It is proposed to take No. 2, Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 3, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Order of Business.
I was just looking at the Standing Orders of the House which state that on Thursdays somebody else will be substituted to perform the Taoiseach's duties. I am glad the Taoiseach is present and, obviously, it is for a reason. I do not know where the junior partner has gone. I suppose he is upstairs getting ready.
Where is the Deputy's colleague?
I do not know the details of what is going on. I know the Taoiseach is present to answer a question on a matter which he may clear up for everybody. Obviously he mentioned names of persons who were present at a function in Manchester.
Just before Deputy Kenny proceeds, as he referred to Standing Orders, the Chair will allow a brief comment from him, Deputy McManus, Deputy Sargent, Deputy Ó Caoláin and Deputy Joe Higgins and a response from the Taoiseach. We will then resume business under Standing Orders.
I want to raise two other issues on the Order of Business afterwards.
I can only deal with this issue now.
Will the Taoiseach indicate whether there is a connection between the Mr. Wall mentioned and the purchase of a house? Was there a specific reason the Taoiseach did not put this name in the public domain when he replied to questions earlier this week?
I call Deputy McManus.
It is important for the Taoiseach to reply.
I call Deputy Sargent.
It is not satisfactory——
The Chair has ruled in accordance with precedent in the House.
There is no difficulty in allowing the Taoiseach to answer ten questions and then allowing others to proceed.
The Chair has made it quite clear how he intends to proceed in accordance with precedent.
The Chair knows that is not satisfactory.
My predecessors have proceeded in the same way when they deviate from Standing Orders. If the Deputy wishes to ask a question or make a statement, that is fine. If not, I will move on to Deputy Sargent.
What this Deputy wishes for, on behalf of the Labour Party, is full accountability. We were promised full accountability by the Taoiseach and were promised final accountability by the Progressive Democrats. We have received neither. Instead, we have the truth dripping day by day because the media is giving it to us. That is what is happening.
The Taoiseach had plenty of time to tell us who the people were who attended the dinner in Manchester and gave him thousands of pounds. If his memory was faulty in a particular case, he had plenty of time to check out the details, but all he could do was come up with two names out of 25. It is beyond belief that he was incapable of remembering the name of Micheál Wall. Why did he not give this House the name of Micheál Wall, who is presumably the person who sold the Taoiseach his home? Any member of the public can remember who sold him or her his or her home. However, we somehow have an individual here who does not have that capacity of memory. That does not stack up.
The Taoiseach must tell us now who was at that dinner and whether he has any record of any other business transactions with any of those individuals. That is what full accountability requires. Why is it the Taoiseach continues to humiliate the Tánaiste and make a ship of fools of his junior Government partners in the Progressive Democrats Party? What is the purpose behind his failure to come in here and give a full account of himself in the public interest? When did the Progressive Democrats know about this latest revelation?
We have sat here and asked questions, but have not received the answers the public requires of the Taoiseach. It is important that the truth will out in this arena, otherwise questions will continue to be raised. We are the last people who want to keep raising them.
The media are doing a better job of it, that is the point.
We want to talk about the health service and crime levels, but until the Taoiseach comes out in a forthright manner and is honest and complete in his answers, these issues will continue to arise. Truth will win out in the end, no matter how long it takes.
I asked questions under Standing Order 31 and I hope the Taoiseach will avail of the opportunity now to clear up the issues I raised. We have tribunals, but it is important to remember they had to be set up in many cases because questions were not answered in the Dáil. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past.
There has been a holding back of information on matters dating back as far as 1999 when I asked the Taoiseach if such payments and transactions were unorthodox, unusual or irregular. The fact he does not think they are raises the image of a GUBU situation, something we have come across before. We need to move beyond that and begin to see life as clearly as it should be seen, especially for a Taoiseach and somebody in high office.
The questions asked on Tuesday and Wednesday have not been fully answered. Will the Taoiseach tell us, as I asked under Standing Order 31, whether the house was bought at market value and all taxes due paid? If it was bought at anything less than market value, that would be tantamount to a donation. Can we have clarity on that issue?
Is there anything else the Taoiseach thinks we should know or anything else he wants to put into the public domain? The situation is becoming tiresome. We need to deal with other issues such as housing, health, education, child care and energy etc. and the sooner we can get back to dealing with the business we were elected to do, the better. However, we need first to have standards in Government over which we can all stand and of which we can be proud. That is not the case as we speak.
