that the talks address this particular dispute as a serious obstacle to
progress? Will the Minister of State convey that message to those involved in the talks to
ascertain whether the dispute is blocking the advancement of the talks at a more general level?
In that way, the matter could be resolved.

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


   Deputy Dick Roche: As the Deputy will accept, the talks are highly sensitive. It would not
be wise, therefore, to set preconditions. However, the logic of the position dictates that the
trade unions at all levels and specifically the union involved in the dispute reconsider their
stance. I say this as someone who was a member of the executive of the union in question and
is not in any sense a union basher. What is being done is terribly damaging and also dreadfully
frustrating for the general public. I thank Members again.

Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed).
  An Ceann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are related and may be discussed
together.

  Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
(Deputy Conor Lenihan): I move amendment No. 10:

    In page 12, line 15, to delete “and”.

On Committee Stage I accepted an amendment from Deputy Coveney to confer a new function
on the Commission for Energy Regulation to provide safety information to the public when
appropriate. The insertion of this new provision necessitated these consequential technical
drafting amendments.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 11:

    In page 12, line 16, after “permits,” to insert “and”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendment No. 12 as it does
not arise out of committee proceedings. Amendment No. 13 is related and the amendments
may be discussed together.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendments No. 12 and 13.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 12:

    In page 12, to delete lines 22 to 26 and substitute the following:

      “(a) such functions with respect to the safety of petroleum activities as may be performed
    by the persons specified in paragraph (c),”.

Similar to previous amendments discussed earlier and arising from the Committee Stage dis-
cussion on the appropriate bodies to be consulted, these amendments are to establish a higher
degree of clarity with respect to the bodies to be consulted by the Commission for Energy
Regulation in performing its functions in respect of the safety of petroleum activities under
the Bill.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 13:

    In page 12, to delete lines 38 and 39 and substitute the following:

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   Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


    “(c) The following are the persons to whom paragraphs (a) and (b) apply:”.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 14:

  In page 12, to delete line 47 and in page 13, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the
following:

    “(v) the Irish Aviation Authority, and

    (vi) such other persons as may be prescribed by order by the Minister.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 15 not moved.

Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 16:

  In page 13, to delete lines 3 to 10 and substitute the following:

    “13I.—(1) In exercising its function under section 13H(2)(a), the Commission shall, sub-
  ject to subsection (5) and after consultation with such of the persons specified in subsection
  (2) as the Commission considers appropriate, establish and implement a risk-based pet-
  roleum safety framework (in this Part referred to as a ‘safety framework’) in relation to
  the carrying on of designated petroleum activities.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 18:

  In page 13, to delete lines 11 to 13 and substitute the following:

    “(2) The following are the persons specified for the purposes of subsection (1):”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 19:

  In page 14, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

    “(5) (a) The Commission shall not establish or implement a safety framework until after
  a public consultation process has taken place in respect of the safety framework.

     (b) In paragraph (a) ‘public consultation process’ means an invitation by the Commission
  to the public for submissions, within a specified time limit, on a draft of the proposed safety
  framework where such invitation is made by means of a notice to that effect published in
  a newspaper circulating within the State and published in the prescribed manner.”.

Amendment agreed to.
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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 20:

    In page 14, line 31, to delete “(5) The Commission” and substitute “(6) The Commission”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 21:

    In page 14, line 34, to delete “(6) The Commission” and substitute “(7) The Commission”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 22:

    In page 14, line 37, to delete “(7) The Commission” and substitute “(8) The Commission”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 23:

    In page 14, line 43, to delete “subsection (5)” and substitute “subsection (7)”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 24:

    In page 15, line 21, to delete “8 months” and substitute “6 months”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendment No. 25 as it does
not arise out of committee proceedings.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 25.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 25:

    In page 15, to delete lines 26 to 28 and substitute the following:

      “13K.—(1) In addition to complying with the requirements of any other provisions of
    this Part a petroleum undertaking shall ensure that—”.

The amendment seeks to set out clearly that while petroleum undertakings are subject to a
number of obligations under this legislation, the principal duty of a petroleum undertaking will
be to ensure, in so far as reasonably practicable, that petroleum activities are carried out in a
manner that reduces any risk to safety to a level that is as low as is reasonably practicable and
that petroleum infrastructure is also designed, constructed, installed, maintained, modified,
operated and decommissioned to this standard. While I suspect the amendment is not contro-
versial, I will leave that decision to the Deputies opposite.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendment.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 26:

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


    In page 17, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:

      “(v) the Irish Aviation Authority, and

      (vi) such other persons as may be prescribed by order by the Minister,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendment No. 27 as it does
not arise out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 28 to 30, inclusive, are consequential
on amendment No. 27 and the amendments may be discussed together.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 27 to 30, inclusive.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 27:

    In page 17, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

      “(c) the standards and codes of practice applicable to designated petroleum activities
    including relevant standards and codes of practice, that have been formulated or recom-
    mended by the National Standards Authority of Ireland,”.

The main purpose of amendment No. 27 is to set out in clear terms that details of the codes of
practice and technical standards recommended by the National Standards Authority of Ireland,
which is the Irish standardisation authority, will be set out in the safety case guidelines to be
published by the Commission for Energy Regulation in respect of each designated petroleum
activity. This will add to the robustness of the process as the safety guidelines will establish
beyond any doubt what are the relevant standards with respect to each specific designated
authority for the purposes of safety assessment in Ireland. Amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30 are
technical amendments that follow as a result of amendment No. 27.

   Deputy Simon Coveney: I am not clear about what the National Standards Authority of
Ireland does or what its role is. The Bill states that the standards and codes of practice applic-
able to designated petroleum activities will have been formulated or recommended by the
authority. Essentially, the CER will have to take guidance from the authority. Is that how
it will work? Is there expertise within the authority in respect of the petroleum industry to
do that?

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I believe there is. The authority makes the standard and establishes
Irish standards in all areas that require a standard. That, clearly, is its remit and role. The
Deputy rightly identified that it must have this capacity if it is to be the standard setter in
this area.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 28:

     In page 17, line 20, to delete “(c) the safety standards” and substitute “(d) the safety
  standards”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 29:

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Conor Lenihan.]

    In page 17, line 24, to delete “(d) the procedures” and substitute “(e) the procedures”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I move amendment No. 30:

    In page 17, line 29, to delete “(e) the relevant performance” and substitute “(f) the rel-
  evant performance”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendments.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 31 arises from committee proceedings. Amendment
No. 32 is related and the two amendments may be discussed together.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I move amendment No. 31:

    In page 19, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

      “(f) a comprehensive public information and consultation process has been undertaken
    to inform and reassure locally effected populations of the safety considerations relating to
    the project.”.

This goes back to my big issue with the Bill, namely, that it must contain a very strong element
of public consultation and the giving of reassurance to the public on matters of risk and safety
and other issues in respect of projects. To try to be helpful and in an effort to get some
consensus from the Minister of State, I will be happy to withdraw amendment No. 31 with a
view to pressing amendment No. 32. If this is done a company would not be required to
undertake a comprehensive public consultation process during the putting together of a
safety case.
  In regard to amendment No. 32, I wish to see the commission providing for a submissions
process to allow the public to express concerns relating to a project if such concerns exist before
a safety permit is issued. I am trying to meet the Minister of State half-way by not making the
putting together of a safety case over-bureaucratic for companies, over-expensive and time
consuming. However, before a safety permit is granted to allow work to proceed there would
be, as part of the permit process, an opportunity for local people or experts to make sub-
missions that might be relevant and of concern to the local community for the CER to consider
before granting a work permit. This is the nub of the issue in light of our earlier discussions on
public consultation at the framework stage and during the putting together of safety frame-
works. A community wants to have its say before a permit is granted to allow work to com-
mence. I accept that we cannot have public consultation processes at every stage without having
time or other kinds of limitations regarding companies and the CER. However, we should
require it before the permit is granted. On that basis I shall withdraw amendment No. 31 in
order to press amendment No. 32.

   Deputy Conor Lenihan: I do not propose to accept Deputy Coveney’s amendments. Having
listened to the concerns raised on Committee Stage, I believe that the additional public consul-
tation process I proposed in the context of the safety framework, together with the existing
consultation process in the designation of petroleum activities and the development of safety

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


case guidelines, allows a high degree of access by the public to both the establishment and
implementation of the safety framework regime. I believe there is now sufficient scope for any
concerns members of the public might have to be addressed.
  The chair allows for submissions on framework and guidelines. The Bill also provides that the
permit must be published so there is no secrecy about the outcome and there is no precedent
internationally for this type of approach, as I pointed out at earlier stages in this discussion.
The commissioner for energy regulation has a public remit and therefore is always open to the
public in that regard, like any public body which may be subject to submissions, views, lobbying
or whatever is required. Commissioners are not shrinking violets in that regard but are open
to representation of one kind or another.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: With respect, the Minister of State is missing the point I am trying
to make. Putting a safety framework in place is essentially a policy direction. Yes, there will
be an element of accepting from the public views, considerations, concerns and so on and I
accept that. However, I do not believe this will happen. Unless one is dealing with the specifics
of a project, namely, a safety case or a decision regarding a permit for a certain project, the
local communities in question will not become involved in the consultation process. There must
be some way of reassuring local communities that a project that will impact on their envir-
onment and, potentially, on their way of life and property is safe, properly thought out and has
been through all the necessary permit arrangements. My party’s proposal is to give those people
a say, if they want it, when the safety framework is being put in place. Otherwise they would
not even know it was going on. This is head in the sand stuff. They will not even know that a
project will affect them in the future until they see a safety case that relates to a petroleum
project and the permitting of that project. That is what will get the interest of local communities.
Otherwise we will be telling them they did not make a contribution to the generalised safety
framework which was made six months before. They would not have done this because they
would not even know it was happening.
   It is when a community is concerned and potentially confused about the impact and safety
consequences of a project that we must ensure the people have their say and that there is a
proper information flow between the CER and the public to ensure that people do not believe
in conspiracy theories and that they understand there is a regulator which considers their safety
concerns to be of paramount importance. The permit stage, when a decision is being made to
allow a project go ahead, is when the public must have information and the chance to formulate
and ask questions. We do not provide for that anywhere in this Bill and as a result there will
be repeats of what we experienced in Corrib, namely, ugly and damaging scenes that not only
damaged Ireland’s reputation in respect of investment and the encouragement of future oil and
gas exploration but also was very damaging to the local communities involved. I believe the
Minister is making a mistake and for that reason I shall press amendment No. 32.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: We must put this in context. There is an oral hearing in the planning
process and the actual environmental impact process will deal with this, as will the Environmen-
tal Protection Agency. It is important to remember that the CER will be represented at these
hearings. It is not the case that the public will be outside the loop concerning the safety of
what is being proposed in individual projects. They will be in the loop because we have a
planning process that allows them to be.
   With respect to Deputies Coveney and McManus, who have borne with this legislation, if
we add an extra layer here we will invite further potential vexatious or ideologically motivated
ambushes. As I said earlier in the debate, the process is already causing significant problems
from the perspective of investment in offshore exploration in Ireland. I agree with Deputy

                                                          397
     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Conor Lenihan.]
Coveney that we are at the nub of it here. As Minister of State with responsibility for natural
resources, I am speaking from personal experience when I say that innumerable people have
decided not to invest here, or not to apply for licences, precisely because of the reputation we
have generated for ourselves as a result of the Corrib project. Although I have only been in
this job since last May, I am aware of a number of cases in which approaches were made by
investors and people on the ground who represent international exploration companies. Their
personnel and key executives on the ground were very positive about investing in Ireland. They
accepted that we have tried to streamline the process and make it easier for them to invest
here and create jobs. When they returned to their global boards, in London or elsewhere, the
boards decided not to invest because of what they had seen, read and heard from their own
analysts at headquarters level. They did not believe their own executives.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: That is the issue I am trying to address.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: Yes, but with respect, by adding——

  Deputy Simon Coveney: The Minister of State is trying to bulldoze things through.

   Deputy Conor Lenihan: I am not suggesting we should bulldoze anything. If we add an extra
layer as proposed by Deputy Coveney, we will do what is not done in other jurisdictions. One
of the big problems, from an investment point of view, is the legacy of Corrib. As a result of
that case, many people are not prepared to apply for Irish exploration licences. There is a
perception that the process is difficult, cumbersome and bureaucratic. They believe that a
multiplicity of permissions is required in the safety area and in other areas. Officials in the
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources are working on this process
pretty much night and day. They are trying to make it simpler, easier and more in keeping with
what happens internationally. If we do not do that, there will not be any jobs. As the Deputy
is aware, the oil situation is causing many exploration companies to take risks in deeper waters
like those off the coast of Ireland. They are keen to do so. However, there is a very negative
attitude towards Ireland in this area.
  As someone who worked in business, I am most worried about the fact that the global boards
of companies are saying “No”, even after their key executives have recommended that licences
be applied for. There is a perception that our system is cumbersome, unwieldy, difficult and
subject to ambush by conspiracy theory.
   We have managed to confuse this whole area with different processes. We are at the nub of
it here. I accept that Deputy Coveney is approaching this issue with the best of intentions. To
be honest, this problem is not just a feature of this area. I will not bore the House with my
views on the manner in which, over the last ten years, we have made other areas much more
bureaucratic than they should be. I will put my hands up in that regard because we have been
in Government for that period. I strongly believe it is time for this country to reduce the
obstacles that inhibit inward investment in Ireland. We should allow such investment to occur.
While I appreciate the support I have received today, and admire Deputy Coveney’s approach
to this legislation, I cannot go along with what the Deputy has proposed in this instance.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I would like to make a final point. I agree with some, but not all,
of what the Minister of State has said. I do not think all of the concerns are spurious or are
led by conspiracy theories, although some of them may be. There are plenty of people who
have genuine concerns. In my view, they have an entitlement to make comments and ask
questions before it is decided to grant a safety permit for a big project that will affect their

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)


communities. We are not providing for that in this legislation. I am withdrawing my amendment
that asked for “a comprehensive public information and consultation process” to be undertaken
as part of the safety case being made by a company. The amendment I am now pursuing
states, “the Commission shall before deciding whether or not to issue a safety permit, allow for
submissions to be made by the public in relation to safety issues or concerns relating to the
project under consideration for a safety permit”. I am asking for a ten-day period — or any
other period the Government may decide on — to be provided so that local people, or anybody
else, can make submissions. I suggest that the CER be required to take note of such submissions
before it makes a decision on a permit. That is a useful belt and braces approach, as well as a
useful pressure valve that will allow the local community to get its concerns off its chest before
a decision is made. It is not an extra layer of bureaucracy.
   If we have learned one thing from the Corrib affair, it is that when the State takes a hardline
approach to try to drive things through — when it reduces the process in terms of bureaucracy,
etc. — it does not work. It has not worked. People resist that type of approach by digging their
heels in. They are prepared to martyr themselves for their communities, if necessary by getting
sent to prison. That is why Ireland is now perceived as a country in which it is difficult to
develop this kind of project. Rather than providing for some kind of tokenism after decisions
are made, or at some early planning stage when local people do not even know that planning
is taking place, which will be the case with the safety framework proposal, we need to find
imaginative ways of giving local communities an opportunity to speak before decisions are
made. I have made my case. I will withdraw the more extreme amendment, which would have
imposed an extra layer of bureaucracy and expense on companies. I will press the more moder-
ate amendment, which would give local communities an opportunity to express concerns in
writing to the CER before decisions are made.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: I appeal to Deputy Coveney to understand that as part of the current
planning process, local communities can have their say at the oral hearing stage, at which
representatives of the CER are present.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I accept that they can.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: In other words, anything that is required — letters, submissions or
campaigning statements — can be done as part of the planning process. The approach advo-
cated by the Deputy is already provided for in the oral appeals stage of the planning process.
The important point is that officials from the CER are present at such hearings. They can
respond to local people in that context, just as I am responding to the Deputy now.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: An Bord Pleanála does not have safety expertise.

   Deputy Conor Lenihan: The CER will be represented at the oral hearings. Not only will its
officials will be able to respond to specific local and community concerns, worries and anxieties
at that forum, but they will also be in a position to respond further in writing at a later stage,
if necessary. There is no problem with people making submissions at that time. Those who
make representations may receive a direct response during the oral hearing process, or by
means of a letter at a later stage. As a public personage who has the responsibility of an
executive position in the Government, I am responding to Deputy Coveney in an open public
setting. In the same fashion, local concerns can be publicly addressed during the oral hearing
stage of the planning process. The Deputy is asking me to replicate that, in effect, at a later
stage in the process. I do not consider it necessary to do so, as it would represent a move
beyond international best practice in this area. I will leave it at that.

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     Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety   24 March 2010.   Bill 2010: Report Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Conor Lenihan.]

  I accept that the Corrib case is exceptional. There are differing opinions on it. As a Minister
of State who is trying to promote and encourage investment in offshore exploration, I am open
to the accusation that it is inevitable that I would hold my particular view on it. That is how I
define my job in the context of the ongoing recession. I am in the business of attracting invest-
ment in exploration to this country and cutting out any undue delays and forms of bureaucracy
that are over and above what is internationally regarded as best practice. Governments are
often accused of creating more bureaucracy. The Opposition has often alleged that this Govern-
ment has created too many quangos. I do not disagree with the assertion that we have done
that in recent years. It is time to unwind these bureaucracies and make it easier and safer or
people to do business and, ultimately, create jobs here.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I move amendment No. 32:

    In page 21, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

      “(2) The Commission shall before deciding whether or not to issue a safety permit, allow
    for submissions to be made by the public in relation to safety issues or concerns relating
    to the project under consideration for a safety permit.”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

  Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
(Deputy Conor Lenihan): I thank Members opposite for their positive engagement in the
debate. The Minister and I will continue to take the same approach in this area. I did not
mean, in making my remarks a short time ago, to cast any aspersion on Members opposite. I
recognise that they are as motivated as I am to create jobs and simplify our response in terms
of international investment in Ireland.

  Deputy Liz McManus: I welcome the completion of the passage of the Bill through the
House. It is important that we have dealt with an issue of safety that was highlighted as a result
of the controversy surrounding the development at Corrib. Some good has come out of that
sorry saga. I thank the Minister of State for his openness in accepting amendments. That
approach is to his credit and has improved the legislation.
  The only offence I took to the Minister of State’s remarks is that he thought we on this side
of the House might use the word “bureaucratise”. That is not a word that comes from this side
of the Chamber. The large volume of legislation coming through from the Department is to
the credit of all, particularly the civil servants involved. However, it has led to a type of practice
which has not, in my experience, been the norm in the past and is not the intention of the
process itself, whereby at each Stage, including Report Stage, new amendments are being intro-
duced by the Minister. The recommittal process was most unusual in the past but is now
becoming the norm because of the productivity of the Department.
  I offer the Minister of State the warning that this is not a good way to produce legislation. I
recall one instance where the name of a Bill was changed twice as it made its way through the
House, along with major changes being made to its content by the Government. Our job is to

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


scrutinise, but we cannot do so if Government amendments are put forward without sufficient
time for consideration. It is great to see the Department’s enthusiasm, but at the end of the
day, if one runs too fast one will end up falling. It is important that we take our time over all
these matters.

  Deputy Simon Coveney: I thank the Minister of State for taking on board some of the ideas
we brought forward on Committee Stage and, to a certain extent, Report Stage. I thank his
officials for their patience and for their informal briefings in response to requests for
information.

  Deputy Conor Lenihan: By way of information for Deputy McManus, ours is a small Depart-
ment and the officials work extremely hard on a very heavy legislative workload. However, I
will reaffirm to the officials who work under my direction that they should, when bringing
forward additional amendments in transit, partake in comprehensive briefing of Opposition
Deputies. I am open to making sure there is fuller and better briefing, where necessary, from
officials directly to Members opposite. I agree with the Deputy that amendments should not
be introduced in that manner, but it inevitably happens because of the pressures under which
the Department is working. The compensating measure, if it is to happen, should be that
Opposition Members are briefed regarding such amendments in a better and more timely
fashion as the legislation is moving through the House.

  Question put and agreed to.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Bill, which is considered to be initiated in Dáil Eireann in accord-
ance with Article 20.2.2 of the Constitution, will be sent to the Seanad.

                         Road Traffic Bill 2009: Second Stage (Resumed).

  Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
  Deputy Denis Naughten: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill,
which affords us an opportunity to discuss many of the issues relating to road safety issues and
to consider the Government’s priorities in this area. Most of the focus in regard to this Bill has
been on blood alcohol limits. There is no doubt that the consumption of alcohol impairs driving
and is a direct contributor to road accidents. However, I intend to question the proportionality
of the proposals before us, an issue that is being ignored in the debate. I have no doubt that a
reduction in the blood alcohol limit will have an impact in terms of road safety, but I would
question whether we are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut and diverting limited resources
from the real causes of road accidents.
   Any measure that saves lives must be given serious consideration by everybody in this House.
However, the Government seems to be of the view that it has overall ownership of the issue of
road safety, despite its own unimpressive record in this area. The recent decision to downgrade
motorway public lighting specifications in order to save a few euro is a case in point. While the
issue of costs is pressing in every area of expenditure, a decision to save a few euro on the
operation of public lighting on motorway junctions, where vehicles are travelling at 70 mph, is
of doubtful merit. Nothing has been done to address the decision by the former Minister for
Transport, the late Séamus Brennan, to increase the speed limit outside some of the busiest
schools in the State. During the severe weather after Christmas, salt was not available for
gritting roads, which caused numerous accidents and marooned many people.
  In the debate to date, certain figures have been thrown out as facts. The reality is that figures
can be twisted in a particular manner to support a particular agenda. We have had lies, damned

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Denis Naughten.]
lies and statistics. Statistics can be and are used to support any argument whatsoever. The latest
figures that have been published by State agencies and are publicly available show that in 2008,
seven out of ten samples tested by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety were over the legal blood
alcohol limit. Of these, 85% pertained to the old limit of 100 milligrams per 100 millilitres. The
legislation before us will do nothing to deal with that particular figure, which has been ignored.
Moreover, one in six of those found to be over the legal limit was two and half times over the
limit. This legislation will have absolutely no impact in this regard. Given a conviction rate of
52% in 2008, there was a 50:50 chance of getting away with having a blood alcohol level of
more than 100 milligrams per 100 millilitres, as was the case in 85% of those found to be over
the limit.
  This issue is being shoved aside because it is a question of putting the resources in place to
ensure prosecutions are secured in the case of motorists identified as being far in excess of the
legal limit. When the former Garda Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Eddie Rock, attended a
meeting of the joint Oireachtas committee, he pointed out that gardaí spend between 40 and
100 hours preparing a drink driving file for court. Yet after all that time and effort in the
context of limited Garda resources, half of the infringements detected do not result in pros-
ecutions. This scandal is being ignored because it reflects poorly on the Government.
   We hear much about the causes of accidents. It was interesting recently to hear Mr. Noel
Brett make the point that road conditions are the cause of 3% of accidents. He is not able to
provide figures on accidents caused by blood alcohol levels. He will say that alcohol is a con-
tributing factor for a percentage of accidents. When he wants to airbrush out the issue of road
conditions, he will use one set of figures, yet when he wants to steer an argument in another
direction, he will use another set of figures. The problem is that we do not have proper figures
on the cause of road accidents in this country.
   We are awaiting the first report of the Garda forensic collision investigation unit. I would
like to see the exact causes of accidents in this country. The reports are being complied by the
42 forensic crash investigators into fatal accidents or crashes causing serious injury that have
occurred on our roads. They will give us for the first time a clear record of the causes of
accidents in Ireland.
   There has not even been an acknowledgement by the Government or the Road Safety Auth-
ority that the global accident risk exists. This is the baseline for road accidents, because once
somebody sits into a car and turns on the ignition and moves the vehicle, there is a statistical
               probability that he or she will be involved in an accident. We have never calcu-
5 o’clock      lated that figure here. That will give us a baseline on which we can develop our
               road safety policies. Why have we not done this? How big a factor is tiredness,
listening to the radio, using a mobile telephone, driving a car with children on board, or driving
on medication? We do not have figures for these factors. We do not even have an accurate
estimate on the potential rate of accidents on those factors.
   Research has been carried out in this area in the UK, and the police there have been
investigating road accidents for years with the type of thoroughness that the road accident
investigation unit of the Garda Síochána has recently been using. The British police examined
2,613 fatal accidents that occurred in 2005 in that country. According to its research, 66% of
road accidents were due to driver error or incorrect driver reaction to a certain situation.
Behaviour and inexperience were the main factors in 25% of accidents. The road environment
was the main contributing factor in 15% of accidents. Pedestrians contributed to 13% of acci-
dents by not looking properly. Alcohol, surprisingly, caused only 5% of deaths on UK roads.
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.          Second Stage (Resumed)


The figures for alcohol related deaths in this jurisdiction may or may not be lower than 5%,
but the figures show that alcohol is not a big factor in the UK.
   The argument in favour of reducing the blood alcohol level here has been based on the road
accident statistics for 2003. That research was provided to us by the Road Safety Authority. It
states that there has been no assessment of the implications of alcohol since random breath
testing was introduced in this country. Surely we should be assessing the impact of random
breath testing. I have no doubt that this form of testing had a huge impact on alcohol consump-
tion by drivers when it was introduced. We know that the resources given to the Garda to
enforce this since its introduction have fallen dramatically, but if we were to highlight that, it
would lead to a bad reflection on the Government and it is far easier to bring forward another
Bill than deal with the issue of resources.
  The HSE report in 2006 based on road accident statistics in 2003 showed that 5% of fatalities
involved drivers with a blood alcohol reading of 20-80 milligrams. Of those involved, 24% were
over the legal limit — this will not be addressed by the Bill — and 7% involved pedestrians
who are over the legal limit. Alcohol was a factor in 36.5% of fatal crashes, two thirds of which
involved those who were over the current legal limit. The mean blood alcohol level based on
that study was 99.2 milligrams per 100 millilitres, which is 25% over the current legal limit. The
mean blood alcohol level for males at 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres was 34% over the
legal limit.
   Mr. Noel Brett was quoted in the Sunday Independent in November, when he gave an inter-
view to the newspaper as chief executive of the Road Safety Authority. I have a high regard
for Mr. Brett. He has done a great job as the head of the RSA, and the authority has brought
the issue of road safety to the fore in this country. However, he states in the article that “It is
time to provide people with the facts . . . It is estimated that alcohol is a contributing factor in
one in three fatal collisions. That is a fact”. My problem with the Bill is that we are using
estimates and quoting them as facts. I am not just highlighting this now. I have made several
contributions on road safety over the years and I have constantly highlighted this issue and
stated that we must provide the accurate data to support the case being put forward.
   A case is being made for the alcohol factor. There is no doubt that any amount of alcohol
will impair drivers, but I question the level of that impairment and the amount of resources
put on it. For anybody involved in a road traffic accident with a level of alcohol in the blood,
alcohol will be considered as a contributing factor in that accident. However, there was a case
last year of a young man who left a suicide note and drove his car into a lake. He had drink
taken, so alcohol was considered to be a contributing factor in the statistics. In an another case,
an elderly driver had a heart attack at the wheel of his car and ploughed into a group of men
who were smoking outside a pub. Drink driving had nothing to do with the accident, but it is
considered to be an alcohol related accident if one of those individuals is killed.
   Another piece of research was carried out on single vehicle collisions in County Kildare by
Dr. Cliona McGovern and Professor Denis Cusack in November 2006. It makes for very
interesting reading. It examined the issue of single vehicle accidents, so does not deal with
pedestrians or other drivers. I believe that it provides a more accurate reflection of the impact
of alcohol on road traffic accidents. These results clearly show that the majority of driver
fatalities in single vehicle accidents are well in excess of the legal limit, with the greater number
being twice or three times over the legal limit. This is consistent with the Medical Bureau of
Road Safety’s annual reports, which continually highlight the large volumes of alcohol that
people have consumed prior to being involved in a road accident. I would question the real
potential benefit to be gained from reducing the blood alcohol limit to 50mg.
                                                 403
              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.        Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Denis Naughten.]

  In 2002, the Canadian Traffic Injury Research Foundation examined this specific issue. The
report’s conclusions stated:

     Our critical review of the evaluation of the research literature failed to support strong,
  consistent and unqualified support for the lowering of blood alcohol limits. At best, the
  results were mixed and the methodological weaknesses in the studies questioned the robust-
  ness and veracity of the evidence. There is little evidence that lowering the blood alcohol
  limit from 80mg to 50mg will in, or of, itself result in fewer alcohol-related deaths.

According to the Canadian estimates, implementing and enforcing a 50mg limit would double
the amount of arrests with few, if any, savings of lives to be shown for it.
  The chairman of the Irish Road Safety Authority, Gay Byrne, has said in the past that he
would be in favour of enforcing the existing law. There is a strong case to be made for enforcing
the existing law, which is being ignored to a great extent.
  Random breath testing has brought down the monthly averages of people caught for drink-
driving. It has also contributed to bringing down road death rates to the lowest levels since
records began. Those figures are based on research by the Garda Síochána and the Road Safety
Authority. However, we are basing our argument for a reduction in the drink-driving limit
based on 2003 figures, which pre-date the introduction of random breath testing.
  In the first full year since random breath testing was introduced in 2007, there was a 9%
reduction in the number of people caught over the legal limit. In 2008, the second full year of
random breath testing, there was a 23% reduction in the number of such offences. It is clear,
therefore, that random breath testing is working. We should be giving gardaí the resources to
enforce these measures because there is substantial evidence to support this approach.
  The thesis being used to reduce the blood-alcohol limit is flawed. If the Minister has figures
on this matter I will be happy to accept them, but having gone thorough a lot of the research
I have yet to see these figures. By reducing the limit from 80mg to 50mg, I am afraid we will
be diverting limited resources from serious offenders who are blatantly ignoring the law. They
are putting the lives of all road users at risk. It also diverts us from the scandalous situation
whereby we are failing to secure convictions. Even if someone is two or three times over the
legal limit, there is only a 50% chance of their being caught. We are air-brushing that out of
the whole debate, however.
  We are also ignoring the issue of drug use and abuse by drivers. Some 76% of specimens
analysed by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety in 2008 were certified for the presence of
drugs. They were not just illegal drugs, as there is a significant problem concerning people who
have prescribed drugs in the blood stream, which is having an impact on the standard of driving
in this country. Those issues are being ignored, however. We are putting far too much focus
on one particular aspect without putting resources where they are needed.
   Many of those who have contributed to this debate raised the issue of rural transport and
rural isolation. The lack of rural transport is a bigger issue for people during the day than at
night. The CSO’s research shows that 50% of rural families have difficulty accessing public
transport. In recent months, we have seen services being curtailed; some 100 Bus Éireann
services have been withdrawn. For example, the last bus to Westport, taking in Athlone,
Roscommon and Castlebar, leaves Dublin at 2 p.m. That is supposed to be a public transport
service, but in reality we are seeing a clawback of resources for any type of public transport.
The Minister pays lip-service to that issue, while at the same time allowing Bus Éireann and
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


Dublin Bus to curtail their level of services dramatically. That is a disgraceful situation and
should not be accepted.

  Deputy Margaret Conlon: Táim fíor buíoch don Cheann Comhairle as an seans seo a thab-
hairt dom labhairt ar an mBille tábhachtach seo. Tá níos mó le déanamh againn sa tír seo chun
básanna ar na bóithre a laghdú. Tá aithne maith agam ar go leor clann a chaill mac nó iníon,
deirfiúr nó deartháir, athair nó máthair ar na bóithre. Chaill siad duine i dtimpiste bhóthair.
Déanann an bás uafásach sin an-dochar don chlann fágtha ina dhiaidh.
  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this legislation. Unfortunately, we
have all witnessed, either personally or through friends, the devastation caused by road traffic
accidents. My number one priority, and that of every Member of this House, is to protect
people from death or injury on the roads. If one life is saved by enacting this legislation, then
we will have done a good day’s work. I would not want the hurt and devastation of a road
accident to be visited on any other families if I could prevent it in some way.
  We cannot have an à la carte approach to road safety, picking and choosing what we like,
while ignoring what we do not like. We cannot decide to be a little bit safe. In recent years,
there have been many accidents on the roads. I have been to too many funerals as a result of
road accidents involving friends, past pupils and others I knew well. Some of these accidents
occurred as a result of speed or were drink-related, while others happened through no fault of
the road accident victim.
  It is also important to recognise that not all road accidents result in fatalities. We have all
seen the television advertisements which depict the disastrous and life-changing effects of road
accidents. We must surely do everything in our power to reduce those statistics even more.
   I welcome the Bill’s provision that people who drive for a living will be subject to a blood-
alcohol limit of 20mg. Bus and taxi drivers have a duty of care to their passengers. Such drivers
should have a zero alcohol limit, but I understand that this is not practical because there are
certain substances, like mouth-washes, that may contain a small amount of alcohol. This would
make it difficult to enforce a zero limit. Professional drivers who are responsible for the safety
of others on the roads need to be doubly responsible.
   We all have a duty to ensure that we drive safely. Despite the imposition of penalty points,
it horrifies me to see drivers still using mobile telephones. Despite all the warnings and regu-
lations, they continue to engage in this practice. One cannot give the road one’s full concen-
tration if one has a telephone to one’s ear. In some cases — I have also witnessed this —
people attempt to write text messages while driving. This is a dreadful practice and it needs to
be stopped.
   Deaths on our roads have been reduced but, as I said before, one death is one too many.
We need to keep up the momentum and keep repeating the message. We must encourage
people not to drive if they take a drink. The message is getting out there. I do not think anyone
in this House would condone drinking and driving. If one wants to drink, one should appoint
a designated driver. People should not use their mobile telephones and should certainly reduce
their speed. We have all seen, in towns and villages throughout the country, the boy racers
who continue to drive at excessive speeds on our roads. As the saying goes, it is better to arrive
late than dead on time.
  More than 40% of road accidents are due to excessive speed. We need to ensure our young
people are well prepared before they take to the roads. Young people often think they are
invincible and a car gives them a sense of power. However, they must be responsible, because
a car is a dangerous weapon. We have all witnessed the bad driver, the person out to impress,
the show-off, the erratic driver, or the one who overtakes a line of cars at speed or on a

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.        Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Margaret Conlon.]
dangerous bend. We must redouble our efforts to ensure these people are caught, as they pose
a danger to themselves and to other sensible and responsible road users.
   What about pedestrians? Are they not entitled to walk on our roads? They are, but they
also need to exercise caution. How many times on a dark winter’s evening have we come across
pedestrians with no reflective jackets or lights, perhaps wearing dark clothes? They too have a
duty to be responsible when they take to the roads.
  I welcome the mandatory alcohol testing of drivers involved in road traffic accidents. This is
necessary as it enables verification at the scene of the driver’s blood alcohol level and clears
the innocent driver straight away. I welcome the fact that this Bill gives the Garda the power
to form an opinion on whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and to carry
out tests in this regard. Unfortunately, people are using drugs and driving, and this must be
dealt with in order to improve road safety.
   Many people have mentioned rural isolation. I agree with Deputy Naughten that rural iso-
lation is a major issue, but it is more of an issue during the day than at night. Rural transport
is a also major issue, and I commend the Minister on ensuring the rural transport scheme
remains in place. Much good has been done throughout the country due to the provision of
services by Irish Rural Link.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Not at night.

  Deputy Margaret Conlon: However, we are not achieving value for money. School buses
might do two runs in the morning, perhaps to a secondary school and a primary school, and
the same in the evening, but during the day they are not being used. Like my colleagues, I
believe we could obtain greater efficiency by using these buses to better effect, particularly in
rural Ireland.
  All transport issues should come under the Department of Transport, including school trans-
port and HSE transport. If one Department was responsible for everything, we would have a
better service and achieve greater efficiency. At present the service is fragmented. We need a
system that ensures those who are isolated are able to obtain transport.
   In my constituency we are lucky to have the Balti bus service and the Cavan rural link
service. These provide a valuable lifeline to rural communities. They provide an opportunity
for people to go to town with their neighbours and friends, to carry out their business and to
have social interaction, which is important. I am delighted, as I said, that the Minister has
committed to continuing his support for these services, as they are the only transport services
in many areas.
  Public transport does not exist in rural Ireland. Now that Bus Éireann is seeking to reduce
services, these transport services are even more important and deserve to be supported and
enhanced. Rural isolation is a major issue and one about which I am concerned, as are many
Members of the House. It is not, however, solely related to alcohol or to visiting the local pub.
  Coming from a Border constituency, I am concerned about many aspects of road safety,
particularly the practice of anti-social driving behaviour on the main Clones to Cavan road,
the N54. I raised this issue with the Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, at the recent
British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Cavan, and I have had ongoing discussions with his
office in this regard. This stretch of road is being used irresponsibly by some drivers. The
practice is highly dangerous and poses a considerable threat to other road users. There is a
three-kilometre stretch of the road that crosses north of the Border on two occasions before
coming back into the South, so there are issues regarding the jurisdiction under which the road

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.        Second Stage (Resumed)


falls. However, this fact is being blatantly abused by reckless drivers who are performing stunts
for the amusement of others, thereby endangering themselves and oncoming traffic. It is partic-
ularly worrying given that this is the main road to Cavan, and to Cavan General Hospital, for
many people in the area. An alarming development in recent times is that a text message goes
out to young people to say this is going to happen at a particular time, and they all congregate
there for amusement. It is a dangerous practice and it must be stopped before somebody is
fatally injured.
  I welcome the recent measures announced with the aim of tackling the evasion of tolls and
parking tickets by cross-Border drivers. I commend the Minister on his ongoing work with his
Northern colleagues on the establishment of a data exchange project that will allow authorities
on both sides of the Border to pursue motorists who have not paid tolls or parking fines across
the Border. Why should they get away with it? I am aware this is a pilot project but I look
forward to its being operated on a permanent basis. It must be pointed out that offending
motorists were always obliged to pay the fines, but the difference is that now they can be
pursued. It is grossly unfair for those people who obey the law that others are evading payment.
  There is a need to continue to educate our young people in road safety and driving practice.
When a parent buys a bicycle for a small child, he or she makes sure the child has a helmet
and keeps the stabilisers on until they are no longer needed. A parent would not let a child
out on the road unless he or she was present and it was safe to do so. It is important that we
ensure our young people are competent to go on the road before they are allowed to do so. A
car is a powerful and dangerous weapon and people, particularly young people, must be well
educated in the rules of the road and the use of a car before they take to the road.
   I welcome the fact that many schools have introduced a road safety module as part of their
transition year programmes. I commend the teachers involved in delivering the programme,
and the management of the schools on their vision and foresight in including this module.
Transition year should prepare young people for life outside school. Driving will be a fact of
life for almost everybody once they leave school, and they need to be educated and prepared
for it.
   I welcome the Bill. We all have a duty as legislators and road users to do what we can to
make our roads safer. Drinking and driving cannot be condoned. We must re-educate people,
young and old. Surprisingly, when one meets young people out socially, one finds that many
of them would never dream of drinking and driving. It is an alien concept to them. They
organise themselves to go out in groups, and people take it in turns to be the designated driver.
That is being responsible. We need to continue to educate people about driving habits and
attitudes to drinking and driving. I am thankful that the concept of “one for the road” is not
acceptable any more and that nobody would agree with it.
  I welcome the continuous ad campaigns encouraging people to be designated drivers or to
exercise care on the roads. Unfortunately, some of the advertisements are very distressing,
particularly those showing the results of accidents. It gets a very powerful message across and
we must continue the good work to ensure we reduce fatalities on our road and make those
who drive engage in best practice and be sensible in their driving habits. I commend the Bill
to the House.

  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words on this Bill.
The reduction of the blood-alcohol concentration limit for drivers has considerably reduced
the numbers of people killed on our roads. It is fair to say that legislation which has reduced
the blood-alcohol concentration limits has been generally successful.
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.          Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Jimmy Deenihan.]

   Irrespective of the legislation in place, if people are taking the chance, there must be more
random breath testing. Like all politicians, I do much travelling of the roads by day and
especially by night, when the problem would be more acute. It has been months since I was
stopped on the road or saw a random police checkpoint. Resources must be provided for gardaí
to have more random checkpoints. That is the most effective way of ensuring that people will
not abuse alcohol when driving.
   Garda statistics show that the numbers of such checkpoints have increased but visibility is
very important. If people are not reminded that there is random testing on a continuous basis,
they may take a chance. I agree with the previous speaker, Deputy Conlon, in that people are
far more responsible now and there are very few people taking the chance of drinking and
driving. If people want to go out while driving, they would drink water or have a non-alcoholic
drink. Very few people indulge in alcohol — even one drink — if they are driving. They do
not want to take a chance because their lives and livelihoods, and those of others, are at stake
if they drink too much.
   As a nation we have had different problems. At times we had the problem of drinking and
driving and there are other major problems, such as obesity. This is one problem we have
addressed to some extent. Statistics have shown that under existing blood-alcohol concentration
limits, 24% of fatal crashes have involved a driver above the legal limit. Alcohol is still a factor
but this legislation, supported by all parties in the House, will have an effect.
   There will also be an adverse effect on rural life. Those of us living in rural constituencies
are aware that the rural pub — the pub at the crossroads or a small village — is the local
community centre. It is where people congregate over the winter to play cards or partake in a
quiz. It is part of social life, and not just for people living on their own but everybody in a rural
area. The legislation will affect some people who drive. There may be one car in the house and
such people may live on their own or with families. The reduced limits will have an effect and
it is up to us as the providers of transport to act.
  Those who are in a position to provide rural transport, whether through public or private
means, should be encouraged. We will have to address this aspect of rural life more seriously
because people who would normally drive to pubs but are rarely involved in accidents will not
do so any more because of this Bill and the reduction in blood-alcohol concentration limits.
People may have taken the chance before of having two drinks but with this reduction, they
will not take the chance even of going for one drink.
   The legislation will pose a difficulty and it is very important that the issue of rural isolation
be seen as a problem. There are other reasons to consider and we should try to facilitate the
people who want to use their local public house as a community centre throughout the year
but especially in the dark nights of winter, which can be very lonely and depressing for some
living in rural areas. A number of speakers have mentioned rural transport, which is something
that must be addressed. The point has been made fairly strongly.
   I have a serious concern about speeding. A large percentage of accidents are speed-related.
I do not have the exact statistics and it may be very hard to prove that speed was the cause of
an accident. However, speeding must be addressed in a major way in this country. Young
people are very responsible in many cases with regard to driving and alcohol — they pool cars
and take minibuses and so on — but they may not be as responsible when it comes to speed.
The concept of boy-racing and having souped-up cars and engines is popular and leads to
accidents. I have seen young people wiped out because of speed.

