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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Mar 1999

Vol. 501 No. 5

Order of Business.

Today's Order of Business is No. 1, the National Disability Authority Bill, 1998 [Seanad], Second Stage.

On 10 February a Government motion was passed by the House. Will the Taoiseach tell the House what opportunity he had yesterday in Brussels to discuss the motion with Commissioner Flynn? Did he get an opportunity to have a one to one meeting with Mr. Flynn to discuss the matter? Will he clarify the discrepancy between Mr. Flynn's assessment of what he said to the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach's own assessment? This concerns a motion agreed by the House. Yesterday the Taoiseach had an opportunity to discuss it with Mr. Flynn and we want to know whether he availed of that opportunity.

Deputy Quinn has a similar question.

Are we to get an answer?

I ask the Deputy to resume her seat while the Chair is on its feet. I have called Deputy Quinn who has indicated he has a question on the same subject.

With respect, you do not know whether Deputy Quinn will raise the same matter.

The Deputy cannot dictate to the Chair whom it should call. The Chair has decided to call Deputy Quinn.

I want to protest strongly—

The Deputy should resume her seat. The Chair has decided to call Deputy Quinn. The Chair is the sole judge of order, not the Deputy.

How do you know Deputy Quinn will raise the same matter?

The Ceann Comhairle asked me, or indicated to me in a manner which enables us to communicate, being former colleagues, whether I would raise a matter on the same subject and I indicated that I would do so.

On Tuesday the Taoiseach indicated in reply to a question put by my colleague, Deputy Howlin, that he had no specific plans to meet Commissioner Flynn in Brussels yesterday. When were the changes in the plans made and when was it decided that the Taoiseach would meet Commissioner Flynn? I ask this in view of the potentially misleading reply the Taoiseach gave to the House on Tuesday.

Did the Taoiseach have an opportunity to discuss policy in regard to regionalisation with Commissioner Flynn?

I stated in the House during the extended Question Time on Tuesday my understanding was that Commissioner Flynn would be returning from America on Wednesday and that if it was possible we would meet, but that we had no confirmation of a meeting as his senior officials were with him. Very late on Tuesday night his office stated that he would be back in time and would meet me after the Commission meeting and before I met the President of the Commission, Mr. Santer. That was communicated to me on Wednesday morning at the airport. We met for 50 minutes before I met President Santer and we discussed issues surrounding Agenda 2000. As I said last night on RTE and to the media, I had a short meeting of about three minutes on other matters.

Were officials present during that three minute meeting, if that was the length of it, or was it a one to one meeting? I want to know whether the Taoiseach got a chance to express to Commissioner Flynn—

This is the Order of Business.

The matter concerns a motion passed by the House. I ask the Ceann Comhairle not to stop me talking, but to stop those on the Government benches from talking.

I am calling for order. Deputy Owen has possession and I ask Members to please allow her to ask a question.

Does this concern promised legislation?

None of your bullying tactics. Let us have an answer.

If we are not allowed ask about motions passed by this House, I do not know about what else we are allowed to ask.

Go to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to change Standing Orders?

We are not asking for favours; we are asking questions.

Could I please have an answer? I am asking about a motion passed by this House. The Ceann Comhairle is in charge of this House and has to allow questions about a motion passed in this House.

The Deputy cannot dictate to the Chair how it should operate. I ask the Deputy to desist from dictating to the Chair. I will allow the Deputy a further brief comment, but it is not Question Time.

I realise that. With respect, my row is not with you, a Cheann Comhairle, but with the Taoiseach regarding a question about a motion passed by this House. At his three minute meeting with Mr. Flynn, what did he say to him about the motion passed by this House? Did he relay to him the annoyance and anger of this House that his letter did not reply to the motion as passed by it? What did he discuss at that three minute meeting and was he alone or were officials present?

Does the Taoiseach wish to comment on that?

Commissioner Flynn is fully aware of what was said in the House on Tuesday.

I am sure everyone in the House would like some clarity on this matter because its entire membership passed a resolution which has a particular importance for all of us but particularly for the Fianna Fáil Party which seems to be somewhat agitated this morning. On the news coverage last night, there seemed to be slightly conflicting reports as to what was reported by the Taoiseach and by Commissioner Flynn in relation to the conversation they had. Did Commissioner Flynn indicate to the Taoiseach at the meeting yesterday that he has taken on board the sentiments of the motion passed by this House?

