Leaders’ Questions

On 3 November last, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade announced his decision to close the Irish Embassy in the Vatican to save approximately €450,000. For many reasons, that was a wrong decision. Ireland needs as extensive a diplomatic footprint as it can have across the globe. That has been always my position. When one has difficulties with particular states, a presence on the ground is crucial. For example, having eyes and ears on the ground, in my view, is the best way to ensure the Vatican's policies and position on child abuse and child protection is in line with Government policy.

Diplomacy is about far more than trade and economics, although trade and economics is extremely important in terms of our diplomatic outreach. To paraphrase Mr. Seán Donlon, the retired and respected diplomat, one must be where policy is formulated to have an influence on the formulation of that policy.

The decision to close the embassy has been interpreted in many different ways. It is fair to say that the Irish Embassy in the Vatican was never about economics, trade or money. Not every mission is specifically about trade and economics, as the House will be aware from that in Geneva and the embassy to the UN in New York.

The Taoiseach's party and Deputies in Fine Gael seem to be very much against the proposed closure and media reports state that the party had an extensive discussion at the parliamentary party meeting. The Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, who is in the Department, who must have acquiesced with the decision, now believes the decision should be overturned and has stated it will be reopened in the next two years.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 179 states and has 80 resident embassies. Cuba and Russia, for example, have a presence there. I do not think the decision was thought through properly.

This decision was of the Taoiseach's making. Can he bring clarity to where the Government now stands on it and will the decision be reversed?

I thank Deputy Martin for raising this matter. We have referred to it on a number of occasions in the past.

As part of the process of Government, every Department and Minister came forward with their recommendations for reducing costs in their respective Departments. The Government collectively made a decision in respect of three embassies, East Timor, Tehran and the Vatican. That is a collective Government decision.

I am aware of the very many letters about this that I get from people around the country and of the way this matter has been hyped up in certain quarters.

By the Taoiseach's own backbenchers.

The second most senior diplomatic person in the country has been assigned as non-resident ambassador to the Vatican. I have read all the reports from the ambassadors when they were there in respect of meetings and in respect of speeches that were given, either by the Pope or by persons from the Vatican at various meetings. Deputy Martin, as a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, will be aware of this. The position, as outlined by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, is clear here.

Government decisions are reviewed on a constant basis, as they should be. The position is that every diplomatic mission, consular mission and embassy is reviewed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and by the Minister, and the Tánaiste has confirmed that. He has also made known his views about some flexibility that may exist depending on a response from the Vatican.

In respect of what Deputy Martin stated on the protection of children and the protection of children's rights, and that it is necessary to have persons on the ground, we had persons on the ground in the Vatican for very many years and look what happened and what was allowed to happen. Deputy Martin should not come in here and, because he wants to go with the current trend, tell me that simply by putting somebody on the ground would deal with the sensitive and personal issue that was such a scar on our land and on our people. Deputy Martin should not do that.

I will say this to Deputy Martin. This is a Government decision. It is one that will be reviewed as per the Tánaiste's clear comment on it, and that is the position. In so far as those who say this has something to do with religious beliefs are concerned, let me assure Deputy Martin that the relationship between the Government and the Catholic Church is now more real than it has been for many years.

Does Deputy Quinn agree?

I have spoken to Archbishop Martin and I have spoken briefly to Cardinal Brady. I have spoken to many of the members, both of the bishops' congregation and of the church. I am glad to note that the church is working diligently and in full co-operation with the Minister for Children, who is preparing legislation in respect of the protection of children and children's rights.

The answer to Deputy Martin's question is that this decision, as is the case with all of the decisions, will be reviewed by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and, collectively, by the Government when it is deemed to be appropriate.

The Taoiseach's comments on child abuse are unworthy. I was the first Minister to initiate an inquiry into abuse in a diocese in this country; it was the Ferns inquiry. I was the first to open up the position on industrial schools, a matter about which a Government of which the Taoiseach was a member-----

Look what happened.

A Deputy

Deputy Shatter cannot handle the truth.

(Interruptions).

They would not give co-operation to the Cloyne inquiry when Deputy Martin was a Minister.

What moral ground has Deputy Shatter?

-----refused to do anything.

(Interruptions).

Could I have a supplementary question please?

My record on opening up these issues and having independent inquiries is beyond reproach.

(Interruptions).

Can we have order please?

It is beyond reproach and I have no issue with the Government's position on that.