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


  I hope the speed cameras will be rolled out shortly and have an effect. I understand that
there could be up to 60 speed cameras around the country, although somebody mentioned they
would only be operating for 6,000 hours, which is inadequate. They should cover the country
and make a bigger impact, so the time allocation should be greater. Speed cameras will have a
major impact when they are in operation.
  It is some time since the contract for the cameras was awarded, and I was delighted when it
went to a company in Listowel. That company beat off much international competition, which
goes to show that a small company can have the competence for such contracts. It has inter-
national partners in France and Australia but it showed that an Irish company can compete
successfully on the international market to get a contract. Will the Minister tell us the number
of cameras involved, the time they will be in use and if there are any proposals to extend the
length of time the cameras will be out there?
  In places like British Columbia, there was a major reaction when the cameras were rolled
out first because people did not know about them and were being prosecuted. It cost that
government a term in office because people were so annoyed.
   It is extremely important that people should be informed when these cameras are going to
be put in place. They should be aware that such cameras can be placed in any location. I accept
that they will be installed in certain designated locations. However, they must be also placed
in random locations because, otherwise, people will drive at speed on the roads on which there
are no cameras. There should be a campaign on television and radio and in local newspapers
to advertise the fact that these cameras are going to be in operation and to warn people that
if they are caught speeding, there will be consequences.
  I accept that the installation of speed cameras will give rise to a great deal of inconvenience
for everyone. I recall Deputy Ring making the case that politicians who are obliged to attend
four or five funerals on the same evening must speed from one place to another. When these
cameras are put in place, people will be obliged to become extremely disciplined in the context
of how they drive. However, if these cameras help to save one life their installation will have
been worth it. I am of the view that they will assist in saving many lives.
  Major difficulties are going to arise in the summer months as a result of the state of local
roads. Some 73% of all road deaths occur on local rural roads. Great progress was made on
improving our local road infrastructure during the past ten years. Funding for upgrading these
roads was increased by successive Administrations, including that in which the Leas-Cheann
Comhairle served as Minister for the Environment. I recall that he introduced a three-year
programme which proved quite successful. His work was continued by successive Governments
and proved to be extremely effective. I cycle a great deal on our roads and I am of the view
that one could choose any road and indicate how it had been improved.
  Since the bad weather at Christmas, however, the surfaces on many roads have been
destroyed. I do not believe the roads, many of which are pitted with extremely deep potholes,
have been ever in a more dangerous condition. The reason our roads have been damaged to
such an extent relates to a combination of high levels of rainfall followed by a number of very
hard frosts. The resultant freeze-thaw action meant that the surfaces on many roads simply
cracked. I accept that an issue may arise in the context of the composition of the material used
on these roads. In general, however, the surfaces on many good roads have just fallen apart.
  A major issue is going to arise in the context of fatalities and the number of crashes on the
roads this summer. Many tourism attractions are accessed by means of local roads such as those
to which I refer. Thankfully, it appears the number of tourists from America and other markets
due to visit our shores this summer is set to increase. Such tourists normally rent cars and drive

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Jimmy Deenihan.]
around the country. There will be a problem in that regard this year because the number of
self-drive cars available has dropped from 28,000 to 10,000. However, there will be tourists
driving on many of our local roads and they will have to be warned about the condition of
those roads.
  Money has been allocated to local authorities in respect of upgrading, repairing and strength-
ening road surfaces. If, however, other moneys can be found, they should be allocated in respect
of the extensive repairs that must be carried out between now and June. The programme of
upgrading, repairing and strengthening road surfaces should be completed by July. We must
ensure that roads are made safe for local motorists as well as for the domestic and international
tourists who will use them during the summer months. I appeal to the Minister to give careful
consideration to that matter.
  I welcome the legislation. The House has taken an extremely responsible approach to this
matter. It would have been a populist move to oppose this Bill, particularly in light of the
campaign organised by the Irish Vintners Federation, etc. Those involved in that campaign put
forward strong arguments but we are doing the responsible thing. I hope this Bill represents
just the first of a whole series of actions.
  I wish to refer to the other causes of car accidents. In that context, people should not drive
— neither should they be encouraged to do so — when they are tired. Many of the accidents
that happen — even those which occur in the middle of the day — are the result of people
nodding off at the wheel. This has happened to everyone at some point or another. Politicians
operate in a pressurised arena and they may sleep for only four or five hours at night. As a
result, they may be tired and in no condition to drive. People should act responsibly. If they
feel tired while driving — either during the day or at night — they should pull over and take
a nap.
   Another cause of accidents relates to drug driving. Provision is made in the Bill to test drivers
to discover whether they are under the influence of drugs. A similar provision in the state of
Victoria in Australia proved to be extremely effective. Young people may not drink but they
may take drugs. Some of them may be of the view that because it is difficult to detect certain
drugs they will not be caught. It is important to get the message across to them that they will,
in fact, be caught.
  It is vital that the Garda presence on the roads must be increased. If the law is to be enforced
in an effective manner, then more random tests must be carried out. It goes without saying
that there is a need to educate people and to engage in advertising campaigns. The advertise-
ments that have been broadcast on television in recent years have proven to be very effective.
I accept that some of them might be extremely disturbing but they certainly get across the
message.
   The level of signage in the areas around accident blackspots should be increased. Where
roads are in bad condition and pitted with potholes, local authorities should erect signs warning
people to slow down. Whether they are electronic signs or just those of the ordinary kind,
warning people to slow down because a road is in a dangerous condition can be of assistance.
Due to the way in which certain roads were repaired over the years, some stretches may have
been strengthened while others might be still in a perilous state. As a result, one can find
oneself on a bad stretch before one knows it. Proper signage is, therefore, extremely important
because it can prevent serious accidents. Some drivers who have come off a bad stretch of road
often flash their headlights in warning at those travelling in the opposite direction. If people
slow down, the likelihood of their having accidents on bad stretches of road certainly will
be reduced.

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


  I will end on a sober note. It is estimated that the cost of each death on our roads is approxi-
mately €2.2 million. In that context, the total cost relating to fatalities on our roads last year
was €613.8 million. The more we can reduce the number of fatalities, the less grief families will
experience. In addition, a great deal of money will be saved.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: I oppose the main provisions and the detail of this Bill. The Minister
has been driven around for far too long and he no longer has his feet on the ground. I hope
he has retained his driving licence because he is going to need it before long. The sooner he
requires it, the better it will be as far as I am concerned. I remind the Minister that there are
now 22 ex-Ministers supporting the Government. I am not here to represent the publicans or
drink-drivers but to represent common sense and to be the voice for my constituents in Cork
South-West to oppose the Government’s usual policy of reaching the lowest common
denominator.
  The Minister is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut in this case by reducing the permitted
blood alcohol from 80 mg to 50 mg and further to 20 mg in some cases. The Minister is going
further than what safety organisations of world renown have sought. He is claiming this as a
major road safety issue but the statistics produced by the HSE do not support him. A HSE
study of road deaths in the period from 2003 to 2005 produced figures which showed that in
accidents involving road deaths 165 drivers had consumed no alcohol whatsoever; 18 drivers
were between 50 mg and 80 mg; and 103 drivers were between 80 mg and 160 mg.
  We are bringing forward this legislation because of the behaviour of an average of six drivers
a year. Moreover, the HSE reported that 65% of all road deaths between 1990 and 2006 were
unrelated to alcohol, and we have no knowledge of the other factors involved in these road
deaths. We have no knowledge of the driver’s age or experience; the type of vehicle of the
driver; the weather conditions at the time; whether the deaths happened during daylight hours
or in darkness at night; whether the road was wet or dry; or even which month it was. How
can we make these new laws with such a dearth of information?
   The Minister thinks he knows best and because he has the numbers in this House he thinks
he can bulldoze the Bill through. However, the Minister must prove his case and I have a few
questions I hope he will address. I am sorry he is not here but the Minister of State will convey
them to him. While most of Europe may have reduced to the proposed limit most of the
English speaking world, that is the UK, the USA and Canada, and ourselves up to now have
not reduced the present limit. Might I also state that most of the beer drinking world has a
limit of 80 mg while the majority of wine consuming nations have chosen to reduce the limit
to 50 mg? This might be due to daytime drinking among the wine nations of Europe which
may continue into the evening as opposed to countries which have more of a habit of night-
time drinking. If the Minister’s primary intention is the reduction of road deaths and injuries
then there are a number of other actions he could have taken prior to introducing this rushed
and ill-considered legislation a year before he can provide for its enforcement. I ask the Mini-
ster to withdraw the Bill until he can provide for its implementation.
  Why has he not rolled out the speed cameras which for years have been provided for in
legislation? Is it another case of premature legislation? Why has he not rolled out the full
penalty points scheme? Why has he not brought forward legislation forcing cars to have their
dipped headlights on at all times, or at least, as in the practice in some parts of the United
States, that if one’s wipers are on then at least one’s dipped headlights must also be on?
   I was intrigued to read the recent audit of local authorities which mentioned water wastage,
staff absenteeism and other issues but made no mention whatsoever of road safety measures
or the role of local authorities in providing safer roads and the removal of well-known accident

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy P. J. Sheehan.]
black spots. Where is the joined up thinking? Do I need to mention the Slane Bridge which
has cost many more lives that this measure will ever save?
   The National Roads Authority report for 2009 issued last week claimed that 373 road safety
remedial schemes which have been completed showed an overall reduction of 97 fatal collisions,
73 serious collisions, and 253 minor injury collisions. This means that for 373 improvements we
have a reduction of 423 collisions. I could mention 500 locations in my constituency that could
benefit from such works. If the Minister really wanted to save lives he would be putting his
efforts into these schemes rather than going for the quick cheap solution. This legislation will
not remove one of these black spots.
  I also wish to discuss the comments by Garda Chief Superintendent Gabriel Mclntyre of the
Garda traffic corps who stated that an average of almost five people have lost their lives on
the State’s roads on every October bank holiday weekend over the past nine years. Last year,
Chief Superintendent Mclntyre stated a predicted sudden end to a warm spell, switching to wet
roads and early morning mist or fog could have lethal consequences for unprepared drivers.
He appealed to drivers to be especially vigilant when the clocks went back that Sunday, as it
would get darker earlier in the evening. Over the past nine years, 43 people lost their lives on
roads during the October bank holiday weekend and almost one third of them were vulnerable
road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. As that is approximately the same number that this
legislation is supposed to protect, why do we not we abolish the October bank holiday? It
would make as much sense as this legislation because it does not take into account the other
factors which Chief Superintendent outlined.
   What is the Minister doing to improve road safety over the October bank holiday weekend?
Is the Minister aware that according to latest Hibernian Aviva safety report on motor accidents
involving its clients that December is the most dangerous month of the year and December 20
               is the most dangerous day, with 223 accidents reported to the company on that
6 o’clock      day? Does the Minister know that 92% of pedestrians involved in accidents
               between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. were intoxicated? The fact that this period covers the
darkest wettest days of the year and that the peak accident date for many years coincides with
the shortest day of the year is not a statistic that can be ignored. What is the Minister doing to
improve road safety during the month of December? For many years, we have had more Garda
checkpoints during the month of December than the rest of the year put together but we still
have more accidents in December. Will the Minister tell me that his policies up to now are
working? That more accidents happen on one of the shortest days of the year has to be exam-
ined in greater detail. Will the Minister consider, in the interests of road safety, that we move
to central European time so that we can have an extra hour of daylight every evening of the
winter from October to the end of March? This measure would be welcomed by everyone in
the country and would probably save ten times more lives than the Bill would ever claim to do.
   I was intrigued when SuperFreakoconomics received publicity for its claim that statistics
proved one would be safer driving home drunk than walking home drunk. However, we now
have Irish statistics that 92% of pedestrians involved in accidents between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
were intoxicated. This is an alarming statistic. This Bill will drive more pedestrians on to dark
unlit country roads with no footpaths in the middle of the night. Has the Minister considered
that this Bill may actually kill more people in my constituency of Cork South-West than the
lives he claims it might save? Do I need to mention the absence of dual carriageways in my
constituency and not a single kilometre, not even a metre, of motorway? Does the Minister
know the effect this legislation will have on a constituency like Cork South-West, which is full of
dark country roads with no public lighting and which lacks public transport of any description?

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


   The Minister might be too young to remember the legal notion of a bona fide house, in that
those who had travelled more than three miles had the right to purchase drink until a later
hour. This legal principle was abolished by the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1960, which was long
before I entered this House. Perhaps this notion should be revisited and the principle reversed
by allowing those travelling less than three miles to be permitted a higher blood alcohol level
than those travelling more that three miles from their homes. The Minister has indicated that
all the breathalyser machines in the country will require replacement and I ask that the replace-
ments be digitally calibrated to show motorists the exact reading when they are tested to
ascertain whether they have consumed alcohol. At present, breathalysers will give a zero, pass
or fail result but not the reading itself.
   I will give the example of two Members of this House who consumed similar amounts of
alcohol according to themselves. However, one was fractionally over, while the other was frac-
tionally under, the limit. If the Minister wishes to educate drivers, he must play fair. In the
aforementioned two cases, analysis of the samples revealed that one was over and the other
was under the limit although the same amount of drink was consumed. The Minister also
should inform the House as to the exact level to which breathalysers are set at present and
what degree of tolerance is allowed. In addition, the Minister also should state the percentage
of persons who, having failed the breathalyser test, were found to be under the limit when their
sample was examined at the Garda station or by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
  I wish to take up the issue that taxpayers’ moneys are being used for propaganda. The
Government for years has spent taxpayers’ moneys on trying to curtail consumption of alcohol
and tobacco. In another example of the Government throwing away the taxpayers’ money,
these sums have been wasted as this direct objective has not led to a reduction by a single iota
of a single percentage point in the consumption of alcohol or tobacco. The most recent surveys
have shown a significant increase in tobacco and alcohol consumption in Ireland. I stated that
this constituted propaganda, which I believe to be the case in that it is being used to allow
the Government to remove resistance, even among its backbenchers, to even more restrictive
legislation on every occasion it wishes. I wonder what would be the Supreme Court’s verdict,
were a case put before it on similar grounds to those stated in the McKenna judgment that
restricted the Government’s ability to use public money to advocate its own case in ref-
erendums.
   While the present advertisement for one of the road safety bodies states that one can never
drink and drive, I know of no law that allows for a zero level of alcohol. Does this not constitute
another example of propaganda softening up public opinion before lowering the limit from 80
mg to 50 mg? Is this the reason the mighty mouths on the other side of the House now appear
to be punch drunk and are quietly supporting this Bill while assuring their publican friends
that they would oppose it to the hilt? I also advise the Minister to proceed with caution on this
issue. I am aware of at least three cases in which a judge, who had heard cases involving drink-
driving, had his rulings appealed on the basis of the legality of his appointment. The appellant
won and the judge retired. I am not aware that such steps have been taken by those convicted
of murder or any other crime.
  According to the Drinkaware website in the United Kingdom, as many as 33,000 people
there die from alcohol-related causes each year, which is ten times the number of people who
die on their roads annually. I presume a similar ratio would apply here. Where is the Govern-
ment’s policy on education of alcohol abuse that kills ten times more people than are killed on
our roads, drunk or sober? The Minister has caused massive confusion throughout the driving
public by creating the term, “professional driver”. While this does not exist in law, the Minister
has tried to legislate for it by specifying certain categories of driving licences. However, life is

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy P. J. Sheehan.]
more complicated than that. To which limit is a driver who is driving his company van home
from Mass on a Sunday morning to be tested?
   I now wish to consider the detail of this Bill, in which the Minister has proposed a new lower
limit of 20 mg for first-time drivers, as well as taxi and other professional drivers. I presume,
having carried out extensive research before introducing this Bill before the House, the Mini-
ster for Transport is aware that the limit he proposes of 20 mg is half that set for airline pilots
carrying 300 passengers across the Atlantic in a €40 million aircraft. The Federal Aviation
Administration, FAA, sets a limit of 40 mg. In other words, the Minister is setting a limit that
is half that for a pilot flying a commercial jet with 300 passengers across the Atlantic trying to
land on a runway one quarter the width of his or her aircraft at 180 mph. Has the Minister
gone off the rails completely, is his head in the clouds or is he lost at sea? Under the FAA’s
rules for pilots, Federal Aviation Regulation 91.17, which deals with alcohol and drugs, states
“no person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft ... While having an
alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen”. Given his lack of
research, the Minister should outline how he knows so much better than a body such as the
FAA. It is the largest safety organisation in the world with a budget of $9,336 million, which
is approximately 160 times what the Minister wasted on another item of premature legislation,
namely, electronic voting. This safety organisation is charged with the safe transit in the air of
more than 4.5 million passengers every day. This organisation’s mission statement states its
mission is to provide the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world. However,
this Minister knows better, albeit with very little research and a head bigger than a balloon full
of hot air. Can the Minister explain the reason drivers who drive home bingo buses and who
can barely go above 40 km/h because of the potholes in the nation’s county roads must adhere
to restrictions twice the standard of the commercial pilot flying overhead with hundreds of lives
in his control?

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: One minute remains to the Deputy.

   Deputy P. J. Sheehan: According to experts, many factors make up the alcohol concentration
in a blood, breath or urine sample such as one’s weight or gender as men tend to process
alcohol faster than women. Similarly, it can be affected by one’s metabolism,current stress
levels, whether one has eaten recently or one’s age as younger people tend to process alcohol
more slowly. This varies from person to person. I note that one of the aforementioned factors
is that younger people tend to process alcohol slower. Consequently, as most of those in the
first two years of their driving licence will be younger people, the Minister will be doling out a
double whammy to them. Moreover, I am told that in the scientific world, 0.02% is the lowest
possible limit that it is possible to accurately determine and some even question the accuracy
of measurements at this level.
  When travellers set off a metal detector, they are not arrested and convicted of gun smuggling
or terrorism. While everyone with a gun will set off the metal detector, most people who set
off the metal detector do not have a gun. The Minister must understand that not everyone who
has had a drink is going to have an accident or injury or kill someone. The Minister should try
to discover other more accurate methods of accident prevention, rather than punishing every-
one for the sins of a few. The Minister is racing to the lowest common denominator again.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should conclude.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: There is not a great demand on the part of Members to speak. If a
juggernaut ran into a school playground and caused ten fatalities, one would not ban jugger-

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nauts because doing so would not make any sense. However, is this not what the irrational
Green Party Government is doing because a deer ran into a school playground? In lowering
the alcohol limits, the Minister is using the same principle but not taking all the other factors
into account. He is using some statistics to back up a flawed case. The sure way to deter drink-
driving is to increase enforcement, not lower the blood alcohol limit.
   If the Minister is telling the House that a driver who provides a sample of 0.021g is more
dangerous than the airline pilot overhead with 300 passengers who is legally permitted a sample
of 0.039g, it is time for common sense and I urge him to withdraw the Bill. I want him to tear
it up as I now propose to do or rewrite it with common sense in mind. If he wants to lower the
limits, then he should lower them to 50mg for new drivers and professional drivers, just above
the limit set for an airline pilot, and leave the current limit as it is at 80mg for all other drivers.
To cite someone else, it is time to get out his peann luaidhe and everywhere in this Bill he sees
see “50”, he should cross it out and make it “80”, and everywhere he sees “20”, he should cross
it out and make it “50”.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I must call the next Deputy.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: I will only take half a minute. Under the Constitution, we are to
cherish people equally irrespective of whether they live in Ballydehob or Ballsbridge. Everyone
in the latter can avail of Dublin Bus, Luas and taxi services to drink until closing time and get
home safely, but we have given rural Ireland nothing. What public services exist in rural areas?
Rural minibus services during the evening and night have been withdrawn.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy must bring his remarks to a conclusion.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: It is rural isolation. The onus is on the Minister to provide rural
transport to combat that isolation. There should be no discrimination between the inhabitants
of my outpost, the Cork South-West constituency, and inner Dublin, who can enjoy Luas, bus,
taxi and hackney services every night.

   Deputy Andrew Doyle: Notwithstanding the fact that some would try to portray the Bill as
being the panacea for road accidents and road fatalities, I must disagree with some of my
colleague’s points. The Bill is part of a larger picture that must be seen in the context of what
it can or cannot achieve. For the record, it is important that I lay out the purposes of the Road
Traffic Bill. It provides for the reduction of the blood alcohol limit from 80mg to 20mg in
respect of professional drivers and to 50mg in respect of all other drivers. It revises the associ-
ated penalties, including driver disqualification. It provides for the mandatory alcohol testing
of all drivers of mechanically propelled vehicles involved in road collisions. It clarifies the
minimum disqualification period that must be served before a driver may apply to the courts
for restoration of his or her licence. It provides powers to assist gardaí in a crucial matter,
namely, forming an opinion as to whether a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant, be
it drink, drugs or a combination thereof, and allow them to carry out preliminary tests like
coherency tests, etc. It consolidates and restates the provisions of previous Road Traffic Acts
on intoxicated drivers and amends certain fixed charges and other minor issues.
   Road safety comprises three main points, the first being better detection and enforcement
of rules. This relates to speeding, alcohol excess, drug excess and general road manners and
the enforcement of proper driving, pedestrian and cyclist codes. As many Deputies have men-
tioned, particularly those from outside urban areas, it is important that we provide road users
with suitable alternatives. On the one hand, taxi drivers complain that there are too many taxis
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  [Deputy Andrew Doyle.]
in this and other cities while, on the other, there is a dearth of alternatives to the car in many
isolated areas, villages and smaller towns.
   The third point is the provision of safe roads. When one delves into the statistics, accident
black spots are undoubtedly not accident black spots purely because people who have drunk
an excessive amount of alcohol decide to drive on them. Generally speaking, it is down to a
combination of factors. Black spots are dangerous by their nature. They are located in isolated
areas and tend to be at the end of faster, better roads. County Donegal’s black spots have
been well documented. As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle presumably knows from commuting to
Leinster House for a long number of years, work on sections of the N11 in County Wicklow
from the Beehive to Jack White’s Cross, as it is called, was put on the long finger several times
by the Minister for Transport’s predecessor, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage
and Local Government, Deputy Martin Cullen, when other roads saw fruition. One part of the
N11 only opened yesterday.
   All of these issues are relevant in our discussion on reducing the number of road accidents.
Everyone is aware of the devastation caused by drink-driving. It is important to state that ours
is not a country in which people developed overnight a love of going to the pub. In rural areas,
it is ironic that one used to be required to live at least three miles from a pub to get a drink
after hours. I could never understand the logic of this. It was before I was of an age at which
I was allowed to drink.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It was to allow one to build up a thirst.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: If one had been required to eat food as well, as was the case with
discos, it would have made sense, but this law was applied for some reason. This shows how
far our mindset has needed to come to return to the point at which we do not drink and drive.
I have two sons younger than 21 years of age who have full licences. They would not dream of
going out unless some member of their group was not drinking. Otherwise, they would hire a
taxi. This is how far we have come. Mine are not perfect children, but they are typical of their
cohort, although there are notable exceptions.
  We must consider other factors. There are cars with “For Sale” signs on lay-bys that show
contact numbers for racing clubs or whatever they are called. Convoys of these drivers travel
up our national routes seeking beach areas or large public car parks in which to perform their
doughnuts and so on, normally under the cover of darkness. They have probably not consumed
any alcohol, although they may have consumed other intoxicants. Their groups are led by peer
pressure. In the legislation of some American states, a clause states that one can only drive
between the hours of sunset and morning with a member of one’s family and no one else. One
cannot bring a buddy or girlfriend on whom one wants to make a big impression. Even without
the “assistance”, if one wants to call it that, of alcohol, people get led into doing things they
would otherwise not do.
   Deputy Jimmy Deenihan touched on a matter. Goodbody’s has estimated that the cost of
road deaths and serious injuries between 1990 and 2006 was €14.9 billion. It is an horrendous
figure. No life can be measured in terms of cost and an event which causes devastation to a
family cannot be assessed in monetary terms. Nevertheless, €14.9 billion is a huge cost for a
country of 4 million people to bear. Anything we can do to improve matters must be
considered.
  We must try to be responsible. We cannot ignore the fact that alcohol is a factor in road
accidents. I do not think we can quantify the numbers of people with a blood alcohol level of
between 50 mg and 80 mg who have been involved in or caused serious road accidents. Some

