Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/341/EC of 19 April 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Russian Federation on readmission, back from committee; No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2011/118/EU of 18 January 2011 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and Georgia on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/820/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and Bosnia-Herzegovina on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 17 motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/817/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2005/809/EC of 7 November 2005 concerning the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 19, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2004/424/EC of 21 April 2004 concerning the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 20, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2005/372/EC of 3 March 2005 concerning the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 21, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/819/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Serbia on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 22, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/826/EC of 22 November 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Moldova on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 23, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2007/818/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Montenegro on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; No. 24, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council Decision 2010/649/EU of 7 October 2010 on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation, back from committee; and No. 35, statements on the report of the inter-departmental committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen laundries (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 14 to 24 shall be decided without debate and shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair; and Private Members’ business shall be No. 106, motion re State forestry.

Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 14 to 24, without debate, agreed to?

This issue was dealt with at committee last week and there was not enough time to consider the issues involved. There may be no problem but there may also be implications for neutrality and human rights and there is a need to hear from some of the relevant NGOs, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. We do not think putting it through on a nod does justice to the issues involved.

These were all discussed at committee on 20 February in some considerable detail. Since competence was conferred on the EU in this area the European Council issued a mandate to the Commission for the negotiation of 20 separate EU readmission agreements of which 13 are now in force. The Council is actively identifying new candidates in accordance with the action plan on migratory pressures as they are called. The legal base for EU readmission agreements falls within title V of the TFEU and as such comes within the scope of the 21st protocol on the special position of Ireland and the UK. This allows Ireland to choose on a case-by-case basis which initiatives in the freedom, justice and security pillar it may wish to participate in. Ireland opted to participate in the EU readmission agreement with Hong Kong in March 2004. It is now proposed that Ireland should similarly opt into the agreements I have read out - Sri Lanka, Russia, Pakistan, Macau, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Serbia and Georgia.

EU readmission agreements established enhanced procedures for the identification and repatriation of persons who do not or no longer fulfil the conditions for entry, residence or presence in the requesting state. They will contain provisions relating to the obligation on the third country and the community to readmit persons to their territory, including their own nationals and in certain circumstances, third country nationals or stateless persons. They will also commonly include provisions relating to the following - common accepted definitions, arrangements for transit operations through their territory, recovery of costs, data protection, no effect on international rights and obligations, standards of proof, time limits for dealing with requests, territorial application, entry into force and duration and termination. Such agreements are generally conducted in tandem with visa facilitation agreements. However, since these relate to the Schengen zone they do not impact on this country.

By opting to participate in these agreements Ireland will benefit from enhanced procedures for the readmission and the return of irregular migrants, a closer alignment of our national policies with the EU and consequently the UK which is already participating in these agreements and using the opportunity to send a positive signal as regards the value for Ireland of participating in these measures during the Irish Presidency of the European Council. They are the conditions that apply and it is in our interest that we participate.

That may be so and everything the Taoiseach says may be accurate, correct and truthful but I am advised that there was not enough time at committee to discuss these matters and there are implications.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 14 to 24, inclusive, without debate be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 84; Níl, 39.

  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Brian Stanley.
Question declared carried.

It is nearly 48 hours since the public service pay agreement was announced, but Members still do not have a copy of the agreement and in many respects are handicapped in commenting in a fully informed way on it in the absence of its circulation. At approximately 4.15 p.m. today the Labour Relations Commission stated it was still organising the putting together of the document. Will the Taoiseach indicate when he expects it to be published? Will he ensure a copy will be circulated to every Member?

On a separate matter, one of the great difficulties emerging concerns the extraordinary price of health insurance. Without question, there have been price hikes in the past while and the cost of some health insurance plans has gone up by almost 60%. Many families are in extraordinary difficulty in this respect. The centre is no longer holding in terms of either the public sector and health insurance or the private sector and health insurance.

Where is the Deputy going with this?

To the health (private patient charges) Bill.

I was wondering in what direction the Deputy was heading.

It will put more petrol on the fire of health insurance and no coherent strategy is emerging. The universal health strategy is buried somewhere and we do not know when we will see it.

I will find out about the Bill for the Deputy.

When will we see an alleviation of the extraordinary hikes in the cost of private health insurance for citizens and families, in particular?

We will find out about the Bill first. When is it due?

All of the insurance companies appeared last week before the Joint Committee on Health and Children chaired by Deputy Jerry Buttimer. These matters are being considered and I expect the Bill to be produced in April.

The agreement referred to is a Labour Relations Commission document. The commission has been working diligently to get the details right and I expect the paper to be published later this afternoon. It is being worked on and I do not have a copy.

Will we all receive a copy?

Yes, everyone will receive a copy, perhaps within two hours. The commission is finalising it.

It is one holy terror that the Taoiseach has not seen it.

It is a holy terror.

Tá dhá cheist agam, ceann faoi reachtaíocht atá forógraithe. Will time be set aside for a debate on the proposals included in it? Will legislation be required and, if so, when will it be brought before the Dáil?

