Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal that section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 shall continue in force for the period ending on 8 March 2008, back from committee; No. 20, Prisons Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 4 — Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2007 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 14 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 20 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and the Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m.

Pursuant to Standing Order 80(3), the Dáil shall waive its instruction that not more than two select committees shall meet to consider a Bill on any given day in the case of the proposed meeting of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Small Business to consider the Consumer Protection Bill 2007 [Seanad] on Tuesday, 13 March 2007. Parliamentary questions next for answer by the Taoiseach on EU matters shall be taken on the same day as the statements on the EU Council meeting in Brussels, scheduled to be taken on Wednesday, 21 March 2007, and shall be moved to be taken first as ordinary oral questions to the Taoiseach on that day. The Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 March 2007.

There are six proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 without debate agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 20 agreed?

It is not agreed.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 20, the Prisons Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Report and Final Stages (Resumed), be agreed to,” put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 agreed?

It is not agreed, for the following reason. It does not address the central issue, which is spending between elections.

That would not be a reason for objecting to the particular motion.

It is a very good reason.

It is purely a procedural motion on whether we take it.

As with the last proposal I object to the guillotine on the Second Stage debate.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 4 be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Standing Order 80(3), the waiving of instruction to committee, agreed to?

This Standing Order exists for a very good reason, namely to prevent the Executive forcing legislation through the committee system of the House. Committees exist to examine Bills in great detail and, as a result, the House has decided there should not be more than two Bills on any day in any committee. The proposal sets that aside so as to rush Bills, not just through Second Stage, as we see every day, but Committee Stage and that is not acceptable. We have seen the result of such decisions recently.

I agree with Deputy Stagg on this matter. One of the advantages of committees is that Deputies who are not members of a particular committee can take part. If two committees deal with two separate Bills on the same day it is nearly impossible for such Deputies to take part. There are free days next week when committees can sit and, if the Bills are urgent, they could be dealt with in the following week.

I appreciate the points Deputies Stagg and Ó Snodaigh make but we must remember that, subject to the next proposal, the Dáil will not be sitting on the day in question.

Will it ever sit again?

The Dáil is dying on its feet.

Three events take place in the Dáil on that day.

A Deputy

Cheltenham, Cheltenham and Cheltenham.

The Tánaiste will have to try to get tickets for Cheltenham.

The normal procedure is for no more than two committees to function while the House is not sitting but this will allow the Deputies who are not attending plenary sessions of the Dáil to attend all the committee meetings in question.

Question, "That the proposal regarding Standing Order 80(3) be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Is proposal No. 5, dealing with the Taoiseach's questions on Wednesday, 21 March 2007, agreed to? Agreed.

Is the proposal that the Dáil, on rising today, should adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 March agreed to?

We should be grateful there will be no emergency legislation next week.

We do not know that.

There might not be a quorum on the Government side. I will raise a serious issue. In the week we resume the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform proposes to hold a five-hour debate on Second Stage of a criminal justice Bill that is not even on the list. It is a major piece of legislation which will deal with the right to silence, detention, bail and sentencing. The Dáil has learned to its cost in recent weeks the folly of rushing through legislation and having to reconsider at length to fill loopholes created by a lack of attention to detail.

It will probably be as faulty as the last Bill.

While everyone wants an effective response to the issues thrown up by a series of killings and other gangland activity, there is a huge onus on the Dáil to consider the matters in a mature way, rather than rushing into 11th hour action. This Government said two or three years ago that the killing of certain individuals was a watershed and that things would have to change. Now, at five minutes to midnight in terms of this Dáil session, the Minister comes forward with his proposals. There is no point pretending to give cover to a Minister who has been inactive in some of these areas.

That is the first time he has been accused of that.

Does the Deputy find this funny?

He will not find it funny after the election.

We must deal with this issue in a proper way and the Dáil needs to use time, either next week or another week, to deal with these issues.

A raft of legislation is being guillotined because the Government is coming to the end of its term of office. It is not allowing proper scrutiny of legislation, nor is it allowing this Parliament to function effectively. We already know to our cost what happened when the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform rushed legislation through the House and had to return this week with emergency legislation, because the Labour Party pointed out the flaw in the original. There is a real danger we will end up in the same situation with regard to another area of law.

There have been seven guillotines this week. Because the Government proposes not sitting next week, eight guillotines are proposed for the week we return. It is not correct parliamentary activity to continually cut off the work in which we engage, which is to ensure legislation is robust and fair.

Who is playing Ceaucescu now?

The reason given for the Dáil not sitting is that St. Patrick's Day is next week, but that is not until next Saturday.