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


of the provisions in the Bill which allow for mandatory testing will determine that. The Bill, if
it is enacted, will allow us to determine it more accurately. We may have a more reasoned and
sane debate on this issue when the Bill had been applied and properly enforced.
   Reference has been made to the number of hours spent on traffic monitoring and to the use
of speed cameras and testing. Any effort to reduce the number of road deaths is worthwhile.
Awareness campaigns, improvements to roads, the identification of accident black spots will
all contribute to that reduction. When we have taken the measures provided in the Bill we
should assess their effectiveness. I do not think its effects will be as bad as some predict or as
good as others claim. It gives us a chance to make things better and improve conditions.
   Most people drink alcohol when socialising. The effective implementation of drink-driving
measures has reduced the number of people socialising in public houses at night. It is also said
that greater enforcement of licensing hours and the ban on smoking in pubs have contributed
to this decline. It is not a coincidence that this reduction has taken place at a time when
Monday morning absenteeism has become unacceptable. Sunday evening from 6 p.m. to closing
time used to be the busiest night in rural pubs. Saturday night is now the busiest night of the
week. Others go to public houses to watch sport on television and do not drink much. This has
all contributed to a decline in drinking. Between 2007 and 2009 in County Wicklow, 17 public
house licences were not renewed.
  Notwithstanding all of that, we must consider the issue of isolation. We must strengthen the
rural partnership transport scheme. I compliment the outgoing Minister of State, Deputy John
Curran, who, despite coming from an urban constituency, saw the value of the scheme and
made efforts to restore it. However, it must be developed further rather than reduced or
curtailed.
   Damaged roads and accident black spots must be dealt with. A good driving and pedestrian
environment must be provided. Many developments on the edges of town have not been com-
pleted, footpaths and public lighting have not been provided and speed limits have not been
reviewed. I was in west Cork last weekend on my way to a certain function in Killarney. I saw
a road in Clondrohid which leads to the birthplace of Bishop Felim O’Shea. Deputy Sheehan
knows the road well. It is dirt track on which one could hardly ride a bicycle yet it has a speed
limit of 80 km/h. I took a photograph because it is so ridiculous.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: It is a forgotten part of the country.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: That is why it is so beautiful.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: One would need the stomach of a steeplechase jockey to survive on
the road yet one is within one’s rights to drive on it at 80 km/h. The 30 km/h and 50 km/h
zones must also be reviewed. When we changed from miles to kilometres per hour we had an
opportunity to look at this matter but we did not take it. We should not close our minds to the
possibility of speed limits of 45 km/h and 79 km/h. This would give speed limits which are
realistically enforceable and sensible. Likewise, there are roads which have an 80 km/h limit
where one could not possibly drive near that speed. I accept that speed limits are a maximum
but many people see them as the acceptable, almost compulsory, driving speed.
   I have referred to accident black spots on the N11. Weather conditions after Christmas left
many roads in a seriously diminished state. I have informed the Minister for Transport about
an area of south Wicklow, north Wexford and north-east Carlow where roads have been devas-
tated by weather damage. School buses are no longer prepared to collect children on some
roads which have become totally impassable. Other roads are less damaged but have been
seriously undermined by potholes and poor surfaces which cannot be seen in wet weather or

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  [Deputy Andrew Doyle.]
in the dark. Neglect of these roads will cause accidents. I ask the Minister to send officials of
his Department to examine these roads. The director of roads in Wicklow estimates that it will
cost €14 million to restore roads damaged by winter weather. The annual allocation for all road
works in County Wicklow is just over €9 million, which is a 32% reduction on the previous
allocation. This fund was only introduced in 2009. We must invest in road repairs to make
driving conditions safer. This will save money in the long run. It will also provide work. Several
companies employed people in road building and this work is no longer available. Well main-
tained roads will prevent the deterioration of cars and make them safer. I have seen owners of
brand new cars having to replace entire wheels because of damage from poor road surfaces.
Under-carriages, brakes and lights are all challenged by poor road conditions.
   The Medical Bureau of Road Safety surveyed 1,000 drivers who were over the legal alcohol
limit and 1,000 who were under the limit. Of the 1,000 drivers under the alcohol limit, 331 had
taken drugs compared with 142 of the 1,000 who were over the limit. More than twice as many
of those who were under the legal blood alcohol level of 80 mg had consumed some form of
drug. Some 48.7% of the drivers under the legal alcohol limit were under the age of 25 and
more than 90% were male.

   An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: This debate will adjourn in 30 minutes. Deputies Timmy Dooley
and Tom Hayes have indicated their intention to contribute and both are entitled to speak for
20 minutes. If each were to speak for 10 minutes the Minister would have ten minutes to reply.
If Deputies Dooley and Hayes speak for their full time the debate must resume on another day.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: That would be no harm.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: I will conclude shortly.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Very good. I am in the hands of the House.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: The Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s proposal is agreeable to me. I will
conclude on this point.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: That would give the Minister time to consider these matters.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: We will have time to do that on Committee Stage.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: I thought the Minister came into the Chamber to hear my contri-
bution but he must have thought that Deputy Sheehan had another half hour to speak

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I listened to his contribution in my office——

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: It was too good to miss.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: ——and I came into the Chamber to hear the Deputy’s contribution.

  Deputy Andrew Doyle: This is a serious issue. We have to address the issue of people who
drive under the influence of drugs. In terms of the 50 mg blood-alcohol level, the provision in
the Bill that allows a garda to form an opinion and carry out a preliminary test is vital. Along-
side that measure, a road safety awareness and continuing education programme is needed.
The Road Safety Authority does a wonderful job in raising road safety awareness. Its television
campaign is graphic and is in one’s face. The awareness campaign is broadcast on the radio
and I urge that it be highlighted in clubs and in areas where people congregate. When one is
having one’s tea at 6 p.m. one might think of going for a drink but it is not the time when

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


having a drink is uppermost on one’s mind. It would be worthwhile to highlight the campaign
in those areas. To quote the slogan used by another organisation, every little helps. We should
persist with such awareness campaigns. The provisions of the Bill when implemented should
be reassessed in a year or 18 months.

  Deputy Timmy Dooley: If the arrangement is agreeable to Deputy Tom Hayes, I will share
this 20 minute time slot with him and have 10 minutes each.
   In welcoming the opportunity to contribute to this Bill, I recognise the tenacity of the Mini-
ster in the efforts he has made to bring this Bill before the House. He has certainly fought a
battle at his own end and I recognise his efforts. He and I remonstrated through the early
stages of this Bill internally about aspects of it. While I might not have agreed with certain
elements of it, I recognise his bona fides in that regard and the tremendous tenacity he has
brought to bear in ensuring that this Bill passes through this House.
   It must be recognised that the approach by the Road Safety Authority, the Government and
all sensible politicians has led to a dramatic improvement in our road safety. There are a
number of factors involved, policy is one of them, policy in a number of areas not only on road
safety but on the improvement of road surfaces and the quality of our roads. Another factor
is the sensible approach that has been taken by many motorists and people within the education
sector who have sought to bring about a change in culture in terms of what is acceptable and
what is not. We have done that in regard to drink-driving. We still need to do that in regard
to driving at speed. I have some issues on that, which I addressed recently.
   It is clearly vital that we continue with that process of education and of culture change. The
younger cohort in society are no longer prepared to drink and drive as young people did in the
past. They are much more focused on ensuring there is a designated driver, that they use public
transport or the service of a taxi or others. That is the way forward.
   In recognising the huge achievements that have been made, we must be careful in terms of
adhering to a belief that we could not fall back or return to the bad old days. While the
improvements in the reduction in the number of road deaths have been brought about by good
policy and a determined approach to highlight the issue, we should recognise that fewer people
are consuming alcohol and there is less activity in the economy because of the recession. The
reduction in the number of people killed on our roads is in some way attributable to the
recession. Therefore, we should not allow ourselves to fall into a false sense of security and
belief that we now have a model that is wholesome and ensures that we will continue on the
downward spiral in terms of the reduction in the number of road deaths. We will have to
continue to check that. I agree with what Deputy Doyle said that we will need to address this
issue at a later stage. It must be addressed on an ongoing basis. It is no different from anything
else in life — if one allows something to go off the agenda, one tends to become complacent.
  I must compliment RTE on the approach it has taken to the reporting of deaths on our
roads. During our more difficult years it introduced a news segment at the end of each month,
which Charlie Bird was responsible for reporting prior to his departure to the United States.
Now that he is returning, that segment might be reintroduced. It was a rolling report lasting a
few minutes that identified individuals who had died on our roads, their family circumstances,
age and personal details. It was a shocking portrayal of road deaths at the end of each month.
This segment was reported at a time when 30 to 32 people were being killed on our roads. It
was a striking image. It certainly had an impact on me as I am sure it had on many other
people. It is that type of continuous identification of the scourge of death on our roads that
helps to change the culture, to remind people of the scourge it is and helps to ensure that all
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.        Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Timmy Dooley.]
our behaviour is altered and improved in a way that continues to work towards the reduction
of death on our roads.
   Deputy Doyle raised an issue, which motivated me in my opposition to some elements of
the Bill, particularly the reduction of the blood alcohol level from 80 mg to 50 mg. The Mini-
ster’s mitigation that a first offence would be addressed through the fixed penalty was a good
compromise and I recognise and welcome his move in that regard.
  The isolation debate in rural Ireland in vitally important. For an individual living alone in a
rural area, having a few pints is a very important part of his or her life.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Hear, hear.

   Deputy Timmy Dooley: We must accept that is still an issue and we have to find a way to
address that. The rural transport initiative, to which the Minister responded favourably by
ensuring that the McCarthy report did not eliminate it, could be and should be expanded in
that regard. We must be mindful of that. Some people have sought to use, overuse or abuse
the case of the person isolated in a rural area by way of trying to work against the introduction
of sensible levels of alcohol tolerance and the use of alcohol as a recreational element in life
to the detriment of others. It is an important issue but in some cases it has been utilised by
others as a front for not changing the status quo and that was unfair. It is a huge issue that is
vitally important but it can be overstated for the wrong reason. That is not to undermine the
importance of the issue. We have to work with the Government, stakeholders, publicans, liquor
licensing trade and the breweries to ensure there is an adequate and appropriate level of
transportation to get people home. It is not beyond the realms of possibility to be able to put
that in place to ensure that the environment is much safer for all concerned. There is that gap
in the middle as we try to work towards it.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: God be good to Fanny O’Dea’s egg-flips going back 50 years.

 Deputy Timmy Dooley: They are still as good as they ever were. I look forward to the
Deputy having one on his next visit to County Clare.
  I recognise the tremendous efforts that have been made and that we cannot sit on our laurels.
We cannot allow ourselves to believe that we have this problem or scourge solved. It must
continue to be addressed whether by legislation, statement or highlighting within the media.

  Deputy Tom Hayes: I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words on what is the
most important Bill to come before the House. It is not often that I praise Ministers but the
Minister present has had a very strong view on this issue and on what needs to be done. He
has held steadfastly to his view in stark contrast to the backbenchers on his side of the House
who have been vocal on this issue on every television and radio station for the past few months.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Hear, hear.

 Deputy Tom Hayes: There is a slight degree of cowardice in the way they have behaved.
They said they were going to oppose and stop this legislation.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Where are they tonight?

  Deputy Tom Hayes: Where are they are? Alas, we are here discussing this Bill. When a Bill
is introduced that will affect people’s lives, in terms of road safety in this instance, it is
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:      24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


important that sufficient time is allocated for consideration of the addressing of the many
issues involved.
  The biggest issue in regard to rural Ireland is the decrease in the number of people going to
pubs and this has raised great concern that jobs will be lost. This is a legitimate concern
throughout the country.
  Deputy Dooley raised the issue of loneliness, which is a problem. However, having reached
a point where people accept that drink-driving is dangerous, we must introduce alternatives
which will protect rural areas and help address rural isolation. Some years ago, we were able
to have one or two drinks before driving home. This is now illegal, however, and one must
abide by the law. The Minister should examine how transport can be provided at night for
older people and others who wish to have one or two drinks, meet neighbours or have a game
of cards in their local pub. These people need a safe means of travelling home.
   Ireland has experienced a rapid cultural change in recent years. People now drink more at
home and young people buy vast amounts of imported alcohol to drink at home. This change
in culture has not been good. The Government must give serious consideration to finding
alternative forms of transport for those in rural areas who wish to visit their local pub. A simple
solution would be to provide a tax concession to pub owners who wish to operate a small
minibus which would bring seven or eight customers home. Such a measure would change the
culture in rural areas. I have observed one or two examples of this practice which is effective.
We must protect those, whether young or old, who wish to have a few drinks and a chat in
their local pub. The pub adds to the quality of life in Ireland and enables tourists to enjoy a
song and dance. We are, however, fast losing this great culture. I ask the Minister to address
this issue.
  The Minister has strong views on what needs to be done. I have no doubt that when the
legislation is enacted, it will affect the rural quality of life many of us want to maintain. One
hears a great deal about job creation, the poor state of the economy and the need to pull
together. There is a strong case, however, for taking action to protect the quality of life in
rural areas.
  Many issues arise in the area of road safety, of which the quality of roads is an important
one. It takes a long time to have a bend removed from a country road as there are few means
of doing so. Given the large number of farmers involved in the REP scheme, I ask the Minister
to ensure his Department co-operates with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
to have dangerous bends removed and improve sight distance on roads, for example, by cutting
back hedgerows. Co-operation between the Departments would save lives and substantial sums
of money. Accidents can occur easily at bends because drivers cannot see large oncoming trucks
or drivers travelling at excessive speeds.
  It is vital to educate young drivers. As a father of three young men who drive, I am acutely
aware of parents’ concerns about young people driving cars at night. It is a real worry to have
a child who drives a high powered vehicle. Although we knock young people at times, I com-
mend them on choosing not to drink and drive and for sharing cars and bringing friends home.
Young people aged 17 or 18 years should receive better driver training, including as part of
the transition year programme. They must be educated on the dangers of high powered motor
vehicles because many of them do not understand the dangers involved. There is significant
scope for providing driver training in transition year and helping young people to become
aware of the dangers on our roads.
  On speed cameras, I, like every other public representative, travel extensively by road. While
I note that drivers are much more aware of speed limits and are less likely to race, one still

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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Tom Hayes.]
finds the odd lunatic who will overtake at high speed even when one is driving at the speed
limit. Speed cameras are needed to catch and control these fellows, most of whom drive cars
which have two protruding exhausts and produce noise levels that would frighten the life out
of anybody.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: Their cars are jet propelled.

  Deputy Tom Hayes: At times one would believe they are jet propelled. Speed cameras need
to be installed to catch these drivers.
  I recall that efforts were to be made to provide flashing lights outside all rural schools.
This has not been done. Flashing lights are highly effective and should be provided outside
every school.
  The issues I raise are very important and a cause of genuine concern to me. Rural publicans
must be protected and the Department should co-operate with the Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food to ensure minor, inexpensive improvements are made to our roads to make
them much safer.

  Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): I thank Deputy Dooley and Deputies
opposite for their co-operation. I am grateful to all 34 Deputies who contributed to the Second
Stage debate. The large number of contributions demonstrates the level of interest in this issue.
  I also acknowledge the constructive approach most Deputies have taken to the debate. While
the legislation has aroused passions on both sides of the argument, I respect the position
adopted by some speakers who believe the Bill is not a priority in the greater scheme of things
and I should have focused my attention elsewhere. However, when one decides to change
blood alcohol content limits, one is told that speed is the problem on the roads and when one
decides to change speed limits, one is told the condition of the roads or other factors are the
problem. The truth is one cannot solve the problem or reduce deaths and injuries on the roads
by a single set of measures. This fact was highlighted repeatedly by Deputies on all sides during
the debate.
  The Bill acts as something of a book end for the 1994 Road Traffic Act and subsequent
legislation. In the period since the 1994 Act entered into force, road deaths have declined by
more than 40%. Every piece of legislation in between has been, one might say, a separate
chapter in the history, has contributed and been instrumental in reducing injuries and deaths.
I wish to acknowledge and recognise, as I did earlier during Question Time, that this is one
area of business we do in the House for which there is broad cross-party support, co-operation
and a very constructive approach. The legislation we have had as a result is top quality. I wish
to assure Members of the House on the Opposition benches and my own party backbenchers
that I look forward to Committee Stage and to listening again to any suggestions they may
have that will improve the Bill.
   No matter what Deputies may say there is no doubt that having any level of alcohol in one’s
blood diminishes one’s ability to drive. The more one drinks the less able one is to drive. That
is why over a period we have reduced the level and propose to reduce it further. Some Deputies
have asked why we do not go the whole way and have a zero blood alcohol limit but everybody
knows the difficulty involved. The drink driving laws are the most litigated pieces of legislation
on the books. Trying to get to a zero limit with all the caveats involved, such as medicines and
so on, as raised by Deputies, is not practical. However, even though such a measure might not
find favour anywhere else in the House I believe we should arrive at a stage where anybody
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              Road Traffic Bill 2009:     24 March 2010.         Second Stage (Resumed)


who takes any amount of drink should not drive. I am happy that this is a step in the right
direction.
   I dealt with the matter of the introduction of the measure during Question Time and shall
not return to it in any detail. However, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety is powering ahead
with the provision and trying to get the new evidential breath testing, EBT, machines in place.
It will have the tendering process complete by the middle of the year and will test the machines
over the following six months which will bring us to the end of the year. Over the next six to
eight months the MBRS will roll these out to Garda stations. Extra stations, beyond the 64
involved at present, and more gardaí will be trained. Within that kind of timeframe everything
will be in place for testing. As Members know, this Bill contains a number of different areas
that deal with commencement notices and this is one such. We will commence at that stage.
   I reiterate we are conscious of the issue of drugs and driving. I am very conscious that drugs,
equally alcohol, can and do affect a person’s driving. We are making a move towards introduc-
ing impairment tests and the forming of opinion on impairment by gardaí, which is the initial
step in that regard. The next piece of road traffic legislation will go much further with regard
to drugs and driving. We hope that by the time it is introduced we will have succeeded at EU
level in producing kits that will be able to test by the roadside. One way or another, the
provisions contained will strengthen the detection of drugs and subsequent action in that
regard. We intend to make this even more explicit in future legislation.
  Deputy Broughan referred to the mutual recognition of penalty points and questioned the
level of progress being made at EU level. There are no specific directives in our proposals to
provide for such arrangements between EU countries. It is widely recognised that because of
the various technical, legislative and logistic issues associated with that kind of arrangement it
would be hugely complex. However, we will support the development of co-operative arrange-
ments with relevant authorities across Europe and will try to advance same between the
Republic and Northern Ireland. The experience gained from the operation of the mutual recog-
nition of driving disqualifications, which we introduced on 28 January, will be of benefit to us
as we move this issue forward.
  The evasion of penalty points through a lack of robust procedures was highlighted during
the debate. Again, this is being tackled in the legislation. The new provision under Part 5 of
the Bill will assist further with administrative procedures in the courts and the application of
penalty points to the appropriate driver licence. Section 51 establishes a requirement to produce
both a driver licence and a copy of the licence to the District Court clerk.
  Deputy O’Dowd raised a question concerning section 6 and the endorsement of three penalty
points on payment of a fixed penalty notice for a first-time drinking offence within specific
blood alcohol concentration levels. That option is available only once in a five-year period so
for any further offence, irrespective of the detected BAC level, there will be a disqualification.
We have adopted what is almost a yellow card approach for a first offence but subsequently
the full rigours of the law will follow. I believe that is a reasonable approach at this stage.
  Regarding graduated driving licences, the Road Safety Authority has had a consultation
period and recently submitted recommendations in that regard. I shall consider those as soon
as this Bill passes through the House.
   I am agnostic in many respects regarding speed limits and which ones should be put in place.
I do not have any fixed view on the matter——

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister will not oppose the amendment in that case.

                                               423
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)


 Deputy Noel Dempsey: ——provided there are not too many on the one stretch of road, or
whatever. Flexibility in that area would be useful.
  Regarding the plastic driving licences mentioned by a number of speakers, we have set 2012
as the date for their introduction. I want to see this happening more quickly and have asked
the RSA to begin work on this matter. In addition, we are engaging with relevant stakeholders
to try to advance the issue in the shortest timescale possible. I hope it will be done very quickly.
  Deputy O’Dowd referred to the possibility of introducing rehabilitation schemes for certain
road traffic offenders. That is provided for and the RSA is working with the Garda in County
Donegal and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. When we have the results
of that pilot scheme we shall certainly move the measure forward.
  Many Deputies raised the issue of road conditions and the fact that they contribute to road
accidents or deaths. The figure in question is 3%. However, it is obvious that the condition of
roads deteriorated over the winter months and local authorities are now busy trying to restore
them. We are assessing the information we have but our point of view is to ask local authorities
to do the work, allowing them maximum flexibility and telling them to work within the budgets
they have.
   I accept the point Deputies make regarding alcohol limits, rural isolation and lack of rural
transport. It is important that people in rural parts of Ireland have social contact and that they
are able to go to a pub and have a drink. Nobody is saying they should not do so. All we say
               is that if they have two pints or consume other alcohol they should not drive
7 o’clock      home and put themselves or anybody else in danger. I note the points Deputies
               made in regard to the rural transport programme. Once this Bill is passed I am
willing to engage with various stakeholders to see whether we can assist in some way but
publicans and vintners must also make some contribution.
  Again, I thank Members for their contributions. I look forward to a good Committee Stage
debate and am willing to take on board any good suggestions.

  Question put and agreed to.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I declare the Bill read a Second Time.

                                    Private Members’ Business.

                                             ————

                               Tourism Industry: Motion (Resumed).

  The following motion was moved by Deputy Olivia Mitchell on Tuesday, 23 March 2010:
    “That Dáil Éireann:
      recognising:
        — tourism revenue dropped by €1.1 billion in 2009 to €5.2 billion, its lowest level
          since 2004;
        — overseas visitor numbers fell by close to 1 million in 2009 compared with 2008;
        — Ireland’s largest tourism market, the United Kingdom, declined by 16% in 2009;
        — access to Ireland has become worryingly restricted with the ongoing removal of
          routes and a reduction in airline capacity at both Shannon and Dublin airports; and
                                                424
            Tourism Industry:        24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


    — the serious credit flow crisis and level of debt facing the sector as a result of the
      economic downturn;
   considering:
    — the introduction of an air travel tax was short-sighted, counterproductive and a
      deterrent to the survival of the tourism industry;
    — the fragmented nature of this indigenous industry and the lack of economic priority
      afforded to it by the Government;
    — the significant burden of local authority rates, Government charges and energy costs
      on small businesses;
    — the archaic nature of the joint labour committee wage-setting system;
    — the administration cost and complexity of Irish visitor visas;
    — the failure of the Office of Public Works to exploit the full tourism potential of
      visitor attraction sites;
    — the Government-generated shortage in the supply of cars for the rental market; and
    — the emergence of “zombie hotels” and the financial pressure this is placing on the
      hotel sector;
   calls on the Government to immediately abolish the air travel tax.”

