Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 5, statements on suicide prevention (resumed). It is also proposed, not notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 1.30 p.m. tomorrow and the following arrangements shall apply: there shall be no suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23 (1); and questions for oral answer to other members of the Government shall be taken on the conclusion of questions for oral answer to the Taoiseach and shall conclude after 75 minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 18, motion re residential mortgage debt.

There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the sitting and business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

A Cheann Comhairle——

What can I do for the Deputy?

Did the Taoiseach state that on its rising today the Dáil shall adjourn until 1.30 p.m. tomorrow?

That is correct. It is to facilitate those attending the commemoration at Arbour Hill.

Could we have an explanation from the Taoiseach?

Traditionally, the House commences business late on the day of the commemoration.

It is to commemorate the 1916 Rising.

To facilitate Members who wish to attend the 1916 commemoration at Arbour Hill, it is traditional that the House does not sit until 1.30 p.m.

Deputy Higgins should note that it is to commemorate those who were shot after the Rising.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Higgins was away in Europe for the past few years and probably does not recall the tradition.

On behalf of my party, I warmly congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Creighton, on her marriage to a colleague from Cork, Senator Bradford. The Minister of State has displayed discerning acumen and taste in moving south to choose a valued partner.

Judging from replies given on Leaders' Questions, I suspect it might be some time before we deal with the issue relating to the Seanad. However, we will contemplate that matter in the context of the constitutional convention.

On the programme for Government — which contains a commitment regarding the abolition of the Seanad — when the Taoiseach served as leader of the Opposition one of his favourite themes was a call for the Irish diaspora to be represented in the list of Taoiseach's nominees to the Upper House. In the context of the future of the Seanad, this is a call with which I strongly agree. Having established the Global Irish Network in the aftermath of the Farmleigh summit, I am of the view that one of our greatest competitive advantages is our diaspora. With increased global connectivity——

The Deputy did not make this suggestion previously.

No, he did not.

(Interruptions).

In light of increased global connectivity, the time is right to formalise its strategic importance to the country. Bestowing upon it formal representation in Seanad Éireann would do that. Given the huge majority the Government will enjoy in the Upper House, I make this constructive suggestion in a positive way. In light of the Taoiseach's visit to the United States tomorrow, even the intention to make such a move would be well received.

This is a matter to which I will give consideration. Deputy Martin will recall that when former Senator Jim Higgins was to retire from the Seanad on his election to Europe, he wanted to do so on the basis that his position would go to someone representing the diaspora. The difficulty was that the groups and organisations which represent the diaspora did not appear to be able to agree on a suitable person for nomination. It is obvious that complications would arise if an individual put forward to represent the diaspora lived in Auckland or Melbourne. This is a matter which warrants consideration. However, questions arise as to how to proceed.

I do not believe the Taoiseach would be obliged to go as far as Auckland or Melbourne to find a person to represent the Irish diaspora. Perhaps he might bear in mind those in Britain, for example, who work on behalf of members of the diaspora who have not been so fortunate and who have not experienced the major successes enjoyed by others.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Creighton, on her marriage and I wish her well.

Tomorrow, the House is due to take statements on the revised memorandum of understanding with the EU and the IMF. It is good that time is being made available for such statements. However, I notice it is not envisaged that the House will vote on the subject. It is ridiculous that we are due to make statements on a document that has not yet been published. Others elsewhere have had sight of this document but the House has not. I previously inquired of the Taoiseach in respect of this matter, particularly in the context of the publication of the memorandum of understanding. I put it to him that he is asking the House to take statements on a document which Members have not seen. That does not make sense. Will the Taoiseach indicate why he is resisting taking a vote in respect of this matter?

I share the Deputy's view with regard to people working in Britain and elsewhere who have a clear understanding of the sensitivities relating to the diaspora and to the needs of its members. On my recent visit to England, I had the opportunity to visit Cricklewood and Kilburn. While there, I met those involved with the Safe Start Foundation and with the centre for the homeless in Cricklewood. I also met many of the former Irish navvies who are now resident at the centre. I appreciate the difficulties many of these individuals have experienced.

There was never agreement in respect of having a vote on the debate relating to the EU-IMF programme. The memorandum of understanding has not yet been published because various matters have not yet been agreed by the European Union. It is expected that the matters to which I refer will be agreed towards the end of this month. When the memorandum is published, the House can, as agreed, engage in a further debate on the matter.

When the Taoiseach visits Arbour Hill tomorrow, perhaps he will reflect on what great people such as James Connolly might think about the Government saddling our people with the debts of foreign bankers.

Perhaps the Deputy might stick to asking a question about legislation.

In today'sIrish Independent, a senior Government source is quoted as stating categorically that flat-rate water charges will be introduced in 2012 and that these are part of the EU-IMF deal. There is reference to households being obliged to pay €175 per annum in this regard. Is it the Government’s intention to bring legislation before the House to impose this new burden on working people as part of the bailout of foreign banks? When does the Government intend to do this?

Clearly, the Deputy does not read his post; otherwise he would not have missed the notice that the Arbour Hill commemoration is being held tomorrow. I hope he will be present for what will be a fine commemorative ceremony.

