Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 11a, motion regarding committee membership; and No. 23, statements on the current situation in Northern Ireland.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 11a shall be decided without debate; No. 23 shall be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statements of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and leaders of 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 statements 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 ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time, the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply that shall not exceed ten minutes; and Topical Issues shall take place on the conclusion of the opening statements of No. 23. Private Members' business shall be No. 45, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2014, Second Stage (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded. Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 2, County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013 [Seanad] - Second Stage.

There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal on No. 11a agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Topical Issues agreed to? Agreed.

A number of issues arise. During the term of the last Dáil, there was a committee on climate change. I have detected that the commitment to climate change issues has waned since the current Government came into office. There is not the same sense of prioritisation of climate change that may have existed previously. The committee was chaired by the Ceann Comhairle. The current Government decided not to proceed with the committee in this office. I ask the Taoiseach to consider re-establishing the committee. He might indicate the progress on the climate change Bill. I remind him that in the programme for Government, there is a clear commitment to "legislate to give the relevant line Ministers temporary powers to take charge of State's actions in response to natural disasters, under the aegis of National Emergency Response Action Committee." What is the position on that legislation and when can we expect its publication?

We have a Cabinet committee dealing with climate change.

I referred to a Dáil committee.

Deputy Martin wants to establish another Dáil committee dealing with climate change.

There was one. The Ceann Comhairle chaired it.

There was a Dáil committee.

We had 20 committees and there are fewer than 20 now. There is a Cabinet committee dealing with climate change.

Will the Taoiseach restore it?

The heads of the climate change Bill are expected to be published by Easter. It will proceed to consultation and will be published later on in the year.

I will give the Deputy an up to date assessment on the preparation of the legislation for temporary powers.

Does the Taoiseach know at what stage it is at the moment?

No. I will tell the Deputy where the work on it is at.

What I asked was whether the Taoiseach would agree to the re-establishment of the previous Dáil committee on climate change.

Climate change is part of the remit of the Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. That committee is entitled to focus on climate change or aspects of climate change as it wishes.

That committee has a very wide-ranging brief.

It is an Oireachtas committee. We had a plethora of committees before, with Deputies running from Billy to Jack, unable to complete their business properly.

Climate change is not a priority for the Government.

Tá cúpla ceist agam maidir le reachtaíocht atá fórógartha - the official languages Bill. D'fhógair an Coimisinéir Teanga ag tús mí na Nollag go raibh sé i gceist aige éirí as a phost. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Seán Ó Cuirreáin as an mhéid a rinne sé ar son na teanga. Tá sé tábhachtach mo imní a léiriú fosta maidir leis an easpa measa atá ag an Rialtas d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigúla agus do ról an choimisinéara. An bhfuil an Rialtas ag fanacht go dtí go mbeidh an reachtaíocht seo curtha i bhfeidhm chun Coimisinéir Teanga nua a cheapadh? An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Rialtas coimisinéir nua a ainmniú sular gcuirtear an reachtaíocht sin i bhfeidhm? An mbeidh sé seo pléite sa Dáil?

Tá an próiseas ar siúl chun Coimisnéir Teanga nua a cheapadh. Tá níos mó na 20 iarratas curtha isteach. Tabharfaidh an tAire Gaeltachta faisnéis don Teach nuair a bheidh sé réidh. Tá Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla le foilsiú sa seisiún seo agus déanfar plé air anseo sa Dáil.

There are 14 Deputies indicating that they wish to ask questions about promised legislation so I ask that they refrain from making speeches.

Many universities have different pay, allowance and pension structures. They are not answerable to the Government or the people and operate independently.

I ask the Deputy to leave out the speech, thanks.

The universities (amendment) Bill is designed to give powers to the Minister to regulate the sector. When will the Bill be published and the discrepancies addressed?

The heads of that Bill were cleared last October. Work is proceeding on the development of the Bill itself, which is due for publication later this year.

The need to preserve Moore Street as a national monument is now critical as the buildings continue to fall into disrepair. When will the monuments Bill come before the House and will the Taoiseach encourage the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to meet us to discuss any outstanding issues relating to this national monument?

That is due for publication later this year.

The Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will put in place the legislative basis for the merger of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency and will incorporate the terms of the amendment to the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material into Irish law so that it may be ratified by Ireland. When does the Taoiseach expect the Bill to be published?

That is due for publication this session.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 aims to bring much needed reform to our immigration and asylum systems. The Minister for Justice and Equality indicated in the middle of last year that he hoped to bring a revised Bill to the Government before the end of 2013. Can the Taoiseach report any progress on this much needed and long overdue legislation?

A Bill was published a number of years ago which is now awaiting Committee Stage. However, I have been informed that the scale of amendments being submitted is such that the Minister for Justice and Equality is considering drafting an entirely new Bill. I will give the Deputy on update on that as soon as possible but so many amendments have been tabled that it may be impractical to proceed with the Bill in its current form.