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
 To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
   “— notes the unprecedented reduction in international economic growth and disturb-
      ances in financial markets over the last two years and the impact this has on all
      sectors of the Irish economy;
    — commends the Government for its policies to return stability to the public finances,
      which is helping to restore confidence both internationally and domestically;
    — commends the approach taken by Government on the appropriate balance struck
      between revenue raising measures and necessary expenditure reductions in its
      response to dealing with pressures on the public finances;
    — notes the positive reaction that the Government’s prudent and decisive approach
      has engendered in international economic commentators and the tangible positive
      impact of lowering the interest cost of servicing Ireland’s national debt;
    — notes the need for ‘fairness’ to be at the core of any revenue raising measures
      required to shore up our public finances;
    — considers that the impact of the air travel tax on tourism has been considerably
      overstated in the context of overall purchasing decisions by visitors; and
    — commends the actions which the Government and the Irish tourism industry are
      taking, both together and independently, to respond to these challenges, including:
        — the continuing commitment of the Government to the progressive delivery of its
          key tourism investment priorities in marketing, skills development, enterprise
          support and product development, within a framework of sound public finances
          and value for money, noting that the tourism services budget was increased in
          2010 by 2% to over €150 million, against a background of fiscal retrenchment;

                                          425
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)


            — maintaining the level of overseas marketing activity in real terms, led by Tour-
              ism Ireland and supported by industry partners, investing €26 million in a mar-
              keting drive in the first half of the year, including the biggest ever programme
              of activities to showcase Ireland during the St. Patrick’s Day period;
            — Fáilte Ireland’s new advertising and promotional campaign to encourage
              holidaying at home this year, with a budget of €4 million, rooted in extensive
              consumer research and consultation with the tourism industry, in particular by
              promoting the great value that holidaying in Ireland offers to the consumer;
            — Fáilte Ireland’s support for enterprises, helping them to achieve real cost savings
              and efficiencies and providing a range of training and business supports to indi-
              vidual tourism businesses, investing over €11 million in 2010 in the form of
              direct supports and advice;
            — the role of the Office of Public Works in the conservation, protection and man-
              agement of the built heritage and its pivotal contribution to the sustainable
              development of tourism in Ireland; and
            — other significant developments this year which will assist the tourism sector such
              as the opening of the new Convention Centre Dublin in September which is
              expected to give a major boost to business tourism, the new Aviva Stadium and
              the completion of the inter-city motorway network.”
             —(Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Seán Haughey).
  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I wish to share time with Deputy Jan O’Sullivan.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on the critical
topic of Irish aviation and tourism. I commend Deputy Mitchell and her Fine Gael colleagues
on proposing this motion and highlighting the crisis in the global and Irish travel and tourism
industries. As the motion emphasises, there has been a staggering decline in passenger numbers
and tourism revenue in the past year. Air travel with the UK, which is our closest neighbour
and most important tourism market, haemorrhaged more than 700,000 passengers between
February 2009 and February 2010. This 14% decrease followed a 17% decrease in passenger
numbers in January. There have been worrying slumps in air traffic between the UK and Kerry,
Shannon, Cork and Dublin airports. The Kerry-Stansted route, for example, has had its service
levels slashed over the winter period. It saw an incredible 54% decrease in passenger numbers,
to just under 4,500 passengers, in the period between February 2009 and February 2010. It is
estimated that if these trends continue throughout 2010, passenger traffic between Ireland and
the UK will reach its lowest level since 1999, with a decrease of 1.75 million in passenger
numbers to 9.15 million.
   Aer Lingus recently posted operating losses of €81 million for 2009. The extraordinary job
losses in the tourism and hotel sectors have been accompanied by major job losses in the
aviation sectors. Some 1,100 jobs were lost at SR Technics and a further 400 were lost at the
Dublin Airport Authority. I spoke this afternoon about the 500 job losses at Ryanair. Dis-
cussions on significant job losses at Aer Lingus are ongoing, but it seems that up to 600 jobs may
be lost. The Government’s apathy about protecting the high-skilled and high-quality aviation,
engineering and maintenance jobs at SR Technics has been one of the most shocking features
of its period in office. It has been compounded by the Government’s attitude to aviation and
travel taxation. As an island nation, our air and marine connectivity is critical to getting tourists
and visitors in and out of the country. Rather than making it easier and more attractive for

                                                 426
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)


people to visit this country, the Government’s big idea for supporting the ailing travel and
tourism sector has been to slap an extra €10 air travel departure tax on everyone travelling
through an Irish airport to airports 300 km from Dublin Airport. This was introduced as
Governments across the EU — including those in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain —
moved to abolish similar departure taxes. It is even more galling that none of the revenue
from the travel tax is being used to support aviation facilities, security and safety services or
infrastructural development.
   I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, on his promotion. Since the introduction
of the air travel tax, I have consistently asked the Ministers for Finance and Transport to
publish the cost-benefit analysis that was carried out by the Department of Finance before its
introduction. So far, however, neither Minister has given me any information in this regard.
The suspicion remains that the tax was worked out on the back of a beer mat as a means of
generating some easy cash for the Government rather than as a means of dealing with the
issues affecting Irish aviation. The paltry economic analysis that was provided by Ministers in
budget 2009 estimated that the new tax would yield €95 million in 2009 and €150 million in a
full year. However, no estimate of the potentially negative knock-on effects and costs of the
tax was provided. I refer to its effects on passenger numbers, aviation jobs and employment in
the tourism and hotel sectors. It is incumbent on the Ministers, Deputies Brian Lenihan and
Dempsey, to place a full cost-benefit analysis of this tax before the Oireachtas. If they cannot
do so, they should abolish it.
   The manner in which this tax has united opinion across the aviation industry is striking. Aer
Lingus, Ryanair and CityJet, which account for 83% of the total number of passengers who
depart this island each year, jointly commissioned an independent analysis from Amsterdam
Aviation Economics, which is part of the SEO economic research group. The critical con-
clusions of the report were that the introduction of the air travel tax will cause estimated
revenue losses of up to €482 million; that it will lead to up to 3,000 direct job losses; and that,
in a full year of operation, it will bring about a reduction of up to 1.2 million the Irish aviation
industry’s number of departing passengers. That is balanced against an Exchequer tax take of
just €116 million. The report states:

    If airline capacity in 2009 had been maintained at 2008 levels and the ATT was to be
  passed on in full to passengers in the form of higher fares, it is estimated that the total
  resulting demand reduction would be between 0.5 and 1.2 million departing passengers over
  the first full year based on a price elasticity range of between –0.5 and –1.5. On this
  basis . . . . ATT revenue would be between €117 million and €124 million but total revenue
  losses for airlines, airports and the tourist sector would range from a minimum of €210 million
  up to €465 million, dependent on the elasticities assumed.

I drew up a rough estimate when the travel tax was introduced in the budget by the Minister
of State’s colleague. It was clear, at a glance, that the cost of this tax would be definitely far
higher than its yield.
   This stupid tax should never have been introduced. I note that the Minister of State, Deputy
Cuffe, has been given responsibility for looking after sustainable transport. I accept that certain
issues associated with aviation transport will have to be addressed, in time. This air travel tax
is not the right way to address such issues. It is a stupid device that has resulted in serious job
losses. No matter how one looks at it, the tax will result in further job losses in the future. The
Government will not give the House a cost-benefit analysis because it does not have one. The
Minister of State’s colleagues in the Department of Finance did not draw up such an analysis.
It does not exist. On any basis, the travel tax should be withdrawn. I support the motion and

                                                427
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Thomas P. Broughan.]
urge the Government to forget about this tax. I asked the Taoiseach a few weeks ago to ensure
the Minister for Finance uses the Finance Bill 2010 to withdraw it. That should be done at the
earliest opportunity. It is very damaging for our country.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I thank Deputy Broughan for sharing his time with me. I commend
Deputy Mitchell on her tabling of this motion. This tax is having a serious effect on tourism in
Ireland. I would like to speak particularly about the mid-west, as it is having an extremely
worrying effect on passenger numbers at Shannon Airport. The airport has lost more than 1
million passengers in the past two years. There is a serious danger that this airport, which is of
vital infrastructural importance to the mid-west region, will become unsustainable.
   I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, on his elevation. I think he has some
understanding of the importance of having integrated policies that deal with regions as a whole,
rather than separate policies that deal with various areas differently. The Government has no
aviation policy whatsoever. We need integrated thinking in this regard. If we allow Shannon
Airport to go down the tubes, the prosperity of an entire region will be put in jeopardy. The
travel tax can be directly implicated in the threats to the airport to which I refer. Ryanair may
be bluffing when it directly blames the tax for its decision to withdraw certain routes from
Shannon. The Government should call Michael O’Leary’s bluff. The maintenance of existing
flights is vital for the mid-west region.
   This issue has been highlighted by many experts, who have indicated that a travel tax is a
negative feature of any country. As my colleague, Deputy Broughan, has said, the Dutch and
Spanish authorities, inter alia, have withdrawn travel taxes because of their effects on tourist
numbers. We cannot view airports as stand-alone pieces of infrastructure that do not have any
effect on the regions in which they are located. We need joined-up thinking and joined-up
Government. I do not have much faith that the Ministers, Deputies Dempsey and Brian
Lenihan, have a real understanding of this issue. I hope the promotion of Deputy Killeen, who
represents the constituency of Clare, to the Cabinet will improve the Government’s understand-
ing of the importance of the issue. I expect that the new Minister for Tourism, Culture and
Sport, Deputy Hanafin, also has some understanding of the region about which I speak.
   We need the Government to examine the overall effect of this tax, rather than to consider
it within the narrow confines of the Departments of Transport and Finance. As Deputy
Broughan said, this crude measure was introduced simply to bring in some more tax revenue.
It is entirely counter-productive in its effect on the economy in general and on certain vulner-
able regions in particular. I suggest that the mid-west region is extremely vulnerable in this
context. There were suggestions in the media earlier this week that a plan is being hatched by
the Dublin Airport Authority whereby some type of direct payment would be introduced in
substitution for the travel tax for passengers at Shannon Airport. I do not know whether these
reports are accurate, but there is no point in simply replacing one tax with another tax imposed
directly on passengers. Nor is there any point in the DAA making plans for Shannon Airport
behind closed doors, with no consultation with people in the region.
  There must be an adequate and concerted Government response to the threats that exist. I
speak both for my own region and for the entire tourism industry. If we could attract even a
small percentage of tourists from the various regions throughout the world where tourism is
increasing — I have in mind eastern tourists in particular — it would make a great difference
to the economy, to the many ailing hotels and to the many good tourist service providers who
are struggling. That effort must be made. It will involve action in the area of marketing and
many other aspects. First and foremost, however, this tax is a strong counter-incentive to people
to come to this country. That problem must be addressed urgently.

                                               428
                Tourism Industry:        24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


 Deputy Michael Kennedy: I propose to share time with Deputies Michael Kitt, Cyprian
Brady, Niall Collins and Frank Fahey.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): That is agreed.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratu-
late the Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cuffe, and wish him well in his portfolio. The Fine
Gael motion informs us that visitor numbers to Ireland decreased last year, and nobody is
denying that. However, that decrease is not a result of the travel tax, which is a departure tax
and applies to flights out of the country.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: Visitors must pay the tax on their way home.

   Deputy Michael Kennedy: I am surprised that Deputy Olivia Mitchell seems to be confused
in this regard. Another government will charge those passengers on the way home. Let us deal
with the facts. Mr. George Lee’s departure from the Dáil must have made Deputy Mitchell a
little too relaxed. We are talking about a departure tax that is charged at Dublin, Shannon,
Cork and Belfast.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: And at Knock.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: Yes.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Is Deputy Kennedy proposing that tourists should stay in Ireland
forever to avoid the tax?

 Deputy Michael Kennedy: If one comes back from London, it is the British Government
which imposes the charge, not the Irish Government. We must get the facts right.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: Visitors to this country will face the charge when they return home.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: I consulted a website yesterday and discovered that the minimum
price for two people travelling to Spain would be €1,000. Are Fine Gael and the Labour Party
suggesting that an additional €10 charge will deter people from embarking on a sun holiday? I
am unconvinced.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Deputy Kennedy should ask Aer Lingus about it.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: We are talking about a departure tax that raised €100 million in
ten months last year. The anticipated revenue for 2010 is €125 million.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: How much has it cost the State?

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: In the context of a budget deficit of more than €20 billion, every
€100 million we can raise is very welcome.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: Why have other countries abolished similar charges?

  Acting Chairman: Deputy Kennedy should be allowed to continue without interruption.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: The United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Australia have
departure taxes at a much higher rate than we have. We must deal with reality.
  One can understand why airlines that want to offer zero-cost flights would call for the
removal of the departure tax. However, those airlines that are charging €40 for personal check-

                                              429
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Michael Kennedy.]
in, €5 for the privilege of an on-line check-in, €5 for credit card payment and so on should look
first at these charges, which are imposed directly on consumers. Claims by such airlines that
the €10 departure tax impacts in any way on their business do not stand up. They must begin
by examining their own charging structures.
  The Government is very much aware that the tourism industry has a turnover of more than
€5 billion and employs more than 200,000 people. As such, we have allocated an increased
budget for tourism, even allowing for current fiscal restraints. It is a vital industry the develop-
ment of which we must support. I welcome the appointment of the Minister, Deputy Mary
Hanafin, to the new Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Work must be done in the
area of built heritage and so on, which can attract significant tourism to Ireland. I am confident
the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, will see to it that tourism will continue to grow as an indigen-
ous business.
  I congratulate the Government on the appointment of the esteemed actor, Mr. Gabriel
Byrne, as cultural ambassador of this country. That will afford us greater recognition on the
international stage and encourage visitors who might not otherwise have considered Ireland as
a holiday destination. Last week’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was a fantastic spectacle.
We hope the many visitors who came to Ireland for the celebrations will return home with a
positive impression of what the country has to offer. In terms of Government investment in
tourism, the convention centre which is expected to open next September will be a massive
boost for tourism revenue potential. The spend per person for the type of visitor the facility
will attract is way above that of the average tourist.
  As I said, I am surprise that Deputy Mitchell has put forward a motion calling for the
abolition of the airport departure tax, for which she blames falling passenger numbers. She
seems to have got her facts wrong; perhaps it is the George Lee factor. I ask that she be more
careful the next time she tables a motion.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Thanks for the advice.

  Deputy Michael P. Kitt: I join colleagues in congratulating the Minister of State, Deputy
Ciarán Cuffe, on his appointment. As Deputy Kennedy observed, the air travel tax raised €100
million over a ten-month period and is expected to bring in €125 million in a full year. That is
a sizeable sum. Other countries in the European Union, namely, the United Kingdom and
France, as well as Australia and New Zealand also have a travel tax in place. However, I
welcome the reduction in the tax to €2 on shorter journeys. This means all Irish departures to
locations such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are subject to the lower rate.
   Low-cost travel has been good for Ireland, and I commend all those who pioneered progress
in this area. However, we should be concerned that airlines are reducing routes globally, regard-
less of what taxes apply. We must promote travel and tourism to this country. Visits to Ireland
by non-residents were down by some 11% between January 2009 and June 2009 compared
with the same period in 2008. There always will be pressure to raise revenues. When I was
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2007 and 2008, there was always
pressure from the Department Finance to increase the price of a passport, for example. That
proposal was resisted but the increase was eventually introduced. Our decision to waive the
charge for those in receipt of a State pension was very welcome. I spoke to people today who
are concerned about getting their passports renewed in view of the action by union staff. The
charge for emergency passports remains at €50, but if people could get as far as the counter
they would be glad to pay it and would have little concern about a travel tax. That is the
situation but it begs the question as to why we have only two passport offices in Cork and

                                                430
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


Dublin. There are people from Galway contacting the Cork office to get a passport and there
is a need for two extra offices in the west and the north west to process passport applications.
I raised this issue as a Minister of State in 2007 and I do not believe it would be too expensive
to provide these offices. It would save people long journeys if they were able to apply in their
own region for a passport, which could be provided at regional airports. I have lobbied the
current Minister for Foreign Affairs on this and I hope he makes further progress on it.
   I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Mary Hanafin, on her new ministerial appointment.
There is great tourism potential and she is a capable person who will deliver on that potential.
I cannot understand why the Office of Public Works is being criticised in the Fine Gael motion
because the OPW has marvellous heritage sites. Most of them will open earlier this year and
the admission prices will be at the 2009 level, which I welcome.
   A balance must be struck between raising revenue and reducing spending, due to the current
pressures on the public finances. We have to market this country properly overseas, as Tourism
Ireland has done. It did a great job for St. Patrick’s Day and the fact that it fell on a Wednesday
meant that we could have a longer festival. Fáilte Ireland must also be commended for a
programme that encourages people to holiday at home. I hope we will get good value for
consumers in Ireland. We have a lot to offer in this area and it is important that Fáilte Ireland
is supported.
   I look forward to the opening of the new convention centre in Dublin and the new Aviva
stadium in Ballsbridge. Our Oireachtas committee went out there to see the work that was
going on during the construction of these facilities.
   It is encouraging to see that we are spending more money in the Department of Arts, Sport
and Tourism this year. There has been a 2% increase on the 2009 figure, and it is important
that this €153 million funding is spent wisely. We have to promote major visitor attractions and
the infrastructure for areas that have not been developed in the past, such as recreational
cycling, walking, water-based activities and heritage attractions. The campaign by our tourism
organisations should promote these areas and outline what can be done. A total of €44.25
million has been provided for tourism marketing in 2010 and this will increase the investment
in the overseas marketing of Ireland. I hope we can get value for money in obtaining advertising
space and show what can be done to promote the country.
  I welcome this debate tonight. I congratulate the two Ministers mentioned and I hope we
have a good tourist season in 2010.

  Deputy Cyprian Brady: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratulate
the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, on his elevation. I think he will be very suited to his
new position.
  We have spent much resources over the last few years on building up our tourism product
here. In the areas of training and education, hospitality services, hotel management and so on,
we have managed to build up a product that is seen as being very unique and attractive. This
did not happen by accident. Much planning went into producing the product and making sure
that it was sold properly around the world. We have managed to do that.
  The successful growth of the tourism industry in Ireland has been phenomenal in the past
ten years. The fact that we are in a global recession has hit us harder than many other countries.
Ireland is a small peripheral country on the edge of Europe, so we have a difficult job to do in
selling the country. The economic downturn is a challenge for everybody. We depend heavily
on tourism as a major part of the economy in Dublin city and in my constituency. We have
hundreds of hotels and restaurants which depend solely on the tourists they attract into the city.

                                                431
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Cyprian Brady.]

   While we have had to make very difficult decisions on how we deal with the economy, it is
a challenge for all sectors of society and not just the tourism industry. We have to try to be
fair with any decisions that we make. The introduction of this tax by the Department of Finance
is an effort to make sure that a fair share is taken by all sides. The question is whether the €10
travel tax influences people when they make a decision to come to Ireland. I have not heard
that question answered. I do not know whether there are statistics to prove that the €125
million to be brought in by this tax is counterbalanced by a loss of those people who decided
not to come.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: There are such statistics.

  Deputy Cyprian Brady: If the Deputy can produce the figures, that is fine.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: They have been published.

  Deputy Cyprian Brady: When we are in a position to do away with this tax, it will be done.
   The domestic market in Ireland now accounts for 65% of business in the intensely competi-
tive hotel sector. That is a very significant proportion of hotel business. The State agencies
have done a great job in trying to promote the domestic market, and there is a great future for
that. Deputy Kitt mentioned the national conference centre, which is in my constituency on
Spencer Dock. That is due to open on time in September 2010 and it will provide a great boost
to business and conference tourism in future years. I do not know whether a €10 charge will
make a major difference to people attending conferences at the centre. While the global econ-
omic conditions remain challenging, the level of bookings and inquiries about the centre are
very encouraging. It has recently announced that it has confirmed 29 international events, with
over 236,000 delegate days secured. That is a major boost to any economy. I do not think those
delegates would not come here because of the tax.
   In 2009, some 6.927 million overseas visitors came to the Republic of Ireland. It was a
decrease on previous years, but there were record increases for the previous five or six years
and we could not sustain that anyway. We must ensure that we can provide the services for
the millions of people who visit this country, and that there is a standard of service that com-
petes with the rest of the world. We have put major resources into maintaining that standard.
We put major resources into training and education for our young people in management and
accounting services. Some 3.25 million of those people came from Great Britain, while 2.38
million came from mainland Europe. Meanwhile, 0.98 million came from North America and
0.31 million came from other areas. We know where our market is and that was taken into
account with the introduction of this tax, where there was a €2 charge, as opposed to a €10
charge, for our main market in Britain. The introduction of that tax will not deter those people
from coming to Ireland. There is a huge opportunity for us to continue to sell Ireland as a
destination and we have managed to do so. The air travel tax will raise €125 million in a full
year. The question is whether the tax has an influence on people travelling here. That aspect
should be examined.
   If the opportunity arises and things improve, we could look at reversing the tax. In the
current economic climate, however, all sectors of society must contribute. The incoming Mini-
ster for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Deputy Mary Hanafin, has a long association with travel
matters. She will bring a new vision to the Department and I am sure that in future every
effort will be made to ensure that Ireland competes internationally on a favourable basis with
other destinations.

                                               432
                Tourism Industry:        24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


  Deputy Niall Collins: I am glad of the opportunity to participate in this discussion, which is
relevant and topical given the current economic climate. The effect of the air travel tax has
been overstated by the Opposition parties. We all have a view on it and are all lobbied by
particular interest groups, but nobody has contacted me to make a complaint about the tax, or
said it was a barrier to travel to or from Ireland.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The airlines pay it, not the passengers. Have the airlines ever con-
tacted the Deputy?

  Deputy Niall Collins: I have never received a single representation from anybody to say that
this is a barrier to movement in or out of the country.

