Address by Uachtarán na hÉireann to Joint Sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Request to Move adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 30.
Order of Business.
Proceeds of Crime Bill, 1995: First Stage.
Occupiers' Liability Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Authority Charges.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Rural Resettlement Priority.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Government Funding.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Authority Grants.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ringsend (Dublin) Sewerage Works.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Intruder Alarms.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Access to Environmental Information.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Planning and Development Acts.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Emigrants' Voting Rights.
Adjournment Debate Matters.
Occupiers' Liability Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).
Adjournment Debate. - Armed Robbery at Dublin Premises.
Adjournment Debate. - Special Housing Aid for the Elderly.
Adjournment Debate. - Kenmare (Kerry) School.
Adjournment Debate. - Insurance Premiums.
Written Answers. - Water Quality.
Written Answers. - Cohesion Funds.
Written Answers. - Thatching Grants.
Written Answers. - Regional and County Roads.
Written Answers. - County Kilkenny Sewerage Scheme.
Written Answers. - Local Authority Scheme.
Written Answers. - Expenses and Allowances.
Written Answers. - An Bord Pleanála Fee.
Written Answers. - Shared Ownership Scheme.
Written Answers. - Urban Renewal Scheme.
Written Answers. - Cleaner Technologies Incentives.
Written Answers. - Mounttown (Dún Laoghaire) Flats.
Written Answers. - Plans to Deal with Homelessness.
Written Answers. - Road Reclassification.
Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.
Written Answers. - Unpaid Agricultural Rates.
Written Answers. - Dublin Transportation Initiative Report.
Written Answers. - Health Boards Allocation.
Written Answers. - National Energy Conservation Programme.
Written Answers. - Recycling Projects.
Written Answers. - Dublin Traffic.
Written Answers. - Water Pollution.
Written Answers. - Arts Officer Posts.
Written Answers. - Irish Emigrants.
Written Answers. - Abuses in Sierra Leone.
Written Answers. - Border Roads Opening.
Written Answers. - Hospice Movement.
Written Answers. - Orthodontic Treatment Waiting Lists.
Written Answers. - Bacterial Meningitis Outbreak.
Written Answers. - Dental Treatment Services Scheme.
Written Answers. - Disposal of Electrical Appliances.
Written Answers. - Immigrant Nationals' Voting Rights.
Written Answers. - Environmental Protection Agency.
Written Answers. - Air Pollution.
Written Answers. - Environment Action Programme.
Written Answers. - North Dublin Water Supply.
Written Answers. - Kerbside Dublin Initiative.
Written Answers. - Psychological Services Waiting List.
Written Answers. - Marlborough Street (Dublin) School.
Written Answers. - Dundalk (Louth) School.
Written Answers. - School Transport.
Written Answers. - Letterkenny Regional Technical College Staff Appointment.
Written Answers. - Payable Order Cancellation.
Written Answers. - Dublin School Refurbishment Programme.
Written Answers. - School Transport.
Written Answers. - Third Level Grants.
Written Answers. - County Cork School.
Written Answers. - Rialach Nua Díolúine.
Written Answers. - Garda Barracks Refurbishment.
Written Answers. - Coroners Act.
Written Answers. - Land Registry Query.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers. - Trade with Pacific Rim Countries.
Written Answers. - IDA Budget Allocation.
Written Answers. - Estimate for the Director of Consumer Affairs.
Written Answers. - Unfair Terms EU Directives.
Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.
Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.
Written Answers. - Grant Payments.
Written Answers. - Milk Quota Regulations.
Written Answers. - Agricultural Contractors.
Written Answers. - Galmoy (Kilkenny) Mine Development.
Written Answers. - Re-enlistment Applications.
 Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.
An Ceann Comhairle (Deputy Seán Treacy): A Uachtáran Uasail, is cúis mór áthais domsa fáilte Uí Cheallaigh a chur romhat ar an dara ócáid stairiúil seo. Is mór an onóir dúinn Uachtarán na hÉireann a bheith in ár measc inniú agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh tú aoibhneas agus áthas as do chuairt orainn.
A Uachtaráin, I am indeed greatly honoured once again, on behalf of the Members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, to have the privilege of welcoming you on the occasion of your second address to a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad.
It is, therefore, with the utmost pleasure and a deep sense of pride that I now invite you, a Uachtarán Uasail, to address both Houses of the Oireachtas here assembled in accordance with Article 13.7 of the Constitution. Céad míle fáilte.
An tUachtarán: A Cheann Comhairle, a Chathaoirligh an tSeanaid, a Comhaltaí na Dála agus an tSeanaid, four year ago I promised to dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the  people of Ireland. Even then I was acutely aware of how broad that term “the people of Ireland” is and how it resisted any fixed or narrow definition. One of my purposes here today is to suggest that, far from seeking to categorise or define it, we widen it still further to make it as broad and inclusive as possible.
At my inauguration I spoke of the 70 million people worldwide who can claim Irish descent. I also committed my Presidency to cherishing them — even though at the time I was thinking of doing so in a purely symbolic way. Nevertheless, the simple emblem of a light in the window, for me, and I hope for them, signifies the inextinguishable nature of our love and remembrance on this island for those who leave it behind.
But in the intervening four years something has occurred in my life which I share with many Deputies and Senators here and with most Irish families. In that time I have put faces and names to many of those individuals.
In places as far apart as Calcutta and Toronto, on a number of visits to Britain and the United States, in cities in Tanzania and Hungary and Australia, I have met young people from throughout the island of Ireland who felt they had no choice but to emigrate. I have also met men and women who may never have seen this island but whose identity with it is part of their own selfdefinition. Last summer, in the city of Cracow, I was greeted in Irish by a Polish student, a member of the Polish-Irish Society. In Zimbabwe I learned that the Mashonaland Irish Association had recently celebrated its centenary. In each country visited I have met Irish communities, often in far-flung places, and listened to stories of men and women whose pride and affection for Ireland has neither deserted them nor deterred them from dedicating their loyalty and energies to other countries and cultures. None are a greater source of pride than the missionaries and aid workers who bring such dedication, humour and practical common sense to often very demanding work. Through  this office, I have been a witness to the stories these people and places have to tell.
The more I know of these stories the more it seems to me an added richness of our heritage that Irishness is not simply territorial. In fact, Irishness as a concept seems to me at its strongest when it reaches out to everyone on this island and shows itself capable of honouring and listening to those whose sense of identity, and whose cultural values, may be more British than Irish. It can be strengthened again if we turn with open minds and hearts to the array of people outside Ireland for whom this island is a place of origin. After all, emigration is not just a chronicle of sorrow and regret. It is also a powerful story of contribution and adaptation. In fact, I have become more convinced each year that this great narrative of dispossession and belonging, which so often had its origins in sorrow and leave-taking, has become, with a certain amount of historic irony, one of the treasures of our society. If that is so then our relation with the diaspora beyond our shores is one which can instruct our society in the values of diversity, tolerance and fair-mindedness.
To speak of our society in these terms is itself a reference in shorthand to the vast distance we have travelled as a people. As you will know, this island has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. It has been shaped by pre-Celtic wanderers, by Celts, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots, Scottish and English settlers. Whatever the rights or wrongs of history, all those people marked this island, down to the small detail of the distinctive ship-building of the Vikings, the linen-making of the Huguenots, the words of planter balladeers. How could we remove any one of these things from what we call our Irishness? Far from wanting to do so, we need to recover them so as to deepen our understanding.
Nobody knows this more than the local communities throughout the island of Ireland who are retrieving the history  of their own areas. Through the rediscovery of that local history, young people are being drawn into their past in ways that help their future. These projects not only generate employment; they also re-generate our sense of who we were. I think of projects like the Céide Fields in Mayo, where the intriguing agricultural structures of settlers from thousands of years ago are being explored through scholarship and field work. Or Castletown House in Kildare where the grace of our Anglo-Irish architectural heritage is being restored with scrupulous respect for detail. The important excavations at Navan fort in Armagh are providing us with vital information about early settlers whose proved existence illuminates both legend and history. In Ballance House in Antrim the Ulster-New Zealand Society has restored the birthplace of John Ballance, who became Prime Minister of New Zealand and led that country to be the first in the world to give the vote to women.
Varied as these projects may seem to be, the reports they bring us are consistently challenging in that they may not suit any one version of ourselves. I for one welcome that challenge. Indeed, when we consider the Irish migrations of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries our pre-conceptions are challenged again. There is a growing literature which details the fortunes of the Irish in Europe and later in Canada, America, Australia, Argentina. These important studies of migration have the power to surprise us. They also demand from us honesty and self-awareness in return. If we expect that the mirror held up to us by Irish communities abroad will show us a single familiar identity, or a pure strain of Irishness, we will be disappointed. We will overlook the fascinating diversity of culture and choice which looks back at us. Above all we will miss the chance to have that dialogue with our own diversity which this reflection offers us.
This year we begin to commemorate the Irish Famine which started 150 years ago. All parts of this island — north and  south, east and west — will see their losses noted and remembered, both locally and internationally. This year we will see those local and global connections made obvious in the most poignant ways. But they have always been there.
Last year, for example, I went to Grosse Ile, an island on the St. Lawrence river near Quebec city. I arrived in heavy rain and as I looked at the mounds which, together with small white crosses, are all that mark the mass graves of the 5,000 or more Irish people who died there, I was struck by the sheer power of commemoration. I was also aware that, even across time and distance, tragedy must be seen as human and not historic, and that to think of it in national terms alone can obscure that fact. As I stood looking at Irish graves, I was also listening to the story of the French-Canadian families who braved fever and shared their food, who took the Irish into their homes and into their heritage.
Agus is on dul i dtír ar Grosse Ile ar a dtugtar freising Oileán na nGael a shíolraigh an bhean a d'inis an scéal sin dom. Labhair sí liom sa Fhraincis agus is le bród ar leith a labhair sí Gaeilge liom a bhí tógtha aici óna muintir roimpi. Dá mhéad taistil rinne mé is ea is mó a chuaigh sé i bhfeidhm orm gur tháinig an Ghaeilge slán ó aimsir an ghorta agus go bhfuil sí le cloisteáil i gcanúintí New York agus Toronto agus Sydney, gan trácht ar Camden Town. Tá scéal ann féin sa Ghaeilge den teacht slán agus den chur in oiriúint.
Ach ar ndóigh bhí seasamh aici i bhfad roimhe seo mar theanga léinn san Eoraip. Tá stair na hEorpa ar bharr a teanga ag an Ghaeilge. Tá cuntas tugtha ina cuid litríochta nach bhfuil in aon áit eile ar chultúr na hEorpa roimh theacht na Rómhánach. Ní ionadh ar bith mar sin go bhfuil staidéar á dhéanamh uirthi in ollscoileanna ó Ghlascú go Moscó agus ó Seattle go Indiana. Agus cén fáth go deimhin go mbeadh ionadh ar bith orm gur as Gaeilge a chuir an macléinn ón bPolainn fáilte romham go Cracow.
Is le pléisiúr agus le bród a éistím le Gaeilge á labhairt i dtíortha eile agus  tugann sé pléisiúr dom freisin nuair a chloisim rithimí ár n-amhrán agus ár bhfilíochta á nglacadh chucu féin ag teangacha agus traidisiúin eile. Cruthaíonn sé seo rud atá ar eolas cheana ag na mílte Éireannach that lear, gur féidir grá agus ómós d'Eirinn agus don Ghaeilge agus do chultúr na hEireann an chur in iúl ina lán bealaí agus ina lán teangacha.
And so, the weight of the past, the researches of our local interpreters and the start of the rememberance of the famine, in my view, point us towards a single reality: that commemoration is a moral act, just as our relation in this country to those who have left it is a moral relationship. We have too much at stake in both not to be rigorous.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot want a complex present and still yearn for a simple past. I was very aware of that when I visited the refugee camps in Somalia and more recently in Tanzania and Zaire. The thousands of men, women and children who came to those camps were, as the Irish of the 1840s were, defenceless in the face of catastrophe. Knowing our own history, I saw the tragedy of their hunger as a human disaster. We, of all people, know it is vital that it be carefully analysed so that their children and their children's children be spared that ordeal. We realise that while a great part of our immediate concern for this situation, as Irish men and women who have a past which includes famine, must be at practical levels of help, another part of it must consist of a humanitarian perspective which springs directly from our self-knowledge as a people. Famine is not only humanly destructive, it is culturally disfiguring. The Irish who died at Grosse Ile were men and women and indeed children with plans and dreams of future achievements. It takes from their humanity and individuality to consider them merely as victims.
Therefore it seemed to me vital, even as I watched the current tragedy in Africa, that we should uphold the dignity of the men and women who suffer there by insisting there are no inevitable  victims. It is important that in our own commemoration of famine, such reflections have a place. As Tom Murphy has eloquently said in an introduction to his play Famine:“a hungry and demoralised people becomes silent”. We cannot undo the silence of our own past, but we can lend our voice to those who now suffer. To do so we must look at our history, in the light of this commemoration, with a clear insight which exchanges the view that we were inevitable victims in it, for an active involvement in the present application of its meaning. We can examine in detail humanitarian relief then and relate it to the humanitarian relief now and assess the inadequacies of both — and this is not just a task for historians; I have met children in schools and men and women all over Ireland who make an effortless and sympathetic connection between our past suffering and the present tragedies of hunger in the world. One of the common bonds between us and our diaspora can be to share this imaginative way of re-interpreting the past. I am certain that they, too, will feel that the best possible commemoration of the men and women who died in the Famine, who were cast up on other shores because of it, is to take their dispossession into the present with us, to help others who now suffer in a similar way.
Therefore I welcome all initiatives being taken during this period of commemoration, many of which can be linked with those abroad, to contribute to the study and understanding of economic vulnerability. I include in that all the illustrations of the past which help us understand the present. In the Famine Museum in Strokestown there is a vivid and careful re-telling of what happened during the Famine. When we stand in front of those images I believe we have a responsibility to understand them in human terms now, not just in Irish terms then. They should inspire us to be a strong voice in the analysis of the cause and the cure of conditions that predispose to world hunger, whether that involves us in the current debate  about access to adequate water supplies or the protection of economic migrants. We need to remember that our own diaspora was once vulnerable on both those counts. We should bear in mind that an analysis of sustainable development, had it existed in the past, might well have saved some of our people from the tragedy we are starting to commemorate. We need to make these connections.
I chose the title of this speech — cherishing the Irish diaspora — with care. Diaspora, in its meaning of dispersal or scattering, includes the many ways, not always chosen, that people have left this island. To cherish is to value and to nurture and support. If we are honest we will acknowledge that those who leave do not always feel cherished. As Eavan Boland reminds us in her poem The Emigrant Irish:
Like oil lamps we put them out the back,
Of our houses, of our minds.
To cherish also means that we are ready to accept new dimensions of the diaspora. Many of us over the years — and I as President — have direct experience of the warmth and richness of the Irish-American contribution and tradition, and its context in the hospitality of that country. I am also aware of the creative energies of those born on this island who are now making their lives in the United States and in so many other countries. We need to accept that in their new perspectives there may well be a critque of our old ones. But if cherishing the diaspora is to be more than a sentimental regard for those who leave our shores, we should not only listen to their voice and their viewpoint. We have a responsibility to respond warmly to their expressed desire for appropriate fora for dialogue and interaction with us by examining in an open and generous way the possible linkages. We should accept that such a challenge is an education in diversity which can only benefit our society.
Indeed there are a variety of opportunities for co-operation on this island  which will allow us new ways to cherish the diaspora. Many of those opportunities can be fruitfully explored by this Oireachtas. Many will be taken further by local communities. Some are already in operation. Let me mention just one example here. One of the most understandable and poignant concerns of any diaspora is to break the silence, to find out the names and places of origin. If we are to cherish them, we have to assist in that utterly understandable human longing. The Irish Genealogical Project, which is supported by both Governments, is transferring handwritten records from local registers of births, deaths and marriages, on to computer. It uses modern technology to allow men and women, whose origins are written down in records from Kerry to Antrim, to gain access to them. In the process it provides employment and training for young people in both technology and history, and the recent establishment of a council of genealogical organisations, again involving both parts of this island, shows the potential for voluntary co-operation.
I turn now to those records which are still only being written. No family on this island can be untouched by the fact that so many of our young people leave it. The reality is that we have lost, and continue every day to lose, their presence and their brightness. These young people leave Ireland to make new lives in demanding urban environments. As well as having to search for jobs, they may well find themselves lonely, homesick, unable to speak the language of those around them; and, if things do not work out, unwilling to accept the loss of face of returning home. It hardly matters at that point whether they are graduate or unskilled. What matters is that they should have access to the support and advice they need. It seems to me therefore that one of the best ways to cherish the diaspora is to begin at home. We need to integrate into our educational and social and counselling services an array of skills of adaptation  and a depth of support which will prepare them for this first gruelling challenge of adulthood.
The urgency of this preparation allows me an opportunity to pay tribute to the voluntary agencies who respond with such practical compassion and imagination to the Irish recently arrived in other countries. I have welcomed many of their representatives to Áras an Uachtaráin and I have also seen their work in cities such as New York and Melbourne and Nanchester, where their response on a day to day basis may be vital to someone who has newly arrived. It is hard to overestimate the difference with personal warmth and wise advice, as well as practical support, can make in these situations.
I pay a particular tribute to those agencies in Britain — both British and Irish — whose generous support and services, across a whole range of needs have been recognised by successive Irish Governments through the Dion project. These services extend across employment, housing and welfare and make a practical link between Irish people and the future they are constructing in a new environment. Compassionate assistance is given, not simply to the young and newly arrived, but to the elderly, the sick including those isolated by HIV or AIDS, and those suffering hardship through alcohol or drug dependency or who are in prison. Although I think of myself as trying to keep up with this subject, I must say I was struck by the sheer scale of the effort which has been detailed in recent reports published under the auspices of the Federation of Irish Societies. These show a level of concern and understanding which finds practical expression every day though these agencies and gives true depth to the meaning of the word cherish.
When I was a student, away from home, and homesick for my family and my friends and my country, I walked out one evening and happened to go into a Boston newsagent's shop. There, just at the back of the news stand, almost to my disbelief, was The Western People. I will never forget the joy with which I  bought it and took it back with me and found, of course, that the river Moy was still there and the Cathedral was still standing. I remember the hunger with which I read the news from home. I know that story has a thousand versions. But I also know it has a single meaning. Part of cherishing must be communication. The journey which an Irish newspaper once made to any point outside Ireland was circumscribed by the limits of human travel. In fact, it replicated the slow human journey through ports and on ships and airplanes. Now that journey can be transformed, through modern on-line communications, into one of almost instantaneous arrival.
We are at the centre of an adventure in human information and communication greater than any other since the invention of the printing press. We will see our lives changed by that. We still have time to influence the process and I am glad to see that we in Ireland are doing this. In some cases this may merely involve drawing attention to what already exists. The entire Radio 1 service of RTE is now transmitted live over most of Europe on the Astra satellite. In North America we have a presence through the Galaxy satellite. There are several internet providers in Ireland and bulletin boards with community databases throughout the island. The magic of E-mail surmounts time and distance and cost, and the splendid and relatively recent technology of the World Wide Web means that local energies and powerful opportunities of access are being made available on the information highway.
The shadow of departure will never be lifted. The grief of seeing a child or other family member leave Ireland will always remain sharp and the absence will never be easy to bear. But we can make their lives easier if we use this new technology to bring the news from home. As a people, we are proud of our story-telling, our literature, our theatre, our ability to improvise with words, and there is a temptation to think that we  put that at risk if we espouse these new forms of communication. In fact we can profoundly enrich the method of contact by the means of expression, and we can and should — as a people who have a painful historic experience of silence and absence — welcome and use the noise, the excitement, the speed of contact and the sheer exuberance of these new forms.
This is the second time I have addressed the two Houses of the Oireachtas as provided under the Constitution. I welcome the opportunity it has given me to highlight this important issue at a very relevant moment for us all. The men and women of our diaspora represent not simply a series of departures and losses. They remain, even while absent, a precious reflection of our own growth and change, a precious reminder of the many strands of identity which compose our story. They have come, either now or in the past, from Derry and Dublin and Cork and Belfast. They know the names of our townlands and villages. They remember our landscape or they have heard of it. They look to us anxiously to include them in our sense of ourselves and not to forget their contribution while we make our own. The debate about how best to engage their contribution with our own has many aspects and offers opportunities for new structures and increased contact.
If I have been able to add something to this process of reflection and to encourage a more practical expression of the concerns we share about our sense of ourselves at home and abroad then I am grateful to have had your attention here today. Finally, I know this Oireachtas will agree with me that the truest way of cherishing our diaspora is to offer them, at all times, the reality of this island as a place of peace where the many diverse traditions in which so many of them have their origins, their memories, their hopes are bound together in tolerance and understanding.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have much pleasure in calling on the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Sean Fallon, to express thanks to the President.
An Cathaoirleach (Senator Sean Fallon): A Uachtaráin, thar mo cheann féin agus thar ceann Chomhaltaí uile Dháil Éireann agus Sheanad Éireann, is mian liom buíochas a ghabháil leat as ucht an aithisc shuimiúil a thug tú.
Madam President, on my own behalf and on behalf of all the Members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. I wish to thank you for your most interesting and eloquent address. Your commitment to providing our emigrants with better opportunities to maintain their links with their homeland is well acknowledged and your address today is of special significance to Irish people all over the world. Again many thanks for your address. I congratulate you and say to you slán agus beannacht.
An tUachtarán then left the Chamber.
An Ceann Comhairle: The proceedings of the joint session are hereby concluded.
The Dáil sitting suspended at 11.10 a.m. and resumed at 12.30 p.m.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Before proceeding to the Order of Business, I propose to deal with a number of related notices under Standing Order 30 from Deputies Éamon Ó Cuív and John Ellis. I propose to call on the Deputies in the order in which they submitted their notices.
Éamon Ó Cuív: I request leave to move the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to discuss a matter of urgent importance, namely the severe economic hardship being caused to farmers by losses of livestock  and fodder in recent floods and storms which in some cases could lead to financial ruin and bankruptcy unless immediate action is taken by the Government to compensate them.
Mr. Ellis: I request the Adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to discuss the total indifference of the Government to the severe hardship experienced by thousands of families in rural communities. Many farm families have experienced the loss of stock and fodder and damage to their property as a result of the widespread flooding. I raise this matter because of the indifference of the Minister for the Environment last night.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): It is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Having considered the matters fully I do not consider them to be contemplated by Standing Order 30. Therefore, I cannot grant leave to move the motion.
Mr. Ellis: Sir, could you advise me on how it might be possible to bring this matter to the notice of the Government?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: This matter was dealt with on the Adjournment yesterday and I understand it is also the subject of questions this afternoon to the relevant Ministers.
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 6.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is proposed to take No. 6 and there is nothing to be put to the House.
Mr. B. Ahern: We on this side of the House would like to praise the statesmanlike approach of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, last night when he stated that peace should not be thrown away because of fears which are unreal or accusations that are untrue. Now that the work of officials is almost complete — and certainly will be completed today — and that the framework documents has remained remarkably unchanged for a number of weeks, will the Taoiseach finalise what is a discussion document to avoid a repetition of what happened yesterday? We urge the Taoiseach to hold a summit within days and to complete and publish the document and then all political parties on this island can engage in political debates. No more time should be lost.
The Taoiseach: As I said yesterday it is the intention of the Government to agree as soon as possible with the British Government a balanced framework document — but I emphasise again the need for balance, which will be paramount, in the interests of all those affected. It is a document that will be open for widescale discussion. Obviously the Government will be doing everything possible to bring this to a conclusion quickly. Discussions are taking place between officials today but they may not necessarily be the last set of discussions, the Tánaiste and I will be working to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion and the Government will be doing everything it can.
Mr. B. Ahern: Yesterday, on admit-tedly a less important matter, the Taoiseach said there is nothing like a conclusion date to focus the mind and I think a summit between the Taoiseach and Mr. Major would focus their minds on the conclusion on this discussion document. Otherwise I am afraid that this document will take on legs which will make it very hard to catch and, from the political point of view, it will become an impossible task for this Government. The matter has been discussed and completed almost to the last  paragraph and it can finally be resolved not by officials but the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the British Prime Minister. I ask the Taoiseach to arrange a summit to complete the document and publish it and then we can focus our mind on the real debate.
The Taoiseach: This matter is not being dealt with by officials, nor was it at the outset. There has been ongoing political management of this issue by the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach under successive Governments and by their counterparts on the other side of the water. It is a political process and I am appraised of developments on this matter on a daily basis.
If we have a summit it is crucial that it is a success, for it to be a success we must be properly prepared and every possible area where disagreement could arise needs to be identified in good time so that that happens. That process is now underway. I share the Deputy's sense of urgency about this matter but I will not place myself or the Government in a position where we set ourselves deadlines that create pressures of themselves that might not be constructive in their result. The comparison the Leader of the Opposition made with what I said yesterday was on a matter within the control of this Government but this is a matter of international negotiation between two governments.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let me remind Members that this is not Question Time but the Order of Business and we must not debate this matter now.
Mr. B. Ahern: The remaining brackets can be removed only by the Taoiseach and no amount of discussion between officials will remove those final brackets. I think the Taoiseach sees the sense of doing so sooner rather than later so that we can avoid days like yesterday, which are very difficult.
Miss Harney: I want to reassure the Taoiseach, as I did yesterday, that he will have my support and that of my  party in the approach the Government has adopted to bringing about a balanced framework document. One of the positives from yesterday is that the British Prime Minister seems more determined to bring to a speedy conclusion the negotiations between the two Governments and I certainly hope that is the case. I commend the British Prime Minister, as the Leader of Fianna Fáil has done, because given his domestic political difficulties, it might have been easier for him to take a different approach. It is important to maintain a consensus in the House if the Government is to achieve what we want it to achieve. Would the Taoiseach agree to brief Opposition leaders at an early date so that we can be kept informed of developments in this delicate process?
The Taoiseach: Yes.
Mr. O'Donoghue: Is it intended to introduce emergency legislation to obviate the necessity for a constitutional challenge to section 5 of the Punishment of Incest Act, 1908 in view of the High Court judgement delivered yesterday?
Does the Taoiseach or Minister for Justice accept that in such trials it is in the public interest not to publish names and addresses in order to protect the victim?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy should put down a question on the matter.
Mr. B. Allen: It is off-side.
Ms O'Donnell: As regards the matter raised by Deputy O'Donoghue, does the Taoiseach accept that it is vitally important and in the public interest that limited reporting in inceast cases continues? This section needs to be amended so that the horrors of the Kilkenny incest case and other cases will be in the public arena for evaluation and scrutiny.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are on the Order of Business.
Mr. Power: On the day when President Mary Robinson, Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces addressed both Houses of the Oireachtas, will the Taoiseach inform the House when the name of the new Chief of Staff will be announced?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are on the Order of Business.
Mr. Power: It reflects very poorly on the Government. The vacancy has existed since last year.
The Taoiseach: On Tuesday next.
Mr. Barrett: It is as well it did not exist before the last Government left office, otherwise it would have been filled.
Mr. O'Dea: Does the Taoiseach not realise that unless he does as Deputy O'Donoghue suggests, in future, cases like the Kilkenny incest case can no longer be reported?
Mr. Howlin: That is repetition.
Mr. O'Dea: Is this openness, transparency and accountability? Will the Taoiseach answer?
