Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 13, motion re Standing Orders 90, 97A, 97B, 97C, 99, 107A, 107B, 107C, 107D, 107E, 107F, 107G and 107H; and No. 1, European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2013 [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. 137, motion re Health Service Executive, and shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 13 or at 7.30 p.m., whichever is the later, and adjourn after 90 minutes, if not previously concluded; the proceedings on No. 13 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State, Deputy Emmet Stagg, and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed five minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case and such Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the following arrangements shall apply in respect of No. 1: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, the speech of each other Member called upon, who may share their time, shall not exceed ten minutes, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

The following business shall be taken tomorrow after Oral Questions: No. 14, motion re freedom of information, and No. 5, Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. The proceedings in respect of the motion re freedom of information shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 25 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, shall not exceed five minutes in each case, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed?

Are we agreeing tomorrow's Order of Business?

That is because of the business before the Order of Business tomorrow.

So the Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill is the morning's business?

After the motion re freedom of information.

Replacing the debate on the Health Service Executive.

So we are deciding that now?

We wish to oppose the taking of that business. According to the Order of Business, the following business shall be taken tomorrow-----

No. The question is whether the proposal for dealing with No. 14, motion re freedom of information, be taken tomorrow is agreed to. We are discussing the arrangements.

The arrangement is to have the debate tomorrow.

Yes, but the motion states, "...freedom of Information shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 25 minutes", etc.

If I might help the Deputy-----

Tomorrow, we will start with Question Time at 9.30 a.m. The Order of Business will not be until later in the day. Between the end of Question Time and the Order of Business tomorrow, there will be a filler of business. For this reason, we must order it today. That is what we are doing now.

It is also that a motion takes precedence over statements. That is why it has to be put that way.

Is that all right?

Fianna Fáil, the Deputy's party, had a motion in on health. We had the statements on health issued for tomorrow. So, its motion takes precedence over the statements and that is why it has to be done this way.

With respect, when the Whips met last week, we discussed the business for the week, which was to include statements on the HSE service plan. However, when Fianna Fáil subsequently tabled a Private Members' motion, as was our right, on health, the Government moved to remove the statements from the Order Paper that had been agreed. This is the point that Deputy Kelleher is making. It has now been replaced by the Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill. That is certainly not in keeping with the discussion that we had at the Whips' meeting.

I am sorry, but we are discussing the taking of the motion re freedom of information after parliamentary questions at 9.30 a.m.

Yes, but we are also discussing-----

The Order of Business will be taken in the normal way tomorrow after that. This is only to give notice that this is the business after Question Time tomorrow, as there would otherwise be no Order of Business to order anything.

When the Whips' meeting took place last Wednesday, it was agreed that Fianna Fáil would have the HSE statements tomorrow. The Deputy's party is entitled to, and did, submit a Private Members' motion on Friday that was also on a health issue.

The health Private Members' motion takes precedence over the statements. That is why it was moved. No other reason.

We will need to debate this and call a division at some stage, be it today or tomorrow.

We will not debate it now. This is purely for arrangement purposes. If the Deputy does not agree to it, I must put the question.

Rather than divide the House-----

I am sorry, but the Deputy is not entitled to debate this. Only parties that have an objection to the taking of something may.

I have an objection to the taking of the Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill.

That will be tomorrow's Order of Business.

The question is on the proposal for dealing with the motion re freedom of information. It is not about the industrial Bill.

No motion will move the industrial Bill this evening.

No. I am putting to the House the question on whether the proposal for dealing with the motion re freedom of information is agreed.

That is fine. We have no problem with that.

This is because it will be taken after Question Time. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed to? Agreed.

As the Taoiseach is aware, the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, this morning announced its decision in favour of Ms Louise O'Keeffe, who believed that the State was liable for sexual abuse that she suffered while a pupil of Dunderrow primary school in 1973. We are all aware that these matters were considered by the High Court and Supreme Court, which dismissed her claim that the State was liable. Today's ruling will have significant implications for other victims of abuse in Irish schools. Apparently, there are approximately 135 cases pending. Will the Government apologise to Ms O'Keeffe for her dreadful experiences? Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation to address the issues that arise out of the O'Keeffe finding?