Could I have a supplementary question, please?

It is not fair to blame former holders of the office of ambassador, if that was the implication, for failing to have necessary influence-----

(Interruptions).

-----on the Vatican and its approach to child abuse. That was the clear implication in the Taoiseach's response.

With respect, I have not hyped up anything here or gone with any current trend. I will tell the Taoiseach why. The proposal to close the embassy to the Vatican was brought before me, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I rejected it, just as I rejected the decision to close the embassies in Iran and East Timor-----

(Interruptions).

Could I have Deputy Martin's question?

-----because I believe in the idea that Ireland should have as extensive a diplomatic footprint as it can.

Deputy Martin left us bankrupt.

What I decided to do, as then Minister for Foreign Affairs, was find an alternative set of savings, reducing in many embassies-----

Could I have Deputy Martin's supplementary question? We are over time.

-----the numbers of staff but keeping a presence on the ground in many of the smaller eastern European states. There clearly were alternatives.

Those who have hyped up this for political reasons are members of the Taoiseach's political party and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Creighton, who should be supporting the Tánaiste or, at least, acting in unison with him-----

Could I have Deputy Martin's question? He is over time.

-----but she has made all the running in the Taoiseach's party on the embassy in the Vatican.

Deputy Martin is not listening to me. Would he put his question?

When the Taoiseach says "review", what does he mean? Since the budget, there are been ten such reviews of various policies and we have got no concrete clarification or specifics around those reviews.

One would think Fianna Fáil was never in government. It was in government for 14 years.

I remind Deputies on both sides of the House that this is Leaders' Questions, which involves the Taoiseach answering questions to the Opposition leaders.

There are a few wannabe leaders over there but it will be a cold day in hell before Deputy Shatter is leader.

Deputies should remain quiet.

We know Deputy Patrick O'Donovan is doing well.

In accordance with normal Government procedure, what happened in this country for many years is that Governments of the party Deputy Martin now leads made decisions and threw money to the wind without bothering to consider the effects, the effectiveness or the consequences for the economy. That is why this Government is facing up to the challenge of dealing with an unprecedented economic mess that his party left behind. There is clearly a difference between the diplomatic relations conducted between this country and other countries and what happens in the case of the Vatican, which is essentially a listening post. Deputy Martin is aware that Mr. David Cooney, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is an eminent public servant of this country and beyond reproach. He was appointed as a non-resident ambassador to the Vatican. He has been accepted by the Vatican and will be accredited in due course.

It has not happened yet.

He has travelled twice to the Holy See since his appointment. He will represent the State at the consistory of cardinals next Saturday. He attended the ordination of the incoming nuncio, Archbishop Charles J. Brown, who I will be happy to welcome to Ireland. Mr. Cooney is in contact as needs be with the Vatican authorities. In case Deputy Martin did not hear it, I read his article in theEvening Echo saying that the Vatican embassy should be kept open so he did not hype up anything.

Hear, hear. Well said, Taoiseach.

We live in a democracy.

I have made it perfectly clear-----

Deputy Martin is exposed again. It is Punch and Judy.

As a practising Catholic, although maybe not to the highest degree, I have made it clear that the Eucharistic Congress this year in Dublin will be very different to the 1932 event.

The Taoiseach has some vision.

If the Government receives an indication of the intentions of the Pope, who was invited here by the bishops, to travel to Dublin for the congress or any such event, the Government will receive the Pope with the proper decorum in respect of his position and status. In respect of the review to which Deputy Martin refers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Government periodically review all decisions made by Government to see how the decisions are working. In due course, the Tánaiste pointed out, the decision made collectively by the Government will be reviewed.

They were all excommunicated in 1932. Do they not remember?

I ask Deputy McGinley to stop shouting. I call Deputy Adams.

I have called Deputy Adams and I do not need Deputy Buttimer's help.

The national service plan for the health service sees €750 million stripped from health services this year. This comes on top of €1.5 billion taken out of the health service by this Government and the previous Government over the previous two years. This morning, I received a copy of the Dublin north-east regional service plan. The HSE has asked that it be kept confidential and no wonder because it makes grim reading. I have a duty to make it public.

It would be made public in the forum tomorrow.

