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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 23 Feb 2010

Vol. 703 No. 1

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 8, Finance Bill 2010 — Financial Resolutions; No. 9, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of an initiative for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the rights to interpretation and to translation in criminal proceedings; No. 10, 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 2011 (back from committee); and No. 1, Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad] — Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 8, 9 and 10 shall be decided without debate and in the case of No. 8, Financial Resolutions Nos. 1 and 2 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall put from the Chair. Private Members' business shall be No. 76, motion re unemployment.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8, 9 and 10, without debate, agreed?

The Labour Party will not agree to this proposal until we hear from the Taoiseach in respect of two matters, namely, what arrangements are being made today for the taking of a statement from the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Sargent, and will the House have an opportunity to question the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Ahern, about matters which are the subject of a report in the Evening Herald earlier today?

Prior to Leaders' Questions, the Taoiseach informed the House that the President had accepted the resignation of Deputy Willie O'Dea as a member of Government and that he had reassigned the Department of Defence to himself, as he is entitled to do under the legislation. He did not however inform us what arrangements, if any, are being made to bring before the House a motion for the appointment of a new member of Government, which motion would requires the approval of the House. Perhaps the Taoiseach will inform the House when he intends to bring to the House a motion regarding the appointment of a new member of Government or if indeed it is his intention to do that at all. I would like to hear a response from the Taoiseach on those two matters before agreeing to the proposal on the Order of Business.

I wish to advise Deputy Gilmore in respect of the first point he raised that as I mentioned earlier to Deputy Kenny, the House will hear a personal statement from the Minister of State following the Order of Business. Precedence relating to this matter was established last week.

They are becoming experts at it.

Personal statements are personal statements. Any statement subsequent to that will be ministerial statements.

Regarding public duty, I cannot raise a question. The Ceann Comhairle suspended me from the House last week.

Deputy, please.

The Deputy should go again this week.

I call the Taoiseach on the matter of ministerial appointment.

I refer to the statement and continue with that position. I do not believe there is a time limit in respect of which the motion must be brought before the House. The matter is one for Government.

There is one every hour on the hour.

I do not believe I am as long a Member of this House as is the Taoiseach. However, as I recollect it, on each previous occasion a Minister resigned from Government resulting in a vacancy in the membership of Government, the then Taoiseach brought before the House at the first available opportunity a motion in regard to the replacement of that Minister. This is, as far as I can recall, the first time the House is not being given any indication from the Taoiseach in regard to when, if ever, a proposal in respect of the replacement of a Minister who has resigned as a member of Government will be brought before the House.

The Taoiseach's response is unsatisfactory in that respect. I would like him to clarify the position. Is it his intention to bring to the House a proposal that a new member should be appointed to Government and, if so, will he indicate to the House when this will be done? This is not a decision which is entirely at the Government's discretion; the nomination of a member for appointment to the Government by the President is a matter for the House. I want to know before agreeing to the Order of Business when such motion will be brought before the House or if it will happen at all? The Taoiseach might perhaps decide he will not bring such proposal to the House, in which case we should be told.

On the first matter, while I appreciate that the Ceann Comhairle is allowing for a personal statement from the Minister of State, will Members have an opportunity, if necessary, to ask questions of him?

I appreciate that the Minister of State will make a personal statement. However, against the background of this matter having arisen in some mysterious fashion, perhaps the Taoiseach will inform the House if he has spoken to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Ahern, and Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, in respect of the statement the Minister of State will make, which apparently is of a serious nature.

I ask Deputy Kenny to leave the matter until we have heard the personal statement.

I want to know if the Taoiseach has spoken to the Minister of State prior to his making his statement?

We are on the Order of Business. Provision is made under Standing Order 26 for brief statements by individual Members. I do not believe we should elaborate on the matter at this stage.

Where is the jackal?

He is alive and well.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8, 9 and 10, without debate, be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Do we have any other business?

There is a lot of business.

I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

The matter I wish to raise has been already raised in part this afternoon. Will the Taoiseach inform the House of the date for publication of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority report? It is imperative that the House knows exactly when this report will be published. Serious allegations published in the media in recent days in regard to this report suggest it is being sat upon and being withheld from publication because it will be particularly embarrassing or even damaging for the major party in the coalition Government. The utterances in this regard come from a former colleague within the current coalition arrangement.

It is important that the Taoiseach clarify for the House the status of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority report and when the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government intends to have this report——

The Deputy should pursue the matter by way of parliamentary question.

——published and addressed on the floor of this House.

The question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is absolutely valid.

It is not appropriate.

This matter in relation to reports has been addressed——

A query on the Order of Business must be about promised legislation.

With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, the precedence is long established in terms of such reports. It is absolutely valid. I again ask the Taoiseach if this matter will be coming before the House.

I ask the Deputy to proceed with the matter by submitting a parliamentary question.

Will it be published in the very near future? Perhaps the Taoiseach will clarify that matter.

With respect to the Ceann Comhairle and, recognising his ruling on these matters — I do not wish to create a precedent — the Minister has set out this matter by way of statement. Legal and other advice is required. The report is with the Minister and will come to Government for consideration and following the taking of decisions arising out of any recommendations will be published in due course.

The innuendo and insinuations in regard to the report are without foundation.

With respect, those utterances are not mine. They are utterances of a former colleague of the Taoiseach's in terms of the current coalition arrangement.

We are on the Order of Business.

It is important we have full clarification——

This elaboration is not contemplated at all.

——and that the Minister, not alone the Taoiseach, should reply and explain why this report remains sitting on his desk.

I am calling Deputy Gilmore.

