Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 37a, statements on the European Council meeting of 18 and 19 December 2014; No. 37, Water Services Bill 2014 - Committee Stage (resumed) and Remaining 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 Topical Issues; the Water Services Bill 2014 shall not be reprinted, as amended in committee, before Report Stage; No. 37a shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and by 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 and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and Private Members’ business shall be No. 70 – Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Personal Autonomy and Bodily Integrity) Bill 2014 – Second Stage (resumed) to be taken on the conclusion of No. 37 and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 8, Appropriation Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage, Second and Remaining Stages and No. a1, Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 8: the proceedings in relation to Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 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, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; such Members may share their time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 20 minutes by one Question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Water Services Bill 2014 shall not be reprinted, as amended in committee, prior to Report Stage agreed?

No. I put it to the Taoiseach that the degree to which the Government appears intent on ramming through the Water Services Bill 2014 prior to Christmas is extraordinary. I do not know what the hurry is because the charges have been put back to April by way of Government decision.

Deputy Martin is play-acting.

I invite the Taoiseach to read the transcripts of the debate last night and from last Wednesday night, from which he will note a list of unanswered questions from Deputies. Last night, when the Minister introduced an amendment to the value of €460 million, which is no small matter, Deputy Cowen-----

We cannot discuss the Bill. This is about reprinting.

The process and the manner in which the House is being treated is what I am speaking about. Deputy Cowen has asked a series of parliamentary questions on issues pertaining to the Bill, one of which was tabled at the beginning of last month-----

The Deputy cannot go through parliamentary questions now.

-----to which he got misleading replies. Last evening, the Minister, out of the blue and at the 11th hour, announced something which he expected Deputies to absorb and deal with then. A series of basic questions remain unanswered, including what is the total value of assets and liabilities being transferred to Irish Water? Even now, one year on from the debate on the first Bill, we do not know the answer to that question. I am not being awkward.

When Fianna Fáil proposed the charge of €400 per household it did not know that either.

One would expect when Bills of this type are going through the House that clarity would be brought to those questions. That is all I am saying.

The question is that the Water Services Bill 2014, as amended in committee, shall not be reprinted.

Clarity has not been brought to these issues. The fact that the Bill is not to be reprinted illustrates the haste and disorganisation in terms of the need to rush this legislation through. I cannot understand it. The water charges have been postponed until April so there is room to deal with this in a more orderly manner and, in particular, to ensure Deputies who have participated in the debate on it on a consistent basis get basic answers to the questions they have been consistently tabling, not only for the past month but for over 12 months.

Unlike Deputy Martin I do understand the Government's anxiety to rush this Bill through on the eve of Christmas. The Government clearly has not heard the message from the people in that it continues its blarney about clarity and certainty. The clarity and the certainty that people require as the Taoiseach well knows is that the Government will abolish the domestic water charges. The Government is not prepared to do this and so is playing loose and fast with the parliamentary arrangements to get this Bill through. This is so reminiscent of the Government's approach to the Bill taken last year it is like Ground Hog Day.

I understand that it is customary to have a time for pause and reflection between the various legislative Stages. The Government is now seeking to overturn this. The Minister has brought forth substantial amendments to the Water Services Bill 2014 yet the Government is asking that we agree to the Bill not being reprinted although substantially amended. That is not on. All of this is a transparent attempt to get this legislation through before Christmas come hell or high water.

There have been claims that the Government has not listened carefully to people and that it has not heard the message from the people. I dispute that. We have listened very carefully and have heard the message very clearly and have acted responsibly. The vast majority of people in this country know that we have to deal with the problem of manifestly unworkable and inferior infrastructure throughout the country.

On Deputy Martin's point, this Bill was debated for 11 hours on Second Stage and 21 hours have been allocated to Committee Stage. All of the questions raised have been referred to and dealt with by the Minister in one way or another.

But not answered.

During the remaining hours of the debate today the question referred to by Deputy Martin can be asked directly of the Minister, as can any other questions that Deputies have. As I said, there was an 11-hour debate on Second Stage and 21 hours have been allowed for the Committee Stage debate.

Deputies have been asking these questions for the past 12 months.

Please allow the Taoiseach to reply.