The Taoiseach: I am abiding by the rules of the Chair and I would expect Fianna Fáil Deputies would wish to do likewise.
Mr. Dempsey: Fine Gael did not make a good job of that when it was on this side of the House.
Miss de Valera: Will the Taoiseach tell the House when the Government intends to publish the Green Paper on broadcasting?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is this promised legislation?
Mr. Davern: In view of the Tánaiste's reply to me yesterday regarding a single currency and the French statement this  morning that only seven countries would be fit to meet the EU criteria by 1997 — Ireland was not one of those countries — does the Taoiseach propose to introduce further legislation or to have discussions with the French Government on the matter?
Mrs. Owen: Read about it in Le Monde.
Mr. Davern: Will the Taoiseach not answer my question?
The Taoiseach: I am happy to answer all questions but I am bound by the rules of the House regarding what is in order for me to answer at this stage. No Deputy should draw any inference, as Deputy O'Dea attempted to do, from my unwillingness to answer because I am prepared to follow the rulings of the Chair.
Mr. N. Treacy: I thought the Taoiseach intended to reform the House. How open is he?
Mr. S. Brennan: Will the Taoiseach make time available to discuss the proposed increases in ESB household bills before the Minister confirms those increases?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Mr. D. Ahern: Last October the previous Government published a list of promised legislation which included a juvenile justice Bill. That seems to have slipped off the current list published by the new Government. Is that an indication of the lack of priority accorded to child legislation by the Government?
The Taoiseach: I will explain this. There is a new Government.
Mrs. O'Rourke: We know that.
The Taoiseach: It is necessary for the new Government to examine the legislative programme prepared by the previous Government. Worthy as most of that programme undoubtedly is it still needs to be examined.
Mr. N. Treacy: Is the Government doing anything at all?
The Taoiseach: It is intended to deal with the issues covered in the juvenile justice Bill. The court judgement issued yesterday was received in the Department of Justice within half an hour of its delivery and is being urgently examined. I have no doubt that when it has been fully studied the Minister for Justice will make an announcement on the matter.
Mr. D. Ahern: Yesterday we had a debacle on the Heritage Council Bill, which is now the Heritage Bill, when a successful effort was made by the Government to change the goalposts. Will the Taoiseach give an undertaking to this side of the House that no such attempt will be made in future by his Government unless appropriate and proper word and clarification is given to the Opposition?
Mr. S. Brennan: When will the remaining pre-budget documentation, in particular receipts and expenditure documentation, be published?
The Taoiseach: It will be published before the budget in accordance with well established precedent.
Mr. S. Brennan: When is that?
The Taoiseach: Next week.
Mr. Cullen: As from today seven of the nine main operational programmes under the Community Support Framework have been published. Given the importance of their impact throughout the country and the amount of money involved, will the Taoiseach agree that we need a full debate in the House to  ensure that all funds distributed under these programmes are utilised to every-one's benefit?
Éamon Ó Cuív: In view of your ruling on my motion under Standing Order 30, can the matter be accepted for debate on the Adjournment this evening?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That presumably will be submitted to the Ceann Comhairle's office.
Mr. Howlin: Fianna Fáil changed the procedures five years ago.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Given the Keegan judgment does the Taoiseach and the Minister for Equality and Law Reform intend to investigate the difficulties encountered by would be adoptive parents?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That matter could more appropriately be raised by means of question.
The Taoiseach: I will communicate with the Deputy about that.
Mr. Cullen: On a point of order, does the Taoiseach not accept that the distribution and disbursement of funds under the Community Support Framework——
Mr. Rabbitte: Ask Deputy Smith. Deputy Cullen jumped the wrong way.
The Taoiseach: I would advise Deputies opposite that if they wish to have a debate the most appropriate way to do so would be to communicate, through their Party Whip, with the Government Whip.
Mr. N. Treacy: Has Deputy Rabbitte any leads on that? How is the FÁS course going?
Mr. Harte: I am sorry I did not get in at the appropriate time but, bearing in mind that the most threatening thing facing the Irish people now is misunderstanding about the leaked document——
Mr. R. Burke: ——is Deputy Alan Dukes sitting behind the Taoiseach?
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): The voice of experience.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Order, please allow Deputy Harte to continue.
Mr. Harte: I will not be distracted by ignorant remarks.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Order, please, Deputies. Does Deputy Harte have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
Mr. Harte: I am sure Deputy Ray Burke wanted me to applaud that ignorant remark but I shall refrain from doing so. One of the most serious things threatening both parts of Ireland at present is a misunderstanding about the document leaked, mostly on the part of the Official Unionists and the Democratic Unionist Party. Therefore, would the Taoiseach consider making himself available, to meet Dr. Paisley and Mr. Jim Molyneaux in London, to express the Government's position and allay their fears?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. I want to proceed to the business of the House proper.
Mr. Martin: In view of the Taoiseach's comments earlier that we should approach our own Whips in terms of having issues debated in this House, I might point out to him that the Government Chief Whip has already refused to  allow a debate on the de Buitléir report on the future of third level education——
Mr. Barrett: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order——
Mr. Martin: We have had the publication of the most significant report——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot and will not debate this now.
Mr. Martin: ——in respect of which the Government will not allow time for discussion in this House.
Mr. Barrett: On a point of order, I stress no such request was made to me about any debate on the de Buitléir report. I ask Deputy Martin to withdraw that allegation.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Point made. We must now progress to item No. 1. I understand that Deputy John O'Donoghue wishes to seek leave to introduce a Private Members' Bill.
Mr. O'Donoghue: I move:
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provisions for the freezing and the recovery of the proceeds of suspected criminal activity, to create certain criminal offences and to provide for related matters.
Question put and agreed to.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Since this is a Private Members' Bill, under  Standing Orders, Second Stage must be taken in Private Members' time.
Mr. O'Donoghue: I move:
That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time.
Question put and agreed to.
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Keogh was in possession and has 15 minutes remaining.
Ms Keogh: In my earlier contribution I had pointed to the fact that we had become a very litigious society. We had reached section 4 and I had been saying I was not too sure what the Minister was attempting to achieve in section 4 because section 2 provides for the replacement of the common law rules, a laudable objective, they being obscure, confused and in need of change. However, the Minister has proposed new rules which are also vague, confused and unclear. Therefore, I am afraid the Minister will achieve a result completely opposite from the one to which he aspires. The phrase I used was that, having thrown the common law rules out the window, the Minister was letting them back in by the back door.
All of us know the meaning of the words “reckless disregard.” It is abundantly clear that section 4 (2) needs to be removed if the overall structure of the Bill is not to be fundamentally undermined. My party will table amendments on Committee Stage to that end.
Most people would regard it as abhorrent that a person entering premises with criminal intent, to commit a burglary, arson, assault or to vandalise property, should be able to sue the occupier for damages. Such people do not deserve legal protection and should not get any. The law should presume that having trespassed on the premises,  they have accepted all risks they may encounter. Yet, under the provisions of the Bill, as they stand, the following scenario is possible: let us suppose a building in a dangerous state, due for demolition, is invaded regularly by vandals and one of those vandals falls through a hole in the floor and is injured. If that vandal decides to sue the occupier under the provisions of this Bill the occupier is likely to be held to have known of the existence of the danger. Indeed, he or she is likely to be held to have known of the regular presence of vandals and will be held to have acted with “reckless disregard” for the injured person. The likelihood of this happening is increased if the vandal happens to be a child or young person, when a landowner could well be held to be liable for compensation in respect of personal injuries to the vandal who has invaded his property with the intention of destroying it.
That is not just and surely is not what people want. Therefore, I shall table an amendment on Committee Stage to make it abundantly clear that occupiers have no liability to people who trespass on their property with the intent of committing a criminal act.
Section 7 provides that an occupier shall not be liable to an entrant for injury or damage caused to the entrant or property of the entrant by the negligence of an independent contractor he or she may have employed. While that is a laudable principle, it is hedged with qualifications and limitations which, given the understandable tendency of judges to seek means of accommodating hard cases, ultimately will lead to the principle being “judicially legislated” out of existence. The qualification to which I refer is that the occupier may still be found to be liable for the actions of his or her independent contractor if he or she has failed to take all “reasonable care”. “Reasonable care” is not defined but includes taking steps to ensure that a contractor is competent to carry out the work and that it has been properly undertaken.
 I consider that provision to be quite extraordinary because it could be read as being tantamount to a direction to occupiers of land to carry out a daily inspection of the work of their independent contractor, say, a plumber, builder, or an electrician, to ensure it has been carried out correctly. In addition, if the occupier fails to carry out such inspection, and someone is injured, then he or she may be deemed to be liable. That is absurd and I shall table an amendment on Committee Stage designed to ensure that, in no circumstances, will occupiers be held liable for the acts of independent contractors.
I welcome the Minister having agreed to review the provisions of section 4 (3) because there is no logical base to that subsection. It means that, while occupiers ostensibly are being given the benefit of a lower standard of liability for trespassers and recreational users, that lower standard is suspended when the person injured happens to be a child. In effect this means that farmers and other landowners are none the wiser as to precisely what changes they need to make to their work and safety practices. I would welcome a revision, if not the omission, of this subsection; I know the Minister intends to re-examine it.
There is one area of activity within which children need and should receive special protection. Recently, we were all appalled to read press reports of the deaths in England of a number of children resulting from absolutely horrific fairground accidents. There are a number of recreational activities in respect of which people provide facilities — I stress I am not referring to sporting activities — for children which are inherently dangerous, which is part of the thrill for children, inviting them to use those facilities in return for payment. I am thinking of such places as fairgrounds where such appalling accidents occurred.
New establishments are mushrooming around the country which, for want of a better phrase, I describe as a type of “activity gym”. Young children visit them to use all sorts of potentially dangerous equipment. Such establishments are not licensed at present and there are no standards in terms of the number of children that may be admitted and the type of supervision that ought to be exercised. It is only a matter of time before there is a serious incident. Such establishments owe the children who use them the highest duty in terms of safety and the Progressive Democrats will table an amendment to that effect. In doing so, we are conscious of the need to ensure that ordinary outdoor and sporting activities, adventure sports and school activities remain protected by the provisions of the Bill.
The Progressive Democrats welcome the spirit of the Bill, but regard it as flawed in crucial respects, a number of which I enumerated. As I outlined I will table amendments in that regard. I welcome the Minister's invitation to improve the Bill by way of tabling amendments and I look forward to his co-operation in accepting my amendments on Committee Stage.
Mr. Deasy: We anticipate and expect that drafting legislation will be based on common sense but the difficulty experienced by the Law Reform Commission in advising the Minister on this legislation is incomprehensible to the layman. The Law Reform Commission has sat for approximately four years in an effort to rectify an appalling bad law. As it stands it means that trespassers who injured themselves could sue a landowner or property owner for damages in respect of injuries they incurred. I do not understand why the law has not been repealed before now as it defies the very basics of good sense and good law.
It has meant many historical sights, numerous beauty spots and scenic areas have been closed to the public for a considerable time because, understandably, land and property owners are not willing to take the risks of being sued for  huge amounts of money. The compensation cult here has become so corrupt and widespread that nobody could blame a property or landowner for pro-hibiting people entering property. It has become a racket and operated as such. Some local authorities, Cork Co-operation is probably the best example, have had to pay millions of pounds in compensation to people who lodged falsified claims. It is any wonder that land owners, in particular property owners, do not wish to run the same risk? For the past number of years we have had very bad law. The Bill before us today is an improvement, but it does not go far enough to meeting the justified fears of landowners in particular.
Section 4 (3), (4) and (5) are not satisfactory and I would be less than honest if I said they were. Before I deal with those subsections I wish to refer to the definition section of the Bill which is set out on two pages. The simple word “minor” has not been defined. What constitutes a minor? We have a particular understanding of the word “minor” here as our national games include a minor grade, which at times is almost as important as the senior grades. A minor is a person under 18 years of age. We have all heard of over-aged minors. I know one person who boasted that he played as a minor when he was 27 years of age. Members may recall that Jimmy Doyle played as a minor for Tipperary four years in a row, so he must have been either 13 or 14 years of age when he started to play. Section 4 (3) (c) in particular does not satisfy the demands of property or landowners. It states, that, where the person is a minor, regard shall also be had as to whether or not the person was on the premises in the company of another person and, if so, the extent of the supervision and control the later person might reasonably be expected to exercise of the other's activities. That provision is far too loose and indefinite. If that provision were to be challenged in the courts who knows what judges would decide? If an adult were to bring children across another's property and those children  suffered an injury, the adult's word is likely to be accepted in court as a witness may not have been present when the injury occurred. That provision is highly unsatisfactory and the Bill should be amended to ensure that minors, no matter how young, and regardless of whether they are accompanied, are liable for any injuries they incur. That is a simple and straightforward provision. I know there were divisions within the Law Reform Commission on a number of these subjects not just relating to minors but to adults. There should be no ambiguity or division in this regard, the law should be clear-cut. If another decision is handed down in the High Court or Supreme Court granting a huge compensation award in the case of a child who suffers an injury even though he or she was accompanied by an adult, access to land, historical monuments and beauty spots will be in jeopardy. Landowners will not tolerate the risk of being sued for something for which they are not responsible. That is basic law and I would like the Minister to table amendments on Committee Stage to ensure clarification in this area. The courts will interpret the legislation as they see it. We must frame this legislation to avoid ambiguity and a danger that people may be penalised or made penniless for something which is totally beyond their control.
We all know areas formerly open to the public which have been closed in recent years. The infrastructure for gaining access to historical monuments and beauty spots is seriously deficient. In Great Britain and on the Continent there is a network of stiles and public footpaths with railings on either side. Those rights-of-way are publicly controlled to ensure that people visiting a beauty spot, monument or other place of interest — if they wish to adhere to the law — cannot stray from the foot-path. There is no question of them clambering over gates and breaking down fences to gain access to such places. While it would be costly, we must introduce a system that regularises access to places of interest. At present people  gain access to such sites by climbing over gates and fences causing enormous inconvenience to the landowner. The system must be regularised, but the Bill does not propose to do that.
There is a famous structure — the Metal Main — in Tramore, Country Waterford, which many people visited in the past. A piseog or old wives tale claims that if a girl dances around it three times on one leg — or something like that — she will get married within a certain period. The landowner could not keep animals in the field in which the structure was located because of the many trespassers and for the past 15 or 16 years access to the structure has been prohibited. This happened long before the question of compensating trespassers injured while on such lands arose. Since this problem was highlighted a few years ago many landowners have stopped people from entering their lands and if this legislation is not amended that “obstruction” will continue. Perhaps I should not call it “obstruction” because in general farmers and land and property owners were unnaturally co-operative in the past. Until this anomaly arose, they allowed people access to their lands without objection but now some of them are already preventing people from crossing their lands to gain access to historical sites.
The provision to allow a minor injured while crossing such lands to claim against the landowner is preposterous. The Bill also states that a handicapped person, if injured on such lands, can claim against the landowner. That is unfair. I accept that handicapped people are vulnerable, but there should be an alternative procedure for minors and handicapped people when injured to claim compensation. They should certainly not be allowed to claim against the landowner. While this is vast improvement on previous legislation, it is a recipe for abuse and the racketeering witnessed in urban areas in recent years. When children are injured on lands where an historical site is located the responsibility should lie with  the parents, there should be no mealymouthed halfway house in this regard.
Deputy Keogh referred to the occupier being required to independently prove the competency of independent contractors working on land where a person is injured. That is a ridiculous provision but it is inserted in this legislation. It is unrealistic to put responsibility on the landowner to prove the competency of the contractor and I do not know how that could be applied in law.
This Bill is an improvement on the present position, but it has major deficiencies which must be corrected before the legislation is enacted. The Law Reform Commission referred to constitutionality in regard to compensation for trespassers injuring themselves, but the Constitution must be very complicated and unjust if it can lead to the insertion of such a provision in legislation. I sometimes wonder if we would be better off without a Constitution.
I hope the Minister will table the necessary amendments in regard to minors before the legislation is passed.
Mr. O'Dea: I welcome the Bill in so far as it goes but one must ask how far it goes. It is an improvement on the approach adopted by the Law Reform Commission which recommended a standard of gross negligence for trespassers. That was a recipe for disaster and it remains to be seen whether the Minister's proposals will improve that position to any significant degree.
This legislation was published late last year and it fell to me to explain its provisions to a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. Having regard to the volume of opposition, protest and the number of recommendations for change voiced at that meeting I have grave reservations as to whether, if the previous Government had continued in office, we would have been allowed to introduce the Bill in its present form. This is not the first time legislation on occupiers' liability came before this  House. Members will recall that in 1993 or 1994 Deputy Deenihan introduced legislation on occupiers' liability. The Law Reform Commission referred to those proposals as stark: indeed, they were stark to the point of brutality. They were radically different from the legislation before the House which despite what Deputy Deasy said, and I agree with much of it, is supported by Fine Gael. The previous Private Members' Bill in the name of Deputy Deenihan was supported vocally in the House by the Fine Gael Party and all the Fine Gael Party voted for it. It was radically different from this. It gave no rights to trespassers except the right not to be injured intentionally. What has changed? What has prompted this U-turn? Is this another case like the ministerial advisers and numbers of Ministers of State?
This legislation potentially affects everybody, not just farmers. The definition of “occupier” is broad enough to include every person occupying property, whether or not he owns it, from the humble corporation tenant in some housing estate in Limerick to the large landowner in Country Meath. Every person who occupies any structure or land, be it a cabin, hut, mansion, farm, corporation house or private house except those living with occupiers and presumably the homeless, is affected by this legislation. It will have the widest possible implications.
I am bemused and intrigued by the fact that the major party in Government is prepared to support an approach to the law which is radically and fundamentally different from that which it proposed in Opposition not long ago. In view of the widespread implications of this legislation the House is due an explanation and deserves to be told what has changed apart from the seating arrangements.
I know from speaking with the farming organisations in my constituency that local Fine Gael Deputies promised that the legislation proposed by Deputy Deenihan would be put on the Statute  Book if they were returned to Government. Consequently if the events of last November had not taken place and the Government lived out its life in the normal way I have no doubt, from my discussions with the Irish farming organisation and the ICMSA, that many people would have voted for Fine Gael on the basis of what was proposed in that legislation. Had that happened, given Fine Gael's attitude now, the Fine Gael Party would have got many farming votes under false pretences.
To some extent the legislation is welcome. It certainly brings more balance between the occupier and the entrant. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an area where more than balance is necessary, where there must be some degree of certainty and security in the minds of occupiers. Other speakers have indicated that people accustomed to walking, shooting, and fishing enter people's land and property at the owner's risk. We were inundated with representations — I am sure this is true of all sides of the House — from occupiers, particularly landowners who threatened to stop this activity and erect barriers to keep people out unless the law was changed and the risk factor eliminated. So far as they were concerned they were doing the people who came into their property a favour by allowing them enter their lands and they were encouraging social cohesion and activities which people here have engaged in from time immemorial. All we could say was that it was a complex area of law, the courts had imported many fine distinctions, but the Law Reform Commission, the expert body set up to consider the laws and bring forward sensible proposals for amendment, was examining the matter with a view to bringing forward proposals. When those proposals appeared, almost two years ago, they were a major disappointment. They did not bring sufficient balance into the law which, at least, the Minister is doing and for which I give him credit, and they replaced uncertainty with chaos. We had to go back to the people who had made representations to us and say that  the Department of Equality and Law Reform — staffed presumably by experts in this area — could not support these proposals and would bring forward sensible proposals.
We are now two years down the road and the Bill which has emerged is marginally more sensible but it does not solve the fundamental problem. It does not bring any certainty or security into this area. We are back to the original threat under which people will erect barriers from one end of the country to the other.
If the Minister's intention was to create certainty we must test that intention against what appears in the legislation. If we look at the definitions section we get a clue about what is to follow. The category of entrants established at common law — invitees, licensees and trespassers — had been reduced to two. That gives a certain superficial tidiness to this area of law. The certainty produced by reducing the categories from three to two is much more apparent than real. Let us look at the two categories: visitors on the one side and trespassers and recreational users on the other. What is there to distinguish between a visitor and a recreational user? According to the Bill a “visitor” is somebody whose entry onto property is lawful, while a “trespasser” is somebody whose entry onto property is unlawful. The term “lawful” or “unlawful” is not defined. This is a classic cop out. It has to be either black or white. What does “lawful” mean in this context?
Mr. Dukes: It was a pity the Deputy did not tell the Minister that last year. The Bill was published on 30 June 1994. Was the Deputy visiting junkie junction at that time?
Mr. O'Dea: Deputy Dukes had his chance. He is now on the backbenches and that is where he will remain for the rest of this political life. The farming organisations have represented to me, and I am sure to the Government also, that if “lawful” was defined as entry by  express permission, at least there would be some element of certainty. Here, one duty of care is owed to a visitor while a different duty of care is owned to a trespasser. The question is what is a visitor and what is a trespasser? A “visitor” is somebody whose entry into the propentry is lawful, while a “trespasser” is somebody whose entry is not lawful. The court will decide that. Is this a recipe for certainty? Is this a recipe for creating security in the minds of landowners who voluntarily allow people enter their lands to promote social cohesion, recreation and enjoyment by those people? Therefore, in the definitions section there is a fundamental fault which undermines the entire Bill. It is a classic cop out. The Minister and the Department have funked a major decision to bring certainty into this legislation. They have created an uncertainty which permeates the legislation. Apart from that fundamental flaw there is a number of other peculiarities in the legislation.
The same standard of care is owed to trespassers and recreational users. As Deputy Keogh and others pointed out, there is a difference between a recreational user, who comes to view a monument on a farm, and who takes the trouble to ask permission of the landowner to view the monument and somebody who breaks into a property in the dead of night with the intention to rob, maim or murder the occupant. The same standard of care is given by law to the person with criminal intent as to the person who takes the trouble to ring the landowner to ask if he may go see the monument. I do not know what the draftsman was thinking of in this respect because that is unacceptable and will have to be changed.
Legal advisers to some of the farming organisations have suggested that a measure be incorporated in the legislation to the effect that there would be a rebuttable presumption that injury or damage to a trespasser would be through his own fault or neglect. I do not know the Department's attitude to  that but it seems to be an eminently sensible proposal. It seems even more sensible to distinguish between categories of trespasser, with the criminal on one side and the person who seeks permission to go onto the land for recreational purposes on the other. The Minister may say that by creating different categories we would be creating greater uncertainty, but a reduction in the number of categories may give the illusion of certainty, and it is simply an illusion.
I take the Minister's point on trespassers who are minors. It has been represented to me that at least one major farming organisation received legal advice to the effect that if the separate provisions for minors were not included in the legislation there is a good chance it would still be constitutionally invulnerable. They suggested I put it to the Minister that he leave out these special provisions and, if there is uncertainty about it, allow the Bill to be referred to the Supreme Court under Article 26 of the Constitution. The separate provisions relating to minors are no more than window dressing.
It has been stated that there are other factors which a court would have to take into account in terms of a trespasser who is a minor, namely, the age of the person and their capacity to understand danger. Under the definition “reckless disregard”, those matters would be taken into account. There are seven indicators as to what must be taken into account when deciding whether reckless disregard exists. The definition includes those matters and they would be taken into account. The separate provisions are merely a sop to someone in the Law Reform Commission who had a vague doubt about the constitutionality or otherwise of legislation that does not make separate provisions for minors, but that is only a small point.
The main point is that if a young child or a mentally handicapped person goes onto dangerous property, as Deputy Deasy rightly referred to, have their parents, guardians or institution in which the mentally handicapped person  lives responsibilities in this regard? The legislation states that if they are accompanied, consideration must be given to the care which the person accompanying them should have exercised, but what happens in cases where they are unaccompanied, where parents or institutions let them wander freely in the full knowledge that it is dangerous to go into certain property? These people have no concept of their duty towards the minor involved or the unfortunate landowner who may be liable if the person is injured as a result of going onto the land. Under the legislation such people have no responsibility, but there should be provision in the legislation whereby they are held responsible.
There is a number of peculiarites in the legislation. I do not have time to deal with all of them now but we will tease them out on Committee Stage. For example, section 5 may be interpreted in such a way that a trespasser may claim that an occupier has, by implication, extended the duty of care to him up to and including the common law duty of care, the visitor's duty of of him up to and including the common law duty of care, the visitor's duty of care. A landowner has a certain duty of care towards people who come onto his land without his permission and he should not act with reckless disregard, whatever that means. He may find that by something he has done or said at some time in the remote past his duty of care is elevated to a common law duty of care and he may be successfully sued because of something he has completely forgotten about. That is unacceptable and should be withdrawn.
Section 5 also states that an occupier may restrict or modify his liability to visitors and trespassers by agreement or notice but he cannot do so below the duty he owes to trespassers. If the landowner purports to reduce his duty of care to, say, a visitor, he cannot reduce it below the duty of care he owes to a trespasser, but the section specifically states that he can exclude his duty to visitors. How can you exclude something that you cannot reduce below a certain level? More importantly,  section 5 states that the landowners may exclude entirely this duty to trespassers by notice of agreement. How can something be excluded in one subsection while the next subsection states it will be there anyway by notice or agreement. That seems contradictory and will have to be considered.
The inclusive provisions relating to reckless disregard seem to water down the definition of recklessness which pertains in civil law, and that will have to be considered. The need for certainty here is paramount. Perhaps the Minister should go back to first principles and consider a no fault system in this area of negligence law. There should be a number of changes in negligence law generally and at the very least the level of awards should be controlled. In conjunction with that there should be a no fault system. In Spain there is a system whereby legislation sets out various categories of injury and the level of award appropriate to each category. That pertains throughout insurance law in Spain and the state ultimately picks up the tab. I am not suggesting we go that far but because of the need for certainty in this area the Minister should consider a system of occupiers liability along the lines of the Spanish model.
Under a no fault system the level of awards could be higher for visitors than for trespassers or users of law, for recreational purposes. Those awards should be funded by a levy on insurance companies who are already making a lot of money. The system could be administered by a tribunal such as a watered down version of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. I would have no difficulty with the court administering the system because, as Deputy Deasy rightly said, let whoever be liable as long as it is not the landowner.
We must remember that landowners who allow people to come onto their lands for recreational purposes and occupiers generally such as community groups, local authorities and so on who provide common areas, green areas and swimming pools, often to help a new community or people in an urban estate  to get together and meet each other, are doing a favour for potential plaintiffs. I have already given the history as to how we kept people at bay with promises that the Law Reform Commission was considering the matter, how we kept them at bay when the Law Reform Commission failed dismailly in the task allocated to them and how we kept them at bay by telling them that a Commission failed dismally in the task allocated to them and how we kept them at bay by telling them that a Government Department was considering the matter. There must be certainty in this area and landowners must be given security; otherwise defences like the Berlin Wall and barbed wire will be erected and we will have concentration camps. The only difference in this case is that the barriers will be erected to keep people out, not in.
Mr. Dukes: I am tempted to ask Deputy O'Dea if he will put up any barriers around the junkie junction to which he referred last night, but that is a different argument. I am delighted we are at last debating this Bill. It is a matter of great regret to me that Deputy O'Dea, repentant sinner that he is, is present having conspired to prevent a Bill which would have done the job perfectly adequately if it had been passed some months ago. He was not the only conspirator in that case——
Mr. O'Dea: The Deputy can put down amendments.