Is it still the Government's intention to proceed with the legislation for the election of a Dublin mayor and is its intention to proceed with that election in 2010? I asked last week if the heads of the Bill could be circulated or published. The Opposition parties have not had sight of the heads of that Bill, which I understand were approved by Government. I have been seeking a meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to see what he has in mind, but he has not yet facilitated me with a meeting. Is it still intended to proceed with the Bill? Will the heads of the Bill be circulated?

I am sure the Minister will facilitate a meeting he has agreed to have as soon as possible.

I have been three weeks waiting for it now.

I am sure he will.

I know he is busy.

The commitment remains that we will hold that election during 2010.

In what month did the Taoiseach say?

During 2010, as stated in the programme for Government.

Will the heads be circulated?

I am sure that is a matter for the Minister to confirm in his meeting with the Deputy.

I am asking the Taoiseach; he is the Taoiseach.

I am the Taoiseach.

Does the Taoiseach not speak to him anymore?

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is otherwise engaged.

In fairness, this is not a new subject that I am raising. I have been asking about this issue for quite some time. We are in the rather ridiculous situation where this election is, as the Taoiseach says, promised for some time in 2010. We do not know what this office will involve. As I understand it, the Dublin authorities, to which this office will relate, do not appear to know much about it. Apparently the heads of the Bill have been approved by Government. At the very least, as a courtesy to the other parties in the House, the heads of the Bill should be circulated. This is the kind of legislation where heads of Bill would normally be circulated. I do not see why this information cannot be shared with us.

I am sure that will be facilitated. As I have said, I do not want to pre-empt the meeting the Deputy has arranged with the Minister. I am sure that can be facilitated.

I tabled a special notice question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to allow him to come into the House and make a statement updating us on the illegal use of Irish passports. My request was turned down. Is there any mechanism by which we can find out what the situation is? The Taoiseach might care to comment on the matter.

It is a matter for the Whips.

I raised the issue on Thursday with a view to getting time to address the matter.

The Minister is away this week.

It is a very serious matter.

Deputy Timmins——

Could the Taoiseach enlighten the House as to what is the situation?

The Minister has stated the case in the public domain on a number of occasions.

Yet not here in the House of Parliament.

He has put very little information in the public domain and what he has is confusing.

Deputy Timmins, we are now talking about promised business.

With regard to the issues raised by Deputy Charles Flanagan on legislation passed by this House in the past 12 months with the object of bringing criminal gang leaders to justice and putting them behind bars, what has happened to the enactment of that legislation, with particular reference to the special courts that were due to deal with the issue that had got out of hand? On a regular — almost daily — basis we receive reports of criminal gang warfare. It is consistent, persistent and alarming to a large number of people. When will the legislation this House passed be enacted fully?

Both the surveillance legislation and the criminal justice gangland-related legislative provisions are actively used by the Garda and a number of cases are before the DPP at the moment. I can assure the Deputy that these powers are being used extensively.

If they are not put into operation quickly all the criminal gang leaders will be killed.

We cannot elaborate at this point.

The point needs to be dealt with.

The legislation has been in operation for eight months. There was a proposal from the Opposition side to delay the implementation of the legislation, but we did not take that route.

I would have thought eight days would be more appropriate——

Deputy Durkan, please.

——to take the appropriate action.

I have another question.

Is it related to promised legislation?

This relates to the Order of Business. I recently tabled a composite parliamentary question to the Minister for Health and Children seeking detailed information on a number of issues appertaining to the discharge of health services. The Minister very kindly sent me a report of the Oireachtas committee that she addressed recently. I am very grateful to the Minister for giving me that information. However, it is not the information I requested. I wish to bring to your attention, a Cheann Comhairle——

The Deputy can pursue this matter through a different route.

There is no other route for this except here and now.

There are many other ways.

I wish to bring to your attention, a Cheann Comhairle, that Ministers seem to think that any old thing will do in this House. I object to any Minister giving the fob-off to a Member of the House——

Deputy Durkan——

——who raises a legitimate question that is pertinent to the Department the Minister operates.

The Deputy has done very well on the point.

Thank you very much, a Cheann Comhairle. I very much appreciate your acknowledgement of that. However, I have done nothing for the simple reason that I have got no answer to my question and that is the issue.

The Deputy will need to take it up another way.

We need to move on.

While I do not want to be disruptive, I wish to point out again as I have done on many occasions in the past that it is time for this nonsense to stop.

If it does not stop voluntarily we have ways of encouraging those on the Government side.

A few weeks ago the Taoiseach told me that the application for EU stabilisation fund moneys for former SR Technics engineers for upskilling and so on was stalled in Brussels with the EU Commission. I now hear that it is stalled on the desk of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who is sitting beside the Taoiseach. If that is the case could this funding not be released? People are waiting to start courses and so on, given that the jobs are still not being provided for them.

When will the revised Merchant Shipping Bill appear before the House?

Queries were raised by the Commission on the first matter and responses have been sent back to the Commission, therefore, it needs sign off by the Commission. As the Deputy knows a new Commission has been in place for only three or four weeks. I can assure him it is not a delay at our end of the line. Those queries have been responded to.

I understand the Merchant Shipping Bill is awaiting Committee Stage.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about legislation in section C of the legislative programme, the human tissue Bill. Will this proposed legislation incorporate the main thrust of a Private Members' Bill that came before the Seanad, the Human Body Organs and Human Tissue Bill? It is a question of life-saving measures and the issue of whether the presumed consent regime would apply to organ donation. There is a severe shortage of organs available to people who are critically ill.

As the Bill is on the C list it is too early to indicate at this point when the legislation might be taken. I note the Deputy's interest.

Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Taoiseach, an bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Rialtas reachtaíocht a fhoilsiú i leith feidhmeanna agus cumhachtaí Údarás na Gaeltachta, agus an mbeidh an reachtaíocht foilsithe i saol an Rialtais seo?

Beidh sé.