I am delighted to speak on the motion. The Minister of State will be aware that there has been a long struggle by constituents in Dublin Bay North for the recognition of a personal assistance service, supported by the appropriate funding. He will recall, as I do, Mr. Martin Naughton of Connemara and Baldoyle and his lifelong campaign for disability rights. He did groundbreaking work with Áiseanna Tacaíochta, the Irish Wheelchair Association, IWA, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, MDA. He was integral to the establishment of the first centre for independent living in Ireland and was involved in the DFI. Sadly, he died in October 2016 aged just 62. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the North Dublin Disability Forum event on 29 of March 2016, some months before his death. Martin’s struggle goes on. Tonight we are renewing his campaign and asking for definitive steps to be taken to ensure that this service is provided to all of our citizens with disabilities. The fight is continued now by excellent advocates such as Ms Shelly Gaynor, Mr. James Cawley, Ms Joan Carthy, the IWA, ILMI, DFI and others. Members may have read James Cawley’s opinion piece in The Journal last Saturday where he spoke about personal assistance being the “difference between existing and living”.
It was another very busy Dáil and constituency week. On Monday I held my information clinics in Darndale and Donnycarney and met with constituents on a wide number of issues.On Tuesday I attended the meeting of the Budgetary Oversight Committee which was questioning the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, about Budget 2020 which I characterised as another austerity budget. I then had a Parliamentary Question with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, on Irish recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1917. Later on Tuesday I also raised a Topical Issues Debate with the Minister for Education and Skills about increased staff for Our Lady Immaculate SNS Darndale and about building and upgrades for St. Laurence’s NS, Baldoyle.
Following representations for concerned parents on behalf of their young children awaiting dental work, Deputy Broughan asked the Minister for Health on the number of children awaiting examinations. Recently, he received disappointing and unacceptable figures for the DNCC Dental Service (CHO Area 9) in a response to that Parliamentary Questions. Dublin North and Dublin North Central and North West (DNCC) had over 21,797 children awaiting examination in September 2019 but these figures do not include 4th class. The PQ reply stated “due to staffing issues and a growing population, Dublin North has been unable to examine 4th class for the last 2 years.”
The National Shared Services Office, NSSO, has been up and running as an independent agency for the last couple of years. We were all very positively disposed to the legislation setting it up as it was piloted by the Minister through the House. I ask the Minister to provide an update on the kinds of savings and efficiencies gained from the establishment of the NSSO. The office is funded through Vote 18. Is its chief executive at Secretary General rank? How many staff are employed by the NSSO and where are they based? Are they mainly in Dublin or are they all over the country?
Ms Dara Quigley, a constituent of mine from Clonshaugh in Dublin Bay North, died tragically by drowning on 12 April 2017. Dara was a talented young journalist and community activist. Among her writings were a sharp and insightful blog entitled “Degree of uncertainty” and articles for the Dublin Inquirer newspaper. Her community activities included a strong role in the water charges protest movement. On the morning of 7 April 2017, Dara was emotionally distressed and found walking naked on Harcourt Street by members of An Garda Síochána who detained her under the Mental Health Act 2001.
Of course, I will observe the time limits. Since the economic crash, the size of the workforce, particularly in the five pillar banks, has fallen by 45%. The Financial Services Union has, rightly, complained that there has been a dripfeed of information, with AIB losing 1,000 workers, Bank of Ireland losing 1,000 workers and losses in Permanent TSB and so on. The workforce has contracted as a result of Fintech and the revised payments services directive, PSD2. Obviously, it is a major problem, in particular for the banks we own.
The schools in question are two important primary schools in Dublin Bay North, Our Lady Immaculate senior national school, SNS, Darndale, Dublin 17 and St. Laurence’s national school, Brookstone Road in Baldoyle Dublin 13. The principal of St. Laurence’s, Ms Clare Finnerty, told me that she met the Minister’s predecessor, Deputy Bruton, in March 2017 and that she sent in a letter of application for a single school campus because the school is unusual in that it has two separate campuses. The dual campus is unsatisfactory. Infants are in Grange Road and 3rd to 6th classes are on Brookstone Road. Her application was turned down, but she was encouraged to apply for upgrade works to both buildings. She applied again for a single campus in 2018 and did not even receive an acknowledgement.
On 29 October 2019, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution to recognise the 1915-17 Armenian genocide. It has also been recognised by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, 16 EU member states and 32 countries worldwide. Is it not time for the Tánaiste and the Government to bring forward a motion or resolution to recognise the awful genocide in Armenia more than 100 years ago?
Today, in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Broughan raised a Topical Issue Debate with the Minister for Education and Skills one the urgent need for the Department of Education to liaise with and support two primary schools in Dublin Bay North, which are looking to maintain staffing levels, carry out essential upgrade works and continue providing safe spaces for students.
I was very saddened to hear this week of the death of Gay Byrne. He was a true giant of Irish life and played a great role in road safety during his time as the Chair of the Road Safety Authority. This morning there was a wonderful turnout of neighbours in Howth and all along the route through Dublin Bay North to say goodbye to this iconic broadcaster. May he Rest in Peace.