The Government might change it.

Do not forget the ministerial gallivanting — it will be their last chance.

It does not take a week to travel anywhere in the world today. I am not aware that it takes a week for Ministers to do their packing. They are packing the timetable with legislation which deserves to be properly analysed and scrutinised. We propose we do not adjourn until 20 March but continue our business to ensure we do not end up with the unholy mess for which the Tánaiste was responsible in respect of providing safeguards for our children.

A brief comment is allowed, Deputy.

We need to sit next week to do the business we were elected to this House to do.

Surely some Ministers will be present next week.

We are opposed to this proposal, as we have been in previous years. It is wrong to conduct the business of the House in this way. My colleague, Deputy Boyle, has put forward proposals for reforming the House and has pointed out on numerous occasions that, as a Parliament, we are unproductive and sit fewer days than other parliaments in Europe. That needs to be rectified.

This is, ironically, business as usual in that we do what we do every year, namely facilitate people who want to attend horse race meetings, though some do important work. It is not acceptable because we suffer a build-up of legislation. Currently we have built up a mound of it which will have to be guillotined. At this time, when people are very busy, it is impossible for Deputies to attend all the sessions. I was surprised the Taoiseach promised even more legislation yesterday because I do not know how he will get it through. The only way is by use of the guillotine so we oppose the proposal.

It can be dealt with in committee.

Along with other Deputies, I object to this proposal. There is a range of legislation which deserves and requires our full attention. Some needs to be passed prior to the election and would be welcomed by the electorate. However, its passage will be facilitated by guillotine, rather than by a proper, measured debate. There are also many reports to which this House needs to give consideration by debating them, which could happen with a full sitting next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

We should sit next week to debate the legislation to which I referred. Following that, there could be committee meetings to deal with the relevant Bills in a proper way, but not more than two per day, as determined by the previous proposal.

As the House is aware, it has been the case for many year's that the State takes advantage of the fact that the St. Patrick's Day festival is celebrated across the globe in order to project the good aspects of Ireland, avail of goodwill towards this country——

St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday this year.

——and represent Irish interests at events organised abroad.

It would not be right to let the day pass without celebrating it.

There is an undoubted and major dividend to the economy, the State and the Irish community overseas as a result of the Government taking the St. Patrick's Day festival seriously. The Deputies opposite will appreciate that although St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday this year, most Ministers will be obliged to attend a number of events in the days beforehand at the locations to which they are travelling.

The poor things. Their itinerary is too strenuous.

(Interruptions).

The Tánaiste should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Will any Ministers be attending the race meeting at Cheltenham?

If Deputy Ring interrupts again, I will not call him in respect of other issues. The Minister to continue without interruption.

(Interruptions).

The Government should resign en bloc.

Deputy Durkan has made enough contributions for today.

I apologise.

I am surprised that Deputy Gormley opposes the international celebration of the wearing of the green.

That could have two meanings.

Deputy Gormley referred earlier to the moneys spent between elections. I understand he could not afford to pay the relevant fees in order to have Al Gore address his party's conference. I understand Mr. Gore charges $140,000.

He charges $170,000.

Mr. Gore's fees are nearly as bad as those charged by senior counsel.

It is a pity the Green Party could not pay to have Mr. Gore appear.

(Interruptions).

As far as the Government is concerned, there is a great deal of legislation with which the House must deal.

The Government has had ten years in which to deal with it.

I carried out some research——

That is always a dangerous thing to do.

——and discovered that in one week last July the House spent between three and four hours debating the Order of Business on various days. That was a considerable amount of time to spend——

Democracy is at risk, particularly if mistakes are made in legislation.

(Interruptions).

The Minister to continue without interruption.

This would never have happened in Romania.

The Government has an appetite for getting on with its work

(Interruptions).

My constituency colleague, Deputy Quinn, will feel somewhat like a baby who has thrown his or her rattle out of the pram when the Building Control Bill is finally passed.

The Tánaiste knows all about throwing rattles out of prams.

The legislation in question has been mentioned on each day the House has met.

(Interruptions).

We are getting on with the business of the House. We are also getting on with Ireland's business.

It is "Ireland's Call".

The Government is jackbooting legislation through the House.

(Interruptions).

The people appreciate what we are doing and like to see us working hard.

Question put: "That the proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 March 2007 be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 34.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Breen, James.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carty, John.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Neville and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

As today is international day of women's rights, many will be amazed to see that an advertising campaign by Trócaire highlighting problems of abuse of women in certain countries is being pulled by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. It is important that the Tánaiste comments on this. It certainly seems an extraordinary level of political correctness.