During this weekend, we read of the intention of Mr. Justice Peter Kelly of the Commercial Court to retire mid-year before the pension changes are introduced. It has been widely reported that we may expect a greater exodus from the Bench in the near future. Has the Government planned for this mass exodus of expertise from the High Court-----

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

-----or will there be further delays for people and businesses who were due to have their cases considered? Will legislation be required to address the issues arising from these matters?

Is there promised legislation?

No. On the latter matter, clearly-----

I am sorry. I think Deputy Adams wishes to speak on the same matter.

Gabh mo leithscéal.

Tá ceist agam maidir le reachtaíocht atá forógartha, the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill. I wish to raise the case of Ms O'Keeffe, in respect of whom judgment was passed finding that the State was liable for the sexual abuse that she suffered. This has significant implications for the State. The Government is on record as intending to enact legislation to strengthen the rights of victims and their families, to ensure that victims and their needs are at the heart of the justice process and that rights to information, advice and other appropriate assistance are met effectively and efficiently. In the case of Ms O'Keeffe, the Government, or at least the State, opposed every single approach she took-----

I am sorry, but we cannot debate the issue.

That was under the previous Government, not the Taoiseach's. When will the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill be introduced? Will it deal with issues such as this one? Will the State apologise to Ms O'Keeffe for what she had to go through?

Louise O'Keeffe should never have been subjected to this abuse. This was another example of the horrific regime and sort of environment that children and young people lived in. Her case today clearly indicates the scale of that historical abuse and the failures and inaction to protect children. The ECHR found this morning in Louise O'Keeffe's favour under Articles 3 and 13 of the convention on human rights and she was awarded damages, along with costs. This judgment runs to 82 pages and will clearly require detailed consideration by the Government.

I might say for Members that, clearly, the protection of children is absolutely a priority for the Government. That is why a dedicated Department of Children and Youth Affairs was set up. That is why a referendum was held on children's rights. That is why changing the way the State supports child and family services is not an option - only a major transformation of child protection will do.

For the information of Deputies, all schools are required to adhere to the child protection procedures, which give direction and guidance to school authorities and school personnel in the implementation of Children First when dealing with allegations or suspicions of child abuse. All primary schools fully implement the Stay Safe programme, which plays a valuable role in helping children develop the skills necessary so that they can recognise and resist abuse and potentially abusive situations.

Along with the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, I will officially launch the Child and Family Agency this Thursday. It will be the first agency dedicated to supporting our children and families and to promoting the development, welfare and protection of our children. The Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, published the updated Children First guidelines and led a national effort to improve awareness of the need to report child protection concerns. That led to a major increase in reports, up by a third on 2011, to 40,000 referrals in 2012. She has published the heads of the Children First legislation. The revised Bill will be published in March. The legislation will place obligations on professionals and organisations to report suspected child protection concerns, to share information and to engage in interagency and multidisciplinary work.

Finally, the Minister for Justice and Equality has also commenced the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. It is now the responsibility of every member of society to protect and to defend the vulnerable from this most serious of crimes. No longer will it be acceptable that ignorance or secrecy on the part of those with knowledge of criminal offences can protect those who perpetrate such crimes.

In answer to Deputy Adams's specific question on the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill, the heads of that were cleared last October and it is proceeding through the process. It will be later this year before it is published and enacted.

Many young couples are waiting for the Bill to be passed by this House as it will enable them to purchase their local authority homes.

Which Bill are you talking about?

There is legislation promised which will allow young couples to purchase their homes which are owned by local authorities. We have been promised this Bill for a long time.

The heads of that Bill were cleared in December and it will be published in this session. We have seen incidents of this before, where young couples were able to purchase their homes that originally belonged to councils.

Tá ceist agam ar thrí phíosa reachtaíochta atá forógartha agus tá ar an liosta a d'fhoilsigh Roinn an Taoisigh ag tús na míosa seo. The first piece of legislation is the NTMA (amendment) (No. 2) Bill, which is to enable management by the State ClaimS Agency to claim for third party legal costs, arising from tribunals and commissions of inquiry. When is that Bill expected to come before this House for debate?

This session.

Is that next month or the month after?

I do not know. I would not want to lead the Deputy astray. The Bill is in the final stages of being drafted. It will be debated this session. I will provide the Deputy with an update when we know when it will be on paper.

I appreciate that. The second piece of legislation is the amendment of the Constitution Bill. This is in section C of the list of legislation and it is about a constitutional referendum promised by the Government on the unified patent court. The Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, said that referendum would take place in 2014. We see the legislation is in section C. Is it intended that the referendum will take place in 2014, as per last year's commitment? Will it be in the first half or the second half of the year?

