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?
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”.
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?
I would prefer to retain the current system rather than embark on implementing the findings of this report. I represented the Independents 4 Change technical group on the Seanad reform committee. I strenuously objected to the main proposals in the draft Seanad Bill, which I believe are unworkable, unwieldy, prone to manipulation by wealthy vested interests and fundamentally not in the interests of developing Irish democracy.
It is nearly 40 years since the North Bull Island was designated as a UNESCO biosphere and, in the past five years, the whole of Dublin Bay from Dalkey through Booterstown Marsh and to Howth and Baldoyle Bay has been designated as a UNESCO biosphere. I previously asked the Minister about the resources that our National Parks and Wildlife Service has to protect the bay and coastline of Dublin through the three local authorities. The area is more threatened than ever, so what is she going to do to protect it?