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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013

Vol. 821 No. 3

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 11a, motion re exit from the EU-IMF programme of financial support to Ireland (resumed); and No. 22, the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 - Order for Report and Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 128 - youth employment (resumed) and which shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 11a or at 7.30 p.m., whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; the proceedings on No. 11a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m.; and the following business shall be taken tomorrow after Oral Questions: the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 - Report and Final Stages (resumed), and the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed).

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11a and 22 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 and the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2013 tomorrow agreed? Agreed.

In the context of the part of the programme for Government which deals with Northern Ireland, I wish to raise with the Taoiseach the remarks made by the Attorney General of Northern Ireland this morning. I have grave concerns with regard to what the latter is suggesting and proposing. This goes to the core of many issues that have been raised in this House on quite a number of occasions, namely, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, collusion between British state security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, the murder of Jean McConville, the lack of a resolution in respect of the those who were disappeared and whose bodies have never been found and the definition of when the Troubles begin and end for many families who are still seeking justice in respect of those who murdered their loved ones. It seems that a pardon has been almost unilaterally decided upon in respect of the latter. This is a very grave issue. It might suit many people if the views of the Attorney General of Northern Ireland were carried through upon, the past was neatly buried and prosecutions were placed to one side.

The House should debate this issue. The Taoiseach should set Government time aside in order that we might discuss the section in the programme for Government which deals with Northern Ireland and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement. Such a debate could form the basis of an input into the Haass process. After all, Dr. Haass has engaged in consultation and dialogue with many parties. What is wrong with the Dáil making a contribution to the process in the form of a debate? Such a debate would be very helpful.

I respect the statutory authority of the Attorney General of Northern Ireland. The opinion he has given is personal in nature.

It is a personal opinion offered as a contribution to the Haass process. A range of other personal opinions may well be expressed in the coming weeks. As I informed Deputy Adams during Leaders' Questions, my preference would be to allow Dr. Haass to conclude his hearings and discussions and then make his recommendations before the House engages in whatever form of debate might be deemed appropriate.

I am willing to agree to this and the Whips can make the necessary arrangements. However, rather than everybody having his or her say while Dr. Haass is in Northern Ireland, having been invited there by the Executive to deal with three issues, namely, flags, parades and the sensitive issue of the past, we should not distract or interfere with his process of making recommendations. I am willing to have the House, either through the Joint Committee on the Good Friday Agreement or the Dáil, engage in a debate, including on Dr. Haass's report to the Executive, after he concludes it.

Dr. Haass has been invited specifically by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to come here to deal with the issue of flags, parades and the past. He should be allowed to complete that process, as he expects to do in the next four to five weeks. The House can have a debate in January on issues outside the Haass recommendations that are of concern to Deputies, but we should include Dr. Haass's report in our deliberations.

The past includes everybody.

We are not having a debate on the issue on the Order of Business.

I do not want a debate now either. I am making the point that the past includes this House. We debated the Dublin and Monaghan bombings-----

The Deputy asked a question and was given an answer.

It is not fair or correct for the Taoiseach to take the line he is taking. The House is entitled to feed into the process.

That may be the case, but the matter cannot be debated on the Order of Business.

I am not debating it. I am seeking time for a debate in advance of Dr. Haass making his recommendations. Many people who have cases before the prosecution service are suspicious and worry that their cases will never be prosecuted.

I ask the Deputy to respect the Chair and, please, resume his seat. There are many other ways of raising this matter.

On the health service plan, which has been delayed-----

If I may, I will, first, deal briefly with the issue raised by Deputy Micheál Martin. Dr. Haass was invited here by the Executive to do a particular job and make recommendations. This House has primacy and, as has been pointed out, the Government is the co-guarantor, with the British Government, of the Good Friday Agreement. The contribution of Dr. Haass may well be very valuable. This matter is being raised this morning because of the personal views expressed by the Attorney General in Northern Ireland. My view is that we should allow Dr. Haass to do his work and make his recommendations, after which we can have a debate, North and South, about how to move forward.

The health service plan has been delayed by about one month. Every day we hear stories of chaos, with children being denied discretionary medical cards or unable to return home from hospital because home care packages have not been provided. The Taoiseach has agreed that profoundly deaf children should have bilateral ear implants. When will the health service plan be announced in order that the House can discuss it?

The Health Service Executive requested an extension of days from the Minister to conclude its work on the service plan. This request was granted and while I am not certain of the date, I believe the plan is due to be presented to the Minister on 25 November. He will then have three weeks to consider it and make recommendations to the Government. The plan will then be debated in the House. Issues such as cochlear implants and the other matters raised by the Deputy may be considered for inclusion as part of the service plan. I have received a number of representations on specific issues which are important, if small relatively speaking. The issue the Deputy raises is one that is for consideration for inclusion in the service plan.

