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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012

Vol. 768 No. 1

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 10, motion re orders of reference of committees; No. 11, motion re Standing Orders 99 and 102; No. 12, motion re establishment of Joint Committee on Standing Orders (Private Business); No. 13, motion re membership of committees; No. 14, motion re Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2011, Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2011 and Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011; No. 15, Revised Estimates for Public Services 2012 [Votes 7 to 40] (back from committee); and No. 2, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 68, motion re independent inquiries into planning irregularities, which shall take place on the conclusion of the opening speeches of No. 2 or at 7.30 p.m. whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; and Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 15, Votes 7 to 40 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall later than 9 p.m. today agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9 to 15, inclusive, agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business.

With regard to the situation pertaining to Deputy Mick Wallace, his statement last Thursday morning on RTE that he knowingly under-declared VAT to the Revenue and the subsequent public debate that has developed, which has been very widespread and has been in all the main media since then, I put it to the Taoiseach that the scale of the issue is substantial. I know the Deputy offered to make a personal statement to the House. Obviously, it is appropriate to the Ceann Comhairle to make that call and he has made it - I accept that. However, it seems to me that the scale of the issue necessitates an opportunity for the House and its Members to give their views and perspective on it. I know there was a meeting of the Whips earlier in terms of motions and so on, and legal issues were raised. I make the point to the Taoiseach that, outside the House, the general view among the public is that people, irrespective of who they are, must be seen to be treated equally by the agencies of the State. That is a very strong view out there on this matter. It seems somewhat surreal and unreal that everyone outside of this House is discussing the issue, from "Liveline" to everywhere else, yet there seems to be some difficulty in facilitating a discussion or debate in this House on what is, irrespective of one's personal views, a very genuine issue that goes to the heart of society and how it is ordered and structured, and the role of the Dáil and the Oireachtas. Has the Taoiseach any thoughts on the timing or facilitation of such a discussion?

Before calling on the Taoiseach, I wish to make it quite clear that the request that was made to me was not in accordance with Standing Orders. It was not that I turned down a request. It did not comply with Standing Orders.

The matter has been referred to the Select Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann for discussion. I call the Taoiseach.

I thank Deputy Martin for his query. The Constitution is quite clear in so far as membership of this House is concerned for persons who are elected by the people in a democratic election.

I believe Deputy Wallace's position is of the utmost seriousness. I will not say anything here that might prejudice any case that may or may not be taken. I respect the decision of the Ceann Comhairle to refer this matter to the Select Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann, the chairman of which happens to be Deputy Thomas Pringle. I understand there was a meeting earlier. I would expect that Deputy Pringle's committee can meet tomorrow and, hopefully, deal with this question decisively.

For its part, the Government stands ready, if necessary, to put together an all-party motion on this matter. I respect what the Ceann Comhairle has said. I would hope the Select Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann can meet tomorrow to look at this and be clear in its position. As I regard the matter as one of the utmost seriousness, the Government, if appropriate, would stand ready to put together an all-party motion arising from this.

The Taoiseach has described the mortgage crisis as one of the biggest issues facing people in society today. We are now eight months on from the publication of the Keane report and five months on from the publication of the draft heads of the personal insolvency Bill. When will this Bill be published and debated in the House? Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that it will be done before the summer recess? The longer it goes on, the less likely it is that the Bill will be able to help those who are suffering from mortgage distress. I am looking for the reasons for the delay and for a commitment that it will be discussed and debated before the summer recess.

This is a very serious matter. As I said to other Deputies in the House, it has taken up a huge deal of the time of the parliamentary draftsman and the officials from the different Departments and the Attorney General's office. We expect to publish the Bill before the end of June. I would like to see it being discussed in this House or the Seanad before the summer recess. It may not be possible to have it concluded because of its scale - it is an enormous Bill - but I would certainly like to see it published and being debated in the Oireachtas because we regard it as being central to the issue that is of so much concern to people out there every day. Deputy O'Brien can believe me when I say it is legislation that has the absolute concentration and focus of Government. I am sure that when he sees what is involved in it, he will appreciate the scale of the work that has gone into it.

The Taoiseach and the Government have made much about reform of the health service and about the necessity for achieving best practice, particularly in regard to the care of elderly patients at home. However, the Taoiseach will be well aware that for the past number of months the finances of the HSE have been in such a dire position that it is now impossible to provide the necessary home care packages and home help-----

Where are we going, Deputy?