Deputy McManus asked when the Progressive Democrats learned of the latest revelation. I would like to return to a question I posed on Wednesday as to when the Progressive Democrats learned of all that has been coming down the track with regard to what the Taoiseach has had to face over the past couple of weeks. The Taoiseach responded almost with incredulity.
I put that question to the Taoiseach again; is he any wiser today than he was 48 hours ago? When did the former Tánaiste learn of all the revelations that have come before public scrutiny in recent weeks with regard to the Taoiseach's affairs a number of years ago? Is the Taoiseach any more informed as to when that occurred? I believe, as many others do who have commented to me on it, that when the former Tánaiste sat with the Taoiseach she was aware of all of this and that was the genesis of her decision to vacate office when she did — a very unexplained decision.
I believe Geraldine Kennedy, the former Progressive Democrats Deputy and editor ofThe Irish Times, advised the former Tánaiste of what was coming down the tracks in this regard and that was what influenced her decision. Did the former Tánaiste inform or alert the Taoiseach to the information that had been brought to her attention? Can the Taoiseach throw any light on that relationship? If he knows anything at all, surely this is the place where the information should be brought to public light.
These are serious matters. When did the former Tánaiste and current Minister for Health and Children, who was the sole member of Cabinet who did not respond enthusiastically to the Taoiseach's statement a few days ago, know of all of this? Did she bring it to the Taoiseach's attention? If not, what is his reaction to the fact that a trusted member of his Cabinet, his then deputy and Tánaiste, had information of this nature and did not bring it to his attention? While everyone else is focusing on other details, these are matters we must consider. It is important we get to the genesis of this situation, irrespective of the decision of Geraldine Kennedy to destroy whatever information source she had and remove it from public scrutiny. The House should endeavour to learn and establish the full facts as to how all of this has come before the public gaze and why we are now spending day after day looking back on issues relating to the Taoiseach's previous conduct, by and large avoiding all the real and substantive issues why the Taoiseach and his colleagues in Government should now fold and go to the people.
The Independent Deputies beside me have made the point that they would much prefer this time to be given over to the Taoiseach explaining the attempted hijacking of Aer Lingus by Ryanair, the increases in gas and ESB prices and other crucial issues affecting working class people and working people in general as a result of the policies of his Government. It is the Taoiseach's fault that we must demand these explanations and accountability because of his failure to be frank with the Dáil and the people when he made his statement here on Tuesday.
Did the Taoiseach purchase a home from a person who attended one or some of the functions at which he spoke in Manchester? Did this person contribute to the personal donation of about £8,000 sterling which the Taoiseach received in Manchester? Why did the Taoiseach not name that person and identify this particular relationship when he spoke to the Dáil on Tuesday? It is clear that if he was attempting to be candid, he would have named that person and referred to that episode if it happened. Can the Taoiseach tell the people that he purchased this home at its full market value, that no reduction was made in the price to benefit him and that it was purchased by a bank loan? Was there a substantial deposit in the form of a lump sum paid as well and how was that done? Will the Taoiseach detail the amounts and the circumstances?
I offer my apologies to the House that I am back for the fourth day out of five to answer these issues. I can only answer them to the best of my ability.
I will answer all the questions without taking too long. I believe I have answered every question I have been asked in a full and frank manner over the past number of days. I believe I have answered them in a very complete way but I will do so again.
I did not introduce any issues relevant to my house into any of the debates or into the interviews I did last week or into the debate in the House because I did not believe I was under any investigation regarding my house. The Mahon tribunal asked me for details about my house because, when I provided disclosure of all the information, the details about my house would have been clear. I gave all that information to the Mahon tribunal.
The tribunal has all the details of my house file and the file of the person who sold me the house. The person from whom I initially rented the house, 44 Beresford Avenue off Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra, was Michael Wall of Cong and Manchester. I paid full market rent. I rented the house for about two years. The rent was reviewed on a second lease and it went up. It was a very good market rent. I subsequently bought the house in the autumn of 1997, after I became Taoiseach. Mr. Wall would have had a gain of about 30% in the two and a half years. I paid the full market value for the house and I funded it by means of an Irish Permanent Building Society loan. I paid the stamp duty and all the relevant taxes from my current account. In answer to Deputy Higgins, the deposit was not a large sum and I paid it from my building society deposit book. I have given all these details to the tribunal. Michael Wall also has given all the details he was asked to provide to the tribunal.