For the third year, the budget for this region will be reduced, this time by a further €120 million. Is the Taoiseach aware that the plan expects up to 400 staff to have retired by the end of this month, as well as a cut of up to 561 staff jobs? Is the Taoiseach aware of the plan to cut 205 long-term beds for older people's services? The two nursing homes in the constituency I am honoured to represent, St. Joseph's Hospital in Ardee and the Cottage Hospital in Drogheda, are being considered for closure. Across all services, from mental health to older people and hospital services, one cut will be heaped upon another in the north east region, which has seen the largest increase in population since 2006. This will be replicated across other regions. Does the Taoiseach agree that this depth of cut to the health services is unsustainable? How can the health service deliver safe and effective care with this level of cuts?

The budget for health this year is €13.5 billion and a further €330 million will be spent on the capital programme, which excludes the development of the National Children's Hospital. This is the one area where the Government has made sure adequate moneys are pumped into the system. What is wrong is the way the expenditure has been spent, the effectiveness with which it is spent and the delivery of services for people who need them. Health is always about patients and patient care. In Northern Ireland, where Deputy Adams's party members are reluctant to put their heads above the parapet, they are laying off 4,000 health care staff, reducing the budget by €4 million, and 26,000 people were on a one-day strike last year. Deputy Adams cannot come across the Border, which he tried to move for 30 years, and say there is a different perspective here. Deputy Adams is the leader of his party and is required to participate in the situation in Northern Ireland yet he feels he can come down here and cast a different reflection. I visited many of the community nursing hospitals around the country.

Did the Taoiseach visit Roscommon?

Many of these are old buildings.

Does HIQA not close them down?

St. Joseph's Hospital, for example, is a listed Georgian building over 150 years old and provides accommodation on two floors for 23 people, 19 of whom are in long-term residence, with four respite beds. Older people require an attachment to a locality and a building because it is their home while they are in residence. In 2012, is it right to continue to provide services in a listed building that is 150 years old and beyond the planning conditions for development in many cases? We cannot close any of these without adequate consultation and notice from the HSE. I know Deputy Adams has a copy of a leaked plan and that he was on Louth FM this morning about this issue.

We must face reality. At the Cabinet sub-committee dealing with health, I met regional directors of operations, RDOs, and managers, all of whom have signed off on plans for the continued delivery of the best services despite the fact that significant numbers of people have decided to leave the health service as part of the programme.

I face reality and Sinn Féin's position across this island is entirely consistent on all these issues.

Partitionist policies.

The Taoiseach says he wants to see the continuation of the best services but this plan says that it will not be possible to fully maintain the same level of service in 2012 as in 2011. This is not from me or Sinn Féin propaganda but from the plan. The impact on ordinary citizens and the social consequences of the policy, which the Taoiseach avoids, is that between 500 and 900 public nursing beds will go along with up to 4,000 staff. Ten days ago, I met senior staff in the HSE with Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Tomás Sharkey. There is no contingency plan for dealing with the 4,000 retirements. How can the health service hope to cope with the additional job losses?

That is rubbish. The Deputy is into Sinn Féin propaganda.

The Government cannot hope to do this while sticking to the recruitment embargo. It should not tell citizens that we cannot afford a decent health service. Between 2010 and 2013, €2.25 billion has been taken out of the health service by the Government and Fianna Fáil.

There have been cuts of 44% to home help services.

Finian, give me a break.

(Interruptions).

Deputies, please.

In the last three months the Government has handed over €2.5 billion to bondholders. We should compare the two figures. Next month €3.1 billion will be paid to Anglo Irish Bank in a promissory note.

Deputy, please.

This is about choices. The Taoiseach is making the wrong choices and there is no escaping the social and health consequences of the Government strategy, not least in terms of patient safety. I ask the Taoiseach to call a halt to this and announce that the plan will be put where it deserves to go, which is in the bin. The Government should be part of building a proper, decent wraparound health service for all the people of the State.

Every time the Deputy comes in here, he wants to reverse the engines and deliver us into Cuba.

It has a wonderful health system.

Time after time he comes in here and makes no constructive propositions.

Why does the Taoiseach not answer the question?

We could do without the chorus.

If one is going to downsize the public sector - the numbers leaving the health service speak for themselves - it is always difficult to change the structure to continue to provide a quality service. For the first time I detect within clinical teams, trade unions and front line staff evidence of full flexibility and co-operation from medical and nursing staff and people working in communities and hospitals around the country to make the system work in an innovative and more efficient way.

The current model of health in this country forces many people into institutions rather than allowing them to stay in their homes, which is their wish, for as long as possible.

Home help and carers are being cut.

