Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re leave to introduce Supplementary Estimate [Vote 41]; No. 12, motion re referral of Supplementary Estimate [Vote 41] to select committee; No. 13, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the accession by Ireland to the terms of the Agreement for co-operation in dealing with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil and other Harmful Substances; No. 14, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order 2009; No. 15, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of taxation agreements; No 45, statements on report by the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, to adjourn at 7 p.m. if not previously concluded and the order shall not resume thereafter; No. 46 statements on climate change, to adjourn after 80 minutes if not previously concluded and the order shall not resume thereafter; and No. 5, the Inland Fisheries Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 11.20 p.m.; (2) Nos. 11 and 13 to 15, inclusive, and subject to the agreement of No. 11, No. 12, referral to select committee, shall be decided without debate and any divisions demanded on Nos. 11 and 12 shall be taken forthwith; (3) the following arrangements shall apply to No. 45: (i) the statements of the Taoiseach and of the leader of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, or a person nominated in his stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (ii) the statement of each other member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; and (4) the following arrangements shall apply to No. 46: (i) the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

Private Members' business shall be No. 97, motion re child benefit.

There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive, agreed?

It is not agreed. It would not be proper for this House not to debate No. 14. For the fifth time we have a postponement of democratic elections to regional fisheries boards. Extraordinarily each year the same order comes up again with only the name of the individual Minister Tipp-Exed out. Five Ministers have introduced this order over several years, including the former Minister of State and former Deputy, Mr. Gallagher; the former Minister of State, Deputy Browne; the Minister, Deputy Ryan; and the former Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power. We now have this order before us.

In 2005 the Minister, Deputy Ryan, as an Opposition Deputy criticised the postponement of elections and voted against them on the basis that it was a sorry start to a process. It is a process we all support.

In 2006 he then described the next postponement as a sorry indictment of the Government's neglect of the environment and wild fishery stocks. He even called it an act of cowardice. Is the Minister codding us or is he simply floundering?

The Deputy is trying to "haddock" every way now.

He is out of water at this stage.

He should get on the waders.

He is skating along coming back repeatedly with this postponement——

Another red herring.

—— without offering us a ray of hope.

Is the Minister rising to the bait?

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 66.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • 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’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.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, George.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 45 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 46 agreed to?

Eighty minutes is being allowed for statements on climate change. This allows for four 15-minute contributions, which is an hour, and two other speakers at ten minutes each. There is an upcoming conference in Copenhagen and anybody who is serious about climate change would realise that there is need for a proper debate in this House on the role and stance the Government will take at this conference.

I appeal to the Taoiseach on a serious issue. If one looks at the proposed Order of Business for tomorrow, from after the Order of Business until 7 p.m. there is the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Second Stage. Is it reasonable that we spend nearly seven hours dealing with Second Stage of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and allow 80 minutes to deal with climate change?

This debate was supposed to take place after the Order of Business but was changed because of the publication of the Murphy report. I have no difficulty with that because of the seriousness of that report but I would ask that we also treat this debate with some seriousness.

There is an all-party joint Oireachtas committee which has managed to do its business on an all-party basis without rancour. There is no political game in this debate. This is a serious issue that people outside are now beginning to take somewhat seriously because of the ongoing flooding in this country from year to year.

Would the Taoiseach kindly arrange that some of tomorrow morning's business be held over for a couple of hours to continue this debate on climate change? It is a reasonable request. There are no votes involved. It is simply an opportunity for Members to express a view and to adopt a combined approach so that the Minister, and the Taoiseach if he goes to Copenhagen, can go with backing from the Dáil and from the Seanad, which, I hope, will also hold a debate.

I support the proposal from the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, Deputy Barrett, to continue this debate tomorrow. We all support the change today in terms of the Murphy report, and that is not an issue. It is of tremendous importance that this Parliament reflects and considers the major task we face at Copenhagen. I welcome the fact that the Taoiseach has indicated that he will attend. I wish the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, well in representing what is a unified view across this House that climate change is our big challenge and that we must work together to ensure we meet our responsibilities. We failed on Kyoto. We now must succeed because time is running out. We should make a special arrangement in terms of having a debate to continue on this subject because the Copenhagen conference is approaching quickly. Ireland may be a small country but we are a big polluter compared to other populations, and we must ensure that we work together to meet this major challenge of our time.

The business has been ordered for tomorrow, as has been explained. The Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which needs to be enacted before the end of this session, is important in terms of inward investment. All I can do is refer the matter to the Whips to see if there is a possibility of rescheduling tomorrow's business. If it is possible to get some commitment on the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill being handled in less time but with the co-operation of the House, I do not know whether it would be possible for the Whips to consider rearranging the climate change debate to continue tomorrow morning. It is not for me to get into the detail of that, only to refer it to the Whips to see if some compromise can be worked out.

Has the Taoiseach agreed that the debate will continue after tonight and left the door open for a debate tomorrow?

I will ask the Whips.