With regard to the Manchester event, I tried last week to locate the people in Manchester who attended that function. However, I was at several functions. As I stated the other day, many people have told me they were probably at that function but I was not able to pin down exactly who was there. As I stated to the House, I probably know all the people who attended that function in Manchester but without talking to all of them, I cannot pin down exactly who attended it. As I attended various functions in Manchester over the years, I cannot state with certainty who were the other persons in attendance. I do not wish to mistakenly name someone and then be accused of misleading the House.
I know Michael Wall well and of course I remember from whom I bought my house. I spoke to him three times last weekend, twice on Saturday and once on Sunday. I asked him whether he could help me by stating whether he had attended the function and whether he could help me identify any of the others because I wanted to give as many names as possible to the House. He told me that he was not one of the 25. He did not attend the dinner that day but he was in the hotel in a working capacity, using his coach minibus. He confirmed he met me in the bar and that he spoke to people in the bar afterwards.
Subsequently while travelling, he received a call from somebody from Clonbur whom he knew and who is a journalist with Raidió na Gaeltachta. He did not give an interview to somebody in Raidió na Gaeltachta. He was on his way to the UK when he was asked and he gave that short interview.
To ensure completeness for the House, I spoke to the Tánaiste on Tuesday morning and this was prior to Rónán giving the interview to Pat Kenny. Therefore, it is obvious I did not know anything about that interview at the time so I did not raise that issue with the Tánaiste either then or subsequently. The Tánaiste had no knowledge of this. I did not put Mr. Wall's name into the public domain because he told me he was not one of the 25 people, that he did not contribute and that he did not attend the meal, but he confirmed that he was in the hotel in a working capacity. He gave this information on the programme.
However, he also stated on the radio that he was aware that I had received money because he was there and he was well acquainted with the people who were there. He gave me some other names of people whom I tried to contact but, at this remove, it is impossible to pin down who attended the function and I am unable to do it. I did not mention his name because he and others had told me he was not one of the 25 people.
On the question of what the Progressive Democrats did or did not know, I have stated that they did not know about Michael Wall because I never told them the name of the person from whom I bought my house. However, I told the tribunal and I made a full disclosure to it.
Deputy Ó Caoláin asked whether I was dealing with the tribunal on these issues and the answer is that I was. He asked whether I informed the Progressive Democrats I had received loans from friends and the answer is "yes, I did". He asked whether I informed them about Michael Wall and the answer is "no, I did not". This is the truthful position.
Did the Taoiseach ask the former Tánaiste what she knew?
Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.
I hope this answers the questions.
Yesterday, I was informed that I had referred to a dormant account. I was trying to be complete in the information and a journalist who was doing his job for Independent Newspapers said they had information that the dormant account contained €30,000. I will explain to the House for completeness. In the 1970s, I wanted to cash a cheque but the Bank of Ireland in Clonliffe Road would not cash it as I did not have an account. I therefore opened an account which I never closed and I believe it contains €20 or £20. This is the dormant account.
I received a call yesterday evening from another journalist to say that the Fianna Fáil Party sold a house in Amiens Street in the 1980s. He asked me whether I had the money from the sale of that house in my dormant account. The house was sold by the trustees and officers of the party and I probably was a trustee. The money is in the accounts. I have been asked a series of other questions and all I can do is answer them. I am not accusing the Opposition in that regard.
It is clear that the file and all the information I gave to the tribunal is in the hands of at least one newspaper. They obtained all the information. They would have been aware of the issue about the house. As late as yesterday, a person who was a witness on one of the forms used by Michael Wall to do with the purchase of the house was contacted. The only place that would have appeared was on the disclosure that Michael Wall would have given.
What I am up against is that on the one side I am told not to give all the information that I dealt with in the tribunal and on the other side all the information I gave to the tribunal is in the public domain in the hands of some people. That is the difficulty and it is a dilemma. I can only answer the questions. If I came in here last week raising the issue about how I got my house, every bit of paper might have been sought. If the Committee of Public Accounts or the Comptroller and Auditor General wanted to examine my house, to be frank, I would be far happier if that was where it was being examined than where it is being examined, but that is another day's work.