As the Taoiseach is aware, the Constitutional Convention met last weekend in Malahide. A proposal was put to the convention that there should be more free votes on Dáil and committee business. Has the Taoiseach any proposals in this regard?

Will he tell us what they are?

The Government and the Dáil will consider all of the reports of the Constitutional Convention and will debate them here, as is right and proper----

No doubt the debates will be guillotined.

----and as already committed to by the Government.

Will the Taoiseach continue to expel free voters from committees?

The vote was 84 in favour.


I am well aware of the outcome of the vote.

Will the Taoiseach give an amnesty to those who exercised a free vote?

We will consider all of the convention reports and will discuss them here in open session, not in secret rooms as used to happen before.

Danske Bank is sending receivers into farms and businesses all over the country and is doing so without even going to court. In that context, when will the Central Bank (consolidation) Bill come before the House and when will action be taken to reign in the receivers and banks? There was an incident in the constituency of Deputy Kehoe on Monday last----

----where farmers had to take action to get the receivers out.

That Bill is not due until next year.

Next year, Deputy McGrath.

Everything is next year but there will be so many farmers and business people in penury----

I understand the Deputy's frustration but----

In the context of the road traffic Bill, sulky racing on country roads is a huge problem.

Is legislation promised to deal with sulkies?

Horses are being ill-treated and people are being put in danger.

Is the Deputy talking about piebalds?

I ask Deputy Kehoe to come back and look after his own people in Enniscorthy and tell them to stop ringing me.

Deputy, we are running out of time.


It is a piebald question. Several matters must be considered but the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is examining this from an animal welfare perspective. I will update the Deputy on the favourites in due course.

Regarding the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill, will a Cabinet sub-committee be set up to deal with the weather crisis and will an application be made to the EU solidarity fund?

Deputy, we have just dealt with that issue on Leader's Questions.

The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill was passed years ago.

The Deputy is not asking about promised legislation.

If the Deputy checks the digital archives, he will find that Bill. It was passed several years ago.

We will have a debate next week. The Taoiseach has already promised a debate on the whole issue of flooding.

When can we expect the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to come before the House? Last week myself and Deputies Terence Flanagan and Boyd Barrett attended a press conference arranged by the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee. That committee asked me to remind the Taoiseach that he promised the people of Coolock and Artane that once he got into office, he would convene a commission of investigation----

We cannot discuss that issue now.

----under the legislation introduced by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy McDowell, in 2004. He said that there would be a short and quick commission of investigation into the Stardust tragedy, the 33rd anniversary of which falls on Friday week. Will the Taoiseach keep his promise? I feel very strongly, as do other local Deputies, that he should do so. It is a legacy issue that we need to deal with.

The Deputy asked about a couple of Bills.

The Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill is due before the summer. In respect of the other matter that the Deputy raised, the last time I had contact with some of the survivors of the Stardust tragedy, they informed me that their legal advisors had new information to present. I advised them that their legal advisors should present that information, if it is new, and I understand that they are going to do so.

I support Deputy Broughan's remarks and thank the Taoiseach for his response. We are very anxious to progress this issue, particularly in the context of the new information that has come to light. If that information could be examined by departmental officials and if those officials could liaise directly with the Stardust victims' committee, that would be greatly appreciated.

The universities (amendment) Bill aims to ensure that universities comply with Government guidelines on pay, remuneration, bonuses, pensions and so forth. When will that Bill come before the House?

I have already referred to that Bill, which is due later this year. I have also already commented on the issue raised by Deputy Broughan.

The whistleblower legislation is now on Second Stage in the Dáil. It requires new regulations in terms of the confidential recipient and whistleblowing mechanism within An Garda Síochána.

Could the Taoiseach confirm to the Dáil that those regulations will be laid before us and whether we will have an opportunity to consider and debate them?

The Taoiseach might be aware that today the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child added its voice to the UN Committee Against Torture in support of the survivors of the Magdalen laundries and those who represent them, calling for a proper and full investigation into the Magdalen laundries so that those responsible for abuse of children are held to account and victims can receive full compensation and redress. Will the Taoiseach commit to such an inquiry? Each of the international bodies has consistently highlighted the gross inadequacies that were within the McAleese process. Will the Taoiseach now acknowledge that and commit to return to the issue? In the same vein, will he make a similar commitment in respect of the Bethany Homes survivors and on the issue of illegal adoptions?

Deputy McDonald raised a number of questions. We have already dealt with the Bethany Homes-----

Some of the questions are out of order on the Order of Business. It is better that the Deputy raise them in another way so that we can stay in order.

We already dealt with the Bethany Homes issue. That has been confirmed as not being akin to the Magdalen situation by Government. The Government has made a decision on that - not just this Government, but a previous Government. The Magdalen laundries issue is being dealt with very effectively following the judicial report into it and payments are being made.

The Minister has already commented this morning on the whistleblowers’ legislation in response to a question from Deputy Mac Lochlainn about his proposal to amend certain aspects of the Act.

