This week has been very busy with constituency work, in particular with lots of contact regarding maintenance issues and lighting repair works needed in certain areas. The constituency was shocked by another brutal murder in the early evening last weekend and I welcome news that additional Garda personnel are to be assigned to the area, but I have been calling for this measure for a number of years now. On Tuesday morning, I raised the issue of serious crime in Dublin Bay North in Dáil Éireann with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan.
Today, during Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Broughan raised the need for Section 39 organisations to be supported and properly funded given the important service they provide to the State and the people who need them. Recently a new Disability Action Coalition, TDAC, was established by nine frontline service providers for people with disabilities. Their objective is to highlight the major shortfall in funding that these nine organisations, all Section 39s, are facing. The member organisations include Chime, MS Ireland, Cheshire Ireland, Headway, Enable Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association, National Council for Blind, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Rehab, etc. meaning they cater for tens of thousands of citizens with disabilities across a wide range of disability type and employ 9,000 skilled workers.
As the Tánaiste will be aware, next Tuesday is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and many Deputies met representatives of a new organisation, the disability action coalition, in a meeting facilitated by Senator Dolan last week. The coalition comprises nine not-for-profit organisations that fall under section 39 of the Health Act 2004. The coalition comprises Rehab, Enable Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association, MS Ireland, Headway Ireland, National Council for the Blind, Chime, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland and Cheshire Ireland. As we all know, they cater for tens of thousands of our citizens with disabilities in our constituencies and employ more than 9,000 dedicated staff members.
Deputy Broughan has recently asked the Minister for Health for his response to a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carried out for the HSE which highlights the relationship between poor air quality and breathing conditions such as asthma and hospital admissions. On the 20th of November 2019, Deputy Broughan was informed via PQ reply that “the report is currently being finalised for publication.” Deputy Broughan’s question followed media reports that some of the findings were discussed at an EPA conference earlier in the autumn.
Deputy Broughan has recently asked the Minister for Health his views on plans to regulate vaping and whether he is considering an outright ban on vaping products. The response to the Parliamentary Question stated that the review by the Health Research Board of evidence on the health harms of e-cigarettes is due to be completed in March 2020. The review is also studying “their effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation and whether they act as a gateway to smoking tobacco products” and the Minister said that the review’s “findings will contribute to informing any additional regulation in this area.”
On Monday afternoon, after my information clinics in the constituency, myself and my Secretarial Assistant attended a meeting with the Planning Regulator and some of his officials. This meeting was arranged following my calls for a review into planning in the North/South Fringes of Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council over the past 20 years. It was a welcome exchange of views and we will follow up with the Regulator’s office.
Deputy Broughan has recently asked the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if he will report on the decision regarding so-called strategic housing developments being submitted directly to An Bord Pleanála and if he would terminate this practice by the end this year. Deputy Broughan has recently made a number of strong observations to An Bord Pleanála on Strategic Housing Development Plans for his constituency of Dublin Bay North. Deputy Broughan does not agree with the practice of these SHD plans bypassing Local Authority Planning Departments and going straight to An Bord Pleanála. SHDs are large scale developments, often of much-needed housing but often with high percentages of ‘Build-To-Rent’ units and very little social and affordable homes. They are basically profit machines for private developers and sometimes private developers that have failed these parishes during the Celtic Tiger era.
I agree with Deputy Connolly that the title of this debate is shameful for the Oireachtas and the country. It is particularly shameful for the Minister of State and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government that there is a debate on supporting children out of emergency accommodation. Children should not be put in emergency accommodation in the first place. If it were completely necessary, it should be for a short time and then they should be rehoused into permanent and secure accommodation the following day. In the UK, there is a six-week time limit on homeless families being kept in unsuitable temporary accommodation such as hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation. In Scotland, a seven-day time limit applies.
It is laughable that Fianna Fáil has brought forward the motion when it and Fine Gael have been joined at the hip in deliberately capping health expenditure over the past 12 years or so. They have reduced the number of badly needed acute hospital beds and, disgracefully, the number of HSE staff under the three austerity Governments since 2007. We on the Committee on Budgetary Oversight have year after year examined the budgets and, inspired by people such as Fr. Seán Healy and others who have appeared before the committee to give us evidence and ideas, have found that health budgets are consistently too small. That is the bottom line. Budget 2020, which was announced a few weeks ago, outlined Estimates for the health Vote, Vote 38, of €18.3 billion for 2020, €18.4 billion for 2021 and €18.5 billion for 2022. Where did the Department of Finance get those suspiciously similar figures?
Independent TD for Dublin Bay North, Deputy Broughan, has welcomed the passing of the Independent4Change Motion which called on the Dáil to legislate for the right to access a personal assistance service for citizens with disabilities. The Government did not oppose the motion resulting in the Motion passing with cross-party, unanimous support a development also welcomed by the Ceann Comhairle in his concluding remarks.Deputies Tommy Broughan and Thomas Pringle introduced the motion last night, November 19th, with the support of fellow Independent4Change TDs Deputies Maureen O’Sullivan, Joan Collins and Catherine Connolly.