I have no problem showing my file on the house to Deputy Kenny or anybody else if he wants to see it. I know he is only asking his questions, but that is the problem for me. I cannot close this down because people will continue to ask the next question. People will continue to put pressure on my colleagues in government, the Progressive Democrats, totally unfairly. I rented the house. I subsequently bought the house. I paid full rent on it. I have given to the tribunal the procedures that I followed in the work that was done on the house, the invoices to do with the house. I will wake up one of these mornings to see them in the newspapers too, I have no doubt, because it seems as if everything I gave in is out. That is how I feel about it. I can do nothing about it and I can do nothing about the other issues.
The only question I cannot answer to the House is that I cannot name the 25 people. I just cannot do that. I do not know precisely who they are and I cannot put them forward. All I can——
The Taoiseach does not appear to be able to answer the question regarding the former Tánaiste.
Deputy Ó Caoláin should allow the Taoiseach to speak.
I have answered the question about the position regarding the former Tánaiste. The former Tánaiste knew that I was answering letters from the tribunal. She would not have seen those letters. She would only have been aware of broad facts about them. I believe she was aware that I got loans from friends. She was not aware of where I bought my house from. She was not aware of other issues, so there is no fault on the former Tánaiste or the present Tánaiste. I did not tell the present Tánaiste about Michael Wall — he did not want to know that either — from whom I bought my house.
It is not a question of him not wanting to know.
In so far as it has painted a connection that Michael Wall was somebody who was at the Manchester function, he was not at the Manchester function.
Only in the bar.
Yes, but he was not a donor. He was not a contributor. That is the fact. Deputy Joe Higgins asked me another fair question, whether there was anybody at that function whom I might have done a business deal with or whom I got money from in another way. The answer is no, and the reason I know that is there was nobody else whom I got money from. It is not a question of not being able to identify: there was nobody else. That is the information. If the House wanted to see my files or files I have given to the tribunal, I would be as happy giving them to the House as anywhere else. I hope that answers the questions. It will not stop issues being raised. I have no doubt this evening other people will feed a few more things out. That is the problem and I do not have a resolution for it.
I call Deputy Kenny on another issue.
I asked the question——
Sorry, Deputy, I have called Deputy Kenny on another issue.
I asked the question about the——
I ask the Deputy to resume her seat. I have called Deputy Kenny.
Deputy McManus should listen to the Chair for a moment. The Chair has suspended Standing Orders this morning to allow contributions and questions from Members and a response from the Taoiseach. It appears to the Chair that it is a very foolish exercise for the Chair to get involved in because Members do not appreciate it. I call Deputy Kenny on another issue.
Could I say——
Sorry, I have called Deputy Kenny.
I appreciate it——
I will call the Deputy after Deputy Kenny has asked about another issue.
I asked a specific question.
Sorry, Deputy, I am not hearing you.
The Taoiseach wants to answer.
It is quite clear that a few phone calls would lead to this information being brought into the House. In the long term it would save a certain amount of grief. The Taoiseach has made clear that 25 people attended with Micheál Wall.
We will hear the Taoiseach.
Why does the Taoiseach not just give us the information?
Let the man answer.
I would like to answer the Deputy's question. I have tried through several phone calls — not a few phone calls — to people I know in Manchester over the past week to ask whether they were definitely at the function. People told me they were at this function, that function and the other function. People told me: "I remember a function where we raised a lot of money." I asked what function that was and was told it was a charity function. People just cannot pin themselves down as to whether they were there that night. I would have met that group of people, probably, on 15 or 20 occasions that I can recall so I just cannot pin down exactly who was there. When John Kennedy came forward last week, I did not remember that John Kennedy was at that function a long time back. At one stage when I looked for names for the tribunal, John Kennedy came forward and gave a letter to the tribunal. I would not have been able to pin down those names. I think I have a good idea of another seven or eight, but I would need to try to find them individually.
That is what we are asking.
I said in the House the other day that when I can get these names, I will gladly give the names to the tribunal. I said I will give all the names to the tribunal if I can get the names, but I cannot piece it together. I can piece together individuals in Manchester whom I met at various times, but as to who was at one function as opposed to another, I just cannot do that. That is the answer. It is not so easy.
Could I ask the Taoiseach——
I ask the Deputy to resume her seat. We are not having a debate on this matter. If it were Leaders' Questions, only two supplementary questions would be allowed.
We will be back here again on the matter.
I ask the Deputy to resume her seat. I call Deputy Kenny on another issue.
I seek clarity.
I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.
Did the Taoiseach pay all the taxes on the house? Is that correct?