Professor John Higgins was appointed to complete a report on the design and establishment of hospital groups. The Taoiseach will be aware that there were thousands on the streets of Waterford calling on the Government not to downgrade Waterford Regional Hospital. The longer the report remains unpublished, the more rumours there will be and the greater the stress. Has it been discussed by the Cabinet? When will it be published? When will it be debated in the House?

On the second point, the report has not yet been discussed by the Cabinet. Clearly, the issue of hospital groups and the future of local hospitals is of considerable importance to many Deputies. The report will come before the Government shortly and will be debated and then published.

I indicated to Deputy Micheál Martin that the LRC document would be published later this evening and given to everyone. The unions must consider it and, in accordance with their individual traditions, and put it to their members in a ballot. The Government will then reflect and act on the matter. It is now a case of the unions considering and discussing the LRC document, making arrangements to ballot their members and, I hope, approving it.

My question is on the same topic. Perhaps the Taoiseach is not aware of the press statement from the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday morning which specifically stated measures would be needed for the extension of the Croke Park agreement and that they would need to be underpinned by legislation.

A Deputy

Two Departments.

They are two sides of the same coin.

They stated yesterday that there would be legislation. The Taoiseach has stated the document will be considered by the trade unions and that they will then come back to the Government, but he has omitted to confirm to the Dáil that, according to the Departments, legislation is required. The agreement affects pay and conditions, flexitime arrangements, redeployment provisions and grade restructuring. Will we see legislation arising from the agreement-----

-----from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance on pensions? Will we see legislation from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on employment rights? When will we see all of this legislation?

The Deputy will see the legislation dealing with changed pay rates after the unions have considered the matter.

The Taoiseach is probably aware of reports over the weekend that €25.4 million had been spent by the HSE on legal costs in child care cases. Last week a HIQA report confirmed the lack of front-line services. In the light of this, when will the Government publish the Courts Bill 2013?

It will be published during this session.

In the past five years Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Cork County Council between them have failed to draw down more than €24 million for Traveller accommodation programmes from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Will the Taoiseach outline when the Housing Bill will be brought before the Dáil? It was promised in 2012 and significant issues associated with it need to be discussed. The new homeless strategy needs to be discussed in the Dáil also.

The heads of the Bill have not yet been discussed by the Cabinet. The Bill is due later this year.

I wish to raise two items. There is a good deal of concern about the consolidation of the law on betting and gambling in Ireland. Therefore, when will the gambling control Bill be brought before the House?

Will the Taoiseach provide for an exemption from the property tax for radon affected houses in the same way that homes affected by pyrite have been exempted?

That is a separate matter altogether and not one for the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach may wish to answer.

The gambling control Bill will be published later this year. Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It is an issue for local authorities in terms of the granting of planning permission. There are opportunities to rectify the matter.

The Taoiseach will be aware that on 4 March feminist groups and other organisations will march for action on the X case judgment. Since the Joint Committee on Health and Children has completed its findings, when does the Government expect to publish legislation to give effect to the X case judgment? Can we expect to see the terms of the Bill before the summer recess?

The Government has set out a process by which this matter will be dealt with. This has included the information hearings held by the Joint Committee on Health and Children which is chaired by Deputy Jerry Buttimer.

Work arising from the information hearings and the heads of the Bill is ongoing. The heads are being prepared by the Department of Health and the Minister will bring them to the Government when they are ready. They will then be published and sent to committee for further discussion in accordance with the process we have set out. I do not want this matter to be unduly delayed but I want it to be right.

I wish to ask about two items of promised legislation. The first is the children (amendment) Bill, which was promised. I ask the Taoiseach whether the heads have been discussed and approved. Similarly, to what extent have the heads of the Red Cross (amendment) Bill been discussed, and have they been approved? When will these Bills come before the House?

Not yet in the first case or the second case.

That is a double negative.

The Deputy got me today.

I understand the Taoiseach wants the legislation on the X case and the A, B and C case to be right, but he will appreciate the urgency that exists in bringing the legislation forward. I ask for more clarity. He indicated that he does not want to see any undue delay. Is there any prospect that we will see the heads of a Bill before Easter?

I do not want the Bill to be unduly delayed, but I want it to be given proper consideration in accordance with the process I have set out. When the Minister for Health is ready, following the information hearings, to bring the heads of the legislative foundation to the Government, he will do that. They will then be sent on to committee for proper debate and discussion. I do not want to set a date. When the Minister has the heads of the Bill ready he will bring them before the Government and they will not be unduly delayed there. That work is ongoing in the Department of Health and when it is completed we will move on with the matter. I do not want it to be long-fingered.

Has he been given an indicative date?

Do not ask me to tie it down to before or after a certain date. As I stated previously to the House, this is an important and sensitive matter, but I do not want anybody to think it is being long-fingered indefinitely. When the Minister has prepared the heads he will bring them to the Government and we will deal with them and send them to committee for consideration.

Is there any word on the report by Mr. Justice Finnegan on Priory Hall and when we might have a resolution?

I do not have an answer before me but I will ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to provide the information for the Deputy. This is a matter of considerable interest to the people who occupied Priory Hall. I will ask the Minister to update the Deputy on the current position.