Pat Casey TD the spokesman on Housing and Urban renewal gives his thoughts to the Dail on the new Rebuilding Ireland Housing Action Plan from the Government.
Fianna Fail spokesman on Housing and Urban Renewal Pat Casey TD speaking on the Fianna Fail bill on the sale of Council houses to tenants.
Deputy Pat Casey makes it clear that neither he nor Fianna Fail are happy that only two hours have been set aside next week to debate the ministers plan to tackle the housing crisis.
Pat Casey TD gives his Dáil statement as Fianna Fail Spokesman on Housing and Urban Renewal on the Housing committee report
Deputy Pat Casey asking questions of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Local Government Simon Coveney during the Dail Select Committee on Housing.
Pat Casey asking question of the Minister for Justice and Tainaiste Frances Fitzgerald on the number of Gardai in Wicklow.
Pat Casey TD explains how “New Politics” stops him from supporting the Sinn Fein Rent Certainty Bill and only supporting the Fianna Fail solution which he doesnt outline.
Pat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
It is with frustration and disappointment that I will oppose the motion. I am frustrated because I wanted this Dáil to be different from its previous incarnations when the Chamber was used for party political gamesmanship, rather than as a forum for exchanges on policy proposals that would resolve the challenges facing the nation. There is no doubt that housing is a national crisis that requires urgent action. It was for this very reason that, despite the uncertainty around Government formation, the House decided to establish an all-party committee on housing and homelessness. Calls for the committee’s creation were led by Sinn Féin and the committee, with members from Sinn Féin, including Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, working very hard under the chairmanship of my colleague, Deputy John Curran, to produce a report that will contain targeted actions to be published within 72 hours. As I do not have access to the report, I can only assume that it addresses the issue of rent certainty effectively and with a significant input from Deputy Ó Broin.
The responsible, purposeful and correct course of action would be to wait for the report and implement the actions it recommends as quickly as possible. While there will be differences of opinion on some of these actions, as is to be expected, to pre-empt the report with a simplistic Bill designed to generate publicity is not new politics but old, cynical and frustrating politics which I will not support.
I will work positively and in good faith with every Deputy from every political perspective who wants to provide solutions for those trapped in a rental market in which rents are rocketing out of control. We must not be tempted to put in place quick-fix solutions which would have the counterproductive effect of causing rental houses and apartments to be sold, thus shrinking supply even further.
I am saddened because families and tenants who are experiencing increasing and unaffordable rents, with the financial pressure and anxiety that goes with these, deserve better than the political game being played tonight. They are looking to politicians to work together to tackle what is a complex social and economic issue. Housing is a social and economic right, not a speculative market to be exploited at will. This Dáil must work to re-establish a working housing sector in which the rental market fits into a wider housing framework designed for the demographic realities of 2016 and beyond.
As a Deputy from Wicklow-East Carlow, I am acutely aware of the various rental issues in my commuting constituency. In north County Wicklow rents have spiralled out of reach for prospective tenants and out of control for existing tenants. The Bill, if passed, would result in an increase in the number of property owners exiting the rental market, thus forcing more families out of their homes. This is an indisputable and sad fact. I have already observed this development in the rental accommodation scheme under which local authorities pay rent to private landlords on behalf of tenants for a set term. The gap between what can be paid by local authorities and what the private rental sector can demand has increased dramatically throughout Wicklow in recent years. As a result, landlords are exiting the rental accommodation scheme and selling their properties, leaving families homeless. This is just one area of the rental sector where we can clearly see that the Bill before us would make matters worse.
Rent certainty is needed and the Fianna Fáil Party proposed measures, published in our policy document, Generation Rent, to stabilise rent prices immediately by restricting rents to an area-based rental index both within and between tenancies. This is similar to the model in operation in many German cities. The system would be in place for a maximum three-year period, pending annual reviews of the effects of the regulations on market supply.
