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					Vol. 637                                                                      Thursday,
No. 7                                                                        5 July 2007

               ´    ´       ´

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                        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.

       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


         O’Sullivan, Christy.                                      Smith, Brendan.
         Power, Peter.                                             Treacy, Noel.
         Power, Sean.                                              Wallace, Mary.
         Ryan, Eamon.                                              White, Mary Alexandra.
         Sargent, Trevor.                                          Woods, Michael.
         Scanlon, Eamon.


         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.
                                                           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
   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”
  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?
                                                            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
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——
                                                             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.

       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.


       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


         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
  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.
                                                              ´       ´

         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.


         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.
    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
   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
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.
                                                            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.