Mr. Dukes: Other parties were involved with him. Too much time has been wasted and I hope there will be a conclusion to the process fairly soon. We have been trying for a long time to get action on this matter in the House.
This has become a matter of very serious concern, not only for landowners but for local authorities. Lately a fashion has grown up where people seem to succeed in claims against shopkeepers and supermarkets in circumstances which are rather dubious to say the least. Landowners now believe that to protect themselves they are obliged to restrict entry to their land. It is very  difficult to assess the extent of the danger but there is a clearly perceived risk as the law stands and people cannot be criticised for trying to take measures to shield themselves from a risk which they rightly feel will put an unjust burden on them.
I would like to see amendments to the Bill which will bring it more into line with the provisions of the Private Members' Bill introduced some time ago by my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Deenihan. I am not very happy with the Bill as it stands and curiously enough — he might be surprised to hear me say this — I share some of Deputy. O'Dea's concerns, even if his repentance is brought about by the revelation of his negligence in earlier times. However, as they say in the good book, there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ten just men who do not need repentance. I would like to see common-sense coming back into the law on this issue.
I wish to refer to suggestions which have been made since this matter became the subject of public debate, and some of which were repeated by Deputy O'Dea. It is nonsense to suggest that if a landowner or the owner of a premises is not to be held liable properly and justly under the law for injuries suffered by persons going on to their land or property then somebody else should carry the can, whether it is insurance companies, the State under a public liability policy, etc. That is carrying “nannyism” in the State much too far. It starts from the proposition that in some way the State should be responsible for bailing us out of every conceivable kind of trouble we get ourselves into. That is not the job of the State.
If we provide by law that in certain circumstances landowners or the owners of property are not liable for injuries suffered by people entering their property then I see no reason we should feel equally obliged by law to provide that the State has to insure people against their own negligence or that it has in  some way to pick up the tab for the stupidity of people who get themselves into trouble. I cannot see any reason for doing that either in social equity or justice, nor can I see any reason taxpayers should be landed with another bill to protect people from the consequences of their own imprudence.
I wish to refer to some of the common sense provisions. When we accept the right to private property, which is enshrined in our Constitution, we necessarily accept that the owners of that property have the rights to control who enters it. We may make provisions in law which prevent them from discriminating on certain grounds and at certain times but the essential principle should be that if I am the owner of property then I can say who may enter it.
There should be only two categories of persons who might be found on property, people there with the consent of the owner of the property, however that consent is given — we can make provisions for that — and people there without the consent of the owner of the property. If we are to lay obligations, as it seems we must in social justice and equity, on the owners of property in relation to people entering it then they must surely relate to people who are there with the consent, either express or implied by some agreed set of circumstances, of the owner, and if people are on the property without the consent of the owner then the owner should not owe that kind of duty to those persons. I was confirmed in that approach by the Law Reform Commission in its report on occupiers' liability — report No. 46 of 1994 — which basically makes the case that legislation should provide for two classes of entrant, visitors and trespassers. That is a very sensible way of dealing with this matter.
The position is fairly clear and staightforward in terms of people entering private property. It does not seem to be enormously difficult to provide for a similar categorisation of persons who enter public property. In the case of property or building belonging  to the State or a public body we can make rules which provide for the conditions under which people may enter that property and, if we wish, we can make rules for the conditions under which people are forbidden from entering that property. We can apply the principle of two categories of entrants to public property as we can to private property. There may be some problems in the case of common land, and I will refer to that point later.
If there are only two categories of entrant then visitors should be owed, whatever our definition, the common duty of care. This issue is dealt with by the Law Reform Commission in report No. 46 of 1994. Recommendation 7 on page 38 states: “Except to the extent that it may be varied by the exception to be made for recreational use, there should be a common duty of care to all visitors”. I do not agree with the idea that an exception should be made for recreational use — I will refer later to this point — but there should be a common duty of care to all visitors. This means that the same common duty of care should not extend to trespassers. That is a common sense approach to this issue, based on what our concept of private property is about. There may be a duty to others. In this legislation and in most of the work which deals with this type of legislation it is said that in relation to people who are on land or other property without the consent of the owner, there is a duty not to injure them intentionally or act with reckless disregard for them. It has been well said by Deputy O'Dea and Deputy Deasy that there are problems with the definition of “reckless disregard” but at least there should not be circumstances in which they would be injured intentionally.
We have to have regard to what is the normal use of the property concern. Let us take the case of a person who is a trespasser who is on land without the permission, express or implied, of the owner. I like walking or riding whenever I get the opportunity and one of the places I like to walk is the Burren in  County Clare. If one has any sense, one will have some regard to the use of the land there.
Often one will find that one of the enterprises carried on by farmers in the Burren area is running suckler herds. At various times of the year one will find a bull running with a herd of cows. That is a legitimate use of the land for the landowner and if one imposes on the landowner a duty not to injure persons intentionally, even if they are there without his permission, what will this mean? It cannot mean that one should not run a bull with a herd of cows because this is a legitimate and valid farming enterprise which the landowner has every right to pursue but it is dangerous to enter upon those lands, particularly if people do not know how bulls behave in such circumstances. They can be difficult customers at the best of times, particularly at the end of the mating season. Some months ago I heard an interesting discourse on this topic on the “Gay Byrne Show”. At the end of the mating season when all the cows have been covered and full the bulls become even more bad humoured because there will be no more fun for the rest of the season.
There is another difficulty of which people should be conscious and a great many users of land are not. It is a hardy thing to do to enter a farm or land where there is a herd of suckler cows with calves at foot even if there is no bull around, because a suckler cow with a calf at foot can be a contrary customer too. Again, this is a legitimate farming enterprise and the owner of that land or herd is not intentionally putting people at risk of injury by having his herd of suckler cows there with calves at foot with a few more calves to make up the balance. He or she is carrying out a legitimate farming enterprise but it carries a risk for people entering that land. We have to make provision for the normal valid uses of property in such a way that it does not give rise to an extra risk on the part of the property owner or occupier.
 It is provided that the occupier should be able to modify the duty he or she owes to persons entering land by means of a notice. The Law Reform Commission recommended this but I am not sure that it is provided for in a comprehensive way. What is a notice? How does one give it? Where should it be placed? Deputy Deasy spoke about a particular construction in County Waterford where the difficulty the landowner had was that people were approaching it from a number of different points on the perimeter of his lands. Is it reasonable to ask a property owner, if there is a risk or if he wants to modify his duty to entrants on the land, to put a notice at every conceivable point where people might enter? I do not think it is. Should the property owner be allowed to modify his duty of care towards those persons by putting a notice at the most convenient point of entry? I can foresee endless arguments about that but it is within the rights of the property owner to decide not only who may enter the land or property but where they may enter. We cannot require him to have a stile on every ditch, a gap in every hedge or a set of steps at every gate to allow people enter property without incurring extra risk or being able to use his legal right of modifying the duty he owes to persons.
Reference is made to a category of recreational user. I am not sure if it makes much sense to add this extra complication. I could not make out whether Deputy O'Dea was for or against this; perhaps we will have another opportunity to hear more but I am not sure why we should make that distinction. Most people who are not involved in farming, if they enter a farm other than for the purpose of business or having a conversation with the farm family, are there for purposes of recreation. A person who walks across a field, who goes there to shoot or horseride or who crosses it to get to a river or stream is a recreational user — all are running a different risk and doing different things.
 I speak as a recreational user; I think I am running little risk if I walk across a field, a slightly greater risk if I ride across it and an even bigger risk if I carry a shotgun across it. I am not an angler and I have never carried a fishing rod across land but I can imagine that there are a few dangers involved, especially if one is with somebody else. A few nasty accidents have been caused by people who were not careful in the management of their fishing rods.
I cannot see why we should make a distinction unless we are going to distinguish between the different burdens of care on the landowner in relation to those users. If people are doing something that is inherently dangerous or carries its own risk they have a duty to insure themselves against that risk without putting the burden on the landowner. I can see no justice in putting any extra duty of care on a landowner if I am riding a horse across land rather than walking across it. There is a bigger danger that I will fall and break my neck if I am riding a horse than if I am walking but that has nothing to do with the landowner and is a risk I assume. This has not happened so far; my neck is perfectly solid and strong enough to withstand such a fall but it could happen.
We have all read about the dangers of carrying shotguns across land. How many people have been accidentally injured or killed because they did not take proper care in carrying shotguns? The more we consider this the more the different definitions of use create extra complications in a way which is unfair to landowners.
I warn again against the idea of insurance. Over large parts of the country people are prevented from entering lands which are publicly owned because the agencies state they have a problem with insurance. Partly for this reason and partly for sheer bloody-mindedness the Office of Public Works will not allow people to ride horses along canal banks. In many parts of the country Coillte will not allow people ride horses through its woods because it is afraid of  what might happen if ordinary pedestrians or picnickers come into contact with a group of riders, there is a schemozzle and someone gets injured.
We can resolve that problem by putting the duty to provide insurance, if such there be, on to the people themselves. As I travel around the country I hear reports of more cases of Coillte property being closed off with gates or little stiles to allow pedestrians pass through. That is totally unsuitable for people who are unable to walk long distances to enjoy some of the loveliest parts of our country. It is done because the authorities are concerned about the kind of duties that are put on them and that will continue to be put on them by this Bill.
There is a definition of “occupier” in the Bill which seems to be totally unsuited to the situation that arises on farms because the “occupier” includes people who control, share control or have part of the control of lands. The effect of that provision could be that not only would the owners of premises have obligations put on them by this Bill, in whatever form it is finally passed, but members of those families could have the same obligations put on them. That is utterly unsatisfactory and it creates more of the uncertainty referred to by Deputy O'Dea and which I agree we should remove.
I am arguing that there should be only two classes of entrant — visitors who are there with the express or implied permission of the landowner and people who do not have that permission — we could avoid the infelicities of the fact that in this Bill, when we speak of people being unlawfully on land, we give no definition of what is unlawful. I hope there will be a number of amendments to the Bill to remove those problems.
Mr. Clohessy: I welcome the Bill because it addresses controversial issues which have caused concern to many people in recent years. The problem of  occupiers' liability in relation to property has been the subject of serious debate by various interests. Central to the presentation of this Bill has been the role played by farming organisations in highlighting the fears and concerns of their members. It would be unwise, however, to view this Bill as solely addressing the interests of the farming community. I would prefer to regard it as a means of introducing stability and common sense into an important aspect of national life. The Bill should not be confined to a narrow view of the problem of insurance liability but it must take an overview of the entire situation in regard to national monuments, visitor access and, of course, the tourism industry. It is important that there is balance between the genuine fears of farmers and the free access to important sites of national heritage throughout our country.
The central fear of the farming community, that those who injure themselves while crossing land or visiting local monuments may sue the landlord, is addressed in the Bill. This issue has been to the fore in recent times and has helped focus the necessary attention on the problem. For many years farmers and landowners have waged a campaign to change the law on public liability whereby members of the public would be liable for their own injuries. We are aware that the farming organisations have described the law as unfair. The strength of feeling among the farming community was demonstrated by the decision to ban all visitors from some historical sites in various parts of the country. The Bill focuses on the main areas of difficulty caused by outdated laws and we, as legislators, must take into account changing times and social developments and enact laws which reflect the reality of our society. I welcome the Bill, therefore, with some important qualifications. The fact that many of the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Commission on occupiers' liability are included  should reassure those pressing for change in the law.
A number of important areas, however, revolve around the whole issue of insurance liability. These matters should be considered carefully as we must approach any change in the law with a serious purpose and an appreciation of how the new law may be applied in all possible circumstances. We are all aware of the uproar and social division with regard to the recent changes in the drink driving law and how it has divided the country on a rural-urban basis. If a new law is to be applied it must be enforced in all the country. The purpose of this Bill is to update the common law but we must ensure that we do not create potential areas of conflict between rural and urban dwellers.
Unfortunately, insurance liability is not only confined to the rural community, although that may have been the perception because of the vocal campaigns waged by the farming organisations. The problem of liability affects the entire spectrum of national life and it has become a notional scandal. We, as a nation, must ask ourselves how this problem has arisen in such a short space of time. We can all remember a time when there was free access over farming land to many recreational areas including beaches, historical sites and national monuments. While I have no wish to recall those far off days with a nostalgic glow, I believe that under the common law principles there was an awareness by both sides of their obligations and responsibilities.
I will illustrate my point by referring to the Lough Gur project in County Limerick which is visited by thousands of people every year. The whole area is an important site from an archaeological and historical perspective and it attracts students from all over the world. The access to this land is privately owned but for generations people have visited the vicinity to see where people lived thousands of years ago. There was never any problem with access and visitors respected the rights  of the farmers by closing gates and observing the basic safety rules of land use. For many generations, from grandfather to grandson and granddaughter, the people of County Limerick travelled to Lough Gur for a day out or a picnic by the lake. Not only was the day out a pleasant occasion, it was also an educational experience for young children as it brought them in touch with the farming community. Young children are also taught to appreciate the rights of passage over farming land. They co-operate with the farmers by closing gates and everyone is happy in those circumstances.
The fact that most of our important national monuments are located on privately owned land serves to highlight the importance of regulating the common law principles which to date govern occupiers' liability. During the campaign by the farming organisations. local people and tourists were banned from entering certain lands in order to gain access to historical sites and important monuments. We must ask ourselves, therefore, how this conflict arose and what series of circumstances led to the breakdown in the traditional approach to access across farm lands.
I have no wish to conjure up images of nostalgia or to harp back to the pages of Alice Taylor's book “To School Through The Fields”, but we have moved on from what was a traditional right-of-way to a situation of fear, distrust and confrontation. We must ask ourselves why this conflict has arisen, what are the underlying reasons for it and what does it tell us about our society or our future.
In my area of County Limerick farmers tell of the tremendous pressures on them from insurance companies to ban people entirely from their lands. The hard line approach of insurance companies, coupled with the sharp eyed solicitors, make a deadly duo and they are largely to blame for the present problem where litigation is the first option open to people who may suffer injury due to a series of circumstances. It is difficult to ascertain where this set of circumstances  first emerged but I have no fear in laying the blame at the door of some insurance companies who are placing farmers under severe pressure due to the fear of increased premiums. We must also examine the role of many solicitors who advise people to take court action under the present unclear law. This emergence of the liability mentality is set to create a new mini industry where every pothole or broken pavement is a potential source of income.
We are all aware of the scandals involving claims against public bodies and the consequent enormous rise in the cost of premiums. This type of activity is akin to a conspiracy against the people who, at the end of the day, have to pick up the tab by having to pay higher premiums. The liability mentality is a distasteful and greedy aspect of social change. A small group of solicitors have encouraged claims against landowners, farmers, supermarkets and public bodies who are seen as a soft touch. Hardly a day goes by without some such claim being made. This must stop. We cannot afford to go down this road of litigation and confrontation. Common sense must prevail.
The fear of liability has caused considerable concern to many people. Even parents are afraid to invite young neighbours to their homes. The chance of an accident is now uppermost in their minds so that even the neighbourly inter-home visits of children takes on a new and frightening dimension.
Although this Bill is welcome, there are areas of concern. Why are those under 18 years of age excluded from its provisions? In converting the common law into legislation for the Statute Book we must be mindful of the application of the new law. While there are obligations on landowners to keep their property in a safe and reasonable condition and to take adequate precautions to prevent accidents, we must also address the responsibility to the owner by those who have access to private land to, for example, close gates, take all reasonable care and obey warning signs.  This Bill imposes duties on the landowner, and no one would disagree that warning signs of danger must be posted. However, some people will ignore even the most sophisticated warning signs and behave in an unthinking and reckless manner. It is in this area that some of the difficulties of the Bill become obvious. I have no doubt that during this debate some of the flaws in the proposed legislation will be highlighted. Even young people can contribute to causing accidents. Why then should they be treated differently?
The same liability mentality is to be found in a variety of urban settings ranging from potholes and broken pavements to specially arranged accidents involving two or three motor vehicles. I would not like to give the impression that because the farming community have strongly pressed for a change in the law, and at times have even banned tourists from heritage sites, this is a source of conflict between rural communities and others. This is not so. The problem is widespread and if this Bill goes some way towards curbing the scandal of questionable liability claims it will be worthwhile.
I welcome the Bill and hope the Minister will take account of our reservations. We must be mindful of the application of the law and how it applies to the community. We cannot afford to create more social division such as we have seen in regard to the drink driving laws. Let us now examine all the questions raised and the serious doubts expressed by the speakers who contributed to the debate. I urge the Minister to take careful account of all our views.
Mrs T. Ahearn: There is general welcome for this Bill on all sides of the House, and it is time we put the principles of occupiers' liability on a firm statutory basis. I hope this legislation will bring to an end the sleepless nights and the constant worry and unrest caused to occupiers generally who never know when a claim will be made against them that could ultimately have the  effect of putting them out of business. Under present legislation landowners and occupiers pursue their business with what I would call a lethal death sentence hanging over them, a sentence which they cannot avoid if circumstances so determine, for which they need not commit an offence and against which they have no legal protection. It is not logical that landowners can be held responsible for injuries incurred on their property to people whom they never invited on their land and whose entry to their property they had no knowledge of. This is unfair, unreasonable and potentially dangerous for the occupier.
The tardiness of successive Governments in confronting the issue of public liability is inexcusable and inexplicable. The lack of urgency in addressing this grave injustice to occupiers is intolerable. The basis of our judicial system, to which we all subscribe, is that the penalty should fit the crime. However, landowners are subject to the severest of penalties without having committed any wrongdoing. A farmer could lose his farm as a result of a claim by a trespasser against him. The present law is outdated and archaic and I am glad that the Government's Bill will improve the situation. The real mystery is that some landowners have not paid the ultimate price of being forced out of business because of the present system. However, that possibility remains and that is why this legislation must pass quickly through the House. It will provide much needed protection for occupiers of land against claims by trespassers and other users.
The Bill will create a climate where occupiers will not be deterred or discouraged from making their land available for the benefit of others by the constant fear of being sued for personal injuries. The preparation time for the Bill was comparatively short, but too much time was allowed to pass with no attempt to address this issue, this was inexcusable. We must realise that farming methods have changed and are constantly modernised. This means there is more and more machinery in every  farmyard, and every machine is potentially dangerous. Newer and better technology is helping farmers to cope with farm effluent, and faster and better ways of production are now in use. All those bring new dangers and are a threat to farm safety unless care is taken and people are aware of the inherent dangers.
In a time when there is greater potential for serious accidents than ever, I am glad that all farmers take farm safety seriously and take measures to protect themselves, their families and workers — people who appreciate the inherent dangers of modern farming methods. What makes life intolerable for farmers is the effort to protect intruders who have little or no understanding of the potential dangers of modern farming practices.
I am delighted to be able to say that farmers have become very conscious of safety on the farm. Members may know that an excellent awareness programme and safety campaign has been initiated and followed up by the many farming organisations and Teagasc. Nonetheless those involved in farming know that safety will only be a real priority for those involved in agriculture and will never be fully appreciated by those outside the industry. I suppose it is reasonable to say that it is hard to expect those outside the industry to realise the many dangers. It is not only difficult but almost impossible for farmers to impress on visitors the need to take safety precautions on farms. In spite of superhuman efforts by landowners to ensure safety claims may be made against them for accidents to persons who have no real understanding of the industry.
This legislation is urgently needed. I was very proud to support a similar Bill tabled by my colleague Deputy Deenthan, in June 1993 and was most disappointed as were many others, that the Bill was defeated. The lack of adequate legislation for occupier's liability which has given rise to an increased number of claims has jeopardised job creation in tourism, sport and business interests in  rural Ireland. The threat to landowners from personal injury claims could close down the Irish countryside to all rural activities and is having serious consequences for tourism and sports. It would take only one serious accident as a result of which a farmer suffered financially from a claim by an unwanted visitor or trespasser to make people realise how right they are to be very cautious about whom they allow on their property. I agree with my colleague Deputy Deasy that landowners have co-operated in the past. I am aware of the generous welcome extended by farmers to people who wish to go shooting, fox hunting, beagling or just walking over their land. Farmers and landowners must be admired for their generosity in adverse circumstances.
The farming community should be able to extend a welcome to the sporting and outdoor leisure organisations without being exposed to clearly unjustifiable liability. That is a threat they constantly face. Landowners can go about their daily business without knowing that an activity on their property may have a disastrous effect on them. Frustration with successive Governments' failure to confront this problem has forced many farmers to fence off important historical sites on their lands. If this lack of legal protection is allowed to continue I have no doubt that many more monuments will be fenced off and people will not be able to visit them. I understand that at least four sites have been fenced off and the implications of this trend would be disastrous for tourism. Landowners do not want to be forced into a corner where for their own protection they have to refuse entry to their lands.
I am glad this Bill will mean they will no longer have to resort to such measures and will no longer have to justify their stance. For generations people have been welcome to visit monuments but farmers have extended this welcome under an enormous burden of responsibility, that is, the threat of a personal injury claim against them.
 This Bill is not the ultimate solution — one may ask could any Bill be the ultimate solution — but it is an improvement as it provides protection for landowners. It deals adequately with the duties and responsibilities of occupiers and I am glad a distinction has been made between the static condition of the premises and the activities conducted on them. It clearly states that an occupier's responsibility will relate exclusively to dangers on the premises. I welcome also the comprehensive definition of the word “premises”. Even though I speak from an agricultural point of view, I am glad the scope of the Bill is much broader than just agricultural land.
However, I have serious reservations about a section dealing with the responsibility of the occupier to children or to “minors”. I am glad the Minister referred to this in his address to the House because he as well as all of us is aware of the concerns about this section. Many farmers may justifiably feel that the inclusion of this section places a burden of responsibility on them to look after children. It is impossible for any landowner to secure his lands against the possibility of an accident involving children. After all, parents find it next to impossible to make their homes safe for children, never mind the difficulties of making land and premises safe for them. Even though the Minister has reassured us I harbour those concerns as there is still a broad responsibility on the shoulders of occupiers for the safety of children. The Bill states quite clearly that in relation to minors two factors will have to be considered: their age and ability to appreciate danger. I accept that occupiers must have a common duty of care but to provide this at a level neccesary for minors will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The real problem will arise when children come on to the premises unknown to the owner thus making precautionary advice impossible. Far too often parents do not take responsibility for their children's actions. If this Bill  places that onus of responsibility on the shoulders of landowners it will encourage that trend.
1. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for the Environment his policy in relation to the payment of water charges.[2337/95]
17. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment the estimated shortfall in revenue which would arise from the abolition of service charges. [1459/95]
39. Mr. Flood asked the Minister for the Environment his policy in relation to the payment and non-payment of water charges. [1810/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 17 and 39 together.
The law allows each local authority to decide, at its discretion, whether to levy charges for services and to determine the scale of such charges and the method and timing of their collection. Most local authorities now charge for either a water supply, refuse collection or sewerage service or a combination of these and, in the process, collected approximately £50 million in 1994. I am at present examining, in line with the commitment in the programme A Government of Renewal, the powers of local authorities to disconnect domestic water supplies for non-payment of service charges and will communicate with local authorities on this matter in the near future.
The policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, also recognises that there are feelings of inequity about services charges and provides for the introduction of a special tax allowance for  those who can show that they have paid their service charges on time. Implementation of this element of the programme is a matter for the Minister for Finance.
I take this opportunity, with the indulgence of the Chair, to congratulate Deputy Dempsey on his appointment as spokesperson for the Environment. Although our respective roles changed in recent weeks I trust we will have an interesting dialogue across the House on various matters.
Mr. Dempsey: I beg the indulgence of the Chair to congratulate Deputy Howlin on his appointment as Minister. We had a good working relationship in Government and I look forward to continuing that in a different role.
Mr. Howlin: I should try not to leave myself exposed.
Mr. N. Ahern: Close the windows.
Mr. Dempsey: I thank the Minister for his reply. However, will he accept that the direction to local authorities and the vague commitment in the programme for Government effectively give carte blanche to those who default on payment of water charges? Does he accept it is most unfair to give an amnesty to people who do not meet their legal obligations? This vague commitment in the Government programme means that law abiding citizens will withhold water charges until they find out what is going on which will cause problems for local authorities.
Mr. Howlin: I share the Deputy's concern that the income base of local authorities is maintained. Last year local authorities collected £50 million and no doubt a similar sum will be required to maintain the level of services. As far as the Government is concerned, all due debts are collectable and the amounts owing to local authorities will be properly pursued by them. Two areas are inequitous, one is double taxation and the other is that some local authorities  resort to disconnection without exhausting the other possibilities. The Minister for Finance will address the first issue and I will address the second when I set out to local authorities the Government's views on delimiting powers and exhausting other options before disconnection can take place.
Mr. Dempsey: In my local authority the amount collected in water charges is down by 50 per cent on the same period last year. Will the Minister compensate local authorities for the loss of income that will result from this policy? Over £23 million is outstanding in water charges although many people are under the impression that they have been abolished. Will the Minister define “delimit”? If it means that several warnings must be given and local authorities must take people to court rather than resort to disconnection, which they only use in extreme cases, it will impose further costs on local authorities.
Mr. Howlin: It is entirely within the powers of local authorities to decide the level of charges, if any, to impose. Charges for refuse collection, water and so on are collectable and the local authority will be expected to collect them. There is no question of any funds being made available to cover shortfalls because of non-collection. There is a range of options open to local authorities to pursue due debts including, in the final analysis, disconnection in cases where there is no hardship, where the waiver system has been looked at and proper notice served on the householder. The Government will delimit their power to ensure that water supply is not cut off as a quick reaction but, where somebody has the capacity to pay and refuses to do so, the ability to disconnect water supply will remain with the local authority.
Mr. Dempsey: If the only way these debts can be collected is through debt collectors, will we become a sheriff rid-den society?
Mr. Howlin: The Deputy did not listen to what I said. I said there was a range of options open to them, including in the final analysis disconnection of the service when all other options have been exhausted. The two contentious issues I mentioned are being addressed. The argument for non-payment of charges on the grounds of double taxation will evaporate when the Minister for Finance brings in a tax allowance.
Mr. Hilliard: It will not do any such thing.
An Ceann Comhairle: Only Deputies who table Priority Questions may intervene.
Mr. Hilliard: It is a misleading statement.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure the Deputy heard the Chair.
2. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to support the five year parish initiative of Rural Resettlement Ireland Limited. [2341/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): The aims of Rural Resettlement Ireland in tackling rural depopulation have my full support. My Department has paid grants totalling £100,000 towards the administrative and general expenses of the organisation in the past three years, including £50,000 in 1994.
The five-year parish initiative was launched by RRI earlier this month. I will be considering how my Department can support it. I should mention that the range of housing schemes already available can be used to assist families wishing to resettle and thus help to promote the initiative; these include the shared ownership, mortgage allowance and improvement works-in-lieu schemes.
I avail of this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Dempsey on his  appointment as spokesperson for his party on the Environment.
Mr. Dempsey: I offer my congratulations to the Minister of State and her colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Allen. Is the Minister of State aware that funding for Rural Resettlement Ireland has dried up, that they are in need of an immediate injection of funds and that the four people they employ have been warned of a danger of being laid off? In view of that, would she take a decision as soon as possible, certainly within the next week or so, to avoid such occurrence? Furthermore, will she consider making multi-annual funding available to Rural Resettlement Ireland since they suffer, as do most other voluntary organisations, not knowing from one year to the next the Department's intentions? Will she give some firm commitment to future funding for them?