The fair deal is not working.

Under the fair deal scheme and nursing home programme, 42% of people in long stay institutions point out they were never offered a home care package. Another 40% do not know if they have been offered a home care package. Many people are consigned to long stay institutions when it would be much preferable to have them stay in their homes near their families until a time when that is no longer feasible.

We have to change the way the health service is delivered. I do not know whether Deputy Adams will say that a building that is 150 years old and houses 23 patients over two floors is suitable in 2012 for the kind of health system those patients deserve. Quality care should be delivered by professional staff in modern surroundings.

They are professional staff.

Was the Taoiseach ever in it?

The Deputy can leave St. Joe's as it is or we can do something better for those people who deserve the best level of care and attention we can give them. That is what the Minister, Deputy Reilly, is about. The health teams, unlike the Deputy, are now focusing on new, innovative and more efficient ways of looking after those who need care and attention. That is what we should be about, rather than the Deputy shouting his populist opinion every time he comes into the House.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

That is a terrible slight on the professional staff.

Sinn Féin propaganda.

Sinn Féin is trying to effect efficiencies in Northern Ireland but cannot handle them in the Republic.

It is the most partitionist party in the House.

Please stop engaging across the floor. I call Deputy Ross.

I would like to ask the Taoiseach about Greyhound Waste. I refer not to the shambles that has existed in Dublin in recent days but a wider issue. How did Greyhound Waste get the contract? This is the third high profile public service contract it has won in recent years. It won a contract from Dublin City Council which is causing all the current problems. It won a very lucrative one from South Dublin County Council last year. It won those contracts despite the fact it had a blow-up with another State company, CIE. It had to compensate it by more than €1 million for overcharging. It seems very strange that two contracts should be given to the same Isle of Man-based company in a non-competitive tender situation when it was well known that it had to pay in excess of €1 million to another State-owned company for overcharging.

I am not blaming the Taoiseach because this did not happen on his watch.

You will run out of time by the time you have started.

I will ask just one question. The chief executive of Iarnród Éireann told a transport committee under the last Government that the money charged by Greyhound did not tally with the work done. In light of that, should the current Government not have taken Greyhound off its favoured list? How can a contract be given to a company which has already compensated a State company?

This is a matter between the company which won the tender and Dublin City Council. It is not a matter for the Government to award a tender in respect of waste collection. I understand the Minister, Deputy Hogan, will be in the House later today to deal with this matter in a Topical Issue debate and there will be an opportunity for further questions. This matter has arisen from a decision of Dublin City Council to withdraw from the provision of household waste collection services and transfer them to Greyhound. Obviously, the local government audit system has to look at each individual company. Perhaps the Deputy knows something about Greyhound that I do not.

There was an issue for customers, in that they were required to pay €100 in advance to have credit in their accounts before the collection system began. In these times of economic challenge, there are people who cannot raise €100. I would have expected the company would have been flexible and agreed that if a customer wants to pay his or her way, as the vast majority of people do, he or she should be able to have the flexibility to pay €20 or €50 in order that the system can operate.

It may well be the case that the company has moved from providing a smaller to a much larger scale of service and has run into teething problems. I have heard 18,000 people might not have their household waste collected. This is a case where common sense should apply. The city council and company should sit down and decide how to sort it out.

People want to pay their way and if there is a restriction ways of removing it should be considered in order that refuse can be collected in a proper way. The Minister, Deputy Hogan, has been in contact with Dublin City Council. This is a matter between it and the company.

It is a case where common sense should apply. Those two words are often missing in this country, much to our disadvantage, and I hope we can apply them in this case.

The Taoiseach did not take my point on board. The tenders were flawed; this was not a competitive tender in either case. In the light of the history of the company, why was that?

It is very dangerous to make those sorts of allegations.

This is a broad issue and I hope the Taoiseach and I are on the same side on this. How can the same companies, despite their records, win these contracts against very little competition? When it was asked how it had given this contract to Greyhound Waste in view of the problem it had with overcharging Iarnród Éireann, where it had to pay back more than €1 million, a spokesman for South Dublin County Council said that no one from the council who was involved with the sale of the refuse service to Greyhound was aware of any previous difficulties between Iarnród Éireann and Greyhound Waste. The council gave away a lucrative contract without even knowing about this history. Should that not have been the first question it asked?

