Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 11 Oct 2001

Vol. 542 No. 1

Order of Business.

The Order of Business for today shall be as follows: No. 8, the Family Support Agency Bill, 2001, order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that questions be taken from 3.30 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. In the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. and the order shall resume thereafter.

There is only one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for taking questions agreed?

My office was contacted about 15 minutes ago and informed that the Taoiseach would not take the Order of Business today. I note that the Tánaiste is not here either. The House was in recess for approximately 86 days. This is the fifth day back and, without any disrespect to the Members opposite, could we have an explanation as to why neither the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste is present to take the Order of Business, now that we have the institution of leaders' questions.

He is canvassing. He is in Castlepollard.

Deputies understand that from time to time the leaders of the Opposition may not be here. Likewise, the Tánaiste and Taoiseach may, on occasions, not be here. The Taoiseach is on official business.

The Deputies will be here.


We cannot debate the matter every time the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are not here.


I will put the proposal to the House.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Mícheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael. Wright, G. V.


Allen, Bernard.Bell, Michael.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Currie, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Enright, Thomas.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Jim.Mitchell, Olivia.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Spring, Dick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Upton, Mary.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

On a point of order, a procedurally serious matter for a Member has been brought to my attention where the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, last night accused a Member, Deputy Broughan, on two occasions of telling lies to the House and refused to withdraw the comment when asked to do so, as is the norm. I seek the Ceann Comhairle's guidance on how a permanent slur on the character of one of our Members can be addressed given that the Minister did not do the normal thing and withdraw the comment at the time.

She compounded it.

The Minister is present this morning. Let her withdraw the remark.

The matter cannot be revisited today. We cannot go back on yesterday's business.

The Minister is present.

The Minister is present. It would be a simple matter for her to withdraw the remark.

The Minister of State wishes to respond.

The Minister said it was a lie.

The Minister should oblige and withdraw the remark.

If the Minister wishes to reply, she should be allowed do so.

I wanted to—

What does "no, no" mean when I have not even said a word?

Order, please.

Am I allowed to respond because the Deputy is standing—

We only seek a withdrawal of a comment the Minister is not entitled to make.

The Member who asked the question is standing and will not—

The Minister is not entitled to accuse a Member of lying.

Order, please.

Can I speak?

The Minister of State.

The Deputy will not sit down. Deputy Broughan said: "The Minister said last night that there was no hope for people with disabilities". I responded: "I did not say that last night. That is a lie". If the word "lie" is inappropriate, then I do not have a problem withdrawing it, but it is an untruth for him to say that I said that last night.

Does the Minister withdraw the word without reservation?

Without reservation. I have no problem withdrawing the word "lie".

I call Deputy Noonan on Leaders' Questions.

The Minister for Education and Science probably noted that the Taoiseach apologised last night to a journalist for the fact his

phone was tapped by a previous Fianna Fáil Administration with the full knowledge and compliance of the then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. While the Government is in a mood for apologies will it apologise this morning for the insensitive treatment last night of so many disabled people when the alliance of disabled persons brought forward a Bill that was slapped down in a most arrogant and insensitive manner by Ministers? Given that the Minister forced Mrs. Sinnott to go to the Supreme Court to vindicate her rights will he apologise this morning, on the Government's behalf, to disabled persons all around the country and will he make a commitment to make amends by bringing in appropriate legislation in the near future?

This party along with Fine Gael supported a measure that had the overwhelming support of people who suffer from disabilities. It was done in a consultative manner. It was treated outrageously by the Government. It owes the people who suffer from disabilities in this State an unqualified apology or else it will have to apologise to them at every door on which it knocks between now and the general election.

That is very cynical.


Order, please.

This Government has done more in recent years for people with a disability than any Government in the history of the State.

It has a shameful record.

It has increased the allocation on the health side by more than £300 million and in education support it has moved from a figure of £7 million to £70 million in the past two years alone. There has never been as much commitment to people with a disability.

The House as a whole should apologise to people with a disability for what has happened over the years and for the fact that they have not got the priority they ought to get. I would be one of the first to join in that apology and I assume the Leaders of the Opposition who have been in Government at different stages would do likewise.

It is always interesting that when the Government is in trouble it is the fault of the Dáil but if the Government is doing well it is to the credit of the Government.


The House knows quite well that Fianna Fáil is a very successful party. It has been in Government for almost 12 of the past 14 years and must take responsibility for this. If the Minister is not prepared to apologise on behalf of the Government for the insensitive treatment of so many disabled people who were in the gallery last night and the people they represent, will he at least ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make a personal apology for his arrogance and insensitivity?