Ms McManus: I am very much in favour of the work undertaken by Rural Resettlement Ireland. I will be in a position to provide some grant-aid, hopefully, in the near future. However, making promises for the future perhaps is not to be recommended. For example, I do not think many people would have prophesied that I would be in a position to make such a statement; probably it is a dangerous sport to engage in, that of giving long term commitments. However, I will take a decision at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Dempsey: I thank the Minister of State for that commitment and urge her to take that decision within a matter of days rather than months. Would she consider a proposal for a five-year — the duration of the relevant programme — funding from EC Structural Funds for the parish initiative advanced by Rural Resettlement Ireland on which I understand initial discussions had taken place?
Ms McManus: As the Deputy said, there have been discussions. I would be  more than happy to discuss ideas relating to the financing of Rural Resettlement Ireland. If the Deputy will table an appropriate question, I will certainly pursue that matter.
3. Miss Quill asked the Minister for the Environment if he has commissioned a professional study to establish a fair, equitable and reasonable system of funding for local Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2343/95]
43. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for the Environment if he has commissioned a professional study to establish a fair, equitable and reasonable system of funding for local government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2287/95]
Mr. Howlin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 43 together.
In line with the commitment in the policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, I propose to commission as soon as possible a professional study to see how a fair, equitable and reasonable system of local government financing can be introduced. The Government's objective is that this study should lead to the publication of a White Paper and facilitate development of maximum consensus on this important issue.
Miss Quill: I congratulate the new Minister for the Environment and his Ministers of State, Deputies McManus and Allen, and wish them well in their new posts.
The Minister said he will commission a professional study as soon as possible whereas in the policy document, A Government of Renewal, we were told that the Government would immediately commission such a study: it was “immediately” in December 1994 but is now to be commissioned “as soon as possible”. Will the Minister say what will happen local authorities in the meantime? Will he accept that most  local authorities, particularly those in urban areas such as Cork, Limerick and Waterford have been brought to the brink of bankruptcy, are not now in a position to deliver the most basic and essential public services such as street cleaning, the maintenance and repair of footpaths, proper public lighting and refuse collection to even a minimum standard? That begs the question: what will happen those local authorities in 1995; how long must they wait until this Government puts in place a proper system of funding? What action will be taken by the Government in 1995 to enable local authorities fulfil their functions?
Mr. Howlin: I thank Deputy Quill for her kind comments on my appointment as Minister for the Environment; no doubt she will allow me at least a few weeks before fulfilling all of the commitments in A Government of Renewal. While I know there is not a full Dáil term ahead, we should be allowed some flexibility in relation to our timescale in implementing the very important issues which have been contentious for as long as I, and those around me, have been involved in politics.
Miss Quill: But when you say “immediately” it would appear that does not mean “immediately”.
Mr. Howlin: One very important matter — with which the Deputy may disagree — is that there be the maximum possible degree of consultation with all relevant groups, in advance of setting the terms of reference for this important study. It was one of the critical issues raised by the representative bodies, for example, the General Council of County Councils, the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland and the representative bodies of the County Managers' Association. I immediately set in train those consultations. I met the General Council of County Councils last week and asked its members to present a submission to me on the terms of reference, since they consider it very  important to get the terms of reference right rather than launch precipitously into a fundamental review of this sort which will have reasonance for the future of local government well into the next century. I want to get the terms of reference right and will do so as expeditiously as I can. Certainly, the study will be well established and, hopefully, well under way early this year.
Miss Quill: Does the Minister accept that this type of reporting and study has continued over the past 20 years, for which there is saying in Cork: “we are always one report away from action”. Would he agree that what local authorities need — and those who subscribe to the maintenance of local authorities, like commercial ratepayers, and those who pay service charges — is a proper system of funding out in place? Can the Minister give a date — he said “immediately” in A Government of Renewal and “as soon as possible” in the course of his reply to this question — as to when precisely this study will commence? Can he set a time frame for its completion? In addition, can he state at what point the White Paper will be published and inform the House what will be the composition of the membership of that study group; for example, will Members of this House be involved, or are we going anywhere apart from talking about the issue?
Mr. Howlin: I have enjoyed two years only in office so far and consider I have a reasonable record of “doing” rather than “talking” within that period. Within the period that the Deputy's Government was in office in the not too distant past we would have expected to have seen movement on issues of such fundamental importance to us.
On the specific question of membership of the study group, I would not insult the relevant organisations by asking them for submissions had I made up my mind on such issues. I am in the course of a genuine consultation process. I have requested submissions from  the representative bodies; I want their views. The structure and composition of that study group will be decided as soon as those submissions have been received and studied in my Department, not in the distant but in the “immediate” future, so that we can set it up, get it right and, finally, put local government on a sound financial footing into the future.
On the position in Cork, I note that revenue improved somewhat in 1994 but there are particular, horrendous problems — like the expected pay-out in Cork on foot of public liability claims of £2.3 million in 1995 — also fundamental issues which must be addressed if we are to put local government funding on a sound equitable basis.
Miss Quill: Until such time as a proper system of local authority funding is put in place, will the Minister endeavour to introduce some type of equity into the distribution of the rates support grant so that local authorities will receive a proportion of the rates support grant commensurate with their needs and resources, as was promised in the Barrington and a number of other wellresearched reports?
An Ceann Comhairle: We are having an extension of the subject matter of this question.
Mr. Howlin: I do not agree, and have already argued from both sides of this House, with all that was contained in the Barrington report, on which no doubt we shall have time for a fuller debate in due course. I am mindful to ensure that a proper funding mechanism is put in place to deal with the needs, in particular, of urban areas.
Miss Quill: What will happen in the interim?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Question No. 4.
4. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for the Environment if he intends to reintroduce a scheme of home improvement grants as promised by the previous Minister of State at his Department. [2344/95]
16. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for the Environment if he will introduce a house improvement grant for the owners of privately owned houses to ensure that they reside in decent accommodation: and if he will make a statement on the matter.[2283/95]
32. Ms Quill asked the Minister for the Environment if he will introduce a house improvement grant for the owners of privately owned houses to ensure that they reside in decent accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[2281/95]
74. Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for the Environment if he will introduce a house reconstruction grant scheme at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2446/95]
75. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to re-introduce the house improvements grant scheme. [1692/95]
Ms McManus: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4, 16, 32, 74 and 75 together.
The Government's priorities in the housing area, as set out in A Government of Renewal, are to expand the local authority and other social housing programmes and to upgrade deficient local authority dwellings. As the available resources will, accordingly, be concentrated on these programmes, there are no proposals at present to reintroduce a house improvement grants scheme.
Mr. Dempsey: Is the Minister aware that almost 2,500 local authority houses  do not have bathroom or toilet facilities? Is she saying that because of that figure available resources will be concentrated on those houses rather than on a general grants scheme?
Mr. Allen: What did the Deputy's party do in this area during the past seven years?
Mr. N. Ahern: We were paying for promises made by the Deputy's party.
Mr. E. Ryan: Because the Deputy's party left that area in such a mess.
Ms McManus: I am sure the Deputy is aware there is a commitment to upgrade local authority houses. We have an obligation to provide sanitary facilities for local authority tenants and there is a programme under which we will continue to meet that obligation. At present there are no plans to introduce a house improvement grants scheme.
Mr. Dempsey: Will the Minister of State reconsider that matter in view of the thousands of houses——
Mr. Allen: The Deputy's party abolished such a scheme in 1987.
Mr. Dempsey: Yes, we did.
An Ceann Comhairle: There ought not be an exchange of views on this matter. It is a matter for the Minister of State who has replied and the Deputy in possession.
Mr. Dempsey: It cost £270 million to pay for the total excess of the previous scheme. I am aware of a person in Dublin who bought seven cottages in my constituency, had them refurbished for a net figure of approximately £5,000 and now rents them as holiday homes and is making a good profit. That is an abuse of the scheme and one of the reasons it was abolished.
An Ceann Comhairle: Questions please, Deputy.
Mr. Dempsey: Regarding the grants scheme and improving the housing stock, private or public, which we would all welcome, is the Minister of State satisfied with the local authorities' response to the improved work scheme outlined in the social housing policy document considering that in 1993 11 local authorities did not have any houses completed——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy seems to be imparting a good deal of information rather than seeking it. This is Question Time.
Mr. Dempsey: Is the Minister of State satisfied with the take-up of the scheme as in 1993 11 local authorities did not have any houses completed, eight did not have any in progress and in 1994——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy seems to be giving a good deal of information. That is not appropriate.
Mr. Dempsey: I am not sure if the Minister of State is aware of those figures.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us proceed now by way of relevant direct questions.
Mr. Dempsey: In 1994 there were——
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Dempsey seems to be ignoring the Chair.
Mr. Dempsey: I am not ignoring the Chair.
An Ceann Comhairle: You may not proceed to give any further information, Deputy. It is not appropriate now.
Mr. Dempsey: How will the Minister of State answer my question if she does not know the figures?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure the Minister of State knows the figures.  Deputy Dempsey knows the procedure at this time and he may not seek to circumvent the ruling of the Chair on this matter.
Mr. Dempsey: Is the Minister of State aware of the number of houses completed under the local authority improved work scheme in 1994? Is she worried about the obvious trend in that area — I cannot mention the figures — namely, that the number of new houses has decreased substantially? A sum of £2 million was provided for the task force scheme for the elderly operated through the health board in this year's Estimate and £4 million was provided for it last year. Will the Minister give a guarantee that at least the figure of £4 million will be restored in respect of that scheme in the budget?
Ms McManus: The Deputy should not make presumptions in respect of what I do and do not know. If he asked relevant supplementary questions in respect of the question before me, I would be happy to give him replies. There is no reference in the question before me to the task force for the elderly. I was asked to respond to a question on a house improvement grants scheme and I am more than happy to give the Deputy information on that subject.
Mr. Dempsey: I asked the Minister about grants for house improvements. Will she answer the questions I asked?
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy is dissatisfied with the Minister's reply, he had a remedy. It may not give rise to argument now.
Mr. Dempsey: I do not want to argue with the Minister of State but I would like her to answer the question.
Ms McManus: I need clarification as to whether the Deputy means improvements in lieu of a housing scheme or a scheme for the provision of bathroom  facilities. I cannot answer the question until I have that information.
Mr. Dempsey: I mentioned the improved works scheme, not the one in respect of providing bathroom facilities.
5. Mr. E. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment when his Department will consider tertiary treatment for the sewerage works at Ringsend, Dublin 4. [2349/95]
Mr. Howlin: Planning of the improved sewage treatment and disposal facilities required for the Dublin area under the Urban Waste Water Regulations, 1994, is now at an advanced stage within Dublin Corporation. My Department is awaiting the submission of these proposals from the corporation.
I have already made it clear at a public ceremony in Dublin that I do not rule out the provision of nutrient removal facilities, such as denitrification at Ringsend if the detailed planning for the project shows this to be necessary.
I should point out that, in strict terms, the provision of tertiary treatment is unlikely to be an issue in relation to Ringsend or other coastal discharges. Tertiary treatment represents the most advanced biological process for reducing biochemical oxygen demand and suspended solids from a discharge. As such, it is appropriate to inland discharges to water bodies with a small dilution factor.
The discussion regarding Dublin Bay has been about the extent of nutrient removal facilities, over and above normal secondary treatment, which may be required to reduce particulate nitrogen in receiving waters. Nutrient removal, rather than tertiary treatment, would be an appropriate means of achieving extra reduction, if required.
I am determined to achieve the best possible water quality in Dublin Bay. If assessment of the detailed proposals to be submitted by Dublin Corporation  shows that further denitrification over and above secondary treatment is required, I will be well disposed to providing this.
Mr. E. Ryan: I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister and the Minister of State on attaining their ministerial posts and I wish them well.
I am surprised the Minister is ruling out tertiary treatment in respect of sewerage works in Ringsend, as I understand such treatment is still under consideration at local level. Having regard to the amount of sewage being piped into Ringsend, there is a good deal of concern regarding how effectively the sewerage works can treat it and there is a demand for the best available, as opposed to the best possible, technology. I accept what the Minister said, but he should reconsider the matter because if a greater amount of sewage is disposed of in Ringsend it is important that it is properly treated. The sewage in that part of Dublin Bay can be held in by tidal patterns and so on and if it is not treated properly it could have a significant impact on the bay.
Mr. Howlin: A comprehensive and expensive plan is underway. We have not got detailed costings yet because the proposals are not finalised, but it will cost well in excess of £200 million, probably in excess of £250 million. There is a clinical definition of “tertiary treatment” which is not required in respect of the sewerage works, but a post-secondary treatment, which some people characterise a tertiary treatment, may be required. Depending on the detailed submissions I get from Dublin Corporation and on their analysis, I am well disposed to providing the best possible treatment works to ensure we have the best possible water quality in Dublin Bay.
Mr. Callely: I welcome the Minister's clarification of tertiary and post-secondary treatment. Will he indicate the  impact on water activities of the sewage being washed into the bay and how it will affect Dollymount Strand's chances regarding blue flag status?
Mr. Howlin: Under the urban waste directives we are required to have minimum secondary treatment of all coastal discharges by the year 2005. Most of our coastline already qualifies for blue flag status and after the envisaged treatment works are completed, I have no doubt all the coastal waters around Dublin will qualify.
Mr. Callely: Dollymount does not.
Mr. Sargent: Will the Minister distinguish between tertiary and secondary treatment with denitrification so that people are not confused? What time-scale will be involved in the completion of such a project? Also, following speculation in the media, when can we expect Dublin Bay to be designated a sensitive area under the European Union Directive on urban waste water. I understand the Dutch coastline is already designated as such. If all the sewage is piped into Ringsend, does the Minister accept that with secondary treatment eutrophication will be a major problem? Is that why he proposes tertiary treatment rather than denitrification only?
An Ceann Comhairle: We should not go beyond the subject matter of the question.
Mr. Howlin: The Deputy posed a number of questions. The Irish authorities took a careful precautionary approach to designation in regard to urban waste water. We have not designated any coastal waters as less sensitive, whereas the English and Welsh have, including coastal areas along the Irish Sea. No area along the Irish coastline has been designated less sensitive requiring only primary treatment. We have acted in a precautionary manner in the context of designation.
 In regard to what constitutes tertiary treatment. I am advised that a clinical definition of such treatment represents the most advanced biological process for reducing biochemical oxygen demand and suspended solids from a discharge. I do not believe we necessarily need that level of filtration for an outflow into open waters. However, it would be required in the case of inland waterways where the mechanism for dispersal would not be similar to that for the open sea. However, I am reminded to consider carefully proposals from Dublin Corporation that need post secondary treatment to ensure that the type of suspended solids or eutrophication to which the Deputy referred would not exist after the treatment plant is put into operation.
Mr. Molloy: I join with other Deputies in wishing the Minister and his colleagues well in their new posts. Will the Minister indicate whether the decision on the level of treatment — primary, secondary or tertiary — is a reserved or an executive function of a local authority.
Mr. Howlin: Under the European Union Directive on waste water we are required to provide a minimum of secondary treatment in designated areas unless they are designated less sensitive. As I already indicated, there are no coastal waters around Ireland thus designated. In essence, under European regulations by the year 2005 all coastal discharges will have to be at least of a secondary treatment standard. Where it is deemed appropriate, I am willing to consider post secondary treatment.
In reply to a question from Deputy Sargent, the timeframe for this project is set in the European Union directive. This is a complex and expensive programme but we will work hard to have it completed within the time frame specified in European law.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Given that the Minister broadened the spectrum and referred to the programme of work for  coastal waters — I have a particular interest in Cork — in the context of secondary treatment, is it possible that in a short number of years a regulation could be introduced making it necessary to provide tertiary treatment for all schemes? Will the Minister——
An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but this question refers solely to sewerage works at Ringsend, Dublin 4. I cannot allow an extension of that question and the Deputy knows that.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: My question also relates to Ringsend.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy heard the ruling of the Chair. I will not permit an extension of the question. If the Deputy wishes to put down a question appertaining to Cork he may do so.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Will the Minister acknowledge what I have said and outline the difference in cost between providing secondary and tertiary treatment for the project? As I understand the difference is not significant, perhaps the Minister might examine the feasibility of tertiary as opposed to secondary treatment.
An Ceann Comhairle: Given that I have said there should be no extension of the question, I will allow the Minister to reply.
Mr. Howlin: I will endeavour to adhere to the Chair's guidance. Post-secondary treatment is obviously less expensive than tertiary treatment. In a clinical sense tertiary treatment can work out expensive depending on the scale of the project and the one proposed for Dublin is large. There is a cost factor involved in denitrification, the details of which I will provide if the Deputy tables a separate question.
Mr. E. Ryan: Whether tertiary treatment or otherwise is used, before all our  sewage is pumped into the sea at Ringsend, will the Minister ensure the project works properly?
Mr. Howlin: A final decision in relation to a single plant has not been made as yet; there could be two plants. If it is recommended that we establish a central plant in Dublin, I am confident the engineers will assure me it will work to the specifications and cost indicated.
Mr. N. Ahern: By allowing the northern fringe pipeline into Ringsend, are we more or less designating the inner bay as less sensitive? The Minister said he has not designated any waters as less sensitive. However, as the Dún Laoghaire pipeline runs into Ringsend and it is proposed to allow the northern fringe pipe to do likewise, in effect, are we not sacrificing the inner bay? If tertiary treatment is ruled out perhaps we should consider running the northern fringe pipeline into a plant at the nose of Howth which has been the case up to now.
Mr. Howlin: Less sensitive designation would require only primary treatment. There are no areas designated less sensitive. Consequently, there would be no discharges that would not be treated at least at secondary level. The question of less sensitive areas does not arise in the context of Ireland.
In terms of post-secondary treatment, whatever is needed to ensure the highest possible quality of water in Dublin Bay will be done. I will await a submission from Dublin Corporation engineers before making a decision on the final proposals.
6. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment if he will introduce regulations for the purpose of limiting the length of time intruder alarm bells ring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2266/95]
Mr. Howlin: Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 (Noise) Regulations, 1994, individuals and local authorities may take action in relation to noise nuisance by way of application to the District Court to have the noise abated.
While this remedy could be effective in relation to particular instances of noise caused by intruder alarms, the limitation of the “ringing” duration of these alarms would be more appropriate to product standard controls, such as operate on an EU-wide basis, for example, in relation to lawnmowers. At present the National Standards Authority of Ireland has specified a voluntary standard for intruder alarms which covers the “ringing” duration. Formalisation of this standard would in practice required wider EU agreement.
Mr. Callely: I take this opportunity to wish the Minister and Minister of State well in their appointments. Will the Minister agree that addressing the problem of noise from an adjoining residence or business house under the Environmental Protection Agency Act is a long-winded procedure? Occasionally loud sirens and bells ring not only for days or weeks but indefinitely. Has any survey of this been carried out in the Department? Can the Minister introduce a regulation under the aegis of his Department rather than apply the European directive to deal with the problem? Surely we can address the matter by way of regulation.
Mr. Howlin: There are two options which can be taken in this matter. The general problem of noise comes within the remit of my Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the provisions of section 107 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, a local authority can take action against a noise polluter. Under the provisions of section 108 an individual can take action and have direct access to the District Court, which is not all that complicated or difficult.
 A more general point relates to intruder alarms generally. If the Deputy is minded to pursue the issue of a fixed duration for ringing, that is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. It is open to him to establish a product standard control order to fix the ringing duration. Normally it would be done on a European Union wide basis but there is a competence to do it for health or safety reasons, if the Minister for Enterprise and Employment is so minded.
Mr. Callely: I thank the Minister for his reply. However, I would welcome a reply on whether surveys on noise have been carried out. Will the Minister contact his colleague, the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and ask for a regulation on ringing duration of bells and sirens? We all agree that bells and sirens cause a nuisance and much hassle. It is a simple matter that can be easily addressed. I would appreciate if the Minister would take it upon himself to contact his colleague to address the question of noise nuisance, a matter which could be simply and easily addressed.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are having quite an amount of repetition.
Mr. Howlin: On the request to approach the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, I invite the Deputy to argue his case clearly and directly with the Minister.
Mr. Callely: He is my constituency colleague.
Mr. Howlin: I am sure the Deputy's constituency colleague will listen to him. I am not aware of any national survey having been carried out.
Mr. Sargent: On noise pollution, will the Minister take responsibility for helping people to deal with it in their own right? Will he acknowledge that in a small community a person who takes a case to the Circuit Court is considered  a trouble maker or a nuisance in some cases? The issue of noise pollution, as outlined in the Deputy's question, also relates to bird scarers in agricultural areas? Will the Minister change the regulation to allow the Garda to take action as in the case of a disco or for any other loud noise? They do not seem to be able to take action in this case.
Mr. Howlin: Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act it is open not only to an individual under section 108, it is also open to a local authority under section 107, to complain. An individual who complains to a local councillor can remain anonymous if the local authority is minded to take action.
Mr. Sargent: What about the Garda?
Mr. Howlin: Why should the Deputy want to go to the Garda? Is the local authority not a suitable vehicle?
Mr. Callely: What is to happen if the noise occurs at the weekend?
Mr. Howlin: Section 106 of the Act provides for setting standards by my Department in relation to noise generally. There is no international agreed standard of noise measurement for determining standards within member states and that is a problem.
Ireland is participating in a working group set up to help the European Commission prepare a comprehensive approach to the issue of noise. Once an international determination of measurement is set we will be able to set national regulations which will be enforceable by the Garda.
7. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment the steps, if any, he has taken in response to the Earthwatch submission dated 6 July, 1994, on the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations, 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2273/95]
27. Miss Harney asked the Minister for the Environment if he will allow for the publication of inspectors' reports on planning appeals brought before An Bord Pleanála; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2278/95]
28. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to review the operation of An Bord Pleanála with a view to increasing its transparency and accountability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2203/95]
38. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment his views on whether information on planning should be included in the access to information on the environment regulations as being relevant to the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1342/95]
59. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to shorten the period of two months which it takes to respond to a complaint by a citizen in relation to the access to information on the environment regulations in view of the fact that other member states can reply within 10 days to a complainant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1341/95]
Mr. Howlin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 27, 28, 38 and 59 together.
I am considering what action is required, including any necessary amendments to legislation, in order to implement the Government's commitment to improve public access to environmental information. I intend shortly to publish a review of the first year of operation of the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations, 1993. I will take account of the points raised by a number of individuals and organisations, including Earthwatch, in the context of that review, when considering further action.
There are already wide provisions for access to information under the Planning Acts, and it was not considered  appropriate to duplicate these provisions in the access to information on the environment regulations. The Government is, however, committed to further improvements in this area and, in particular, to changing the present practice in relation to the publication of inspectors' reports and the basis of appeal decisions. I intend to bring forward proposals after examining the matter in consultation with An Bord Pleanála.
The two-month time period for responding to requests for information under the regulations is derived directly from the EU Directive on this matter. Figures from the review of the first year of operation indicate that over 40 per cent of requests were responded to within one month. I am aware that an effective response time is an important element of access to information, and I will ensure consistency in this area with the Government's proposals on freedom of information generally.
Deputy Quill rose.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call, first Deputy Sargent who has a number of questions tabled on this subject.
Miss Quill: The question from my party is first. Is it not normal procedure that the first question on the Order Paper is taken first?
An Ceann Comhairle: The first question tabled on the Order Paper is in the name of Deputy Liz O'Donnell.
Miss Quill: Of my party.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have called Deputy Trevor Sargent who has two questions tabled on this subject, namely Questions Nos. 38 and 59.
Mr. Sargent: Can the Minister clarify what he means by “not needing to duplicate regulations”? I am aware of an instance where a local authority has said — as a reason for not divulging  information — that the matter falls under the category of planning rather than environment. Will the Minister clear up this matter and say planning information is directly or by association, an environment matter when it comes to access to information? I would appreciate if that could be made known to the local authorities in order that that excuse cannot be used in future.
Mr. Howlin: There is a general commitment under the Government programme to give the broadest possible access to information, specifically, access to planning information. The two specific issues raised in the programme are access to reasons for decisions either by the local authority or by An Bord Pleanála and access to inspectors' reports, which, I understand, in some circumstances were not available for inspection by the general public. Both of those issues will be rectified. My Department will be working on the regulations in parallel with preparation of the freedom of information Bill by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald.
Mr. Sargent: I am talking about the present, not the future.
Mr. Howlin: It will be done very quickly.
Miss Quill: Is the Minister aware that other public bodies such as Eolas and An Bord Pleanála who hold important environmental information have argued that they and the information they hold is not covered by this directive? What action does the Minister propose to take in regard to those bodies? I welcome the fact the Minister is addressing this issue in the manner he has described. I stress the importance of making recommendations very quickly. On information on the environment, certainly in regard to the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, there is much fear, a great deal of which is based on misinformation and lack of information. Will the Minister accept it is crucially  important that all information be made available in every instance?
Mr. Howlin: I agree with the sentiments of the Deputy. It is my intention, in parallel with the work of the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, to ensure the broadest possible access to information. I understand that, for example, internal reports were regarded as internal communications by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in the past. I have given a commitment that access to that information will be made available. I would put forward one caveat in that people have paralleled the position with that in the United Kingdom, but in that country the determining authority on appeal is the Secretary of State who devolves authority to the inspector and it is the inspector in many instances who makes the determination. In the Irish context An Bord Pleanála makes the determination and the inspector's report is only part of the documentation used in the decision. It is possible, for example, that the inspector's report might not be the actual decision of An Bord Pleanála whereas in Britain in the vast majority of cases the inspector's report would be the explanation or justification of the decision made by the inspector. That difference exists between the two jurisdictions.
Miss Quill: The inspector's report could be a very important element and I ask the Minister to take that fact fully into consideration. In administrative appeals will the Minister consider adopting the American system by laying down a time frame — in America it is 21 days? Is the Minister aware that in its report, Earthwatch points out that a complaint made by it to the Ombudsman in 1993 has not yet been replied to? Will the Minister accept that such a delay is totally unacceptable? I ask him, when drawing up regulations, to bear that in mind.
Mr. Howlin: I am very concerned that there may be inordinate delays, but  there are particular pressures on some local authorities. Half the requests under the regulations have been submitted to one local authority, Cork County Council, which is interesting. There are pressures on such a local authority in terms of staffing and resources to trawl information. Some of the information required is very detailed — for example, the local authority could be asked for the emissions of a particular industry over a ten year period, which would require much collating, analysis and so on. I am mindful of the resource implications involved but, as I indicated, the response time for 40 per cent of the queries was one month and I am anxious that 100 per cent of the queries will be answered in that timeframe.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Given our zeal for access to information, is the Minister concerned about the damage that could be done in terms of the confidentiality of certain processes carried out by industry by the relevation of some of the information sought? Will he give his views on that matter? The Minister will be aware that many industries are concerned that due to the demands made on them this could have a deterimental effect on their process and give an advantage to some of their competitors in dealing with this matter.
Mr. Howlin: Most jurisdictions operate freedom of information regulations or law. We will be framing such legislation in a similar context and I do not think an industry operating in Ireland would be at a disadvantage over a comparable industry in any developed country. Access to information by the general public is required and I want to ensure it is provided.
Miss Quill: It should facilitate industry.