That issue was dealt with in the House yesterday.

Another issue on which I ask the Tánaiste to comment is the Government's intention to sign up to the international treaties on human trafficking, another source of abuse of women's rights, a matter on which we have fallen behind and which seems to have slipped down our agenda.

The health insurance situation seems to be getting "Curiouser and curiouser!", as in Alice in Wonderland, with Mr. Quinn having offered to buy VHI before the introduction of emergency legislation. What progress has been made by the Government in resolving the twin issues, the first of which is insurance and the reserves which must be set aside by VHI, a provision which is being challenged.

Has legislation been promised?

Legislation has most certainly been promised. The second issue concerns the obligations of insurers to contribute through existing arrangements to the costs of VHI. There is an unsatisfactory legal position which needs to be clarified urgently.

On the VHI matter, as Deputy Bruton will be aware, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, proposes to publish health insurance legislation this session. Deputy Bruton will also be aware that there is a group, under Mr. Colm Barrington, studying some of the fundamental issues which lie at the heart of current controversies. The Government awaits its report this month.

The Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill is being worked on in my Department and expected in early summer. On the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, all I can say is that it is an independent body which makes independent judgments.

The Tánaiste could amend the legislation and solve the problem.

To interfere with it.

Not to interfere with it but to stop the censorship.

I want to return to an issue in the Tánaiste's Department, as raised by Deputy Bruton. A new criminal justice Bill has been promised, the debate on which will be guillotined on Second Stage the week the Dáil resumes. As this Bill has not yet been published, I have questions for the Ceann Comhairle and the Tánaiste.

I understand the Ceann Comhairle has made a determination, if not a ruling, that complex legislation should be given space of at least two weeks between publication and the Second Stage debate. This is a fundamental question. The Tánaiste has signalled that significant issues will be captured in this legislation. When will the Bill be published? I ask that the normal protocol of allowing at least a fortnight for proper debate apply, including taking soundings from bodies outside this House which have already expressed interest in the matter. Obviously, detailed responses cannot be made until we see the legislation.

There are only weeks remaining to us, yet it took months for the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 to pass through Committee Stage. Even if we are to conclude Second Stage between now and the cessation of this Dáil, there should be no question of providing inadequate time or putting pressure on us to conclude Committee Stage until all the issues are fully and properly ventilated, given that they cut to the heart of the criminal justice system in this country.

It is my hope that the Bill will be published on Monday of next week.

Four days.

That will allow the whole of next week and the bulk of the following week, or until Thursday, for Deputies to consider the text and contents of the legislation.

It is proposed that a two-day Second Stage debate will be held on the legislation on Thursday and Friday of the following week. With regard to Committee Stage, I have always been willing to sit lengthy hours and until midnight if necessary to complete the work of the committee.

Another family friendly day.

It may not be family friendly but sometimes the families of innocent people who have been shot down must also be considered.

Bad legislation is worse than delayed legislation.

The legislation is needed. If I did not think that was so, I would not propose it. There is a clamant public demand to make the law as it pertains to bail, detention and questioning of people accused of tiger kidnappings, firearms murders and the like effective. That has to be done. I ask Deputy Howlin to bear in mind that we should not give up our day jobs just because an election is approaching.

That is a disgraceful suggestion.

Look at the numbers.

We have a lot of work to do and we owe it to our constituents and the people——

We welcome this dedication to duty.

——to put in place the necessary measures to safeguard the people's welfare and protect the rights of individuals.

The Tánaiste should come here more often.

Fine Gael Members did not turn up to vote.

The people's constitutional rights are not simply those of an accused in a criminal process. The rights also exist not to be shot or to have to stand at the foot of one's son's coffin.

The Tánaiste should get off the pulpit.

An individual has the right not to have his or her family kidnapped in a tiger kidnapping. These are all important constitutional rights and they should be defended with vigour by this House.

That is not a defence.

The Tánaiste failed.

On a point of order, the Tánaiste possibly inadvertently misled the House. The schedule issued to us for the week after next indicates that two Bills will be taken on the Thursday, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006, which is important in the context of the discussion we just had, and the criminal justice Bill. On the following half-day, it is proposed to guillotine the pharmacy Bill and the criminal justice Bill. It is wrong, therefore, to claim we will have two days for debate.

The Deputy made his point. I call Deputy Gormley.

I would like the Tánaiste to acknowledge that he inadvertently misled the House.

The Bill will be debated on both days.

