Vol. 637 Thursday, No. 7 5 July 2007 ´ ´ ´ DIOSPOIREACHTAI PARLAIMINTE PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES ´ ´ DAIL EIREANN ´ TUAIRISC OIFIGIUIL—Neamhcheartaithe (OFFICIAL REPORT—Unrevised) Thursday, 5 July 2007. ´ Requests to Move Adjournment of Dail under Standing Order 32 … … … … … … 1921 Order of Business … … … … … … … … … … … … 1922 Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Bill 2007 [Seanad]: Second Stage … … … … … … … … … … … … 1932 Committee and Remaining Stages … … … … … … … … … 1965 Museum Accident: Statements … … … … … … … … … … 1979 Ceisteanna — Questions Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Priority Questions … … … … … … … … … … … 1980 Other Questions … … … … … … … … … … … 1990 Adjournment Debate Matters … … … … … … … … … … … 2004 Adjournment Debate Schools Building Programme … … … … … … … … … … 2004 Pupil-Teacher Ratio … … … … … … … … … … … 2007 Water and Sewerage Schemes … … … … … … … … … … 2009 Alternative Energy Projects … … … … … … … … … … 2012 Questions: Written Answers … … … … … … … … … … … 2017 1921 1922 ´ ´ DAIL EIREANN Order of Business. The Tanaiste: It is proposed to take No. 1a, ´ ———— Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Bill 2007 [Seanad] — Second and ´ ´ Deardaoin, 5 Iuil 2007. Subsequent Stages. It is proposed, notwithstand- Thursday, 5 July 2007. ing anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 1a shall be taken ———— today and the following arrangements shall apply: Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas (i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not ar 10.30 a.m. previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 p.m.; (ii) the proceedings on Committee ———— and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously con- cluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. by Paidir. one question which shall be put from the Chair Prayer. and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the ———— Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; ´ and (2) the Dail on its rising today shall adjourn Requests to move Adjournment of Dail under ´ until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 September Standing Order 32. 2007. An Ceann Comhairle: Before coming to the An Ceann Comhairle: There are two proposals Order of Business, I propose to deal with a to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing number of notices under Standing Order 32. I will with No. 1a agreed? call on Deputies in the order in which they sub- mitted their notices to my office. ´ ´ Deputy Caoimhghın O Caolain: I object to the ´ application of the guillotine. As this is the last day ´ Deputy Aengus O Snodaigh: I seek the before the summer recess, the Government is in ´ adjournment of the Dail to raise a matter of a position to provide additional time to properly public interest requiring urgent consideration, address the very important matters arising from namely, the most recent public shooting which the Personal Injuries Assessment Board occurred yesterday afternoon in Stillorgan, dem- (Amendment) Bill 2007. As other Deputies onstrating the urgent need for the Garda to give pointed out, legal and potential constitutional greater priority to the Crumlin feud which con- issues arise from the legislation. While the list of tinues to threaten lives and for the Government amendments is not large, nevertheless there is a to make every necessary resource available for critical need to give each Stage the full scrutiny this to happen; and given the young age of the and attention it deserves. Accordingly, I oppose man who was shot and the two men arrested by the imposition of a guillotine and appeal to the the Garda — 24, 21 and 22 years, respectively — Minister to extend the time available for the the urgent need for the Government to introduce debate to allow it to be completed naturally, focused and holistic programmes to create a real, today if that is the Government’s wish. attractive and alternative future for children who are at risk of becoming involved in serious crime Deputy Ruairı Quinn: In respect of the time ´ when they grow up. allocation for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Bill 2007, given that this is Deputy Martin Ferris: I seek the adjournment a short Bill, the House needs more time to debate of the House under Standing Order 32 to discuss Committee Stage than to debate Second Stage. the use of the Criminal Justice Act on those The structure of the Second Stage debate does involved in the fishing industry, which has not facilitate discussion of conflicting opinions as resulted in searches of boats and houses in to the constitutionality or otherwise of the legis- Dingle, Castletownbere, Galway and Killybegs lation. I suspect Opposition Deputies will simply without fishery officers being present and is a repeat each other and the Minister will respond consequence of the Fisheries Bill 2006 which only once. I propose, therefore, that debate on criminalises those involved in the fishing sector; Committee Stage will commence at 1 p.m. rather and the refusal of the Government to make pro- than 2.30 p.m. because the meat of the Bill is in vision for administrative sanctions in the Bill to Committee Stage and serious concerns arise deal with minor offences. about its constitutionality. An Ceann Comhairle: Having considered the The Tanaiste: I have no problem accepting ´ matters raised, they are not in order under Stand- Deputy Quinn’s proposed amendment to the ing Order 32. Order of Business. 1923 Order of 5 July 2007. Business 1924 An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal agreed? parliamentary questions or the Order of Business ´ Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dail, on its rising but he managed to get back to pose for photo- today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on graphs with candidates for the Seanad. I hope Wednesday, 26 September 2007 agreed? when we begin business in earnest in the autumn that we will see a bit more respect for this House Deputy Enda Kenny: This will not be the usual and the Opposition. ´ rant. I propose that the Dail sit on 11 September on the grounds that committees are not estab- ´ ´ Deputy Caoimhghın O Caolain: I wish also to ´ lished before the House goes into recess for 12 support the proposition. While looking forward weeks and a great deal of parliamentary work to the summer recess and the holiday oppor- could be undertaken. I regret it has not been pos- tunities as much as any Member of the House, sible for committees of the House to perform there is every justification for an earlier return. their functions in July and the early weeks of We are on the last day of this sitting with no September. I propose, therefore, that the House Government programme published. Despite what sit again on 11 September. ´ the Tanaiste said yesterday, the Government will hold the programme until we have all left and Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I second Deputy Kenny’s the earliest opportunity to address it in a real and proposal. I do not propose to discuss in detail the careful way will be deferred until the end of reasons sittings should resume earlier than pro- September. The earlier return in order to exam- posed as they are obvious and best set out by ine exactly what the Government proposes to do, Deputy Sargent in column 1208 of the Official and not to be dependent on any one party’s pres- Report of 6 July 2006. I fully support everything entation of that, is in the interest not only of this the Deputy said at the time. House but of the roles and responsibilities I regret the House will rise without appointing entrusted to us. committees. It is further evidence of the dis- respect shown to the House and the rights of the The Tanaiste: Given the timing of the election ´ Opposition. Yesterday, for example, the in 1997 and 2002, it was not possible to constitute Taoiseach absented himself on one of the rare ´ committees before the Dail rose for the summer opportunities to be accountable in the House. recess on those occasions either. I am not in a The conference of trade unions lasted for four position to take amendments to the Order of days, during which the Taoiseach would have Business in respect of our return. been accommodated at any time, but he chose to attend at a time that coincided with Leaders’ Question put: “That the words proposed to be Questions. He would not attend to take deleted stand.” ´ ´ ´ The Dail divided: Ta, 73; Nıl, 55. ´ Ta Ahern, Michael. Gogarty, Paul. Ahern, Noel. Gormley, John. Andrews, Barry. Grealish, Noel. Andrews, Chris. Hanafin, Mary. ´ Ardagh, Sean. Haughey, Sean.´ Aylward, Bobby. Healy-Rae, Jackie. Behan, Joe. Hoctor, Maire. ´ Blaney, Niall. Kelly, Peter. ´ Brady, Aine. Kenneally, Brendan. Brady, Johnny. Kennedy, Michael. ´ Brennan, Seamus. Killeen, Tony. Browne, John. Kirk, Seamus. Byrne, Thomas. Kitt, Tom. Calleary, Dara. Lenihan, Brian. Carey, Pat. Lenihan, Conor. Collins, Niall. Martin, Micheal.´ Conlon, Margaret. McEllistrim, Thomas. Connick, Sean.´ McGrath, Finian. Coughlan, Mary. McGrath, Mattie. Cowen, Brian. McGrath, Michael. Cregan, John. McGuinness, John. ´ Cuffe, Ciaran. Moloney, John. Cullen, Martin. ´ ´ ´ O Cuıv, Eamon. Curran, John. ´ ´ O Fearghaıl, Sean.´ Dempsey, Noel. O’Brien, Darragh. Devins, Jimmy. O’Dea, Willie. Dooley, Timmy. O’Flynn, Noel. Fahey, Frank. O’Hanlon, Rory. Fitzpatrick, Michael. O’Keeffe, Batt. Flynn, Beverley. O’Rourke, Mary. Gallagher, Pat The Cope. O’Shea, Brian. 1925 Order of 5 July 2007. Business 1926 ´ Ta—continued O’Sullivan, Christy. Smith, Brendan. Power, Peter. Treacy, Noel. ´ Power, Sean. Wallace, Mary. Ryan, Eamon. White, Mary Alexandra. Sargent, Trevor. Woods, Michael. Scanlon, Eamon. ´ Nıl Bannon, James. ´ Lynch, Ciaran. ´ Barrett, Sean. Lynch, Kathleen. Bruton, Richard. McEntee, Shane. Burke, Ulick. McHugh, Joe. Burton, Joan. Mitchell, Olivia. Byrne, Catherine. Naughten, Denis. Carey, Joe. Neville, Dan. Clune, Deirdre. ´ ´ ´ O Caolain, Caoimhghın. Coveney, Simon. ´ O Snodaigh, Aengus. Crawford, Seymour. O’Donnell, Kieran. Creed, Michael. O’Dowd, Fergus. Creighton, Lucinda. O’Keeffe, Jim. D’Arcy, Michael. O’Mahony, John. Deenihan, Jimmy. O’Sullivan, Jan. Doyle, Andrew. Penrose, Willie. Durkan, Bernard J. Quinn, Ruairı. ´ English, Damien. Rabbitte, Pat. Enright, Olwyn. Reilly, James. Feighan, Frank. Ring, Michael. Ferris, Martin. Sheahan, Tom. Flanagan, Charles. Sheehan, P.J. Flanagan, Terence. ´ ´ Shortall, Roisın. Hayes, Brian. Stagg, Emmet. Higgins, Michael D. Stanton, David. Hogan, Phil. Timmins, Billy. Howlin, Brendan. Tuffy, Joanna. Kehoe, Paul. Wall, Jack. Kenny, Enda. ´ ´ Tellers: Ta, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Nıl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg. Question declared carried. Deputy Enda Kenny: The Ceann Comhairle was at the Cabinet table in 2002 when the matter Amendment declared lost. was first raised. I am not asking him to breach Cabinet confidentiality but maybe from his legal Deputy Enda Kenny: I listened this morning to background he contributed to that structure the comforting tones of the Minister for Defence. ´ being put in place. Will the Tanaiste tell me It is great to know that the Irish people are safe whether that structure was followed in this case from terrorist attacks after his pronouncements. and was there consultation with the other ´ On a serious note, as the Dail will not sit again members of the Government? Will he confirm for 12 weeks and there is concern about this that Mr. Burke is the chairman of Dublin Port? matter, will the Government make arrangements for the leaders of the Opposition parties to An Ceann Comhairle: That issue does not arise now. receive a briefing on aspects of terrorist threats, however high or low they might be? Deputy Enda Kenny: It does arise. In 2002, the then Attorney General, Michael McDowell, raised the issue of non-consultation Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Tanaiste is ´ with his party about certain State appointments eager to answer. and a structure was put in place apparently to ´ deal with that problem. Will the Tanaiste confirm Deputy Paul Kehoe: Deputy Sargent will tell whether Mr. Joe Burke has been appointed chair- us. man of Dublin Port and, if so, were the structures put in place in 2002 followed in this case? Was Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I wish to draw attention there consultation with the Progressive Demo- again to the Cabinet handbook which, as I crats group and the Green Party? pointed out earlier in the week, has already been breached in another respect. The handbook An Ceann Comhairle: As Deputy Kenny states: knows well, neither of those issues arises on the All Government and Ministerial appoint- Order of Business. ments should be published in Iris Oifigiuil as ´ 1927 Order of 5 July 2007. Business 1928 [Deputy Pat Rabbitte.] ´ ´ Deputy Caoimhghın O Caolain: Throughout ´ soon as can be arranged following the appoint- ´ the 29th Dail the publication of the eligibility for ment. The Government Secretariat will arrange health and personal social services Bill was prom- for publication of appointments made by the ised. The Bill is designed to clarify and update Government. the provisions relating to eligibility for health services. Will the Bill be published before the There have been several appointments since 24 resumption in September? June, not just the one to which Deputy Kenny Given the Taoiseach’s grossly insensitive referred, and they have not been published in Iris remarks yesterday and the need to counteract the ´ Oifigiuil. The Ceann Comhairle might demon- negative impression they created, will the ´ strate some laxity and ask the Tanaiste to confirm Government place a renewed emphasis on the why — if it is true that the Taoiseach’s very best rights and entitlements of those who suffer from friend has been reappointed — this did not go to mental illness and those who are at risk of Cabinet. I thought all these appointments had to suicide? Will the Bill be brought forward so that go to Cabinet. we can address the needs and rights of those at I saw last night that no less a colleague than risk and all those who use our health services? Deputy O’Rourke congratulated the Green Party ´ because Fianna Fail is pleased that it does not The Tanaiste: It is expected that that Bill will ´ speak out any more. Could it speak out on—— be published in 2007. Deputy Mary O’Rourke: He is paraphrasing Deputy Seymour Crawford: In light of the me wrongly. serious decrease in farm incomes and the new Government’s abstentionist policy in Brussels will Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Deputy is here. there be an opportunity to discuss the decline in agriculture at the earliest possible date in the Deputy Tom Kitt: Deputy O’Rourke is back. ´ new Dail? Deputy Conor Lenihan: Deputy O’Rourke will An Ceann Comhairle: I am afraid that does not speak for Deputy Rabbitte. arise now. Deputy Pat Rabbitte: That is what Senator Deputy Seymour Crawford: It will arise very Donie Cassidy says too. shortly. The Dublin transport authority Bill was prom- ised by the former Minister for Transport, Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The Tanaiste ´ Deputy Cullen, last November when he said it might remember the phrase “Delivering Better would be published before Government”? Does it still apply and will it be 11 o’clock Christmas. We all thought he meant incorporated into the minerals development Bill? Christmas 2006 but clearly we were If so, will the Bill be a combination of the wisdom ´ wrong. I ask the Tanaiste when the Bill will be of all parties in Government? Will it remain as it published. was or will there be changes? The Tanaiste: I expect the Dublin transport ´ An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss the authority Bill to be brought to Government, and content of legislation, as the Deputy is well some decisions to be taken on it, before we return aware—— for the next session. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I was only trying Deputy Pat Rabbitte: On the question relating to encourage the Ceann Comhairle. ´ to Iris Oifigiuil, does the paragraph of the Cabinet Handbook which I read out still apply? An Ceann Comhairle: ——even if it does If that is the case, why are these appointments involve a proposal for better Government in the ´ not in any edition of Iris Oifigiuil since 24 June? minerals development Bill. An Ceann Comhairle: That is a very interesting Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: It is very important question but Deputy Rabbitte will have to pursue down in Kerry too. it another way as it is not in order now. The Tanaiste: Heads of a Bill have been ´ Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I am very reluctant to approved and it is expected later in this Dail, per- ´ challenge that. haps in the new year. An Ceann Comhairle: Experience is a wonder- Deputy Joe McHugh: When will the Minister ful thing. for Transport and the Marine take forward the proposed mandatory drug and alcohol testing at Deputy Jim O’Keeffe: It is being kicked to the scene of an accident? Yesterday the Minister touch until September. was not aware of a promise made by a party col- 1929 Order of 5 July 2007. Business 1930 league of his, namely Deputy Bertie Ahern, prior On Wednesday I raised the question of to the general election. whether changed procedures were envisaged for the drafting of legislation so that, in the autumn, Deputy Noel Dempsey: I am more aware of it we would not get a virtual proposed programme than the Deputy. of legislation but one in which Bills would be in a position to be brought before the House. I have Deputy Joe McHugh: I have a letter, which I not heard from the Office of the Taoiseach on only received last night, too late to bring up on either of these matters. Committee Stage of the Roads Bill 2007, in which the Taoiseach gives a commitment, three weeks The Tanaiste: The Competition Authority is an ´ before the general election, to introduce manda- independent body and I am not aware of any tory drug testing at the scene of an accident if legislation promised in this area. It is true, ´ Fianna Fail was re-elected to power. In light of however, that the question of preventing abuse of this new information, of which the Minister for agency workers was raised at the meeting of the Transport and the Marine, Deputy Dempsey, was social partners. That will be dealt with under an not aware, when will the proposed legislation agency Bill which will be considered in due come through? course. The Tanaiste: It has not been promised in the ´ Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I am aware of that House but the Government will look at all these legislation but refer to legislation on foot of a matters in the context of trying to ensure we do High Court undertaking sought by the Compe- everything possible to make our roads safer and tition Authority from SIPTU that equity to ensure people discharge their responsibilities members, who work for several different adequately. employers and are on self-assessment, would not be represented by their union, SIPTU. The union Deputy Shane McEntee: Drug testing is legal officer would be sent to jail if he or she rep- in other countires. We missed the boat in that resented, for example, the actors involved in regard. making advertisements. I prepared Private Members’ legislation on this Deputy Noel Dempsey: It is legal in this coun- matter but that is where it lies. I understood it try also. was raised at the meeting of the social partners and the Taoiseach said we would, if necessary, go Deputy Joe McHugh: The letter reads: back to it because it involved contravention of an ILO regulation and undermined the trade union ´ Fianna Fail recognises the need to introduce representation, among other things. One would compulsory drink and drug testing for drivers have thought the brothers and sisters at their involved in accidents causing injury. If re- meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday would be elected, we will ensure these changes are in a position to know whether their friend, the implemented without delay. Taoiseach, intended to legislate on this matter or The Minister was not aware of this last night. not. It is as simple as that. I have Private Members’ legislation which I will be glad to rein- Deputy Noel Dempsey: I have a copy of the ´ troduce to the Dail to seek the support of all letter myself. elements of Government. Deputy Joe McHugh: When will this be intro- The Tanaiste: I am informed by the Minister ´ duced into the Roads Bill 2007? This letter was that there are no plans to change the Competition signed by Deputy Bertie Ahern three weeks Act 2002. Discussions took place in respect of the before the general election. other issue, and are ongoing among the Minister, the Department and the Irish Congress of Trade An Ceann Comhairle: I am not aware that it is Unions. promised legislation. On the question of the list of legislation, obviously we hope it will be an accurate reflection Deputy Michael D. Higgins: On Tuesday the of what will come on stream in our coming term. Taoiseach suggested that amendments to the It will be promulgated when it is ready. Competition Authority Act 2002 would be needed in order to retain the right of workers in Deputy Richard Bruton: I see from the prog- self-assessment to be in a trade union, to be rep- ramme for Government that the Government is resented and to collective bargaining for those proposing the establishment of a national trans- who had negotiating licences. He gave the mission company. It also states it is totally impression this had been solved. In view of his opposed to nuclear power. Since the Government meeting with the social partners, is he still of that programme was published the Minister for opinion or will we have amending legislation to Communications, Energy and Natural Resources ensure such workers will have the right to be rep- has indicated he would welcome a debate on the resented and negotiated for by their trade union? introduction of nuclear power. Can I have clarity 1931 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1932 [Deputy Richard Bruton.] Deputy Brian Cowen: That is an example of as to the Government’s position? Is it the one set openness and transparency which the Deputy’s out in the programme for Government or is it the party might internalise. alternative one as articulated by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Deputy Richard Bruton: Is a case of “you can Resources? say what you like, but our mind is made up”? An Ceann Comhairle: That issue does not Deputy David Stanton: Legislation was prom- arise now. ised prior to the setting up of the Assembly in the North to establish a register of persons con- sidered unsafe to work with children. What is the Deputy Richard Bruton: It does arise. There is status of that promise? Will it be brought forward a long tradition whereby we have the right to or has it been shelved? raise issues relating to promises set out in the programme for Government which involve legis- The Tanaiste: It is not possible to say at this ´ lation, in advance of the programme for legis- stage when or if that legislation will be brought lation, which the Government has yet to produce. forward, in view of the fact it is a North-South These matters involve legislation and I am per- issue and there is also a referendum to be held fectly entitled to ask the question. on children’s rights next year. The Tanaiste: Legislation relating to the ´ ´ Deputy Joan Burton: Does the Tanaiste antici- national transmission company will probably be pate the need for Supplementary Estimates in the brought forward during the course of next year. I autumn? Exchequer figures show a decline in tax do not accept for a moment that what the Mini- receipts. Capital taxes and stamp duty are about ster for Communications, Energy and Natural 5% below the profile set out in the budget. Has Resources, Deputy Ryan, said on a debate on the Minister made any assessment of the impact energy policy, including the options for nuclear of this on vital services such as health and edu- energy, is in any way at variance with the commit- cation? In the run up to the election, Government ments in the programme for Government. I had spending increased and has gone ahead of profile. not finished my answer but I will stop if the It seems the Minister will have to make some re- Deputy wants to interrupt. calculations by the autumn and the Opposition is entitled—— Deputy Richard Bruton: The programme for Government says the Government strongly An Ceann Comhairle: Is this on promised believes that nuclear power is neither sustainable legislation? nor an answer to Ireland’s energy needs. That Deputy Joan Burton: I think I am allowed to statement was only published one month ago, but raise a question on Supplementary Estimates on the Minister with responsibility for energy is now the Order of Business. I am not as erudite as you articulating a different view. Is this the settled on the rules, but I believe I am allowed to raise position of the Government or will we have a this issue. debate? An Ceann Comhairle: Are you asking if a Sup- Deputy Eamon Ryan: Yes. plementary Estimate is promised? Deputy Richard Bruton: Which? Are both ´ Deputy Joan Burton: Can I ask the Tanaiste if right? he proposes to bring one in? Deputy Brian Cowen: As I was saying before I An Ceann Comhairle: I do not think that is in was interrupted—— order. ´ Deputy Richard Bruton: The Tanaiste articu- Deputy Richard Bruton: Give us your guid- ´ ance, Tanaiste. lated an entirely different view on this the other day. An Ceann Comhairle: I am certain it is not in order. Deputy Brian Cowen: The Minister made it clear that if there was a debate on nuclear energy, The Tanaiste: Exchequer returns for the first ´ it would quickly become evident why he felt it six months are quite strong and in line with should not be part of our energy portfolio. expectations. However, he was not dismissive of anybody who wished to raise the matter in a debate. He was Personal Injuries Assessment Board quite prepared to debate the issues with them. (Amendment) Bill 2007 [Seanad]: Second Stage Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employ- Deputy Richard Bruton: The chief executive of ment (Deputy Micheal Martin): I move: “That ´ the IDA has raised the issue. the Bill be now read a Second Time.” 1933 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1934 The issue before us, which requires the Per- The purpose of the Personal Injuries Assess- sonal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 to be ment Board (Amendment) Bill 2007 is to provide amended, centres on the activity following the that in certain circumstances, where a claimant PIAB making a formal award. While PIAB rejects a PIAB assessment that has been accepted awards mirror court awards, as both have regard by a respondent and where he or she fails in any to a book of quantum to determine the appro- subsequent proceedings to get more than the priate award to be given, some claimants choose amount of the PIAB assessment, he or she will to reject the award and commence litigation pro- not be entitled to legal costs. Section 1 of the Bill ceedings in the hope of receiving greater compen- provides that two new sections are added to the sation. It is their right to choose this course of Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 as action and this Bill in no way interferes with that follows. A new section 51A provides that where a right. However, as these proceedings advance, claimant rejects a PIAB assessment that has been some claimants are accepting the same amount as accepted by a respondent and where the claimant the PIAB award but are also recovering legal fails in any subsequent proceedings to get more costs and additional costs of up to \1,500 to cover than the amount of the PIAB assessment, he or the cost of engaging a solicitor to assist with the she will not be entitled to legal costs. A new original PIAB claim. The proceedings were there- section 51B provides that no legal costs shall be fore unnecessary for the claimant to receive the allowed for the making of an application to the same level of award. PIAB. Section 2 of the Bill provides for the This development completely undermines the citation of the new Act. rationale and the positive impact of the Personal The PIAB was established in April 2004 as part Injuries Assessment Board. By any standards, a of the Government’s insurance reform prog- charge of \1,500 to assist in filling a form is exor- ramme, with the aim of allowing certain classes bitant, uncompetitive and unsustainable. The of personal injury claim, where liability is PIAB offers an independent and impartial mon- uncontested, to be settled without the need for etary assessment of damages based on medical the costs associated with litigation. The threat of rising insurance costs at the time posed serious evidence, in a non-adversarial document based risks to Irish business and the economy generally. system and without the need for an oral hearing. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Claimants can be assured that the amount of Act 2003, claimants are obliged to submit claims damages reflects what is awarded in the courts. It to the PIAB. They may submit their claims is a matter for each claimant to either accept or directly or they may employ a solicitor at their reject this fair and impartial assessment. If they own cost, which is something similar to the decide to reject this assessment and enter the liti- Employment Appeals Tribunal. gation route, they need to be aware there are Since its establishment, the PIAB has success- risks regarding legal costs. There is no intention fully fulfilled its legal obligations and is now in this amendment to the Personal Injuries assessing claims three times faster and four times Assessment Board Act 2003 to interfere with cheaper than under the old litigation system. By claimants’ rights of access to the courts. However, the end of May 2007, the PIAB had made actual the Bill is entirely consistent with the objectives savings of more than \45 million on awards total- of the principal Act to prohibit, in the interests of ling \115 million, when compared with the old, the common good, the bringing of unnecessary unwieldy, adversarial and litigation-based system. legal proceedings. The Personal Injuries Assess- This is quite an achievement in such a short space ment Board Act 2003 and this Bill are definitively of time and can only be good news for accident pro-consumer, in as much as they highlight the victims, business and consumers generally, who cost risks in taking legal proceedings and contrib- have seen big reductions in insurance premiums. ute to lower insurance costs. In addition to the provision of these savings, If the situation is allowed to continue, the con- the PIAB has succeeded in establishing a new sequences will be far-reaching. The cost burden non-adversarial culture of settling claims. It has will fall on the consumer and business. We must put paid to the long wait for compensation and not forget that it is only a few years since busi- the adversarial approach to the process that pre- nesses were being squeezed out of existence viously led to huge uncertainty and stress for because of the spiralling costs of insurance. This claimants. Within a few years the old system has was an unhappy situation and the establishment been replaced by a speedy, low cost, user-friendly of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board has system. In 2005, personal injury cases going done a great deal to address it. The Joint Com- through the courts system dropped from over mittee on Enterprise and Small Business made 35,000 cases in 2004 to less than 5,000. The effects the following recommendation in its third interim are felt throughout the court system where valu- report on reforms to the insurance market: able time has been freed up to deal with cases “Where, not having accepted a PIAB award, the that should more properly reside there. court award is equal to or less than a PIAB The PIAB is a new body that has significantly award, legal costs should not be allowed to the changed the environment for making personal claimant.” The Bill implements this recom- injuries claims, and is the subject of regular chal- mendation. lenge. I am aware of these challenges, and the 1935 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1936 ´ [Deputy Micheal Martin.] Employment, Deputy Mary Harney, on Second Government will take whatever steps are neces- Stage in the Seanad stated: sary to ensure the board is not undermined in its “I am convinced the introduction of the ongoing work. PIAB, as well as the other reform initiatives It is projected by the Personal Injuries Assess- being undertaken by the Government, will lead ment Board that an absence of corrective legis- to a properly functioning market that will lation has the potential to lead to the rejection of attract new entrants into the market and almost all PIAB assessments which will sub- provide the much needed competition to drive sequently proceed to litigation for the sole pur- premia down further”. pose of securing costs. The Bill addresses the issues I have described to ensure the stated There have been no new entrants into the Government policy of streamlining the settlement market. While premiums could always be lower, of personal injury claims is not permitted to be the PIAB has done great work in helping to circumvented in the manner currently evidenced. reduce costs but where is the evidence that I emphasise to the House that this Bill will in people going to the courts are doing otherwise? no way limit claimants’ range of choices or access The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, to the courts. The current amendment is a short the then Minister for State in the Department of technical proposal designed to address a signifi- Enterprise, Trade and Employment, at the end of that debate, stated: cant risk to the intent of the Act. With this in mind the co-operation of Deputies in assisting the The PIAB is not designed to deny people’s smooth passage of the Bill through this House access to the courts nor their entitlement to would be greatly appreciated. seek independent legal advice. The priority for the PIAB will be to implement fair procedures Deputy Phil Hogan: I wish to share time with in accordance with the principles of natural Deputies Creighton, Flanagan and D’Arcy. justice as they apply in this “documents only” procedure. An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed. He went on to state: “At the end of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board process, the parties Deputy Phil Hogan: Fine Gael supported the are entitled to reject the award if they consider setting up of the Personal Injuries Assessment they would secure a more favourable outcome Board but we cannot support this Bill. It was the through the courts system”. Why has there been Fine Gael Party that first called for a mechanism a U-turn on that? to be put in place that would lead to reduced We were told also during the course of that charging by the various intermediaries that were legislation that the legal advice from the Attorney in place in order to speed up the processing of General to the Government would ensure there those claims in a less costly manner. Ultimately, would not be any necessity to have a client take a we got the Government to act but a legal and case to the courts in respect of getting their costs perhaps constitutional principal is being trampled restored if they used the services of a solicitor or on here. a barrister for the purpose of presenting their As has been spelt out, the purpose of the Bill case to the PIAB. The whole idea behind the set- is to provide for a situation where a claimant ting up of the PIAB was to ensure the legal rejects a PIAB assessment that has been offered people and all of the other people would not be and where they fail to win more than the amount necessary. In other words, the process would be offered by the board when they go to the courts. so simple, people would not need the help of a I understand the logic behind that. Nobody wants solicitor to draw up an application to the PIAB. to encourage frivolous claims. We co-operated That did not happen because in the O’Brien case with the House on the Civil Liability Bill when Mr. Justice MacMenamin ruled that access to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law justice for the citizen was important and that what Reform brought that Bill forward in 2005 to deal the Government had tried to do, despite the legal with some of the exaggerated claims. Nobody advice and assurances we got, was to take away wants to tie up the time of the courts unnecess- the rights of the citizen to go to the courts, in arily or add to the costs incurred by businesses denial of what the Minister of State, Deputy and employers. This Bill, however, is a serious Ahern, had said in the course of the conclusion step in terms of the rights of citizens, aiming as it of that debate. does to restrict through discouragement the Another Minister made a contribution at that exercising of the legitimate democratic and legal time. The former Minister of State at the Depart- rights of citizens. ment of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I want to quote directly from representatives of Deputy Frank Fahey, in the Dail debate, stated: ´ the Government at the time of the passing of the It has also been alleged that respondents will original legislation in 2003. It is in the context of consent to a case going to assessment with the that debate, and the undertakings Ministers gave full intention from the outset of rejecting the at the time, that we raise some objections today. award and fighting liability in court. This The then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and makes no financial or tactical sense. Why 1937 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1938 would a respondent waste fees on the PIAB general must be administered in public. There are and then incur litigation costs? Delaying a case specific provisions in law which allow the exercise never operates to the advantage of the respon- of limited functions and powers of a judicial nat- dent but always enhances the value of the claim ure other than by judges. It is clear, however, that with the passage of time, which hampers the exercise of such powers must be in accord rehabilitation. with the principles of natural justice and in accordance with fair procedures. That is what we are arguing today. There is no incentive for anyone trying to play the system to In the original legislation, injured claimants are go to the PIAB with the intention of taking a friv- obliged by law to present their claims to this olous claim to the courts. Only when there is a board, which will operate in secret and which will, legitimate concern at the decision reached by the effectively, deny them the right of independent board would a decision to proceed to the courts advice, assistance or representation. Despite follow. those concerns, we favoured the Bill. It should not be forgotten that in its rush to We are not alone in our view. I point to the tackle the little guy the Government is ignoring ´ remarks of the late Mr. Justice Sean O’Leary, the massive profit increases for insurance com- who did the State some service. He set down his panies since the introduction of the PIAB. We thoughts on the administration of justice prior to were told the savings the PIAB would accrue his death, which were published following his would be passed on to consumers. That was the death. He stated the culture that has grown rationale behind this Bill being introduced and around the operation of the PlAB is one where the co-operation of the Opposition on that in all claimants for personal injury are viewed as terms of the benefit to the consumer. In 2005, the fraudsters. He went on to state: “The culture so profits of insurance companies amounted to \418 created has been added to by the aggressive million, an increase of 26% on the previous year, advertising of the insurance lobby”. He further while the savings that have accrued from the stated: PIAB amounted to 1.8%. The various savings Much more needs to be done to restore an from the PIAB are going into the hands of appropriate balance. If this is not done by the insurance companies rather than to the consumer. Oireachtas, then, in my view, the courts must Britain has seen the bonanza profits made as a insist on appropriate protection when suitable result of the changes to the claims regime in cases are presented for adjudication. Ireland and is begging the Government there to follow suit. Those are the views of an eminent judge who had While I am on the subject of the big guy versus the respect of Members on all sides of the House the little guy, I need not remind the Minister of and who made posthumous remarks about the a case that has been brought to my attention. It operation of the principles of natural justice. involves a 78 year old widow from Limerick who Today’s debate gives us an opportunity to was offered \14,000 from the PIAB in an action review where we are in terms of natural justice ´ she took against Bus Eireann in 2004. Bus and fair procedure. I ask the Minister to recon- ´ Eireann fought the case and she went to court sider whether it is appropriate that the State where she spent a day and a half in the witness should seek to discourage people exercising their box. The court awarded her \40,000. If we enact legal rights. I ask him also to review the oper- this legislation that lady will get \14,000 in a ations of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board similar case. She will not have the prospect of after three years in operation, which was prom- going to court to get \40,000. ´ ised by the then Tanaiste, Deputy Mary Harney, to determine if it is efficiently dealing with claims. Deputy Micheal Martin: That is not true. ´ Why are the benefits accruing from the savings being made by the PIAB, amounting to \45 mil- Deputy Lucinda Creighton: It is true. lion, not going into the hands of consumers rather than into the hands of grossly profitable An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Hogan, without insurance companies? interruption. Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Like Deputy Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister gave us all Hogan, I regret having to oppose this Bill because these assurances when the Bill was going through I support the principle behind the establishment the House in 2003 but they did not turn out to be of the PIAB. This amendment Bill is simply anti- true, in spite of the advice we gave the then Mini- citizen and anti-consumer, contrary to what the ster, Deputy Harney, at the time but she knew Minister stated. best. The Bill constitutes an assault on the most fun- For our part, we supported the establishment damental principle of our democracy and our of the PIAB but laid down some important mark- Constitution, that is, the principle of freedom of ers at the time. We made the point that Article citizens to their entitlement to be treated fairly 34 of the Constitution prescribes that justice must before the law. The Constitution protects that be administered in courts established by law, by right, inherently and in a variety of Articles, and judges appointed under the Constitution, and in this Bill acts as an assault on that. 1939 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1940 [Deputy Lucinda Creighton.] tutional. First, section 51B(2) is blatantly uncon- It is simply alarming that this legislation, which stitutional in that it imposes a blanket ban in all is aimed at attacking that freedom of equality circumstances on the recovery of costs in sub- before the law and equality of representation, is sequent litigation conducted by a solicitor in being pushed through by this Government in a respect of work done during the course of the style that is redolent of the Politburo in Soviet PIAB process. That, in effect, is what the Mini- Russia. Allow me to highlight some of the tactics ster proposes. that have been applied. There has been no public A raft of case law has consistently held that the consultation on this Bill, there has been no public right to recover costs is an inherent aspect of the debate on it, there was no reference in the Fianna right to access to the courts under Article 34.1 ´ Fail manifesto to this legislation, there is no refer- ´ and Article 40.3.1° of Bunreacht na hEireann. ence to it in the programme for Government and Cases such as Heaney v. Ireland and Murphy v. the Minister is now proposing to rush it through Greene have set out in great detail learned the House as though it were emergency legis- judgments — if the Minister is unfamiliar with lation, which it clearly is not. our constitutional law, I would be happy to explain it in further detail to him — not to men- Deputy Ruairı Quinn: It will have instant ´ tion the O’Brien v. PIAB decision in 2005 which effect. challenged and defeated the Government’s attempt to quell people’s opportunity and right to Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Exactly. If this Bill legal representation through the PIAB process. is passed, it will more than likely be enacted In addition, section 51B(1) is unconstitutional within two weeks. because it is retroactive. If the Minister’s legis- The Bill aims at narrowing the options avail- lation is passed, people who are currently going able to members of the public who are seeking through the PIAB process will not be able to justice and proper recompense before the courts claim their legal costs for that process which is when they have been wronged. These people are totally unjust and unfair. not wrongdoers. They are innocent victims who The Minister can chooses to ignore the clear have been subjected to some form of personal legal facts here at his peril. It would be remiss injury but it seems that the Government now and arrogant of him to ignore the constitutional wants to punish them. issues here. As the Minister will be well aware, of They are consumers. The Minister repeatedly course such action is not unprecedented. Last referred to the rights of consumers but he is year virtually the same Government chose to totally ignoring their rights in this Bill. It is his ignore the constitutional lacuna in the statutory duty to protect them, but he is attacking them by rape legislation, and we saw what happened railroading this legislation through the House. there. I would ask the Minister not to make the The effect of the legislation will be to blackmail same mistake again. people away from their legitimate right to Fine Gael is asking the Minister to make a recourse to the courts. That right should be sacro- clear choice. He should withdraw this legislation sanct and, indeed, is sacrosanct in the Consti- ´ and come back to the Dail in the next session tution, and the Minister will tip the balance in when we can debate this properly and, hopefully, favour of wealthy insurance companies and away have an opportunity to vindicate the rights of from the rights of consumers and claimants in citizens. legitimate personal injury cases. This crucial legislation is being rushed through Deputy Charles Flanagan: I want to place on ´ the Dail as though it were emergency legislation, the record an interest as far as this Bill is con- which it is not. I want the Minister to tell the cerned in so far as I am still a member of the House what is the urgency to amend the Bill Incorporated Law Society. I feel I should say that enacted only in 2003. What is this urgency to at the outset of the limited time afforded to me. amend such new legislation? Why not review the operation of the Personal Injuries Assessment An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has seven Board? Why railroad through this ill-conceived minutes. amendment Bill? The constitutionality of the proposals in this Deputy Charles Flanagan: It is disgraceful that Bill really is the crux of the issue. I have major this Bill is being rushed through in a way that concerns about aspects of its constitutionality. It reduces an opportunity for Members of this has been brought to my attention that the legal House to make a statement on the issue. I have opinion of probably the most eminent senior been five years out of this House and this place counsel in the country in the past few days was has changed. Deputies’ rights have been diluted furnished to both the Minister and the Attorney to the extent that since we came back here two General and I want to know what the Minister is weeks ago almost every item of legislation has doing with that legal opinion. Will he take it on been guillotined. board or will he merely cast it aside and ignore it? A Cheann Comhairle, as Chair of these pro- There are two specific provisions in this Bill ceedings, the manner in which the rights of which constitute the essence of what is unconsti- Deputies elected from constituencies up and 1941 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1942 down this country are safeguarded does no credit reported a 16% increase in profits in its motor to you. I would hope that you would look at it business but these savings have not been passed during the summer, that the Government would on to the citizen and the consumer. look at the manner in which it treats this The Personal Injuries Assessment Board has Chamber as a rubber stamp and that we might been given further powers by the Government in get off to a better start come the autumn. We are such a way as to stack the odds in favour of the ´ not in the dying days of a Dail. We are at the insurance industry, of which the PIAB is nothing start of a new five-year term. This Bill is not more than a puppet. The Government has urgent and it is wrong to push it through without strengthened its powers to limit an accident vic- giving adequate time for parliamentary debate tim’s capacity to seek compensation through the and for public scrutiny and submissions. courts. The Bill marks an erosion of people’s This is an attempt to push through a Bill that rights and an attempt to muzzle the vulnerable will limit the constitutional rights of citizens to and the voiceless. This is not about fraudulent or take a personal injury case and it is nothing short frivolous claims but massive profits for the of Government-sponsored blackmail. Before insurance industry on the backs of the victims of empowering the insurance industry and the PIAB accidents. Using the guillotine on the Bill makes and before we should limit the rights of the citi- a mockery of the parliamentary process, which zen even further, there is a need on the part of is regrettable. Government to weed out unscrupulous practices within the insurance industry. Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Hear, hear. Earlier this year a Sunday newspaper alleged that a major insurance company was recruiting Deputy Michael D’Arcy: I was surprised to see ´ serving and retired gardaı to investigate and settle this Bill being brought before the House with claims to the detriment of the victim. I will be such haste. The Minister describes the PIAB as returning to this in the autumn when we have making an independent and impartial monetary time. It is not unknown for accident victims to be assessment of damages based on medical evi- ´ visited at their hospital bedside by ex-gardaı act- dence in a non-adversarial way. It does not have ing as private investigators for large insurance a monopoly. In a number of cases it made offers companies and persuaded to settle their claims at that were declined and the courts made signifi- gross undervalue. To date there has been no cantly higher awards. serious effort, either on the part of the Garda or The idea was to have the PIAB legal free but of the Government, to halt this practice. Before this is a misconception. Insurance companies are ´ he left this House the former Tanaiste and Mini- stacked with legal opinion and the PIAB has sig- ster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, nificant legal knowledge. The claimant is legal Michael McDowell, stated that he viewed the free, which is unfair. The evidence does not stack matter as one of the utmost gravity. I have not up, given that 90% of those who make a claim seen much action on the matter over the past through the PIAB have some legal knowledge few months. or backup. The citizens of this State are being left vulner- The direction of the PIAB is a concern. Deputy able to unscrupulous practices. The idea of eld- Flanagan referred to it becoming a puppet of the erly accident victims being awoken in their insurance industry. It accepts that a wrong has hospital beds to be confronted by an ex-garda been done and that the only matter to be agreed waving a claim form and an acceptance receipt is is the amount of damages to be paid. It does not grotesque. This Bill will copperfasten further the have a monopoly. Speaking as an employer, the powers of the Personal Injuries Assessment benefit of the current health and safety position Board to the detriment of the citizens of this of employers is as a result of claims made in the country. I heard a great deal of talk about con- courts and the PIAB. However, the profits of sumers. We are dealing here with the rights of insurance companies have continued to rise citizens of the State to bring their cases fairly to dramatically, despite the existence of the PIAB. an arbitrary proceeding, which is a court of this Premiums have not been reduced to reflect the land. decrease in the cost of claims. Newspaper investigations into alleged collusion The consumer does not benefit from the PIAB ´ between gardaı and the insurance industry reveal and will certainly not benefit from this amend- that privileged Garda information on road traffic ment. The proposal is designed to force claimants accidents was used by insurance companies to to make an assessment of what is offered without settle cases more quickly and cheaply, and legal advice. That is wrong and I am surprised it thereby contributed to a large rise in profits for is proposed. Now, if a case proceeds to court after the market share, a point made earlier by Deputy undergoing a PIAB assessment and the courts do Hogan. According to the latest figures, motor not award higher damages, the claimant must pay insurance profits have risen to the tune of 25%. for legal opinion out of his or her own pocket. There has been a decrease in premiums but this These are strong arm tactics that benefit the was cyclical and would have occurred in any PIAB. Joe and Josephine Soap who we accept event. It should not be attributed to the Personal have suffered a wrong are not getting the benefit Injuries Assessment Board. Allianz Insurance of legal advice. They are playing Russian roulette 1943 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1944 [Deputy Michael D’Arcy.] would be some residual discretion left to the with the court system. To Deputies Flanagan, courts in regard to these matters. For a technical Creighton and Penrose who are professionals in reason which I understand but think is nonsense, the legal world, this is wrong. they were ruled out of order by the Chair on the As an employer, I suggest this measure should grounds that they constituted a charge on the not be taken. Evidence suggests it may be uncon- Exchequer. If our amendment was passed, in stitutional. If someone receives an increased some cases the court would be able to agree to amount from the court system, he or she does not award costs and that, consequently, would be a have costs of the PIAB application covered. How cost, ultimately, on the Exchequer. I take it that can the Minister support this? The legislation is it is possible for the Minister to introduce such designed in order that people make a legal assess- amendments, should he consider they are worthy. ment without legal advice. Insurance companies He might want to consider this as an option on and the PIAB have legal advice, while Joe and Committee or Report Stage. Josephine Soap do not. I refer to the final point What I do not wish to happen is for this legis- in the Minister’s speech, that the Bill will in no lation to be found unconstitutional. It should be way limit claimant’s range of choices or access to amended. Deputy Charles Flanagan raised con- the courts. That is incorrect. The Bill will exclude cerns in regard to the revelations about an people by using the fear that they will be left with insurance company using retired members of the a significant legal bill if they take a case to court. ´ ´ Garda Sıochana to informally access accident That should not be the aim of the legislation. ´ ´ records within the Garda Sıochana, which is an I have only been a Member for a number of absolute abuse of privilege, an abuse of former weeks. It seems the mighty are being facilitated servants of the State as well as data belonging to to grow mightier. There is nobody as mighty as the State concerning citizens. The matter should the insurance companies. The Bill will lead to be vigorously investigated because it is one of increased profits and the ordinary citizen will not concern. While the article in question was written receive a just amount for the wrong done. That sensationally and the claim has been denied by is unjust. the principal insurance company named in it, I ´ am not satisfied we, as Members of the Dail, have Deputy Ruairı Quinn: I wish to share time with ´ been satisfied that an undertaking and inspection Deputies Penrose and Kathleen Lynch. have been carried through that refutes the claim I look forward to Committee Stage when we in the article in the first instance, if such a refu- can engage in dialogue that was not characteristic tation can be made, and more to the point, if it of the publication and urgent debating of this Bill. cannot be refuted, that effective action is being I support the concept of the PIAB and argued taken to stop this practice. for it when I was Minister with responsibility for We must examine the impact of the PIAB on enterprise and employment. I was persuaded of how the insurance industry is working and how it the necessity to reduce the costs of employment is affecting our costs in terms of overall national and insurance, both legal and premium costs, as ` competitiveness vis-a-vis other countries. As the they affected small business. I remain convinced Minister has rightly stated on numerous of the prevailing argument and believe the PIAB occasions, we have to compete in a most competi- has contributed significantly in the case of 35,000 tive world and take responsibility for those costs people out of 40,000 who could access a quick and charges over which we have direct control. and easy settlement with minimum cost. Some This is a clear example of one of those costs. sections of the legal sector have had their per- Sometimes the intentions and interventions, well sonal injuries business significantly reduced and intended though they are by politicians, the Civil are hurting as a consequence. However, the weak Service or the Minister of the day, have outcomes insurance market has not been reformed to the that were unanticipated or do not necessarily extent that there is now more competition. As a achieve the objective intended in the first place. result of changes in the marketplace, we have not I wish to read the conclusions of the opinion seen the arrival of new elements that would drive offered to the Minister and other Deputies in the down costs through competition. There is an House by Mr. Gerard Hogan. I invite the Mini- urgent need to review the operation of the system ster to give the advice he received in return, as in place. no doubt he has received a response. I will make For a short period I was a member of the Joint this advice available. The conclusion of the emi- Committee on Enterprise and Small Business, nent senior counsel was: chaired by Senator Cassidy. Representatives from Summing up, therefore, I am of the opinion the PIAB appeared before the committee and I that: am saddened that we have not had dialogue with them before passing all Stages today. A. Judged by reference to the decision of I refer to the legal opinion received from Mr. Finlay P. in Henehan, section 51B(2) of the Gerard Hogan, Ireland’s most esteemed consti- 2007 Bill is unconstitutional insofar as it tutional lawyer on these matters. We tabled two imposes a blanket and artificial prohibition in amendments designed, in effect, to ensure this all circumstances of the recovery of costs in legislation would be constitutional and that there subsequent litigation done by a solicitor in 1945 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1946 respect of work during the course of the in court, that that constitutional and legal door PIAB process. should be left open to them. However, it was intended for others for whom there was no dis- B. Judged by reference to the decision of the pute in regard to the damage done and no dispute Supreme Court in the Health (Amendment) as to liability or responsibility who simply wanted Bill, section 51B(1) is unconstitutional insofar to make their application, receive compensation as it interferes retrospectively with the vested and get on with the rest of their lives and did not (albeit contingent) right of a claimant to want to wait in a legal queue for two or three recover the PIAB element of such costs in sub- years and that as a consequence, the legal sequent litigation. element of the costs of insurance would be This is a serious charge from someone who com- reduced for them in a simple and straight- mands respect across the House. It would be rash forward way. and unwise of the House to rush through legis- All of us welcomed that principle, in so far as lation which will, because there is no commence- we could see it functioning and it has functioned ment date for it, upon signature by the President well for the 35,000. Why are we closing off this in three or four weeks time, take