It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the International Tropical Timber Agreement 2006 — back from committee; No. 9, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council regulation on the establishment of an evaluation mechanism to verify the application of the Schengenacquis; No. 10, motion re appointment of Ombudsman; No. 11, motion re appointment of Information Commissioner; No. 23, Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; Nos. 8 and 9 shall be decided without debate; Nos. 10 and 11 shall be debated together and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 25 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed five minutes in each case; and (ii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on the Report and Final Stages of No. 23 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health and Children; and in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 71, motion re preschool year in early childhood care and education scheme, Standing Order 117(3) shall not apply and Private Members’ business shall be adjourned after 90 minutes tonight.
Order of Business.
There are five proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8 and 9 without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed to?
No, it is not.
I find myself unable to agree with this proposal, a guillotine motion in respect of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008. Deputy James Reilly has brought to my attention the fact there are 126 amendments on Report Stage. Some of these are innocuous and merely require changes of words but many of the 126 amendments will not be reached in the time available before the conclusion of the debate. Deputy Reilly has, in particular, drawn my attention to amendment No. 125, the impact of which will be to negate the principle which has been accepted by all in respect of a capping of a contribution for property or farms of land. Paragraph 8 will require that members of the medical profession are pressurised to produce particular forms of verification of sudden illness or similar. This amendment will not be reached in this debate and for that reason I cannot support the proposal for No. 23 being finalised in this way.
The Labour Party cannot support the guillotining of this very important Bill either, which has been a number of years in coming before the House. There are more than 100 amendments to be dealt with and as many of the more important amendments are towards the end of the debate, there is no doubt that we will not reach them all. As we have spent so long discussing this issue — as I said, it is a number of years since the idea first came forward — there is no reason we should now find ourselves in the situation where we have not time to deal with the legislation appropriately and to tease out all its aspects. This is crucially important for the lives of our senior citizens, all of whom have given great service to the State but who now, in the latter years of their lives, find themselves in a situation where they are worried about finances, the family home and whether there will even be enough money in this scheme for them to qualify.
There are a number of very important aspects of this legislation which this House should deal with properly. We do not want to look back in one or two years time and find the legislation is not working properly because we did not give it proper debate in this House. For that reason, we oppose the guillotine on this legislation.
Sinn Féin also supports the argument for the lifting of the guillotine in regard to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill. It is hugely important legislation that will have serious consequences for many people today and perhaps for many of us in the future. It is imperative that we give it full opportunity for proper debate in the House.
There is also a second matter, namely, we cannot agree to the proposition without an immediate indication that the Government will proceed to accommodate address of the Ryan child abuse commission report, which we urged last week would at least commence this week. If one looks at the House's schedule of business for this week, one will see that none of the legislative business scheduled for Thursday could be described as urgent, especially when compared to the importance of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. As I understand it, the Chief Whip indicated at one point last week that the Government was prepared at least to start to address the report this week. That debate could be continued on 9 June, after the election recess. I urge the Taoiseach, the Chief Whip and the Government parties to reconsider this week's schedule and allow a proper debate to commence tomorrow or on Thursday. The process of addressing the horrors that were revealed in Mr. Justice Ryan's report should be aired in this House, which needs to play a part in influencing the thinking and decision-making of the hierarchy of the religious institutions. All the institutions of the State have a collective shared responsibility to the victims of these terrible crimes.
It is important to proceed with the enactment of this long-awaited and much-discussed legislation. The Chief Whip is anxious to proceed in this manner. I will be sorry if it does not receive the support of the Opposition. A vote may be required. We need to proceed in the manner that is envisaged in the Order of Business I have announced. Regarding the other matter raised by Deputy Ó Caoláin, time is needed not only to read and digest this voluminous report of 2,500 pages, but also to give considerable consideration to the many issues it raises and recommendations it makes. By agreement of the House, it was felt that two weeks were needed to add to the quality and effectiveness of the debate.
I have no doubt that the debate can continue in two weeks' time, but it should start this week.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Andrews, Chris.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Bobby.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Brady, Áine.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Carey, Pat.
- Collins, Niall.
- Conlon, Margaret.
- Connick, Seán.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cregan, John.
- Cuffe, Ciarán.
- Cullen, Martin.
- Curran, John.
- Devins, Jimmy.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Flynn, Beverley.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Gormley, John.
- Grealish, Noel.
- Hanafin, Mary.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kennedy, Michael.
- Kirk, Seamus.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Lenihan, Conor.