Will the Taoiseach provide a firm date in order that I do not have to try to calculate it?

I cannot indicate on what date the service plan was due to be submitted before an extension of ten days was granted. The date for submission is, I believe, 25 November, but I will confirm the date later. The Minister will then have three weeks to consider the service plan presented to him, at which point we can debate it in the Chamber.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce legislation to regulate the sunbed industry. The Minister for Health and the Irish Cancer Society are keen to have the legislation on the Statute Book. When is it expected that it will be introduced?

I did not see much sign of the sun when I was travelling from the west in driving sleet the other morning at 2 a.m. Sunbeds would not have been of any use. The Bill will be published during this session.

The pyrite levy Bill is still on the clár. Did the Taoiseach inform the House that it would not proceed?

On the housing Bill, the Taoiseach may be aware from conversations with Government Deputies that public housing provision in the Dublin City Council area has collapsed and that the rental accommodation scheme is simply not working. We have an increasing number of homeless families, many of whom face the prospect of homelessness this Christmas. The Taoiseach is the man in charge. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with responsibility for housing is not delivering even remotely near the number of homes we need.

The Deputy knows he cannot debate the issue.

Will the Taoiseach take a hands-on approach to it?

The pyrite levy Bill which is still on the Order Paper relates to a proposed mechanism to fund dealing with the pyrite problem. It is not being proceeded with and work is under way on legislation to establish the pyrite board. That Bill will be published shortly.

The heads of the housing Bill are due by the end of the year and will be published early next year with a view to implementing the legislation. Housing and homelessness are important issues and I have referred to them recently in response to questions. The Minister of State with responsibility for housing is concerned about the matter. She is in contact with the agencies dealing with the homeless, the various categories of homelessness and the reasons for homelessness.

Yesterday, at 4.59 p.m., we received notification of the Government's motion on exiting the EU bailout programme, on which the House will vote later today. No mention was made of a deadline for amendments either when we received the motion or subsequently. When I asked this morning whether we could table an amendment to the Government's motion, I was told the deadline had passed. How can one amend a motion when one is not given a deadline by which to submit amendments? It is preposterous also that we be given a deadline for a motion before we have a chance to hear what the Government has to say on it. We should, at a minimum, be told of any deadline to submit amendments. I request, therefore, that we be given the option to submit amendments to the Government's motion.

Maybe those concerned should have waited until 5 p.m. instead of 4.59 p.m. for the Deputy to receive the motion.

That is a smart alec remark.

It is a matter for the House as to what Deputies do with amendments. The Deputy has been around long enough to know the requirements pertaining to the submission of amendments when a motion has been produced.

What are the requirements?

Did the Deputy inquire?

Yes and I was told the deadline had passed.

Seeing as the Deputy was so exact about receiving the motion at 4.59 p.m., at what time did he inquire?

I was buried at a committee meeting.

The Deputy was buried.

We are not having a debate on the issue.

On a point of order, this is a serious issue.

When did the Deputy inquire?

I inquired this morning.

The Deputy received the motion yesterday and inquired this morning.

Yes, unfortunately; I do other things and cannot continually check my e-mail. The Taoiseach is engaging in further political games.

If the Deputy refers the problem to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, I am sure it will be considered.

He needs to react faster.

Hold on, a Cheann Comhairle-----

I will not hold on. The Deputy will hold on and sit down.

With respect, a Cheann Comhairle-----

Now the Deputy wants to make noise about the issue.

It is long-standing practice that one cannot table amendments once a debate has commenced.

The Government often does precisely that during Private Members' business.

We can change the position for the future. The Deputy should resume his seat.

The Dáil will vote on the motion today and we were not informed-----

The Deputy can vote against it.

I am sorry, but the Deputy cannot amend it as he missed the deadline.

There was no deadline.

Of course, there was a deadline.

Excuse me, a Cheann Comhairle, there was no deadline. Will you tell me what the deadline was?

If an amendment had been submitted before the debate started, I could have considered it.

What was the deadline?

Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?

I want an answer to my question.

Deputy Boyd Barrett cannot get an answer now.

The Ceann Comhairle cannot tell me when the deadline was.

It is not up to me to give Deputy Boyd Barrett an answer.

Deputy Boyd Barrett should resume his seat.

I want an answer to the question.

We will get it afterwards. Deputy Boyd Barrett should sit down.

Deputy Boyd Barrett will be leaving the Chamber fairly quickly.

This is a serious abuse of the democratic process.

Will Deputy Boyd Barrett resume his seat? He got a reply from the Taoiseach.

I want to know when the deadline was. This is a vote on an important issue.

When was the deadline on this?