immediate door in this way to such an extent and in such an effect and have an immediate effect on cases absolute manner when we have an opinion from pending. My colleague, Deputy Penrose, might an eminent lawyer to the effect that it is unconsti- address this matter in a more professional way as tutional? This is a reckless way to proceed. I urge he is a practising lawyer. There are legal diffi- the Minister to reconsider. culties associated with this issue. Irrespective of the merits of the case, as Members of this House, Deputy Willie Penrose: I offer my congratu- as a constituent part of the Oireachtas, in line lations to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on his with the President, we have to be vigilant in elevation to that office. ensuring we do not pass laws, however well intended, that will turn out to be unconstitutional An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Go raibh maith and which will, undoubtedly, be challenged on agat. foot of this opinion and by the legal profession. I thank the Minister for the copy of the open- Deputy Willie Penrose: I am a practising bar- ing statement he made available. However, I am rister; immediately therefore the PIAB and those not satisfied he has made a compelling case as to associated with the insurance industry will say, why we need to do this now and so quickly. It is “You would say that”. Notwithstanding the fact, not clear what are the additional costs. We have some of those involved in the PIAB are closely not received a briefing from the PIAB in regard associated with the insurance industry or had to the Bill, although I received brief correspon- backgrounds in it. That is their profession. It is dence from its chairperson in response to a press often the case when one is a legal person that release I issued. I am not satisfied this is the way there is a tendency to shoot the messenger we should be making this law. We have the because one may make points with which people experience of this House which the Minister will are not happy. remember in his previous ministerial responsi- Let us be clear; I am here, not as a legal person bility when his successor tried to rush through but to represent my constituents, people who legislation to make the payment of nursing home have rights that are being trammelled upon and charges retrospectively legal and it was deemed curtailed. They are not being shown respect, to be unconstitutional. We should learn from our despite the fact that under the Constitution, they collective experience. This is not about point- are entitled to have those rights vindicated. A ´ scoring. This is not a case of Fianna Fail v. the plethora of cases have indicated people have rest. This is not the cut and thrust of party poli- rights of access to the courts and that they are tics; this is the workshop of democracy where we entitled to receive the best legal advice available try to get laws on the Statute Book that will to them. If they win their case, because they have enable our society to function well. We are not been the victim of an injury perpetrated by some- doing that job effectively. body who has done wrong, their costs should also I urge the Minister to respond fully to the be recovered. points that have been made and give a reason as Like Deputy D’Arcy, I also have a business to why all Stages of the Bill have to be enacted and pay insurance. The premium has reduced to today and rushed through the Seanad in the next some extent but it is nowhere near the level of week or so. What is the reason for this urgency reduction that, according to the Minister, should if, as the Minister stated, 35,000 out 40,000 legal be passed on to me as a consumer since the intro- cases that previously went before the courts are duction of the PIAB. The biggest beneficiary to happy to go to the PIAB? It was never the inten- date of its introduction has undoubtedly been the tion that the access route to the courts would be insurance companies and the insurance industry. shut off for all 40,000. It was always the intention The cost of insurance has come down but the for those persons who felt they had a reasonable magnitude of the decrease, some of which would argument to go to court, should they want to have have happened, is dwarfed by the significant the complexities of their individual case argued increase in the profits of insurance companies. In 1947 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1948 [Deputy Willie Penrose.] executive of the Personal Injuries Assessment 2005 the profits of the motor insurance industry Board stated “It’s not my job to criticise the increased by 26% to \480 million. insurance companies” and she refused to com- This figure comes from a report by the Finan- ment on the level of premiums charged. While cial Regulator. Overall, insurance companies she may believe it is not her job, the PIAB criti- made a net underwriting profit of \802 million in cises everything else. Incidentally, I was holding 2005. This figure only pertains to the a clinic one day when I overheard an avalanche 12 o’clock Irish risk business and represents a of Personal Injuries Assessment Board people 16% increase on the \689 million coming on air to criticise and take issue with achieved in 2004. This gives the lie to any displays everything she said. of the poor mouth from such sources up to now. Members should consider the facts. How many Profits have continued to increase in 2006 and I of the claimants, of those who have filled forms would like to see those figures. with the board, have had their cases proceeded It is clear the major winner from the introduc- with and have accepted the awards? While the tion of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Minister has cited a figure of 35,000, the duty of was the insurance industry. Is that a coincidence, lawyers is to act in the best interests of their simply pure good fortune or would this have hap- clients. Everyone, including IBEC and the pened to some extent in any event? The board insurance industry, is claiming we are all one big has played a role. However, it only handles happy family. I have always taken the view that uncontested cases and Members should under- when everyone is pronouncing that we are all stand that many such cases are contested. winners, someone must be losing. It is clear the Although some Members were of the view that losers are ordinary claimants and consumers. one had a choice and was not obliged to go While the ultimate aim is a lawyer-free zone and through the board, one must do so. Moreover, it there is nothing wrong with that, not everyone is is obligatory to go through PIAB even when one able to understand the intricacies and complexit- has a case against the Motor Insurers Bureau of ies that exist. Clearly this is a one-sided equation Ireland, which was set up by the Oireachtas in a as the insurance companies can arm themselves parallel measure. In such cases, it is passed back with the best lawyers and claims managers. Such and subsequently the entire process begins again. individuals are very good at their job and I salute While the Personal Injuries Assessment Board them for that. They can be as tough as nails. offers assistance to people to try to get them into However, as Deputy Flanagan asked, what about the system, the important point is that one must the little person? Undoubtedly, the system will get some advice before going through the board. gain a fresh impetus after the passage of this Bill. Not everyone can read the plethora of complex Basically, it is so designed to compel accident vic- forms that come to them. Mr. Justice John Mac- tims to accept settlements that may be signifi- Menamin’s judgment in the O’Brien case is very cantly lower than their true value. A fear will be interesting. He went to great lengths to spell out generated that were one to reject an offer of the reasons and cited various cases from America \25,000 and proceed to court, where one was and elsewhere. Every other jurisdiction recog- awarded \24,999, one would lose both one’s own nises that legal representation involves conduct as costs and those of the defendants. Although this well as advocacy. However, the Minister’s actions constitutes a double whammy, the system is sup- today will ensure they are wiped out. posed to be fair. No one who is involved in any way in a legal The Minister should recall the Bill. I had profession is able to offer any criticism of the Per- always considered him to be a middle of the road sonal Injuries Assessment Board because we are or centre-left politician,unlike some of his col- deemed to be vested interests. Others however, leagues and have always believed that he would including those with senior jobs in other fields consider matters from a broad perspective. I am involved in the insurance industry, can say what surprised he has presented this Bill to the House they like or put forward any view without being in a rushed manner. Is there any control of the deemed to be vested interests. There is no point insurance industry under any circumstances? considering matters through rose tinted glasses Recently, I read that insurance companies are that are coloured by whatever background from offering parents money for injuries sustained by which one comes. It is important that people’s their children. In other words, they are settling rights are not simply trampled upon. children’s claims directly with parents. I am Insurance companies have not passed on the unsure of the truth of this report. For good moneys saved to their customers. I wish to reason, the Civil Liability and Courts Act and the acknowledge the work of Pat Leahy of The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act have in- Sunday Business Post who has conducted a criti- built statutory safeguards to protect the rights of cal analysis of the Personal Injuries Assessment children. All such offers of settlement to a solici- Board, which was not the most popular thing to tor or parent of a child under 18 years of age must do. I understand that Dearbhail McDonald, the remain just that, namely, offers until they are legal correspondent for the Irish Independent, has approved by the court of competent jurisdiction. also done so. In an interview with The Sunday A time-honoured process exists for enabling the Business Post on 5 November 2006, the chief court to adjudicate upon the adequacy or other- 1949 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1950 wise of the offer. Of course to invoke such vital themselves in court or before the PIAB and who safeguards, the claim must have been initiated, would be nervous about filling out the type of that is, legal proceedings must be issued or a form required. Throughout Committee Stage, we claim made through the Personal Injuries Assess- received assurances that one would always have ment Board. When the court is not satisfied, the the safety net of being able to go to court. case will proceed to a hearing before a different judge and any amount ultimately approved or Deputy Ruairı Quinn: Exactly. ´ awarded by the court will then go into the Courts Service, to be managed until the child in 18. I Deputy Kathleen Lynch: No matter how have read about such developments. It would be wealthy or poor we are, all we can rely on is the a serious matter if an insurance company could protection of the law. If we forget this, our settle such claims directly. democracy is in serious trouble. The amending Deputy Flanagan mentioned a scenario about Bill to the legislation will try to remove that pro- which I have concerns, namely, when someone is tection. It will be challenged because it is consti- injured. Someone could come to one’s hospital tutionally unsound. bed or home to make an offer within two or three The PIAB’s chairperson was impressive when weeks of an accident. If it looks good, perhaps it was established, but had I been the claims man- \15,000 or \20,000, one might decide to accept it. ´ ´ ager of Iarnrod Eireann, I would also feel At present, the incentive is to do so. However, strongly about people taking that body to court. two years later one may be attending physio- Now, what I see are beggars on horseback. The therapists, be out of work with a bad back or be Minister knows as well as I the old saying in Cork obliged to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Where about putting a beggar on horseback and being does it end? This is a oneway road. This is a ridden to the devil. This is what the amendment genuine point as I no longer carry out as much will do. We got a pound of flesh, but it is not work of this nature as heretofore, because I do enough because we want two pounds. not have time. Someone may fall and be seriously injured. It This road is oneway. I am disappointed with could happen through negligence. I am a great the trade union movement. It represents workers believer in there being certain things as accidents in the industry and I have not heard a squeak out and fault on both sides, but some people are of them. Workers are involved. Why should it be injured through negligence on the part of the per- that local authorities, big business and so on can son with the duty of care. In my example, the have the best brains in the business representing person would need to go to the PIAB, but the them, while the Minister proposes that people should take the chance by going to court? If one Minister assured us that one could bypass the is awarded a cent less than one’s offer, one is ban- PIAB and go directly to court. The PIAB would jaxed. This is what the Minister proposes and he decide that because of the person’s circumstances is providing no discretion. and lifestyle — it is not a grand lifestyle and he I will not go into the opinion offered by Gerard or she does not have a lot of money or assets — Hogan. As I told Deputy Quinn this morning, I \30,000 would be enough. There is an attitude was not aware of it. However, I refer to the retro- that a Gucci suit will get someone before the spectivity of this measure. It cannot stand up and courts more than something from Dunnes Stores. the Minister should withdraw sections 51B(1) and As an offer of \30,000 would not be enough, 51B(2). The Minister proposes to implement a the person would decide to go to court, but the measure that is unconstitutional. first advice given to the person by those who I cherish a couple of things, namely, the Consti- know the law is that, if he or she goes to court, tution and the independence of the Judiciary. I he or she may get a lesser award — it is the am very proud of them and in that context, I urge adviser’s duty to inform the person of this — and the Minister to re-examine this Bill. become liable for costs. What would a person with no means or assets do? Would he or she con- Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The Leas-Cheann tinue in the hope of being brazen, then settle for Comhairle, Deputy Hogan and I sat on the Oppo- half? He or she would accept the \30,000 know- sition benches when the principal Act was taken ing in his or her heart of hearts that it would be through Committee Stage. Civil servants write wrong to do so. It is like telling people to take speeches for Ministers, but the least Ministers can their medicine or else they will be sent to hospital do is ensure accuracy. Insurance companies did to have needles stuck in them. Fear is being not reduce their costs as a result of the PIAB’s instilled in people who have no means or assets. establishment. Those costs had already fallen as The PIAB should not be chaired by someone a result of the intensive scrutiny of the industry with the chairperson’s background. The instinc- by the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small tive reaction that everyone is a fraudster is not Business. An issue on its agenda at the time was correct. Claims in respect of compensation for the establishment of the PIAB. personal injuries had reduced regardless, but the I have no vested interest in this matter other screw is being tightened further. The Minister than being a Deputy who represents people, the knows it is unconstitutional and it is staggering majority of whom would not be able to represent that his officials are allowing him to proceed with 1951 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1952 [Deputy Kathleen Lynch.] The majority of people who suffer a personal it. Who is pushing the amendment and on whose injury through the negligence of others want suggestion is it being made? reasonable compensation in an efficient, timely I am not a solicitor, lawyer or so on. My vested and uncomplicated manner. The judicial process interest is in ensuring that people without means is not the appropriate mechanism for dealing with are protected, but this legislation does not protect the majority of such cases. This debate should not them. The Minister should examine the aggress- be focused on the interests of the legal profession ive advertising by insurance companies making or the insurance industry. millions of euro in profit, not tighten the screws According to the Central Statistics Office, on people and put them in positions whereby they motor insurance premia fell by 34% between will not access the courts for fear they will lose April 2003 and December 2006. Other policy the little they have. The Minister should examine initiatives contributed to this improvement, but the amendment seriously and ask himself the the establishment of the PIAB has played an questions each of us should ask ourselves, important role in reducing insurance premia, namely, who is pushing the amendment, what is including tangible financial benefits for individ- the amendment’s purpose and why is it wanted. uals and businesses. The introduction of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which includes Deputy Ruairı Quinn: Yes. ´ penalties for giving false or misleading evidence in personal injury cases, has provided a significant Deputy Kathleen Lynch: If the Minister deterrent to bogus claims. answers those questions honestly, his attitude should be different. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Then why is this Bill being introduced? Deputy Michael McGrath: I would like to share my time with Deputy Kennedy. Deputy Michael McGrath: The work of the PIAB has directly challenged the mindset of the An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Agreed. As it is a compensation culture. The independent assess- 20-minute slot, the Deputies will have ten ment of personal injury cases carried out by the minutes each. board is provided without the need for the Deputy Michael McGrath: I congratulate the majority of current litigation costs, such as solici- Leas-Cheann Comhairle on his appointment and tors’, barristers’ and experts’ fees, associated with wish him well. such claims. These significant costs contributed to the high cost of insurance in Ireland for both con- An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Go raibh maith sumers and the business community. agat. The compensation awarded by the PIAB is not affected by the legal costs and experts’ fees that Deputy Michael McGrath: I also congratulate add more than 46% on average to the cost of a my constituency colleague, Deputy Martin, on his claim. The board has also reduced the amount of reappointment as the Minister for Enterprise, time it takes to finalise a compensation claim. Trade and Employment and wish him continued While it can take approximately three years to success in his portfolio. I congratulate too Deputy settle a claim under the court system, it generally Michael Ahern on his appointment as a Minister takes nine months to settle a personal injury of State at the same Department. I wish to take claim via the PIAB. this opportunity to thank the people of Cork The PIAB has recently announced that it has South-Central for giving me the honour and privi- delivered total personal injury awards in excess lege of representing them in this House. of \100 million to date. Having reached full flow I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Per- activity this year, it expects to deliver compen- sonal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) sation payments in excess of \100 million annu- Bill 2007. I do not have a background in the legal ally from 2008. Critically, it has brought consist- profession or the insurance industry, which is not ency to the treatment of personal injury cases. intended as a slight to any Deputy with either We all know of cases where people were encour- background in the House. Since the establish- aged to take an action because of the outcome of ment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board a court case brought by another person in similar in 2004, it has been a central element of the circumstances. The consistent and even-handed Government’s insurance reform programme. Its evaluation of claims by the PIAB has ended the success in such a short period has been remark- incentive for claimants to bring suspect claims in able, but we have not given it enough credit for the hope of securing a perhaps undeserved bon- its work during this debate. The number of per- anza in court. sonal injury cases going through the courts has The work of the PIAB has not only benefited dropped from more than 35,000 in 2004 to fewer the victim of the personal injury but also the per- than 5,000 in 2005. This dramatic reduction has son or organisation alleged to be responsible. allowed more court resources to be used to deal According to the chief executive of the board, with cases that must, by necessity, go through the there is good news also for respondents — those judicial process. paying for accidents — as the costs of processing 1953 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1954 claims through the PIAB continued to reduce and Before the advent of the PIAB system, most are currently up to 70% cheaper than litigation. claimants brought their claims to court. It is my Based on trends to date and the achievement of experience that it generally took three to five full volume activity this year, the PIAB is tar- years for claims to be settled. These delays caused geting annual processing cost savings of \40 mil- great annoyance to genuine claimants. Further- lion relative to litigation from 2008. more, those policyholders against whose policies I have listened carefully to the debate on this the claim was made suffered an increased pre- legislation. The fundamental point is that the Bill mium for the duration of the three to five years does not remove a person’s right to reject a PIAB in which the claim was awaiting a court hearing. recommendation and take a personal injury case The insurance companies made sure no-claims to court. Equally, if a claimant’s legal representa- bonuses and so on were not paid to such persons. tive feels strongly enough that the case should be There is no doubt that insurance brokers had taken to court, that representative has the option great difficulty in trying to negotiate the loading to take the financial risk. The bottom line is that imposed by insurers on these policyholders. after a decision is issued by the PIAB, the claim- One of the consistent problems for insurers in ant will have to make a judgment call as to the pre-PIAB era was that the courts were incon- whether he or she wishes to take the matter to sistent in granting awards for seemingly similar court. Claimants will in general make that claims. There was a general view that particular judgment call based on the advice of their legal judges were more or less likely to award substan- representative who is perfectly free to offer to tial amounts. This was a factor in the apparently take the case on a “no win no fee” basis. relentless annual increases in insurance premia. There may be proposals from the other side of Since the introduction of the PIAB system, there the House that the court should be allowed a has been a major reduction in the number of degree of discretion on the issue of costs in cases claims and the amounts of payments. There has where it upholds a PIAB assessment and grants also been great consistency in the amounts somebody an amount no greater than that of the awarded for similar injuries. In 2005, for example, PIAB in its decision. However, we have seen in the number of claims in the court system reduced other situations, particularly in criminal law from some 40,000 to fewer than 5,000. This has matters, where the Judiciary has been given a allowed the courts to deal with genuine cases in degree of latitude in regard to mandatory sen- a more expeditious manner. Under the previous tences, with the outcome being that the exception system claimants had to wait three to five years to becomes the norm and the flexibility granted to have their cases settled and receive their money. the Judiciary is extended so far that the rule Notwithstanding these developments, I have not becomes meaningless. seen any poor solicitors or barristers. On the con- The result of adopting this Bill will be to trary, they seem to be flourishing. One can only strengthen the role of the PIAB and make people wish them good luck as they play an important thinker more carefully and perhaps more sensibly role. before embarking on a costly and lengthy legal Before the advent of the PIAB, legal costs at process where the outcome is uncertain. I com- 40% were payable on the settlement achieved by mend everyone involved in the PIAB for the out- the claimant. A person who received a settlement standing work they have done thus far and wish of \10,000, for instance, had to pay \4,000 to his them every success. or her legal representative. The difficulty in this regard is that it was insurance consumers who Deputy Michael Kennedy: Ba mhaith liom mo paid these costs via increasing premia. Insurance ´ chomhghairdeas a ghabhail leis an tAire, Deputy companies are not the St. Vincent de Paul Society Martin, and the Minister of State, Deputy but in business to make profits. When they lose Michael Ahern. I support this legislation. Some money, the losses are passed on to all customers of the Members who have spoken have legal through increased premia, not just those unfortu- backgrounds. I have practised as a professional nate persons who have a claim against their insurance broker for more than 30 years, working policy. on behalf of insurance consumers. It is my experi- It is my experience that in the last three years ence that insurance premia have increased con- insurance premia across the board have reduced sistently in that period due to insurance compan- by 50%. This is a direct result of the PIAB system ies incurring major losses. Companies frequently by which claims have been substantially reduced imposed across the board increases, for both in numbers and costs. There is now greater com- private and business customers. People may petition within the insurance industry which was choose to ignore the statistics but they undoubt- open in the past to charges that a cartel was in edly show that motor, public liability and operation. Both private and commercial business employers’ liability claims were consistent loss clients have benefited from reduced premia. I makes for insurance companies. Those clients suggest to Deputies D’Arcy and Penrose that if who had the misfortune to have claims paid out their premia have not come down by 50%, they of their policies suffered a further penalty when should consult a good insurance broker. their insurance company imposed a claims Reverting to a situation where claimants were loading. encouraged to go to court would undoubtedly 1955 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1956 [Deputy Michael Kennedy.] PIAB is not designed to deny people’s access to lead to higher settlements and drive premia up. the courts or to their entitlement to seek indepen- This would not be in the best interests of dent legal advice.” It appears, however, this Bill insurance consumers, whether private citizens or not only adversely affects the rights of citizens but businesses. While insurers are currently making it may also force the introduction of other legis- large profits, it would be a sad day if we reverted lation to review and revise the operations of the to the problems we faced in the 1970s, 1980s and assessment board. That would be the unfortunate 1990s when insurance premia were considerably result of the railroading of the legislation. higher due to a lack of competition. This Bill will The Personal Injuries Assessment Board continue the policy of streamlining the settlement (Amendment) Bill 2007 seeks to curb a reported of personal injury claims in a non-adversarial practice whereby a large percentage of claimants manner and replacing the old system with a are rejecting PIAB assessments and taking their speedy, low cost and user friendly one. I do not cases to court in the hope of securing larger wish to suggest that claimants have no rights to settlements or awards. According to The Irish go to solicitors because if their claims are genuine Times, this amounts to a figure of 40%. The route they should be able to take that course. However, is made more attractive by media reports on the provisions in this Bill are in the best interest claimants who were awarded legal costs. The of insurance customers. I strongly urge Deputies important words here are “curb” and “practice”. to support this Bill. The Government is seeking through legislative means to impose a blanket ban on the recovery An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy of costs in any subsequent litigation conducted by Bannon. Approximately 14 minutes remain a solicitor in respect of work carried out in the before I must ask the Minister to conclude the course of the PIAB process. This is further com- debate. pounded by section 51B(1) which interferes retrospectively with the right of a claimant to Deputy James Bannon: Without mincing recover the PIAB element of costs in subsequent words, this Bill is a joke. Like a rogue elephant litigation. So much for the Government commit- trampling all before it, the Government will force ment to allow people to access the courts. The the legislation’s passage through sheer weight of right of access to court is an inherent element of numbers, regardless of the legal and democratic Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights of our citizens. I am stunned that the Mini- Rights and covers civil proceedings. Peter Leach ster, despite all the advice available to him, has has observed in Taking a Case to the European stood over a Bill that is constitutionally unsound. Court of Human Rights that the effective exercise of this right may create other obligations on the Deputy Michael Ahern: According to Fine State, such as the provision of legal aid in civil Gael’s barristers. proceedings where legal representation is made compulsory for certain types of litigation or sim- An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Minister ply because of the complexity of the procedure of State to allow Deputy Bannon to make his or the particular case. contribution. There is a convention in this House The PlAB initially sought to minimise lawyer that new Deputies are afforded the opportunity involvement in the new procedure by correspond- to speak without interruption. ing directly with claimants rather than their legal advisers. This policy was tested in the High Court Deputy Michael Ahern: The Deputy is an old in the case of O’Brien v PIAB 2005 and it was hand. He does not get upset at interruptions. held by Mr. Justice McMenamin that the board had no statutory authority to exclude an appli- Deputy James Bannon: I thank the Leas- cant’s legal adviser from the process. Cheann Comhairle. An article in the Sunday Business Post on 1 Surely it is realistic to expect the Government July 2007 noted that the process of settling claims to produce watertight legislation that will not has changed hugely since the advent of the PIAB waste our time or leave the door open to consti- and stated: “The new system was designed to help tutional challenge. This is not to take from the insurers reduce costs but an unfortunate by-prod- work being carried out by the Personal Injuries uct has been the way it has encouraged insurers Assessment Board, which was advocated and sup- to short-change consumers. Few outside the legal ported by Fine Gael, albeit with some reser- profession decry PIAB’s professed aim of vations. However, our support cannot be creating a lawyer-free zone, but the system has extended to this Bill. It is unbelievable that any given carte blanche to the insurance industry to Government or its representatives would legislate get the unsuspecting victims to accept settlements to restrict the rights of its citizens to access the that are considerably lower than their true value.” courts without regard for public consultation. In supporting the establishment of the PIAB, Speaking on the original debate on the Personal Fine Gael made the point that Article 34 of the Injuries Assessment Board in 2003, the then Constitution prescribes that justice must be Minister of State at the Department of administered in courts established by law, by Enterprise, Trade and Employment stated: “The judges appointed under the constitution and in 1957 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1958 general must be administered in public. Where is mittee that recommended the legislation I am the care we should be giving to personal injury implementing. The committee unanimously victims? The Government has become so recommended this legislation to the Government, obsessed with reducing insurance premia that the the same committee of which Deputy Hogan was rights of victims have simply been forgotten. The a member. denial of their constitutional rights is just another way of leaving the average citizen adrift without Deputy Phil Hogan: I am well aware of which the necessary recourse to viable options. Rather committee I was a member. than rushing through this legislation, the Minister would be better advised to pause to consult the Deputy Micheal Martin: The Deputy obviously ´ Attorney General because Fine Gael is tired of supported it then but now he has come into the repeating that rushed and railroaded legislation is House and done a spectacular U-turn, attacked bad legislation. the PIAB and opposed the legislation. That is, in essence, what has happened here. Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employ- ment (Deputy Micheal Martin): I thank Deputies ´ Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister is the one for their contributions, in particular newly elected doing a U-turn. Deputies such as Deputies Creighton, Michael McGrath and Kennedy, whom I congratulate on Deputy Micheal Martin: I have pointed out this ´ their election. I wish to make several general fact on a number of occasions in this House and points before addressing the specific issues raised in the Seanad. by Deputies. There has always been strong lobbying against I am somewhat taken aback by the strong anti- the Personal Injuries Assessment Board by the PIAB sentiment expressed by the Opposition and legal profession — let us be very clear about that, in particular by Fine Gael Members, despite their and I understand it. I have no axe to grind with efforts to mask it. I regret the personalisation of the legal profession but its opposition to the some of the attacks in regard, for example, to the PIAB has been relentless and will continue to be chairperson. That should not be part of any so. The legal profession will seek every oppor- debate in this House. Furthermore, does anyone tunity to undermine the PIAB. Let us be under seriously think the Government’s agenda is to no illusions about that and let us not be naive trample on the fundamental rights of citizens? about it. We are endeavouring here to close off loopholes that will be exploited to the detriment Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Yes. of the consumer, the ordinary citizen and the common good. That is all we—— Deputy Micheal Martin: Of course the Govern- ´ ment does not have that agenda. Our agenda is Deputy Ruairı Quinn: We must do that within ´ completely the opposite because we want to pro- the terms of the Constitution. tect the common good, the ordinary citizen and, ultimately, the taxpayer, as well as make our Deputy Micheal Martin: Of course we must do ´ economy and society more competitive, effective it within the terms of the Constitution. I accept, and efficient. by the way, the measured approach taken by That is what we are trying to achieve. I find the Deputy Quinn. I accept that his presentation this Fine Gael position quite extraordinary. It is clear morning is consistent with his earlier positions, in we are in a post-election scenario and I invite the terms of enterprise, and I understand his legit- spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employ- imate concerns about the constitutional frame- ment, Deputy Hogan, to take down the Fine Gael work. The Deputy made a measured contribution website entitled rip-off republic because the and I will deal with the issues he raised later. party’s stance here is not about protecting people from rip-offs. It is the antithesis of what that party Fundamentally, our objective is to close off a was doing for approximately 12 months before particular loophole. Mention was made of the the election, attacking the Government about rip- membership of the PIAB. I accept what Deputy off this and rip-off that. The Deputy should take Penrose argued regarding the bona fides of the down the website because his party’s stance here case but unfortunately he questioned the compo- is not in the interests of the consumer. sition of the board and referred to members’ allegiances and so forth. We all know Senator Joe Deputy Phil Hogan: The election is over. O’Toole, who is the vice chairman of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. I have had many dis- Deputy Micheal Martin: I genuinely mean ´ cussions with the Senator, whose qualities as a that and—— parliamentarian I value. I also value his contri- bution to the PIAB. The Senator is a nominee of Deputy Phil Hogan: I know the Minister is ICTU. He made it very clear in the Seanad that genuine about everything. the matter before us today relates to a succinct and net issue, that is, costs that are being Deputy Micheal Martin: I am struck by the fact ´ unnecessarily incurred when the Personal Injuries that Deputy Hogan was on the Oireachtas com- Assessment Board makes an award and, in some 1959 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1960 ´ [Deputy Micheal Martin.] there is a bias towards the insurance industry on instances, the amount has been rejected by claim- the board. I do not accept that contention, as ants represented by solicitors. These costs com- expressed by Deputy Penrose. prise two categories. First, an amount in the region of \1,500 being sought for the completion Deputy Phil Hogan: We are concerned about of a PIAB application form, which had led to their profits. the award. Deputy Micheal Martin: I will give Members ´ Deputy Kathleen Lynch: That is exactly our one example—— concern. Deputy Charles Flanagan: The Minister is mis- Deputy Micheal Martin: Second, a further ´ leading the House. amount in legal costs, adding another 46% on top of the compensation itself, where the majority of Deputy Micheal Martin: I listened to the ´ the cases do not proceed into a court and no Deputy earlier and I ask him to allow me to finish additional amount in compensation is achieved my contribution. on behalf of the injured party. That is the net point here. Deputy Charles Flanagan: The Minister is mis- What is available to the citizen? In short, the leading the House. Personal Injuries Assessment Board, as Senator O’Toole pointed out, is open six days a week to An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Allow the Mini- assist claimants in completing their application ster to continue, without interruption. forms at a nominal cost of \50 per case. We sim- ply cannot preside over a system where a charge Deputy Charles Flanagan: The Minister is mis- of approximately \1,500 is being levied on the leading the House on the net import of the Bill. public by an intermediary for this same service. It is not about a \1,500 or \50 charge—— We cannot preside over that and this legislation is designed to close off that opportunity and close An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister is off the loophole. responding to the debate and he has limited time. Deputy Ruairı Quinn: None of us has any argu- ´ Deputy Micheal Martin: I wish to give ´ ment with the Minister over that. Members details of a case which illustrates my point. We must balance the points raised with the Deputy Micheal Martin: The Opposition ´ real situations which arise in practice, such as in Deputies went over the top in their criticisms of a particular case that has already been processed. the Bill and its rationale. In one leading case, the Personal Injuries Assess- ment Board made an assessment of \9,200, which Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister is the one was rejected by a claimant. Immediately after going over the top. rejecting the assessment, proceedings were issued and an offer was made for the same amount as Deputy Micheal Martin: Deputy Charles ´ had been assessed, plus \1. That offer was Flanagan and Deputy Creighton went over the accepted. One would think that was the end of top. The latter Deputy compared me to a Soviet the matter but legal costs were added on, Union politburo member. amounting to \6,120. Included in that was a figure of \3,250 for the solicitor. Those were only the Deputy Kathleen Lynch: If only the Minister costs for the claimant and they did not take had such power. account of the other costs to the defendant of defending the case. This is the kind of situation Deputy Micheal Martin: Such hyperbole and ´ that the original Act was specifically introduced exaggeration has not been witnessed in the House to deal with. for quite some time. With respect to Deputy Hogan, I suggest his party colleague was a little Deputy Kathleen Lynch: That can be dealt with over the top in terms of her description of my by other means. good self. With regard to the other members of the board Deputy Micheal Martin: That is the kind of ´ of the PIAB, one represents the insurance feder- situation which made insurance costs prohibitive ation, as Deputy Penrose pointed out. Another is in this country. We do not want to go back on the the chief executive of the national consumer progress that has been made to date. That is what agency. There are two nominees from the Irish this amending Bill now rectifies. It will not affect Congress of Trade Unions, one of whom is the the claimant who has a genuine reason for getting aforementioned Senator O’Toole. The consumer more from the court than was assessed by the director of the Irish Financial Service Regulatory PIAB. Authority, which protects the consumer, is also Deputy Quinn raised the issue of the potential on the board, as are a number of other individuals impact of not moving on this issue. If allowed with relevant expertise. It is unfair to suggest that unchecked and if current practices continued, the 1961 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1962 financial impact could potentially be \75 million, Attorney General’s scrutiny with regard to its given the number of cases on hand in 2007. constitutionality. Having received and been forti- fied by that advice, I now bring the legislation Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Does that figure before the House. Perhaps this is something the relate to 40,000 or 5,000 cases? Personal Injuries Assessment Board will have to address. I was somewhat taken aback because I Deputy Micheal Martin: If we do not close off ´ get the feeling that there is an anti-PIAB senti- the loophole—— ment emerging here. Whether or not I am wrong about that I do not know. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Is the Minister refer- ring to 40,000 or 5,000? Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister was not An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister is listening to our contribution. responding to the debate. It is possible to ask the Minister to yield, otherwise I ask that the Mini- Deputy Micheal Martin: The Deputy should ´ ster be allowed to proceed without interruption. hold on. I am prepared to take it on board and accept that there may be a need for greater dia- Deputy Micheal Martin: Deputies raised var- ´ logue with the proposed committee and with ious points and I am endeavouring to deal with Members. That is something we may have to pur- them all. Deputy Quinn raised the issue of impact sue further. People may say that the PIAB has and the figure of \75 million is based on a scen- nothing to do with anything and is not responsible ario where all the awards are rejected and cases for the fact that motor insurance premiums are proceeded with through the route identified. now down to 1997 levels. That is spectacular pro- There is a conservative estimate that an gress by any yardstick. During a recent “Drive- additional cost of 39% of the award, plus up to time” programme, IBEC said that employers’ \1,500 per case could arise. That is based on an personal injury liability is no longer as big an average award of approximately \20,000. We esti- issue as it was. Household premiums are down to mate an additional cost of \9,300 per case or a 2001 levels. total of almost \75 million per annum, which would be passed on to consumers in higher Deputy Kathleen Lynch: They have been premiums. reduced, yes. With regard to legal matters, my Department takes on board serious legal opinion submitted to Deputy Phil Hogan: Will the Minister give it. This Bill was published on 25 April, before the way? ´ last Dail was adjourned. Deputy Micheal Martin: I accept there are ´ Deputy Ruairı Quinn: The Minister must ´ excuse us if we were not consumed with curiosity other factors and I note that Senator Cassidy is at that time. in the Gallery. Deputy Lynch made that point. Deputy Charles Flanagan: That is the most fee- Deputy Phil Hogan: Will the Minister yield? ble excuse for not rushing legislation. Deputy Micheal Martin: Yes. ´ Deputy Micheal Martin: The Deputy did not ´ wait for the end of my sentence. I ask him to wait. Deputy Phil Hogan: On a point of information, I decided not to rush it through on that occasion. would the Minister accept that in 2005 the profit- ability of all general insurance companies was Deputy Charles Flanagan: There would have \418 million? Premia in that year were reduced been nobody here. by 1.8%, even though there was a 26% increase in profitability for such companies. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The Minister could not do it from Cork. Deputy Micheal Martin: Before taking that ´ point, I want to acknowledge the presence of Deputy Micheal Martin: However, I put it ´ Senator Cassidy in the Gallery. Deputy Lynch before a very senior legal figure, namely, the already referred to the work of his committee in former Attorney General, who gave it a clean bill driving the insurance agenda and keeping on top of health from a constitutional perspective. of it. Deputy Hogan was a member of that com- Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Naturally. mittee, which recommended part of the course of action we are now taking. Profitability has Deputy Micheal Martin: I also presented it to ´ increased in the insurance industry. the new Attorney General who, I respectfully suggest to the House, is regarded as a very emi- An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is nent expert on constitutional and other legal entirely impartial, but I understand it was a great matters. The Bill also came through that and very hard-working committee. 1963 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. (Amendment) Bill 2007: Second Stage 1964 Deputy Micheal Martin: You were a very hard- ´ Deputy Phil Hogan: A moment ago the Mini- working and valued member of that committee as ster was speaking about profitability and premia. well, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister The insurance industry is making a lot of pro- without interruption, as his time is very limited. fits but, with respect, that is a separate issue to the one before the House. Nonetheless, it is an Deputy Micheal Martin: Hopefully, the profit- ´ issue that must be addressed by hav- ability of the sector in the modern economy will, 1 o’clock ing more competition in the market- in itself, act as an incentive for greater compe- place. We are anxious to attract more tition with more players coming into the field. competition. It is not valid, however, to set that Deputy Phil Hogan: A bit like groceries. issue up as a counterpoint to the issue before the House, in terms of closing off a significant issue. Question put. ´ ´ ´ The Dail divided: Ta, 64; Nıl, 52. ´ Ta Ahern, Michael. Kelly, Peter. Andrews, Barry. Kenneally, Brendan. Andrews, Chris. Kennedy, Michael. Ardagh, Sean.´ Killeen, Tony. Aylward, Bobby. Kirk, Seamus. Behan, Joe. Kitt, Tom. Blaney, Niall. Lenihan, Conor. ´ Brady, Aine. Martin, Micheal. ´ Brady, Johnny. McEllistrim, Thomas. Brennan, Seamus. ´ McGrath, Finian. Byrne, Thomas. McGrath, Mattie. Calleary, Dara. McGrath, Michael. Carey, Pat. McGuinness, John. Collins, Niall. Moloney, John. Conlon, Margaret. ´ ´ ´ O Fearghaıl, Sean. Connick, Sean. ´ O’Brien, Darragh. Coughlan, Mary. O’Dea, Willie. Cowen, Brian. O’Flynn, Noel. ´ Cuffe, Ciaran. O’Hanlon, Rory. Cullen, Martin. O’Keeffe, Batt. Curran, John. O’Rourke, Mary. Dempsey, Noel. O’Sullivan, Christy. Devins, Jimmy. Power, Peter. Dooley, Timmy. Power, Sean. ´ Fahey, Frank. Ryan, Eamon. Fitzpatrick, Michael. Sargent, Trevor. Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Scanlon, Eamon. Gogarty, Paul. Smith, Brendan. Gormley, John. Treacy, Noel. Grealish, Noel. Wallace, Mary. Haughey, Sean. ´ White, Mary Alexandra. Hoctor, Maire. ´ Woods, Michael. ´ Nıl Bannon, James. Hogan, Phil. ´ Barrett, Sean. Howlin, Brendan. Bruton, Richard. Kehoe, Paul. Burke, Ulick. ´ Lynch, Ciaran. Burton, Joan. Lynch, Kathleen. Byrne, Catherine. McEntee, Shane. Carey, Joe. McHugh, Joe. Crawford, Seymour. Mitchell, Olivia. Creighton, Lucinda. Naughten, Denis. D’Arcy, Michael. ´ ´ ´ O Caolain, Caoimhghın. Deasy, John. O’Donnell, Kieran. Deenihan, Jimmy. O’Dowd, Fergus. Doyle, Andrew. O’Keeffe, Jim. Durkan, Bernard J. O’Mahony, John. English, Damien. O’Shea, Brian. Enright, Olwyn. O’Sullivan, Jan. Feighan, Frank. Penrose, Willie. Flanagan, Charles. Quinn, Ruairı.´ Flanagan, Terence. Rabbitte, Pat. Hayes, Brian. Reilly, James. Higgins, Michael D. Ring, Michael. 1965 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1966 ´ Nıl—continued Sheahan, Tom. Timmins, Billy. Sheehan, P.J. Tuffy, Joanna. ´ ´ Shortall, Roisın. Upton, Mary. Stagg, Emmet. Varadkar, Leo. Stanton, David. Wall, Jack. ´ ´ Tellers: Ta, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Nıl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg. Question declared carried. people who would not normally pursue a per- sonal injury claim through the courts because it is Personal Injuries Assessment Board such a stressful process. With few exceptions (Amendment) Bill 2007 [Seanad]: Committee people would prefer to be anywhere but court. and Remaining Stages. Opposition spokespersons teased out the legis- lation establishing the PIAB at length. We were SECTION 1. given repeated assurances on Committee Stage Acting Chairman (Deputy Brian O’Shea): that the safety net allowing people to take a case Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are ruled out of order to court would be retained. as they involve a potential charge on the We have no choice but to repeat many of the Exchequer. arguments. I am not convinced by the Minister’s argument for introducing the legislation. Of the Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved. 40,000 personal injury cases registered last year, 35,000 went before the PIAB and 5,000 went to Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Few people challenge court. Surely these figures demonstrate that the the Chair’s rulings in respect of amendments introduction of such draconian legislation is because they are clear and obvious. In this case it unnecessary. If only 5,000 of the 40,000 people is not clear because there is only a potential who could have taken a case to court chose to do charge on the State. so, this legislation is redundant. People of no means or property will be most Acting Chairman: If the Deputy lets me move affected by the Bill and will be deterred from tak- on she can address these points on the section. ing cases to court. We should not allow those with valid cases to be dissuaded from going to court. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: There is an argument In recent months, several high profile people pur- to be made in support of both amendments that sued cases through the courts with no regard for have been tabled. The first amendment would not the consequences or costs. People of no means or involve a charge on the Exchequer because we property will not pursue cases in the courts must assume that when people go to court they because they will be afraid of losing what little will win their cases. One cannot automatically they have and finding themselves in debt for the assume that they will lose. I do not understand rest of their lives. how the Chair has reached this conclusion and I Who is driving the Minister’s agenda? Who do not understand the argument. asked for the amendments to be made? One sometimes finds that those who have acquired a Acting Chairman: I have been advised that this little power want to amass more power. In this involves a potential charge on the Exchequer and case, the PIAB is not satisfied that 35,000 cases that is the basis of this ruling. appear before it each year and wants all personal injury cases to come before it. In acceding to this Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Is the possibility that demand the Minister is undermining the consti- there might not be a charge on the Exchequer tutional protection to take a case a court. This taken into consideration? legislation will be challenged and struck down. Acting Chairman: That is my understanding. The Chair’s ruling on the amendment is unfair and should be reconsidered. We must assume that Question proposed: “That section 1 stand part those who take cases to court will win and are not of the Bill.” all fraudsters. What is the potential charge? The figure cited of \75 million is clearly calculated on Deputy Kathleen Lynch: I think we should the basis that the 40,000 individuals who took a clarify our position on section 1 of the Bill, case last year would all win cases in court. though the Minister has done his best to distort it. The legislation is deeply flawed and unnecess- We sought a body such as the PIAB for years ary. Legislation considered necessary is some- and, as in the case of the small claims court, its times found to be flawed. In this case, the Bill is establishment was welcomed by all sides. An unnecessary because it relates to 5,000 people efficient structure was required for dealing with who are dissatisfied with the award they receive personal injuries claims and the PIAB has ben- from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. efited many, including 35,000 individuals who The courts vindicated a person who took a case availed of its services last year. It facilitates to court. Is information available on the number 1967 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1968 [Deputy Kathleen Lynch.] September 2001 which resulted in a 150% of other successful court challenges to PIAB increase in the cost of insurance premiums. Rein- awards? The House needs an answer to this surance companies did not want to take business question. from general insurance companies but their pro- It is wrong of the Minister to twist the facts fitability or investment income did not reduce concerning our position on the PIAB. All Oppo- substantially. The average increase was 150%, sition parties voted in favour of its establishment. although it has reduced significantly from that However, the amending legislation before us is level, which no economy could sustain. stand-alone in nature and goes too far. Employer’s liability, public liability and motor premiums have also reduced. Deputy Phil Hogan: It is disingenuous of the As a former insurance broker, I understand Minister to blame the Opposition for the fact that how the system works. However, it is no good to the Bill must come before the House. That is not suggest that the benefits of the savings made by the case. If one examines the record of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board — \45 mil- debates on the principal legislation in 2003, it is lion was the figure suggested — have arrived in clear the Opposition parties and then Minister for the pockets of consumers in terms of broad Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy choice, more competition and reduced premia. Harney, engaged in a constructive dialogue on The Financial Regulator’s statistical review for Committee Stage. The then Minister had the 2005 suggested a 1.8% reduction in premia but in same legal adviser, an eminent former Attorney the same year there was a 26% increase in the General, as the current Minister. We warned of profits of insurance companies to \418 million. I problems ahead regarding access to solicitors and am not surprised the Minister sees nothing wrong redress for the legal costs incurred by the claim- in this. However, we need legislation on behalf of ant. We also argued it would not be possible consumers so that where there are savings, the under the Constitution to completely eliminate consumer gets a fair benefit, in the interests of access to the legal framework for clients. The competition. Minister rejected our argument but was proven We were promised by the then Minister, wrong in the O’Brien case adjudicated on by Mr. Deputy Mary Harney, that she was ready and Justice McMenamin. willing to go to London at any time to bring in a Based on legal opinion we make the same case new insurance company and generate increased today. The Minister has the same legal adviser as competition. In fact, we were waiting with bated his predecessor and a belt and braces approach breath for the following couple of months to find has been taken under the new Attorney General. out what new company was on the way to bring Our legal opinion is that the legislation is uncon- more competition. It never arrived. There are just stitutional because it proposes to deny citizens four or five players in the general insurance access to certain legal rights. market in Ireland. Were it not for Quinn Direct, The Personal Injuries Assessment Board could the situation would be different. It made the easily have availed of an option to have money major contribution towards generating compe- lodged in court. I do not understand the reason it tition in the Irish insurance market. I salute the does not utilise this facility. Why does it not agree efforts of the Quinn Group. Mr. Quinn put it up terms in court at an early stage and before most to those who had no stake in the country, and costs have been incurred? Only a small amount certainly no shareholding interests or investment of costs are incurred in the early part of the legal intermediary interests. Quinn Direct was the process. The expensive phase begins once court basis of the competition that came to the market; proceedings commence. Money can be lodged in it came not from outside the country but from court early in the proceedings and efforts made within. to reach an agreement between the parties. This All the various promises and commitments practice is not in evidence. Perhaps the Minister regarding increased competition and more will make representations to the PIAB to deter- intense competition in the general insurance mine whether this approach would speed up market arising from the 2003 legislation, includ- cases, reduce costs and benefit consumers. ing the commitments given by the then Minister, The arguments made by the Fine Gael and Deputy Harney, came to nothing. The reality is Labour parties in 2003 were constructive and sup- the Irish insurance market is very small; we are portive of the establishment of Personal Injuries only the size of Manchester. We make a big deal Assessment Board, which my party continues to about ourselves from time to time but there are support. While the Minister can twist and turn only four or five companies prepared to do busi- this fact, it remains indisputable. Legal opinion ness in such a small market. When one company available to us suggests the Minister’s approach is able to make as much in the Irish market as to this matter is unconstitutional, although he is the British market, we know it will be happy to entitled to disagree. When the case made by the continue with the cosy arrangement that is in Minister in 2003 was tested she was proved place at present. wrong. The Minister is intent on proceeding with the We hear a great deal about decreases in the Bill and I understand the principle and logic cost of insurance premiums. In 2002 and 2003, behind that. However, there comes a time when every Minister referred to the events of 11 he must ask whether it can be implemented. In 1969 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1970 the next couple of months, somebody will test this Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The Minister should legislation. Just as we warned it was unconsti- introduce it. tutional to proceed with the 2003 Bill, so we give the same warning in this regard. Bad law is not Deputy Micheal Martin: I will come to that ´ what we on this side of the House wish to sup- shortly. The estimated number of personal injury port. The wording and framing of section 1 is not cases in the Circuit Court has fallen from 20,000 appropriate, nor is how it is likely to be in 2004 to 5,000 in 2006. Monthly insurance cost implemented. indices produced by the Central Statistics Office show that the cost of consumers’ motor insurance Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employ- is now at May 1997 levels, a matter I dealt with ment (Deputy Micheal Martin): I invite Deputy ´ in my closing speech on Second Stage. Hogan to read the record of the contributions Deputy Lynch referred to the numbers going made in this debate. The points made were not to the courts. The point is that a case does not just legal points. A clear sentiment emerged that have to go to court. However, there is a difficulty. was negative towards the Personal Injuries It has become known throughout the solicitors’ Assessment Board and suggested the board had profession that if a claimant rejects the assess- very little or no impact, just as Deputy Hogan ment made by the board, the respondent is likely has done—— to offer, tender or lodge the same amount of the assessment when proceedings are issued. If the Deputy Phil Hogan: I did not. assessed figure is accepted at that stage, the plain- tiff is entitled to have his or her costs. This in Deputy Micheal Martin: It was suggested 9/11 ´ effect means the primary purpose of the 2003 Act was responsible for increasing costs and that is thwarted. Proceedings are instituted and legal there were other factors. costs are being needlessly incurred, and a coach and four may be driven through the legislation. Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister can misinter- This is what has opened up. pret me any way he wants. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: It has not. Deputy Micheal Martin: I accept that Quinn ´ Direct is very competitive. Let us accept that the Deputy Micheal Martin: It has. ´ legislation to establish the PIAB, which was an Oireachtas initiative, was very successful—— Deputy Phil Hogan: We are not in favour of that. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Yes. Deputy Micheal Martin: In addition to the full ´ costs claimants are receiving for the litigation, Deputy Micheal Martin: ——and has had a ´ they are receiving a further \1,500 for the cost of positive impact on the people of no property and making the application to the PIAB, which the no means. It is far better than the old adversarial PIAB would do for \50, as Senator O’Toole litigation system. Let us not be qualifying and articulated so eloquently in the Seanad. qualifying or saying: “On the one hand but also on the other...” Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The point is that people are not taking that. They are not doing it. Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister is the one who is qualifying. Deputy Micheal Martin: In one case, McGarr- ´ ity v. Dublin Port, an assessment of \9,200 was Deputy Micheal Martin: There is a classic ´ declined by a claimant but was subsequently ´ “Tadhg an da thaobh” aspect emerging in this accepted after the issue of proceedings, before it debate. Processing costs under the PIAB are on went to court. The claimants’ costs were taxed at a fixed basis and are 70% cheaper than under the \6,120, which included a professional fee of old litigation system. The PIAB promotes the \3,250. early settlement of claims. It is open six days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. By facilitating contact Deputy Charles Flanagan: That is the only case and the exchange of papers between the parties, the Minister can pick out. it is estimated that 40% of claims are resolved before assessment by the PIAB. To date, the Deputy Micheal Martin: No, I will outline ´ board has made more than 10,000 assessments. It another case. has delivered its assessments on average 75% fas- ter than the law courts. The average timeframe Deputy Charles Flanagan: That one case is for an assessment to be made is 7.4 months from such a fig leaf, the Minister has had to repeat it the date of consent, which is extremely favour- in the short time we have to discuss the issue. able when compared to the 36 months under the old system. Deputy Micheal Martin: In the second case, an ´ This has freed up the courts. The number of assessment of \6,678 was declined by a claimant High Court cases has reduced from more than and was subsequently accepted after the issue 15,000 in 2004 to approximately 2,500 in 2006. proceedings. The claimant’s costs were taxed at 1971 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1972 ´ [Deputy Micheal Martin.] Deputy Micheal Martin: I would be attacked ´ \3,474.80, which included a professional fee of from all sides of the House if I had not moved on \1,300. Costs incurred in regard to PIAB work this issue. That is how politics works. I am satis- were not allowed as only the costs of proceedings fied this is a reasonable position to adopt. It is were awarded. The assessment process was important we protect the edifice of the PIAB. It declined by the respondent in another case and has been good for people. The practice that has subsequently settled. Some \1,500 was sought by emerged has the potential to undermine its work the claimant’s solicitor for PIAB work in addition and impact on it significantly. to the normal professional fee. There is no penalty for declining a PIAB Deputy Willie Penrose: I have no problem with assessment and later accepting the same amount the PIAB. I simply want to articulate a view on after the issue of proceedings. the protection of people’s rights, particularly the right of access. My words have been construed as Deputy Kathleen Lynch: What of the woman an argument on behalf of the legal profession, who was awarded \14,000 and eventually got which they are not. \40,000 in the courts? Deputy Micheal Martin: I clarified that I ´ Deputy Micheal Martin: Costs have been reco- ´ accepted the Deputy’s bona fides. vered by claimants in cases where assessments are being rejected and subsequently accepted after the issue of proceedings. Fees of \1,000 to \1,500 Deputy Willie Penrose: The people on the are being allowed by county registrars throughout PIAB are eminent and competent and argue from the country for PIAB work in addition to the full another perspective. They have processed many professional fee of the proceedings. cases. I have been asked to advise on awards and We are aware, and PIAB has raised the issue have told my clients that it would be difficult to with me, that this is becoming a widespread prac- better them in court. That is a professional tice. The PIAB has independently confirmed with opinion. Some insurance companies have com- four county registrars that they either currently puter systems which read medical reports and cal- or will in the future allow costs of this magnitude. culate the likely awards. I do not believe it is pos- I am informed that the anomaly was exposed at sible to computerise the calculation of a personal a recent Law Society seminar held on 13 March injury award. Two people in the same accident 2007. It is legitimate to expect that this practice might sustain different injuries according to their will become widespread. predispositions, such as a weak back. If a solicitor or barrister states that in his or her Deputy Kathleen Lynch: How many cases are professional opinion \15,000 is not sufficient to involved? compensate a person for injuries, the person will reject the award and go to court. The court may, Deputy Micheal Martin: There are a number ´ however, award \14,999 because there are no of cases. Is the Deputy suggesting we should wait rules for awards, apart from the books of quan- for the thousands—— tum. The costs of the action are then levied against the person. The PIAB was set up for a Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Of the 5,000, how good reason and was supported by almost every- many did the courts agree with? one in the House. It has been subjected to various comments but has stood the test of time. While I Deputy Micheal Martin: The Deputy is missing ´ understand the Minister’s concerns in the the point. The case does not have to go to court. situation I outlined the court would have no discretion but to impose a court order for the Deputy Kathleen Lynch: I know that. defendant’s costs and the plaintiff would have to pay his or her costs too, despite having been pro- Deputy Micheal Martin: That is the point I am ´ fessionally advised that the PIAB award was making. The loophole is there to be exploited inadequate. That is one of the special circum- before the case gets to court. We are cutting off stances covered by Deputy Lynch’s amendment. this loophole in the interests of the people of no That is what happened in the O’Brien case. property or no means. This is to protect the people of no property or no means to whom The PIAB has worked extremely hard, has Deputy Lynch alluded. It is why we are moving made quick decisions and is accessible and help- with urgency. ful. I have made inquiries and have found it help- I respectfully suggest that if I introduced the ful in that regard. It appears insurance companies Bill next year and the practice became wide- get the rub of the green because they do not pass spread, Deputies throughout the House would on the benefit of their high profits to their attack me for not moving quickly enough when I customers. PIAB has helped to reduce premiums was alerted by the PIAB to the loophole that was but was not the sole impetus behind that being exploited. development. This amendment will immutably hammer into Deputy Kathleen Lynch: So it is coming from the legislation that no discretion will be vested in the PIAB? a member of the Judiciary to examine the issue 1973 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1974 of costs from the perspectives I have outlined. I of the Minister today that PIAB is on the side of have no gripe against the PIAB. the claimant and the victim. I question it because I did not know about Gerard Hogan’s opinion. many claimants are unhappy. I had my view on the matter and am glad it I am a member of the Law Society but do not coincided with that of someone more eminent engage in these cases at all, being primarily a con- than me. I am astounded that section 51B subsec- veyancer. However, I raise the issue in the con- tions (1) and (2) exist. They add nothing to the text of public policy and the entitlement of the Bill. Legal representation is more than advocacy. citizen of the State to pursue an action where the It is advice on the conduct of pleas at every step. person believes there is a wrong or an unfairness. For that reason people in the system who con- The Minister is closing a resort that has been sider whether to accept their awards would have heretofore available to deal with such people’s a legitimate right to expect their costs would be grievances. It was perfectly in order in the parent covered. I am as subject to correction as anyone legislation of 2003 to go to court following the else but as I understand these subsections those rejection of an assessment but the Minister, in people no longer have that right and that applies passing today’s legislation, is stacking the odds retrospectively. That is an extraordinary prop- very unfairly against the victim, the claimant, the osition. The Minister is well aware of the case applicant and the plaintiff to the court and that is concerning long-stay charges in nursing homes where I have a difficulty. that arose in 2005. This provision is suspect and Lawyers and the parties involved are obliged one does not have to look back as far as the before an action under family law to engage in Heneghan case to realise it may be challenged. counselling. The opportunity for counselling Our job is not to act as promoters or cheerlead- before proceeding to court is a good thing. Simi- ers for legislation. If we make valid points in the larly, in the personal injuries legislation, there is House I do not expect people to say we do so an opportunity for an assessment without the because we have particular interests. Our role is need to resort to court. I accept the fact that pro- to ensure legislation is subject to detailed scru- fessional costs were high and I also accept the tiny, invigilation and critical analysis. Our points general principle of the legislation. However, the are bona fides, for example, that this provision Minister is now closing that opportunity and may be constitutionally suspect. If so, it will be stacking the odds very much in favour of the subject to judicial review. I have no special insight PIAB. It is a group that has been, and will be, on into this and have no personal interest in the matter. I do not have the time to even contem- the side of insurance companies. Being respon- plate such a case but somebody will examine it. I dents to actions, insurance companies have the did not know about Gerard Hogan’s opinion best legal brains available to them as well as the when I read these provisions yesterday and biggest pockets with which to engage them. The thought they were fraught with difficulty. Gerard fact that insurance companies will not be devoid Hogan is an eminent constitutional lawyer. of legal representation in the form of the highest That is the point I wish to make, maybe in a professional expertise available compounds the scattergun approach but we can be more focused unfairness. on Committee Stage. I have no axe to grind with The Minister is now telling the victims that if the Minister or anybody else but it is incumbent they are not happy with the PIAB, they must pro- on me to scrutinise legislation fairly and ceed to court very much on their own. He is impartially. creating such a disincentive that it actually will not happen. He is denying the claimant the right Deputy Charles Flanagan: I found the Mini- to seek recourse to the courts, which is where we ster’s response to the Second Stage debate have the constitutional difficulty about which entirely unconvincing. The fact that he pointed to Deputy Penrose spoke. The Minister is introduc- vested interests and U-turns is indicative of the ing an indirect prohibition on legal representation paucity in his own case. He is unable to address and I agree with the well-reasoned points made the points raised by Deputies Kathleen Lynch, by Deputy Penrose on that matter, which I will Quinn, Penrose, Hogan and Creighton or to deal not repeat. with them in a constructive manner. Accordingly, It is a pity there was no public consultation or I am anxious to make a brief contribution. committee hearings on the issue. There were no My question concerns the nub of the argument. opportunities for Dail Deputies, as elected ´ Is the PIAB on the side of the victim or biased Members, to make representations on behalf of against the claimant? Where stands the Personal the public or put questions to the Personal Injur- ` Injuries Assessment Board vis-a-vis the victim? ies Assessment Board, which has driven this legis- The Minister says the PIAB is the defender of lation from start to finish and ensured the Mini- victims’ rights for \50. The basis of the establish- ster moved quickly without the opportunity for ment of the PIAB in 2003 was to reduce the costs public debate. It is disingenuous of him to point and overheads involved in personal injuries. If we to the fact that the legislation was published in take that as the sole objective, which we must, April. He knows, as does everybody, that there given the speech on Second Stage by the Mini- was no political debate in April or May other ster’s predecessor, I must question the assertion than on the big issue, the general election. It is 1975 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1976 [Deputy Charles Flanagan.] Deputy Micheal Martin: It would have hap- ´ nonsense to suggest there was adequate oppor- pened in a number of cases to which I referred. tunity for debate. The taking of all Stages of Bills in one day is Deputy Kathleen Lynch: How many? fraught with difficulties but suits the strong arm of the ministerial Department in that it ensures Deputy Micheal Martin: The number is not an ´ there is neither adequate debate nor adequate issue. Does Deputy Lynch suggest I wait for time for amendments to be tabled. Amendments another six months so that there are a couple of are ruled out of order at the drop of a hat, which thousand cases costing \1,800? Should I wait 12 brings this House into disrepute. months for a couple of million euro to be lost Finally, many claimants are unhappy and the needlessly? level of frustration with the personal injuries pro- cess is far higher than the Minister acknowledges. Deputy Kathleen Lynch: We waited for seven By his actions today, he is further bolstering the years to establish the board. edifice of the PIAB against the rights of the indi- vidual and I believe this measure will be struck Deputy Phil Hogan: It can work the other way down as constitutionally repugnant. around too. Deputy Phil Hogan: I have a brief question for Deputy Micheal Martin: We took part in a ´ the Minister. The new section 51B(1) provides debate yesterday on competitiveness and on that no legal costs shall be allowed for the making doing things efficiently in modern Ireland. The of an application to the PIAB. What is the posi- PIAB is all about that. I am getting mixed mess- tion of that new section in the context of the ages from the Fine Gael benches. Some say they judgment of Justice McMenamin in the O’Brien welcome the Bill, while others, such as Deputy case on the issue of legal costs for applicants to Charles Flanagan, say that it is pitted against the the PIAB? claimant. Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister will take Deputy Micheal Martin: I accept from Deputy ´ whatever message he wants. Penrose’s contribution that he does not have issues with the PIAB. I welcome his comments Deputy Micheal Martin: He asked if it was ´ and, as I said in my response on Second Stage, I biased against the claimant but that is nonsense. accept his bona fides. I do not see him as approaching the subject with a vested interest at Deputy Phil Hogan: Is it? all. I understand and value the point he made but the question of the exception becoming the rule Deputy Micheal Martin: It is not. It seeks to ´ is the problem we face as we attempt to close off provide a very good service. The old litigation a loophole. service, as Deputy Charles Flanagan should I will pose the same question to Deputies know, being in the legal profession, was appal- Penrose and Charles Flanagan. Why should a ling. It was an adversarial system that lasted, in process that at the moment costs \50 cost \1,500? some cases, for three years which is an appalling Why should we preside over that? Senator situation for people with personal injuries. The O’Toole made the point very elegantly in the PIAB is an effective instrument for which the other House when he asked that question. It Oireachtas, on all sides of both Houses, can take would be the exact same service involving no credit. additional benefits. Deputy Phil Hogan: I thank the Minister. Deputy Charles Flanagan: That is in excep- tional cases. Deputy Micheal Martin: It is something that ´ has worked and has been effective. I am not say- Deputy Micheal Martin: It is not in exceptional ´ ing it is perfect or that we cannot have a contin- cases. It is a loophole we must close off. ualreview, but we should keep a balance and per- spective in our commentary. It is not about the Deputy Charles Flanagan: It only applies in strong arm. The new practice that is emerging is cases where a claim is rejected. neither valid nor sustainable. Something that should cost \50 is costing \1,500; that is not a Deputy Kathleen Lynch: The Minister’s sol- runner. ution is not the way to deal with it. Deputy Charles Flanagan: That is the only Deputy Micheal Martin: As it stands, a person ´ point the Minister is making. can reject the award from the PIAB, issue pro- ceedings and be awarded costs. Deputy Micheal Martin: It is simple and ´ straightforward and people outside the House Deputy Kathleen Lynch: In how many cases? will understand it readily. 1977 Personal Injuries Assessment Board 5 July 2007. Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages 1978 Deputy Kathleen Lynch: It is about controlling Deputy Charles Flanagan: It is a prohibition on the price and cost of fees. the right to go to court. Deputy Micheal Martin: I cannot comment on ´ Deputy Micheal Martin: Deputy Hogan’s last ´ the case while it is before the court. point does not arise in the context of the case in the Supreme Court. Question put. The Committee divided: Ta, 64; Nıl, 50. ´ ´ Ta ´ Ahern, Michael. Kenneally, Brendan. Andrews, Barry. Kennedy, Michael. Andrews, Chris. Killeen, Tony. Ardagh, Sean.´ Kirk, Seamus. Aylward, Bobby. Kitt, Tom. Behan, Joe. Lenihan, Brian. Blaney, Niall. Lenihan, Conor. ´ Brady, Aine. ´ Martin, Micheal. Brady, Johnny. McEllistrim, Thomas. ´ Brennan, Seamus. McGrath, Finian. Byrne, Thomas. McGrath, Mattie. Calleary, Dara. McGrath, Michael. Carey, Pat. McGuinness, John. Collins, Niall. Moloney, John. Conlon, Margaret. Mulcahy, Michael. Connick, Sean. ´ ´ ´ ´ O Fearghaıl, Sean. Coughlan, Mary. O’Brien, Darragh. Cowen, Brian. O’Dea, Willie. Cuffe, Ciaran. ´ O’Flynn, Noel. Curran, John. O’Hanlon, Rory. Dempsey, Noel. O’Keeffe, Batt. Devins, Jimmy. O’Rourke, Mary. Dooley, Timmy. O’Sullivan, Christy. Fahey, Frank. Power, Peter. Fitzpatrick, Michael. Power, Sean. ´ Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Roche, Dick. Gogarty, Paul. Sargent, Trevor. Gormley, John. Scanlon, Eamon. Grealish, Noel. Smith, Brendan. Haughey, Sean. ´ Treacy, Noel. Hoctor, Maire. ´ White, Mary Alexandra. Kelly, Peter. Woods, Michael. ´ Nıl Bannon, James. Kehoe, Paul. ´ Barrett, Sean. Lynch, Kathleen. Bruton, Richard. McEntee, Shane. Burke, Ulick. McHugh, Joe. Byrne, Catherine. Mitchell, Olivia. Carey, Joe. Naughten, Denis. Coveney, Simon. O’Donnell, Kieran. Crawford, Seymour. O’Dowd, Fergus. Creighton, Lucinda. O’Keeffe, Jim. D’Arcy, Michael. O’Mahony, John. Deasy, John. O’Shea, Brian. Deenihan, Jimmy. O’Sullivan, Jan. Doyle, Andrew. Penrose, Willie. Durkan, Bernard J. Rabbitte, Pat. English, Damien. Reilly, James. Enright, Olwyn. Ring, Michael. Feighan, Frank. Sheahan, Tom. Flanagan, Charles. ´ ´ Shortall, Roisın. Flanagan, Terence. Stagg, Emmet. Gilmore, Eamon. Stanton, David. Gregory, Tony. Timmins, Billy. Hayes, Brian. Tuffy, Joanna. Higgins, Michael D. Upton, Mary. Hogan, Phil. Varadkar, Leo. Howlin, Brendan. Wall, Jack. ´ ´ Tellers: Ta, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Nıl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg. 1979 Priority 5 July 2007. Questions 1980 Question declared carried. recovery to all those who were injured. I totally support the Minister’s call for an audit of the Section 2 agreed to. building, following which an immediate invest- ment should be made in the museum. For some Title agreed to. time, I have been calling for a significant invest- ment in the structures not only of the Natural Bill reported without amendment, received for History Museum, but also the National Museum final consideration and passed. and the National Writers’ Museum. This incident is a wake-up call. I urge the Minister to follow up Sitting suspended at 2.10 p.m. and resumed at on this rigorously and not to delay the implemen- 3.30 p.m. tation of a programme to ensure the building is safe not only for the staff but also for the thou- Museum Accident: Statements. sands of people who visit the museum every year. An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Before taking Deputy Jack Wall: I concur with the previous questions, I understand the Minister for Arts, speakers in wishing well those who suffered Sport and Tourism wishes to make a statement. trauma this morning. It is a matter of serious con- Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Deputy cern for them and their families, although it is Seamus Brennan): I wish to make a short state- ´ good to hear that their health has not been ment on the incident at the Natural History seriously affected. I congratulate the work of the Museum this morning. Late this emergency services. From the minute word of the 2 o’clock morning, part of a limestone stairs in incident came, we saw those services take action. the private part of the Natural His- It is always a revelation to see how organised they tory Museum fractured and collapsed. Some 21 are. I remember being on the dual carriageway primary teachers attending a science appreciation that famous morning when a major crash course were in that part of the building at the occurred and I saw the emergency services at time. A number of those attending were in the work then also. They are to be congratulated on vicinity of the stairs. The museum immediately their efforts. A mechanism has now been put in notified the emergency services, tended to the place to ensure the safety of the building. Every- injured, evacuated and closed the building. I thing will be done to restore it to its position as understand 11 people were injured. The emer- part of our heritage, including its educational gency services, museum safety staff and gardaı ´ role. Given the number of visitors to the museum were immediately on the scene. I am grateful for every day, that work needs to be undertaken as a their swift response. As soon as I was informed matter of urgency. I am sure the Minister and his of the tragedy, I visited the museum together with Minister of State will ensure that happens. the Minister of State with responsibility for the An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Minister Office of Public Works, Deputy Noel Ahern, to to convey the good wishes of the House to those see the extent of the incident and offer whatever who were injured. help we could. I was briefed by the director of the museum and I requested that the museum should Deputy Seamus Brennan: I thank you, a Leas- ´ remain closed and be subjected to a rigorous Cheann Comhairle, for your flexibility in allowing structural and safety audit, which he will now my statement to be taken. commence. The emergency services were on the scene Ceisteanna — Questions. within minutes and the injured were taken to St. James’s, St. Vincent’s and the Mater hospitals. The public part of the museum was immediately Priority Questions. evacuated and the museum’s emergency plan was ———— fully activated. Pending a full health and safety audit by the Health and Safety Authority, and other relevant authorities, the Natural History National Theatre. Museum will remain closed to visitors for the 1. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister foreseeable future. for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regard- At this juncture, I am glad to say I have been ing the international design competition informed that none of the injuries is life threaten- announced in September 2006 for the proposed ing. The director of the museum, its board, and new national theatre; and if he will make a state- the Department will continue to monitor devel- ment on the matter. [19552/07] opments. On behalf of everybody in the House, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to those who Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Deputy were injured, and to their families. I wish them a Seamus Brennan): Last autumn the Government ´ speedy and full recovery. decided to proceed with the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre at George’s Dock on a build, fin- Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I join with the Mini- ance and maintain basis. Arising from the ster in offering our good wishes for a speedy Government decision, an interagency steering 1981 Priority 5 July 2007. Questions 1982 committee was set up to oversee the project. The temporary arrangement, including the provision committee is chaired by my Department and of new seating, is not good enough. Will the Mini- comprises representatives of the National ster give us a realistic timescale for the publi- Development Finance Agency, the Office of cation of the international design competition? Public Works, the Abbey Theatre and the Dublin How long will it take to process the various Docklands Development Agency. interests that respond? Realistically, when does The steering group has met three times and is the Minister think the first block will be laid for due to meet again on 20 July. A process auditor the new theatre? has been appointed, in accordance with Depart- ment of Finance guidelines. At its first meeting in Deputy Seamus Brennan: I thank the Deputy ´ December 2006, the committee decided the for his kind wishes. The portfolio is a bit of a Office of Public Works should prepare the docu- change from social welfare. I look forward to mentation necessary for holding an international working with the Opposition spokespersons for design competition for the new Abbey Theatre. the benefit of the arts, sport and tourism in A project team, chaired by the Office of Public Ireland. Works and representative of the same agencies as The completion date I have for the entire pro- the steering group, with the exception of the ject is 2010. In the course of the next three years, Dublin Docklands Development Authority, has therefore, all these steps must be taken. The best also been set up and is currently overseeing the estimate I have from the Department is a com- arrangements for holding the international design pletion date, all going well, of mid-2010. We will competition. The OPW has asked the Royal get through all these processes in the next three Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI, to years, including the design competition, the PPP organise the competition. The RIAI, with the development, the National Development Finance assistance of the OPW, is in the process of draft- Agency, and the procurement process. In the ing the competition regulations. The technical coming 36 months, all of those hurdles must be documentation for the competition must be care- overcome. fully specified. A jury is also being set up to select I would like to see a landmark building emerg- the winning design. The jury will have representa- ing from this development. This generation has tives from the Department of Arts, Sport and been slow to provide such edifices. The quality of Tourism, the OPW, the Dublin Docklands architecture is first class and that is why I am glad Development Authority, the Arts Council, the we are holding a truly international competition. Abbey Theatre and some international figures in This generation has been somewhat shy, the architectural and theatre worlds. however, in leaving the nation with some good, Discussions are currently ongoing between the iconic, landmark buildings. This will be an oppor- Abbey and the OPW on the detailed accom- tunity to do so. modation brief for the new theatre. In the mean- time, the OPW is working on the preliminary Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I certainly agree drafting of output specifications. It is also liaising with the Minister’s remarks. I believe \130 mil- with the NDFA on assembling technical advisor lion was earmarked for this development and I teams, with a view to progressing the project as ask the Minister to confirm this. Is the Minister much as possible while the design competition is entirely confident that the jury, to use his word, being held. that has been selected will have the competence The NDFA has recently appointed legal to judge this international design competition? advisors arising from a market exercise. When a Perhaps international consultants could be added winning design has been chosen the NDFA will to help the jury. oversee the procurement process in accordance Deputy Seamus Brennan: If the Deputy has ´ with PPP guidelines. any suggestions regarding international consult- ants I will certainly consider them. We are pro- Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I congratulate the posing to include international figures from the Minister on taking over his new portfolio and worlds of theatre and architecture on the jury. wish him the best of luck. Regarding costing, this project is a public The issue of providing a new national theatre private partnership so, in that sense, it is difficult has been going on for approximately ten years. to produce an exact figure but it is expected to As the Minister said, last July, the relocation of be around \150 million. One must appreciate that the national theatre to George’s Dock was this figure dates from 2004 or 2005 and may not approved by the Government. The then Minister be the same in 2010. made a public statement in September that there would be an international design competition. On 26 October last year, the previous Minister said Sporting Facilities. he hoped to have a design by the summer of 2007. 2. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for We are now well into the summer, yet we still do Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been not have a competition, not to mention a design. drawn to the recent ESRI report commissioned I hope there will be no further procrastination. by the Irish Sports Council, Fair Play? Sport and There is a need for a new national theatre. The Social Disadvantage in Ireland, that shows that 1983 Priority 5 July 2007. Questions 1984 [Deputy Jack Wall.] ´ Council’s buntus programme is now rolling out to people with low incomes and low educational primary schools in local sports partnership areas. attainment are far less likely to participate in One of the stated objectives of the sports capi- sport than those with higher incomes and a third- tal programme is to prioritise the needs of dis- level education; if he will implement any of the advantaged areas in the provision of sports prog- conclusions and recommendations of the report; rammes. In this regard the Deputies will be aware and if he will make a statement on the matter. ´ of the RAPID and CLAR programmes and local [19551/07] drugs task force areas. My Department liaises closely with the Department of Community, 5. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pobail and local for Arts, Sport and Tourism the actions he will authorities with a view to emphasising investment take to address the issues raised in the recent in disadvantaged areas. ESRI report on sport, particularly the need to redirect a much more substantial proportion of Deputy Jack Wall: I congratulate both the expenditure towards sports activities likely to Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the Minister for benefit the disadvantaged; and if he will make a Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Brennan, on statement on the matter. [19555/07] their new positions. I am sure we will have many constructive debates. Deputy Seamus Brennan: I propose to take ´ This report highlights points I have been mak- Questions Nos. 2 and 5 together. ing for a long time and I will read an extract from I am aware that the Irish Sports Council, under the second paragraph on the second page. It its research remit, is striving to develop a pro- states, “Seen in this light a concern with Irish found understanding of sport in Ireland that can sports policy is that it relies almost exclusively on inform policy and investment over the coming improvements in facilities to increase involve- years. It commissioned the Economic and Social ment, with little contact or communication Research Institute to undertake studies on its directed towards people who do not currently behalf. Four major reports have already been participate in sport.” This represents a major published, each one adding to our knowledge of problem. sport in this country. Local clubs and teams cherry-pick the best The fourth report in the series, Fair Play? Sport players in estates that experience anti-social and Social Disadvantage in Ireland, to which the behaviour and nothing is being done to involve Deputy refers, set out to examine the impact of more children from the areas highlighted in the social disadvantage on various forms of partici- report. I asked the previous Minister to examine pation in sport. The report concludes that the this issue because there is a need to provide per- large majority of people who play sport in Ireland sonnel along with facilities and, in doing so, move and who enjoy the health benefits arising from the goalposts regarding funding. Some clubs have this activity are from higher income and better- used funding for the advancement of their com- educated social groups. munities while others have used it for members’ The report makes a clear case in support of facilities and this is where questions arise. Can substantial public expenditure to increase partici- the Minister direct the Irish Sports Council to pation in sport. This justifies the significant have more involvement in communities, rather Government investment in sport in recent years. than clubs? We must foster communities, rather The budget for sport has increased from \17 mil- than clubs, around the facilities that have been lion in 1997 to over \295 million in 2007. By the provided. end of 2006, over \900 million had been invested Sports partnerships are a good thing but are directly in sport since 1997 to support the pro- understaffed. In local sports partnerships in motion and development of sport at all levels. Kildare only two people cater for 150,000 people Furthermore, the National Development Plan and this is not enough to address the problems 2007-13 includes a commitment to provide \991 that exist. Can the Minister move the goalposts million for sport under the aegis of my Depart- towards the facilities and personnel aspects of lot- ment during that period. tery funding? Can he increase the number of staff The increased funding provided to the Irish involved in local sports partnerships to give them Sports Council, from \13 million in 2000 to over the opportunity to build on the good work that is \54 million this year, has enabled a number of being done? significant interventions for the benefit of dis- advantaged areas. Examples include the local Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will look at the ´ sports partnerships network, development issues the Deputy has raised. None of us can be officers in national governing bodies and special proud of the conclusion in the report that the funding to the FAI, GAA and IRFU. large majority of people who play sports in The ESRI report concludes that disadvantage Ireland, and who enjoy the health benefits arising starts at an early age and there is evidence that from those activities, are from higher-income and disadvantage begins to affect some children’s better-educated social groups. It is good that involvement in sport from a very young age. In these people benefit but, having spent almost this regard I am pleased that the Irish Sports three years at the Department of Social and 1985 Priority 5 July 2007. Questions 1986 Family Affairs, I know that sport can play a sig- sufficient knowledge of the issue Deputy nificant role in tackling disadvantage. I propose, Deenihan raises but I promise to find out about during my time in this office, to give priority to it before sittings resume in September. those experiencing disadvantage because sport provides great opportunities to tackle the issue Deputy Jack Wall: Perhaps the Minister is and make a difference to communities, individ- unaware of the two-tier system in sport. Summer uals and broken families. We must try to absorb camps, a brilliant facility, are being arranged all the findings of this report and focus more on over the country. As a former Minister for Social bringing the benefits of sport to disadvantaged and Family Affairs, the Minister will be aware areas, communities and individuals. I will return that a single parent on social welfare receives to the House on this issue because I intend to put around \185 weekly. Enrolling a child in a sum- a significant amount of work into the area. mer camp would cost almost \70 or almost half Local sports partnerships have received \16 of his or her weekly income. For this reason, it is million in Government funding since they were not an option. set up in 2001 and I have heard the Deputy’s I hope the Minister and the Irish Sports comments about Kildare. A major initiative on Council will inform organisations which organise disability officers and areas of disadvantage has summer camps, for instance, the GAA and FAI, come about through the dormant accounts fund that they must reduce the horrendous fees they and we will press ahead with such projects. charge as they prevent wider participation and a greater social mix. Most of the costs of summer Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I appeal to the Mini- camps are associated with equipment. Will the ster to listen to the Opposition, whatever roles we Minister make representations to the Irish Sports may have next September. Over the past five Council to ensure wider participation in these years Deputy Wall and I came up with many camps, even if it means a young lad no longer gets ideas and they were not always heard or a sports jersey at the end of the camp because this implemented. I think this Minister will listen to may prevent his neighbour or friend playing? us and we are prepared to provide him with good One can imagine the effect that exclusion from ideas and initiatives. such events for financial reasons must have on The Minister is obviously in agreement with children from families in the lower-income the report and it is stark in its analysis. It is based bracket. on the available data so it is almost certain that public money spent on sport in Ireland is regress- Deputy Seamus Brennan: This is a timely ´ ive and represents a transfer of resources from debate with an ESRI report published recently the less well-off to the better-off. The report and an exchange on this matter on the floor of plainly shows that levels of participation in sport the House. It is time to take a long, hard look at depend on household income and educational this issue and I will do so urgently. attainment and this is not right. I ask the Minister to intervene through local sports partnerships and Sports Funding. schools. I posed the following question to the pre- 3. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister vious Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. Will for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make the Minister give priority to applications for lot- special provision in the 2008 national lottery capi- tery funding for sport halls which are submitted tal sports grants allocation to encourage the jointly by schools in a disadvantaged area and development of either municipal or community local sports clubs? A change in policy in this multisport facilities; and if he will make a state- regard would lead to sports halls being provided ment on the matter. [19553/07] in disadvantaged areas nationwide. Will he con- sider this request when allocating national lot- Deputy Seamus Brennan: The sports capital ´ tery funds? programme, which is administered by my Depart- ment, allocates funding to sporting and com- Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will consider the ´ munity organisations. It is the main vehicle for Deputy’s proposal. Anyone who works with me development of sports facilities at local, regional knows that I listen to ideas, including suggestions and national level. The programme is open to from the Opposition parties. The Deputy should applications from local authorities and other be careful what he recommends because he might community organisations for the development of not be too pleased if I act on his suggestions. multisport facilities. Under the 2007 programme, more than \5 million was allocated to multisport Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I have recom- projects serving the wider community. This is on mended this course of action for a long time. The the back of sustained sports capital investment in Minister would gain from it. this sector over the lifetime of the previous Government. In that period, sports capital fund- Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will listen carefully ´ ing of approximately \35.5 million was allocated to Deputies’ suggestions. I will examine Deputy to community or municipal multisport projects. Wall’s interesting proposal to fund sport in com- These projects not only meet local needs but also munities as opposed to clubs. I do not have add considerably to national and regional sport- 1987 Priority 5 July 2007. Questions 1988 ´ [Deputy Seamus Brennan.] Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Does the Minister ing infrastructure. This investment increases lev- plan to meet the national sporting organisations els of participation and improves standards of to discuss the concept of sharing facilities and the performance. development of multisport facilities? It would be As the Deputy may be aware, a national audit a good initiative if he were to bring these bodies of sports facilities is ongoing. This will provide together and encourage them to co-operate in the me with a more comprehensive picture of the dis- provision of these facilities. tribution and availability of sports facilities across the country, including multisport facilities. I will Deputy Seamus Brennan: I have had initial ´ examine the outcome of this audit, particularly in meetings on broad policy issues with the chief the context of the development of the national executive of the Irish Sports Council and rep- sports facility strategy and the structure of the resentatives of other sporting bodies. I will meet sports capital programme. In addition, my representatives from all the major national gov- Department will work closely with local auth- erning bodies in sport in due course and I will keep the multisport concept firmly on the table. orities in the funding of key, multipurpose My focus will be to ensure the \300 million of municipal sports facilities, which will be identified taxpayers’ money will be used for good, strong in the gateway and hub locations in the context of social purposes, does not result in duplication and the implementation of the National Development maximises the benefits to taxpayers. Plan 2007-13. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I welcome the thrust Tourism Promotion. of the Minister’s response. While I realise that \5 4. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister million from a total budget of \80 million is a for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department relatively small sum, a precedent has been estab- will provide a special marketing fund to promote lished. I ask the Minister to place particular the mid-west and western sea board in view of emphasis on encouraging the main outdoor sport- the uncertainty about the number of flights that ing codes, notably rugby, soccer and GAA, to will operate into Shannon in 2008 and the number work together to provide simple, shared facilities of cancellations from a number of groups for the such as changing and weights rooms and medical early part of 2008; and if he will make a statement facilities. They could have their own ancillary on the matter. [19554/07] facilities attached to these facilities. Oppor- tunities for such co-operation are available across Deputy Seamus Brennan: I welcome the open ´ the country. We have seen changes in Croke Park skies agreement with the USA. It is a very posi- and Lansdowne Road as a result of co-operation tive development for tourism here and has long between the Gaelic, soccer and rugby codes. The been a major objective of tourism policy. It has Minister should urge the sporting bodies to been supported by industry interests and engage in greater co-operation. endorsed by the tourism policy review group. We have an ideal opportunity to emphasise to Already, following on from the open skies deal, Aer Lingus has announced new services to San local authorities and the principal sporting organ- Francisco, Orlando and Washington Dulles. isations, particularly those involved in outdoor The open skies regime will result in the phasing sports, including athletics, the importance of co- out of the Shannon stop-over policy. This is a operation in providing shared local, multisport challenge and an opportunity for Shannon Air- facilities. Such co-operation should also be port. If the airport is to successfully rise to this encouraged among the indoor sports codes challenge, a number of issues will need to be although indoor facilities generally cater for all addressed, including the efficiency of the airport, indoor sports. The provision of facilities would be the development of new routes into Shannon Air- enhanced if such co-operation were encouraged. port, improvements to the ground transport infra- structure around the airport and the further Deputy Seamus Brennan: It is incumbent on all ´ development of the tourism product around the of us to get the best value for money from the region. annual budget of approximately \300 million. I I am pleased to note that significant progress accept the Deputy’s thesis that sharing facilities has been made in recent months in putting the and co-operation between various sporting bodies airport on a more sound business footing. This is must be at the heart of this approach. To use vital because if the airport does not deliver a cost- dreadful business jargon we must sweat the assets efficient service, its future will be limited. because taxpayers’ money is involved and must The Government, under its agreed programme, be used in a manner that delivers the optimum is committed to providing “significant infrastruc- benefits. This means sharing facilities, co- tural development in the Mid West area, as well operating where possible and avoiding wasteful as marketing support... for a transitional period duplication. This is common sense. I accept the to help consolidate existing markets and develop allocation of \5 million for multisport facilities is new sources of business”. To help deliver on this low and I will examine it. commitment, my colleague, the Minister for 1989 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 1990 Transport and the Marine, is bringing an econ- Shannon area annually, although I appreciate omic and tourism development plan for the that this number has remained static and that the Shannon Airport catchment area to the Cabinet. phasing out of the stopover will bring real chal- The draft plan will address the marketing issue. lenges. However, there is a strong board and Whatever the Government decides in relation to strong leadership at the airport. The new plan the plan, the Deputy may assume Tourism which I am confident the Government will put Ireland, Shannon Development and other agen- together will make a real difference to the region. cies will make a special drive to deal with the challenges facing the area. Other Questions. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Will the Minister ———— ensure the provisions in the plan which I under- stand is a proposal to spend \10 million a year on Tax Code. the promotion of the Shannon area 4 o’clock are put in place as soon as possible? 6. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister If the current routes are not sup- for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the ported, they could be withdrawn. The Minister problems in regard to removing the 21% VAT on may be aware that American Airlines and Air fees for non-resident artists performing here for Canada will cease operations in October and festivals, in particular due to the need to attract Delta Airlines which I understand operates non-resident performers and artists; if he has had flights to Atlanta, an important hub for Florida discussions with the Department of Finance on and southern USA, will cease operations on that this issue; and if he will make a statement on the route this winter. This will be a major blow to matter. [19252/07] Shannon Airport. One major hotel in the Shannon area has had cancellations from 11 Deputy Seamus Brennan: The Deputy will ´ group tours, representing approximately 2,000 appreciate that any change to the tax law in bed nights, due to the uncertainty regarding regard to the charging of VAT is a matter for the flights into the region in 2008. I appeal to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Cowen. I am, Minister to ensure this fund is put in place however, aware of the issue regarding the immediately as, otherwise, there will be further charging of VAT on non-resident performers and cancellations and uncertainty. artists and have been briefed on the matter recently by my officials. I intend to explore it A recent programme on American television, further, with a view to seeing if there is a way in “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?”, was which it can be addressed and, in the process, will watched by 7 million people. It showed beautiful consult the relevant bodies and organisations. I images of the west of Ireland but, at the end of intend to discuss the matter with the Minister for the programme, suggested that to get to Ireland, Finance in due course. visitors should come through Dublin Airport. There was no mention of Shannon Airport, which Deputy Jack Wall: I am delighted the Minister was an opportunity lost. is in favour of investigating the matter and having Will the Minister indicate whether he has the it rectified. The situation is counterproductive, information I seek? How many seats are available given what the Arts Council is attempting to in summer 2007 coming into Shannon Airport achieve. On the one hand, the council gives grants and how many will be available in 2008? That is to festivals while, on the other, the 21% VAT what matters. rate is applied. This does not help to attract the artists who would make a difference. In many Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will have to wait ´ instances, local organising committees must give until the Government concludes its thinking on huge incentives to assist fund-raising. If the 21% the proposals from my colleague, the Minister for rate did not apply, it would be far easier for them Transport and the Marine, in regard to an econ- to get the best artists and advance their festivals omic and tourism development plan for the through the addition of workshops and so on but Shannon Airport catchment area, which the that is not possible due to the huge incentives Government will examine shortly. The Deputy needed to attract the artists in the first place. The will recall that, as Minister for Transport, I put 21% rate is prohibitive. I am pleased to note it is legislation through the House in regard to secur- the Minister’s intention to deal with the matter ing the independence of Shannon Airport and and consult the Minister for Finance. We will giving it the opportunity to develop its own future keep in contact in this regard because the issue and attract its own visitors. I accept there are has a major effect. Whether a festival is small or challenges in the Shannon area as a result of the large, the VAT rate is a major impediment to its open skies regime but there are also oppor- progress. It is welcome the Minister has been tunities. The plan which the Minister for Trans- briefed and that some action will be taken. port and the Marine and I will bring forward will help considerably to bring additional numbers Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will certainly dis- ´ into the Shannon region. There are approxi- cuss the matter with my colleague. The Deputy mately 300,000 North American visitors to the will recall that the Revenue Commissioners gave 1991 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 1992 ´ [Deputy Seamus Brennan.] ists it will bring in more people and the a one-year derogation in 2002 in regard to exemp- Exchequer will benefit. tion from this charge on the basis of a request from the Arts Council. However, there has been Deputy Seamus Brennan: I was not saying that ´ no progress on the matter since. The difficulty is the Exchequer would lose out but that under the that the people who attend these gatherings, by mechanism by which VAT is collected one offsets and large, do not pay VAT on tickets. Therefore, the VAT one pays against that which is charged when the organisation involved comes to recoup in. If no VAT is charged in on tickets there is no VAT, it does not have VAT payments against mechanism for reclaiming it. My point is a techni- which to offset the VAT it is required to pay. We cal one but I accept the Deputy’s broader point. thought we were doing the right thing in remov- I join with Deputy Finian McGrath in express- ing VAT from entrance charges. However, an ing my admiration for the wonderful contribution unintended consequence is that the organisation made in the case he mentioned and extend our does not have a claimable mechanism available expressions of sympathy to the family of Derek to it. In a way, we set out to do good work but Dougan. it had this unintended consequence which I will I plan to make a fuller statement on investment discuss with the Department of Finance. in the arts and the future as I see it, hopefully soon. Deputy Finian McGrath: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well. Tourism Promotion. I welcome his statement on the 21% VAT rate. Progress in this area is essential to deal with the 7. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister issue of developing the arts. The Minister must for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the lat- prioritise spending and support for the arts in the est figures for overseas visitors to Ireland from next five years, given that artists make a major the Central Statistics Office and on the drop in contribution to the country and the development the number of British visitors to Ireland; his of communities. further views on whether a renewed marketing As we are dealing with the issue of sports, will campaign for Irish tourism in Britain is required the Minister join me in expressing our deepest to address the shortfall; and if he will make a sympathy to the family of the late Derek Dougan statement on the matter. [19247/07] who played for Wolves and Northern Ireland and made a massive contribution to sport in this coun- Deputy Seamus Brennan: The latest figures ´ try, particularly—— published by the Central Statistics Office show that there was an increase of over 4% in the An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sure this is number of overseas visitors to Ireland in the first very important but we might confine ourselves to four months of the year compared with the same the question in the short time we have available. period in 2006. While it will be challenging to maintain the record-breaking performance of Deputy Finian McGrath: I understand. Will the 2006, these latest CSO figures confirm that Minister join me in expressing public sympathy to Ireland’s tourism sector continues to perform at the family of the late Derek Dougan who made a a very impressive level. massive contribution to sport on the island? Mainland Europe continues to be our strongest performing market with an increase of almost Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I am sure the Mini- 25% in visitor numbers during the four month ster will agree that the quality of a festival is very period up to the end of April compared with the much determined by its participants. Unless a fes- corresponding period in 2006. The North tival committee or organisation is able to attract American market has also shown a good per- major international artists, it will not attract as formance for the beginning of the year with an many people. Festivals are becoming very com- increase of 3.4%, while other long-haul markets petitive. If one wants an international audience are up by almost 12%. The figures for North and to encourage tour operators to bring visitors, America are particularly encouraging when big names are needed. The VAT rate certainly viewed in the context of the relative strength of inhibits organisers in getting major names to per- the euro against the dollar. form. The Minister may be aware that as The number of visitors from Britain for the first Northern Ireland excludes VAT, we are at a dis- four months is down by over 5% compared with advantage as regards festivals there. the same period in 2006. This is disappointing but is consistent with a general trend of reduced Deputy Jack Wall: The Minister is wrong to numbers of outward travellers from Great Britain state there is a loss to the Exchequer with regard to European destinations in the early part of this to VAT on tickets. In fact, the more a festival year. It is believed that interest rate increases and grows, the more opportunities there will be other factors may be impacting on consumer dis- regarding bed nights, restaurants, petrol and food cretionary spending power. The numbers coming sales. If the organisers can increase the value of to Ireland from Britain for holiday purposes were the festival by bringing in more international art- up by over 6% for the first quarter of the year. 1993 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 1994 Tourism Ireland is undertaking its biggest ever recall seeing the GB plate on cars around the marketing campaign in Britain this year. This country when we were youngsters. They are not includes spending \6 million to highlight regional so prevalent now. attractions. This campaign, which commenced in Will the Minister ask Tourism Ireland and the April, will run through July and I am confident ferry companies to concentrate on attracting the that the months ahead will show the benefits for car driving tourist back into Ireland because rural this most important market. Additional market- areas benefited more from their business? Our ing activity is also planned for the autumn, with roads have improved to some extent, and are less a particular focus on the short breaks programme. dangerous than they were. Considering that 2006 broke all records in Will the Minister encourage Tourism Ireland to terms of overseas visitor numbers and associated sell our culture and heritage more? UK tourists revenue, we have set a challenging target of a find our culture and heritage, especially the further 5% growth in visitor numbers and 7.3% ecclesiastical heritage, rather fascinating. We in associated revenue for 2007. I am confident have not focused on this in the past. that the record levels of Exchequer investment The Minister turned the sod on the famous for tourism services this year, \159 million, will Lartigue Railway which is now up and running ´ enable both Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland and attracting many UK tourists with very little to implement a comprehensive set of prog- marketing. rammes to help ensure that these targets are met. In particular, the marketing fund of \45 million, Deputy Seamus Brennan: I recall launching the ´ an increase of 12.5% on last year’s provision, has Lartigue Railway when we were doing the Mil- allowed both agencies to step up their marketing lennium Project. I have built a couple of railways activities significantly. since then on a larger scale, particularly the Luas. It is not quite Lartigue but it does the job. Deputy Jack Wall: There has been growth in I do not have the figures that Deputy Wall short breaks here but concern has repeatedly wanted on the numbers of families taking short been expressed about the need to encourage Brit- breaks but I will get them for him. I agree with ish families to travel outside the Pale. The west Deputy Deenihan in regard to bringing more and south of Ireland have suffered and we do not families and more of the car business from the seem to be able to break that pattern. Short United Kingdom. Tourism Ireland launched its breaks are the most attractive option for the tour- biggest ever marketing campaign there last April ism industry. under the direction of my predecessor who is now How many of the British visitors on short Ceann Comhairle. That campaign is going well. breaks were families? How does the funding for One of its objectives is to do as the Deputy sug- marketing in Britain break down as between gested and to highlight the heritage and artistic holidays in Dublin and the rest of the country? benefits of visiting Ireland apart from the lovely Are we getting full benefit from the British weather. market when the exchange rate between sterling and the euro is good? Is it feasible to extend the Sport and Recreational Development. family holiday outside the capital city? 8. Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister Deputy Seamus Brennan: I am concerned ´ for Arts, Sport and Tourism further to the open- about the number of visitors from Britain and will ing of the new national rowing centre in Cork, his talk to the agencies about addressing this issue. views on the need to upgrade and develop more Tourism Ireland has undertaken its biggest ever sporting facilities here in order to capitalise on marketing campaign this year and I propose to the proximity of Ireland to the 2012 Olympic examine that carefully to ensure that it is focused. Games in London; if such an audit of facilities is Last year we had over 4 million visitors from under way; and if he will make a statement on Britain which was an increase of 6% on the pre- the matter. [19250/07] vious year. There has been some softness in the market for the first four months of this year and Deputy Seamus Brennan: The previous Mini- ´ the number is down 5% on last year. ster for Arts, Sport and Tourism established a There are major challenges in Irish tourism, high level London 2012 task force to ensure including cost competitiveness, focus and invest- Ireland can identify and maximise the complete ment and I propose to study these carefully to see range of opportunities arising from our proximity how to respond to them. We cannot take Irish to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London tourism for granted. That is important. 2012. This task force includes experts from the sport, tourism, cultural and business sectors and Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Traditionally British is supported by staff within my Department. tourists served rural areas well. They supported One of the first pieces of work that the task small operators in the west and in Kerry princi- force carried out was an audit of high quality pally because they brought their own cars. There facilities suitable to attract international athletes is a significant fall-off in the number of tourists to train in the years running up to the London from the UK coming here with their cars. We all 2012 Games. 1995 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 1996 ´ [Deputy Seamus Brennan.] high order and comprises very experienced The superb national rowing centre in Cork is one people representing different organisations. They of the facilities the audit has examined. Given the are all well aware of the opportunities for a paramount training requirements of Irish number of sports to attract qualification rounds, Olympic and Paralympic athletes and the exact- such as basketball, boxing, equestrian events, ing requirements of Olympic and Paralympic hockey, rowing, sailing and soccer. I hope the standard facilities, the audit has concluded that House will have a full discussion on the report as there is a limited capacity to host foreign Olympic soon as it is available. and Paralympic athletes in training camps in Ireland prior to the London 2012 Games, Deputy James Reilly: I congratulate the Mini- although I have asked the Department to look ster on his new appointment. Given the dearth again at this. of sporting facilities in Dublin North, what is the In parallel with the audit and to better inform situation regarding the swimming pool grant in the future work of the task force, my Department Balbriggan, which has very few sporting facilities? appointed Indecon International economic con- Are there any plans for one in Swords? What is sultants to carry out an economic evaluation of the situation with regard to the Portmarnock the benefit to the island of Ireland of the London sports and leisure centre pool? 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. This eval- uation is now nearing completion. Overall, the An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is straying most important economic benefits likely to way outside the question. accrue to Ireland from our proximity to the London Games are in the tourism and business Deputy James Reilly: The Minister himself sectors. mentioned the need for training facilities for In the sporting sector, more significant econ- home athletes in the area. omic benefits are likely to accrue in attracting Olympic qualification tournaments to Ireland. An Ceann Comhairle: We are discussing the Our experience to date in attracting major sport- 2012 Olympic Games, which is a different matter. ing events to Ireland, such as the Special Olymp- ics and the Ryder Cup, has been very positive and Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Following the publi- the economic impact of such events is far greater cation of the Indecon report, I suggest the Mini- than that arising from a small number of elite ath- ster appoint an individual as a chief executive to letes training for limited periods. My Depart- spearhead the programme and the campaign to ment, in consultation with the Olympic Council attract teams and their entourages to Ireland for of Ireland, the Irish Sports Council and the the Olympic Games. I feel such a focus is national governing bodies of sport, is pursuing a required. A task force is one thing and it has per- number of high profile Olympic qualification formed well but we need a high-profile person to events that will benefit the economy and give take responsibility for selling Ireland to various Irish athletes home advantage in their quest to countries around the world. qualify for the London Games. Deputy Seamus Brennan: I can certainly dis- ´ cuss that with the London 2012 task force in the Deputy Jack Wall: How many actual facilities context of the publication of the report. I would meet the training brief for international athletes be interested in its members’ advice on that for the Olympic Games? Did only the national subject. rowing centre in Cork and Abbotstown meet the necessary criteria? It seems funny to say we do not have the facilities but will look to host qualifi- National Conference Centre. cations for the Olympic Games. The national 9. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister boxing stadium recently hosted the European for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regard- championships, in which Irish boxers were very ing the development of the national conference successful, winning five out of 11 titles. Does the centre; and if he will make a statement on the Minister intend that we host individual events matter. [19326/07] such as boxing or triathlon, which was recently held very successfully in Kildare? Can the Mini- 36. Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for ster say how many facilities there are and what Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding qualification events we are considering? the development of a new national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the Deputy Seamus Brennan: My predecessor ´ matter. [19262/07] established the London 2012 task force last August and it has done very good work. We are 43. Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Mini- awaiting the final report of Indecon International ster for Arts, Sport and Tourism the projected economic consultants, which was commissioned level of tourism revenue that would accrue to the by the task force and is nearing completion. I State in the event of the development of a would prefer to postpone detailed discussion until national conference centre; and if he will make a I have the report but the task force is of a very statement on the matter. [19341/07] 1997 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 1998 Deputy Seamus Brennan: I propose to take ´ conference centre did for Birmingham. It will Questions Nos. 9, 36 and 43 together. provide a major boost to the economy of Dublin On 5 April last, the contract for the provision city. of a national conference centre in Dublin was In the proposal for the Shannon region there is awarded to Spencer Dock Convention Centre a recommendation, supported by the Irish Hotels Dublin Limited. Under the public private part- Federation, that the Government consider a nership arrangement, Spencer Dock Convention similar conference centre in the Shannon region, Centre Dublin Limited is required to design, otherwise all business tourism would come into build and finance the national conference centre Dublin and the centre in this city would take busi- and to operate and maintain it for a period of 25 ness tourism away from other parts of the coun- years, after which the facility will revert to the try. Will the Minister comment on that? State. In return, once the construction of the centre is complete and it is open for business, the Deputy Seamus Brennan: The centre is sched- ´ State will pay the company an annual charge, the uled to open on 1 September 2010. Once it is maximum total cost of which over 25 years will open for business, the State will pay the company be just under \380 million in present day values. an annual charge. The maximum total cost over The centre will be capable of accommodating 25 years will be just under \380 million. That is up to 2,000 delegates in plenary session. It will net current value. An annual payment will be also have 22 multi-purpose meeting rooms and made that adds up to no more than \380 million approximately 4,500 m2 of flexible exhibition and at net current value. I do not know whether there banqueting space, along with associated press and is an additional handover fee. That would be a delegate support facilities and general utility contractual matter and I will have to come back spaces. The centre, which is to be known as the to the Deputy on it. convention centre Dublin, is scheduled to open There is a commitment in the programme for on 1 September 2010. In the meantime, the oper- Government to examine the feasibility of a con- ´ ators, in co-operation with Failte Ireland, Tour- ference centre in the Shannon region. I will move ism Ireland and the Dublin convention bureau, that forward as quickly as possible. The Ceann will be engaged in marketing the centre to secure ´ ´ Comhairle does not need me to plamas him in bookings for 2010 and after. In addition, the pros- any way, but we should all salute his work in pects for the successful marketing and operation delivering these projects. It will stand as one of of the facility will be considerably enhanced by many monuments to the man in this Department, the VAT deductibility of accommodation where he did a tremendous job. expenses for business conferences, announced in last December’s budget at the behest of my pre- decessor and included in this year’s Finance Act. An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to say the The imminent realisation of a national con- Minister’s time has expired. ference centre in Ireland represents a wonderful boost for Irish tourism and for the economy gen- Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: It is a pity he will erally. According to a number of independent not be around to open them. estimates, the national conference centre, when fully operational, is expected to generate Deputy Jack Wall: I also compliment the additional foreign revenue earnings of between Ceann Comhairle on this. It moved on in his term \25 million and \50 million per year. Currently, in the Department and it is great that we will now promotable business tourism attracts 295,000 vis- have a national conference centre. Will there be itors and is worth \475 million to the economy transport infrastructure in line with the con- ´ annually. Failte Ireland’s target now is to grow ference centre? Will there be a Luas connection this sector to 600,000 promotable business visitors to Spencer Dock and what will be the timescale with a revenue value of \1 billion by 2013. for that? It needs to be built by 1 September 2010. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I have a few ques- Deputy Seamus Brennan: There are very excit- ´ tions on the cost to the Exchequer over the 25- ing plans for the Luas extension to the docklands year period before the facility is handed back to area, but I will have to get the dates for the the taxpayer. The Minister said it would cost \380 Deputy. They fit in fairly well with the delivery million. Is there a fee on the handover or does it date of 2010. I will have to get more specific deliv- come back automatically without a fee? Will the ery dates, but we are committed to developing Minister confirm the date the centre is supposed the Luas in the docklands area, which will be an to be up and running? enormous help to the convention centre. I welcome progress on this issue. It is a ques- tion I have asked at almost every Question Time Deputy James Reilly: I want to be associated for the past five years. I recognise the work done with the congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle by the Ceann Comhairle in progressing the pro- on the conference centre. Is the Minister happy ject when he was Minister for Arts, Sport and with the size of the centre, with a capacity of Tourism. It is a very important project. Barcelona 2,000? I have been at medical conferences where has four conference centres and we saw what a 5,000 and 10,000 people have attended. 1999 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 2000 Deputy Seamus Brennan: It was studied very ´ Deputy Seamus Brennan: I propose to take ´ carefully and the optimum figure was 2,000 del- Questions Nos. 10 and 12 together. egates. If we fill it with 2,000 delegates on a reg- I refer the Deputy to my answer earlier today ular basis, it will be more beneficial to us than on to Priority Question No. 1. the rare occasion in which we will get 5,000 or 10,000, unless there is a Fine Gael Ard-Fheis National Stadium. being held. 11. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: They are getting big- Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding ger all the time. Tourism Ireland is promoting the the development of Sports Campus Ireland at conference centre, as the Minister stated. Gener- Abbotstown, west Dublin; and if he will make a ally speaking, some of these companies often plan statement on the matter. [19246/07] conferences two, three or four years in advance. Can the Minister refer to the initiatives that are Deputy Seamus Brennan: The Government has ´ ongoing at the moment? Have businesses already provided \149 million under the National shown an interest in holding conferences in Development Plan 2007 to 2013 for the develop- Ireland? What are the plans to promote this ment of a national sports campus at Abbotstown. centre? The Government has already approved the development of facilities under phase one of a Deputy Seamus Brennan: I will have another ´ development control plan prepared by CSID, the ´ occasion to outline that in more detail. Failte predecessor of the National Sports Campus Ireland and the Dublin Convention Bureau are Development Authority, NSCDA. These facili- already engaged in marketing the centre. They ties will be designed to meet the indoor and out- are actively looking for bookings for 2010 and door training needs of Irish elite sportspersons afterwards. who compete at national and international levels, and will also provide for the needs of the local Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Is it Tourism Ireland community. Preliminary planning for this phase ´ or Failte Ireland? has begun and the NSCDA has advertised a com- petition to appoint a design team and a project Deputy Seamus Brennan: Both are out there ´ management team for the project. in different geographic locations, along with the The facilities to be provided in phase one of the Dublin Convention Bureau and the Department. project will include a national field sports training All hands are on deck to secure bookings from 1 centre catering for rugby, soccer, Gaelic games September 2010. and hockey; a national indoor training centre which will provide world class training facilities Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: It is important to for over 20 national governing bodies of sport; secure new business if possible. If business is accommodation for sports men and women; being displaced from Kerry or other places, then sports science and medical facilities; all-weather it will not serve its purpose. It is very important synthetic pitches for community use; and the that new business should be targeted. renovation of existing buildings to provide administrative offices for sporting bodies. Deputy Seamus Brennan: I take the Deputy’s ´ The Government decision for this stage of point. The facility will be here at that date and it development included agreement to move the is incumbent on us to fill the halls. I am greatly headquarters of the Football Association of encouraged that the bodies are actively market- Ireland to the former State laboratory building at ing at this point to ensure we have bookings. The Abbotstown. Planning permission for a change of convention business is long term and companies use for the State laboratory has been secured and must book many years in advance. Systems are in work on the building is underway. It is expected place all over the country to book most of our the FAI will relocate there in the autumn. It is conference facilities for 2010, 2011 and thereafter. also intended to provide a headquarters for the Irish Institute of Sport by refurbishing an existing National Theatre. building on the site, and preliminary planning on this project has commenced. 10. Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for A planning study for the Abbotstown site, Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to which is a requirement under a local objective of the construction of the new national theatre in the Fingal county development plan, has been Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the completed by an inter-agency group which matter. [19261/07] included the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. This study sets out the mix of sporting, 12. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for leisure and amenity facilities appropriate for the Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made to site. The planning study was considered by Fingal date regarding the national theatre building; and County Council at a meeting held in 12 March if he will make a statement on the matter. 2007 and a proposal was considered to change the [19322/07] zoning of a large portion of the site to open space 2001 Other 5 July 2007. Questions 2002 to allow for sports use and for the woodland area Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Not really. The of the site to be zoned for high amenity use. The institute of sport is an integral part of this—— statutory public consultation period for the pro- posal for rezoning is due for decision at the meet- Deputy Seamus Brennan: Not this session ´ ing of Fingal County Council on 9 July. anyway. Under the National Sports Campus Develop- ment Authority Act 2006, the National Sports Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: ——and apparently Campus Development Authority was established it is holding up progress on the institute. on a statutory basis in January to succeed in func- An Ceann Comhairle: It is more a question for tion and responsibility Campus and Stadium the Order of Business. Ireland Development Company Ltd. In addition to overseeing the development of phase one of Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Many of the func- the campus, the new authority has been requested tions of the new campus the Minister outlined are to identify the facilities that might be considered being provided in the National Coaching and for the next phase of the development of the Training Centre in Limerick. It may be too early Abbotstown project. When completed, the to ask this question but does the Minister believe Abbotstown facilities will provide a much needed that the National Coaching and Training Centre range of training and competitive facilities for our in Limerick, which is now referred to as Coaching finest sportspersons. Ireland, will have less of a role to play in the future because so many of its functions will be Deputy Jack Wall: I thank the Minister for his taken over by Sports Campus Ireland? reply. Abbotstown is of major significance for our national athletes. How many sports organisations Deputy Seamus Brennan: The short answer to ´ will have their headquarters in Abbotstown? I the last question is “No”. I do not see any reason believe 30 organisations were to be facilitated, for the National Coaching and Training Centre to but I would like to know what has been done. be interfered with in any way by possible devel- The capacity of the stadium created many prob- opments at Abbotstown. Even on a regional basis lems along the way. Is it still to be 50,000? Also, one can see that there is good spread there. I do did the Minister indicate the organisation that not see any need to worry from the point of view will determine the second phase or will sub- of Limerick, which has done a superb job and which has the Government’s full confidence in missions be sought from the various groups what it is able to provide for us in the future. interested in having a facility at Abbotstown? Question No. 12 answered with Question Deputy Seamus Brennan: As I said, the FAI is ´ No. 10. moving there in the autumn. That building is being renovated. The headquarters of the Departmental Objectives. institute of sport are located there also. In due course discussions will be completed with other 13. Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister organisations to determine their intentions. I plan for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for his to visit the area in the next few weeks if possible term of office; and if he will make a statement on to see the situation for myself and be satisfied as the matter. [19342/07] to future developments on the site. There are a number of options, as the Deputy is aware. The 26. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Mini- National Sports Campus Development Authority ster for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for is to bring forward proposals for further phases the development of the arts, sport and tourism sectors, with particular reference to capital of the campus. Possible options include a 25,000 expenditure; and if he will make a statement on seater capacity stadium, which was mentioned in the matter. [19349/07] the programme for Government, a velodrome and an indoor arena. I want to visit the location 37. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for and be satisfied as to the route forward, but the Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for the NSCDA is to bring forward proposals to me for development of the arts for his term of office; and further phases of the campus and I will await if he will make a statement on the matter. them. [19345/07] Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: The Minister men- 41. Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister tioned the institute of sport. Can he indicate for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for the when he will bring forward the legislation to set development of tourism for his term of office; and up that institute? I understand legislation is if he will make a statement on the matter. required to establish the institute—— [19343/07] An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is wander- 45. Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Mini- ing outside the remit of the question, to be fair. ster for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for 2003 Schools Building 5 July 2007. Programme 2004 [Deputy Kieran O’Donnell.] sports and leisure centre pool, which is an excel- the development of sport for his term of office; lent facility, and also the one in Balbriggan. and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19344/07] Deputy Trevor Sargent: Hear, hear. Deputy Seamus Brennan: I propose to take ´ Deputy Seamus Brennan: Regarding the horse ´ Questions Nos. 13, 26, 37, 41 and 45 together. racing and greyhound industries, I fully appreci- My priorities for the development of the tour- ate the enormous economic, sporting and cultural ism, sport and arts and culture sectors are set out importance of those two sectors. We will continue in the programme for Government. I will formu- to support their growth. Regarding north Dublin, late policies and objectives, in consultation with we will do the best we can. the relevant stakeholders, to achieve the delivery of these priorities, which will be articulated Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate. further in the Department’s new Statement of Strategy 2008-2010, which is in preparation and is Adjournment Debate Matters. to be completed by the end of 2007. An Ceann Comhairle: I wish to advise the I can say at this juncture that the overriding House of the following matters in respect of objectives will be to drive the development of which notice has been given under Standing policy with the achievement of a sustainable tour- Order 21 and the name of the Member in each ism sector and accessibility and participation for case: (1) Deputy Mary O’Rourke — the proposal all in sport and culture areas. Under the pro- to build a pipeline to extract water from Lough visions of the National Development Plan 2007- Ree to supply the Dublin area; (2) Deputy James 2013, the Department has a total provision of Bannon — the need for the Minister for Health some \2.7 billion in respect of both current and and Children to expedite payment to a person; capital expenditure across the three sectors. This (3) Deputy Joe McHugh — the delay in the pro- expenditure will fund programmes such as the vision of funding for an extension at a school in international marketing and product develop- Buncrana, County Donegal; (4) Deputy ment programmes in the tourism area, the sports ´ ´ ´ Caoimhghın O Caolain — to urgently address the capital and swimming pool programmes in the concerns raised by the Dublin Well Woman sports area and the ACCESS programme in the Centre and others on the sending of Irish cervical arts-culture area. In addition, the Department smear tests for processing US laboratories; (5) will use the NDP funding to deliver such major Deputy Mary Alexandra White — the need to capital projects as the national convention centre, conduct a feasibility study into making Carlow the new Lansdowne Road stadium, the the first green energy town here in order to Abbotstown campus project, the new national implement the targets set out in the National Bio- theatre and the new National Concert Hall. energy Action Plan; (6) Deputy David Stanton — Specifically in relation to tourism, the general the need to examine the situation pertaining in a priorities as of now are to ensure that tourism has primary school in County Cork; (7) Deputy Jack increasing public recognition as a key economic Wall — the need to resolve the dispute between sector; the tourism agenda is accommodated in a person (details supplied) and Teagasc; and (8) the relevant policies and programmes which Deputy Thomas P. Broughan — the need to impact on tourism; consolidate and continue to ´ ´ report to Dail Eireann on the reasons Ireland grow sustainable tourism sectors across the island failed to meet the 30 June EU deadline of of Ireland and that this is facilitated by the Directive 2006/32/EC of the European Parlia- Government and the Department; continue to ment and of the Council of 5 April 2006. maintain the strong partnership between the The matters raised by Deputies Joe McHugh, David Stanton, Mary O’Rourke and Mary Alex- State and the tourism industry; and follow up on andra White have been selected for discussion. the actions laid out in the agreed programme for Government recently negotiated. They would be the main priorities. Adjournment Debate. An Ceann Comhairle: I will allow a brief sup- ———— plementary from Deputies Deenihan and Reilly. Schools Building Programme. Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I note the Minister Deputy Joe McHugh: I am delighted to have did not mention the horse racing and greyhound the opportunity to raise this important matter industries. Will he indicate the plans he has to concerning Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana, County support the greyhound industry which, unfortu- Donegal, on the Inishowen peninsula. Scoil nately, has experienced a downturn recently? Mhuire is one of four secondary schools in the Inishowen peninsula. That may sound like a lot Deputy James Reilly: As I was not allowed to of schools for one part of a county or constitu- ask this question earlier, I presume I can ask now ency but the Inishowen peninsula is bigger than about the need to upgrade the Portmarnock County Louth. That is an indication of the 2005 Schools Building 5 July 2007. Programme 2006 geography we are dealing with and given the pro- Minister of State at the Department of Edu- jected increases in population, there will be a cation and Science (Deputy Sean Haughey): At ´ need for the retention of these four secondary the outset, a Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate schools in their current form. you on your election as Cheann Comhairle. I also Based on 2003 figures, 860 people — 60 staff congratulate Deputy McHugh on his election to and 800 students — have to work in an envir- the Dail. ´ onment which can only cater for 600 people. That I thank Deputy McHugh for raising the matter is not appropriate from an education or a health as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the and safety point of view. The board of manage- House the Government’s strategy for capital ment and the principal have been lobbying for a investment in education projects and also to out- long time to try to get an extension to this school. line the position regarding the development of A total of 25% of the students spend their time education provision in Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, in 13 prefabricated buildings. That is not appro- County Donegal. priate from an education viewpoint but it is also Modernising facilities in our 3,200 primary and not a satisfactory environment in terms of the 750 post-primary schools is not an easy task given ambitious new programmes the school is chal- the legacy of decades of underinvestment in this lenging itself with, be it in the area of technology area as well as the need to respond to emerging or different types of learning. An indication of needs in areas of rapid population growth. None- the problem we are dealing with is the fact that theless, the Government has shown a focused some of the prefabs date back to the 1960s. determination to improve the condition of our The application for funding was submitted school buildings and to ensure that appropriate eight years ago and the school authority would facilities are in place to enable the implemen- like to know the stage of the project. What is the tation of a broad and balanced curriculum. Department of Education and Science’s track in As evidence of this commitment, more than terms of the band rating it has been assigned? \540 million is to be spent on primary and post- The most recent figure given was 2.5, which the primary school building and modernisation pro- Minister of State will probably give me now. I jects in the coming year throughout the country. want to highlight the fact that this is an excellent Since 1997, a total of \3 billion has been invested school with an ambitious principal and board of in school buildings and this has delivered more management. They want to continue with the than 7,800 school building projects. This further type of learning they are engaged in, especially investment in excess of \540 million will build on given that it is a disadvantaged area where they these achievements and will focus in particular on have very high retention records. They want to the provision of school accommodation in areas be positive in terms of working with the Depart- where the population is growing at a rapid rate. ment. They do not want to take a negative view. As further evidence of our commitment, national They are willing to work closely with the Minister development plan funding of \4.5 billion will be and the Minister of State present. invested in schools over the coming years. I will continue to raise this issue during my I am sure the Deputy will agree that this record time in this House. I look forward to a favourable level of investment is a positive testament to the response from the Minister of State. Unlike the high priority the Government attaches to ensur- Seanad, I realise I cannot ask a supplementary ing that school accommodation is of the highest question in this House. I see the Ceann Comh- standard possible. In addition, to reduce red tape airle’s head nodding in agreement with me. There and allow projects to move faster, responsibility was great flexibility in the Seanad when it came for smaller projects has been devolved to school to supplementary questions. We do not have that level. Standard designs have also been developed facility here and I suppose I will get a prepared for eight and 16 classroom schools to facilitate reply. Irrespective of the type of process used in speedier delivery of projects and save on design this House, I want the Minister of State, Deputy fees. The design and build method is also used to Haughey, to feed this back to the Minister, expedite delivery where the use of standard Deputy Hanafin. designs is not possible. Taken together with the I look forward to working with the Minister of unprecedented level of funding available, these State on this issue, to expedite it and to put in initiatives ensure that building projects are deliv- place a proper education environment for ered in the fastest timeframe possible. students who do not have one. Even from a Scoil Mhuire Secondary School, Buncrana is a health and safety point of view, they have been co-educational post-primary school, with a cur- compromised in the past, albeit in a small man- rent enrolment of 622 pupils. Enrolment trends ner. We certainly cannot compromise students or in recent years at Scoil Mhuire have necessitated staff in terms of health and safety. This should be a review by my Department of demographic expedited and treated as a matter of urgency and trends and housing developments in the area to I look forward to a firm commitment from the ensure that any capital funding provided will Minister of State today on the matter. deliver accommodation appropriate to the As I began hastily, I forgot to congratulate the school’s need into the future. Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, on his new The Department is currently preparing the position and I wish him all the best in it. long-term projected enrolment on which the 2007 Pupil-Teacher 5 July 2007. Ratio 2008 ´ [Deputy Sean Haughey.] which is independent. I do not accept that. We school’s accommodation needs will be based and must change the rules so that in cases like this will shortly notify the school of same. The build- there can be more flexibility built into the system ing project will be considered in the context of and extra teachers appointed when they are the multi-annual school building and modernis- needed for the sake of the pupils. The situation ation programme. is akin to sardines in tins. I thank the Deputy again for raising this matter I look forward with some, although not much, which allows me to outline the progress being hope to the Minister of State’s reply. I ask him to made under the school building and modernis- give me a commitment to look at this again or at ation programme and the position on Scoil least to look at the entire system again because it Mhuire, Buncrana. is just not working in its current guise. Pupil-Teacher Ratio. An Ceann Comhairle: Now we will see if the Minister can open the tin. Deputy David Stanton: I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me raise this matter Deputy Sean Haughey: I thank the Deputy for ´ relating to Kilcredan national school. I am sure raising this matter on the Adjournment today. I the Minister of State has a note on it. am glad to have the opportunity to outline the Next September the school will have an aver- position regarding this school. age class size of more than 30 students and I am The mainstream staffing of a primary school is sure everyone agrees that this is not sustainable. determined by reference to the enrolment of the Some of the class will have 36, 37 or possibly 38 school on 30 September of the previous school students. It is not right to have a junior infants year. The actual number of mainstream posts class with such numbers and it flies in the face of sanctioned is determined by reference to a staff- every educational philosophy and good practice ing schedule which is issued to all primary schools out there. each year. On 30 September 2006 the enrolment was 227. Data submitted to the Department by the Some 205 is the number required for eight main- board of management of the school referred to stream class teachers. The projected enrolment by the Deputy indicates that the enrolment in the for next September is 247. The number required school on 30 September 2005 was 229 pupils. In to qualify for a ninth mainstream teacher is 232 accordance with the staffing schedule, Circular on 30 September 2006. 0023/2006, which is available on the Department’s This practice of looking at the numbers of the website at www.education.ie, the mainstream previous September is antiquated and daft, staffing in the school for the 2006-07 school year especially when there is such a large increase in is a principal and eight mainstream class teachers. the course of the year. The school was five pupils The enrolment in the school on 30 September short, yet during the year it accepted nine extra 2006 was 227 pupils. In accordance with the staff- children, five of whom were from outside the ing schedule, Circular 0020/2007, which is avail- country. In September the school will have 36 in able on the Department’s website and a hard junior infants, 24 in senior infants and 27 in both copy of which has issued to all primary schools, fourth class and fifth class. Other Ministers in the the mainstream staffing in the school for the House who were primary teachers will see that 2007-08 school year will be a principal and eight this is not right. mainstream class teachers. This was an amalgamated school, which had it Within the terms of the staffing arrangements not amalgamated, would have been three separ- for primary schools there is provision for ate schools. The schools agreed and co-operated additional posts, referred to as developing school with the Department and came together as one, posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of and they have lost out as a result. projected enrolments for the next school year. The students and the teachers are suffering. I Under these arrangements, a developing school know that the appeals board has turned them post may be sanctioned provisionally where the down and that the Minister will tell me that. That projected enrolment at 30 September of the is daft as well. We need to look at the future of school year in question equals or exceeds a speci- our pupils. If they fall behind at an early age, as fied figure. If the specified figure is not achieved teachers here will be aware, it is difficult for them on 30 September, sanction for the post is to catch up. Having 37 or 40 junior infants in a withdrawn. class is not sustainable. It is daft. The Govern- It is open to the board of management to sub- ment has been saying the average class size mit an appeal under certain criteria to an inde- should be 24 and here is a practical example of pendent appeal board established to adjudicate where the average class size is over 30. That on appeals on mainstream staffing cannot continue. 5 o’clock allocations in primary schools. I do not know what the Minister of State can Details of the criteria and application do about it. I hope he can do something, that he dates for appeal are contained in the staffing will not merely wring his hands and state that we schedule. They are also available in circular must adhere to the decision of the appeals board 0024/2007, which is available on the Department’s 2009 Water and 5 July 2007. Sewerage Schemes 2010 website. Hard copies of this circular were issued it. It will be the largest in Europe, built on top of to primary schools. the source of the aquifer. When people wake up The school referred to lodged an appeal with and suggest examining the aquifer, it will be too the primary staffing appeal board. This appeal late. was heard at the appeal board meeting on 22 May The desalination proposal, carried out success- 2007 and was refused. The board of management fully in Spain and Portugal, is not considered of the school was notified in writing of the because of high energy costs. That is a load of decision of the appeal board on 24 May 2007. The bilge that I totally debunk. This is a serious appeal board operates independently of the Mini- matter. Dublin City Council should get its hands ster and the Department and its decision is final. off our water, which we need for our purposes, The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be including recreational, ecological and environ- appropriate for the Minister to intervene in the mental reasons. We have already fought the operation of the independent appeal board. battle about the special area of conservation. We have come to make our peace with those who Water and Sewerage Schemes. require special areas of conservation. Europe regards them as very important. Deputy Mary O’Rourke: I am pleased to see How far has this process gone? There was no the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, but I am consultation with elected representatives, sport- disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, ing and tourism interests or the local population. is not here to hear this important debate. Perhaps It is a case of uisce faoi thalamh, if another pun he has other engagements — I was often in that can be permitted. Perhaps county managers have impasse and understand why one must cut one’s come together to decide this is the way forward cloth according to what one has. and that water is only for ordinary people and not I hope the Minister of State can ad lib as well very important. I hope the Minister of State can as stating what he was told by the Department. confirm that all options are being considered. A sinister development has taken place. It has Otherwise, I will continue this crusade for a long become a fait accompli that the water to supply time. the east coast, or the greater Dublin area as it is called in friendly fashion, will come from the Deputy Trevor Sargent: I agree with Deputy Shannon catchment area and Lough Ree. Before O’Rourke. we sleepwalk into a disaster brought upon our- selves, let us examine the facts. There was no con- Deputy Mary O’Rourke: I hope Deputy sultation on this frightening proposal. The EU Sargent will do something for me. framework directive of 2000 stated that a guiding tenet was full consultation with interested parties. An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister of State Other options for supplying water have been dis- has five minutes to divine a solution. missed blithely in cavalier fashion, leading to the conclusion that the only option is to abstract Minister of State at the Department of the water from the Shannon and Lough Ree. The Environment, Heritage and Local Government Minister of State’s county, County Clare, will be (Deputy Tony Killeen): This important matter is affected, as will counties Tipperary, Offaly, Long- of interest to many people in the Shannon region ford and Westmeath, but the main abstraction and beyond. The Minister, who regrets he is not will be from the Shannon area around Athlone available this evening, explained to the House and Lough Ree. Grave disquiet is building about yesterday in response to a written question that the way the proposal flouts the framework the Department had provided the funding to directive in an obvious fashion. Dublin City Council for a study to assess the Dublin has everything, including the Luas and long-term water use and supply needs of the other facilities. Now it is proposing to take our greater Dublin area and to identify potential water and leave us in an arid situation, like a options for meeting those needs. The Shannon desert. Flippant remarks have been made to the proposal was one of the options that emanated effect that people from the region are always talk- from the study. It is no more than a study option ing about flooding. We do not wish the source of and there is no related infrastructural proposal tourism and our natural heritage to be taken before the Department for consideration or away. The low-lying meadows in the callows approval. around Athlone are in a special area of con- This Department is responsible for planning, servation. Nevertheless, if the Ceann Comhairle prioritising and financing all of the major water will excuse the pun, this status will be ditched in services projects undertaken nationally. Every favour of the rape of our water. The constant effort has been made over the past few years to leakage of Dublin water will not be corrected ensure that water and sewerage facilities have and, in a cavalier fashion, our water will be taken. been available to service and support the huge Other proposals have been ditched. The growth and expansion that has taken place across aquifer, which could supply a viable amount of all economic and social sectors. Schemes water for daily consumption in the Dublin region, approved by this Department are incorporated is about to have a huge landfill dump built upon into the water services investment programme, a 2011 Alternative 5 July 2007. Energy Projects 2012 [Deputy Tony Killeen.] businesses and has high amenity value for people published document that is always available in engaged in a range of pursuits. I assure the House the Oireachtas Library. The approved schemes that before the Department would commit to are drawn from regular assessments of needs funding any scheme on the Shannon, we would undertaken by local authorities, at this Depart- need to be absolutely convinced that all those ment’s request, as an input to the overall strategy factors had been taken into account and that it for providing infrastructure needed to meet was the correct solution from every point of view. environmental protection objectives, develop- ment requirements and national and EU public Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Am I allowed to health and water quality standards. It was in that speak again? context that the particular study I have referred to was funded. However, there is no scheme in An Ceann Comhairle: I am afraid not. The next the programme to provide infrastructure to take matter has been tabled by Deputy White. I water from the Shannon to Dublin. understand this is the Deputy’s maiden speech so Nevertheless, new long-term supplies of water I take the opportunity to wish her a long, dis- are required in the greater Dublin area. There is tinguished and happy career in Leinster House. limited potential to abstract additional water from existing sources in the area and it is neces- Deputy Mary O’Rourke: That is lovely. sary to consider new long-term options. That was the background to the study which estimated that Alternative Energy Projects. an extra 300 million litres of water per day will Deputy Mary Alexandra White: I wish to speak be required from a new major source by 2031. on this Adjournment debate to discuss a matter The study concluded that only two options could of national importance, namely, the urgent need technically meet this requirement, the Shannon to conduct a feasibility study into making my or a desalination plant. county town, Carlow, the first green energy town in Ireland, in order to advance the implemen- Deputy Mary O’Rourke: What about the tation of the targets set out in the national aquifer? bioenergy action plan. This is especially important in light of the need An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister of State for an indigenous fuel supply, concerns with peak should be allowed to speak without interruption. oil, the consequences of climate change, and the need to meet our Kyoto targets. The national Deputy Mary O’Rourke: All right. bioenergy plan has an ambitious target of 33% for renewable electricity by 2020. It sets a bio-fuel Deputy Tony Killeen: I am only able to speak target of 5.75% for road transport fuel for 2010, one sentence at a time. I will come to that. Dublin and a target of 5% renewable share in the heating City Council is now carrying out a detailed sector by 2010. appraisal of the Shannon and desalination My home county town of Carlow is ideally options to determine which, if either, would rep- placed to establish itself as the leader in renew- resent the optimum solution to the region’s long- able energy among towns across Ireland. I call term water needs. The appraisal is just that, an upon the Government to initiate a feasibility appraisal, and no decision has been taken, at study to explore the possibility of developing either local or departmental level, as to what local value chains for renewable energy systems might be the best answer. on how to heat large buildings in Carlow by Any decision to proceed with the Shannon biomass and by using microgrids connecting approach would first be subject to statutory pro- buildings that are close to each other, and in using cedures, including strategic environmental assess- district heating systems. Using these methods, ment. The statutory process provides an oppor- Carlow could become a renewable energy town tunity for all interested parties to make an input. linking in to local energy resources to develop I am well aware people on the Shannon have biomass and other projects. In so doing, Carlow, expressed concerns that there may be adverse in tandem with public private partnerships, could consequences due to lowered water levels in the attract many new businesses and become the river. Others have said ground water resources giant of the renewable energy sector in Ireland. could be exploited instead. All these issues By leading the field in this vital sector of remain to be fully teased out as part of the statu- renewable energy, it could create sustainable tory process associated with the decision making employment and numerous new renewable on a preferred approach. energy enterprises. This format could allow It will be clear from the foregoing that it will Carlow to work towards being totally self- be some time before any proposal is likely to sufficient in renewable energy, renewable heat come before the Department for approval or and liquid bio-fuels generated from local sources. funding. I assure Deputies that I, and the Depart- This is particularly important in the light of the ment, are just as keen as the people around recent closure of the Carlow sugar factory and Lough Ree to preserve and protect the lake. It is could give enormous competitive advantage to crucial to the livelihoods of many individuals and farmers in Carlow and the wider area of the south 2013 Alternative 5 July 2007. Energy Projects 2014 east to grow energy crops for bio-fuel and economy, and enhancing competitiveness biomass. through the provision of cleaner, cheaper energy. The county has a skilled workforce and with The development of our bioenergy resources forward planning, in tandem with the extensive thus requires an integrated “whole of Govern- research facilities at Oak Park where Teagasc has ment” approach to policy development. In recog- its headquarters, this could develop many new nition of the complexities of the bioenergy chal- business enterprises allowing the town to offer lenge, a ministerial task force on bioenergy was incoming businesses a most attractive package of established in 2006. Seven Departments were rep- reduced energy costs. resented on the ministerial task force, reflecting This innovative idea is not something I have the priority afforded to this area by Government. dreamed up myself. It has been pioneered in The action plan sets out ambitious targets for Austria in the town of Gussing. This town was the deployment of bioenergy in the heat, trans- located in one of the poorest regions of Austria port and electricity sectors. The targets are estab- but it has now become one of the wealthiest. lished to 2020, to provide a level of market cer- Carlow has a tremendous opportunity to replicate tainty for prospective developers. A range of this success. In 1988 the municipality of Gussing deployment strategies across several Depart- set a goal to replace its \1.3 million spend on ments was identified in the action plan, many of imports of oil, electricity and other fuels with which are already being implemented. renewable energy supplies from locally available The public sector, in particular, has been resources. This is something I want Carlow to be singled out to act as an exemplar for bioenergy able to do. In 1990 a decision was made to fully deployment. The OPW has committed to using phase out fossil fuel. Today, Gussing is an auton- bioenergy in all new buildings, and to retrofitting omous renewable energy city for electricity and 20 of its large buildings with bioenergy heating heating needs. The needs of Carlow could be met systems within the next 12 months. Schools too by growing our energy crops and by having a are to be targeted, with eight schools receiving good vision for renewable energy in the south funding to install bioenergy heating systems this east. Carlow, with its excellent road network, summer, with a view to providing models that can good rail infrastructure and its vibrant and be replicated in other schools. dynamic workforce simply needs a kick-start Renewable energy will also be given increased from the Government in the area of renewable emphasis in the leasing of buildings for the public energy technology. sector, and energy efficiency programmes are to Carlow has recently experienced job losses in be introduced. In the transport area, the Govern- Lapple Ireland Limited, Irish Sugar and other ment aims to use bio-fuel blends of 5% in its businesses. Our proud county town is eager to existing CIE and local authority fleets and to commit to renewable energy technologies and move towards 30% bio-fuel blends in new fleets, with our extensive land bank, expert agricultural where possible. sector and supportive local authority with its own In the past two years a range of renewable dynamic bioenergy programme, in tandem with energy support programmes, including the gre- Teagasc, I put forward this concept that Carlow, ener homes domestic grants, reheat grants and the second smallest county in Ireland could CHP deployment programmes, valued at more become a giant of the renewable energy sector. I than \400 million, has been introduced. The prog- call upon the Government to initiate this feasi- rammes are designed to be accessible to all bility study to promote the concept of Carlow as energy users around the country, from house- a green energy town, in the national interest. holders, to community and voluntary groups, the ´ In my five-year term in the Dail, I will press commercial and industrial sector and renewable this agenda hard and wholeheartedly in the hope electricity producers. Funding of up to 40% is the Government can come up with a resolution available under the reheat programme for organ- to my idea. isations wishing to examine the feasibility of utilising the technologies funded under the prog- Deputy Tony Killeen: I welcome Deputy White ramme. Grants have been made available to to the House and compliment her on her con- applicants in County Carlow under the greener tribution. homes and the reheat schemes. In addition, fund- The development of Ireland’s bioenergy sector ing has also been provided to a developer in is part of a comprehensive strategy to increase County Carlow under the house of tomorrow deployment of renewable energy across the three programme towards the development of 56 low energy sectors — transport, heat and electricity. energy design housing units. These programmes These sectors are almost equal in the amount of are backed up by strong investment in energy energy they use and their CO2 emissions. research and development, as well as the \10 mil- Bioenergy policy is relevant across several lion Power of One energy efficiency campaign. areas of Government responsibility and has In reaching out across all sectors of society, the potential benefits across a variety of diverse renewable energy policy and this biomass action areas. It addresses several cross-cutting policy plan, which I stress is a national plan, empowers objectives, including diversity and security of fuel everyone to play their part in a cleaner and more supply, climate change, development of the rural competitive environment. The adoption of a 2015 The 5 July 2007. Adjournment 2016 [Deputy Tony Killeen.] long-term certainty for potential investors “whole of Government” approach to this chal- through the establishment of targets for 2010 and lenge will ensure its ability to maximise the 2020 and the announcement of the intention to national benefit of these policies. move to a bio-fuels obligation. The Government The renewable electricity, heat and transport intends to launch a public consultation process on programmes offer a range of new opportunities Ireland’s bio-fuels obligation later this year, for farmers and foresters. The action plan recog- which will give stakeholders an opportunity to nises the need to develop the entire supply chain, have an input to the roll-out of this important from producer to energy end-user and a range of policy initiative. schemes have been introduced by the Depart- The action plan is a valuable first step in recog- ment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to incen- nising the complexities of the bio-energy supply tivise energy crop production. The forestry chain and providing cross-departmental support machinery grants, bio-energy establishment for development of bio-energy in Ireland. scheme and top-up payment to the energy crop Together with the publication of the White premium are proving popular and are designed to Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future mitigate perceived risks and encourage invest- for Ireland, and the revised national climate ment in energy-related farm and forest change strategy, the Government has set an ambitious agenda for change. businesses. The input of producers, processors and con- The action plan sets the scene for the establish- sumers will be a valuable part of the process to ment of new rural enterprises using raw materials deliver the necessary changes and the Govern- that previously may not have had any value. For- ment will continue to engage with the various sec- est residues and thinnings, as well as dedicated tors and the diverse range of stakeholders on the energy crops and farm wastes, all provide new roll-out of schemes and initiatives to incentivise opportunities, while wastes such as used cooking production and demand. The Government will be oil and meat and bone meal that incurred disposal glad to consider any proposals put forward by costs can now be converted into bio-fuels for groups or individuals that would contribute to its transport or used to generate electricity. aim. Deputy White’s proposal will be considered The bio-fuels sector has seen a sharp rise in and examined in that context. activity and interest in recent years and the Government has established ambitious targets in ´ The Dail adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. line with EU thinking. It aims to create a level of on Wednesday, 26 September 2007.