I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. I have called Deputy Kenny on another issue.
He did not say when the former Tánaiste knew about the loans.
Deputy Kenny has been sitting patiently.
Does the Taoiseach have a date or did he tell her before? We have not got an answer.
I paid all the taxes relating to my house.
When did the former Tánaiste know?
In respect of regulation governing the airlines, what is the position of the Government regarding the Competition Authority reviewing the possibility of Ryanair acquiring 29% of shares in Aer Lingus? While I know that European regulatory approval would be required, does the Government have a plan to deal with such a situation or would the Competition Authority here have any impact on the matter.
I ask the Taoiseach about his responsibility regarding the Moriarty tribunal. I will not go into detail on it now, but the Taoiseach has answered questions from me on this matter in the House on a number of occasions, and he has answered them as fairly as he can. Obviously that tribunal has not yet issued a report as confirmed by the Taoiseach in his answers here. Perhaps he will speak to the Tánaiste, who now appears to have acquired the gift of prophecy——
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It does arise and I will outline why. On Tuesday the Tánaiste said, "Some of the people there [in the Dáil] today will have a lot of answering to do in a couple of months' time when the second report of the Moriarty tribunal is published." How could the Tánaiste have known——
We cannot debate the tribunal here.
The Tánaiste should come into the House.
It is a statement by the deputy head of Government.
The Deputy should raise the issue in another way.
I would like the Taoiseach——
There are many ways the Deputy can raise the matter in the House.
——to ask the Tánaiste to come to the House and explain what he knows about the second report of the Moriarty tribunal, when the first one has not yet been published.
The Deputy is out of order.
What does the Tánaiste know about what will be contained in the second report of the Moriarty tribunal? Does the Taoiseach know anything about that?
I will say a few words about the Aer Lingus IPO and the Ryanair bid. The Aer Lingus IPO was priced at €2.20 per share and conditional dealings commenced on 27 September. Admission to the stock exchange and unconditional dealing commenced on 2 October and without any notice other than some phone calls this morning, Ryanair announced a take-over bid. The bid price is €2.80 per share. The offer by Ryanair was announced a couple of hours ago and we were only informed at that time. It clearly raises fundamental questions with regard to aviation policy and regulation issues, as Deputy Kenny noted, and these questions will have to be carefully examined. The Government remains fully committed to competition in aviation markets and will not be selling its shares in Aer Lingus.
The same was said about Greencore.
Allow the Taoiseach to continue.
Ireland's strategic interest in aviation is best served by the maximum number of regular, safe and cost effective air services linking the country to key business and tourism markets, and that remains the case.
What is the Taoiseach's view?
From the outset of the Aer Lingus IPO, the Government has been committed to ensuring that our strategic interests are protected. It was always the intention to retain a significant minority shareholding for this purpose and the State's shareholding is 28.3% of the company. As a result of the IPO, Aer Lingus has the means at its disposal to fulfil its potential and to contribute positively to the country's economic development.
The approach from Ryanair was unexpected. It is, in the first instance, a matter for the board of directors of the company to evaluate the Ryanair offer and to express an opinion to shareholders. It is also the case that any proposal of this kind would require regulatory clearance and it remains to be clarified whether this is a matter for the Irish regulatory authorities or the European Commission. That matter is being closely examined today. The Minister for Transport is consulting his advisers. He will evaluate all the strategic and policy issues arising and will set out the position more fully at an appropriate time.
I call Deputy McManus.
On the same issue.
Sorry, Deputy, we have moved on. The Taoiseach has responded and Deputy McManus has been called.
What is the Taoiseach's view?
I ask the Taoiseach to allow Deputies to make statements on the issue.
Sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on the issue.
Will the Taoiseach allow statements?
If Deputy McManus is not offering a question, I call Deputy Sargent.
The Taoiseach might consider allowing statements and questions on this important issue. He is correct that fundamental issues have been raised with regard to Irish aviation.
Sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on it. I will allow her a question to the Taoiseach.
It is not satisfactory that, for example, Deputy Shortall is being told she has to keep quiet.
We are not holding a debate on it now. It is 11.15 a.m. and we are moving on.
I am asking whether time can be provided.
The Deputy asked the Taoiseach a question and I will allow that question.
I am asking whether we can have time today for statements and questions on what the Taoiseach himself described as a fundamental issue, in order to ensure we will have answers.