I make it clear that as far the Bill proposed by the Government is concerned it is an over-arching Bill more valuable to people with a disability than what was proposed by the Opposition last night. The views of the Opposition will be taken into consideration in that Bill. This more comprehensive Bill is at an advanced stage and will certainly be taken before Christmas.

In June this year Second Stage of the European Union's Bill was moved in this House by the Labour Party and accepted by the Government. We appreciate that. That Bill would provide for a greater degree of accountability and advanced communication by Ministers in relation to matters of concern which would be subject to negotiation at Council of Ministers' meetings which will affect Irish people. Next week two Council meetings take place – the Transport Council and the ECOFIN Council – at which the survival of Aer Lingus will be considered. The Minister for Public Enterprise, in response to questions yesterday, indicated that she had yet to talk to the Minister for Finance and she might get a chance to talk to him over the weekend.

As we speak there is no formal Government paper. We understand there will be a Commission position on the survival of national airlines throughout Europe and there will probably be a Presidency paper from the Belgian Presidency because of the acute position of Sabena. In the absence of the Tánaiste who has run away and the Taoiseach who is somewhere else, is it in order for me to ask the Minister for Education and Science if there is an Irish Government position?

That is a very unfair remark. It does not become the Deputy.

It is not, it is a fact. The record will show that the effective Tánaiste is Deputy Woods. The Tánaiste is afraid to come in here.


Deputy Quinn without interruption please.

I am at the mercy of the Chair. If I am to be interrupted by Members of the Government I can only try and continue. In view of the prospect of 2,500 permanent jobs disappearing, the cancellation of 700 temporary jobs and with regard to the issues raised last night on the Adjournment by Deputy Broughan concerning the desolation in North County Dublin, will the Minister for Education and Science, acting on behalf of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, inform us if there is a Government paper outlining the position for the Irish Ministers going to Brussels next week? Will the Ministers responsible, in the spirit of the European Union Bill, come into the House and discuss that position so that when they go they will have the strength and support of the House? Will the negotiating position of the Government going to the ECOFIN Council and the Transport Council, be published?

Aer Lingus is not the only airline in Europe in difficulty. Has the Minister for

Public Enterprise made any attempt to have bi-lateral meetings with transport Ministers in other jurisdictions whose national airlines are in similar difficulty? Will the Minister inform us of any meetings that have taken place or of any proposed meetings?

In response to Deputy Noonan's question, the Minister has already met the Belgian Minister, will meet the French Minister tomorrow and is pursuing the line proposed. With other Deputies I am concerned, as a northside Deputy, about the whole position of Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus is currently finalising a plan to address the serious issues it faces. Aer Lingus staff and representatives were provided with a briefing on the situation yesterday. In addition the Minister for Public Enterprise will meet the central representative committee of the Aer Lingus unions at lunch time today. In parallel with the preparation of the plan Aer Lingus is making every effort to trade out of its difficulties and in recent days has announced significant fare cuts in an attempt to stimulate traffic.

Stop waffling and answer the question.

Will the Minister stand up to them?

The European Commission has issued certain proposals and these fall far short of the measures deemed by Ireland and the Minister to be necessary to address the difficulties, particularly given the aid being provided by the United States to its airlines. These proposals will be discussed at the next Transport Council meeting on Tuesday, 16 October. At that meeting the Minister for Public Enterprise will make the case that, as a minimum, member states should be allowed match the assistance provided by the US to its airlines. The Minister is taking a strong line in this regard. In preparation for the Council the Minister will meet the French transport Minister in Dublin.

She has also met the EU Transport Minister and the Belgian President of the Transport Council, and will speak to her other European colleagues individually. The Government is committed to saving Aer Lingus on the basis of a viable plan to guarantee its future. The Minister will work urgently with all the parties to ensure a fundamentally restructured airline and protect the maximum number of sustainable jobs. The Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, who is chairman of the PPF monitoring committee, will contact ICTU.

I thank the Minister for that information but, unfortunately, it does not answer the question I asked. I ask again if there is a joint Government position expressed in a paper, agreed to by the Ministers of Finance and Public Enterprise. The Ministers created the impression yesterday that there was not yet such a paper.

The Minister was away yesterday.

This problem did not arise yesterday.