- McDaid, James.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- McGrath, Michael.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Mulcahy, Michael.
- Nolan, M. J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- O’Brien, Darragh.
- O’Connor, Charlie.
- O’Dea, Willie.
- O’Flynn, Noel
- O’Hanlon, Rory.
- O’Keeffe, Batt.
- O’Rourke, Mary.
- O’Sullivan, Christy.
- Power, Peter.
- Power, Seán.
- Roche, Dick.
- Ryan, Eamon.
- Sargent, Trevor.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Mary.
- White, Mary Alexandra.
- Woods, Michael.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Behan, Joe.
- Breen, Pat.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Ulick.
- Burton, Joan.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Carey, Joe.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Creed, Michael.
- D’Arcy, Michael.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- English, Damien.
- Enright, Olwyn.
- Feighan, Frank.
- Flanagan, Terence.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Hayes, Tom.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Hogan, Phil.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lynch, Ciarán.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McEntee, Shane.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McHugh, Joe.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Morgan, Arthur.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Noonan, Michael.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O’Dowd, Fergus.
- O’Keeffe, Jim.
- O’Mahony, John.
- O’Shea, Brian.
- O’Sullivan, Jan.
- Perry, John.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Reilly, James.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheahan, Tom.
- Sherlock, Seán.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Timmins, Billy.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.
A question beginning to arise in the course of the European election campaign is when the Government expects to hold the referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Will the Taoiseach give us some certainty on this issue by identifying a time within two or three weeks of the proposed date? Will it be the end of September or October? We will have to decide on this and the sooner we know for certain when it will be the better so that we can sequentially follow a list of issues that we have discussed before to ensure that people are properly and fully informed as to the content of the treaty.
I note the comment of the Minister for Finance that it may be necessary to recall the House to discuss the proposed legislation to set up the National Asset Management Agency. The Minister should for practical reasons be able to tell when that is likely to be. Will it be in July or August? I expect that people in the House have made vacation arrangements and I hope they all take their vacations in the country. Has a date been proposed for the Minister for Finance to present the Bill to the House?
We have to await the outcome of the June Council meeting before the Government can indicate its preparedness to hold a referendum.
We will get that.
Let us take it step by step rather than being presumptuous. The agreement of 26 member states is required.
We will get that.
We can discuss those issues on our return from the Council meeting.
The Minister intends to have the NAMA legislation published by late June or early July. He was simply saying what options he may consider if necessary. The legislation is being prepared as a matter of priority.
As a practical matter can we expect the House to be recalled before the end of July or during August or early September? People will want to know.
The Minister was indicating that all options are being kept open but we have to prepare the legislation in the first instance.
The Circuit Criminal Court today imposed an 18 month prison sentence on former Government press secretary, Mr. Frank Dunlop. When does the Government expect the final report of the Mahon tribunal to be available? Would the Government accept the registration of lobbyists Bill, in the name of Deputy Brendan Howlin, which provides for the registration and regulation of lobbyists to show that legislative and regulatory lessons have been learned from the Frank Dunlop episode?
I cannot provide a date or time regarding when the Mahon tribunal expects to be able to furnish a report to the House, as requested. As Deputy Gilmore knows, this matter is being dealt with by the tribunal and one can only hope the report will be provided as soon as possible.
On the second matter raised by the Deputy, the Bill is a Private Members' Bill, which I am sure can be taken in Private Members' time.
The Taoiseach promised he would accept it.
I thank Deputy Gilmore for being prepared to reconsider what he said. I take it he will obtain further information after this gathering.
I want to make two points that are relevant to what was said this afternoon, the first of which is that the indemnity is in the legislation. We discussed it in the House and it is on record. It was discussed time and again but the detail was ultimately a matter for the Attorney General. It was left to him and the Government and was finalised after the legislation was completed in the House.
The second point is that the Attorney General was never out of the loop. This matter has featured for a long time and it has been raised again today. The Committee of Public Accounts dealt with this whole issue forensically and actually produced an excellent report on it, in which it went into great detail. This is a good example of what the Committee of Public Accounts can do.
The talks with the negotiating team broke down between September and February. I was not on the negotiating team. My job was only in respect of a policy issue; it was to get the talks back on line and not to get into legal or other detail.
Is that a point of order?
I do not mean to cut Deputy Woods short. If the Deputy wishes to deal with this matter, there are a number of ways in which he can do so.
These accusations have gone out——
The Deputy can raise the matter in the promised debate.