The last point I made was that it would be more appropriate if we did that next week because the Minister for Transport is consulting his advisers and will have to evaluate all the strategic and policy issues arising from the position.
We will have to await his wisdom.
As I also said about the approach, in the first instance, it is a matter for the board of directors of the company to evaluate the Ryanair offer. Having a debate today about it in the absence of those facts is not, in my mind, the best use of time. I would not have a difficulty with allocating time next week.
What is the Taoiseach's view of the matter? Does he intend to block the sale?
I call Deputy Sargent.
Does the Taoiseach have a policy?
Sorry, Deputy Shortall, the issue has been addressed.
A very important issue has been raised.
What is the Taoiseach's position?
If Deputy Sargent does not take the floor, we will move on.
I am not delaying the Ceann Comhairle.
It will be over next week.
The point has been made that next week may be good for a debate but today would also be good.
Interim statements could be made.
I ask the Ceann Comhairle to allow a Private Notice Question.
No, I will not allow that.
Many people will want to see this matter debated in the Dáil. It is not appropriate for the Taoiseach to say——
We are not holding a debate on it now.
——the Minister is looking to advisers without coming into the Dáil.
On a point of order, a precedent of this House allows party leaders and spokesmen to make contributions on matters of interest.
The issue has been addressed. This is not the time to discuss it. It is not a point of order. I call Deputy Howlin.
The issue has not been addressed.
Deputy Howlin has been called.
It is not a matter of trying to speak for any longer than is strictly necessary.
On a point of order, if this House is to conduct its business properly, we need to know the Government's policy——
We have to remain within Standing Orders.
——in respect of Aer Lingus.
Sorry, Deputy, that is not a point of order.
Is the Government going to attempt to block a takeover?
The issue has been addressed.
Next week may be too late. We need to hold a debate today.
The issue has been addressed. I call Deputy Howlin.
This is a critical issue for the economy in terms of ensuring competition in the aviation industry.
I ask the Deputy to resume her seat.
Are we going to be provided with Government time today——
I ask Deputy Shortall to resume her seat.
——because next week may be too late? Can we hear the Government's policy on——
If the Deputy does not resume her seat, the Chair intends to suspend the sitting.
——this important national issue, which falls under the terms of Standing Order 31?
Deputy Shortall should resume her seat.
The Ceann Comhairle is wrong not to allow us raise this matter of significant national interest.
I am sorry the suspension removed the Taoiseach from the House. He must have other pressing business.
The Tribunals of Inquiry Bill was published 12 months ago and it has been on the Order Paper since then but is now scheduled for next week. It will be difficult for the public to believe that this Bill, one of whose provisions gives the Government the power to shut down tribunals, should be fast-tracked from obscurity to become the priority Bill for next week. Will it not be seen as an attempt to intimidate the tribunals? Would it not be sensible for the orderly and proper business of the House to put it back so it would not be dealt with in an atmosphere where a succession of Ministers have been upset with tribunals?
It is scheduled for next week. There were calls for it to be brought forward and that is happening. The content of the legislation should be dealt with on its merits, as should be the case with all legislation. This House does not control events in another place no more than that place controls events here. We should deal with the Bill calmly on its merits. That is how the matter stands.
Is it not a fact——
Sorry, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on it now. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.
——that the Government has abused the tribunals and has been threatened by the tribunals? Is it not highly inappropriate that the Bill is being fast-tracked——
Deputy Ó Caoláin has been called.
With regard to a Bill to provide for a register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children, the previous legislative programme stated it was not possible to indicate when it would be published. This is repeated in the statement on the current legislative programme by the Chief Whip. Given the importance of the issue can this not be expedited in the interest of children?
Work so far on this Bill has concentrated on developing procedures for vetting of convictions through the vetting unit and the development of a register. This gives rise to a range of legal, policy and practical implementation issues. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to recommendations of the child protection joint working group. This legislation arises out of the North-South Ministerial Council. It is not possible to indicate when the Bill will be ready but let us hope related developments shortly will give it a fillip.
Would it be possible to allocate time next week to discuss the large scale shutdown of telecommunications services? There is legislation promised.
Is time promised for a debate?
I am trying to encourage that.
It is a matter for the Whips.
Thousands of people will not have telecommunications — broadband or telephone services——
The Deputy has made his point. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
——for up to the three weeks. We supposedly live in an era of deregulation which is meant to be beneficial to the consumer.