The Tánaiste said there would be two days of debate but there will not be two days. A bit of Thursday and Friday is proposed.

The Deputy has made his point.

We have not seen the legislation.

I ask Deputy Howlin to resume his seat.

This is about electioneering on the part of the Tánaiste, who has failed for ten years.

He has failed.

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. I call Deputy Gormley.

I am sure the Tánaiste is aware that many local authority tenants would like to purchase their houses and flats. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Ahern, who is sitting opposite, has repeatedly promised the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill.

The Tánaiste on the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill.

Will we have the Bill before the election?

The Bill is scheduled for publication in early summer.

Brilliant.

That is good news for the tenants of city councils.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach will travel to America next week. I would like them to raise the important issue of illegal Irish. The matter has reached a crucial stage in America and I ask the Minister and the Taoiseach to spell out to the US Government that it cannot be hypocritical——

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.

——in terms of using this country to make a lot of money when Irish citizens abroad are not being looked after.

Deputy Ring has made his point. I call Deputy McManus.

I want the Tánaiste to ensure that the Taoiseach raises this issue because it is important to a large number of families in this country.

He has started.

Our citizens are not being protected.

The Chair has no choice but to move on to the next matter if Deputy Ring does not want to allow his colleagues to contribute. I call Deputy McManus.

I want to protect our citizens.

The Deputy should be careful that he does not have a heart attack.

Allow Deputy McManus speak without interruption.

The Minister never gets too excited himself.

I ask the Minister and Deputy Ring to allow Deputy McManus to speak without interruption.

When he was up the trees, he was too easy going. If I went up a tree, I would look around.

He is a lumberjack.

Single party Government, no difference.

What are Deputy Ring's chances with the Labour Party?

I ask the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to allow Deputy McManus to speak.

Last October, the Tánaiste loyally decided to stand by his Taoiseach when the latter was in a spot of bother over money. I remind the Tánaiste of the public commitment he made to publish the ethics in public office Bill and bring it before the Oireachtas as a matter of urgency. Where is that Bill?

The Bill in question will be brought before the House this session.

When will it be published?

I am sure the Tánaiste is aware of the capacity crowds who attended Croke Park and the enjoyment they derived from recent matches. However, every time the capacity crowd of 82,500 fills Croke Park, life becomes a misery for local residents.

Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Two weeks ago, I asked a question of the Tánaiste regarding public urination and the progress on bringing in legislation in this regard. I ask the same question now.

Is legislation promised?

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government indicated that he would be bringing in legislation to provide for resident-only parking in the vicinity of Croke Park on major match days. What progress has been made on both of these matters?

Public order legislation is adequate to deal with the first matter raised by Deputy Costello. Any garda who finds somebody engaged in that activity——

The fines are too low.

Under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts, there are plenty of large fines and other solutions. The Victorian nature of legislation is irrelevant to this issue.

Gardaí are not of that view.

Senior members of an Garda Síochána regard it as disorderly or offensive behaviour sufficient to provoke the provisions of the Acts.

What about on-the-spot fines?

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 makes provision for the application of on-the-spot fines in respect of public order offences.

I also asked about the legislation promised by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding resident-only parking in the vicinity of Croke Park on match days.

That is primarily a matter for the local authority. I am not aware of any legislative reform.

The Minister has promised such reform in the House.

I realise the Ceann Comhairle has decided for some reason that he will not allow me to contribute and I am aware of the clamour on the Government benches to close down the Opposition——

That is not a point of order.

It is. If the Chair waited until I finished——

The Chair is obliged to move on with the Order of Business and it is entirely at my discretion whom I call. I call Deputy Eamon Ryan.

I am obliged to raise a point of order if the Chair disallows a valid intervention. It has become increasingly prevalent of late for Ministers to reply to parliamentary questions by way of a non-answer. One of those Ministers is present.

That is not a point of order. I have called Deputy Eamon Ryan.

If the Chair does not protect me and other Members, some other means will have to be found to do so.

The first thing every Member has to do is treat this as a national, democratic Parliament, not a crèche.

The Deputy is doing so.

That includes everybody, including Government Members. As long as they——

The Deputy should resume his seat because Deputy Eamon Ryan has been called to move First Stage of the Restricted Animal Testing Bill.

I would like to raise an issue on the Order of Business first. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said——

No, we have moved on.

This is promised legislation.

If the Deputy does not wish to move his Bill, he can wait until Tuesday week.

I would like to raise an important issue on the Order of Business.

We have concluded the Order of Business. It is almost 11.25 a.m. and the House must move on.