-----to assist ageing people and their families? What I am asking, in advance of the bringing forward of the appropriate legislation, is for the Government to take back responsibility for the running of the health service. Has the Government any intention to bring forward some kind of a financial measure to put the HSE in a position to care for people who are in a desperate, crisis situation?

The Deputy will have to find some other way of raising this.

When will the Government's Bill be brought to the House?

What legislation are we talking about?

The reform of the HSE.

The reform of the HSE?

The health governance Bill.

You eventually got to it.

The Government gave approval to the Minister for Health to proceed with the drafting of that Bill and that work is under way. I cannot give the Deputy an accurate date as to when it will be completed. The Cabinet approved it and the Minister is working on it. I will report progress as it happens.

An bhféadfadh an Taoiseach a rá linn cén uair a fhoilseofar Bille na Gaeltachta agus an bhféadfadh sé a rá cén uair a fhoilseofar na rialacháin faoin Acht Um Sheirbhísí Uisce? Freisin, cén bunús a bhí ag an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil le rá go mba cuma le Glór na Tuaithe faoi chaighdeán uisce, mar adúirt sé in agallamh i gConamara an tseachtain seo caite?

Unfortunately, water in Connemara does not come under the Order of Business, but there are two other issues on which the Taoiseach should respond.

Bhí mé ag féachaint ar bhosca Chornamóna lá an reifrinn agus tá a fhios agam cén freagra a thug na daoine ansin don Teachta agus don tír thiar ansin. Bhíodar ag díriú isteach ar an cheist a cuireadh orthu. Beidh an Bille seo foilsithe go luath agus beidh sé tríd an Dáil agus an Seanad roimh éirí don samhradh.

When is the Garda vetting Bill due?

It is due this session.

Chuir mé ceist faoi na rialacháin. I can ask about regulations and I asked when the regulations under the Water Services Act, which would lay down the standards for waste water systems, will be published.

Now that big Phil is back, probably.

The Deputy is aware the draft regulations were published.

No, they were not. It was said they were too complex.

Were they not published?


Hold on and give the man a chance to respond.

The regulation is in draft form.

There are no draft regulations published.

Perhaps the Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the issue.

I will clarify the position for Deputy Ó Cuív and will come back to him with an accurate and up to date report on the issue. I understood they were published in draft form.

It is a joke the way this is being dealt with.

I wish to raise two issues. The foreshore and marine area development Bill proposes to improve and streamline the development consent process for the marine area, including,inter alia, the integration of the Foreshore (Amendment) Act 1993 with the existing on land planning system. This Bill will have major implications for County Kerry as it has one of the largest coastlines in Ireland. Will the Taoiseach tell us when this Bill will be brought forward?

Second, why has the Government broken from the long-standing tradition of informing Deputies in constituencies throughout the country when Ministers are visiting those constituencies? It is only good manners to inform Deputies of that.

The Deputy is winning on one matter, but not on the other.

I would like an answer on the second issue also.

It is not a matter for the Order of Business.

It may not be the Taoiseach's fault, but his Ministers are doing this.

Both issues are a matter of considerable importance to County Kerry, depending on what the Minister might say. There is no date yet for the publication of the foreshore Bill.

I have a question on proposed local government legislation. There is supposed to be a consultation process under way, but local councillors have not yet been consulted on it. I would like to bring to the Taoiseach's attention that as of his afternoon, some town clerks around the country have not yet received the consultation document, which is supposed to be returned to the Minister's office by 4 p.m. this coming Friday. Will the Taoiseach have a word with the Minister about extending the consultation period for one week to give councillors an opportunity to get those documents and return them? Not alone have councillors not got them, but council offices have no information on this.

What document is the Deputy talking about?

I am talking about the consultation document on the local government legislation. The responses on it are supposed to reach the Minister's office by 4 p.m. this coming Friday.

I do not know what it has to do with promised legislation.

I was not aware that some people had not received it. I will have that communicated to the Minister and he will advise the House of his response. I see no problem with that.

It is imperative that in the appropriate way the Government gives time for statements on the Deputy Wallace issue. Apart from the issue of the utterly wrong actions of Mr. Wallace, as he was at the time, in regard to VAT, and the need for every penny to be repaid from whatever resources available -----

We dealt with that issue.

----- there is also an issue of fairness to Members of the Dáil, particularly those who have in the most dishonest, underhand and opportunistic way been targeted by some sectors of the right wing media -----

Maybe the Deputy will pay the household charge.


The Taoiseach has made this quite clear.

----- as if there was guilt by association, when they know well that the Dáil only allowed the mechanism of the second division for technical -----

Sorry, the Deputy is out of order at this stage.

