This week, the plenary sessions of the Dáil resumed. As a member of the Budgetary Oversight Committee, I took part in a video conference on Tuesday with members of the Scottish Parliament’s Budget Oversight Unit. On Wednesday, I questioned Minister Denis Naughten on the INM takeover controversy and spoke on the Data Protection Bill 2018 which is to give effect to the EU Regulations on data protection (the ‘GDPR’ – General Data Protection Regulation). GDPR will become law from the 25th of May and people will have greater rights around how their data is held, processed and shared.
The Minister said that it may have been preferable if the conversation had not taken place. Is he saying then that he deeply regrets that the conversation took place, that it should not have taken place and that, in that case, he did not carry out his function as Minister appointed by this House?
The Minister was interrupted when he was responding to Deputy Howlin regarding other groups, obviously journalists, the trade union and other representatives who had contacted him in that period, particularly the mid-November period. Was he contacted by other stakeholders in the industry, other media groups, The Irish Times or whoever?
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for his kindness in allowing a few extra minutes. I thank the Minister for his reply. Regarding the actions he has taken, has he set up the independently chaired energy poverty advisory group, which I believe he promised as part of the strategy? He is very aware of how huge a problem this is. All Deputies are. It is estimated that 400,000 households live with some kind of energy poverty, and Age Action states perhaps 2,000 senior citizens die from energy-poverty-related illnesses each year. The Minister mentioned the warmth and well-being energy efficiency programme, which I welcome. Is it possible to extend that? The pilot scheme was in action in the south side of Dublin. When does the Minister intend to extend the programme to the postal areas of Dublin 3, 5, 9, 13 and 17, the postal areas in the area I represent, Dublin Bay North?
Last July the Minister launched the Eircode identification system at a cost, it was said, of €27 million. We have since found out from the report to the Committee of Public Accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor General that the cost now stands at approximately €38 million. It is generally agreed that the system will cost at least €50 million but the real question is whether it is a good system.