He can seek to make a personal explanation by making an application to my office.
In the alternative, he can table a motion of substance if he perceives an allegation has been made against him. I cannot really deal with this on the Order of Business.
The normal procedure is that the accusing Member tables a motion if there is a substantive issue. I do not want to go on at any length——
I understand that.
The statement has gone out to the media now and that is the purpose of the abuse of the House at this particular time.
It is not an abuse of the House.
My final point——
I cannot allow a debate on this now.
——is that a final memo was submitted to the Government. It was considered thoroughly. As the Taoiseach has said——
I have to move on.
——it was considered fully. The Government's only objective was to provide a compassionate solution in so far as that could be done——
Does the Deputy understand the difficulty in which he is placing me?
——for the victims of the horrible abuse that took place.
The people affected did not believe so.
I let Deputy——
The Deputy is out of order.
I must move on. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.
In light of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, will the Government introduce two promised Bills, namely, the child care Bill, whose purpose is to amend the Child Care Act 1991 to allow the High Court to have exclusive statutory jurisdiction to hear special care cases, and the childcare (collection and exchange of information) Bill, whose purpose is to provide for the collection and exchange of information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse, or risk thereof, of children? Will the Taoiseach indicate willingness on the part of the Government to bring forward both of these Bills? They are relevant and very important in the context of everything we have been exposed to over recent days as a result of the publication of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
I understand the first Bill requested by the Deputy is due to be published this session. With regard to the second Bill, which, in addition to the first, is under the aegis of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Barry Andrews, there are still some issues to be resolved before it is finalised.
I am glad the Taoiseach is still in the House. On a number of occasions I raised with him issues relating to the successful passage of the second Lisbon referendum and particularly matters over which this House and his Administration have direct control. I refer specifically to commitments and understandings among the social partners to bring forward legislation to correct the current vacuum with regard to workers' rights and the right to strike. The House is due to rise officially on 2 July but there is still no indication of this matter being addressed either by the Taoiseach or his hapless Tánaiste. Can we please recognise that the Government has responsibility to deal with this matter? It has nothing to do with Brussels or the summit and everything to do with the competence of the Taoiseach's own Administration. If we miss the tide in July, we will be open to the accurate charge, by those who want to distort matters maliciously, that we are negligent in this area. It behoves the Administration to close the gap.
Indications have been already given as to the progress made on that legislation. I hope to bring it forward soon; that is the intention of the Government.
I welcome the publication of the Bill to regulate management companies but I am disappointed that it will not outlaw management companies for single-unit standard housing or cover the abolition of existing management companies of this kind. Is it the Government's intention to deal with this in a separate Bill? The problem to which I refer is one of the greatest we have had, and we have been pursuing it now for approximately seven years. I welcome the Bill that has been published, which I hope is the first stage in addressing this matter. The main stage concerns management companies for standard housing. Planning permission guidelines required that such companies be imposed on the residents in standard housing. There is nothing in the published Bill to deal with that at all according to my reading of it. Is there another Bill?
I will have to make inquiries on the matter.
I thank the Taoiseach.
Over 20,000 people have been treated worldwide with cord cells and stem cells from cord blood and from the cord itself, yet in Ireland it is not possible to store the cord or the cord blood. Will the human tissue Bill remedy this? Can the Minister for Health and Children issue an edict, instruction or directive to the HSE-run hospitals to facilitate this? Many people are being discommoded at present.
We cannot discuss the minutiae. When is the legislation due?
There is no date for that legislation.
It is just ten years and one week since former Minister for Education, the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, announced helpfully that he had appointed a senior archivist to the Department of Education because all the files accompanying the Kennedy report, except the Daingean file, had gone missing. I was spokesperson on education for the Labour Party at the time. The Daingean file was the file that had the details on a youngster that had been stripped naked and punished at midnight. The Daingean institution was visited by a secretary of the Department of Education who said we should all be grateful for the quality of the people running it. In preparing for the debate the Minister undertook to provide a list of the files that had been lost but which might have been recovered and to state whether any files relating to the Kennedy commission's visits to all the institutions would be made available publicly. In facilitating the debate on the Ryan report, does the Government intend to place a list on record of such files as have been recovered and if, as the former Minister for Education indicated, it will make such files as have been recovered available publicly to those of us who are interested?
I will have to ask the Minister for Education and Science about that matter and revert to the Deputy.
