1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recently published review of the operation of the strategic communications unit in his Department. (Question 15860/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the progress on delivering the recommendations of the report on the review of the strategic communications unit. (Question 16463/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the report on matters relating to the strategic communications unit that was published in late March 2018. (Question 16497/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

4. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the report on matters relating to the strategic communications unit that was published in late March 2018. (Question 16524/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

5. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the status of the implementation of the report to wind down the strategic communications unit. (Question 17613/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

6. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if the appointment of independent members to the National Economic and Social Council has been finalised. (Question 16169/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - National Economic and Social Council)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 8, inclusive, together.
The National Economic and Social Council, NESC, has a membership of 28, reduced from 34 in the previous council. Members are appointed in accordance with the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010, that is, 15 members are nominated by the five sectors - business and employer, ICTU, farming and agriculture, community an...

7. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the progress on filling the vacancies on the National Economic and Social Council. (Question 17614/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - National Economic and Social Council)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 8, inclusive, together.
The National Economic and Social Council, NESC, has a membership of 28, reduced from 34 in the previous council. Members are appointed in accordance with the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010, that is, 15 members are nominated by the five sectors - business and employer, ICTU, farming and agriculture, community an...

8. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the appointment of members to the National Economic and Social Council and the vacancies that exist. (Question 17615/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - National Economic and Social Council)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 8, inclusive, together.
The National Economic and Social Council, NESC, has a membership of 28, reduced from 34 in the previous council. Members are appointed in accordance with the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010, that is, 15 members are nominated by the five sectors - business and employer, ICTU, farming and agriculture, community an...

9. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the national policy statement on the bioeconomy published recently by his Department. (Question 16170/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Economic Policy)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.
The Government believes the bioeconomy can ensure more efficient use of renewable resources and support sustainable economic development and employment in rural Ireland. In simple terms, the bioeconomy involves the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products such as food, biopharmaceuticals and bioenergy.
An interdepartmental group, bri...

10. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the role of his Department in the preparation of the national policy statement on the bioeconomy. (Question 17617/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Economic Policy)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.
The Government believes the bioeconomy can ensure more efficient use of renewable resources and support sustainable economic development and employment in rural Ireland. In simple terms, the bioeconomy involves the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products such as food, biopharmaceuticals and bioenergy.
An interdepartmental group, bri...

11. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the national policy statement on the bioeconomy recently published by his Department. (Question 17789/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Economic Policy)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.
The Government believes the bioeconomy can ensure more efficient use of renewable resources and support sustainable economic development and employment in rural Ireland. In simple terms, the bioeconomy involves the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products such as food, biopharmaceuticals and bioenergy.
An interdepartmental group, bri...

23. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the ongoing pensions issue at CIÉ involving approximately 16,700 members; and the steps he is taking to address the matter. (Question 18008/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Pension Provisions)

Deputy Robert Troy: I apologise for being late. What is the status of the ongoing pensions issue at CIÉ group involving approximately 16,700 members and what steps has the Minister taken to address this issue, which has been brought to his attention on a number of occasions? My colleague, Deputy O’Dea, brought the matter to the Minister’s attention in November. The Minister was to revert back to him. I do not think he did so. We had a discussion on this issue at a recent meeting of an Oirea...

24. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the proposal to remove the slip road tolls in Drogheda for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which is taking place in the town in August 2018; the steps he has taken to pursue the removal of the tolls; the engagement that has taken place with relevant stakeholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18030/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Road Tolls)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy in respect of national roads. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects on national roads is the responsibility of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the relevant local authority. More specifically, the statutory powers to levy tolls on national roads, to make tol...

25. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to address capacity shortages that exist across the Dublin transport system; and the short and medium-term steps he is taking to address the matter. (Question 18009/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Transport Policy)

Deputy Robert Troy: In light of the serious capacity shortages that exist across the public transport system of the capital, Dublin, what short and medium-term steps is the Minister taking to address the issue?
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26. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure that the implementation of the proposed amendment to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017, which seeks to impose penalties on the owners of vehicles operated by unaccompanied learner drivers, does not cause driver test waiting times to worsen, in view of the fact that driver test waiting times are lengthy in most parts of the State and there has been a significant drop in the number of driver testers; if the wait times for both the scheduling of tests and the time spent waiting for tests have reduced in the past quarter; his further plans to assist the Road Safety Authority, RSA, in reducing the waiting times for driver tests, including agreeing to the formation of a panel of driver testers; the assistance he has given to the RSA regarding the establishment of additional driver test centres and increased recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18031/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Driver Test Waiting Lists)

Deputy Imelda Munster: There is a chronic shortage of driver testers throughout the State and waiting times for driver tests in test centres throughout the State has spiralled out of control, with a waiting time of up to seven months in many cases. What assistance has the Minister given to the RSA regarding the establishment of additional driver test centres and increased recruitment? Will he make a statement on this matter?
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27. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to fund the restoration of over 12,000 km of secondary roads deemed to be in severe structural distress by the National Oversight and Audit Commission, NOAC, and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17769/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Roads Maintenance)

Deputy Brendan Ryan: I am very interested in hearing the Minister’s plans to fund the restoration of over 12,000 km of secondary roads throughout the country deemed to be in severe structural distress by the NOAC. I raise this as a Deputy who represents Dublin Fingal, which, on the face of it, is close to Dublin but which has a massive network of primary and secondary roads, some of which are in atrocious condition and will not find their way into a works programme this year or possibly next ye...

28. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to sustain visitor numbers from the US market. (Question 17772/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Tourism Policy)

Deputy Joe Carey: I ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to sustain visitor numbers from the US market.
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29. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the estimated costs of the establishment of the competent authority under EU 598/2014; the amount spent to date; and if funds have been or will be paid to Fingal County Council or other organisations in 2018. (Question 17724/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - EU Regulations)

Deputy Clare Daly: A number of months ago, to the surprise of the community and many of its representatives, the Minister announced that he would appoint Fingal County Council and An Bord Pleanála as the competent authority and appeals body for the implementation of EU Regulation 598/2014. What is the status of that? What is the budget? How much has been spent? What progress has been made? We have not received much information since the announcement.
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30. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the actions he and the NTA are taking to ensure adequate modes of transport and transport links are provided to ensure the viability of the Clonburris strategic development zone, SDZ, development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17735/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Public Transport Provision)

Deputy John Curran: The Minister will be aware that South Dublin County Council is at present in the advanced stages of planning for a new town at Clonburris by means of a strategic development zone. This will be a new town with approximately 8,500 residential units of accommodation, as well as commercial centres, schools and so forth, located between Clondalkin and Lucan, with a population in excess of 20,000. My question is very specific. What modes of transport are being planned to sustain...

31. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding his engagement with key stakeholders involved in the Dublin Airport north runway project and the appointment of an independent noise regulator, including the CEO of Fingal County Council. (Question 17778/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Airport Development Projects)

Deputy Robert Troy: What level of engagement has the Minister had with the key stakeholders involved in the DAA north runway project? I ask with specific reference to the appointment of Fingal County Council as the independent noise regulator to comply with EU directive 598/2014.
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32. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if additional funding to local authorities for the repair and upgrade of local and regional roads will be provided in view of the significant backlog of work that exists and the impact of recent extreme weather events. (Question 17780/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Road Network)

Deputy Robert Troy: We will take the Minister up on that offer of the cross-party briefing, like before. I hope he will be able to enlighten us more than he has today.
On the funding for repair and upgrade of our local and regional roads, considering the significant backlog of work that exists and the impact of the recent adverse weather, what is the Government’s plan to assist local authorities?
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33. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reconsider the appointment of Fingal County Council as the noise regulator for Dublin Airport in view of the response from local residents and the reliance the council has on rate-based income and the perception that the regulator needs to be seen as an independent stakeholder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17768/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Airport Development Projects)

Deputy Brendan Ryan: There have been variations on this question today and on previous occasions, but I make no apology for raising it again. I want the Minister to reconsider this issue. It is my intention to remind him of the relationship that exists between Fingal and Dublin Airport. It is a commercial relationship and the decision should be reconsidered.
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1. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the negotiation of a new general practitioner contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17265/18 asked on 19 Apr 2018 - General Practitioner Contracts)

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: I look forward to working with the Minister in the coming months and for however long this Dáil lasts. My intention and that of Fianna Fáil is to work with the Government on the issue of healthcare where we can, although, as I am sure the Minister will appreciate, we will robustly hold him to account where we believe there is not sufficient action being taken. I certainly extend the hand of co-operation to the Minister and the Government. There is obviously much im...

2. Deputy Louise O’Reilly asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the increased incidence of assaults on staff in the health service, if reports have been conducted into the issue of assaults, the measures taken to protect staff and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16981/18 asked on 19 Apr 2018 - Health Services Staff)

Deputy Louise O’Reilly: Unlike Deputy Donnelly, the Minister and I tend to disagree quite a lot but I think we can all agree that there is a recruitment and retention crisis in our health service. I have said this many times. I believe this Government, the previous Government and even the one before that have made our health service a very unattractive place in which to work. We now see that our health service is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for healthcare professionals. This is ...

3. Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health when the additional respite facilities for persons with disabilities and their families announced in the HSE service plan will be in place and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17266/18 asked on 19 Apr 2018 - Respite Care Services Provision)

Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony: Whatever about the Wicklow presence, it is great to see a strong west Cork presence here this morning as well. When will the additional respite facilities for individuals with disabilities and their families announced in the HSE service plan be in place?
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