Week’s events; Penalty points, North Dublin transport, Supplementary Estimate

16th December, 2014

Last week (8-12th Dec) began with my attendance at the Ministerial Group meeting on road safety, which takes place twice a year. This was an issue that was to go on and dominate the rest of week to follow. An error in respect of road traffic legislation and the administration of penalty points for two offences (driving without a valid NCT and dangerous parking) was detected within my Department at the end of November. As I was dealing with this matter, a further issue came to light which raised a question over whether penalty points endorsed on the payment of a fixed charge notice since 1st August had been done so validly. Having sought the advice of the Attorney General and consulted widely with my departmental officials, I took the decision to introduce amending legislation, to deal with both issues. I will be bringing this legislation through the Oireachtas this week and am confident that it will secure the integrity of the penalty points system and ensure that all penalty points administered in recent months remain in place.


Road Traffic legislation is extremely complex and has been amended many times over the years since 1961. As we make strides to make our roads safer, for example where developments in tackling drug driving are concerned, legislation is updated to take account of the changes being made. In a bid to limit the chance of a reoccurrence of the events of the past week, my Department will be consolidating all road traffic acts into a single piece of legislation.  This is a significant undertaking, a timeframe for which is now being identified.


I also brought the Supplementary Estimate for my Department before the Transport Committee this week for their consideration. With an estimate of €162 million recommended, this is the largest amount of funding of its kind seen by the Department since before the financial crisis in 2008. Included is a provision for €110 million for public transport investment, which will be used to support bus and rail renewal programmes and Luas Cross City. By providing for measures that will make public transport a more attractive option we can entice more people out of their cars, reduce congestion and assist our future economic growth. The 90 new buses which will result for Dublin Bus and the 57 new coaches for Bus Éireann will make a real difference to the commuters who rely on these services, allowing us to maintain a fleet that is good condition and that meets the needs of the travelling public.


Earlier in the week, I launched, together with the National Transport Authority (NTA), a shortlist of project options to address future transport needs of the Fingal/North Dublin area. As one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, long-term planning needs to be taken account of now. The possible projects, which include two heavy rail options, two Luas/metro options, one Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option and one combination option, are now out for public consultation and I urge everyone with an interest in transport in north Dublin to consult the NTA’s website before the closing date of January 19th to make their views known.


On the tourism front, we had continuing good news in terms of the revenue that the State has taken in from overseas visitors in the first nine months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. With an estimated €2.8 billion accruing to the State – an increase of €241 million or +9.3 %, the role tourism is playing in our economic recovery is clearly evident. Later in the week, I attended the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation Council meeting, the aim of which was to plan for 2015. A focus is being placed on the Irish food experience for next year and what that can deliver for the tourist industry, which is an exciting prospect and one I have no doubt will deliver.


I also had Topical Issues in the Dáil this week on the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme and an adjournment in the Seanad on road safety issues in Galway.

In the constituency, I joined in the Christmas tree lightings at Cabra and East Wall which were great festive events on cold December evenings. I also paid a visit to the North East Inner City Old Folks’ Christmas Party, which was organised and run by Croke Park and the Gardaí, and which I was delighted to attend.