Why is it necessary for county councils to continually use consultants, specifically Ernst & Young, which has a history the State in inquiring into at present, to select these companies for contracts? The Taoiseach could offer some comfort to the House on this, it was not something that happened on his watch but at least he could tell us that contracts of this sort will be examined more carefully by central Government and that local government has fallen down on its obligations to examine them properly.

I may have misled the Deputy. It was yesterday that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government replied to the Topical Issue matter.

Senator Ross made two important points. He claims the tender was flawed and that there was wrongdoing, mentioning the company involved. I suggest that if he has information of that nature he should notify the manager of the city council, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the local government auditor. That is the Deputy's duty and responsibility. I do not have the information the Deputy has about wrongdoing in this case. I am concerned that consumers who live in the Deputy's constituency and other parts of the city who want to subscribe to services that are worth the money they pay have the flexibility in the scheme to let them do that. That is a matter for the council and the company that won the tender.

If the Deputy has information that no one else has about wrongdoing and that the process was flawed, I advise him when he leaves the Chamber to notify the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, the city manager and the local government auditor.

The information is in the public domain. What a cop out.

The Deputy in the past has had information no one else had; he said Mr. FitzPatrick gave a stellar performance and that the Bank of Ireland never considered him for duty.

^ Order of Business ^

It is proposed to take No. 5, Finance Bill 2012 - Second Stage (resumed), and Private Members' business shall be No. 39, motion re stroke costs in Ireland (resumed) to conclude after 90 minutes if not previously concluded.

The action plan for jobs involves a significant amount of legislation. The Taoiseach was unclear yesterday about the timetable for the credit guarantee scheme given its centrality to the small and medium sized enterprise sector and the creation of jobs in that sector. I would appreciate a more definitive timetable for that legislation, not only for when it is expected to come before the House but when it will be implemented.

I am also asking about the legislation that will be required to abolish the county and city enterprise boards. This issue is causing heated debate across the country about whether it is the wisest move to encourage small enterprise. I would appreciate if the Taoiseach would indicate when he expects the legislation to abolish the enterprise boards to be introduced.

I expect the partial loan credit guarantee scheme legislation to be introduced during this session. I said yesterday it would take two to two and a half months. A lot of work has been done on it to get the structure right.

In respect of legislation to address county enterprise boards, I have written to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to get his responses on the timeline for the production of legislation. Clearly there are regulatory issues that must be considered at local level. The Minister will respond directly to Deputy Martin on that.

Surely the Taoiseach had all this sorted out when he published the action plan? It is unbelievable he is now writing to a Minister about a central part of the action plan.

The action plan has 270 proposals.

I know that but the Taoiseach is now writing to the Minister. Does he not talk to him?

The first meeting about that takes place this morning.

There are Cabinet meetings.

Does the Taoiseach not have Cabinet meetings?

The Deputy asked me a day and date for legislation and I will respond formally.

That is what I am asking for. There was great fanfare; this was not announced in the Dáil, it was announced outside the Dáil so the Taoiseach cannot come in here and say he has no date for important legislation.

The Deputy can table a parliamentary question if he is not satisfied with the answer.

We did not have great fanfare; we did not have the event at the cost of €100,000 in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, like Deputy Martin did in government.

With the greatest of respect, the Taoiseach should stop all the old blather. I asked a specific question and the Taoiseach comes in here and says he is writing to a Minister.

This was in a working environment in an Irish company that employs 8,500 people worldwide. The announcement was made with no great hype and it is a really solid action plan.

The Taoiseach did not even know yesterday if it needed legislation.

The Deputy asked about legislation and I will respond to the question through the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

I expect the Taoiseach to know the answer to the question and not to have to write to the Minister.

Maidir le reachtaíocht a fógraíodh, does the Government intend to bring forward new legislation to facilitate the sell off of State assets or will he provide time for a debate on the sell off? All the time we hear scéalta through the media. We have a strong view that State control of strategic assets such as ESB or Bord Gáis is central to the future of the economy. Those of us with a different view from the Government must be involved in the debate on the issue so are there any plans for that?

The Deputy was so helpful with State assets for years.

I am intrigued by the Deputy's newfound interest in State assets; he certainly did a lot to help them over the years.

A lot more that Fine Gael ever did.

How many times did he blow up the railway line?

Iarr ar Iarnród Éireann.

Could we get back to legislation please?

The Taoiseach is in bad form this morning.

The Taoiseach is very tetchy this morning.

Did he not get his Valentine's card?