The Minister is back. Distinct from the representation to be made by the Minister, is a paper on a common Government position being prepared? Has our permanent representative in Brussels been communicated with and will he formally present at COREPER the Irish position in advance? I see the Minister nodding her head. If so, is it too much to ask, at the turn of the 21st century, that the democratically elected representatives in this House, in the spirit of the European Union Bill, could contribute to that and be informed about that paper and the Government's opening position? That is the thrust of that legislation. Will that paper, for which the permanent representative will argue at COREPER, be communicated to this House or the relevant committee, to allow Opposition Deputies to reinforce it?

The answer to the question about meetings is that the Minister had a meeting yesterday with the ambassador – as she indicated by nodding to you – and preparations are being made. I stated the Government's position and that will be included in representations made by the Minister for Public Enterprise and every other Minister.

Is there a common paper?

Of course, there is a common approach.

The Deputy is only allowed one supplementary. Please allow the Minister to conclude.

The Minister will not answer the question.

I told the Deputy what the Government's position is and the firm approach we are taking.

There is no paper.

There is a paper which will be on the Order of Business. The representations to COREPER—

Is the Deputy sure that he is the Minister for Education and Science?

—is being communicated by the Minister.

Is there a paper?

There can be no more questions. The Minister has completed his reply.

Of course, there are common papers. The Deputy seems to think that there may be disagreement over what the Government will do.

We can only go on what we are told.

I stated the Government's position. I advise the Deputy to read the record.

In relation to an earlier question from Deputy Quinn, the Tánaiste this morning attended the funeral of a young employee of her Department who was tragically killed at the weekend. Afterwards she will be on official business.

As the Transport Council meeting is next Tuesday, will the Government Whip arrange with the Opposition Whips for the Minister to answer questions in the House next Wednesday?

Yes, depending on when the Minister returns.

Regarding promised legislation on Sports Campus Ireland, is the consultants' report available and will it be laid before the Dáil so that we can determine if Bertie's bowl will become Bertie's bother?

This question was asked and answered yesterday.

Will the consultants' report be laid before the Dáil?

That is not a relevant question on the Order of Business.

Early next year.

What will be early next year?

Maidir le reachtaíocht atá geallta, ba mhaith liom ceist a cur ar an Aire i leith Bhille na Gaeilge agus i leith ghnéith di ach go háirithe. Tá leasaithe sa churaclam fógraithe ag an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta ach níl téacsleabhair ná áiseanna do na leasaithe sin ar fáil ag daoine atá ag fáil oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge. Ní bheidh Bille na Gaeilge ar fáil chun cearta na ndaoine sin a chur i gcrích. Toisc go bhfuil géar ghá faoi láthair i leith chursaí oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge, an bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Rialtas Bille na Gaeilge a thabhairt ar aghaidh níos luaithe ná deireadh na bliana 2002 mar atá geallta i gclár reachtaíochta an Rialtais?

Early next year.

I have no difficulty in being more succinct in the second language. The issue is that Bille na Gaeilge, which will give citizens the right to do their business in Irish, is now pushed to the end of 2002 and obviously will not be legislated in the life of this Government. As the Minister for Education and Science announced changes in the curriculum without maps or other aids for those attempting to receive an Irish education, there are no pre-school facilities available for people educated through Irish. There will be no legislation to vindicate the rights of children who must be educated with the same facilities as everyone else.

The Deputy cannot make a statement.

A Cheann Comhairle, I was forced into bilingualism suddenly, and apologise for taking advantage of that. The Minister of Education and Science is a man of detail. Is it his intention to provide such basic things as wall maps, text books and illustrations for children who want to be educated through the medium of Irish? Will he fall back on the nonsense that there will be a Bill which will make us equal linguistically and enable us to do our business in Irish? It is clear that Bille na Gaeilge is a confidence trick, but I am concerned about children in the State.

The Heads of the Bill are approved and will be published early next year.

What is in it? When will it be introduced?

They are all questions for another day.

I sought to raise a matter on the Adjournment for the last two days about the closure of an AIBP plant in Drumod, County

Leitrim. This is the only opportunity I have to raise this issue.

The Deputy is out of order. It cannot be raised.

It makes this House irrelevant.

The Deputy is being disorderly. It is not a matter to be raised here.

I cannot raise the issue in the House because two Departments refuse to take responsibility.

The Deputy can raise the issue other ways but not on the Order of Business.

Will the Ceann Comhairle tell me how else I can raise it?

Not on the Order of Business. The Deputy should resume his seat and not be disorderly.

I tried to ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development but he will not respond. How else can I raise this issue?

If the Deputy has to leave the House, he will be unable to raise it in any event.