What about the household charge?

The Taoiseach has made the decision clear, that he is awaiting the report from the Select Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann. The matter is being dealt with.

The national vetting bureau Bill is important legislation that is being urgently pursued by the Government. When is its progress through the House likely to be finalised? The housing Bill is also a very important Bill. It is No. 68 on the promised legislative programme and provides for the rationalisation of housing agencies, the strengthening of the regulatory framework for social housing to provide statutory underpinning of new schemes of housing assistance payments.

There is no need for the Deputy to read all of that out.

I am not reading the long list I have here, but these are two important Bills which a number of people await anxiously.

I expect the national vetting bureau Bill to be published within the next four weeks. The heads of the housing Bill have been approved and it will probably be next year before it is published.

I am sorry to have to intervene again on this, but with regard to the housing Bill, there may be matters before the courts which might be pertinent in the context of the Bill. I urge the Taoiseach and the Minister to bear these issues in mind as they proceed.

Has the Taoiseach an update with regard to a publication date for the independent review into child deaths in the care of the State? The Government has had the report on this since before Christmas, an unacceptably long period for it to dwell on it before publishing it. Will the Taoiseach update us on that? Also, following the publication of the most recent report from the independent review panel on child deaths, will the Taoiseach allow some time in the House to discuss that? However, if the independent review of Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons is to be published, we could deal with both together. Can we have an update on this?

There are two reports in question and there is no reason they cannot both be debated together. The bigger report will be published on 20 June. It has been supplied to the Minister and she reported to the Cabinet on it today.

What are the Government's plans to bring forward legislation to set standards and regulations for the provision of private home care companies and home care for elderly people? I am concerned about provision in both the public and private sector in light of the report published by the Law Reform Commission recently. Will the Taoiseach provide an update on this?

I will have to come back to the Deputy on that as it is not on the schedule at the moment.

I rise again to ask a question with regard to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The Taoiseach seems to be confused about this. The Minister did not publish the regulations.

We clarified that.

I also want to ask about a consultation document, not the one mentioned by Deputy Stanley but another one. The Minister made a promise in Clonmel some months ago, when he announced "Fiver Monday", that it would be €5 to register septic tanks. This was to commence on 1 April, April Fools' Day. The process for registration is not up and running and people cannot register for €5, even if they want to. This is the third or fourth issue the Minister has bungled. I am aware he took a sabbatical during the referendum, but he is back now. Can the Taoiseach clarify the matter?


It is quite serious. People cannot register.

Is the Deputy collecting fivers?

The Deputy is asking the Taoiseach to clarify what exactly?

The registration process. The Minister offered a fiver. I will have to come back with a basket if he keeps going the way he is. He offered a fee of €5 to register a septic tank, but people cannot register online because the website is not functioning.

What did the Deputy do with the fiver?

What did the Government do with the fiver? I know what to do with a fiver; I will come to the Deputy.

The Deputy collected it.

A Cheann Comhairle-----

The Deputy collected the fivers.

It is not funny.

The septic tank situation seems to have gone underground, according to Deputy McGrath.

Yes, it has gone underground.

I will have the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government register his up-to-date position on this. I have answered the question about the draft regulations, which was asked by Deputy Ó Cuív.

The Taoiseach has not answered it. They were never published.

The Minister will respond to the Deputy.

A Cheann Comhairle, that is a wholly inadequate answer. There was supposed to be a registration process from April to June, but people cannot register.

The Taoiseach said the Minister would respond.

He is telling porkies.

The Deputy said people should not register. Martin Mansergh has registered.

Currently, there are hundreds of people waiting for organ transplants and there is a waiting list. Under proposed legislation, we were talking about moving to an opt-out system for organ donation. Can the Taoiseach inform the Dáil when we can expect legislation to provide for an opt-out system of organ donation?

This refers to the human tissue Bill. The Department of Health is currently advancing proposals on this Bill. A public consultation was carried out previously on a draft general scheme of the Bill, and the proposals are being revised following the public consultation and in line with legal advice. The Minister expects to bring those proposals to the Government later this year, when he will seek the formal drafting of the Bill. The Bill is to meet the recommendations of the Madden report on post mortem practice and procedures, to make updated arrangements for the donation of bodies to anatomy schools, to provide for the setting of guidelines and standards to be met in the practice of anatomy, to introduce a licensing system for the public display of bodies or body parts and to establish a legal framework for the donation of organs and tissue for research purposes by both living and deceased persons. It will be introduced later this year.