On how many occasions was business disrupted in this country because there was another call about a bomb on the northern line or whatever? The Deputy had a real interest-----

That had absolutely nothing to do with Sinn Féin.

(Interruptions).

Why does the Taoiseach not answer the question? It is a joke that those who claim to be the descendants of James Connolly and those who are the descendants of the murdering thugs back in the 1920s sit together.

Deputy Ó Caoláin is the very person who complains when people do not pay attention so I ask him to please be respectful.

If the Taoiseach would speak about things that happened in this century, it would be easier.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will bring a memo to Government in the next few weeks on the disposal of State assets. This is part of the Government programme and there will be no fire sale of State assets. Any asset considered for disposal will be non-strategic and will be sold by the Government at the appropriate time and based on an appropriate remuneration as determined by NewERA. This matter will be debated here. In the context of the receipt of funds from the disposal of non-strategic State assets, Deputy Adams should consider the fact that the enterprise budget is approximately €500 million and he should also consider the impact of the work of the IDA and other job-generating agencies. He should think about what one could do to create jobs with additional resources spent effectively.

The Taoiseach should think about the promissory note and the money he has given to the bondholders.

Deputy Adams should think of the impact of this on national morale. The answer to the question is that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will bring a memorandum to the Cabinet in the coming weeks in regard to the disposal of State assets. When the Government has considered it, we can have a debate here.

On a very important issue-----

No. We are not having debates on the Order of Business.

I am not seeking a debate; I am seeking guidance.

The Taoiseach is entitled to raise matters about what he regards as Sinn Féin's record. The difficulty is that he is in government with a party whose leadership was involved with a group that styled itself as the Official IRA, whose fund-raising-----

The Deputy is totally out of order and should please resume his seat.

Every time I asked a question here-----

The Deputy should resume his seat.

What about the Fine Gael record?

I call Deputy Kitt.

(Interruptions).

Tá ceist amháin agam.

Please. What did the Deputy have for his breakfast this morning?

Perhaps he should go have it then.

The porridge is good.

Níl aon Bhille, nó leasú ar Bhille, mar gheall ar na todhcháin do Údarás na Gaeltachta a chur ar cheal. Without this legislation, I can only assume the elections are still going ahead. What is the position on legislation on this matter?

Tá a fhios ag an Leas-Cheann Comhairle go raibh díospóireacht ag an Rialtas faoi seo an lá cheana. Tá cead tugtha ag an Rialtas don Aire Stáit an Bille seo a chur os comhair na Dála, agus tá an obair sin ar siúl faoi láthair.

As the Taoiseach is aware, there is a growing list of missing persons. Recently, a young woman from my area was added to it. There was a case in which an Irish person's body-----

Where are we going here?

I am going to tell-----

The Deputy should please tell us quickly because there are other Deputies present.

An Irish person's body was found off the coast of Cumbria.

This is not Question Time.

I am coming to the point.

The Deputy should ask a question about promised legislation.

I am going to ask it. A body was found off the coast of Cumbria in England ten years ago which was only recently identified through DNA testing. Legislation was promised under the Criminal Justice Bill with regard to a database on DNA. When will this come into being? Will DNA testing be done on missing persons' families? It is very important.

I received a calendar from a group of young people indicating the dates when people went missing over the years. It is extensive and is horrendous for the families involved, irrespective of the circumstances in which the people went missing. The DNA Bill is expected by the middle of the year. Considerable work has been done on it already.

With regard to the Finance Bill and the Taoiseach's new jobs programme, which he announced yesterday, with the cuts to community employment-----

The Deputy should hold on for a second.

We are creating jobs on one hand and destroying them on the other.

The Deputy should resume his seat.

With regard to the solid jobs plans, in respect of which the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, stated 300,000 or 400,000 jobs would be created, will the strategic investment fund of €250 million for capital expenditure necessitate legislation? If so, when will it be introduced? Perhaps the Taoiseach will shed light on the number of jobs to be created.

Is legislation promised?

The action plan is realistic and ambitious in the sense of creating a net 100,000 new jobs by the end of 2016.

What is the gross figure?

The Minister's work in respect of the SOLAS legislation is under way. I cannot give the Deputy an exact date for its introduction but I will give him a more accurate timeline when I consult the Minister. It will be a little while yet.

On promised legislation and in view of the ongoing concerns over human trafficking, what discussion has taken place on the production of the heads of the human trafficking Bill, which was promised? To what extent has the legislation been discussed and when will it be possible to bring it before the House?