As I stated on Tuesday in the House, Commissioner Flynn replied to my request when I sent him the motion. He stated that he will fully comply with the tribunal set up by this House. In whatever the tribunal requests of him, he will fully facilitate its investigations.

What about the motion passed by this House?

This is not Question Time and the Deputy should table a question. Does Deputy Barrett have a question or a comment?

On a point of order—

It is a cover up and you are conspirators in the cover up. You are afraid of the truth.

On a point of order, the Taoiseach did not complete his statement. The reason we were told that Commissioner Flynn could not make a full statement, as requested by this House, was because of legal difficulties. Has the Taoiseach inquired into what legal difficulties arise or did he ask Commissioner Flynn, in the course of his meeting, about the legal difficulties of which he was speaking? That is the net point here. We were told we were debarred from getting a statement because of legal difficulties.

He explained that the other day.

What are the legal difficulties?

That is not a point of order.

Has the Taoiseach inquired of the Attorney General if Commissioner Flynn has any real legal difficulties?

We cannot have a full debate on this subject.

Deputy Lawlor announced on three different occasions that the new ethics legislation would soon be before the House. Will the Taoiseach indicate when it will be before the House?

As you, a Cheann Comhairle, will know, I asked the House and the committee to move ahead on that matter. This day two weeks ago I was told by the chairman of the committee that it would endeavour to do so before St. Patrick's Day. As soon as that happens, the Government will begin to draft legislation. Deputy Rabbitte will recall there was a request in this House that we should put the draft proposals to the committee of the House. If I had not done that, we would have had the Bill a long time ago.

(Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach indicate when the Bill will be published to establish the new body merging the functions of the National Social Services Board and some of those of the National Rehabilitation Board and when the Dáil debate will commence on it?

The heads of the Bill were approved for drafting by the Government in January. They have been assigned to a parliamentary draftsman and drafting has not yet been completed. We hope to have it at an early date.

(Mayo): In view of the major doubt about the effectiveness of our anti-fraud legislation – a point confirmed recently by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, in one of his Sunday Independent instalments when he wrote an article about white collar crime going unpunished – the recent £52 million Nigerian fraud and a succession of other similar frauds which are going unpunished, what is the situation in relation to the Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill? This slipped up and down various lists. According to this publication, it is not expected before May 1999. When will we see this legislation and will the Taoiseach give it the priority status it deserves? Why does he not ensure it is brought before the House as a matter of urgency?

The legislation is due in the middle of this year.

On promised legislation, will the Taoiseach clarify the position in relation to the Tánaiste's promise to provide work permits for asylum seekers pending the determination of their application for asylum? In early January, the media reported that the Government agreed in principle on this matter, a fact supported by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, in public comments. The House was told last night by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the report that the Government had agreed in principle to issue work permits was totally false.

The Deputy should not make a statement but should ask a question.

Will the Taoiseach clarify Government policy on this matter? Is there an agreement in principle, as has been reported?

The heads of the work permits legislation are being prepared and publication is expected later this year.

That was not the question. Is there agreement in principle, as reported and supported by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, to do this or was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform right when he said such a report is totally false? Which reflects the Government view?

I confirmed to the Deputy that the work permits Bill dealing with the work permits regime in respect of EA nationals working in the State is under discussion and the Bill will be circulated this year.

Is there agreement in principle, as stated?

As the Deputy would know, matters under discussion, contained in memoranda and aides-mémoires and discussed in the Department, are not an issue for the Order of Business.

Has the Government any plans to introduce emergency legislation to resolve the serious impasse between the community of Cobh, Aghada and Rafeen in east Cork and the ESB over the erection of pylons? I understand the Minister for Public Enterprise has brought the matter to the attention of Cabinet. Has the Government any plans in this regard?

No legislation has been promised.

We had a report last week that the Government's proposal for two regions in relation to Structural Funds had been rejected by EUROSTAT. Will the Taoiseach publish the letter EUROSTAT sent the Government on this matter, given that it has been quoted from on a number of occasions by Ministers? We in this House have a right to know the contents of that letter. In the application to EUROSTAT, were the powers of the new regional authorities outlined?

These matters are still the subject of ongoing correspondence and negotiation between the Department, the Central Statistics Office and EUROSTAT and I do not believe it is proper to publish correspondence of that nature. It is not done and should not be done in this case. EUROSTAT and the Commission are aware of our proposals and none of the difficulties which exist concern the issue raised by the Deputy.