Will somebody answer my question? Can I have an answer to the question from someone? When was the deadline?

Before the debate.

Before the debate begins. I have already told Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Where is that written down?

For God's sake, will Deputy Boyd Barrett go and read the Standing Orders?

Is it in the Standing Orders?

This is not an educational centre for Deputy Boyd Barrett. I call Deputy Naughten.

Is it in the Standing Orders? Would the Ceann Comhairle tell me where in Standing Orders it is?

Would Deputy Boyd Barrett ever go to the Clerk of the Dáil's office immediately after the debate and he will get an answer? I thank the Deputy. I call Deputy Naughten.

That is the Government playing more tricks and abusing the democratic process yet again.

I call Deputy Naughten. Will Deputy Boyd Barrett resume his seat?

The HSE in the west is decommissioning or demolishing €8 million worth of new builds and replacing it with €24 million worth of new facilities that will accommodate similar services. Private Members' motion No. 134 is on the urgent need for an independent review of the mental health services in the west. Can this issue be expedited because it is clear there is mismanagement of public funds as a direct result of the failure of the HSE to properly plan for both local and regional services in the mental health area?

We cannot have a debate.

This is a Private Members' motion and Deputy Naughten will be aware of the rules that apply in respect of Private Members' motions. If he makes a claim that there is mismanagement of public funds, that is a serious matter. I would advise him to bring it to the direct attention of the Minister of State at the Department of Health dealing with the mental health area, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. The Minister of State is diligent in her duties and if Deputy Naughten has evidence of deliberate mismanagement of public funds, then I would advise him to bring it to her notice.

I did so on the floor of the House here on Wednesday morning last.

When will the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 finally be brought back to the House for Committee Stage? This is dragging on and on. Will it be done before Christmas?

There are growing concerns among members of the public about some decisions from the Judiciary. The Government has in the past outlined that it would consider new legislation on a sentencing council with clear sentencing guidelines for the Judiciary. Is that going to happen? Has the Government any plans to bring forward legislation in that regard?

Is there promised legislation in this area? We are dealing with promised legislation.

On the legal services Bill, there are quite a number of complex amendments being worked on here between the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, and the Attorney General's office. I cannot give Deputy Mac Lochlainn an accurate date as to when these will be concluded. I understand some of them are very technical. What was the Deputy's second question?

My second question was on the issue of a sentencing council with clear sentencing guidelines for the Judiciary. The Taoiseach will be aware of some of the cases in recent times. One of them was overturned in recent days.

Is there promised legislation here?

Where the public is seriously concerned about some decisions from the Judiciary, we need clear guidelines. Is the Government going to bring in legislation to do that?

Let me speak to the Minister for Justice and Equality about this. I will send Deputy Mac Lochlainn an up-to-date report on it.

I would remind Deputies that we are dealing with promised legislation here.

I ask the Taoiseach - the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, is not here - about the electricity (supply) (electronic communications networks) (amendment) Bill. In fact, the closing date for submissions to the K2 project by EirGrid is Tuesday next.

What Bill is Deputy Mattie McGrath talking about?

The electricity (supply) (electronic communications networks) (amendment) Bill. Could the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, ask EirGrid to extend the deadline for submissions beyond Tuesday next for those in the K2 proposal, which affects those in Cork, from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, constituency, to Wexford.

It is listed for this session.

Farmers with marginal lands are having their payments cut as the ground is classified as ineligible. If a farmer has 20% of his premium classified as an overpayment, 100% of his payments are being cut.

I tell Deputy Healy-Rae every morning he cannot raise these issues.

I am coming to the legislation. I am asking this under the Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012-----

When is the Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 due?

-----because farmers will be unable to attend to their animals with the severe cuts that are being put upon them.

Deputy Healy-Rae did not hear me. I am getting the answer for him.

The Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 was enacted in May of this year.

May of this year.

Would the Taoiseach-----

Will Deputy Healy-Rae not play games here?

In respect of Deputy Healy-Rae's first question,-----

I call Deputy McDonald.

-----the Minister advises me that all land parcels throughout the country are being reassessed because of the requirement to save very significant fines arising from the European decision.

I would appreciate if the Taoiseach would not encourage Deputy Healy-Rae.

That is being conducted throughout the country to save very significant fines on farmers.

The Minister for Justice and Equality announced on 7 November that Cabinet had finally signed off on the Quirke Magdalen redress scheme recommendations. The Taoiseach will be aware that two of the survivors of the laundries have died since he made his apology on behalf of the State to those women. It is a pity we never had a full debate on the Quirke recommendations in this House. I have some concerns around the implementation team and how survivors living outside of the State will be treated, but my question for the Taoiseach this morning relates to the provision of medical cards to the survivors. When will the legislation to facilitate that come before the House? I note that the pension legislation is being rushed through this side of Christmas and I put it to the Taoiseach that, given the circumstances of these survivors, it would be appropriate that the legislation for medical card provision for these survivors be rushed in a similar fashion.