Mr. Dempsey: Has the Minister given consideration to the pre-planning process in many local authorities. For example, where a big project is attracted  to a county, official and unofficial meetings take place. Does the Minister envisage that that type of pre-planning, which is very informal and generally helpful to both sides, will be open to scrutiny by the public? Is the Minister satisfied that the staffing implications of this approach to planning have been fully thought out? Will he make extra resources available to planning authorities to ensure they meet the deadlines imposed in the planning laws? I have a fear in going down this route that the time for consideration of planning will have to be extended. Will the Minister take that matter into consideration when framing the regulations?
Mr. Howlin: I know from working with the Deputy opposite that he and his party were committed to the freedom of information Bill and I do not think he will take issue with the proposals as I have outlined. I do not think the burden placed will be inordinate. The number of requests made since the regulations were enacted 12 months ago has been concentrated but has not been very large in terms of a national spread. The resource implications are not huge and a lengthening of the planning process will not be necessitated. I think all of us in this House are anxious to ensure planning applications are dealt with expeditiously and that there will be no inordinate delay consistent with the public's right to have the issue clearly and properly exposed to public scrutiny.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Given that the Minister has referred to the resources necessary to provide this information and that there seems to be great variance in the cost as between local authorities of providing this information — obviously this is a matter of concern to those who seek information — is it the Minister's intention to devise an average cost of providing such information?
Mr. Howlin: There are swings and roundabouts in that although there are  costs associated with very large developments in the planning process there are dividends in terms of the postconstruction phase when there are very sizeable rates available to the same local authorities. Most local authorities would willingly carry the burden of the planning process in order to invest in a rates taken for the future.
Mr. Dempsey: In other words, the Minister will not pay them.
Mr. Sargent: Is the Minister aware that a period of ten days for replies is considered normal in other member states of the EU — that is my information and the information from Earthwatch? Given that the Minister mentioned that one month is normal here for giving replies, is there a case for reducing the expected time in which complaints must be replied to? I understand the period is about two months at present. Is that correct?
Mr. Howlin: Yes. The information available to me in terms of the first year of operation of the regulations shows that 43.8 per cent of replies are answered in the first month — in some cases it takes longer. It is not the case that ten days is the European norm. It is my understanding that the ten days period which applies in Denmark and the United States is the shortest timeframe. Most Countries with legislation on access to information — not all countries have such legislation — allow for between 20 and 30 days — in some instances, working days — for the provision of such information and I want to work towards that timeframe. I would see as the norm the one month period in the first instance and it will be my ambition to reduce that timeframe.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: The Minister may have misunderstood my question. Groups such as Earthwatch, environmental groups and others which seek information from local authorities are charged for the information supplied. There is a major difference in the  charges levied by various local authorities for this service. These charges are a major burden on some of the groups seeking such information. Will the Minister——
An Ceann Comhairle: Brevity, please.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: —— ask the county managers to agree an average charge so that groups are not prohibited from seeking information?
Mr. Howlin: I will bear the Deputy's remarks in mind when finalising my approach to this matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputies to put brief questions so that their colleagues can have their questions dealt with by the Minister.
8. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment if he will consider changes in the Planning and Development Acts in relation to penalties for unauthorised developments. [2353/95]
Mr. Howlin: The offence of carrying out development without permission, or in contravention of permission, already carries stringent penalties. A person convicted on indictment is liable to a fine not exceeding £1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine and imprisonment. Where an offence is tried summarily a maximum fine of £1,000 and a maximum term of imprisonment of six months applies. These penalties, with the other enforcement measures available to planning authorities, constitute an effective deterrent to contraventions of planning law and I have no proposals to change them.
Mr. Dempsey: I thank the Minister for his response. My concern relates to people involved in small developments who cannot afford a fine of £1 million. When a person proceeds with a  development without planning permission the local authority serves him with a notice. If he continues with the development and is sent a court summons he then applies for planning permission and retention for the building. It seems that the courts are not prepared to regard this as an offence, that when the person submits his application for planning permission the court decides to wait and see how the matter proceeds under the planning process. Will the Minister give consideration to the imposition of a fine for unauthorised developments so that a person who proceeds with a development without planning permission will be automatically dealt with in the courts and will have to pay a fine? My information is that nobody has been fined for unauthorised developments.
Mr. Howlin: Section 28 of the 1963 Planning Act allows planning permission to be granted for the retention of developments carried out without permission. I have argued in favour of this in my local authority in the case of a factory which extended six feet beyond the planning permission. There is clearly a requirement for some flexibility in cases where the exact letter of the planning permission was not complied with, but it must come back to the local authority. To deter people from resorting to this in the first instance — building and then seeking retention — the fee for retention is one and a half times the normal planning fee. Of course, it is open to the local authority to deny planning and the planning retention application. If this happens, the same penalties, which are of a fairly severe nature, for unauthorised development apply.
Mr. Dempsey: Will the Minister agree to again look at this issue? There are cowboys — I am talking about the smaller operator — who will proceed with a development without planning permission, thus putting the local authority in an impossible position. Will the  Minister review this issue at a later stage?
Mr. Howlin: Yes.
Éamon Ó Cuív: Ba maith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire agus leis na hAire Stáit. I think everyone accepts that innocent people can breach the planning laws. However, some people commit major breaches of the law by, for example, building a house without planning permission. When they are served with a notice by the local authority it is possible for them to lodge an application for retention of the building. In the normal course, a decision has to be given within eight weeks. However, it is possible to string out the decision, so to speak, by ignoring a request for further information and as a result——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Questions, please.
Éamon Ó Cuív: Will the Minister take steps to ensure that people cannot string out the retention procedure merely for the purpose of flouting the planning laws?
Mr. Howlin: When a local authority applies to the High Court for an injunction against an unauthorised development, the High Court acts very speedily in granting such an injunction. If an unauthorised development is not removed forthwith the person will be in contempt of court and very severe penalties, including imprisonment, may be imposed. This is not a minor matter and the courts have dealt with it in a severe and clear way.
9. Miss Harney asked the Minister for the Environment the present position regarding proposals to extend voting rights to Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2270/95]
57. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment the Government's views on whether the constitutional evidence provided by Glor an Deorai and various constitutional experts shows that a referendum is not required to incorporate the Irish abroad into the electoral process; if the Government will give recognition to the cultural, social and financial input into Irish life by the Irish abroad; the reason Ireland is the only country in Europe that doesn't grant the emigrants some form of voting rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2508/95]
61. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Environment the present position regarding a commitment given by the previous Government in the Programme for Government, 1993 to 1997, to grant voting rights to emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1875/95]
64. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment the progress, if any, that has been made towards giving voting rights to emigrants; the additional rights, if any, he is considering; the time schedule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2368/95]
Mr. Howlin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 57, 61 and 64 together.
In accordance with the commitment in the policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, and as announced by me on 31 January 1995, the Government has authorised the drafting of a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide for the election of three Members of the Seanad by Irish emigrants. Overall membership of the Seanad will remain at 60 and the new Members will be in substitution for three of the 11 Members who, under the existing Article 18.3 of the Constitution, are nominated by the Taoiseach. It is intended that the referendum on the Bill will be held at the same time as the proposed referendum on divorce.
I am preparing detailed proposals for legislation to govern such matters as  entitlement to vote at elections of emigrant representatives to the Seanad, registration of electors and conduct of the elections. These proposals will be announced well in advance of the proposed referendum.
Miss Quill: Will the Minister accept that these proposals fall very far short of what was expected and required? Will he further accept that offering emigrants the right to elect three Members of the Seanad will not generate much interest among emigrants? The general public do not vote in Seanad elections and, therefore, have no interest in those elections. Since 1987 my party has argued that emigrants should be given the right to vote in general and presidential elections. I appeal to the Minister to refashion his proposal. I assure him that most emigrants will not bother to vote in Seanad elections. This low take-up will give future Governments a good excuse not to meet the legitimate demand of emigrants and their spokespersons that they be given the right to vote in general and presidential elections.
Mr. Howlin: The attitude of the Deputy's party to the Seanad is well known.
Miss Quill: That is not the point.
Mr. Molloy: It is a correct attitude.
Mr. Howlin: I met Glór na Deoraí, one of the representative bodies for emigrant groups. It welcomed the positive decision by the Government to acknowledge for the first time the legitimate right of emigrants to representation. The Deputy's party was in Government for a period since 1987 and the Deputy had the opportunity to vote for a Labour Party Bill which proposed to give emigrants the right she is now demanding from the Opposition benches. Unfortunately, her party did not support that Bill when it was put to a vote. Progress is now being made in this area and there will be a referendum on  a constitutional amendment which will provide for the election by emigrants of three Members of the Seanad. The Seanad will be the richer for having three Members elected directly by our emigrants and we will probably be closer to the representative assembly envisaged for the Seanad under the Constitution. I look forward with enthusiasm to promulgating the necessary legislation.
Mr. Molloy: Mindful of what was said during the course of the debate on the Labour Party Private Members' Bill to extend voting rights in general elections to emigrants why has the Labour Party done a U-turn on this issue?
Mr. Howlin: I look forward to the day when the Labour Party will be able to form a majority Government — that day is probably not too far away — but in the interim——
Mr. Callely: Back to reality.
Mr. Howlin: —— I am required to negotiate with other parties. The current Administration consists of three parties and they have hammered out a consensus on the programme for Government. This proposal is a substantial advance on anything that has gone before. On the question of U-turns, having reluctantly defeated the measure when it was brought before the House it is interesting that the Deputy now argues in favour of it.
Mr. Molloy: May I take it that the Labour Party is still in agreement with the Progressive Democrats that the right to vote in general and presidential elections should be extended to emigrants but, because it is not the major party in the Coalition Government, it has accepted something less? If that is so, would the Minister gracefully admit that the Progressive Democrats found itself in a similar position——
Mr. Dempsey: The answer to the question is “yes”.
Mr. Molloy: ——when in Government with Fianna Fáil which was opposed to extending the right to vote in general elections to emigrants?
Mr. Howlin: The Labour Party supports all the provisions in the programme, A Government of Renewal. This proposal is a substantial advance on the rhetoric of the past. It is the first concrete proposal to give emigrants a voice in the Houses of the Oireachtas and has been welcomed. I am aware that there is pressure being brought to bear to grant them representation in this House——
Mr. Molloy: It was Fine Gael's milk and water proposal.
Mr. Howlin: ——but it is a substantial advance.
Mr. Allen: The Deputy has done more somersaults than the Chinese State Circus.
Mr. Howlin: The Deputy will find that this proposal will be enthusiastically supported by Members on this side of the House. I hope it will be seen as a major progressive step forward supported by Deputies opposite.
Mr. Molloy: The Minister has done a U-turn.
Mr. Callely: On a day when we have had an enlightening speech in this House by the President is the Minister satisfied with the proposal that our emigrants be allowed to elect three members of this Seanad? I gather from what he said that this is a token gesture. Would he care to elaborate on which party would not go along with the Labour Party proposal to extend full voting rights to our emigrants? The Minister referred to the holding of referenda. May I take it that this means that regulations will be put in place before elections to the 28th Seanad are held? Is the Minister considering extending any other rights?
Mr. Howlin: I do not share the Deputy's disparaging view of Seanad Éireann and I do not regard it as a token gesture. I had the privilege to be a Member of Seanad Éireann for four years and I recognise it as an important part of the Houses of the Oireachtas——
Mr. Callely: I did not refer to the Seanad; I was referring to the proposal.
Mr. Howlin: The proposal that our emigrants have three representatives in Seanad Éireann is a substantial advance. During the lifetime of this Dáil the Seanad will be particularly relevant because of the balance between the Government parties and the Opposition. If a constitutional amendment is passed it will not be possible, until after the next general election, for our emigrants to vote but it is a significant and important advance. It mirrors the sentiments expressed by the President this morning in her address to both Houses of the Oireachtas and will be welcomed as a significant measure in regard to the diaspora about whom the President spoke so movingly. In response to the Deputy's other questions, I will not divulge the details of discussions I have had.
Mr. Callely: What about transparency?
Mr. Howlin: I will do my best not to divulge the details of discussions I have had in the past with Fianna Fáil unless someone, before a committee of this House, breaks a confidence.
Mr. Ring: I compliment the Government for recognising our emigrants. All previous Governments did was talk about them.
Mr. Callely: That is a speech, not a question. Where is the question?
Mr. Allen: The Deputy's party was in Government for seven years; we have been there seven weeks.
Mr. Callely: I was not there for seven years.
Mr. Kenneally: Fine Gael watered it down.
Mr. Ring: As this Government intends to be in office for a long time I hope it will be possible to extend the right to vote in Dáil elections to our emigrants.
Mr. Callely: That is a great question.
Mr. Ring: I compliments the Government on recognising our emigrants. All previous Governments did was talk about them.
Miss Quill: The Minister should take a bow.
Mr. Howlin: I am grateful to the Deputy.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: While I welcome this proposal as a progressive step has the Minister considered the practicalities? Is it likely that our emigrants living in Europe or the United Kingdom will take seats in the Seanad Chamber or is it the case that they will be represented by people living here? Would this have the desired effect? Three people will be elected to the Seanad. How does the Minister propose to go about giving our emigrants a vote and distribute the seats among the Irish centres of population?
Mr. Howlin: On the question of who should be elected this will be a matter exclusively for our emigrants when the register of electors is established; they can elect whoever they like. It is a not a  matter for us to determine in advance who should be elected.
Mr. Molloy: Will they be entitled to travelling expenses from Australia?
Mr. Howlin: On the nomination procedures a number of important issues need to be addressed. I will bring proposals to the Houses of the Oireachtas and will be willing to listen to the views expressed on whether there should be a single constituency, a representational constituency or nominating bodies of emigrant groups. Those issues remain to be addressed. The principles have been established and I want to act speedily to give them effect.
Mr. Dempsey: I welcome the proposal in so far as it goes. I do not believe this is a party political issue and I ask the Minister to consider referring this matter to the appropriate committee of the House. We also need to consider the cost implications. Deputy Molloy raised this matter. A Senator travelling from New York would receive approximately £2,500 in travelling expenses. Does the Minister envisage this causing difficulties?
Mr. Molloy: And £5,000 from Australia.
Mr. Howlin: It sounds attractive——
Mr. Molloy: I will emigrate in order to stand for the seat.
Mr. Howlin: The Deputy made a helpful suggestion that a committee of the House discuss the issues that need to be addressed. In discussing the question of Oireachtas reform this matter was considered whereby the views of the Oireachtas would be sought in advance on principles before any decisions would be made. In this instance I am minded to accept the Deputy's suggestion.
Miss Quill: Does the Minister accept that 90 per cent of his constituents and mine have never voted in a Seanad election? Anything I may say about Seanad elections will not relate to the esteem in which I hold the Seanad and its Members.
Again I ask the Minister to acknowledge that there is no interest among the general public in Seanad elections and that the emigrants, the children of the parents I described, are unlikely to be interested in voting in Seanad elections. The whole matter is totally impractical. It is well known that the work of the Seanad is part-time. Any emigrant interested in politics and in pursuing political objectives will not be interested in having a seat in the Seanad. If we, on this side of the House, decide to re-introduce the Labour Party Bill introduced by my late colleague, Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan, in the coming months, will the Labour Party in Government do the honourable thing by supporting that Bill which will give voting rights and a place in this House to our emigrants?
Mr. Howlin: I am not surprised but I am deeply disappointed that this positive, progressive and substantive proposal from the Government is treated with such disdain by the Deputy's party. Membership of the Seanad will represent an important, innovative and significant reaching out to our emigrant population. I believe it will be warmly welcomed by the people when the referendum is put.
Mr. Molloy: The Minister has done a U-turn. He did not believe that when he spoke in this House. That Bill, which was a Fine Gael measure was debated in this House.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister without interruption.
Mr. Howlin: It is difficult to listen to a Deputy putting forward a point of  view now when he voted down that point of view when the opportunity was given to him. That attitude does not merit comment.
Mr. E. Ryan: Let him put it now.
Mr. Howlin: This welcome advance is innovative.
Mr. Molloy: We were honest. The Minister is not being honest.
Mr. Howlin: This is a new Government which is mould breaking in many instances——
Mr. E. Ryan: Be careful of that.
Mr. Howlin: ——because few would have said that those three parties could have come together in the way they did. We will break many moulds and there will be many innovations. Many things not done by our grandfathers and great grandfathers will be done on foot of the decisions of this Government.
Mr. Molloy: Pure hypocrisy.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That concludes Question Time.
Mr. Molloy: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I must be given an opportunity to highlight the Labour Party hypocrisy on this issue.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Please resume your seat, Deputy Molloy.
Mr. Molloy: If the Minister reads the record he will see that the Progressive Democrats put their convictions on the record and were honest. We did not adopt the hypocritical attitude of the Labour Party.
Éamon Ó Cuív: When does the Minister consider somebody an emigrant? In view of what I said about the problem  of definition and the fact that, particularly in the west, people tend to emigrate for two or three years and return, will the Minister consider granting postal votes to people who have been on the register in an Irish constituency but who are living temporarily outside the country? Will he allow them to retain those postal votes for perhaps two or three years? That would result in a much better form of representation than that proposed here.
Mr. Howlin: That is a separate question. Broadening the franchise for Dáil Éireann elections is an issue that can be addressed.
Éamon Ó Cuív: I am talking about people already on the register.
Mr. Howlin: I welcome the views of Deputies opposite on that matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I wish to  advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 20 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Eric Byrne — the need to investigate the use by criminals of the 1993 tax amnesty as a money laundering device in view of recent media reports that an alleged criminal used the tax amnesty to declare £200,000 of unearned income; (2) Deputy Kirk — the very serious implications for motorists and industry and commerce of the present high cost of insurance premiums; (3) Deputy O'Leary — the need for the construction of a replacement primary school at Bonane, Kenmare, County Kerry, in 1995 in view of the condition of the existing building; (4) Deputy Leonard — the proposed reduction of 50 per cent in grant aid for the Task Force on Special Housing Aid for the Elderly contained in the Estimates for the Public Service, 1995; and (5) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív — the need for an upgraded water supply to be provided in Roundstone, County Galway, which is one of the prime villages in the west.
The matters raised by the following Deputies have been selected for discussion: Deputies Eric Byrne, Leonard, O'Leary and Kirk.
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mrs. T. Ahearn: I am concerned about the section dealing with minors. I am glad the Minister stated he is prepared to listen to the views of Deputies and is open to consultation with various interest groups. I am hopeful that the section will be improved on Committee Stage.
The Bill is welcomed by the main farming organisations which have rightly wanted such legislation for many years. Their impatience has been aggravated by the climate in which we live. It is to our shame that we live in a climate  where to sue at all costs is now an acceptable standard of behaviour. As a nation we have become almost obsessed with litigation which generally leads to a handsome reward. As a result, farmers and local authorities have to cope with excessive insurance costs. Such costs are becoming a major burden on the finances of local authorities. In my local authority of South Tipperary, we had to make a decision last year to remove playground equipment from some of our parks because of the number of claims made against the local authority. This is a regrettable trend. Unfortunately, some people avail of every opportunity to get a few pounds in their pockets by such means. In the long term, however, the general community suffers.
In providing housing, it is the intention of local authorities, encouraged by the Department of the Environment, to also provide adequate leisure and playing facilities. Indeed, we have made tremendous progress in providing proper and safe playgrounds for children— and this is why I am so concerned about the section which does not exempt farmers from being liable for injuries to children on their land — they are liable to have an accident. Children do not concentrate, they do not see the pitfalls and, as a result of that, my local authority was forced to remove playground equipment from many parks and playing areas within our housing estates. I have no doubt that we are not exceptional in this regard. In addition to having to cope with major expenses for insurance costs, we no longer have the necessary facilities. Therefore, nobody wins.
The same applies to any of the organisations whether it be Macra na Feirme or a horse riding club; the cost of getting insurance for any public event is now almost prohibitive. In rural areas, many leisure events have had to be cancelled because of the difficulty not only in paying for the insurance costs but in getting an insurance company to take on the responsibility. Unfortunately, that is the  case all over the country. Until there is an end to the awarding of massive sums of money in compensation there will be huge costs for insurance. There is an incentive to sue if, even though one may not be 100 per cent right, there is money to be had. As we speak, occupiers are open to being sued for something for which they have no responsibility and over which they have no control. As a person who resides in a rural community, I find it difficult to explain adequately the concern of farmers because of lack of protection in this area. We have seen emergency legislation passed in this House so this can be done when there is a will, when a matter is given priority. I regret that this legislation has never been given that priority. We welcome the Bill today but it should have come before this House long ago. The people who are suffering because of the lack of this legislation just want justice and fairness and are prepared to take responsibility if they are the cause of an accident. They rightly say that they should not be held responsible for something over which they have no control.
I am happy with the Bill, with the exception of the section dealing with minors. I am happy that action is being taken to protect the interests of occupiers and end the nightmare that could devastate their lives. I congratulate the Minister on bringing this legislation before the House. I look forward to the Committee Stage. I hope when this Bill is passed it will result in protection for occupiers and reasonable care by them. We have to correct some parts of the Bill about which there is concern. I look forward to the Bill passing all Stages in this House.
Mr. Kenneally: I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this Bill. There are concerns about the Bill on the other side of the House, as there are on this side. Farmers, because of the nature of their business, owner occupy the vast bulk of the land of Ireland. They have  always, in their traditional sense of tolerance and hospitality, permitted various organisations to come on to their land for a variety of activities. These range from the age old fishing, shooting and hunting to the more modern pursuits of cross-country athletics, orienteering, bird and nature watching, and walking and picnicking. The have allowed the gathering of firewood, unused vegetable crop and have put few restrictions on people generally.
Over time a mutual trust and respect grew between the farmer and the visitor and that was always sufficient to ensure that no liability and resultant loss would fall on the farmer in the event of an injury being suffered by a member of these organisations or indeed of the public at large. Times have changed. Today there is an emerging development where, like the rest of the population, farmers who have contact as property owners with the public may have to face substantial claims made against them by reason of injuries suffered by those crossing their lands. A liability by farmers to those enjoying the use of their lands must not be established, except in certain clearly defined cases. From discussions I have had with farmers and those who wish to follow these sports and pursuits, it seems certain that the solution to this issue is the introduction of legislation which provides that liability does not attach to the landowner or occupier in the case of personal injury by either a trespasser or a recreational user. That is where people have or have not a farmer's permission. This would obviously exclude the other category, which is where people have been invited on to land or property in furtherance of a commercial activity, for instance, farmhouse holidays, pony trekking etc. where farmers would still be required to discharge their duty of care as required by law.
These are the issues which this Bill should be addressing but signally fails to  do. I am disappointed that in bringing forward this long awaited and much demanded legislation an opportunity has been lost to address these legitimate concerns. Worse, if the Bill is passed in its present form, it will make bad law and the last state may be worse than the first. I hope the situation can be improved on Committee Stage.
Just as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 places a duty of care on employees to take all reasonable steps to ensure their own safety and welfare, I think it wholly reasonable that people who enter lands whether as a trespasser or as a legitimate sports enthusiast should be responsible for their own safety, unless, of course, they have been injured by some intentional act of the occupier. It would be quite easy for proper consideration and arrangements to be made for special cases, such as access to historic monuments, churches, graveyards, rights of way etc. which could not deviate from the main thrust of the objective I have just outlined. It is essential that we do that, as presently some very interesting places, buildings and features have been withdrawn from the use and enjoyment of the public. I could quote examples of that in my own constituency.
Farmers are, rightly, losing their patience on this issue; equally, are followers of country sports and the wider public when they are affected. Taken together, these people amount to a significant majority and their rightful wishes are being ignored. Equitable and properly framed legislation would have the support of all farmers' organisations and of all the country sports organisations, but these proposals do not find favour.
I realise that there is a certain body of opinion that present law is adequate to deal with the problem. Some people even suggest that this legislation is being introduced because of the various interest groups that have lobbied us as legislators to do something about the  issue. To counter that argument I quote paragraph 4.9 of the consultation paper presented by the Law Reform Commission:
Perceptions of their legal position by would be defendants have a social importance which does not depend on their accuracy. If self occupiers believe that the present law imposes too high a burden on them relative to trespassers, they will be disposed to act in ways that have significant social consequences, some of which are likely to be detrimental. Occupiers may actively seek to prevent a range of persons from coming on to their property, where formerly what may have been technical trespassers were tolerated. One thinks here of the minor, generally harmless, incursions of walkers and picnickers in rural areas. If farmers are to turn their fields into fortresses and to treat as enemies all entrants who have not been invited on to their property, the community, and especially those coming from urban areas, will greatly suffer. To argue that this suffering is ultimately needless because it is based on an inflated apprehension of legal liability is beside the point.
Whether we like it or not there is a perception among rural occupiers and their insurers as to their potential liability, and this has led them to take steps in reducing access to their properties. Farmers cannot turn their fields into fortresses, and they should not have to. Neither should they be asked to shoulder the consequent burden of liability.
Up to now I have been speaking about the occupiers of land and the problems they face in relation to this Bill. We must look at it from the other side as well and think about the person who is using the land, whether it be as a trespasser or for recreation. There are so many areas of recreational activity such as camping, fishing, hiking, hill  walking as well as the country sports. Generally speaking these are engaged in by people who are not necessarily looking for the protection which it is being suggested they need. The welfare of these people should be their own personal responsibility, and the only exception should be where there is a deliberate intent on the part of the occupier to injure the person using his land. Take the case of the farmer who allows a scout troop to camp on his land. There is no way he can foresee or cater for the huge number of possible accidents which could occur in such instances, perhaps involving trees, streams, cliff faces, rabbit holes, culverts, etc. The list is endless. The troop know the hazards and will and must take care of their own liability and indemnify the landowner against loss, but where a landowner deliberately exposes those people to risk or is grossly and obviously negligent we cannot be expected to absolve him of that.
I note there were submissions from many organisations such as the Mountaineering Council of Ireland, National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland, Irish Ramblers Club and many more who use the countryside. By and large they would be quite happy to be responsible for their own safety.
There are great concerns about the liability of occupiers of land arising from this Bill, particularly in its application to minors. In this regard I would be severely critical of the Minister for reversing the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission which said there should be no special duty of care on farmers towards minors who come uninvited onto their lands.
Primarily responsibility for the safety and behaviour of minors should rest with their parents or guardians or others acting in loco parentis. Too often we allow parents or guardians to shirk their responsibilities for the health, safety, welfare and behaviour of their children outside the home and I would not like  to see that irresponsibility further extended by this Bill. If, as in other circumstances, parents or guardians fail to discharge their responsibilities properly, they should be made amenable to the law as with their other responsibilities. If, for instance a child wanders on to a property and injures himself on a sharp tool or a defect on the property which would be dangerous only to a minor, then, it appears under this Bill, the occupier will be liable. That is just not acceptable. If, for instance children go into a farmer's haybarn, play with matches and burn down the barn killing or seriously injuring themselves in the process will the law load that farmer with the guilt of the children's fate on top of the loss of his property and the consequential inconvenience?
There does not necessarily have to be an apportionment of blame, for if the suggestion now is that the parent or other minder was not responsible for that child's safety then the occupier, who had no previous knowledge of the existence or approach of the child, should not be liable either. Just because an accident happens on a property, should not mean automatic liability for the occupier as seems to be suggested by the Bill. We cannot make the whole population babysitters and childminders for negligent parents and ask them to pay for the privilege too.