Is the proposal agreed? Agreed.

On the Order of Business, I was going to ask the Taoiseach, first, if he has any information about the person inside the Fianna Fáil Party who tried to screw-up his predecessor. I noted on Sunday he was very concerned that somebody in the party deliberately tried to screw him up, and he knows who it is.

He was not referring to anyone in the party.

Somebody in the party, maybe——-

No, he was not referring to anyone in the party.

A colleague, he said. Was it a colleague?

Who? Was it the Opposition?

So there is no need for a commission of inquiry.

Is it too late for a witch-hunt?

The Deputy should keep an eye on his own crowd.

(Interruptions).

To remind the House — it is legislation on the Order of Business.

I sent the Taoiseach a note some weeks ago about the Committee of the Regions, which is a European institution. Prior to the last local elections, the position of his party was much stronger in terms of local government representation than it is now. The committee, as he will be aware, has nine representatives and nine alternates, and it is supposed to reflect the relative strengths of the parties and gender balance. In view of the situation that applied on the last occasion, is it the Taoiseach's intention from any point of view of fairness and expression of understanding of the democratic will of the people as declared in that result to change the membership in terms of the representation given to my party, which has vastly increased strength as a result of the people's vote?

I must check up on the matter with the relevant Minister, and check precedent as well.

I thank the Taoiseach.

I agree with Deputy Kenny on the appointment of the Committee of the Regions because the Labour Party also has considerably increased representation in local government which would justify increased representation on the Committee of the Regions. As a result of the referendum in 1999, there is now a constitutional protection of local government. I hope therefore that the Government will honour that and will respect the result of the local elections last June.

I wish to raise two matters with the Taoiseach. First, we are just 36 hours away from the second national strike involving the public services. We have all been encouraged by the fact that talks have taken place, which went on long into the night. I understand that they are to resume this afternoon. The House is sitting tonight until approximately 11.30 p.m., so will any opportunity be taken by the Government to report on progress in those talks?

Second, are any efforts being made to avert the threatened strike on Thursday? We are already hearing about hospital appointments being cancelled. In addition, parents with children at school need to know if the schools will be open on Thursday. Is any effort being made to avert that strike and is sufficient progress being made in the talks? We are getting mixed messages as to what is happening in the talks. It would be helpful if the Government were to make a report to the House later this evening on progress in the talks.

In the course of tomorrow's business will there be an opportunity to get a report by the relevant Ministers on what is happening with the flooding situation, which is still hugely serious in many parts of the country?

As the Deputy knows, discussions are continuing with the public service unions. That engagement is continuing this evening, so it would not be helpful for me to say publicly where we are at the moment, other than that there is an engagement taking place. Work will continue to see if we can find a resolution to the issue, which is sufficient to meet the requirements of the situation.

A day of strike action is not within my remit. This issue is being dealt with by others. As I made clear last week, the Government's position is not influenced one way or the other by the existence or prospect of strike action on Thursday. It is about trying to address the issues as we have outlined them. We will not be changing our approach because of what others contemplate doing. The fact is that an engagement is taking place, which is resuming this evening. We will continue to work and if there is anything to report in terms of an outcome, that matter can be dealt with by the House in due course. However, I do not envisage having anything further to say about it today.

The Deputy also raised the flooding question. There are ways and means for Deputies to raise that issue again. It was dealt with extensively last week by agreement in the House. As the Deputy said, the situation continues to be serious. We are continuing to work in accordance with local emergency plans that are in place. The vagaries of weather patterns, including rainfall, are dictating that response in different parts of the country. As we have seen, the east was also affected over the weekend. We will continue to deal with that through the central mechanism of the emergency co-ordination committee and local task forces that are implementing the emergency plans.

On 11 November, I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle about a debate that took place here on 4 November. During that debate the Minister for Health and Children told me I was wrong to say that the HIA informed me that 12,000 people had cancelled their health insurance. On the same day I produced a response to a parliamentary question by Deputy Richard Bruton, which clearly showed that 21,000 people were involved, so my claim was accurate. I have written to the Ceann Comhairle to ask the Minister for Health and Children to correct the record of the Dáil, yet she has failed to do so. I wonder what arrangements the Ceann Comhairle will put in place to address that.

The second issue I wish to raise concerns pending legislation. It relates to a discussion we had earlier. The education (patronage) Bill is to come before the House, yet there is no provision in it for Educate Together to be patrons of a secondary school. Currently, however, some school patrons have been found to be negligent in their duty to child care. In the view of many people, they are unsuitable to be patrons if the current personnel remain in place. I find it difficult to accept that people who are supposedly the moral guardians of our society, do not look to their consciences, as to whether they are right or wrong, and make their decisions on that basis, rather than trying to place the responsibility on the laity or priests. As others have said, it is up to the church to sort out its own. However, I would have expected more from individuals within the church who have let themselves and their colleagues down. They should act in conscience.