What is equally required in the Irish context is a wide-ranging package of housing actions where each sector – public and private, rental and ownership, building and regulatory – is clearly managed. This would ensure that actions in one area would not cause difficulties in another.
I ask that the Bill be withdrawn to allow the all-party report to be discussed by all Deputies and enable the Dáil to serve as an example of new politics working on behalf of all people, rather than as a smokescreen for the old and cynical political game which only erodes trust in the ability of politics to resolve the housing crisis.
Pat Casey speaking in the Dail on the provision of mental health care
Pat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
Listening to the debate on mental health services, I have been impressed by the unity of purpose and sincerity shown by Deputies. This problem requires a continuous national response by the Government and a local response by wider society and non-government actors, such as the community and voluntary sector. Mental illness is widespread and there is not a family on the island which has not seen a loved one struck down by one of the conditions of the mind. In too many instances, these conditions have resulted in the ultimate act of despair, namely, death by suicide.
Suicide is not a choice. It does not imply that a person has failed to adapt or has given up. It is the terminal stage of mental illness. My colleague, Deputy Robert Troy, bravely and movingly put into words the crippling physical and emotional symptoms of mental illness. All Deputies wish him well in his recovery and thank him for the public service he provided in sharing his story.
The way in which we conduct our political and public lives must become an example that will help create a society that is respectful of the truth. Regardless of what walk of life we are in and what differences exist between us, we are all human beings on the journey of life. Too often, I have watched news reports from the Dáil showing supposedly adult politicians shouting insults at the other side as they engage in personal point-scoring. While passionate debate is welcome and to be encouraged, all those involved in public life, particularly in politics and the media, have a special duty to engage in debate in a manner that shows respect for difference and informs fellow citizens of the complexities of our problems. Debate should not be driven by shallow headlines.
The mental health crisis is a symptom of the society we create and will become greater if we do not view prevention as equal to curative measures. The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive must introduce a major mental health initiative and treat mental health on a par with cancer and heart disease. It is only by having such a deep and broad focus that mental health will become the priority it clearly deserves to be.
Modern society is too self-obsessed with perceived winners and losers. We have too much black and white when shades of grey are much more common. The pace of life is also increasing as we race to find the right school, children engage in the points race and people seek the right college and the perfect job, partner and house – in short, the illusion of the perfect life. These aspirations are all sold by a consumer society that portrays a shallow view of perfection, one that is unobtainable and is a contributory factor to the strains being felt in the area of mental health.
A positive and preventative approach is a vital pillar of delivering a coherent mental health strategy. In this regard, young people and men must be targeted by a holistic plan which empowers them to be partners in the maintenance of good mental health. I have been highly impressed by the Jigsaw project, which emanated from the Headstrong initiative. Jigsaw is a network of projects designed to ensure that every young person has somewhere to turn when in need. It does this by having centres in hub areas and pop-up clinics and centres to ensure hard to reach young people have relative ease of access to services. It recently managed to provide a service throughout County Donegal. I hope it will be able to provide county-wide services in counties Wicklow and Carlow. While the Health Service Executive is the main funder, holistic and mental health programmes for young people must involve the Department of Education and Skills and all local authorities. I am pleased to report that Wicklow County Council and the Bray Area Partnership are working to establish a Jigsaw service for County Wicklow. Both bodies can be assured of my support, although I will insist on the programme being rolled out beyond the major centres of Bray and Greystones to reach into smaller towns such as Wicklow, Arklow, Blessington and Baltinglass as well as rural areas where mental health problems are escalating at an alarming rate.
Purposeful mental health services for everyone and the beginning of the end of the silent suffering of mental illness can be the lasting legacy of this Dáil. I hope that, as elected representatives who are in close agreement on this issue, we can achieve this objective early in the lifetime of the House. This would send a strong signal to the naysayers and doubters that politics can be a force of real and positive change. For my part, I will lead by example.