It is necessary that we have a structure in place in respect of the pensions position. Deputy McDonald will be aware of the European court ruling in respect of the workers in Waterford Glass and it is necessary that there be a structure in place so that when this goes back to the High Court - it is listed for 3 December - there will be a structure in place.

In regard to the Magdalens, I hope that some of the payments can be made close to the end of the year or early next year. Yesterday the Cabinet approved the allocation of €250,000 as the first allocation in respect of the women who were in laundries who are resident in England. That would have been done earlier arising from the first Government decision but there were some complications with the registration of the charity. It is now decided, a Government decision, that the Camden charity will be the conduit through which that money is channelled.

The validation of the requirements of the Magdalen women is proceeding and the medical care issue is one of those. As I am standing here, I cannot tell Deputy McDonald what the position is about many of them who have medical cards already, but the Government is clear that there will be no undue delay in giving them what the Government has already approved arising from the Quirke recommendations.

When might we see the legislation?

I am not sure that it requires legislation. If it does, it is something that will be part of the implementation of the Quirke recommendations. The Government, when it considered this on the previous occasion, is anxious that it move through as quickly and fully as possible because of the age of a number of the women involved.

Has the Government the provision-----

I will let Deputy McDonald know.

I am sure the Taoiseach has read the communiqué from the Eurogroup in ECOFIN meetings. A section of that talks about the stress test of the banks next year across Europe and the fact that the bail-in mechanism is not available. It calls on national parliaments to bring forward their own legislation for the bail-in, which would allow for senior bondholders to be burned. The Taoiseach previously told the House that he does not want "defaulter" written on his forehead but, given that Europe has asked that this legislation be brought forward and that senior bondholders could be in a position to be burned, when is the legislation likely to come before this House?

Deputy Pearse Doherty dealt with that with the Minister for Finance earlier on this morning.

Does the Taoiseach know when the legislation will be taken? Is it this term or next term?

I refer Deputy Pearse Doherty to the answer that he got from the Minister for Finance.

The Minister did not answer the question. This is the Order of Business in terms of promised legislation.

I am sure the Minister will follow-up on the question that Deputy Pearse Doherty asked.

Is there promised legislation?

Is legislation being brought forward?

The Minister for Finance will respond to Deputy Pearse Doherty in that regard. The Deputy raised it with the Minister this morning.

I call Deputy Fitzpatrick.

That is unbelievable. The Taoiseach will not even ask his officials whether there is legislation coming forward in this quarter or the next quarter regarding this matter.

Deputy Pearse Doherty spoke about the matter this morning.

I have asked the question on promised legislation.

Is it on the list?

Is legislation promised?

Deputy Pearse Doherty was on this already this morning.

It is promised legislation.

Then it must be on some list.

If it was on the programme list, then I would see it. It is promised legislation as the Minister for Finance signed up to that communiqué last week.

The Minister for Finance will respond, he has already stated, in respect of the legislation that is mentioned there.

The national paediatric hospital development board (amendment) Bill is to provide for an amendment to the functions and membership of the national paediatric hospital development board.

When can we expect its publication?

There is no date for the publication of that Bill, but I met the principals of the boards last week. They are now setting out the various timelines for the design, appointments of the various categories, the planning application and, when that is granted, the construction.

Both the programme for Government and the legislative programme commit the Government to creating a new legislative framework for the Irish Red Cross. Have the heads of that Bill come to Cabinet and when might we expect it to be published?

No recommendation or Bill has come before the Government on that.

I have two questions regarding promised legislation. The Government has stated its intention to merge the National Education and Welfare Board with the Child and Family Agency. When can we expect legislation in that regard?

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has promised that it will merge the Property Registration Authority, OSI, and the Valuation Office into one new body. When will we see legislation for that merger? It is a separate matter from the Valuation (Amendment) Bill, which is currently in the Seanad.

The debate on the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 will resume tomorrow. I do not have a date for the merger with the National Education and Welfare Board. I will advise the Deputy on the current state of work and preparation on that. I do not have information on his second question. I will revert to him on both questions.

I ask the Taoiseach whether legislation will be necessary to give effect to the proposed cut in natural heritage areas, as promised in respect of the many bogs throughout the country that are due to be delisted in the coming weeks. Will legislation be necessary or will it be done within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht?

I am awaiting a report from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which I expect he will bring to the Government in the next number of weeks. He has done quite an amount of work on it but the Government has not decided whether legislation will be necessary. We can publish the report and have it debated when the Minister brings his recommendations to the Cabinet. It should not take too long.