  Deputy Tom Hayes: They go to Deputy John Cregan.

   Deputy Niall Collins: From that viewpoint it is very much overstated. Are our airports sup-
posed to run on fresh air? Have Opposition Members taken a critical look at the financial
situation of our airports?

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The airports are not getting the tax.

  Deputy Niall Collins: Have they spoken to the DAA, Shannon Airport or Cork Airport
authorities?

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The airports did not get any money.

   Deputy Niall Collins: That is fine, but the revenue is coming in to the central Exchequer so
it is important from that point of view. We must raise revenue. We recently had a debate about
hangar 6 when both Labour and Fine Gael adopted positions on it. I did not hear Opposition
Members then calling on either Aer Lingus or Ryanair to reduced their charges or fees for
passengers. Let us have some equity in this debate. I note that the motion refers to “the
significant burden of local authority rates”.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: We hear it coming.

  Deputy Niall Collins: It is fair to ask, however, if the Opposition parties have asked their
own councillors — who are in charge of most local authorities around the country — to reduce
local authority charges.

  Deputy Ulick Burke: That is the new spin.

  Deputy Niall Collins: They are in control of the majority of local authorities, yet they have
not done anything to address commercial rates, waste water charges and water charges.

 Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The Deputy should speak to the Minister for the Environment,
Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley.

   Deputy Niall Collins: They want the power but they do not want the responsibility. I have
listened to organisations, such as ISME and the Irish Hotels’ Federation, which cite local auth-
ority rates as being a huge burden.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The Deputy does not listen to vested interests.

  Deputy Niall Collins: I point them back in the direction of the Opposition parties which
control the local authorities. We must discuss the joint labour committees, and the social part-

                                              433
                 Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Niall Collins.]
nership structures need to be fundamentally changed. It is not good enough to have ISME and
the Irish Hotels’ Federation outside the door, while IBEC has a veto because it is inside and
involved in the parallel process. Small and medium enterprises are employing many people,
yet it is significant that they are not included in the face-to-face discussions. I would like to see
them there.
  Zombie hotels were referred to, but we also have zombie golf courses and leisure centres,
which have sprung up in recent years. The market will regulate whether they remain in business.
The motion also refers to “the Government-generated shortage in the supply of cars for the
rental market”. I did not know that the Government was in the business of supplying cars for
the rental market.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: It is in the business of taxing them.

   Deputy Niall Collins: There we go again, but we have to raise taxes to run the country. That
is the reality because the country does not run on fresh air.

  Deputy Joe Carey: The Deputy would love it if it did.

  Deputy Niall Collins: I congratulate Deputy Mary Hanafin on her appointment to the
important brief of tourism, culture and sport. There is a big tourism market and great potential
to be tapped into. I know that she will apply her skills to that. Based on her track record in
the education and social welfare portfolios, we can look forward to that potential being realised.
  Many people are experiencing difficulties in obtaining passports at the moment. In addition,
the travel plans of many Irish people abroad are being inhibited because of the current diffi-
culties. We need a speedy resolution to the problem, so I call on the trade union leadership to
come back in line and give this service to the people. Public service is about providing services
to people, not the other way around. In this day and age, it is not acceptable to deny people
their constitutional right to avail of a passport.
   The Irish holiday experience has been promoted far and wide. We provide a high quality
holiday experience. In my own constituency in County Limerick we have some excellent hotels,
bed and breakfast establishmentss and guest houses which provide a high quality product to
visitors. We must take every opportunity to promote them.

 Deputy John O’Mahony: I wish to share my time with Deputies Burke, Joe Carey, Creighton,
Tom Hayes, Reilly and D’Arcy.

  Acting Chairman: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Deputy John O’Mahony: I am glad to contribute to this important debate and I commend
my colleague, Deputy Olivia Mitchell, for bringing forward the motion at this time. I also wish
to congratulate Deputy Mary Hanafin on her new appointment as Minister for Tourism, Cul-
ture and Sport. She has shown herself to be an independent thinker in the past and I hope she
will address herself to the issues we are debating tonight. It would be a great start for her to
do so. I offer her my congratulations.
   The introduction of tax measures, pay cuts and income levies over the last 18 months means
that nearly half a million people are out of work. Despite protestations from the Government
that the worst is over and that we have turned the comer, the evidence on the ground is the
opposite. Continued calls and appeals for a stimulus package to go alongside the cutbacks have
fallen on deaf ears. We are told that the only show in town is to save the banks, sort out the

                                                 434
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


financial mess and jobs will follow. Not only is there no stimulus package but one service
industry, namely tourism, that could provide at least a partial solution is further penalised with
the travel tax. It would be great to have a stimulus package but instead of solutions we got
further problems. Instead of hope we have more despair and instead of increasing the number
of tourists arriving on our shores, we have had the opposite. Almost 1 million fewer tourists
came here last year, which is back to 2005 levels.
  Nobody is suggesting that the travel tax is responsible for all of the fall-off but it is a major
contributory factor. The evidence is there that once airlines drop their prices, as Aer Lingus
and Ryanair have done, there is an immediate surge in passenger numbers. There would be a
similar bounce if the travel tax was removed. At this stage, it is not just the vested interests,
such as the airlines and tourism bodies, that are outlining the damaging effects of the departure
tax; independent analysts are now giving evidence of its effect. The example of other countries
that have scrapped their tourist taxes, such as Spain, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands,
should now be followed in this country.
   My own county of Mayo and the north west region, which has wonderful tourism potential,
is a case in point. Ireland West Airport Knock has, against all the odds, helped to stimulate
tourism in the past 25 years. Passenger numbers at the airport have increased year by year and
the last thing that is needed is another obstacle to its success. Whether they are visiting for the
scenery, activity holidays, fishing, walking or pilgrimages to Knock or Croagh Patrick, the
economic value of every passenger who comes through the airport and stays for even two or
three days means that tourism jobs in hotels, bed and breakfasts and adventure centres are
either created or protected. Why should we pick visitors’ pockets when they are departing our
country after spending their money among our people? Passengers departing from Ireland
West Airport paid €2.5 million in travel tax in 2009. Interestingly, until the introduction of the
travel tax at the end of 2008, the airport was the fastest growing airport in Ireland, with a 154%
increase in passenger numbers. Even in 2009, numbers were maintained at 2008 levels, while
other airports experienced a 20% drop.
   The €2.5 million from the travel tax, if it were removed, would allow the airport to develop
its great potential. Ireland West Airport Knock is by far the largest airport in the BMW region,
accounting for 83% of all overseas passengers flying directly into the region from 25 inter-
national destinations. Independent analysis by Goodbody Economic Consultants has estab-
lished that passengers going through the airport make a contribution of €62 million to the
economy in tourism spending, and tax and PRSI from the airport are worth €8.7 million. It
must be pointed out that on top of the imposition of the travel tax, Knock Airport must pay
100% of its air traffic control charges, which is not the case in State airports.
  What is needed is stimulus rather than extra taxes, encouragement rather than obstacles. I
commend the motion to the House.

   Deputy Ulick Burke: I thank Deputy O’Mahony for sharing his time and support the motion
tabled by our colleague Deputy Mitchell. I wish the Minister luck in her new portfolio, which
has been rebranded. I hope she, unlike her predecessors in that portfolio, will take a hands-on
approach to tourism. Tourism is in decline, not necessarily in the urban areas or the major
cities, but throughout the country in rural areas. There are many reasons for this — we could
lay blame all over the place — but there is no doubt the high costs endured by visitors have
turned away many people.
  There is one thing in particular the Minister must achieve. All agencies involved in tourism
— Fáilte Ireland, the OPW, the local authorities and so on — must be drawn together to
produce a co-ordinated package, which has been needed for a long time. Many people contribu-

                                                435
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Ulick Burke.]
ting to this debate have mentioned the OPW, which has done tremendous work in terms of
physical building, conservation and so on. However, last week on St. Patrick’s Day, the first
day of the tourism season in Ireland, what happened? The OPW closed the doors of museums,
castles and other facilities around the country. Tourists who had come from every part of the
world found that when the parades were over the doors were closed on most of the oppor-
tunities for us to show off our culture and heritage, which most of them had come to see. It is
important that in two weeks’ time, when another tranche of visitors arrives for Easter week,
the Minister insists that all these facilities be available to the public, particularly those who
have come from abroad to see them.
  I mentioned the need for a hands-on approach. I reminded the Minister’s predecessor of the
wonderful hub of tourist activity in Portumna, County Galway, that was centred on Emerald
Star Line, which provides boats on the Shannon and Lough Derg. The company decided to
take 60% of its operation from Portumna and bring it to France, which must have set alarm
bells ringing in tourism circles about what could happen in our country. I highlighted this to
the former Minister, who chose to ignore it and said it was a commercial decision of the
company to move elsewhere. Surely, hidden within that statement, there was an acknowledge-
ment that we were losing the battle and that he, as Minister with responsibility for tourism,
was doing nothing to turn it around.
   We must consider what a community can do for tourism when it gets involved. That is
why I am asking that the Minister activate the community. For example, Galway won, against
international competition, the chance to host once more the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race
once, through the initiative of a community-based organisation led by two fantastic entre-
preneurs who decided they could compete with the best, not only in Europe, but also in the
world, to bring the race back to Galway. This will bring 200,000 bed nights and €60 million to
a small city, and its effects will also reverberate around the county. That could be replicated in
many areas around the country to allow the industry to grow once more, if only there was an
initiative by the Government. To be fair, the Government did support Galway’s endeavour
through grant aid.

  Deputy Joe Carey: I too wish the Minister well in her new portfolio, which is an important
one.
   The economies of Ireland and the mid-west are suffering to a far greater extent than those
of other countries and regions in the global village in which we live. This is due in no small
part to the introduction of the travel tax, which came into operation as a result of the fundamen-
tally flawed and rushed budget of October 2008. That budget was presented in a panic by a
new Minister for Finance who had not yet found his feet and many of its measures have since
been rescinded. The short-sighted imposition of this tax has resulted in a nosedive in the
fortunes of Ireland’s tourism sector. Across my own constituency of Clare, businesses have
closed down and jobs have been lost in hotels, pubs, bed and breakfasts, shops and restaurants.
   Ryanair accounted for nearly 50% of passenger traffic through Shannon Airport in 2007 and
nearly 60% in 2008. The low-fares airline transformed Shannon Airport into a major European
hub, delivering 1.9 million passengers yearly. The travel tax and airport charges have been
cited by Ryanair as its reasons for withdrawing 75% of its business from Shannon. Deputy
Timmy Dooley, in his contribution to this debate yesterday, was virtually laughing at Ryanair’s
new proposal to deliver 1.2 million passengers if amended terms can be agreed with the airport
authority and the travel tax is abolished. Deputy Dooley’s position on this is outrageous. The
bottom line is that the region needs this vital traffic.
                                               436
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


   Time and again, Fianna Fáil has let down Shannon Airport. County Clare simply cannot
afford to give the two fingers to any carrier, especially one that has a proven track record of
delivering large numbers of passengers. This week the DAA tried to stop the haemorrhaging
of passengers from Shannon Airport by advancing a proposal to abolish charges for airlines by
charging passengers directly. It is incredible that one Government agency is trying to find ways
to save money for airlines while the Department of Finance is refusing to remove a needless tax.
   Groups advising the Government, such as the Commission on Taxation and the tourism
renewal group, have condemned the tax and Fáilte Ireland, IBEC and the National Competi-
tiveness Council want it abolished. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, Aer Lingus CEO Christophe
Mueller and CityJet CEO Geoffrey White are all in agreement that this tax must go. Countries
like the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Greece have either reduced airport taxes or abol-
ished travel taxes. Why can we not do the same in this country?
   Yesterday we saw the appointment of Deputy Tony Killeen to the Cabinet and I congratulate
him and wish him well. He should use his new powers to advance the interests of the county
he was elected to represent. This tax has, in effect, driven the vast majority of Ryanair business
from Shannon Airport. That in turn has led to a loss in business, connectivity to Shannon and
jobs, which has resulted in a spiral of economic decline. This decline could be halted if those
elected in the mid-west region from Clare, Limerick and north Tipperary stand for their region
tonight and vote for this Fine Gael motion to abolish this disastrous tax.

   An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Lucinda Creighton has four minutes and we are on a very
tight schedule.

  Deputy Lucinda Creighton: That is perfectly acceptable. I congratulate the Minister, Deputy
Hanafin, on her new portfolio and wish her the best of luck with it. We are in challenging times
in every sector of the economy and there is much potential to grow in the tourism area. The
Minister will bring her skills to bear on that Department and I hope she will take on board
some of the points made by us on the Opposition benches tonight. I thank Deputy Olivia
Mitchell for bringing forward this very sensible motion.
  My colleagues have spoken about the well-documented and substantial decline in revenues
generated by the tourism industry in Ireland over the past 18 months or so. It is unfortunate
and very damaging to the overall economic position in the country. We know that all aspects
of the tourism industry, through the arts and cultural, heritage or hospitality elements, as well
as ancillary activities and businesses, are under significant pressure. It is essential for us to
acknowledge this and respond to it.
  Air travel is a very important element of the issue. When it comes to innovating in air travel,
Ireland has become a world leader, due in no small part to the significant success of Ryanair
and the drive and innovation of Michael O’Leary. He often gets much flak and undue criticism
but I hold him up as an inspiration and somebody we could learn much from in terms of
how we run our economy. He has done immense and often unrecognised things with Ryanair,
innovating not just in the airline sector in this country but setting an example of an economic
model that has been followed in all corners of the world by other airlines.
  It amazes me that when we have such a successful company in this country, the Government
appears to be prepared to scapegoat the airline industry. It is important to point out that the
various companies involved in air travel do not have their hands out for subsidies and are not
looking to be propped up in any shape or form. They are seeking fair and fertile conditions in
which to grow, which is not too much to ask for.
                                               437
                Tourism Industry:        24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Lucinda Creighton.]

   The departure tax penalises an industry that is innovative and which is a world leader; I
cannot understand the logic. We need to encourage more growth in the industry and as an
island State we particularly need to encourage air travel to and from this country. The depar-
ture tax does precisely the opposite so I urge the Minister to consider reversing it.
   I will go on a slight tangent before concluding. The Government must adopt measures to
support tourism. The services industry has been completely let down by this Government and
the one element our party called for as a priority in our pre-budget submission was a reduction
in the lower rate of VAT to 10.5%. This would make an enormous difference to restaurants,
hotels and other labour-intensive industries. I hope the Minister will think about it because it
is essential for employment in this country.

   Deputy Tom Hayes: I commend Deputy Olivia Mitchell on putting this motion before the
House. It is topical and timely as we now have a new Minister responsible for tourism. I
congratulate the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, and as her family was involved in the hotel business
many years ago, I know she has a great interest in and feel for tourism. The first step she
should take is to follow in the argument of her predecessor and former Minister, Martin Cullen,
for the removal of the travel tax. It would be a great start for the Minister, not just because
it would be of significant benefit but because of the direction in which it would send the
tourism industry.
  There is much potential in the tourism industry, with some 500,000 people in this country
unemployed. The Government and all agencies are considering every way to get those people
back to work and in my considered opinion, there are two areas where there has traditionally
been significant employment in the past but which we have not looked after in the Celtic tiger
years. They are agriculture and tourism.
   Tonight is about tourism and the significant potential for job creation in that area. Many
issues have been discussed tonight which are impediments to a tourism revival in this country.
For example, we spoke about the lack of rental cars, which was created by the mismanagement
of this Government. It put in place a scrappage scheme which had an effect on the supply of
cars so the Government and its Cabinet must deal with the problem. It is one example that
must be tackled.
  We need to bring people into the country and make Ireland competitive again. Hotels are
dropping rates and across the country deals are being made. The Government should be about
leadership and it should cut the travel tax. It would not have a significant impact on the econ-
omy but it would send the message that the Irish Government is serious about bringing people
into this country.
  There is much investment hanging on a thread. How many golf courses, hotels and other
private businesses are under severe pressure and living from day to day? If we could get more
people into the country, it would help such businesses overcome their difficulties. There would
be more people employed and there would be a buoyancy in the economy. It is one of the real
ways in which Ireland can restore itself.
  I beg the Minister to follow Martin Cullen’s wish and go back to the Cabinet to try to change
the travel tax measure. It is very important for the future of our country.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to this motion and I
compliment our spokesperson, Deputy Olivia Mitchell, on bringing it before the Dáil. As the
previous speaker, Deputy Tom Hayes, has noted, tourism is a very important product in this
                                              438
                 Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)


country. I come from Westport which is one of the most beautiful towns in the country and it
is very much dependent on tourism.
   The tourism sector is extremely important in the context of job creation. Many people in
Westport depend on tourism. In that context, we should be considering ways to attract more
visitors to the country. By helping the economy to return to a position of growth, tourism is
one of the industries that will assist us in emerging from the recession. However, those in the
industry are going to require support. We will be obliged to consider ways in which we might
attract increasing numbers of visitors.
   The travel tax is outrageous. It is imposed on people leaving and entering the country. This
tax is not necessary and more money is being lost than is being gained as a result of its impos-
ition. Mr. O’Leary of Ryanair stated that he could encourage many more people to visit the
country if the tax was not in place. In light of the small amount of money it brings in to the
Exchequer, it is time the travel tax was abolished.
   Some hotels open on a year-round basis. There are 11 hotels in Westport. These hotels
cannot obtain the same price for their product in December as they can in August. As a result,
they are obliged to reduce their prices. That is why the Government must re-examine the
              position with regard to the travel tax. It must also consider other ways in which
8 o’clock     the industry might be encouraged, assisted and supported. Those in the hotel
              industry want action to be taken with regard to the stealth taxes that apply in
respect of their sector. The rates relating to hotels that open on a year-round basis will have
to be reduced in the same way they are for hotels which close for three or four months of
the year.
   Tourism is an extremely important industry. I hope the Minister will lobby other members
of the Cabinet, particularly the Minister for Finance, in respect of it. I wish her well in her new
position. Despite what people state, hers is an important portfolio. Tourism is a vital industry
which can create even further jobs. All those in it are seeking is some support and assistance
from the Government in order that the jobs which already exist might be protected.

  Deputy James Reilly: I congratulate the Minister on her new portfolio, which, as previous
speakers indicated, is extremely important and which has a great deal of potential. I hope she
will exploit that potential to the fullest possible extent in order to assist those in the tourism
industry.
   I thank Deputy Mitchell for moving this motion, particularly as tourism is a key issue at
present. Those in the industry estimate that the travel tax is responsible for €480 million of the
€1.2 billion decrease in tourism incomes. The tax brings in €91 million to the Exchequer. If
one takes it that 20% would be the taxable income from €480 million, then that is almost €100
million. In view of the fact that 3,000 jobs have been lost at a cost of €21,000 each per annum,
the figure rises to €163 million. This means that the net loss already stands at €70 million. The
tax is, therefore, costing the Exchequer at least that amount. This is before one considers the
effect it has on small local bed and breakfast establishments and hotels and the grocery shops
and other businesses which supply them with goods and services.
   The area of Fingal in which I reside and which I represent has great tourism potential,
particularly as much of it is located next to the Irish Sea. In that context, the travel tax is having
an extremely negative effect on families in Swords, Malahide, Balbriggan, Rush, Lusk and
Skerries which are dependent on this industry. We ought to listen to those — including the
tourism renewal group, Fáilte Ireland, the Commission on Taxation, the National Competi-
tiveness Council, IBEC, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, Ryanair, Cityjet, Aer Lingus
and the Irish Hotels Federation — who have requested that the tax be abolished. The tax does

                                                 439
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy James Reilly.]
no favours to the Dublin Airport Authority, the companies which serve the airport or anyone
who is employed there.
  Jobs are being put at risk as a result of this tax. The only thing which compares to this crazy
and hare-brained measure is the increase in VAT which the Minister for Finance introduced
and then admitted was costing the country hundreds of millions of euro. However, he also failed
to take action in respect of that matter. The writing is on the wall. This tax must be removed.
   A body that could deal with the excess bed capacity that exists in hotels must surely be
established under the aegis of the Minister’s Department. This body could put in place an
initiative to encourage the Irish Hotels Federation, the airlines and Fáilte Ireland to take action
— including by means of offering cheap flights — in order to attract more visitors to this
country and fill some of that capacity.
  Deputy Mitchell stated that, in Government, Fine Gael would abolish this tax. We hope that
in response to such a move, Ryanair and Aer Lingus would restore the routes they cut as a
consequence of the introduction of the tax.

  Deputy Michael D’Arcy: I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, on her new portfolio.
I consider her to be a capable member of a rather incapable Government.
   One of the difficulties the Government faces is that no member of the Cabinet has ever been
in business. Government Ministers know nothing about paying rates or the JLC wage structure.
They do not understand the difficulties faced by businesses. I am sure it is a nice accounting
trick to impose a €10 tax on everyone who flies into the country in order to raise tens of
millions. There is no doubt that this is a handy way to bring in money but, as previous speakers
stated, it is costing us more in the long term.
   There has been some discussion with regard to the destinations to which people can fly in
this country. Areas with airports are lucky because they get the first bite at the cherry in the
context of attracting tourism revenues. However, difficulties arise for areas which do not con-
tain accessible airports because the statistics show that fewer people are prepared to travel on
to the regions from the point at which they enter the country. I refer to the county in which I
live, Wexford, in this regard.
   The Ceann Comhairle has family in Blackwater in County Wexford. He will be familiar with
Courtown, to which tax designation was granted in the early 1990s. As a result of the tax breaks
available from the State, thousands of houses were built in Courtown. However, we cannot
encourage people to stay in these houses when they come here, particularly if the Government
is intent on imposing a tax on those who travel to this country by aeroplane. The starting point
with regard to dealing with this matter is the abolition of the travel tax, which is a stupid
measure. In addition, the Government must offer some form of incentive for tourists to visit
areas where tax breaks were offered to people to build houses. There are thousands of houses
in some areas that were given tax designation but there are no tourism attractions in these
places. The Government must take action to reverse the position and put in place such
attractions.
   On the subject of zombie hotels, I spoke to one individual who is a hotelier — he is not a
developer — and whose business it is to provide people with a place to stay. There has been a
great deal of discussion with regard to the provision of services in this State, particularly to
those who come here to spend money while on holiday. The man to whom I refer is in compe-
tition with hotels that are operated by State-guaranteed banks. He is, therefore, in competition
with the taxpayer in the context of trying to provide people with a place to stay. In such
circumstances, there is no way he can win.

