In County Limerick there are 1,543 people are on the housing list with a further 2,274 on the list for the city, which is a total of 3,817 for the new local authority, Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on social housing, he said these are not just numbers.
“They represent people and their families, many of whom have been on the lists for a considerable period of time,” he said. “I know from my time as a county councillor that some people on the housing lists spend huge amounts of time on them. There has been the safety valve of the rental market but matters were really brought home to me over Christmas. I met people from my own area who work in Dublin in good jobs yet find that they are being priced out of the property market. They find that the aspiration to buy an apartment or house in Dublin is out. In some instances, it is the case that even with a good job, being able to rent an apartment or house in Dublin is out.”
We are slowly but surely reverting to the situation which destroyed the country, he said. “We must take it very seriously. We cannot allow a situation to re-emerge where people must commute to Dublin from Kilkenny, Mullingar, Longford and places like that due to a bubble that is about to be inflated in the city once again. We cannot realistically say that property rising prices, rental demand and rents are a good thing. They are not. They will lead to further wage demands by those at work, which will lead to inflation and in turn to the competitiveness cycle we found ourselves swirling around in during the good old days of the last Administration. The housing situation is critical to ensuring that does not happen.”
Government questioned on use of Shannon Airport
Given the Government’s clear commitment to the idea of neutrality, Wexford Independent Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe why it continues to allow Shannon Airport to be used by the US military.
In reply, Minister Donohoe said Ireland’s policy of military neutrality has gone hand-in-hand with a belief that international engagement is critical to enhance co-operation and to reduce conflict in the world.
“Ireland has consistently sought to engage directly in the promotion of international peace and security through our bilateral contacts and multilateral efforts with the United Nations and the European Union,” he said.
However, he said successive Governments have made overflight and landing facilities available at Shannon Airport to the United States for well over 50 years.
“These arrangements do not amount to any form of military alliance with the United States and are governed by strict conditions,” he said. “These include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and do not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question do not form any part of military exercises or operations. I therefore see no incompatibility between the use of Shannon Airport and our traditional policy of military neutrality.”
Neville concerned at pace of progress in mental health services
While progress has been made on mental health under this Government, there is concern regarding the level and pace of that progress, Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Dan Neville told the Dáil.
“The funding has been made available, but the pace of change within the Health Service Executive is not what we would like,” he said. “What is needed at this point is a full report to the Oireachtas regarding the HSE’s expenditure of moneys allocated since the beginning of the Government’s term for developing mental health services.”
We are coming from a very low base in this regard, with only 5.3% of the total health budget allocated to mental health services, said Deputy Neville. In England and Wales, that figure is 13%, while in Scotland it is 18%. “The HSE, through its National Office for Suicide Prevention, has a policy of developing suicide prevention programmes, suicide research and support for the bereaved. The budget for that office has doubled under this Government, from €4 million to €8.9 million. The Road Safety Authority does a very good job and deserves whatever funding it gets, because too many people are still dying on our roads. However, when one compares its budget of €41 million with the €8.9 million allocated to the National Office for Suicide Prevention, one sees how far we still have to go.”