The most obvious and common example is the traditional practice in autumn of children collecting horsechestnuts or conkers. There is a genuine fear, given the claim-conscious climate, that if a child falls from a tree while picking chestnuts, he would be successful in a claim against the farmer. What is the farmer to do? Fence off the tree? Cut it down? Go to the expense of printing and putting up warning notices? It is ridiculous that a farmer should be held liable under such circumstances and this Bill should be very clear in relieving him of that burden.
 The only responsibility a farmer or other occupier should have in regard to trespass is where an unreasonable hazard is deliberately placed to deter such trespass. This would be well beyond the bounds of barbed wire, broken glass on walls or guard dogs for which adequate warning signs have been erected.
Take the case of the farmer who is spraying weeds in a field three hundred yards from the public road. At lunchtime, for the half-hour he will be back at home, is he expected to invest another half an hour wrapping up and putting away dangerous chemicals and signposting the sprayed area just because some unaccompanied child may wander on to his property, interfere with things which do not belong to him and may be injured in the process? That would be a difficult scenario of which to convince farming people. We must place responsibility where it should properly be, and not burden occupiers unnecessarily.
The courts have previously ruled on cases of liability which in any objective view were not fair to the occupier. We are told that such is not the case in farming yet, but it has happened in urban areas. We must never allow a situation where a burglar can successfully claim for injury against the property owner or occupier, just because he received an electric shock, cut his hand on broken glass or fell foul of a properly handled guard dog. That would not be the fault of the courts, they apply the law as they find it. The responsibility is ours, the remedy is in our hands and it would be a tragedy, given the opportunity we have, not to place liability for injury which takes place on another's property, where it really belongs, on the trespasser.
Another instance which comes to mind and on which representations have been made to me on several occasions is the situation in regard to community halls and the liability of their committees and trustees in regard to personal  injury. We can all remember the famous court case in the midlands 20 years ago, where grave hardship and worry was imposed on the committee of an uninsured community hall as a result of a claim. That worry is still in the minds of all voluntary administrators of parish and community halls since, and it is fair to say that some of the best and most dedicated people will not be involved in their administration while there is a greater than necessary risk involved.
We must address their fears and reservations head-on and while we do not want to take away anyone's rights, we must protect those who voluntarily give their time and energy on behalf of the community from the spurious and excessive claims of people who feel that an injuries claim is a chance of free money.
When discussing this Bill, we are mostly thinking about it in a rural context, but I can think of one urban situation which can cause grave problems for house owners due to trespass in their gardens. The situation I am referring to is one which is quite prevalent in one particular area of my constituency in Waterford city and it is also a fact of life in many suburban estates, largely in the bigger urban centres throughout the country. Indeed I have even raised the subject on a previous occasion on an Adjournment debate. I am referring to cases where householders are plagued by roaming horses usually, but not always, owned by members of the travelling community. The problems normally arise in areas close to their encampments. I have seen small children gallop up and down the roads on these animals putting themselves and other road users at risk. Quite often they wander in and out of the gardens. If these gardens are not privately owned, they are owned by the local authority, which could become liable for extremely large sums in compensation under this legislation.
We have developed a compensation  culture and the “easiest mark” traditionally is the public authority. Schoolyards, public parks, town footpaths, manhole covers and telephone poles are seen as a means of making easy money and it has been proved that some people were making a career of it. There is hardly a public playground left in the country and the end losers are the children who are used cynically to make money. While in some recent cases judges told claimants that they had responsibilities to discharge and refused their plea, we remain a claim conscious society. We now have an ideal opportunity to send a clear and unequivocal message to the public at large and to con-artists in particular that this is the beginning of the end of free money from either the public purse or over burdened property-owners or occupiers. Therefore, I am extremely worried about what they might be left open to in the future, through the passage of this legislation.
We do not have adequate legislation to deal with the ongoing problem of wandering horses, no matter what anyone would like to say to the contrary. I realise that the primary responsibility to impound wandering animals rests with the local authorities which are supposed to maintain pounds for that purpose. Naturally enough, the Garda is also authorised to impound and to asist the local authority responsible. However, most local authorities do not have the necessary pounds, do not have the resources to operate them and in practice it would not work anyway. The reason is quite clear — there would not be adequate affordable security at a pound operated by a local authority. As I said on several occasions before, the only way to adequately deal with the problem of straying or otherwise improperly controlled animals is through the operation of regional pounds by a national authority. Legislation is badly needed in this area and it is something I hope to see come before  this House at an early date. Equally urgent is the necessity to deal with unauthorised camping for long periods by large numbers of travelling traders to the grave annoyance and discomfort of nearby residents who sometimes are made to feel like prisoners in their own homes. That is another day's work.
We do not have adequate legislation and must make do with what is on the Statute Book. The problem of unsupervised children is exacerbated under the Bill. I referred to the problem a local authority may face. Every local authority tenant is not a model one. In many cases, they are likely to leave the surrounds of their houses in poor condition, often with overgrown gardens. One does not know what well hidden dangers lurk inside. Are we to assume that the occupier is responsible if a young child wanders into the garden with an animal and the child, animal or both are injured? Such cases will end up at the door of the local authority. Is that what we want to achieve? It is neither fair nor reasonable. From my reading of the Bill they are open to such claims. This issue must be addressed.
Many people have acquired their own homes through various tenant purchase schemes or through their own hard won resources. Children on horseback can wander into their gardens. There might have been a romantic attitude adopted to this practice in the recent film “Into the West” but it can lead to danger and an unnecessary liability on public funds or on the limited resources of householders. Alternatively the liability is that of the occupier which is not fair or equitable. The Bill has many flaws and must be amended. I will deal with the amendments to it in more depth on Committee Stage.
Dr. Upton: I welcome the Bill and the Minister's attitude towards it. He said he had an open mind on many aspects  of it and would listen carefully to concerns expressed. From a political point of view the Bill is non-contentious.
Farming organisations were concerned that farmers might be exposed to liability arising from legal actions taken against them by trespassers or others who enter their lands. The matter was considered by the Law Reform Commission which published a report on it two years ago. The experts in the commission did not all agree and the Minister did not accept everything contained in the report.
Some contributors spoke about the urgency of the Bill but I disagree. It is better that we would spend time getting the technical aspect of the law correct rather than rush the Bill through the Dáil. Although farmers and property owners are exposed to some risk, I am not aware of farmers suffering excessive hardship as a result of law suits taken against them by trespassers. It would be interesting to know how many such cases have been taken over the years. However, there is real concern among farmers and property owners. The risk should be removed and farmers should be free to allow the public access to their lands in order to enjoy fishing, camping, hill walking, visiting places of historical and environmental interest and so on. It would be a pity if farmers prevented people from entering their lands because of the risks.
I understand why farmers adopt that cautious approach. It is unfair to expect them to take risks without any benefit accruing to them. The small farmer, or those who do not take appropriate precautions to ensure they are protected, are more likely to be at risk in that they would not have access to good legal advice, insurance cover and so on. Some farming organisations advocate that farmers refuse the public access to their lands. It is desirable that as many people as possible enjoy the countryside. That is an important part of our tradition and of the tourism industry.
 Concerns have been expressed about the definitions contained in the Bill. Some farming organisations say that “visitor” can include anyone. I am not a lawyer and do not know if that is correct. The possibility that a trespasser could be regarded as a visitor if he took reasonable steps to leave the property on which he was trespassing also gives rise to concern. Perhaps the Minister might have another look at the definitions section.
I understand that “minors” have not been defined in the Bill and there is concern about that. If people enter land or property I do not understand why the risk attached to so doing does not rest with the person concerned. Responsibility for children should rest with their parents or guardians and not with the landowner.
I might refer briefly to the overall matter of the compensation culture which has become a very important aspect of life in society. There is no doubt that some people who sue for compensation are entitled to it but there are many recorded cases of people simply engaging in this practice, devoting themselves to becoming involved in accidents, then claiming compensation. Every effort should be made to achieve its abolition as it is a matter of grave concern to local authorities and the wider public service. For example, I understand there are approximately 3,500 compensatory cases pending against the State — involving an enormous amount of litigation — with a potential value of £1 billion. I am not in a position to ascertain how many of those claims are valid or legitimate — ultimately, our courts and legal processes will determine that — but we have become very litigation conscious.
The matters being considered under the provisions of this Bill are of considerable concern to many of our people, a clear indication of the extent to which society has changed. The old law had obtained for, perhaps 100 years  or longer, yet nobody had been particularly bothered about it until the past ten to 15 years. The risks were always there but the way people behaved then meant that they did not avail of every opportunity to sue others. It is questionable whether it is desirable that lawyers should specialise in making a livelihood from this type of work. Certainly, the emphasis on such specialisation, on almost touting for business is a recent phenomenon and I understand it is the subject of considerable debate within the legal profession. There was a time when lawyers were prevented, by the ethics of their profession, from advertising for business, which is no longer the case. I am not sure that all the changes are desirable. For example, I am not sure it is desirable that people should become involved in law cases on the basis of “no foal, no fee” which encourages litigation, for which, at the end of the day, the general public pick up the tab.
Perhaps I am beginning to travel the road recently travelled by Dr. Martin Mansergh who spoke about lawyers having excessive influence in this country, a role about which Deputy McCreevy also had some adverse remarks to make recently. Nonetheless, there is an element of truth in what they said.
Mr. N. Treacy: I am glad to have the opportunity of contributing to this debate and wish the Minister well in his renewed appointment. I hope longevity will be the order of the day for him. However, we will wait and see how things progress.
The provisions of this Bill constitute an improvement on the previous position but contain considerable vagueness, leading to much concern on the part of the farming community and property holders generally. I hope to highlight some problems warranting clarification before the provisions of the Bill are enacted.
 We all recognise that farmers, particularly those who own land, and other property owners, have always been accommodating and generous to visitors, friends, spectators and participants at sports and other people who used their properties over many years. It must be recognised that there is a tradition in the country of people being generous by nature and making their properties available for the enjoyment of others, on the understanding that it is purely for their enjoyment and not at the expense of the people good enough to provide a facility, albeit on a voluntary basis, on many occasions, without becoming victims of their generosity.
While there are those who believe that tradition is something to be terminated or changed in all aspects of life — for example, revisionists believe that history should be rewritten and that practices that have withstood the test of time should be changed to give a different view of the past — it is important, in passing any laws, to respect the traditions and generosity that have obtained for so long. It is incumbent on us to ensure that laws are equitable, fair and transparent, and do not impose impediments or extra responsibility on those with absolute rights under our Constitution, as property owners, or individuals who have personal rights under that same Constitution. It is important that legislators do not interfere or transgress the constitutional rights of each individual. Obviously, people who enter lands or properties also have personal rights, of which they themselves must be aware, knowing they must take care of themselves and responsibility should not be transferred to somebody else who might be an innocent victim in any given circumstance.
The tradition of hunting nationwide has created employment and has the full support of the farming community generally. Indeed, there are people within and without this House, even beyond  this country, who believe they should come here and effect a change in that tradition. However, we must take account of the fact that tradition is very important, remembering that people, by tradition, in many cases cross other people's properties, particularly farms on the basis they know they are welcome. In considering the provisions of this Bill we must ascertain whether we will infringe the rights of people whose properties are traversed by others engaging in hunting. As I perceive it, there is ambiguity or uncertainty in this respect.
We should also examine the position with regard to fishing activities. We have beautiful small and large rivers which have been fished traditionally. Many people from small towns fish in small rivers, perhaps in the evening, in summer or at other appropriate or convenient times for them. They enter lands or property traditionally, particularly in the case of families with a long history of fishing whose children accompany them and who, when they become adults, maintain that tradition. People owning property along the banks of such rivers rarely have encountered any problem with such people who use a natural amenity for their private enjoyment. We must ensure that that tradition and individual right is not transferred, by way of impediment, resulting from the provisions of this Bill, to farmers and property owners who own the lands through which such rivers flow. The same applies to people owning property adjoining lakes. Many townspeople spend much of their weekend fishing large rivers and lakes with a very fine fishing tradition. If there are animals on lands adjoining these natural amenities, although constituting moveable assets, in contrast to fixed assets — which is the land people traverse — we must ensure that the provisions of this Bill do not transfer any legal responsibility from the person pursuing an ordinary, relaxed, leisure activity, to those  whose property may adjoin such locations.
Some people believe that the traditional sport of shooting, like that of hunting, should not be pursued here. People inside and outside this House, and outside this country, do not believe people should pursue traditional sports. I fired a shot on one occasion, but it did not give me any pleasure and I have not fired another. Similarly, I hunted on one occasion, but it did not give me any joy and I have not hunted since. However, I respect the right of people to pursue those traditional sports and leisure activities. Nobody should deny their right to do so. No Act of parliament should impede the rights of those who are good enough to voluntarily allow traditional leisure pursuits — whether hunting, fishing, shooting, walking, running or cycling — on their property.
Responsibility or liability for injury suffered on their property should not lie with the owner. Having considered the Bill I am not sure if that is the position. The Minister is a legal expert. However, no matter how well qualified a Minister may be or what we say in the House, Ministers and legislators give commitments on the basis of the way they interpret the provisions. No matter what we say here, at the end of the day it will be a matter for lawyers and, ultimately, the courts to decide, define and interpret this Bill when passed. That is why I am concerned about the lack of absolute clarity in respect of its provisions. Clarification is vital.
I mentioned tradition and I now wish to refer to the dangers and perils to which people who pursue any type of activity are exposed. One could say living is a risk. It depends on how one lives one's life as to whether the risk to which one is exposed becomes more pronounced. People pursuing particular activities may increase the risk to which they may be exposed. The activities pursued by people on their properties in terms of farming methods may also  increase the risk to which they and others who cross their property may be exposed, but such risk exposure is not the fault of a farmer or property owner. Consequently, we should not allow a situation develop in which we would compound the responsibility or liability of property owners in respect of injuries suffered on their property. We must be ever mindful of that.
Rights-of-way through properties have been established traditionally and others have been established legally. Notional or traditional rights-of-way exist which have not been established by law. Ordnance Survey maps, old Land Commission maps and other old maps show various walking routes, paths and Mass paths, but there is not a legally defined document which states they exist. However, they can be seen on a map. In the past when people walked or used a pony and cart to get to their destinations they used those rights-of-way. Some of those paths have been improved and are used as walk ways or as a means of access to amenities, such as monuments, holy wells, scenic woods and areas of scientific value. Even though people may not have a legal right to use such rights-of-way, they have traditionally used such routes in their daily lives and to enjoy leisure activities. Regarding right-of-way established traditionally, albeit not legally, that crosses over a farmer's property and is used by many people for various reasons, perhaps to gain access to an area at a particular time of the year, we must ensure that we do not legalise a responsibility or a liability on such a property owner in respect of injury suffered on that property. Absolute immunity from liability must be given to the landowner. The primary of a Parliament is vital at all times. We, as legislators, must ensure we represent and protect the rights of the people and do not make cumbersome and vague laws that create opportunities for lawyers, in particular, and litigant conscious people  to make farmers or property owners victims of laws passed in this Parliament.
Mr. E. Byrne: One of the most disturbing aspects in the aftermath of the Brinks Allied robbery is that a respected Dublin journalist may have been shot because she revealed that a well known Dublin crime boss used a tax amnesty to declare £200,000 of unearned income and that he had declared earnings of more than £30,000 from rent on properties over the past three years.
The tax amnesty must be investigated to see if it was used to launder money either stolen or obtained by other illegal means such as, profits from the drugs trade, blackmail or kidnapping. The fact that a tax amnesty could have been conceived or supported by any politician, and provided those criminals with a guarantee of confidentiality, must rank as the biggest political scandal and miscalculation in the 1990s. When the tax amnesty was introduced in 1993 we, in Democratic Left, branded it as a cheat's charter. The tax amnesty has proven to be a charter for crooks, not just small time rogues, but the gangland rulers for whom organised crime is proving increasingly profitable.
In 1993 the country's grateful criminals were presented with a financial bolt hole, a bargain basement licence to launder the proceeds of their illegal activities and no questions were asked. Members who check our contributions in the Official Report will see that Veronica Guerin's revelations came as no surprise to those of us who warned that the amnesty would be used to stash away the proceeds of everything from robberies to drug dealing. How many more criminals availed of the amnesty?
 Irish taxpayers, particularly those in the PAYE sector, have been crucified down the years with a heavy tax burden and they share my outrage that gangsters could be rewarded and made respectable by legislation passed through this House. While I welcome the Minister's commitment given here of her intention to bring this country into compliance with the European Union Directive on Money Laundering, which when brought into force will impose disclosure obligations on financial institutions and other bodies, it will not go far enough. Our Government will need to go one step further by taking the necessary steps to reverse the effects caused by the confidentiality clause in the 1993 tax amnesty in order to take action to expose and root out those criminals who availed of the tax amnesty to launder their ill-gotten gains.
I appeal to the Minister to take the necessary bold steps and I would like to believe I have the support of both Deputy Davern and my Government colleague, Deputy Kemmy, for the Government to take up my position. I look forward to the Minister's assurance that she intends to ruthlessly pursue those gangsters who used the tax amnesty to launder ill-gotten gains.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Hogan): I thank Deputy Byrne for raising this important matter.
It will be clear to the House that I have no information relevant to the press reports mentioned by the Deputy and it would be wrong of me to engage in speculation in this area.
I want to make it clear at the outset that the amnesty scheme provides no protection against tax liability on foot of income from an illegal source. The legislation on the 15 per cent incentive amnesty clearly anticipated this issue and specifically excluded from that amnesty tax in respect of income arising from illegal sources or activities. Where  a person sought to use the incentive amnesty in respect of income from such activities they would not be entitled, under the legislation, to any of the benefits of the amnesty. The person would remain liable to pay the full tax together with interest and penalties.
The legislation provided for two separate schemes: an incentive amnesty under which certain liabilities to income tax and capital gains tax together with interest and penalties could be discharged by payment of 15 per cent of the underlying income or gains, and a general amnesty under which other tax arrears had to be paid in full with remission only for interest and penalties. To obtain the benefits of the amnesty, all pre-April 1991 tax arrears of the person concerned had to be cleared by 14 January 1994.
Among the exclusions from the 15 per cent incentive amnesty was tax on income or gains which arose from illegal sources or activities. Accordingly, income from such sources did not qualify for inclusion in a declaration under that amnesty. Tax on income from such activities was required under the scheme to be paid in full by 14 January 1994.
One of the conditions of the incentive amnesty was that a person had to make and sign a declaration form which included an undertaking that no part of the declared income or gains arose from unlawful sources or activities. If a person included income or gains from illegal sources or activities in an amnesty declaration, the declaration would be false. A person who made a false declaration is not entitled to any of the benefits of the amnesty and, accordingly, remains liable to the full tax, interest and penalties. In addition, the making of a false declaration is an abuse of the amnesty scheme. In accordance with the amnesty legislation the person concerned would be liable to severe penalties, including imprisonment,  which were introduced specifically to curb abuse.
The administration of the amnesty scheme was a matter for the chief special collector and the Revenue Commissioners. The legislation provided for the making of a declaration under the 15 per cent incentive amnesty to the chief special collector on a confidential basis. As I have said, however, a person who made a false declaration is not entitled to any protection under the amnesty. Furthermore, the person would not be protected against investigation where there were reasonable grounds to show that a false declaration had been made. Where there is hard evidence that a person had undisclosed income from illegal sources there are provisions under the legislation for challenging any declaration he may have made under the incentive amnesty.
Speaking generally, it is debatable whether criminal elements would have been worried at all about obligations under the amnesty law or would have sought to declare amounts under the incentive amnesty. However, what I am saying is that the problem of income and gains from illegal sources was anticipated and that the use of the 15 per cent incentive amnesty in relation to such income or gains was legislated against, so as to ensure that benefit would not be obtained by anybody who might seek to use the amnesty as a money laundering device. I will take on board the points made by the Deputy and have the matter investigated further.
Mr. Leonard: I thank you, Sir, for allowing me raise this important matter on the Adjournment. If Members examine the Estimates for the Public Service for 1995 they will note that under the heading “Environment” the grant aid for the task force on special housing aid for the elderly has been reduced by 50  per cent, from £4 million to £2 million. It is ironic that on the day I tabled a parliamentary question requesting an increase in this scheme I should be asking the Minister not to reduce it by 50 per cent. This smacks of the politics of my constituency in the 1930s when Ernest Blythe, as Minister for Finance, reduced the old age pension by one shilling. He took away one of the six shillings per week given to old age pensioners at that time, but we are taking away £2 million of the £4 million which was provided for this scheme.
The scheme was set up in 1982 by the then Minister of State, Deputy Ger Connolly, and developed into one of the best examples of value for money in any Department. It extends the lifespan of old houses and allows old people spend their last days in a familiar environment. It is an alternative to local authorities providing old people's dwellings at a cost of £25,000 or £35,000 per dwelling.
Under the scheme assistance is provided to carry out necessary repairs such as fitting doors and windows, draught proofing and insulation works. Assistance is also provided for the installation of a water supply, including the extension of an external supply into the house and the provision of toilet facilities, including the transfer of external WCs into the dwelling house. It also covers the installation of baths and showers, electricity and hot water systems. The scheme is administered by the health boards. Labour is supplied by FÁS and the cost of materials is borne by the health boards and where applicants can afford to do so, they pay some of the cost.
As a member of a health board for 21 years, I have promoted this scheme which provides great value for money and additional comfort and facilities for the elderly. I sought to have the scheme extended to include water and sewerage facilities. In my health board area we received £204,000 in 1992, £212,000 in 1993 and £335,000 last year towards the  cost of the scheme. We extended the scheme so that it now covers works from minor repairs to the provision of running water facilities and septic tanks, what should be basic facilities in every household.
To qualify for the scheme the house must be owned by the applicant and priority is given to applicants who are aged, handicapped or living alone. The scheme is particularly beneficial to the handicapped. Priority is then given to aged couples, including brothers and sisters who do not have anybody living with them and then to widows with children and to unmarried mothers. While it is not a condition of eligibility, applicants who can afford it are asked to contribute towards the cost of the works. The scheme is operated as flexibly as possible. Applicants who arrange to have the work carried out will receive health board funding. Where applicants are in a position to supply the materials, the health board can arrange for the work to be carried out. I have promoted the scheme for many years and have requested those operating group water schemes to make supplies available to the elderly because of the high costs involved.
Between 1973 and 1977 under the Estimates for the Public Service in the Department of the Environment it was decided to withdraw funding for local improvement schemes to provide funding towards road improvements. I fought that decision strenuously and funding for the scheme was not altered. The late Minister, Jim Tully, reconsidered the matter and informed me it was a technical error. I hope this is also a technical error because the matter needs to be reconsidered. Those who made the decision are not aware of its implications or the damage it will cause to this very worthwhile scheme. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider this matter and to at least allocate the £4 million provided in 1994. If she does that she will do a great day's work.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Allen): I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the funding provided for the scheme of special housing aid for the elderly in the 1995 Estimates. I thank Deputy Leonard for having raised this matter. I know his track record and his commitment to this area.
The scheme, administered by a task force, under the aegis of my Department, is funded by the Exchequer. It was instituted on foot of a budget provision of £1 million to a task force which was set up in 1982 to undertake an emergency programme to improve the housing conditions of elderly persons living on their own in unfit or in unsanitary accommodation. The task force includes representatives from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, FÁS, ALONE, local authorities and the Departments of the Environment, Health and Social Welfare. The scheme is operated on the ground by the health boards under the direction of the community care programme managers and the work is carried out by contract or by FÁS trainees working under the supervision of health board foremen. Labour costs are met in full by FÁS in the latter case.
Funding at an annual level of £1 million was continued up to 1985 after which it was increased to £1.5 million. A sum of £2 million has been provided each year since 1989 except that in 1994 a special additional sum of £2 million was granted to the task force on a once off basis out of the proceeds of the tax amnesty.
Generally the annual allocations to the various regions are calculated by the task force having regard to the level of activity on the ground and the demand for the scheme, as shown by the health boards. Aid is provided for any works considered to be urgently necessary to improve living conditions. Typically, aid would be available for necessary  repairs, the provision of water and sanitary facilities, the provision of food storage facilities, etc. It is estimated that over 23,000 cases have been dealt with between 1982 and the end of 1994.
Due to the high level of demand for assistance at the end of 1993, the number on hands and awaiting action by the health boards had increased to 3,600. It was for the purpose of clearing as much as possible of this backlog the extra £2 million was provided in 1994. Deputy Leonard's party said specifically that the extra £2 million was a once off payment and that the allocation would revert to the original level after 1994. This brought the overall provision for the scheme in 1994 to £4 million. In last year's budget, the then Minister for Finance made it very clear that, given the once off nature of the proceeds of the tax amnesty, it would be inappropriate to use such receipts to underpin continuing public expenditure and it would be quite wrong to assume that programmes which benefited from a once off injection of tax amnesty funds can continue at the higher level. Therefore, it is not a fair presentation of the facts to say that the allocation is being reduced by £2 million this year; it is more correct to say that the provision for the scheme has reverted to its normal level of £2 million.
The extra provision from the tax amnesty had a positive effect on reducing the arrears. This is shown by the fact that at the end of June 1994, the latest date for which figures are available, work on some 1,000 of the arrears cases on hands at the end of 1993 was either completed or underway and it is estimated that a substantial number of the remaining cases have been dealt with in the second half of the year. The special allocation made available in 1994 has helped to put the scheme back on a more even footing coming in to 1995 and will allow health boards better scope for dealing with applications now being received.
 It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to publicly express appreciation of the role played by the various agencies involved in the most valuable work being done under this scheme and to compliment the members of the task force, the health boards, FÁS and the other voluntary bodies associated with the successful operation of the scheme over the past number of years.
Mr. O'Leary: I thank you and the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the question of the proposed primary school for Bonane, Kenmare, County Kerry. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Bernard Allen, on his appointment as Minister of State at the Departments of Education and the Environment. I wish him success.
No greater case could be made for a new primary school in County Kerry than that at Tulloha, Bonane, County Kerry. This is a two classroom school with two teachers and 37 pupils. The school building is in a state of disrepair. The roof is leaking and caving in. The school's facilities fall far short of the standard expected in this decade. The playground facilities are practically nil. This building could be described as a dangerous structure for pupils and teachers alike. It is particularly dangerous during storms because of the defective roof.
I am convinced from investigations I have carried out in the area that it is not a practical proposal to close the school because it would be necessary to transport some pupils 12 or 13 miles away to the nearest primary school. This would be to the parish of Glengariff of which Bonane is a sub parish, despite its Kenmare postal address.
Top priority must be given to replacing this school in 1995. There will be no problem with the local contribution.
 Also a site is available at a reasonable cost. Will the Minister of State give this matter priority in 1995 and do everything in his power to have a new school built in Tulloha, Bonane, County Kerry?
Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): I thank Deputy O'Leary for his generous comments which I appreciate.
I am glad the Deputy has given me the opportunity to clarify the position in relation to Tulloha national school, Bonane, Kenmare, County Kerry. This is a two teacher school with 37 pupils presently on roll.
I assure the Deputy at the outset that my Department's officials are keenly aware that this school is seriously substandard and that as far back as 1985, it had been proposed to replace the existing school with a new school. However, the chairman of the board of management refused to offer a site as at the time he felt a new school was not required due to falling enrolments.