Would it be possible for the Taoiseach to facilitate some discussion among the Whips on the content of the debate on the Ryan report? The leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, proposed that an investigator be appointed to consider the circumstances surrounding the matters referred to by Deputy Woods. Those of us who pursued this in the House have been told many different things. It was interesting to hear him give quite a different take on events to that which I was given, as I recall, when I raised the issue.
More importantly, many of the people who were in these institutions as children have criminal records. It should be possible to rapidly bring before the House a Bill to expunge these records. Many of these people are still alive and it would be important to them and to their families and descendants.
I cannot go into that now.
In addition, can we have an up-to-date, final reckoning of how much the religious orders have paid out of the €128 million, how it was spent, and what properties have been handed over? Will an audit be carried out of the rest of their assets? It seems many of them have been transferred into trusts.
Will the documentation relevant to the debate be made available?
With regard to the indemnity, there is no need to go beyond what the Committee of Public Accounts has already forensically dealt with. This was gone into in detail at the time and nothing further has arisen since then.
With regard to criminal records that may have arisen due to the detention of children in these institutions, all these matters can be considered in the context of the report, which the Cabinet will consider this evening. The other matter to which the Deputy referred——
I asked about the audit of the assets of the various religious bodies and whether they have been transferred into trusts. We understand many of them have been transferred in this way so they may not be available.
They continue to be used for the purposes for which they have been used and are available to the State for use as educational or health institutions.
When will the Spent Convictions Bill be brought back to the House? That would deal with part of the problem we have here.
Does the Taoiseach not agree that it is entirely misleading to seek to give the impression that the report of the Committee of Public Accounts somehow vindicated the deal made with the religious institutions? It did not do anything of the kind; in fact, it found to the contrary. However, it also found it could not do anything about it because it was probable that the deal could not legally be undone. Evidence was taken from the then Secretary General and Accounting Officer and from the two nuns who did a much better job of preserving their interests than the former Minister, Deputy Michael Woods, did for those of the taxpayer. It is wrong——
We will not go into that again, Deputy Rabbitte.
I am sorry I was not here when this was discussed previously.
It is wrong to give the impression that the report of the Committee of Public Accounts somehow vindicated a negligent and bad deal in the interest of the taxpayer.
I was simply pointing out that the indemnity agreement placed legal responsibility on the religious orders to come up with a contribution. The agreement has the impact of making that a legal obligation. The alternative, in the context of apportioning liability, would have been to fight each case separately with the religious institutions concerned.
The question arose as to the best way of dealing with this issue. The number of cases was indeterminate because, while 2,500 claims of action had been undertaken, the total number before the redress scheme was in the region of 14,000. In the context of what was being done at the time, one option was to come to an arrangement with religious institutions, through an indemnity agreement, regarding the contribution they would make. If such a contribution were not made we would have to pursue each individual case thereafter. The question arises in all such cases of the best way, taking a schematic approach, to ensure that victims get redress. We are not dealing with a confrontational court case in each instance. The liability of the State arose because of acts and omissions of the State, regardless of whether there is an indemnity agreement. The question arose of how we could obtain a contribution from those who acted on behalf of the State, and those decisions were made at that time.
To be helpful, I will elaborate on the question of criminal records. Given that the committal process to industrial schools had the trappings of a criminal process, it has given rise to certain perceptions. However, children committed to industrial schools do not have a criminal record associated with that committal. Section 35 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 puts beyond doubt that a person who was detained in an industrial school as a child in circumstances in which no criminal offence was committed by him or her is not to be regarded as having a criminal record. A much smaller number of children were committed to reformatory schools — effectively, that at Daingean — to serve sentences for specific criminal offences. However, the Children Act 2001 provides that any person convicted of an offence while a child shall be treated for all purposes in law as a person who has not been charged or found guilty of the offence provided he or she has not re-offended within a three-year period after conviction. The legislation has already gone further than a pardon in that respect. The question of a pardon can only apply to those children convicted of a criminal offence. The vast majority of people concerned were not convicted of any crime, and such a provision would not bestow any further benefit than that already provided for by the Children Act.
Many of the people involved, of whom I know many, feel they were criminalised by virtue of the way in which the records are maintained.
There will be a debate on this. We must conclude.
It seems we are to have a blasphemy law in this country, which nobody wants, before we deal with this issue. This is very important to the people who lived through this episode and are still alive, and their children.
This is not in order. Deputy Burton can make a contribution during the debate and she will have ample opportunity to make her views known.
I urge the Taoiseach to consider this. They were criminalised.
I have provided this information for the benefit of the House.
The Deputy should look at section 35 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act.