Will the regulations be seen in the House?

The Taoiseach will be very well aware of a long litany of failures in Portlaoise hospital in respect of babies who died there. A range of issues has been raised that will need to be addressed by legislation and otherwise. I welcome the commitment by the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, to move forward with a HIQA inquiry. One of the issues that has come to light is the fact that the babies' deaths in Portlaoise were not reported to the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre.

I am sorry-----

That is the centre that provides information to Government, the Minister and the HSE about failures and shortcomings in maternity services.

I have granted a Topical Issue debate on the matter.

It is in the context of the health reform Bill. I would like to know whether the Government is prepared now to make it mandatory to report the deaths of all babies so that we can have full information about maternity care in this country.

When is the Bill due?

The health reform Bill is due this session. The Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, spent six hours in the company of people who lost their babies in Portlaoise hospital. He has made it perfectly clear that following receipt of the chief medical officer’s report, which will be given to him shortly, he will consider the question of a completely independent investigation by HIQA. The Minister, as a family doctor himself, is very much focused on communication, openness and information being made available to people. He has commended the parents in this case on their commitment to finding out what happened. As Deputy Creighton is well aware, we need absolute integrity in terms of the maternity services in the country for mothers and expectant mothers and the Minister is committed to that. He will see to it that the situation is sorted out. It is not acceptable that inferior standards apply in any hospital, especially where the birth of children, their mothers and every patient are concerned. The issue has caused the Minister some distress. He wants to see it sorted out and it will be sorted out.

My question follows on from that of the previous speaker, who raised the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. My understanding is that the Bill had been withdrawn. It was on the C list. I wished to ask when it would come before the House but I have been informed there are a number of amendments to the Bill and it might be withdrawn. Could the Taoiseach clarify the situation and contact the Deputies who have raised the issue?

The Bill is still on the Order Paper. A motion has been submitted for it to be withdrawn but that has not been activated yet. Many amendments have been tabled. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, will inform the House of his intention to draft a new Bill, given the range of amendments that are already there.

Last week the Taoiseach issued an apology to Louise O’Keeffe. I compliment him on doing so. In that context he spoke about the Children First legislation. In March 2012 the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, confirmed that her Department was finalising the Children First legislation. On 27 September 2012 the Minister confirmed that the legislation was on the A list. On 23 June 2013 the Taoiseach confirmed on the Order of Business that due to pressure on the legislative programme the Bill would be taken in the next session. The next session was what is now the previous session - autumn. Autumn has come and gone and we are still awaiting the publication of the legislation. Could the Taoiseach confirm to the House today when we will see the publication of this much-needed legislation?

I agree with the Deputy that autumn has come and gone. Spring approaches. I am informed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the legislation will be presented to the House in the coming weeks. A few legal issues remain to be clarified.

Could the Taoiseach quantify the weeks please?

I wish to raise two items. The first is on the same theme as that spoken about by my colleague, Deputy Troy. The Taoiseach might recall that last year he promised me faithfully that the consumer protection and competition Bill would appear before the end of the then session. We are now 12 months down the road. Could the Taoiseach give some indication of when the Bill will make its long-awaited appearance?

The Taoiseach will be aware that the Legal Services Regulation Bill is in committee at present. When will it come out of committee? When will the Government resolve its differences on the matter? The Taoiseach might consult with the Tánaiste and he might agree to withdraw his objections and allow the Bill to proceed.

The Legal Services Regulation Bill is on Committee Stage next Wednesday.

When will it come back to the House?

It will come back when Committee Stage is finished.

The Bill is not being debated by the committee. The committee has suspended its deliberations due to lack of agreement.

Committee Stage must conclude before the Bill comes back to the House.

We are not having a debate on the matter.

The committee must finish with the Bill. I expect Committee Stage to be finished next week.

Does the Taoiseach expect the differences of the Government parties to be resolved by next week?

Yes. I am sorry that I have not fulfilled a commitment given to Deputy O’Dea in good faith last year. The consumer protection and competition Bill is a serious piece of legislation. It is an extensive Bill but it is very well advanced and I expect it to be published early in this session. I hope we can honour that particular commitment to the Deputy.

I will remind the Taoiseach.

The head of RTE sent a memo to staff yesterday evening regarding an incident on a television programme about a payout to an organisation.

I am coming to the question, a Cheann Comhairle.

I respect the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle that the Minister has no direct responsibility for RTE. Are there any plans to make RTE directly accountable to the House?

That is a matter under consideration for a Topical Issue debate. I do not know who told Deputy Buttimer that I had ruled the matter out of order.

I wish to inquire about promised legislation to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults. Have the heads of the Bill been cleared and when is it likely to come before the House? I have a similar question on the EirGrid Bill.

The heads of the Bill were cleared in December. The criminal law (sexual offences) Bill is due for publication later this year.

What about the EirGrid Bill?

It is listed for next year.