At the suggestion of my Department's schools' inspector the chairman again applied to the Department in June 1990 for grant-aid to carry out repairs to the roof and windows of this school building. The matter was referred to the Department's professional advisers for a report on the feasibility and cost of the proposed renovations. It was the opinion of my Department's professional advisers that it would be uneconomical to carry out any major repairs to the school due to its design and layout and that only minimum repairs should be carried out. On the basis of this report, it was felt by my Department that the best option would be a new school on a new site and the chairman was informed accordingly.
Nothing further was heard on this matter by my Department until January 1994 when the chairman again requested grant-aid for repairs to the school building. The case was again  referred to my Department's professional advisers for an up-to-date report on the condition of the school building and to elicit funds for the minimum repairs which needed to be carried out. By this time the situation had become very urgent as the school's insurers had stated that liability cover on the premises would not be maintained on the school building from the beginning of the 1994-95 school year unless the defects in the school's playground, heating system and roof were attended to. My Department's professional advisers in their report last July again strongly recommended that the school be replaced and that only minimum repairs be carried out. I understand that the chairman has had some repair work carried out to the school and that his insurance company has given liability cover for this school year.
Having considered the report from my Department's technical advisers, the school's inspector was asked for a detailed report on the future enrolment trends at the school. This indicates that the school will remain a two teacher school for the next few years. On the basis of this report I have asked my Department's architect to prepare a comprehensive report on the existing school building and site and to consider the options of building a new school on the existing or new site.
Until this report has been received and considered in my Department a final decision on this matter cannot be made, but I assure the Deputy that I fully appreciate the school authorities' desire to have this matter resolved. My Department's officials assure me that every effort will be made to facilitate the school in this regard. Indeed every effort has been made since 1985 by my Department to provide a new school at Bonane, County Kerry. The best available advise has always stated that expending money on the existing school  would not be an economic proposition and that a new school on the existing site or on a new site was the preferred and more economic option.
Mr. Kirk: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte — who is here to reply — on his appointment and I wish him well.
The dramatic increase in insurance premiums in the area of public liability, employers' liability and motor insurance in recent years seriously impacts on various areas of the economy. This is underlined in the recently published survey of the Small Firms Association on comparative cost competitiveness, North and South. This issue is an inflationary factor in the cost structure for small and medium sized businesses this side of the Border. I am aware the Minister of State's Department has had under consideration for some time publication of the insurance cost control Bill. The former Minister for Enterprise and Employment, now Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, indicated some months ago that publication of the Bill was imminent and we all await it with considerable interest.
This debate is on the day we have been discussing occupiers' liability and there is a close relationship between the two items. As many speakers said, unfortunately we have moved into an era in which the “compo” mentality dominates. Voluntary organisations, local authorities and motorists find themselves increasingly the victims of fraudulent insurance claims. As a society we show very little consideration for the victims of fraudulent claims. The result of such claims has been a dramatic increase in premiums. For example, a hotel in my constituency whose public liability premium last year  was in the region of £25,000 had its premium increased to £40,000 as a result of an insurance claim under public liability. The owner of the hotel in question is seriously considering getting out of business and if that happens, it would be a very serious matter.
We are all familiar with the tales of miraculous recoveries of those who have submitted successful insurance claims against insurers. In the context of the new Bill the possibility of the insurance industry ombudsperson having a role to play should be considered — for example where, subsequent to an award being made, the insured individual or company finds the claim has been fraudulent. I am not sure if current legislation permits that but it should be considered in the new Bill.
I hope the Minister of State will bring good news in this area, particularly to the effect that clear, definite and positive proposals are being considered in his Department to tackle this most serious problem which affects every sector of society.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): I thank Deputy Kirk for his kind remarks on my appointment and for giving me the opportunity to address this important issue.
As the House is aware, insurance costs in Ireland are high both in absolute terms and relative to costs in other EU member states. I am concerned about the implications of these higher costs for business, the community at large and the private motorist in particular. In this regard, my Department has been examining the factors contributing to the high level of insurance costs in Ireland relative to other competing economies. In this regard, particular attention has focused on a number of key elements of cost, namely the levels of personal injury compensation;  the costs associated with settling compensation claims; and the frequency of accidents and claims.
I am hopeful that, following this evaluation, proposals will emerge that will bring about a moderating impact on the cost of insurance generally. It must be borne in mind, of course, that the insurance industry has a responsibility to ensure that those costs within its sphere of influence are controlled to avoid unnecessary cost for consumers and business in general.
As a society, we need to examine our own system of values with particular reference to our expectation of adequate levels of compensation when, as individuals, we are the victims of accidents; while, on the other hand, as consumers, we are reluctant to pay commensurate levels of premium or the price required to deliver on our expectations.
I have already indicated to the House the specific insurance cost contributory factors which are currently under examination with a view to alleviating the cost burden on business and the public at large. Such costs act as a constraint on the ability of Irish-based insurance companies to compete efficiently in the marketplace and can thus affect employment levels. It is essential, therefore, that measures should be devised, in consultation with the key interests involved, to reduce the insurance cost burden on the economy.
At the same time, I must emphasise the need to ensure that authorised insurance companies be in a position to meet their statutory reserves and solvency requirements. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that adequate financial reserves are in place to meet claims as they arise while, at the same time, maintaining the solvency of insurance companies. In order to meet these requirements and operate on a viable basis insurance companies must be allowed the freedom to set their insurance rates, including rates for  motorists and business, in the light of their underwriting experience.
There is no doubt that high insurance costs have substantial financial implications for everyone who has to fund such costs. Motorists generally and young drivers in particular consider, understandably, that the cost of motor insurance is excessively high. However, high insurance costs are a function of the frequency of accidents and the levels of compensation awarded to accident victims, including motorists and pedestrians. Clearly, there has to be some trade-off between the levels of compensation sought and the levels of premium motorists are willing to pay. High motor insurance costs limit, among other things, labour mobility where private transport is essential for travelling to work. They also contribute to jobcreation restrictions and affect the level of retention of existing jobs reliant upon the use of transport.
Fundamentally, the cost of insurance, including motor, employers' and public liability insurance, is determined by the frequency of claims and the cost of settling those claims. In 1992 and 1993 insurers suffered underwriting losses, that is, they paid out more in claims than they received in premiums. The losses for 1992 were £45 million and £51 million on their motor and liability, employers' and public, accounts, respectively. The corresponding figures for 1993, the last year for which figures are available, were £50 million and £48 million respectively. Confronted with losses of this magnitude and in order to maintain their viability, insurers have considered it necessary to charge premiums which reflect their underwriting experience and to rely more heavily on investment income to maintain their statutory financial guarantees.
The evaluation by my Department to-date of the findings of domestic and international research studies has indicated that the costs of motor, employers' and public liability insurance  claims in Ireland are out of line with other European countries, including our nearest trading partner, the UK. Research findings have also indicated that insurance premiums in Ireland are substantially higher than in competing economies, including the UK. This represents a significant cost penalty to business in Ireland and there is undoubtedly an adverse impact on the traded sectors of the economy in terms of output, employment maintenance and creation, and the ability of firms to compete in the marketplace. As Deputy Kirk said, many businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain employers' and public liability insurance at an affordable price and, in some cases, to obtain such insurance at all.
I expect that, when my Department has concluded its cost evaluation and consultation process into the major factors contributing to high costs of insurance in Ireland this will lead to the finalisation of proposals for submission to Government which should have an effective impact in reducing insurance costs here to more internationally-com-petitive levels. However, Government action in isolation will not solve the problem of high insurance costs in Ireland. The general public, insurers, motorists, trade unions, employers and employees all have a role to play in this regard.
There is an urgent need for a greater awareness of the need for safety on the roads and in the workplace. Measures which aid safer driving and safer working methods should be encouraged and insurers should control those factors within their ambit so that inefficiencies in the insurance sector do not give rise to any unnecessary costs which have to be borne by the community as a whole.
Successive Governments have endeavoured to reduce insurance costs through a variety of measures, both legislative and otherwise, including the following: the establishment of the  Health and Safety Authority — I understand that the authority has recently recruited a number of additional inspectors to facilitate the enforcement of health and safety at work legislation — with responsibility for all aspects of occupational health and safety; the enactment of the recent Road Traffic Bill dealing with drink driving; the provisions of the Courts Act, 1988, which abolished juries in personal injury cases; the provisions of the Courts (No. 2) Act increasing the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court for adjudicating on claims up to £30,000 which should in the long term reduce legal costs and delays in settling claims; and the ongoing programme to upgrade the road network.
 I also understand that IBEC has recently embarked on a safety campaign among its members designed to reduce the level of accidents in the workplace and to reduce the level of employers' liability insurance claims. I will also be exploring with the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health and the Irish Insurance Federation, with whom I will meet shortly, methods to enable insurers to participate in the implementation of health and safety measures and in the promotion of greater safety awareness in the workplace.
The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 February 1995.
11. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for the Environment the level of pollution to rivers from domestic and industrial waste; the number of new schemes that will commence in 1995; and the planned location of these schemes. [2355/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Pending the publication by the Environmental Protection Agency later this year of a report for the period 1991 and 1994, the latest national overview of water quality in Ireland covers the period 1987-90. This shows that the bulk of waters remain unpolluted and suitable for the most sensitive uses such as game fishing, bathing and drinking. The main threat to continued good quality has been identified as eutrophication, and sewage and agricultural wastes are the main contributors to this phenomenon. The report shows a continuing  reduction in seriously polluted river channels. For the 1 per cent of waters in this condition, some two-thirds were suspected to have been caused by point source discharges of waste from either sewage treatment plants (24 per cent) or industries (25 per cent), or from a combination of both (15 per cent).
Controls on industrial wastes have been strengthened by the integrated pollution control licensing regime established by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, and by the Water Pollution Act, 1990.
As regards new waste water schemes, I am currently reviewing the work programme for water services investment in 1995 and I hope shortly to announce approvals for this year.
12. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment when Clare County Council's application for funding from Cohesion Funds for the south-east Clare wetlands will be processed; and when his Department forwarded the proposal to the EU. [2199/95]
55. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has for the improvement of the public sewerage system at Sixmilebridge, County Clare; and when remedical works will commence. [2243/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 55 together.
My Department expects to make application to the Cohesion Fund very shortly on behalf of the south east Clare wetlands scheme.
A number of urgently needed projects have been prioritised for investment under Stage 1 of the scheme, including the Sixmiledbridge sewerage scheme. This scheme, at an estimated cost of some £3 million, is designed to provide a new secondary treatment plant for a population equivalent of 3,000, together with an upgraded  sewage and storm water collection system.
Preliminary planning for the Sixmilebridge scheme has been completed and the project will be further advanced as soon as the Cohesion Fund approval is received.
13. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment the number of thatching grants approved in Ireland in each of the years 1992, 1993 and 1994; the number of thatching grants approved for the city and county of Galway in each of the years 1992, 1993 and 1994: and the total cost of thatching grants paid in each of these years. [1003/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): I propose to circulate in the Official Report a tabular statement setting out the information requested.
|Year||Number of thatching grants approved Nationally||Number of thatching grants approved Galway City and County||Total cost of thatching grants paid Nationally|
14. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Environment the funding his Department will make available to Clare County Council in 1995 to alleviate flooding on regional and county roads. [2198/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The general conditions notified to local authorities in relation to the discretionary grants for non-national roads require them to provide a contingency sum from their overall allocations so as to finance road restoration works which may be necessitated by extreme weather conditions. Special grants are not, therefore, made available for this purpose.
I will shortly notify local authorities generally of their 1995 discretionary grant allocations. It will then be a matter for each authority to determine its programme of road works, including remedial works arising from flooding, taking account of the overall resources available to it.
20. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment when approval will be given for the provision of a sewerage scheme at Kilmacow in County Kilkenny; and if the necessary documentation has been lodged to his Department by the relevant local authority. [1487/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A revised preliminary report for this scheme is under consideration in my Department.
Given the high level of demands under the water services programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve this proposal.
21. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment the number of approved applications on hand by local authorities under the repairs in lieu of local authority housing scheme; and the number of these applications that have not yet had finance provided for them. [2347/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): Details of activity under the plan for social housing, including the improvement works in lieu of local authority housing scheme, are published regularly in my Department's housing statistics bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The latest Bulletin gives details for the nine month period to 30 September, 1994. Information in respect of the full year is at present being compiled and will be published in the Annual Housing Statistics Bulletin, 1994.
The returns from local authorities for this scheme for the period up to 30 September 1994 indicate that there were 202 houses approved but not commenced and that a further 509 houses had been identified as suitable for improvement under the scheme. Implementation of the scheme is a matter for the local authorities, having regard to their assessment of its potential to meet housing needs in their area and the capital allocation available to them for the scheme. My Department's sanction is only required where the cost of works on any house exceeds £10,000 — a figure which is under review at present. As a result, the only details of applications available to my Department are those published in the quarterly bulletins.
Housing authorities' claims for funding under the scheme in 1995 are currently being examined. The allocation for individual authorities will be determined as soon as possible having regard to the competing needs of authorities and the capital available for the scheme.
In addition to the capital allocations to authorities specifically for this scheme, they can avail of the flexibility which exists within their overall housing capital allocation to alter, with my approval, the breakdown of amounts allocated to them where they consider it is appropriate to do so in order to reflect local priorities or ensure the most effective use of available resources.
22. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has for a review of the system of councillors' expenses and allowances. [2351/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): In the light of experience of the first year of operation of the new system introduced under the Local Government Act, 1991, a review of councillors' expenses and allowances has been initiated in my Department and will be completed as soon as possible.
23. Mr. R. Burke asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to remove the £30 fee for public representatives making submissions to An Bord Pleanála on appeals. [2352/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The fee payable in respect of statutory submissions or observations on appeals to An Bord Pleanála is prescribed by the Local Government (Planning and Development) Regulations, 1994. If public representatives participate in the planning appeals process in their own right, a fee is payable in the normal way. Where a public representative makes representations to An Bord Pleanála on behalf of others and raises new and substantive issues, it is necessary for the board to consider whether these are such as to constitute formal submissions or observations to which the Regulations apply. I understand from An Bord Pleanála, however, that the bulk of correspondence which is received from public representatives does not fall within that category and would not, therefore, be liable to a fee. I am satisfied that the present system enables public representatives to pursue their important representational role without impediment.
24. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment if he has made a decision on the submission from Dublin Corporation seeking alterations in the shared ownership scheme in view of property values in Dublin. [1361/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms. McManus): A review of the terms of the shared ownership scheme, together with the terms of the other schemes introduced in “A Plan for Social Housing”, is at an advanced stage in my Department. Pending completion of the review and decisions arising there from, I do not propose to comment on the possible outcome.
29. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment if he will extend the designated area in Drogheda, County Louth, under the urban renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1135/95]
56. Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for the Environment if he will extend the urban renewal status to towns whose primary source of income derives from tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2305/95]
58. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment if he will designate Ardee, County Louth, under the urban renewal scheme in 1995. [1716/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 56 and 58 together.
A new urban renewal scheme commenced on 1 August 1994 in 34 cities and towns throughout the country, including Drogheda, and will operate for a three-year period.
As the area designated under the previous scheme in Drogheda was not fully redeveloped, it was decided that it  should continue to be the designated area. There are no proposals to extend the scheme to further areas in Drogheda.
I am aware of the case made for designation of many other towns throughout the country. However, to be effective, the scheme must be limited in its application. Therefore, I do not intend, to extend it to any further areas or towns.
30. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for the Environment the incentives, if any, he intends to introduce to encourage the greater use of cleaner technologies. [2360/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The clean production measure included in the Operational Programme for Environmental Services, 1994-99, is designed to encourage a clean production ethos throughout the industrial and services sectors. This measure will support actions with sectoral relevance or demonstration value, including demonstration of technologies for emissions reduction and of appropriate cleaner technologies.
The provision of specific incentives to encourage greater use of cleaner technology by industry is primarily a matter for the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and the industrial development agencies in the context of industrial policy generally.
31. Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has for the refurbishment and replacement of the Mounttown flats, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2143/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms. McManus): The management, maintenance and improvement of their rented dwellings  is the responsibility of the local authority to be funded from their revenue resources. However, funding is available under my Department's remedial works scheme to assist authorities in carrying out major structural works to “low-cost” and pre-1940 dwellings and run-down urban estates. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have sought funding under this scheme for 14 of their estates, including the refurblishment of the flats at Mounttown. The seven estates to which they gave the highest relative priority have been designated for funding. Due to the financial commitments outstanding on approved projects, the relative priority given to Mounttown by the council, and the high level of demand for assistance under the scheme from local authorities generally, it is not possible at this stage to designate the estate for funding. No proposal has been received from the council for the replacement of these dwellings.
33. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment the total number of hostel or emergency places available for the homeless; the additional steps, if any, he plans to take to deal with the problem of homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2195/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): Information on the number of hostel places available to accommodate homeless people throughout the country on an emergency or long term basis is not available in my Department. It is proposed to carry out a survey during 1995 of such accommodation.
A number of measures have been taken in the past few years to improve the situation in regard to the accommodation of homeless people: the expanded local authority housing programme benefits the homeless as well as other categories of people in need of housing; the increased capital funding available for voluntary bodies providing  housing accommodation, a large part of which is expended on the provision of hostel and other accommodation for homeless people; the increased level of recoupment by my Department to local authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by them in relation to the accommodation of homeless people; the introduction of the after-hours referral service in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow for homeless people seeking accommodation.
The Estimates for 1995, published last week, provide additional funds for a further expansion of the local authority housing construction programme and the voluntary housing schemes and for the recoupment to local authorities of expenditure under section 10 of the Housing Act, 1988. I will be assessing the position on homelessness over the coming months before coming to any conclusions on the additional steps that may be needed.
34. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for the Environment if he will designate the Westport-Castlebar Road which was recently reclassified to national primary status as a strategic corridor. [2348/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I propose to seek the formal agreement of the European Commission to the inclusion of the Castlebar-Westport road as part of the strategic corridor link provided for in the Operational Programme for Transport.
35. Mr. McCreevy asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to assist local authorities in finishing housing estates throughout the country where builders have abandoned uncompleted estates. [2359/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): It is a matter for the planning authority to take all necessary steps to secure the completion of housing estates  by attaching appropriate conditions to permissions, including conditions regarding an appropriate security (or bond) to ensure satisfactory completion. Planning authorities have adequate powers to enforce such conditions, and to realise the security or bond. In addition, they may undertake any necessary work to complete estates, in conjunction with the local residents or otherwise. I have no plans to change these arrangements.
36. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment the total amount outstanding in uncollected agricultural rates; the guidelines, if any, that have been issued by his Department to local authorities regarding the collection of such outstanding sums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2196/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The level of unpaid agricultural rates in respect of 1982 and earlier years was £19.9 million at 31 December 1987 and is unlikely to have changed substantially since then. It is a matter for each local authority to decide what action, if any, can be taken at this stage to collect outstanding amounts.
37. Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for the Environment when the Dublin Transport Initiative final report will be issued; the plans, if any, he has to enable public representatives give an input in future stages of development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2202/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I plan to formally publish the Final Report of the Dublin Transportation Initiative shortly. That report contains detailed recommendations concerning possible future institutional  arrangements for transportation planning in the Greater Dublin Area, including proposals for the involvement of local elected representatives in that process. While these recommendations have yet to be considered in detail by the Government, there is a commitment in the policy agreement, A Government of Renewal to establish an implementation group to ensure that the progress begun by the Dublin Transportation Initiative is brought to fruition. When decisions have been made, I will make a further statement.
40. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for the Environment if he will increase the allocation to health boards under the housing aid for the elderly scheme to regions who have a big demand for this scheme. [1301/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): The provision for the Task Force on special housing aid for the elderly will revert to its normal level of £2 million in 1995. Last year, an extra £2 million financed from the proceeds of the tax amnesty was provided as an exceptional measure and enabled considerable progress to be made in clearing a backlog of cases. The allocations to individual health boards for 1995 will shortly be determined on the basis of demand in different areas and will be notified to the boards by the Task Force who, under the aegis of my Department, administer the scheme.
42. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment if he will give priority to the homes of the elderly when implementing the National Energy Conservation Programme for local authority housing and the homes of those on low incomes, as promised in the Programme for a Government of Renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2194/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): Advanced thermal efficiency is required under the Building Regulations, 1992 in the case of all new houses constructed since 1 June 1992, and refurbishment and improvement works carried out since that date. Prior to that date lesser, but still significant, thermal efficiency requirements applied under the earlier proposed building regulations. Older houses, whether local authority or private, would have lower thermal efficiency; while rectification of this, in a structural sense, would require the commitment of considerable resources, there are other relatively inexpensive good practices which can have a part to play. In consultation with the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, consideration will be given, as resources and other priorities admit, to the development of a programme to improve energy conservation in housing which at present has low thermal efficiency, and to the manner in which such a programme might be implemented. The needs of the elderly and those on low incomes will be specially considered in this context.
44. Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment his views on whether recycling is having the desired effect; and the resources, if any, he intends to make available for further recycling programmes. [2356/95]
69. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment the measures, if any, he intends to take to promote and develop further recycling projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2397/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 69.
Significant quantities of domestic and  commercial waste, estimated at 7 per cent of the total, are recycled in Ireland, and higher recycling rates are being achieved in relation to other waste streams e.g. used vehicles. This recycling activity is beneficial in terms of adding economic value to secondary raw materials, creating employment and diverting waste from landfill.
The Government is committed to supporting and enhancing waste recycling in accordance with the strategy document Recycling for Ireland. Co-financing for investment of some £30 million in relation to waste recovery and waste planning will be available under the Operational Programme for Environmental Services, 1994-1999. Proposals are at present being developed in my Department in relation to the waste management projects and activities which, subject to the approval of the European Commission, will be assisted under the programme.
45. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment the total annual cost of traffic congestion in Dublin; the way in which he intends to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2265/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): This information is not available. However, the Final Report of the Dublin Transportation Initiative has tentatively estimated that full implementation of its recommended strategy would result in decongestion benefits of between £1.5 billion and £2.0 billion over a thirty year time horizon.
The Operational Programme for Transport, copies of which have been sent to each Member of the Oireachtas, outlines a major programme designed to implement the principal elements of the Dublin Transportation Initiative recommended strategy. Over the period 1994 to 1999, an estimated £600 million will be spent on implementing road, public transport and traffic management projects, including the completion of the  motorway C-Ring, the construction of the Northern Port Access Route, the provision of the first phase of a light rail network, the introduction of Quality Bus Corridors and the implementation of a wide range of traffic management measures. Together, these measures will help significantly to reduce traffic congestion in the Greater Dublin Area.
46. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment in view of the recent discoveries of the threat of toxic algal blooms in Irish freshwaters, the national measures, if any, he proposes which are not currently addressed by legislation, to ensure the protection of public health. [2364/95]
72. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment the steps, if any, that are being taken to deal with the problem of Anatoxin A in lakes, including the provision of warning notices where appropriate. [2048/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 72 together.
The monitoring of waters, the investigation of incidents such as algal blooms, and the taking of measures to prevent and limit water pollution are primarily the responsibility of the local authority concerned.
My Department issued general advice in November 1993 to local authorities in relation to algal blooms which, inter alia, indicated action to be taken in order to protect public health and the environment. Particular attention was drawn to the protection of drinking water sources; this had been the subject of earlier detailed guidelines issued by my Department to local authorities in December 1992. Public information requirements were also emphasised in my Department's advice and guidelines to local authorities.
47. Miss de Valera asked the Minister for the Environment the number of local authorities who have appointed an arts officer; and the plans, if any, he has to develop this concept. [2118/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The creation and filling of the post of arts officer is a matter for the relevant local authority in the first instance. I understand that 22 of the 34 major local authorities now have posts of arts officer. The function of promoting the arts in two other local authority areas has been assigned on a part-time basis to an existing officer of each of the local authorities concerned. My Department is encouraging those authorities who do not currently employ an arts officer to make such an appointment and a number are considering doing so.
48. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the research or studies, if any, which have been carried out on Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2370/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): There is a large body of study and research on Irish emigration carried out by organisations and individuals. The studies are both historical and contemporary, covering particular periods of emigration and particular groups of emigrants and it would not be feasible to supply a comprehensive list.
In terms of work done in the Department of Foreign Affairs, various aspects of emigration have been looked into in recent years. For example, attempts have been made to assess as accurately as possible the size of Irish communities in different countries; ways of helping to deal with visa problems in particular countries have also been examined. Our Embassies and Consulates monitor the situation of emigrants on an on-going  basis and work closely with the bodies which represent them.
The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body which is supported and serviced by my Department's Anglo-Irish Division as well as by the Oireachtas produced a report in 1991 on “The Irish in Britain”. The Body has also reported on issues of interest to that community such as the transfer of prisoners and extradition arrangements between Britain and Ireland. New research and studies on emigrant issues are regularly discussed in the Inter-Departmental Committee on Emigration, which is chaired by a senior official of my Department.
The Minister for the Environment was recently authorised by the Government to draft a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide for the election of three members of the Seanad by Irish emigrants. It is intended that the referendum on the proposal will be held at the same time as the proposed referendum on divorce.
49. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will visit Sierra Leone in the near future to assess the incidence of widespread human rights abuses; if further development aid will be granted by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2371/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The Government is following closely developments in Sierra Leone and is concerned at the recent upsurge in fighting in the country and at the reports of widespread anarchy. Thousands have died in fighting between Government forces and rebel troops. More than 24,000 people have fled into the neighbouring State of Guinea and a large number of people have been displaced within the country.
In so far as the welfare of Irish citizens is concerned, Ireland's Honorary Consul in Freetown, Dr. Aboud, has been monitoring the situation closely in  co-ordination with the missions of EU partners. Plans have been drawn up for the emergency evacuation of foreign citizens, including Irish citizens, in case that should prove necessary.
The UN Secretary General has recently sent his envoy to Freetown in response to a request from the Head of State, Captain Strasser, to facilitate negotiations between his Government and the rebels. In the circumstances I do not propose to visit Sierra Leone, but the Deputy can be assured that the Government will do everything it can, including through the United Nations and the European Community, to help bring about a ceasefire and to end human rights abuses in Sierra Leone.
As regards development aid, the Government allocated £122,000 from the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Fund for relief projects in Sierra Leone in 1994. This included a grant to the Holy Ghost Order for a communications system to support their relief effort in the Kenema region following the tragic murder of Fr. Felim McAllister. In addition, grants totalling £94,500 were allocated to agriculture and small-scale educational projects with refugees which are being carried out by the Holy Rosary Order and Cluny Sisters.
My Department is in contact with Irish aid agencies which are seeking to expand their involvement in emergency assistance in Sierra Leone and in neighbouring countries. I understand that a number of detailed proposals will shortly be made to my Department requesting further emergency assistance for those affected by the conflict in Sierra Leone. These proposals will be considered sympathetically upon receipt.
50. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs when he expects all Border roads to be open; and if he will provide a list of such roads in the chronological order in which they will open. [2394/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): As the Deputy will be aware I have consistently emphasised the importance of ensuring that all Border crossings, which were the subject of closure orders made by the Northern Ireland authorities, should be reopened as quickly as possible. I have urged the relevant authorities, including those in Northern Ireland — where the bulk of construction work has to take place — as well as our own Department of the Environment, to proceed in this matter with all possible speed. I understand there is close consultation between the two Departments of the Environment, and am pleased to note that substantial progress has already been made towards the reopening of previously closed crossings.