I have a reply from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government dated 3 March in which he states that no decisions have been made regarding the nature of the new regional authority. What is going on? The Taoiseach told the House that an application has been made to EUROSTAT and that proposals have been made concerning two regional authorities. However, the Department of the Environment and Local Government states that no decisions have been made concerning regional authorities.

This matter was thoroughly dealt with during Priority Questions yesterday.

What is going on? Is the House not entitled to know what kind of ham-fisted job the Government is making of this matter?

This matter was dealt with on Priority Questions yesterday.

The Deputy said this before and he was incorrect.

The Government is making this up as it goes along.

The day before yesterday the Taoiseach announced a new scheme to make affordable houses available to those who cannot currently afford it. In view of the meeting of the General Council of County Councils, does the Taoiseach intend to introduce a Supplementary Estimate to allow county councils to purchase land —

This matter was debated during Question Time yesterday. We cannot repeat Priority Questions.

I am asking about a Supplementary Estimate.

We cannot repeat yesterday's Priority Questions. It is not in order to ask about a Supplementary Estimate.

Of course it is.

It is not in order. I ruled this out of order yesterday and I rule it out of order today. The Deputy should obey the Chair.

How is this plan to be implemented? The Dublin authorities have no land.

The Deputy should comply with the rulings of the Chair.

Will the Government introduce legislation to permit Oireachtas chairpersons to contest local elections? If so, why was this measure not included in the local elections Bill published last week?

That matter is being considered by way of an amendment.


We cannot debate this matter now. Has the Deputy a precise point to make?

This was dealt with during Question Time yesterday.

When will this amendment be published? A Bill was published last week on local elections which did not include this measure. Is the Government trying to slip in a measure to save its own skin?


The promised Prevention of Corruption Bill is designed to implement the EU convention involving officials of the EU Commission and of member states.

It is not in order to state the contents of the Bill.

Does the Taoiseach accept that there is great urgency in bringing forward this Bill? It is unacceptable that it is not due until late this year. Will the Taoiseach ensure that this Bill, which will allow us to implement the EU convention, will be before the House at the earliest possible date?

The heads of the Bill are being prepared in the Department but it will not be before the House until later this year.

In view of the concern that parts of the island are vanishing due to erosion, will there be any moves to bring forward the Coastal Zone Managment Bill, proposed for next year, to this year?

Only for south Kerry.

The Bill will be introduced early next year. The heads are being prepared but it is not expected to publish the Bill until 2000. I will mention the Deputy's concerns to the Minister.

Will the Taoiseach draft the Companies (Amendment) Bill to deal with the growing crisis caused by job losses in Cork? We have lost 700 jobs in recent weeks in Cork. There have been announcements about potential jobs but 700 real jobs have been lost. Will the Government address this growing crisis at a time when the Celtic tiger is supposed to be rampant? Where is the Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Employment?

That is why we created 6,000 jobs in Cork.

I did not notice the Deputy standing up in the House on the several occasions on which tens of thousands of jobs were announced.

Notional jobs.

The Bill will be ready shortly.

Is Deputy Allen going to run for Europe?

He would get plenty of support.

The Mental Health (Amendment) Bill will not be published before mid-1999. Will this be speeded up and when can we expect the Bill? When can we expect the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency (Amendment) Bill?

The Mental Health Bill will be published after Easter and the environmental legislation will be published at the end of the year.

I note that the Taoiseach is limping this morning. I sympathise with him and hope that this has nothing to do with his meeting in Brussels yesterday. Now that the second anniversary of the Second Reading of the Children Bill has passed, will the Taoiseach indicate whether we will have a third anniversary before the promised amendments are given to the committee?

I referred to this matter a fortnight ago on the Order of Business. There are several hundred amendments being prepared. Because of developments in Ireland and Europe it is getting to a stage where this legislation is entirely changed. The matter will have to be brought forward in amended form or as a new Bill. That will take some time.

In a legislative innovation, the Taoiseach told Deputy Gilmore that the Government will be amending its own Bill.

Has the Deputy never heard of that before?

Will chairpersons of committees have to be in an Objective One region in order to qualify for local elections?

The Deputy should have first told that joke to Deputy Ferris.

When is it proposed to incorporate the provisions of article 3A of the Television Without Frontiers directive into law? This legislation is promised by the Minister in respect of free to air broadcasting coverage of major sporting events.

I hope it will be done by the summer.

In light of the Deputy Molloy's new regulations on housing density and other matters concerning housing, is it proposed to take the Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Bill earlier? Given the housing crisis will there be similar legislation for the Galltacht and the Gaeltacht?

That legislation will be ready early next year.