                                                440
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


  When the banks get their money from NAMA and do whatever it is they intend to do with
the hotels they own, the man to whom I refer and others like him will still be trading. These
are the people the Minister will be meeting during the next two years or so. It is they who she
will need to assist her in driving the industry forward. It would be reckless of her if she failed
to ensure that those to whom I refer will not be subjected to unfair competition.

  Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Deputy Mary Hanafin): I had understood that the
Minister for Finance was due to make the final Government contribution to this debate.
However, I am delighted to take the opportunity to contribute. Perhaps I might share the time
available with the Minister for Finance who I am sure will arrive shortly.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That is agreed.

   Deputy Mary Hanafin: I thank the Deputies opposite for offering me their good wishes on
my appointment. I am glad that Private Members’ time has been given over to a debate on a
subject as important as tourism. This debate belies comment in the media to the effect that
tourism, culture and sport are not important to this country’s people or its economy. Tourism
is important as regards its potential to give rise to employment and investment and must be
viewed in the context of the domestic and international markets. There is a resolve among
people throughout all of the sectors to market the best of what is Ireland. Certainly, over the
coming years I aim to prove that, as one of our indigenous industries, tourism, which already
employs 200,000 people, is one area which we can expand and which will promote Ireland. I
look forward to doing that and to working with the Opposition spokespersons on something
which is genuinely in the best interests of the Irish people.

  Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): I am pleased to take this opportunity to
address the House on the subject of the air travel tax and the wide range of issues raised in
the motion. I understand that last night my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Seán
Haughey, did not have the opportunity to address some of the issues raised in the motion and
I hope to address these outstanding points.
  Deputies are aware of the general economic position and the responsibility of the Govern-
ment to bridge the gap between expenditure and income. The air travel tax is but one of the
measures adopted for this purpose and so far it has raised €99 million and will raise €125
million in a full year. Any party coming into the House arguing for the abolition of a tax has
a responsibility to specify an alternative way of raising that revenue. Is Fine Gael suggesting
we raise it by increasing income tax, VAT or excise duty? It has been recognised by all com-
mentators that our revenue base has been very weak in recent years. There is an onus on
anyone advocating its further depletion to identify where that revenue base can be shored up.
Our options are limited and given the significant drop in the tax take, we have to find ways to
raise moneys which we need to pay in part for vital public services. It is not an option for
Government to succumb to every eye-catching interest group that walks past these buildings.
That may be a luxury in which Opposition Deputies can indulge from time to time — not
always, I accept — but we cannot.
   In shoring up the gap between what we as a State take in and what we spend, the Govern-
ment has to take an overall view that ensures the burden is spread fairly across all sectors. I
would be the first to acknowledge that low cost travel has been good for Ireland. The pioneers
in this area deserve to be commended. Mr. O’Leary has spoken very eloquently on the subject
of this tax and I have listened very carefully to what he has had to say about it. However, it is
simply not credible to argue that the new tax is to blame for the fall in passenger numbers.
  We need to bring a sense of balance to this aspect of the debate.

                                               441
                Tourism Industry:         24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


  Deputy Paul Connaughton: It would hardly increase them.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: In the past few years, we saw exceptional growth in air travel both
to and from Ireland. Irish residents in many cases made several trips abroad in a calendar year.
The downturn in the economy and increased economic uncertainty has seen a change in behav-
iour in this regard. Consumers are not taking as many foreign trips as they did at the height of
the boom. All Members of the House know that and it is a pretence to state it is caused by the
air travel tax. That is the reason for the fall in passenger numbers. To suggest that people are
not travelling because of a tax of €10 is tendentious. An air trip abroad generally involves
expenditure of several hundred euro. Singling out the €10 tax charge as the major disincentive
for the intending traveller is stretching credibility. How can it be argued that the tax is more
of a disincentive, for example, than the non-discretionary on-line check-in fee of €5 per flight
or €10 per return flight? That is to single out just one of the myriad charges imposed by
the airlines.
   The introduction of a modest air travel tax is an important revenue raising measure in the
context of the financial challenges we now face. The Government regards this tax as a fair tax
in the current circumstances and I have no immediate plans to abolish it. It will raise approxi-
mately €125 million in a full year in circumstances where those additional revenues are required
to fund badly needed services.
  Every sector can argue against taxation. Last night, my colleagues on this side of the House
referred to the fact that having a debate on tourism which focuses on the €10 tax really misses
the point. Ultimately, airlines respond to consumer demand. They will fly where people want
to go. Everyone in the tourism sector, supported by Government, must ensure that our tourism
experience is of a top standard and that the industry is flexible to meet the changing demands
of holidaymakers. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, last night outlined
the significant Government investment in tourism. My colleague, the Minister for Tourism,
Culture and Sport, Deputy Mary Hanafin, will make the extension of numbers and of the
tourism industry a key priority in her Department in the years ahead. The sector faces chal-
lenges but we are committed to supporting this valuable industry with the resources available
to us.
   Deputy Upton made the point that we need to focus on emerging markets, particularly Asia,
for growth in tourism numbers. However, she noted that the visa application process in some
Asian countries can be slow and therefore hampers any such growth. That issue falls within
the remit of the Department of Justice and Law Reform and I understand that it has stated it
is open at all times to suggestions on how the visa service rules and requirements can be
improved to meet the needs of all sectors affected by visa issues, including the tourism sector.

   Deputy Joe McHugh: I thank my colleague, Deputy Olivia Mitchell, for tabling the motion.
It is timely in terms of the Cabinet reshuffle and I congratulate the Minister. I listened to her
on the radio this morning and she was right to talk up the Department. The tourism product
is something on which we can hang our hat in moving the economy forward.
  The Minister should seriously examine the cultural landscape of rail tourism and the land-
scape possibilities and permutations we have for it. I have been beating the drum on this for a
while. The Minister should sit down with the new Minister of State with responsibility for
sustainable transportation, Deputy Ciarán Cuffe, because he has already planned to try to push
the western rail corridor. In fairness to the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, he
has been an advocate of rail along the western corridor and there is a drive towards putting
rail tourism on the map in the west. The Minister should follow the commitment we bought
into constitutionally in the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement and look at the

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                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.           Motion (Resumed)


possibility of interlinkages in the transport sector. The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly
has backed a motion for rail connectivity on an all-island basis. That has passed at British,
Irish and Northern Irish level and what it needs now is proactivity at governmental level in
this country.
   A Chinese citizen who decides to visit Belfast must obtain a holiday visa and that is fair
enough. However, if that Chinese tourist decides to take a trip from there to Donegal or
Dublin, he or she must obtain a second visa. The all-island agenda provides an opportunity to
consider a single visa and a single point of entry for foreign tourists. The former Minister was
not aware of this anomaly when I raised it previously. The Minister should seriously consider
it because it creates bureaucracy and inaccessibility for people from outside the European
Union who want to visit this country.
  I am willing to work with the Minister as an Opposition spokesperson with a keen interest
in tourism from a county, Donegal, that has always been furthest from the minds of those in
the tourism industry. We have opportunities. Last year, 400,000 tourists visited the Giant’s
Causeway in Antrim. It is not our job to try to displace the tourist attraction at the Giant’s
Causeway; we would not succeed. However, we have an opportunity to help those tourists
continue their journey. Why not consider a joined-up single all-island marketing strategy that
will enable 400,000 people not necessarily to cross the Border into Donegal, but to continue
their journey? The Minister has the skills for this joined up thinking. She has proved herself at
other Departments and I look to her to show some initiative in the three areas I raised.

   Deputy Paul Connaughton: I thank my colleague, Deputy Mitchell, for bringing this issue to
the fore. I wish the Minister well in her new portfolio. I am somewhat disappointed with the
Minister for Finance tonight. I assume that he has to back the budget measures but with regard
to the rationale behind what he stated, I fully appreciate the €10 travel tax is not the reason
the entire thing has fallen to 2004 levels. Nobody is suggesting that. Our essential point is that
from a tourism perspective, right across the world all indications are that people like to come
to Ireland because we are a friendly nation, which hopefully will continue. This always is the
top reason in all surveys and is of great importance. Anything that takes away from this is bad
for Ireland. It should be noted that governments and nations throughout the world are doing
their level best to do what we also are trying to do here, which is to get more people to visit
their respective tourist spots. In the last budget, the Government added another trap that would
make it a little more difficult for those who sell our product globally to come to Ireland. That
is all that happened. In bad or difficult times, such loading, even if it only amounts to €1, sends
out the wrong signal. Hopefully, we will return to a position whereby far more people will visit
Ireland than there are natives living here. Both Fine Gael and the new Minister wants to see
the country teeming with visitors. I would like to spend half an hour discussing the point that
regardless of how one attracts such visitors in, the subsequent distribution constitutes another
major story on which Members do not have the time to dwell this evening. However, the travel
tax simply sends out the wrong signal at the wrong time, which is the reason so many people
were sickened by what happened.
   I refer to an issue on which Deputy Mitchell has argued strongly. It is to be hoped that this
tax will be removed shortly and I expect that on foot of its abolition, when and if that happens,
the strategic routes axed by both Aer Lingus and Ryanair will be restored because they are
vital to the tourism industry. I will conclude by asking the Ministers of Tourism, Culture and
Sport and Finance to take seriously the issue of zombie hotels. As far as I can ascertain, the
banks and their supporters are putting family-run hotels out of business. Should this happen,
it would be nothing short of a disaster. While I do not know how this might be achieved, I ask
                                                443
                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)

  [Deputy Paul Connaughton.]
the Ministers opposite not to allow the banks to add insult to injury by keeping the aforemen-
tioned hotels open for their own purposes.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: I also wish the new Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport good
luck in her new Department. I was pleased to hear her recognise the importance to the econ-
omy of tourism and that this is what she intends to promote because that will be absolutely
necessary. Last night, my colleagues and I spoke at great length about the various obstacles
lying in the path of this industry with specific reference from a political perspective to those
which are imposed by the Government. Members also discussed the so-called zombie hotels,
namely, the tax incentivised hotels and their destructive impact on existing hotels and bed and
breakfast establishments nationwide. Insolvent hotels are being subvented by banks which the
public in turn are subventing and the Government must have a role in ensuring that such
insolvent hotels are allowed to fail because otherwise, good businesses will fail. This is the way
the market works. It is painful but it must happen and the sooner it happens the better for
everyone as there then can be a return to normal trading conditions and competition practices.
  Members also discussed the availability of cars for hire, which also was discussed on Commit-
tee Stage of the Finance Bill. While the Minister for Finance stated it would have cost €7
million to include the car hire industry in the scrappage scheme, the cost to the country of not
including it is €260 million. A triple whammy is befalling this particular industry that will have
a huge impact nationwide. Moreover, this will not be limited to the car hire industry but also
will affect hotels and the bed and breakfast sector in particular, which is 80% dependent on
people who hire cars. While the impact will be nationwide, it will affect the regions in particular.
Moreover, this issue will cause both problems this year and reputational damage subsequently
because turning people away for the lack of cars to give them sends out the signal that Ireland
simply is not geared up for the tourism industry. In addition, those cars that are available are
outrageously priced when compared with all our competitors. Consequently, something must
be done in this regard and the Minister will ignore this problem at her peril, regardless of what
the Minister for Finance sitting beside her might tell her.
   My colleagues also discussed the cost and complexity of getting a visa to visit Ireland. While
the cost involved is one aspect of this issue, the complexity and nature of the questions and
conditions required of people who try to apply for a visa are such that they would make one
lose the will to live, much less to travel to a country that would dream up such conditions to
impose on its visitors. Members also spoke about the Office of Public Works, OPW, and its
failure to perceive itself as being part of the national economic recovery drive or in having a
role in welcoming and facilitating visitors. Perhaps this is more of a failure on the part of the
Department of Finance, which is the OPW’s parent Department. It is ironic that although
Tourism Ireland managed to persuade historic sites in other countries, including locations in
Sydney, Australia, Great Britain and the Statue of Liberty in the United States to celebrate St.
Patrick’s Day by encouraging visitors to come here, for our own part we do not make our
historic sites as welcoming as we ask those in other countries to be. The problem pertains to
attitude and I believe a case exists to make those sites much more commercially orientated by
giving them out to the private sector. While I accept the Office of Public Works does a great
job in preservation, conservation and upkeep, I believe such sites should be given out to tender.
I believe this would lead to an operation that would be more commercial and which would see
itself as having a role in attracting visitors.
  Members also spoke about costs in the industry. While I do not have time to discuss them
in detail, they spoke primarily about the subject of this motion, the travel tax, because no
matter how right we get everything else, it all will be for nothing if people cannot get here

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                Tourism Industry:          24 March 2010.            Motion (Resumed)


easily and cheaply. The Minister for Finance should note that I was aghast at the complete lack
of comprehension displayed by speakers last night and this evening about how this tax affects
tourism. As a direct result of Government action regarding this tax, aeroplanes now fly into
Ireland from at least 24 fewer locations than was the case 18 months ago. Such destinations
simply no longer are on the radar for Irish tourism. They no longer are interested in Ireland
and consequently, there is no point in going there to engage in marketing. For example, when
it was about to launch its marketing programme in Germany this year, Tourism Ireland dis-
covered that eight of its target cities had lost their direct flights to Ireland. I was even more
amazed at the lack of insight that informed the Government’s counter motion, which “considers
that the impact of the air travel tax on tourism has been considerably overstated in the context
of overall purchasing decisions by visitors”. However, this has nothing to do with the purchasing
decisions of visitors. An Italian or German who tries to book to come here is not even aware
of the travel tax. The travel tax is not paid by visitors and the entire point is that it is paid by
airlines that have decided to take their aeroplanes elsewhere to do their business. That is the
impact of travel tax. I note that Deputy Kennedy tried to point out to me that €10 would not
make any difference and the Minister also made the same point. Deputy Kennedy represents
Dublin North, which is where Dublin Airport is located, and I note that Aer Lingus will point
out just how price-sensitive are air tickets. Were this simply a tax on visitors, it would make a
difference but the point is that it is not a tax on visitors but is paid by the airlines.
   Various speakers also mentioned that this travel tax applies in other countries. However, we
are the only island that imposes this tax. Moreover, I might add that Ireland is the only country
to impose this tax in the middle of a recession just as tourism figures were collapsing. We must
do better more cheaply and to have better air connections than anyone else if, as an island
country, we have aspirations also to be a tourism destination. It might have been true 18 months
ago — I read the same Department of Finance speech on the International Air Transport
Association, IATA, several months ago — but it is wrong now. Aviation services in almost
every European country are increasing this year, the overall figure being almost 5%. In some
countries, the figure is much higher. In Ireland, the figure has fallen by 13%. It is small conso-
lation — we are looking for consolation now — that we are only slightly worse than Ukraine,
which says it all. Ryanair and Aer Lingus carried more passengers last year than they did
previously. They are growing passenger numbers. This is not an international phenomenon.
Rather, it is unique to Ireland. We are losing passengers while others are not, so it must be
something we are doing.
   Given the types of advice and understanding offered yesterday and tonight regarding aviation
and tourism, we are a country in big trouble. It is depressing to hear a word-for-word replica
of a speech we heard months ago. If the Minister doubts what I say or what the airlines are
telling us, he should listen to his advisers, namely, the tourism renewal group, the Commission
on Taxation, IBEC, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, Fáilte Ireland and even the
National Competitiveness Council, which have all stated that this tax is damaging Ireland. Will
the Minister please listen to his advisers and get rid of this tax?

  Amendment put.




                                                445
           Tourism Industry:             24 March 2010.             Motion (Resumed)


                               The Dáil divided: Tá, 77; Níl, 66.
                                              Tá

Ahern, Bertie.                                            Kelleher, Billy.
Ahern, Dermot.                                            Kelly, Peter.
Ahern, Michael.                                           Kenneally, Brendan.
Ahern, Noel.                                              Kennedy, Michael.
Andrews, Barry.                                           Killeen, Tony.
Andrews, Chris.                                           Kitt, Michael P.
Aylward, Bobby.                                           Kitt, Tom.
Behan, Joe.                                               Lenihan, Brian.
Blaney, Niall.                                            Lenihan, Conor.
Brady, Áine.                                              Lowry, Michael.
Brady, Cyprian.                                           McDaid, James.
Brady, Johnny.                                            McEllistrim, Thomas.
Browne, John.                                             McGrath, Mattie.
Byrne, Thomas.                                            McGrath, Michael.
Calleary, Dara.                                           McGuinness, John.
Carey, Pat.                                               Moynihan, Michael.
Collins, Niall.                                           Mulcahy, Michael.
Conlon, Margaret.                                         Nolan, M. J.
Connick, Seán.                                            Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Coughlan, Mary.                                           Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Cregan, John.                                             O’Brien, Darragh.
Cuffe, Ciarán.                                            O’Dea, Willie.
Curran, John.                                             O’Donoghue, John.
Dempsey, Noel.                                            O’Flynn, Noel.
Devins, Jimmy.                                            O’Keeffe, Batt.
Dooley, Timmy.                                            O’Keeffe, Edward.
Fahey, Frank.                                             O’Rourke, Mary.
Finneran, Michael.                                        O’Sullivan, Christy.
Fitzpatrick, Michael.                                     O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Fleming, Seán.                                            Power, Seán.
Flynn, Beverley.                                          Roche, Dick.
Gogarty, Paul.                                            Sargent, Trevor.
Gormley, John.                                            Scanlon, Eamon.
Grealish, Noel.                                           Smith, Brendan.
Hanafin, Mary.                                            Treacy, Noel.
Harney, Mary.                                             Wallace, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.                                            White, Mary Alexandra.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.                                        Woods, Michael.
Hoctor, Máire.

                                              Níl

Allen, Bernard.                                           Flanagan, Charles.
Barrett, Seán.                                            Flanagan, Terence.
Broughan, Thomas P.                                       Gilmore, Eamon.
Burke, Ulick.                                             Hayes, Brian.
Burton, Joan.                                             Hayes, Tom.
Carey, Joe.                                               Hogan, Phil.
Clune, Deirdre.                                           Kehoe, Paul.
Connaughton, Paul.                                        Kenny, Enda.
Costello, Joe.                                            Lynch, Ciarán.
Coveney, Simon.                                           Lynch, Kathleen.
Creed, Michael.                                           McCormack, Pádraic.
Creighton, Lucinda.                                       McEntee, Shane.
D’Arcy, Michael.                                          McGinley, Dinny.
Deasy, John.                                              McGrath, Finian.
Deenihan, Jimmy.                                          McHugh, Joe.
Doyle, Andrew.                                            McManus, Liz.
Durkan, Bernard J.                                        Mitchell, Olivia.
English, Damien.                                          Naughten, Denis.
Enright, Olwyn.                                           Neville, Dan.
Feighan, Frank.                                           Noonan, Michael.
Ferris, Martin.                                           Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
                                              446
                    Hospital              24 March 2010.                       Services


                                          Níl—continued

      Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.                                  Shatter, Alan.
      O’Donnell, Kieran.                                   Sheahan, Tom.
      O’Dowd, Fergus.                                      Sheehan, P. J.
      O’Mahony, John.                                      Sherlock, Seán.
                                                           Shortall, Róisín.
      O’Shea, Brian.
                                                           Stagg, Emmet.
      O’Sullivan, Jan.                                     Stanton, David.
      Penrose, Willie.                                     Timmins, Billy.
      Perry, John.                                         Tuffy, Joanna.
      Quinn, Ruairí.                                       Upton, Mary.
      Rabbitte, Pat.                                       Varadkar, Leo.
      Reilly, James.                                       Wall, Jack.
      Ring, Michael.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet
                                         Stagg.

  Amendment declared carried.

  Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.

                                     Adjournment Debate.

                                            ————

                                       Hospital Services.
   Deputy Paul Connaughton: I raise a matter of huge importance to east Galway, where there
is grave fear that Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe will be downgraded. This concern has
come to the fore because of a public demonstration to be held next Sunday in St. Michael’s
Square, Ballinasloe, which I expect will be attended by thousands of people.
  Portiuncula general hospital is important to five or six adjoining counties. The hospital serves
counties Galway, Roscommon, Offaly, Longford and Laois, as well as parts of County Clare
and several other areas. The people served by the hospital want a top-of-the-range surgical
hospital with modern accident and emergency facilities and the preservation and extension of
the hospital’s wonderful maternity unit, which is the jewel in the crown and where a record
number of babies were born in the past three years. The maternity unit is now regarded as one
of the most up-to-date maternity facilities. We also want support for the day care services,
cardiology department and all the facilities of a good general hospital. Not alone do we want
to hold services at the hospital. We want them improved. We hope that the configuration of
hospital services will include Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe at the level I mentioned.
   One of the reasons the unions, many staff members and the general population of the area
have become jittery in the past three or four weeks is that the attitude of the HSE seems to
be that a new general manager is about to be appointed who will have direct responsibility for
the University College Hospital Galway, Merlin Park University Hospital, Portiuncula
Hospital, Ballinasloe and Roscommon hospitals. It is felt rightly or wrongly that under those
circumstances Ballinasloe Hospital may be downgraded.
  A matter that seems to be cropping not only in Ballinasloe Hospital but in many other
hospitals concerns the lines of communications from the top to bottom, namely from the HSE
down to the various staffing levels. For some strange reason the HSE is not able to tell every-
body concerned the story as it applies to him or her. There is always a section in an institution
such as this that has not been well briefed about its future and people cannot be blamed for

                                               447
                    Hospital               24 March 2010.               Services

  [Deputy Paul Connaughton.]
thinking the worst if they have not been told exactly what is happening. I hope that this matter
will be addressed. With all means of communications available today, that should not be a
problem. I spent three or four hours with representatives of the HSE at a meeting of Joint
Committee on Health and Children yesterday dealing with the medical card fiasco and I do
not believe the people in the HSE are listening to anybody.
   I hope the Minister of State will be able to tell me tonight that this progressive hospital will
continue on the graph it is on and that it will continue to provide the professional facilities we
all want. It is a centre of excellence in terms of the service it provides. University College
Hospital Galway is also a centre of excellence in its own right and we are lucky to have the
two hospitals where they are located. I would like a commitment from the Minister of State
tonight regarding this hospital, which would prove that the rumours believed by many people
in the general area are not correct, but I have to be convinced of that. When one hears rumours
sometimes murky work can be going on behind the scenes about which we do not know.

  Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Barry Andrews): I am
taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Chil-
dren, Deputy Mary Harney.
   The Government is committed to ensuring the delivery and maintenance of the best quality
health service possible and providing the highest standard of patient care in an effective and
efficient way within the resources allocated. Portiuncula Hospital plays an important part in
the HSE West network of acute hospitals and there are no plans to lessen its importance in
the provision of services. It is an acute general and maternity hospital which provides a range
of acute, diagnostic and support services to both adults and children in the catchment areas of
east Galway, Roscommon, north Tipperary, Offaly and Westmeath. The hospital has a total of
197 beds — specifically, 173 inpatient and 24 day care beds.
  Portiuncula Hospital benefits from a committed workforce that, throughout 2010 and in line
with the hospital’s service plan, is projected to provide services for over 10,000 inpatients, more
than 7,000 day cases, 20,000 emergency presentations, 42,000 outpatient attendances and more
than 2,000 births. The hospital also has strong partnerships with colleagues in the primary,
community and continuing care sectors in order to provide patients with a fully integrated
service.
  The Government has shown its commitment to Portiuncula Hospital in recent years, with
capital developments such as the new special care baby unit, the recent upgrading of the emer-
gency department and the overhauling of the oncology day unit and the physiotherapy depart-
ment in 2007. This demonstrates that the Government continues to see a very important role
for the hospital as part of a high quality health service to the population of the region.
  Work has also been undertaken in recent years to enhance collaboration between
Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital in the provision of services. This is
occurring, for example, in the re-configuration that is taking place of the surgical and anaes-
thetic departments of the two hospitals into a joint department of surgery and anaesthesia.
  The HSE plans to recruit a general manager with responsibility for Galway University
Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital. This initiative involves the
expansion of the current post of general manager at Galway University Hospital. It is designed
to promote good co-ordination between hospitals. It is not about downgrading any hospital or
reducing services. It is about improving management processes and thereby improving services
for patients.
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                  Search and              24 March 2010.            Rescue Service


   The appointment of a general manager with responsibility for the three hospitals concerned
is also in line with the approach of the governance of acute hospitals recommended in the
Health Information and Quality Authority’s report on quality and safety of services at the Mid-
Western Regional Hospital, Ennis, which was published in April 2009. This report identified
integrated governance across hospital networks as an important factor in ensuring higher qual-
ity services for patients.
   The HSE is committed to full engagement with all stakeholders in regard to this matter. The
final interviews for the general manager post will not be held until the competition to appoint
a regional director of operations in HSE West is concluded. This means that the regional
director can take an active part in the selection process. I understand this process is due to be
concluded shortly.
  The HSE has already met the unions involved to discuss the context of the appointment of
the general manager. It is due to have a further meeting with the unions in the near future.
  The Minister is satisfied that the plan to recruit a general manager with responsibility for
Galway University hospitals, Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital will
enhance the capacity for collaboration in service provision, provide a more strategic approach
to the management of the hospitals concerned and ensure the provision of better and safer
services to the people of the region.
  I wish to assure the House on the Minister’s behalf that Portiuncula Hospital will continue
to play a key role in the provision of hospital services to the population of east Galway and
the other areas it serves.

                                  Search and Rescue Service.
  Acting Chairman (Deputy Johnny Brady): Deputies O’Shea, Coveney, Kehoe, Stanton,
Deasy and Browne have ten minutes and therefore they will have about a minute and a half
each.

  Deputy Brian O’Shea: Since it became known in the south east and south coast regions on
Monday of last week that it is proposed to reduce the coastguard search and rescue helicopter
service from Waterford Airport to daylight hours only there has been outrage across the board.
The protest against the proposed downgrading of the helicopter service is about safety — the
safety of fishermen, sailors and those involved in sea based and water based leisure activities
immediately come to mind.
   The fundamental question is whether the safety of these groups in the south east region and
along the south coastline is less important than the safety of similar groups in other parts of
the country. When major emergencies occur at sea, speed can often be the essence in the
matter of best outcomes in regard to life and death. Are the Department of Transport and the
Irish Coast Guard seriously suggesting that in the absence of the search and rescue night-time
helicopter service at Waterford Regional Airport seafarers in distress at night along the south
east and south coasts can be reached as quickly as with the current 24 hour service? Why was
the fact that many international air routes cross the area within range of Waterford Airport
not taken into consideration as part of the risk assessment?
   The decision to downgrade the search and rescue helicopter service at Waterford Regional
Airport must be rescinded immediately and I demand that the Minister does just that. When
taken in conjunction with the proposal to close the Waterford-Rosslare railway line, the Mini-
ster for Transport appears to be hell-bent on reducing transport provision in the south east
while developing services elsewhere.

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                   Search and              24 March 2010.              Rescue Service


  Deputy Simon Coveney: In the absence of the Minister for Transport, I ask the Minister of
State, Deputy Andrews, to take serious note of this issue. It is very unusual in an Adjournment
debate in this House that the three main parties are represented and speaking off the same
hymn sheet with the same concerns.
   I am one of the people who has been privileged to experience first hand the professionalism
of the search and rescue helicopter service coming from Waterford, having been picked up off
a boat in fairly rough conditions, and I am convinced that this is a misguided decision. It will
               put people’s lives in danger and in time will be reversed following a tragedy off
9 o’clock      the south or south east coast, whether that be 50 miles south of Waterford or off
               Kinsale or Cork Harbour. It is not acceptable to have only day time cover for
the entire south coast, from Wexford through to Glandore and 50 miles southwards. These are
busy fishing waters with shipping lanes which are used for recreational purposes, including
angling and sailing. It is not true that a helicopter based in Shannon or Dublin could cover this
section of water in an adequate time period. Time is of the essence if a boat is sinking or
someone is in the water at night. Fortunately, a number of lives have been saved in the past
two or three years directly as a result of having an active and professional helicopter service
based in Waterford.
  To seek to save no more than €1 million per annum in the context of a contract worth €500
million over ten years is irresponsible and will, unfortunately, result in a tragic and unnecessary
death off the south coast. I understand the contract will be signed next week. I ask the Minister
of State to appeal to the Cabinet to reverse its decision before the signing take place.

  Deputy Paul Kehoe: It is unfortunate that I must speak tonight on the Coast Guard helicop-
ter service serving the south east and waters off the south east and south coasts. This is a vital
service for people in counties Cork, Waterford, Wexford and south County Wicklow. As a
Deputy from a county with a strong fishing industry, I am all too aware of the importance of
the Coast Guard helicopter service. A number of fishing tragedies occurred in late 2007 and
early 2008, primarily in counties Waterford and Wexford, although a number of boat owners
in County Cork were also involved. At that time, the importance of the service became clear.
  Deputy Coveney is correct that the proposed measure will be reversed when lives are lost. I
cannot believe the Cabinet gave a green light to a recommendation to reduce the Coast Guard
helicopter service based at Waterford Airport. The decision to reduce the service to daylight
hours only is a major issue in the affected counties. It is sad that the Cabinet agreed that lives
will be put at risk for the sake of money.
   When I asked how a major tragedy off the Cork, Waterford or Wexford coasts would be
handled by emergency helicopters based in Shannon, Sligo or Dublin, I was informed the new
fleet of helicopters is 50% faster than the current fleet. I do not accept this is a solution because
having a local service is the best and safest practice. It is unacceptable that the Waterford based
service will be reduced to daylight hours. A person’s life is worth more than the potential
savings from the proposal. A full 24 hour, seven day service would cost an additional €1 million.
   I ask the Minister of State to tell the Minister for Transport and his officials that people
living along the southern and south eastern coastlines will not accept the Government’s decision
lying down. The proposal is a holy scandal and the Minister for Transport must reconsider it.
  I thought members of the Cabinet were considerate individuals. The decision to reduce the
Coast Guard helicopter service in the southern and south eastern coasts is absurd. I ask the
Minister to reverse it before the contract is signed in the days ahead.

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                   Search and              24 March 2010.              Rescue Service


  Deputy David Stanton: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing Deputies to raise this
important issue. I am disappointed, however, that the Minister for Transport is not present to
hear our contributions.
   The two lifeboats based in Youghal and Ballycotton in my area work closely with the Coast
Guard helicopter service in search and rescue operations. My colleagues referred to accidents
and tragedies. One of the busiest shipping lanes in the world is located only 50 miles south of
Youghal, Knockadoon, Ballymacoda, Ballycotton and Cobh. Moreover, pleasure boating has
increased significantly in recent years and we are hoping to have new marinas in the area
shortly. This is important in light of the strong emphasis on tourism at present. People become
sick and have heart attacks on boats and ships. Time is, therefore, of the essence.
  I could not believe the news that we would only have a daytime service in the region as a
result of the night service being removed from Waterford. The decision does not make sense.
The crews in Waterford know the region and have trained in the area, which is important in
the case of services of this nature. If the newer helicopters are faster than the current fleet,
why not locate them in Waterford and have a 24 hour service in the region? I understand the
new helicopters are smaller and may not be able to carry as many survivors.
  In the matter of saving lives, which is what we are discussing, time is of the essence and
minutes count. Irrespective of whether someone has had a heart attack on a ship or boat or
somebody is in the water, it is vital that help arrives as quickly as possible. I am afraid that this
decision, if implemented, which I hope will not be the case, could put lives at risk. Let us see
sense and stop the measure.

  Deputy John Deasy: In recent days, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has
made a number of what could be characterised as insulting or at least dubious comments. At
a road opening a couple of days ago, he stated that the Coast Guard service was the entity that
made the recommendation on the helicopter service which went before Cabinet for decision.
That is not true, as we learned in our discussions with representatives of the Coast Guard
service a couple of days ago. They made clear that while they laid out some options for the
Department, it was the Department that made the specific recommendation that went to
Cabinet. That is an important point of distinction.
   The Minister also stated the measure would result in a better service. While it may create a
better service for people on the western and northern seaboards and parts of the eastern
seaboard, it will certainly not create a better service for the southern and south eastern coast-
lines. The important point is that someone who ends up in the water after an accident will have
to wait longer for a helicopter to come to his or her rescue.
   The budget for the rescue service contract over ten years has been increased to more than
€500 million. How one can end up with a worse service after increasing the budget demon-
strates, without a shadow of a doubt, bad government.
   Deputies debated the Road Traffic Bill this week. I cannot help but recall the premise cited
for introducing the Bill, particularly its provisions on drink-driving. It was touted in the news-
papers week after week that the drink-driving measure would save between one and ten lives
every year. The decision by the Cabinet to remove the 24 hour helicopter rescue service from
Waterford will cost lives in the south and south east. The level of concern shown for road
traffic accident victims does not appear to be matched by concern for people in the region
affected by the decision.

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                  Search and              24 March 2010.            Rescue Service


 Deputy John Browne: I will share time with my colleague from County Waterford, Deputy
Brendan Kenneally.
  For many years, people from across the political divide fought to secure a 24 hour helicopter
rescue service for Waterford. Having secured the service in 2004, it is daft that in 2010 we are
informed it will be reduced to a 12 hour service. We have had discussions with officials from
the Department on the matter. When I met the Minister for Transport this evening on a walk
through the House, I informed him, as a Fianna Fáil Party Deputy and chairman of the Fianna
Fáil Parliamentary Party, that it is unacceptable to Deputies from the south east that this
service will be reduced for the sake of achieving savings of €1 million per annum.
  In recent days, the Department informed us that the budget for the emergency rescue service
has been increased from €27 million to €52 million. Despite this increase, people in the south
east will suffer because of a shortfall of €1 million. We are talking about Arklow, Rosslare
Europort, major fishing ports, Belmont Harbour and right into Cork, involving probably 1
million people along the coastline. Only a small amount of money is involved but it is very
important to the people of the south east that this service is restored.
  I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Andrews, as a Fianna Fáil Deputy, to bring the message
loud and clear to the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, and to the Taoiseach, that we
want a 24 hour service from 2013, the same as exists at present. Nothing else is acceptable. We
are entitled to the same service for our people on the south-east coastline as that enjoyed by
the people in the west, the south and Dublin. It is not good enough to say that a helicopter
will arrive only nine minutes later because now they are faster, better and more modern, with
paramedics on board and all of that. If a person is in the water, nine minutes is a long time.
This situation should not have to be accepted. A huge amount of money is being spent in the
Department of Transport. The sum of €1 million per year is a mere pittance and I ask the
Minister to reverse this decision. More important, I ask the Taoiseach to ensure at the next
Cabinet meeting, in the ten days before the contract is signed, that we will have our 24 hour
service returned.

  Deputy Brendan Kenneally: I thank Deputy Browne for agreeing to share his time with me.
I agree wholeheartedly with all the previous speakers. We are discussing health and safety and
in my view one cannot put a price on that. I shall relate a very quick story arising from a
telephone call I received from a woman who rang my office and spoke to me about her experi-
ence a number of years ago when she was on a ferry leaving Rosslare. This was before we had
the 24 hour service in Waterford. It was a very rough crossing and unfortunately a man was
swept overboard. The captain was informed immediately and the boat turned around. It takes
a while to turn one of those vessels around. People could see the man floundering in the water.
He was able to keep swimming for some time but it was too rough to launch a boat to go to
him. The ship could not get too close because it would drag him underneath. The crew had
called for the helicopter, which was not coming from Waterford, but a few minutes before it
arrived that man drowned. He could not keep going any longer.
  If we do not bring the 24 hour service to Waterford this will happen again and again. We
cannot put a price on health and safety. At the briefing we had with officials in the Department
of Transport last Monday, they told us it would take an extra 9.5 minutes for the helicopter to
arrive during the down period in Waterford Regional Airport. That would have been too late
for the man I mentioned and it will be too late for the next person if the same thing happens
to somebody on a ferry or a fishing boat or to a person involved in leisure activities. It is not
good enough.
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                   Search and             24 March 2010.             Rescue Service


  We in the south east give cross-party support to this matter and are as one on it. We will
not stand for the cutback and I hope the Minister of State will bring that message back to the
Minister, Deputy Dempsey.

  Deputy Barry Andrews: I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak on the subject
of the search and rescue helicopter service. There has been much ill-informed comment about
the proposed new helicopter contract. As we are in a standstill period of the procurement
process and are about to commence contract negotiations I am somewhat constrained in what
can be said. However, I can make the following points. The new contract has been presented
as a cutback in services. Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from being a cutback,
the contract is a massive half a billion euro investment in maritime search and rescue capability
on the island. The new contract will cost significantly more on an annual basis than the current
contract because of the improved service to be provided. The proposed contract represents a
dramatic increase in funding for search and rescue helicopter services——

  Deputy Simon Coveney: Can we have a copy of the Minister of State’s speech?

  Deputy Barry Andrews: I do not have any copies. In normal circumstances the ushers circu-
late copies. I will undertake to ensure they will be provided to Deputies at the earliest time
possible. I appreciate their flexibility.
  The proposed contract represents a dramatic increase in funding for search and rescue heli-
copter services in Ireland, from approximately €30 million to €50 million per annum. This is
an increase of €20 million a year for this service alone in difficult circumstances. The Govern-
ment has also approved the retention of four helicopter bases, including Waterford, for a period
to at leas 2023. The new contract represents a stepped improvement in the capacity range,
speed and capability of Ireland’s SAR service.

  Deputy John Deasy: Did the Minister of State say 2023?

  Deputy Barry Andrews: The date was 2023, with regard to Waterford.

  Deputy John Deasy: Was it for a 24 hour service?

  Deputy Barry Andrews: The existing contract expires on 30 June 2010 but includes a once-
off option to extend individual bases flexibly, by different lengths, to a maximum of three years
to 30 June 2013. The Government therefore decided to replace the current flight at a significant
additional cost of approximately €20 million per annum.
  Modern helicopters are much more capable than the current aircraft and fly at about 155
knots. They can lift more people from further out at sea and are usually able to fly in cloud.
They are also more available and dependable, requiring less routine maintenance and are less
prone to break down.
  Bidders were required to quote for a number of options by which the target level of service
could be provided. Each of the compulsory options meant that the Coastguard helicopter would
reach at least 70% of all incidents within one hour. The preferred bidder has now been nomi-
nated and the Department of Transport is in the standstill period before contract negotiations
can begin. The annual cost will increase very substantially as a result of the provision of modern
helicopters. This increased cost must be found from within the Department of Transport’s
existing budget over the next ten years. However, it will deliver a marked improvement in the
service. The new helicopters will fly to the scene of the mission faster, find the vessels or
                                               453
                    Invalid                24 March 2010.               Marriages

  [Deputy Barry Andrews.]
persons in the water more efficiently using better search surveillance and tracking tools, winch
them to safety more quickly, provide better medical facilities on board and return them to
safety in the shortest time possible.
   I confirm again that there will be no change in the 24 hour availability from the Waterford
base from July 2013, if ever. Furthermore, the future of Waterford Airport as a base for a
coastguard SAR helicopter will be cemented until at least 2023. Although a 12 hour contract
is to be negotiated for the post-2013 period the Government is committed to keeping this
position under review in the light of the operational requirement at Waterford, the availability
of funding and contract negotiations. To put the 12 hour operation in context, in 2009 this
would have required 13 of the 113 missions flown from Waterford to be met from another
base. In some cases the new helicopters would have arrived earlier but, on average, the
additional time required would have been about ten minutes.
   At a national level, in difficult financial circumstances, this new contract is a major recognit-
ion by the Government of the value of the Irish Coastguard and the communities it serves. It is
also a substantial commitment to the continuing development of Irish maritime safety services.
  I thank the Deputies for their understanding.

                                        Invalid Marriages.
  Deputy Joe Costello: I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise this issue. It came to
public attention about two weeks ago that foreign couples who married in their countries’
embassies in Ireland had contracted invalid and illegal marriages. Naturally, this came as a
great shock to more than 3,000 non-nationals who had married during the past three years in
the embassies of their countries. Those affected came not only from European Union member
states but also from non-EU states. Everybody who married in a foreign embassy in this country
was affected.
  The situation arose from a requirement under the Civil Registration Act, which was passed
in 2004 and came into force in November 2007. From that date onwards there has been a
requirement to have an official registrar attend the embassies where marriages take place.
Failing that, under Irish law the marriage is invalid and declared null and void and illegal. The
same situation operates with regard to international law because a marriage must be valid in
the country in which it takes place. This means that even though the foreign nationals may
think the marriage is valid in the eyes of their own countries’ law it cannot be so because the
requirements of the country in which the marriage took place have not been fulfilled.
   We have a right legal mess and as a result 3,000 couples find themselves in a complete legal
limbo. In a situation like that all sorts of legal problems are created for the couples and their
children. How can they get their birth certificates registered? Is there a single parent, or are
there two, in terms of the marriage? How can one deal with the legal issues in that respect? It
seems incredible that it took the best part of three years for the Irish Government to inform
the embassies of the legal situation. I understand it only came to light when the General
Register Office wrote to the embassies last month — approximately three years later — to
inform them of the situation that now exists.
   We have to do our best with the situation, which is as it is. I understand that complex
legislation will be required to remedy this intricate problem. There is a danger that we will
pass legislation that regularises the situation from here on in, without being sure that it regular-
ises the situation that existed in the interim limbo period after these marriage ceremonies were
                                                454
                    Invalid               24 March 2010.              Marriages


performed. What are the implications of the actions that have been taken since such ceremonies
by couples who were certain they were married, but were not? They may have entered into
numerous contracts, etc. Some form of retrospective legislative decision-making will have to
take place. That is always very dangerous in constitutional terms. I would like the Minister of
State to tell the House what immediate steps the Government plans to take. When is it pro-
posed to bring legislation before the House? Has the Government received the advice of the
Attorney General on the ramifications of this problem?

   Deputy Barry Andrews: I am pleased to have an opportunity to address the House on this
issue on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If a marriage performed in Ireland is to be
recognised by Irish law, it must be conducted in accordance with the Civil Registration Act
2004. This means, among other things, that the marriage must be performed by a registered
solemniser under that Act. Only ordained ministers of religion, or registrars employed by the
Health Service Executive, are eligible for registration as solemnisers. Foreign diplomatic per-
sonnel are not eligible under the present law. While marriages performed by embassies in
Ireland have never been recognised in Irish law, they may be recognised in the laws of the states
whose embassies perform them. In international law, a marriage performed at an embassy will
be internationally recognised only if it is recognised in the country in which it is performed.
For this reason, a state proposing to perform marriages at its embassies abroad should ideally
consult the relevant local authorities in advance to establish whether such marriages will be
recognised in all states, or only in the state whose embassy performs the marriage. As Irish law
does not recognise or regulate embassy marriages, we have no statistics on how many such
marriages have been performed here. Under the Vienna Convention, embassies here are
obliged to respect Irish laws and regulations, just as Irish embassies abroad are required to
respect local laws. Many countries will not regard as valid a marriage performed by a foreign
diplomat or consul in their territory. This means the marriage would be unlikely to be regarded
as valid in any country other than the diplomat’s sending State.
   Nothing in Irish law authorises an Irish diplomatic or consular officer to perform a marriage
ceremony on the premises of an Irish diplomatic mission. When it recently came to the atten-
tion of the Department of Foreign Affairs that a number of embassies have been performing
marriages, the Department contacted the Registrar General and the then Department of Social
and Family Affairs and advised all embassies of the requirements of the law governing mar-
riages in Ireland. A number of embassies recently raised concerns regarding the non-recognit-
ion of embassy marriages. The embassies acknowledged the right of the Irish authorities to
regulate this area as they consider appropriate and said no further marriages were being
arranged. However, they were concerned about the position of those who had contracted
embassy marriages in the past. They requested the assistance of the Irish authorities in this
respect. The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a note to all resident embassies in Dublin
informing them of the legal requirements for the conduct of marriages in Ireland. The note
stated:

    There is no provision in the Civil Registration Act for the recognition of diplomatic or
  consular officers as solemnisers of marriage in Ireland. Accordingly, marriages performed by
  diplomatic or consular officers at embassies or any other locations are not recognised in
  Ireland as valid marriages.

The matter is being reviewed by the Departments of Social Protection and Foreign Affairs to
consider what, if any, assistance can be provided to couples who have encountered practical
                                               455
                     The                 24 March 2010.             Adjournment

  [Deputy Barry Andrews.]
difficulties as a result of the non-recognition in Irish law of marriages performed at embassies
here. The Department of Foreign Affairs will be in contact with embassies as soon as these
consultations have concluded.

  The Dáil adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 March 2010.




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