I understand that of the 113 public crossings involved, work is under way or has been completed at approximately 40 of these. It is expected that work on most of the remaining roads will either be under way, or have been completed, by next April. In view of the difficulty of estimating the amount of work which will be required in some cases, bearing in mind the cratering and other measures taken while the roads were closed, it is not possible to indicate precisely the dates on which individual projects will be completed.
With regard to the 14 large bridge crossings requiring attention it is expected, because of the more substantial nature of the work involved, that these will take longer to complete. These bridges will be restored or replaced by the Northern Ireland authorities as required. Design work already under way will determine how much needs to be done in each case, and this in turn will affect both start and finish times. Construction work on two of the bridges, at Cashel Bridge, Kiltyclogher and at Uragh, County Cavan, is expected to be under way by next April. In the case of Aghalane, County Cavan where major additional road works are planned, work is expected to commence next spring.
51. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to assist the hospice movement throughout the country. [2390/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I am aware of the tremendous contribution made by voluntary groups under the aegis of the hospice movement, in the provision of hospice and home care for the terminally ill around the country. In many instances, multidisciplinary care is provided for such patients in co-operation with local health board hospitals and health board community care services. Partnership and co-operation between the statutory agencies and voluntary bodies working in this area is essential to ensure that services for the terminally ill can be provided in a planned and structured fashion. Financial support from public funds has been made available to many of these local services and hope to see this support expanded over the coming years.
The Deputy will be aware that the health strategy document,Shaping a Healthier Future, acknowledges the important role that palliative care services play in improving the quality of life of people with a terminal illness, and it is intended to promote the continued development of such services in a structured manner, making use where possible of existing health facilities. There will also be an emphasis on the role of general practitioners in developing appropriate palliative care services.
The Deputy will be aware that since becoming Minister for Health I have asked my Department to prepare a policy statement on the whole area of cancer services. This statement will incorporate the important role played by hospice-palliative care services throughout the country.
52. Mr. P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the steps, if any, he is taking to reduce and eliminate the waiting lists for orthodontic services for teenagers in the Eastern Health Board area. [2411/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The waiting lists for orthodontic treatment in the Eastern Health Board area are maintained by the board which is responsible for the provision of the orthodontic services.
The board is endeavouring to develop the orthodontic service with funding provided by my Department under the dental health action plan. Unfortunately, the health board has experienced considerable difficulty in retaining the services of orthodontists at consultant level. I understand, however, that the board hopes to have a consultant in post very shortly. The board is also awaiting a response to advertisements for a further two consultant appointments.
My Department had discussions with the board in November last and agreed with the board a framework for the development of a consultant-led orthodontic service in accordance with the strategy outlined in the dental health action plan.
Under this strategy the board will develop its orthodontic service with the objective of providing services at a level to meet the need for treatment.
53. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health the number of cases of meningitis involving children from a crêche (details supplied) in Dublin 3 over the past few weeks; if he has satisfied himself that the parents of other children in the crêche were informed immediately following the discovery of the first case of bacterial meningitis in view of the fact that some parents are concerned that the proper procedures were not followed until after the discovery of the second case which had also been preceded by two other cases of viral meningitis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2442/95].
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): My Department has been keeping in close contact with the Eastern Health Board about the cases of meningitis referred to in the parliamentary question. Three children, who attended a crêche, have been admitted to Temple Street Hospital with a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis.
The Eastern Health Board which has statutory responsibility under the infectious diseases regulations for the investigation and management of infectious diseases, informed my Department that the crêche consists of three sections — a nursery section, a pre-school section and a Montessori section.
When the first case — that of an infant — was notified on 23 January 1995, the other infants in the section, their family contacts and staff members were given the relevant preventive antibiotics. My Department has been informed by the health board that the children in the other sections were not given the preventive antibiotics at that stage on the basis that the nursery was a self-contained section separate from the other sections.
The board has also indicated to my Department that the parents of the infants who were in contact with the first case of the disease, were informed immediately after the notification of this case.
Following the notification of the second case of bacterial meningitis on 27 January 1995, in a child attending the Montessori section, the board informed the parents of the other children attending the crêche and provided the appropriate course of preventive treatment with antibiotics to all of these children, their family contacts and staff.
The crêche has closed temporarily, since Friday, 27 January 1995, for a period of ten days and will reopen if there are no further cases.
54. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health if all applications for dentures under the age of 65 will not be processed until all those over the age of 65 have been dealt with; if this will involve a four year delay for those under 65; the number involved in this category; the special arrangements, if any, there are for individual applicants who are in constant pain; and if he will have arrangements made to have a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 dealt with as a matter of urgency in view of the special circumstances. [2443/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): Under the new dental treatment services scheme introduced by my Department on 1 November 1994, edentulous persons who are aged 65 years and over have been identified as a priority group in the first phase of the scheme. Special additional funding has been provided to health boards to implement this scheme. Routine dental treatment will be progressively extended to other age groups over the next few years under the scheme.
However, in addition to services provided under the dental treatment services scheme health boards, where resources permit, provide services to adults not currently covered by the scheme. These services include, as appropriate, the provision of dentures to persons under the age of 65 years. Detailed information in regard to these service provisions would not be routinely made available to my Department.
An emergency service for the relief of pain is available to all persons with medical card entitlement.
As the provision of treatment to the person who is the subject of the Deputy's inquiries is a matter for the Eastern Health Board I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply to the Deputy in the case as a matter of urgency.
60. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment the advice he would give to environmentally concerned people who wish to dispose of broken electrical goods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1871/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Appropriate methods for the recovery or safe disposal of electrical appliances will vary according to the nature and condition of the appliances and their constituent parts. Advice in relation to the best means of dealing with broken electrical goods including, if necessary, their disposal can be sought from the supplier or manufacturer and from the relevant local authority.
65. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment the progress, if any, that has been made to give voting rights for Dáil elections to immigrant nationals of EU member states who are ordinarily resident here; if he intends to actively pursue this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2369/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Article 16.1.2º of the Constitution provides that all Irish citizens and such other persons in the State as may be determined by law shall have have the right to vote at Dáil elections
Section 8 of the Electoral Act, 1992, extends the right to vote at Dáil elections to resident British citizens. It also provides for extending the Dáil franchise to nationals of other EU member states on a reciprocal basis. The United Kingdom is the only member state which extends the right to vote at parliamentary elections to resident Irish citizens. There is, therefore, no scope at present for extending the Dáil franchise to nationals of other member states resident in Ireland.
66. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment his views on the difficulties experienced by the Environmental Protection Agency in carrying out its functions in the greater Dublin area with respect to industrial water and air emissions; and the figures for the frequency of industrial emissions monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency in each of the main urban areas in Ireland. [2384/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I am not aware of any difficulties being experienced by the Environmental Protection Agency in carrying out its functions in the greater Dublin area. Any such difficulties would, of course, be a matter for the agency to address. Frequency of monitoring is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency in the context of its licensing and environmental monitoring functions.
67. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment in view of the policy of reducing lead in petrol and the increase in the levels of benzene in urban air, presumably from unleaded fuels, the measures, if any, he proposes to take to conduct a national survey to determine the extent of the problem; and the measures, if any, he intends to implement to deal with this environmental health risk. [2385/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Co-ordination of environmental monitoring is a function of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently preparing a national monitoring programme.
Ireland is co-operating, in the context of a proposed new framework directive on air quality, in EU work aimed at defining a new range and set of methodologies for air pollution monitoring. The range of pollutants under consideration includes lead and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, of which benzene is one. The Environmental Protection Agency is keeping abreast of progress on this proposal.
68. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment if he intends to alter the ten year environment action programme introduced in 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2396/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The requirements of environmental policy have substantially expanded since the environment action programme was adopted in 1990 and will continue to develop over the coming years. I intend that the environmental principles adopted in the action programme will be taken forward and that their practical application will be further developed in the context of the national sustainable development strategy which I am now addressing. The financial requirements of the environment action programme have been met as regards the period to 1993 by the Community Support Framework 1989 to 1993 and will be met in future by the Community Support Framework 1994 to 1999.
70. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the inadequate water supply to certain areas of Dublin's north-side, where on occasions it may take hours and days for the house water tank to refill and at other times there is no water supply at all; and if he will have arrangements made to investigate this matter with a view to ensuring a satisfactory supply of water at all times. [2398/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The operation of water services, including maintenance of supplies and pressures, is a matter for the local authorities concerned namely, Dublin Corporation and Fingal County Council.
My Department's programme of capital improvement works continues to  provide for schemes which will improve the water supply situation on Dublin's north-side. These include the first phase of the north Dublin city arterial watermain which was completed recently and which was designed to provide significant improvement of water supplies to the area. In addition, major construction works are currently in progress at Leixlip water treatment plant — a major water supply source for north Dublin, to increase the intake and production capacity of the plant.
My Department has also recently commissioned a major study of water requirements in the Dublin region. This strategy study will be substantially completed by end-1995 and will provide valuable guidance for the future management of Dublin's water resources.
71. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment if he will offer the necessary level of support to extend the successful Kerbside Dublin initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2399/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Responsibility for the operation of Kerbside Dublin rests with the board of the company. There are no proposals with my Department at present for financial support for the company.
76. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Education the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin who was to be referred to the psychological service of the Department of Education must wait approximately a year for the initial appointment. [2381/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I can confirm that the school which is attended by the person  in question has made no referral to the psychological service of the Department of Education for an assessment of the person in question.
77. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made to have the several leaks attended to in the school roof at Scoil Caoimhín, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. [2386/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Arrangements have been made by my Department to have the necessary remedial works to the roof of Scoil Caoimhín, Marlborough Street, undertaken as soon as possible.
78. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to an application for an allocation of finance to carry out repairs to Ó Fiaich College, Dundalk, County Louth; the level of repairs; the estimated cost of these repairs; when the finance required will be sanctioned in order that the contract can be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2395/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I am aware that County Louth Vocational Education Committee has made an application to my Department for funding to undertake a major repair programme at Ó Fiaich College, Dundalk. The application which envisages works to the roofs, windows and floors of the college is currently under examination. The estimated cost is in the order of £200,000. The allocation of funding for the project will be considered in the context of finalising the 1995 capital expenditure programme.
79. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education if she will review a decision by the City of Cork Vocational Education Committee with regard to an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for school transport. [2401/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The general position in relation to full transport under the terms of the school transport scheme is that recognised post-primary pupils who live at least three miles from the post-primary centre of the catchment area in which they reside are eligible for full transport to that centre.
Eligible pupils who wish to attend a post-primary centre other than their appropriate one may be allowed transport from within the catchment boundary of the centre being attended, subject to there being spare accommodation available on the service and provided that no additional State cost is incurred. They must, however, make their own way to the catchment boundary.
In this case the pupil is eligible for full transport to the centre in which he lives, but is attending school in another catchment area. He is entitled to catchment boundary transport only, and is availing of same on a scheduled public service.
80. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education her views on whether the consequence of the Supreme Court decision on the financial controller in the case of the Letterkenny Regional Technical College creates a situation that regional technical college governing bodies are no longer answerable to the Minister or Dáil Éireann. [2404/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case relating to the appointment of a secretary-financial controller to Letterkenny Regional  Technical College is being considered by my Department in association with the Attorney General's Office and counsel in the case. When that consideration is completed I shall be in a position to decide on appropriate action to address any deficiencies in procedures or legislation.
In the meantime I am satisfied that the judgment does not have the effect implied by this question. The judgment is very limited in its effect, referring to only one area of the work of governing bodies — the appointment of staff. Even in that area the Supreme Court upheld the power of the Minister for Education together with the Minister for Finance to approve posts in the colleges. The judgment held in favour of the college only in respect of the setting of qualifications and selection of appointees for posts which had already been approved.
Apart from the requirement that all posts in regional technical colleges must be approved by the Ministers for Education and Finance, the Regional Technical Colleges Acts, 1992 to 1994 contain a number of other provisions which provide for accountability to the Minister for Education and Dáil Éireann. Among these are the requirement that programmes and budgets of colleges must be approved by the Minister; the obligation on governing bodies to carry out their functions subject to policies determined by the Minister; the power of the Minister to appoint an inspector to report to her on any aspect of a college's operation; the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General in auditing the accounts of colleges and the power of the Minister to dissolve governing bodies. None of these provisions has been affected by the Supreme Court judgment.
81. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Education if a payable order which issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been cancelled; and when a replacement payable order will issue. [2409/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The payable order in question was not cancelled. The Department has confirmed that it was delivered to the home address of the payee and was subsequently presented for payment at a bank by the spouse of the payee.
82. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education if she will give a report on the refurbishment programme at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13. [2410/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The major refurbishment scheme at the school in question, which also includes the provision of security fencing, has been underway since early December and is expected to be completed within the next three months.
83. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Education the plans, if any, she has to introduce an adequate and safe transportation system for students at the Cerebral Palsy Clinic, Sandymount, Dublin 4; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3821/94]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I would be very anxious to ensure that all children using school transport, particularly those with disabilities, would enjoy an adequate and safe transportation system. I am aware that particular difficulties have arisen in relation to lifting certain children on and off the buses serving the school in question. My Department is working in close co-operation with Bus Éireann and the school authorities in an effort to resolve current problems. As part of this process, a number of replacement buses with greater headroom have been introduced to facilitate the lifting of children  on and off the buses. The school has also acquired an automatic hoist to assist in this process.
I also recently announced the introduction of a new scheme whereby schools such as the one in question may apply to my Department for funding towards the provision of escorts on special transport services. This scheme will also assist in the provision of safety harnesses on buses. The authorities at Sandymount Clinic are eligible to apply for support under this scheme and I can assure the Deputy that any such application will be given sympathetic and urgent consideration. In the meantime, my Department will continue to monitor the position at the school.
84. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Education if she will improve the third level grants system in order that students who spend longer than the average eight months at college will receive an additional maintenance grant to cover living expenses during the period, similar to the system in operation throughout the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3787/94]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Under the terms of the higher education grants scheme and vocational scholarships scheme maintenance grants are paid in respect of the full academic year. I have no plans to pay a special higher level of maintenance grant to the category of student referred to by the Deputy.
85. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education the current status regarding the building of or extension to St. Anthony's national school, Ballinlough, Cork. [2428/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The 1995 capital programme for national schools is being finalised at present and I can confirm  that a project at St. Anthony's national school, Ballinlough is being considered for inclusion. My Department will be in touch with the school authorities in the near future.
86. D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Oideachais an gcuirfidh sí an t-eolas seo a leanas ar fáil i dtaobh na rialach nua a bhaineann le díolúine ó staidéar na Gaeilge (sonrai tugtha) : an líon duine ar ceadaíodh an díolúine dóibh go dtí seo; an briseadh síos ar an bhfigiúr thuas de réir chuid A, B, C agus D den riail nua faoi seach; an briseadh síos ar an bhfigiúr thuas de réir na gcineál scoileanna, meánscoileanna, scoileanna pobail agus cuimsitheach agus gairmscoileanna. [2429/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Dé réir na socruithe nua a tháinig i bhfeidhm le héifeacht ó thús na scoilbhliana 1993-94, tá cead ag údaráis scoileanna díolúine ó staidéar na Gaeilge a cheadú i gcás daltaí a chomhlíonann ceann amháin de cheithre chrítéar a luaitear. Cuirtear cinneadh ar dhíolúine a dheonadh in iúl do thuismitheoir nó do chaomhnóir an dalta i gceist trí theastas scríofa, sínithe ag príomhoide na scoile, go bhfuiltear tar éis an díoluine a dheonadh de réir Rialach leasaithe 46 de na “Rialacha agus Clár do leith Meánscoileanna”. Cuirtear cóip den teastas díolúine chuig mo Roinn-se. Ó tháinig na socruithe nua i bhfeidhm, tá teastais eisithe i gcás 1,316 dalta. Mar a leanas a bhí an líon daltaí a chomhlíon gach critéar a luadh:—
A. Daltaí a fuair a mbunoideachas go dtí 11 bliain d'aois i dTuaisceart na hÉireann nó taobh amuigh d'Éireann: 956.
B. Daltaí a bhí cláraithe cheana mar dhaltaí aitheanta i mbunscoil nó i scoil dara leibhéal agus atá á gclárú athuair tar éis dóibh tréimhse trí bliana ar a laghad a chaitheamh thar lear, agus atá faoi bhun 11  bliain d'aois ar a laghad ar athchlárú dóibh: 166.
C. Daltaí a bhfuil trommháchail foghlama ghinearálta nó sonrach orthu: 107.
D. Daltaí ón gcoigríoch nach raibh aon tuiscint acu ar Bhéarla nuair a cláraíodh iad: 87.
Is é seo an briseadh síos ar an bhfigiúr de 1,316 dalta de réir na gcineál scoile:— Meánscoileanna: 1,121; Scoileanna Pobail agus Cuimsitheacha: 65; Gairmscoileanna: 70; Bunscoileanna: 60.
87. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice when work on the refurbishment of a Garda barracks in Kilcolgan, County Galway will commence in view of the fact that the taking up of permanent residence in the barracks by the local Garda is dependent on this work being carried out. [2374/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Office of Public Works has carried out a feasibility study at the Kilcolgan Garda station. This has identified the options available and my Department is currently in discussion with the Garda authorities with a view to identifying the most effective and economical way to proceed.
88. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties existing in the operation of the Coroners Act; and if she intends to amend the Act. [2393/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am aware of a number of matters in relation to the operation of the Coroners Act, 1962 which require consideration.
However, I could not undertake to indicate, at this stage, by way of reply to a parliamentary question, what specific legislative changes, if any, are required. Any proposals I might have to amend the Coroners Act, 1962 would be  brought before the Government for consideration and approval before being announced in the normal way.
89. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Justice if she will have arrangements made to expedite a Land Registry dealing for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [2400/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing No. D94 CK 11368K is an application for a Transfer of Part which was lodged in the Land Registry on 29 September, 1994.
I am further informed that this application is being processed at present. I understand that if no queries are necessary on the documents supplied, registration should be completed in the very near future.
90. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Justice if she will have arrangements made to expedite dealings (details supplied) in the Land Registry office. [2402/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing No. D94 CK05608V is an application for a Transfer of Part which was lodged in the Land Registry on 19 May, 1994.
I am further informed that the registration of this dealing should be completed in the very near future.
91. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if resources will be made available in the 1995 budget to implement budgetary increases to social welfare recipients with effect from a date earlier than the end of July 1995. [2413/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): It would be inappropriate  for me to make any comments concerning the improvements in the social welfare area to be announced in the context of the budget.
92. D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Leasa Shóisialaigh cén fáth nach bhfuil liúntas saorbhreosla á íoc le duine (sonraí tugtha) i gContae na Gaillimhe; an bhfuil an ceart ag an duine sa mhéid go ndeir sé gurb é an t-údar nár íocadh leis é ná go raibh sochar míchumais á fháil ag a bhean; agus an bhfuil sé seo cóir agus cothrom. [2414/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Is é aidhm na Scéime Saorbhreosla Náisiúnta ná cabhair a thabhairt do theaghlaigh atá ag fáil íocaíochtaí fadtéarmach ón Roinn Leasa Shóisialaigh nó na boird sláinte agus nach bhfuil in ann íoc as a dteas féin.
Sa chás seo tá an bean ag fáil sochar míchumais agus níl an liúntas saorbhreosla iníoctha leis an sochair seo mar is íocaíocht ghearrthéarmach í. Toisc go bhfuil an fear céile ina chónaí le duine atá ag fáil íocaíocht nach bhfuil cáilithe mar íocaíocht lena íoctar an liúntas saorbhreosla náisiúnta níl sé i dteideal an liúntas saorbhreosla a fháil ach an oiread.
Bheadh costasaí breise i gceist chun an scéim seo a leathnú chun earnálacha breise a scaoileadh isteach. Chaithfí na hacmhainn atá ar fáil faoi láthair a thabhairt san áireamh dá mbeadh an cheist seo á mheas.
93. Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the new measures, if any, he proposes to take to improve Ireland's trading relations with countries in the Pacific rim; if he intends to visit any of these countries in pursuance of such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2380/95]
Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny): The Pacific rim has undoubted potential for exports of Irish  goods and services. Over the past two years there have been several Government-led trade missions from Ireland to the region, including missions to Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Mexico. I intend to further develop Ireland's trading relations with the region through bilateral contacts combined with full use of the relevant mechanisms of the World Trade Organisation, the European Union, and the OECD, with particular emphasis on pursuing the greatest possible market opening for Irish goods and services. These efforts will be supplemented on the ground by the ongoing promotional activities of An Bord Tráchtála which has offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and trade consultants working on its behalf in Auckland, Bangkok, Cancun, California, Jakarta, Manila, Quito, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney and Taipei. I am still finalising plans for bilateral contacts during the coming year, including official visits in both directions, and trade missions. Details will be announced in due course.
94. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the amount of the proposed 1995 Estimate for the IDA that is already due to projects approved. [2376/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): As the Deputy will be aware, the proposed capital grants budget allocation for IDA Ireland for 1995, as published in the abridged Book of Estimates, is £81 million. This compares with an allocation of £49.6 million in 1994.
I am advised that, on examination of projects approved up to 31 December 1994, it is estimated that likely payments arising from these approvals would be of the order of £74 million. In addition IDA Ireland will have access to further resources made up of grant refundsrepayments and reimbursements from the European Structural Fund. It should  be remembered that in a particular year the bulk of grant payments will be in respect of projects approved in previous years. Accordingly, there is no direct correlation between IDA Ireland's capital grants allocation in any one year and the number of projects approved in that year.
In terms of job creation IDA Ireland had an exceptional year in 1994 — when a total of 9,740 new jobs were created and recruited. When job losses are taken into account there were 5,300 more people employed in IDA backed companies at the end compared with the start of the year. I have every confidence that the budget proposed for 1995 will facilitate IDA Ireland in continuing the current strong performance of the overseas sector in the creation of jobs.
95. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if finance has been included in the Estimate for the Director of Consumer Affairs to allow for the opening of the four regional offices for consumers. [2377/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I am informed that the Director of Consumer Affairs intends to establish four regional offices, on a phased basis, over the next few years. The Director plans to open such an office in Cork during 1995 and finance for this purpose is included in my Department's Estimate.
96. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment when he proposes to implement the unfair terms EU directives. [2378/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I am in the process of making regulations, under the European Communities Act, 1972, to  implement the European Union directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts. The regulations will be laid before both Houses in the next few days.
97. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the amount of the proposed 1995 Estimate for county enterprise boards that is already due to projects approved. [2379/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): A feature of this type of scheme is that, as with the national development agencies, a large portion of grant commitments entered into in one year mature for payment in another. This arises because of the normal time lag between the approval of grant aid and the actual drawdown of the cash by the promoter having completed the project. A time lag of six to 12 months would not be unusual and has implications for the size of the boards' cash requirements in any one year. The boards' cash requirements are also affected by the number of projects which are approved for grant aid but which for various reasons do not go ahead.
It is estimated that some £14.25 million of the county enterprise board commitments from 1993-94 will carry over for payment into 1995.
98. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the plans, if any, he has to introduce measures which would alleviate the environmental problems of pollution and soil erosion caused by overgrazing by sheep; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2415/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): In June 1994 the rural environment protection scheme,  REPS, was introduced by my Department to help resolve environmental problems caused by agriculture. As part of the basic scheme farmers receive grant aid for adopting a grassland management plan which avoids: poaching, in particular poaching of wetland habitats; damage leading to soil erosion and run-off; overgrazing leading to the damage of heather or other natural vegetation.
Also there is a supplementary aid measure to the basic scheme to assist farmers in areas designated by my Department as degraded as a result of overgrazing by livestock. Farmers participating in REPS in these areas must take further measures such as the removal of all sheep from these areas from November to April each year to help to rehabilitate the natural vegetation. In addition, farmers in these degraded areas who do not participate in REPS and who wish to obtain an additional sheep quota must undertake not to graze the additional sheep on the degraded areas during the above period.
My officials will be reviewing the operation of the REPS and the other measures to ensure their effectiveness, and this review will, in particular, look at the degree to which these measures are contributing to dealing with the overgrazing problem.
99. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is eligible to maintain her suckler cow quota in view of the fact that her herd number has been withdrawn. [2366/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I am arranging to have all aspects of this case thoroughly examined and I will write to the Deputy  as soon as this exercise is concluded and in any event within two weeks.
101. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will consider exempting farmers producing under 20,000 gallons from the superlevy penalty. [2391/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): There is no provision under the EU milk quota regulations for an exemption from the superlevy penalty for any producer in respect of whom a superlevy liability has been established.
With a view to minimising in so far as possible the liability to levy of small scale producers, quota holders of less than 30,000 gallons are given first priority access to any unused reference quantities available at the end of the milk quota year. This category of producer is also given first priority under other milk quota schemes such as temporary leasing and restructuring.
102. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if his attention has been drawn to the financial problems facing many agricultural contractors; and, in view of the unfair competition which they regularly face from unregistered contractors, if he will consider a scheme of financial assistance to ensure their survival. [2403/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Whilst I appreciate the contribution made to the agriculture industry by agricultural contractors, I regret that there are no funds available to me which would allow me to provide assistance for those contractors in financial difficulty.
103. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he has received recommendations from the State Mining Board; when he will be in a position to issue the licence to a company (details supplied) for mine development at Galmoy, County Kilkenny; if he has satisfied himself that there are sufficient safeguards and compensations in place to protect the concerns of the local interests; the job numbers and time-scale in the construction of the mine; the number of permanent jobs directly and indirectly to be created when the mine is fully operational; the steps, if any, that have been taken to protect the surface and quality of the road leading to and from the mine; the productive lifespan of the mine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2444/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): The report of the Mining Board into the proposal to grant a State mining licence to the company in question was furnished to my Department on 6 December 1994 and I am in the process of examining and assessing that report.
I am considering the recommendations of the board as they relate to the licence including those relating to compensation of third parties for damage or nuisance, if any, which may occur as a result of mining operations.
In my assessment, I will obviously be taking local concerns into account.
I expect to be in a position to make a decision shortly.
The anticipated lifespan of the mine is ten years. Should the licence be granted and development proceeds, there will be sizeable job opportunities created with an obvious beneficial impact on the local economy.
The planning permission for this project which was granted by An Bord  Pleanála in April 1994 contains conditions which oblige the company to make substantial financial contributions to the local planning authority for necessary road improvement works along with other conditions which are designed to protect the quality of the road leading to and from the proposed mine.
104. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Defence the reason his Department continues to refuse an application of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for re-enlistment in the Permanent Defence Force on the grounds that he is considered to be below the required medical standards when in fact his application for disability benefit has been refused on the grounds that his present state of health would not prevent him from resuming work. [2387/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney): The individual concerned was discharged from the Permanent Defence Force on 12 November 1992 under the terms of Defence Force Regulations A.10, Paragraph 58 (p) on the grounds that he was “Below the required Medical Standards”. Persons discharged on such grounds are ineligible for re-enlistment in the force under the provisions of Defence Force Regulations A.10, Paragraph 12 (1).
The question of a person's entitlement to disability benefit is a matter for the Department of Social Welfare. However, the person referred to in the question has also applied for a disability pension under the Army Pensions Acts and his application is at present being considered by the Army Pensions Board.