In what other way can I raise this matter? The Department will not take responsibility.WP leading adjustment

The Deputy can consult my office. He should resume his seat. He is being disorderly. He knows the procedure is to consult my office on these matters.

There are 70 people standing outside the gate. How can I raise the issue? I have contacted the office.

The Deputy should resume his seat or he will not have an opportunity to raise the matter.

I do not have an opportunity to raise it. What about the 70 people?

The Deputy should resume his seat. I now call on the Deputy to leave this House for persistent refusal to obey the Chair.

I move: "That Deputy Gerry Reynolds be suspended from the service of the Dáil."

Question put.


In accordance with Standing Orders, the division will take place on Tuesday, 16 October, 2001 at the beginning of business.

I can identify with Deputy Gerry Reynolds' pain. I want to ask about the Digital Hub Agency Bill which involves a huge amount of spending from the Exchequer, and which the Department of Public Enterprise may choose to put into Aer Lingus in the short-term. That Bill has been fraught with disagreement between the Minister for Finance on the one hand, and the Department of Public Enterprise and Department of the Taoiseach on the other. Can the Minister for Education and Science tell us if the disagreements between the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Enterprise are now resolved? There is a need for resolution in relation to Aer Lingus as well as in this matter. It seems to be a habit of the Department of Finance to pull against the Department of Public Enterprise. I ask about the Bill with Aer Lingus in mind also.

Did the Deputy say which Bill he was talking about?

The Digital Hub Agency Bill.

Which is connected to the "Bertie Bowl".

It is to be published this session.

Will it go ahead?

That is the expected date of publication.

Irish haemophiliacs have been seeking a decision from the Government to extend the terms of reference of the Lindsay tribunal. It was promised that they would be informed today as to the outcome of those deliberations. It does not appear that this will happen. What is the intention of the Government in terms of meeting the needs of haemophiliacs?

Is there legislation promised?

There is.

The Deputy should ask about the promised legislation.

I refer to the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Bill which is due to be published. Does the Minister intend to fast track this Bill to meet the needs of haemophiliacs or will he come back with a proposal to extend the terms of reference? We should remind ourselves that some of these people are extremely ill. Some have already died.

The Deputy should confine herself to questions and not make statements.

There is an urgency about this.

The Deputy should resume her seat so that she can get an answer about the legislation.

The Deputy will appreciate that there are complexities in pursuing companies outside the country. The best way to do that is under consideration. The Taoiseach told the House the other day that this matter is under active consideration and consultation.

I want to ask about the Water Services Bill in light of the continued deterioration of the quality of rivers, lakes and drinking water in certain areas. When will we see the Bill? The Minister made a much heralded announcement over the summer. Now it is expected in 2002. Will it be published in the lifetime of this Government or is it to be kicked into the future?

The heads of the Bill have been approved by Government and it is due next year.

That is another one gone.

(Dublin West): I want to ask about Nos. 87 and 110 on the legislative programme. In recent nights on RTE news, when we saw several Aer Lingus board members going to emergency meetings, some wondered if an emergency meeting of the St. Luke's-Drumcondra cumann of Fianna Fáil was taking place at the same venue. Then we realised that they were actually going to the same meeting. Will the Minister bring forward the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill and bring back the Aer Lingus Bill so that we can discuss the clearing out of political hacks in Aer Lingus as a pre-condition to the recovery of the airline, and instead bring workers on to the board who know the score? Let us discuss what qualifications people on State boards should have, as opposed to allegiance to a political party.

The Aer Lingus Bill has been withdrawn and the heads of the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill are being prepared. Its publication is expected next year.

(Dublin West): What about the Drumcondra committee on the board?

(Mayo): One must be a Fianna Fáil fund raiser to get on the board.


(Mayo): On promised legislation, the existing so-called deregulation and liberalisation of the telecoms markets has not delivered either competition, lower telephone charges, local loop-bundling, third generation licences or better services. Why has the Communications Regulation Bill been front-loaded? Why has it not been brought forward this term to give the commission greater powers?

The text of that Bill is expected late this year. Its publication is expected next year.

(Mayo): Next year will be a busy one.

I am sure the Minister is as happy as I am that the Ground Rent Bill is now listed to be published early in 2002. However, I am surprised it is on the list of Bills whose heads have not yet been approved by the Government, given that this is a complicated Bill. Does the Minister expect that the heads of this Bill will be approved by the Government this side of Christmas to allow for it to be published early in 2002?

The work on this Bill is in progress in the Department. The expected publication date is early next year.