There is no intention of having a referendum in 2014. I made that clear before. The Government will give consideration to the referendums it will hold in 2015. This legislation is at heads of the Bill stage, but there is no intention to hold a referendum in 2014.

That will mean that this cannot be fully ratified until 2015, which will have implications for other European member states, as well as implications for the business sector, but that is a different debate.

The last piece is No.93, which introduces legislation to cater for the sale of loan books by regulated financial institutions to unregulated financial institutions. Is this a typographical error? It states in the list that the Bill is not expected for publication until 2015. The words "horse", "stable", "door" and "bolted" come to mind. These loan books are being sold as we speak by regulated financial institutions to unregulated financial institutions, and people are seriously worried about that. I hope that the Government has plans at least to publish this legislation during this session.

It is not listed for publication until next year, as the Deputy is aware. There were 61 contenders for publication in this session. There used to be three sessions in the Dáil year, but there are now just two. There are 41 Bills in the list and it is pretty crammed as it is. The work is ongoing in that area. The Deputy is right in that sales are taking place, but at the moment it is listed for next year.

When is publication expected of the greyhound industry (amendment) Bill to amend and extend the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 and the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Act 1993 and related matters? An Irish group has submitted a plan to bring Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in London up to a world standard.

That is good, we are all pleased about that.

We would like to back this venture as the Irish taxpayer owns Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

Thank you for the backing.

That dog has been whistled back a few times in the past. He is still running, so we will have to see what priority has been accorded to it by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. No date has been listed for it.

I have gone through the legislative programme for the spring and summer of 2014, and in view of the huge criticism of the establishment of NAMA prior to the election of 2011, I can find no impending legislation to amend NAMA or abolish NAMA. Is it omitted by accident or by design? Is there any intention to bring forward amending legislation?

The Minister for Finance has made his views known on the way that NAMA is now performing, and the changes that have been brought about. It is not listed for any other legislative proposal. He is happy with the way it is moving.

He is happy with it now.

Given the importance of genealogical tourism, when will the civil registration (amendment) Bill come before the House? When is it likely to go through all Stages? It is critical if we are to have census substitutes for the 19th century searchable online and the absence of this legislation is an impediment to that.

It is on the A list. It is being drafted. I can give the Deputy an update on the stage of its development.

There is increasing evidence of a housing crisis in the eastern region in both the private and public sector, where many families are now being split up and being relocated with relatives. Some of are actually homeless, some are moving from relative to relative on a daily basis, and some have nowhere to go. There is an increasing number of people registering with us with whom we have no contact address. In view of this, might it be possible to have a debate on the housing issue before the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill comes before the House? At the moment it is impossible to acquire a home to rent or a home to buy anywhere in the eastern region.

We cannot have a debate on that now.

In the absence of the debate now, could we have it in the future?

As an afterthought, I would like to inquire about the current location of my old friend, the bail Bill.

Much progress has been made on the drafting of the heads of the bail Bill. That progress has been made since the Deputy last raised it. There should be no problem, with the exception of time, in having a discussion on housing. The Deputy raised this before, as did other Deputies. I have called on one of the Cabinet subcommittees dealing with this to put together a group that can concentrate on how we might deal with the issue of NAMA land banks, planning permissions that are issued and that are pending, and so on. The construction sector has a responsibility here as well. We can have a debate on this in the House before the Bill is published.

The criminal justice (victims' rights) Bill is supposed to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and their families and to give effect to a proposed EU directive. When is that due?

There is no date for the publication of that Bill yet. I will follow up on it for the Deputy.

The closure, by liquidation, of Mount Carmel Hospital means that jobseeker's benefit to 328 staff will amount to €4 million per year, and once-off redundancy payments from the social fund will amount to €8 million, while the VAT and PAYE lost as a result of the closure of the hospital will amount to €7 million. That is an annual loss of €11 million, a once-off loss of €8 million, leading to a total of €19 million in the first year-----

That sounds like a Topical Issue matter.

I understand that the reason NAMA refused the offer was a €2 million shortfall in its target price of €6 million for the assets of the hospital, given that €4 million was offered. It seems we need a debate on that.

I suggest the Deputy puts it down for a Topical Issue matter and I will seriously consider it.

The Deputy will have to provide the right figures.

It is the correct figure.