There are other ways to raise the matter. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
The consumer is left stranded. I think the Minister——
I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. In fairness to Deputy Catherine Murphy, she waited patiently yesterday——
I waited patiently yesterday.
——but one of the Deputy's colleagues interrupted so we had to move on to the next business.
The Minister wishes to make an intervention.
I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
The Minister wishes to reply.
In terms of the orderly business of the House, these are matters for discussion among the Whips. If any member of a party wants a discussion, there is the Whips system to deal with it.
I do not believe it helps the image of this House if Members seek debates willy-nilly when we should use the Whips system to do so. It does not make any sense and we end up with this stupid confrontation, which is ridiculous.
I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
I wish to raise a point of order.
I call Deputy Broughan on a point of order.
For the information of the Minister——
That is not a point of order. There is no provision for points of information. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
On a point of order, I tabled a Private Notice Question on this matter, as, I believe, did Deputy Durkan.
That is not a point of order.
The Ceann Comhairle turned it down.
That is not a point of order. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
The Ceann Comhairle said it had nothing to do with this House——
It is not a point of order. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
——the fact that people who got a telephone connection on the basis that it was for life——
If the Deputy has a problem with the Office of the Ceann Comhairle, he is always welcome to raise it. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
People who got a telephone connection on the basis it was for life were left stranded. We had the same situation this morning——
I ask Deputy Broughan to resume his seat.
Aer Lingus is another privatisation disaster and we cannot discuss it in this House.
I ask Deputy Broughan to resume his seat.
The Ceann Comhairle turned down my——
If Deputy Broughan believes Members can come into the House and drive a coach and four through Standing Orders on a Thursday morning, he has another thing coming to him. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.
Will the legislation on management companies be dealt with exclusively by the Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill or will further legislation be introduced in the lifetime of this Government based on the Law Reform Commission and the National Consumer Agency reports?
There is no promise of any further legislation other than that which has already been outlined by the Minister in respect of questions which have been raised before. If the Deputy has a specific query, she should deal with the line Department in order to get the accurate information. That would be a better way to handle it.
The Commission on Electronic Voting made its report to this House before the summer recess. It has been reported in Holland that the same type of machines have been hacked into in much the same way as was described in the report of the commission.
Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
Yes. When will that report which was made to the House be debated by it?
Is a debate promised?
The report was made to the House.
It is a matter for people to discuss.
It is a matter for the Whips.
Will the Minister agree to a debate?
We are moving on to the next business.
I take it there is agreement for a debate if it is to be discussed with the Whips.
We are moving on to No. 2——
I take it there is agreement.
——the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2000 — Second Stage, resumed. Deputy Durkan was in possession and he has 17 minutes remaining.
I wish to raise a point of order.
The Deputy can raise all the points of order he likes. We have been an hour and five minutes on the Order of Business which is unprecedented. None of my predecessors ever allowed the number of questions on the Order of Business allowed by this Chair.
I wish to raise a point of order.
I call Deputy Eamon Ryan on a point of order.
The Minister for Finance rightly said we can order our business through the Whips but there are certain items which are urgent.
That is not a point of order.
We have provision for Private Notice Questions.
I call Deputy Shortall on a point of order.
I ask the Ceann Comhairle to allow a Private Notice Question.
We have moved on to the next business and Deputy Durkan has been called. Deputy Eamon Ryan has made his point.
I call Deputy Shortall on a point of order.
I would like the Ceann Comhairle's advice on how a Member can raise a matter of urgent public interest.
If the Deputy comes to my office immediately after the Order of Business, we would be delighted to inform her.
The Ceann Comhairle has already turned down a request under Standing Order 31.
Does Deputy Joe Higgins have a point of order?
Will the Ceann Comhairle allow a Private Notice Question?
The Deputy knows Private Notice Questions submitted to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle are considered and if they are appropriate, they are allowed.
I am looking for a commitment from the Ceann Comhairle because this is an urgent matter.
I call Deputy Joe Higgins.
This is completely in order. The Taoiseach has promised a debate next week on the Aer Lingus situation.
We have moved on from that. Deputy Durkan is in possession on the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006.
Aer Lingus workers woke up this morning to find a cuckoo in their nest.
We are not having a debate on that.
Can we have the details of the arrangements for the debate next week which has been planned?
I ask the Deputy to give way to Deputy Durkan.
It is incredible that we cannot even get an answer.