The heads of the Bill have not been presented to the Government. The Minister for Justice and Equality has been working on the legislation but it has not yet reached Cabinet stage.

The Taoiseach has prioritised tourism in his approach to the recovery of the economy. At the same time, the Government has asked-----

There are to be no speeches.

-----a private consulting company to examine the reorganisation of State airports. As he knows, Booz & Company has produced a report. I understand it has been given to the Government by the Minister but it seems to be sitting on its hands. When does the Taoiseach intend to amend the State Airports Act 2004 with a view to considering the management and operation of our three national airports, which are such an integral part of our tourism offering?

The Minister has received the report in respect of Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. Clearly, there are implications for all the airports in addition to implications arising from the economic circumstances in which they find themselves. The Minister is considering the report and will let the House know about it in due course.

When will the promised legislation on the amalgamation of VEC schools nationally come before the House and what role will VECs have in the future of national schools, particularly in light of the proposed cuts?

Legislation on that is being worked upon by the Minister for Education and Skills and I expect it will be before the House in about ten weeks.

On promised legislation, can I ask the Taoiseach about the status of the Education and Training Boards Bill? I previously asked the Taoiseach where the legislation stands in regard to changing the role of FÁS and replacing it by SOLAS. This partly involves an overhaul of the structure of the VEC sector, which requires legislation. It is important that it be dealt with quickly to ensure we provide the right array of services to those currently without a job.

Two points arise, the first of which is the rationalisation of the VECs and the other of which concerns SOLAS. They will be taken together in eight to ten weeks.

In view of the escalating, horrific circumstances in Syria, could I ask the Taoiseach to convey the solemn disapproval and objection of this House to the veto exercised by Russia and China-----

The Deputy may do so by way of a parliamentary question.

-----of the recent UN resolution concerning the protection of human rights in Syria?

That is a matter for a parliamentary question or a motion and it does not arise on the Order of Business.

We should have a debate on international issues. We do not seem to have any.

In light of the very positive announcement yesterday by the Northern Ireland Administration that £330 million will be spent between now and 2016 on completing 37 km of the 88-km A5 project, will the Taoiseach now reconsider his refusal to allow a debate in the House?

That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy should table a parliamentary question.

Following on the comments by the North's Minister for Finance, Mr. Wilson, MLA, that less money was allocated to the Northern Administration-----

That is a matter for the Whips.

I raised this before.

I know. The Deputy may raise it again but not on the Order of Business.

The last time I raised it, the Ceann Comhairle allowed it.

I only apply the rules as they stand.

It concerns a debate in the House.

The Deputy should approach his Whip for a debate.

I understood it was in order to raise it on the Order of Business.

Standing Orders-----

I call Deputy Healy. I do not need a lecture.

I am not lecturing but we have been doing it since this Dáil-----

I call Deputy Healy.

A bit of consistency would not go amiss either.

The Deputy should do his job and I will do mine.

Deputy Martin spent 14 years ducking and diving. He was not ducking for nothing.

In view of the bizarre circumstances that have developed in Mullingar, Clonmel and Cavan, where the Minister for Defence is closing barracks-----

This is the Order of Business.

This is in regard to legislation.

About what legislation is the Deputy talking?

At the same time as the bizarre closure of the barracks, the Department is-----

The Deputy should please resume his seat.

-----advertising in regard to the rental and lease of properties for the Defence Forces in the same towns, at a cost of approximately €100,000 per year. Is there any proposed legislation to prevent this waste of public money?

The Deputy should table a parliamentary question. There is no legislation promised in this area.

When will the sale of alcohol Bill, which was due to be published this year, be before the House? I understand it will deal with the sale and consumption of alcohol, which is a very important issue in modern society.

The housing Bill, which will deal with the rationalisation of housing agencies, is an important measure that we all await with interest. Perhaps the Taoiseach can say when that legislation will come before us.

As regards Deputy Coffey's first point, the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, is dealing with this matter. A fine report has been produced, which went through the Cabinet sub-committee and will now go to the Oireachtas committee for a full debate, as well as involving a broader consultation with interest groups. I expect the Minister to bring that legislation to the House by mid-year. It is complex and extensive, so a full discussion is needed on it.

As regards the housing Bill, the heads of that legislation have not yet come to Cabinet. It will be later this year before the Minister can bring it before the House for approval.