Pat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
This is my first opportunity to address the Dáil. I would appreciate if the Acting Chairman could give me a bit of leniency.
Robert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
Pat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
As this is my first time to address the House I want to express my thanks to the people of Wicklow and east Carlow for the opportunity and honour to represent a new type of politics which hopefully can be introduced in this Dáil. I appreciate and share the frustration of people over the length of time the Government formation process is taking but I want to thank all those Deputies who are trying to resolve this so that I can get down to the job that I was elected to do, which is to find realistic solutions to the many problems facing this country.
I come from a long business and community background, and I want to use the experience I have in these areas to provide solutions to the problems that my fellow citizens face. I want to work with every Deputy in the House, regardless of party affiliation to enable the Dáil to be a Parliament that provides an inclusive and comprehensive analysis of our problems and, vitally, to put in place measures that will address these issues in a manner that is accountable.
It is acknowledged that increasing insurance premiums are an unacceptable pressure that individuals, families, farmers, businesses and communities are facing year-in year-out, without any adequate explanation to Government or to the Dáil. The true profits being made in this industry are not nearly transparent enough to justify the rising costs to Irish citizens. In fairness to the insurance industry, Ireland risks creating a claims culture unless we have a realistic view of personal responsibility and unless fraudulent claims are prosecuted as a serious crime.
Insurance costs have been rising relentlessly for families and businesses. The CPI indicates that in the 12 months to March 2016 motor insurance premiums have gone up by 32%. Since December 2011 motor insurance premiums have risen by a massive 50.6%. This is way ahead of the general rate of inflation over the same period.
One of the ways to help resolve rising motor premiums which in the past year have risen by 30% is to re-establish the Motor Insurance Advisory Board whose recommendations reduced insurance costs by 40% between 2002 and 2013.
As I said, there should be full transparency surrounding insurance costs. The income of ten companies which underwrite motor and liability insurance is worth €1.4 billion a year. Total compensation awarded in 2014 was €335 million. There is a gap of €1 billion between premium income and awards made.
The term “public liability” sends shivers down the spine of every small business and community group which owns a facility or runs an event. This week, the Small Firms Association warned of a crisis for businesses due to a compo culture which is leading to increases in public liability insurance premiums. The Freight Transport Association of Ireland has warned that a recent award of €40,000 in damages to an injured hillwalker in Wicklow will have a negative impact on insurance premiums and should be reviewed by the Court of Appeal. It said the award against the National Parks and Wildlife Service was “excessive, setting a precedent for future claims, and ultimately forcing insurance premiums to rise”. I was also struck by the response of Mountaineering Ireland when it stated:
The mountaineering community has a long held and proud tradition of personal responsibility. Mountaineering Ireland feels that today’s judgment runs contrary to this long-established principle. We cannot continue to live our lives without the acceptance of personal responsibility in the belief that every misfortune is someone else’s responsibility.
The last line In particular has significance in this debate. As an hotelier in Glendalough, County Wicklow, I know more than most the value of outdoor recreation as a key economic and tourism pillar of rural Ireland. I have worked all my life both in the tourism sector and with organisations, such as County Wicklow Partnership, Wicklow Uplands Council, Coillte, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wicklow County Council and private landowners, to develop and promote an agreed an open walking trails policy which is an essential part of our rural economic infrastructure. It is my consistent and confirmed view that any regeneration of rural Ireland must further develop and promote this industry which provides sustainable employment and income to every county on this island.
The past week has seen outdoor recreation in the countryside being put at unacceptable risk due to the award of damages to an injured hillwalker. On a positive note, the decision has resulted in a remarkable unity of purpose being shown by diverse organisations, such as the IFA and Mountaineering Ireland, which are at one in expressing shock at this decision. It is essential for the protection of our outdoor recreation sector and landowners that the State undertakes to introduce a blanket insurance cover for upland areas. In return, agreed and accessible walking routes can be developed and crucially maintained. I thank the House for its consideration of this issue.