I hope the forthcoming education (patronage) Bill will allow Educate Together to become patrons of secondary schools. Educate Together has a long 30-year history of involvement in primary schools. It has been congratulated on its work by President Mary McAleese, and I see no reason that it should not be afforded this opportunity in the proposed legislation.

Before calling An Taoiseach, I wish to tell Deputy Reilly that a personal explanation on the matters he has raised is an issue for the individual Deputy in the first instance. It is not a function of the Chair to initiate this procedure. Having heard what Deputy Reilly said, however, I will consider the matter and will revert to him.

He will think about it.

I understand that the Bill in question is to be published in this session.

I wish to raise the matter referred to by Deputy Gilmore and others concerning the national emergency co-ordination effort and the relevant legislation. I do not agree with the Taoiseach because there was not the degree of co-ordination at national level that there should be. Huge initiatives were taken by individual constituent bodies of their own accord. They were willing and able to help, but much was left undone simply because nobody was in charge at national level. There was no delegation of authority to local authorities. Various bodies took the risk of going into the arena and offered to help out. I ask the Taoiseach to review the construction of this body to try to come to grips with some methodology whereby a decision can be made centrally to activate all services nationally to go to the rescue of those in need at any given time.

The Deputy should find an alternative way of raising this matter.

It is still dealing with legislation.

Local emergency plans are in place. Up to this weekend, the experience is that they have been working very well. That is the general view of people on the ground. There may well be individual cases of continuing hardship or delay in getting to those affected by floods. In many cases, however, priorities have to be established at local level concerning the protection of installations and the provision of water supplies. A number of steps had to be taken and this was understood by many residents, who themselves were under pressure and in difficulties, when they heard that other things had to be done in the first instance. People had a sense of organisation and co-ordination about what was going on even in the midst of their own difficulties when flooding was starting to affect their own private property. I understand the Deputy's view of what happened in his own locality, but my distinct impression based on visiting and talking to people on the ground is that there was a fair deal of satisfaction. This is a continuing problem and it is not as if we can discuss it as if it is over. When people's difficulties are not being solved as quickly as they would have hoped, it can cause frustration and other problems to arise as well. It is an ongoing situation and matters on the ground can change very quickly, too.

The conditions of the hardship fund were announced today by the Government. Will the Taoiseach say whether the fund has been increased or whether the Cabinet has sought to increase it? The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Mansergh, told the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government today that we needed to establish a relocation fund. In my constituency and that of the Taoiseach, there are people who would be affected under those circumstances. There is a conflict between their eligibility for the hardship fund and the costs of relocation——

We will have to find an alternative way to pursue this matter.

It comes under the Financial Services (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

I will allow a short question on it.

There is a conflict between the two funds, where people could be eligible for both, but in all justice, it should only be paid under one category. There is an urgent need to establish that relocation fund to provide where people will be eligible and under which scheme.

It is not the number of funds we establish that is important, but rather the adequacy of resources for the funding we need to supply. That is the determining factor in the response. The whole idea is to have a flexible responsive position established. As the clean-up issues emerge this question arises as well as for people who cannot access their homes. At present arrangements are being made by the HSE, primarily for those who have not got a wider family support circle as an option for relocation, so that they can get temporary accommodation. Local authorities can help engage in that initiative as well.

All I can tell the Deputy is that these matters, as I am sure he knows, if brought to the attention of the relevant personnel, can be dealt with adequately. The Government is keeping a watching brief on the issue of funding, and we have made it clear that the initial allocation is precisely that.

Is the Taoiseach saying the relocation fund could be used for hardship purposes in certain circumstances?

Between the exceptional needs payment that already exists and the hardship humanitarian fund, now established, the initial and immediate needs of families can be met. Longer-term issues will arise in due course, but it is less a question of the number of funds that are needed than the need to ensure that there is a flexible and adequate response to individual circumstances, which will vary from neighbour to neighbour.

I have raised the issue concerning legislation for management companies on several occasions. We have been informed the Bill is stuck on Second Stage in the Seanad, awaiting amendments from the Minister. The Minister sent me a detailed letter in this regard, and I thank him for that. It was not entirely satisfactory, however, and indicated that we were more or less starting the procedure all over again.

During the flooding emergency in recent days——

This legislation is in the Seanad.

It is stuck in the Seanad, but it is promised legislation in so far as we are concerned in this House. My main complaint is about high fees and low service.

A new issue arose over the weekend where a management company and the county council were contesting in Sallins, who was responsible. As a result, houses were left flooded for four days, when all that was required was a trench, which eventually was cut by locals this morning in spite of the council.

The Deputy will have to find an alternative way for dealing with questions containing this type of detail. There are so many ways to do this, such as on the Adjournment or at Question Time.

The Minister needs to take into account when he is tabling the long-promised amendments to the Seanad legislation that this is a new issue which needs to be dealt with, to ensure that the local authority is responsible when this type of emergency arises.

The Deputy has had a good innings on this and made his point.