On principle, I do not stand shoulder to shoulder with people who have sold out the working class. It would be an insult to the memory of James Connolly to stand beside the Taoiseach and his colleagues. That is why I am not attending.

Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?

The Deputy did not seem to know that it was being held when he asked the question about the Dáil resuming at 1.30 p.m. Even he cannot be in two places at the same time.

I consider it of no importance that the Taoiseach is attending.

On the matter of water meters and a charge of €175, it is just speculation. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is dealing with the matter and will report to the House in due course.

The national tourism development authority Bill will allow the Oireachtas to make moneys available to Fáilte Ireland for capital projects. Given the significance of the tourism industry and the imminent arrival of President Obama and the Queen of England, when can we hope to see the Bill before the House?

This is an important Bill. The Deputy is right — tourism is of central importance in job creation and providing a stimulus for the economy. It is expected the Bill will be published before the end of June.

Does the Taoiseach agree that it is absolutely necessary to have a debate in the Dáil in the next few days on the recent revelations about the children's hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght? The theatres in these hospitals have been underused. The Meridian report, commissioned by the HSE, has not yet been released. Ten beds in St. Joseph's ward have been closed in the children's hospital in Crumlin. Ten beds have also been closed in St. Brigid's cardiac unit in the same hospital. There is an urgent need, therefore, for a debate on these issues in the House in the next few days.

Health debates are always of considerable importance in the House. I have favoured holding such debates during the years. However, the business to be conducted this week has been fixed. The Deputy could seek to raise the issue on the Adjournment or, through the Technical Group, she could raise it with the Whips for consideration in the House. The issues raised are important, which is why the Minister for Health and Children is working towards changing the structure and the way we deliver health services for all of the people.

I see in the media that it is proposed that the Dáil should sit next Monday, Europe Day, to discuss membership of the European Union. Has this sitting been planned? Does the Taoiseach find it acceptable that we should read about it in the media rather than here in the House?

This suggestion has been promoted by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lucinda Creighton. Europe Day is 9 May and it is to the credit of the Ceann Comhairle that he has allowed MEPs an opportunity to attend the House for a discussion on European issues. This is important because a significant volume of legislation begins in the European Commission and passes through the European Parliament. The question of co-responsibility between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament is very relevant in Ireland's case. I am not sure where I read about it, but there has been talk about this suggestion for some time. I look forward to the Deputy's attendance and participation next Monday.

In the programme for Government there is a welcome commitment to publishing a realistic implementation plan for the national disability strategy. The programme also mentions the importance of having whole Government involvement and widespread consultation. With this in mind, will the Taoiseach consider providing time in the House for a debate on the national disability strategy in order that Members on all sides can express their views on how best to proceed with it?

I will. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, is taking the matter seriously. It is a question of having sufficient time for a real debate on the issues involved. The Government Chief Whip will raise the matter at the Whips' meeting.

I must remind the House that seeking a debate is not in order on the Order of Business — whether a debate has been promised is the issue. If Members want to seek a debate, they should use the Whip system.

I would like to press the Taoiseach on whether there will be a debate——

The Deputy cannot press him on anything. I have just made it quite clear that questions must be related to promised legislation.

Has a debate been promised on the health service, given the long overdue decision of the Minister to get rid of the HSE board which has made such a mess of the health service? Following that decision and the news a few days later that waiting lists were increasing again, will there be a debate on the escalating crisis in the health service?

The Deputy is totally out of order. Deputy Catherine Murphy is the Whip and is excellent at her job. I suggest the Deputy have a long chat with her about seeking a debate.

Now that the board of the HSE has been stood down, is it intended to bring forward legislation to ratify what has happened? Under what legislation are health services now operating and reporting to the Minister? Is there legislation in place which facilitates what the Minister has done?

The Minister will appoint an interim board, pending the introduction of legislation that will provide a statutory base for the changed structure of the HSE. Work will now proceed on that legislation.

The announcement on business on Monday next was made during Easter Week. Clearly, the Minister of State was extremely busy at the time. We welcome the holding of the special session in the Dáil. The programme for Government states a Europe Day debate will be held and I welcome the fact that European parliamentarians and the European Commissioner will have an opportunity to speak. However, the specific format of the debate was decided upon without consultation with the Opposition Whips. That is not right. Before the end of the week consultations should take place between the Government Chief Whip and Opposition Whips on the format to be used. We have been involved in these European issues. However, the format of the debate will impact on how we do business in the House. The programme for Government states there will be cross-party negotiations on the format of the debate.

The Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, informed me of her intentions a few weeks ago and I supported her fully. I understand the matter was raised at the Whips' meeting and that Members were informed by the Government. Was Deputy Catherine Murphy present?

There seems to be a contradiction. I am informed that the issue was raised and that Members were informed about it. That was the time to raise questions about the format.

Given that legislation on the future of the Seanad has been promised and given that we all acknowledge the Seanad is not representative of the people, will the Taoiseach considering appointing a representative of the Traveller community?

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Following the announcement of the jobs initiative next week, how quickly will we see the finance (No. 2) Bill to give effect to some of the measures to be announced such as VAT and PRSI reductions? When does the Taoiseach expect these measures to take effect? Will they take effect immediately?

The Minister informs that it will happen soon afterwards. I cannot give an exact date.