Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Rent Transparency Bill 2017: First Stage
 Header Item Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: First Stage

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 955 No. 3

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Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Can we have an update on the proposed compensation for tillage farmers? Farmers, particularly those in west Cork, are eagerly awaiting the terms of the compensation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar No legislation is pending on that but I will ask the Minister, Deputy Creed, to contact the Deputies directly to answer their questions.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien On page 140 of the programme for Government it mentions fulfilling the Irish Government's mandate as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. In light of the deal done by the DUP with the British Tory party, has the Taoiseach any comment to make following the issuing of Theresa May's letter, which tells her Tory MPs, "As set out in its General Election manifesto, the Conservative Party will never be neutral in expressing its support for the Union"?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That is not an issue relating to promised legislation.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien It is. It is an issue in the programme for Government and is about how the Government can fulfil its role as co-guarantor. How can it ensure the British Government fulfils its role as a neutral co-guarantor, having stated that it has no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland in 1994 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It was 1998.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. What are the implications of the letter Theresa May issued to her fellow Tory MPs?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I read the agreement yesterday and I am due to speak to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, later this evening about this matter and the ongoing talks in Belfast. The agreement states the British Government's ongoing commitment to the Belfast Agreement but also states that the British Conservative Party is a unionist party, as if anyone did not know already. Just as that party asserts its commitment to the union, we and our parties assert our aspiration to Irish unity but, as regards the Belfast Agreement, we agree to act impartially and as co-guarantors.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes questions on promised legislation. My apologies to Deputies Buckley, Carey and Durkan but we have run out of time.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I indicated also.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I did not see the Deputy indicate. We may have to look at a more effective way for Deputies to indicate they wish to raise a matter. Unfortunately, I do not have bionic eyes.

Rent Transparency Bill 2017: First Stage

Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to render it unlawful for any person to rent residential property without provision of, and agreement to publication of, pertinent information to the Residential Tenancies Board.

Everyone in this Chamber is all too aware of how difficult the housing market is right now, for both buyers and renters. Some things have been achieved in the past year and I pay tribute to the former Minister, Deputy Coveney and the current Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, for the work done in this field. However, as regards action in the rental market, more can be done. As a renter myself I am very conscious of the problems renters face. These problems are faced not just by my generation but by an ever-growing number of people across an ever-growing number of age cohorts.

  It is quite clear the property price register has given information and transparency and has allowed people in the past to make more informed choices when it comes to the purchase of property. The same power must be given to, and it must be expanded for, those in the rental sector. This is not, nor should it be projected as, adversarial legislation. It is pro-tenant but it is also pro-good landlord and it complements the rent protection zone legislation introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Coveney. It ensures the legislation is more likely to be adhered to, allows renters to make more informed choices and ensures that landlords cannot breach the rental protection zone rules between tenants. I see examples of this regularly. People present to my office having had a lease which has expired and where the landlords are putting up the rent by 20% or 30% between tenants, in a clear breach of rent protection zone rules that is happening every day. The transparency and information allowed by this Bill would fix any potential breaches in this area. The Government should be concerned about making its own rules work in the best way possible by minimising rent increases between tenants, both old and new, and it is incumbent on Deputies of all parties to work to make the market as good as possible for both tenants and good landlords.

  Some would say this adds bureaucracy or unnecessary administration but I do not think so. The Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, already collects this information when the tenancy is registered, together with the information on the size and type of property. This Bill effectively liberates that existing information for the public good. As we know, for markets to work well certain things are needed and one of the key ingredients is information. Ronan Lyons, the esteemed economist from Trinity College, has noted that those active in the housing market a decade ago or more know well the feeling of not knowing whether they overpaid for a property and this feeling haunts many renters right now as they do not know what a fair price is. In Dublin in particular, and especially in my constituency of Dublin North-West, people often take whatever property is available for whatever price is available. Information is the root of what this Bill promises and I commend it to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh No.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It is a pity the Government did not take an amendment I tabled on this matter last year.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: First Stage

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s social and economic background; and to provide for related matters.

Since I have been spokesperson on justice and equality for the past 14 months we have had a lot of legislation and debates concerning justice but there has been very little debate relating to the equality part of the justice and equality brief. This legislation seeks to perfect that flaw. Politicians talk a lot about equality but if we are serious about achieving equality we need to introduce some statutory schemes in order to ensure it is obeyed. At present, equality in our legal system is reflected in the Employment Equality Acts and the Equal Status Acts, which were first introduced by Fianna Fáil in 1998 and 2000, respectively. The Employment Equality Acts prohibit discrimination in respect of employment and access to employment, while the Equal Status Acts provide a prohibition on discrimination in the provision of service. Both sets of legislation set out nine grounds upon which discrimination is prohibited. For example, one cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, gender, religion, age or sexual orientation. To a large extent it is difficult to police this but the fact that it is contained within legislation is important as it sends out a message to employers and service providers that discrimination in this area is not permitted. It is effective in reducing discrimination and has been effective in the nine areas in which the legislation prohibits discrimination at the moment.

  In recent times Deputy O'Loughlin and I, as well as other members of our party, have become aware from speaking to people at our clinics that there is another form of discrimination, which is probably more widespread but which is not prohibited in our legislation. This is the form of discrimination that arises for people who live in certain estates, mainly local authority estates, who say that when they apply for jobs they do not put down their address because the area in which they live is associated with deprivation, higher anti-social behaviour or some elements of criminality. We know that this is happening and it is shameful. It violates the principles of equality that people can discriminate against individuals because of where they come from in the city or the country. It has an impact on individuals and people tell me they give different addresses when submitting job applications if they are from certain estates which are frowned upon, to avoid the stigma associated with their address by certain employers. This does not just apply to employment contracts but is also relevant to the provision of services.

  The Bill that Deputy O'Loughlin and I seek leave to introduce seeks to add one further ground of prohibited discrimination to the nine grounds already contained within the legislation. The new ground is referred to as the socio-economic ground.

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