The provision of 21 hours for a Committee Stage debate is unprecedented. It is not a case of rushing something through here rather it is a case of rationalising the debate by way of grouping of amendments from Deputies and addressing them in the same way as occurs during debate on the Finance Bill or in the budgetary situation. Some 40 hours have been allocated to debate on this Bill.

And not a question answered.

There has been more than enough debate for people to repeat the issues ad nauseam.

The Minister introduced new material at 8 p.m. last night.

As I said, there was an 11-hour debate on Second Stage and 21 hours have been allocated for Committee Stage, of which a number of hours remain today during which time the questions which Deputies wish to ask can be asked directly of the Minister.

We still do not know the value of the assets being transferred despite 40 hours of debate.

Question put: "That the proposal that the Water Services Bill 2014 shall not be reprinted, as amended on Committee Stage, before Report Stage be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 47.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • 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.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Question declared carried.

The next item on the Order of Business is the proposal for dealing with No. 37a, statements before the European Council meeting of 18 and 19 December 2014. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Is the proposal to deal with No. 8, Appropriation Bill 2014, and No. a1, Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014, tomorrow agreed? Agreed.

There are only seven minutes left on the Order of Business, so I ask Deputies to leave the Chamber quickly if they are not participating.

Can the Taoiseach address the decision of Mr. Mario Draghi not to address the banking inquiry, a matter that affects this Parliament and its relations with European Union institutions? His decision is wrong and unacceptable because of the role of the European Central Bank, ECB, in both the Irish and European banking crises but it is also an interesting decision in view of his attendance at the Bundestag.

This is the Order of Business.

He answered questions from German parliamentarians. It is very important that all parliaments are treated the same. Parliamentarians in larger states do not have a greater entitlement to an audience with the ECB.

Can Deputy Martin be fair to other Deputies?

I ask the Taoiseach to raise this matter because it is fundamental to the Oireachtas and the manner in which we do business and also to the relationship between the ECB and the Irish Parliament.

The Taoiseach will be aware that last June the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, set up a panel of barristers to review more than 40 cases that families and others believed were not properly investigated. It was felt that the Garda did not do enough to deal with certain issues. The review was to take three months, but six months have passed and many families are anxious for at least an update. For example, the family of Shane Farrell, who was killed by a man with more than 40 previous convictions, approached me on this issue. Will an independent inquiry be set up as a result of the work of the review panel? When will the review panel publish its work? When will the criminal procedure Bill, which is to assist with the reform of pre-trial processes, be published and debated in the House?

When can we expect the housing regulation Bill? Threshold has criticised the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 as a threat to people renting properties in the long term because the Act allows landlords to remove tenants, re-advertise and seek higher rents. Many people continue to suffer because of this. The housing regulation Bill is meant to provide a regulatory framework for approved housing bodies. To ease the rental worries of thousands of people, can the Taoiseach outline when the Bill will be published?

As I said already, I believe it would be appropriate for Mario Draghi to attend the banking inquiry, as he is capable of dealing with any question. As I said to Deputy McDonald, the European Central Bank is obliged to respond to and engage with the European Parliament. I am not sure of the circumstances of the attendance of Mr. Draghi at the Bundestag. Was it an inquiry or did he merely address a finance committee? I feel strongly that he should attend the banking inquiry and I will speak to him about this tomorrow. As I pointed out, I cannot force him to attend, but I will make it clear that we would like him to do so.

Deputy Martin mentioned 40 cases that are being reviewed. These cases continue to be analysed by the legal panel that was set up for the purpose. I will give Deputy Martin an update on how the panel is proceeding with its work. The Deputy is aware that some of the cases go back many years and some have been dealt with by various authorities and agencies already.

The housing regulation Bill is due next year. I met the social affairs committee this morning and discussed related matters. Before people are removed from their rented accommodation in Dublin, they should know that they have tenants' rights and, before seeking support from the authorities, they can engage with the community welfare service, which helps many people under such forms of pressure. After removal, they may need to seek assistance from the welfare authorities. The Bill, which will deal with this area comprehensively, is due next year. Many tenants seek support without first understanding their rights, and this issue should be clarified for people in those circumstances.

Can the Taoiseach confirm that there will be a referendum on extending voting rights in presidential elections to citizens resident outside the State? Will this referendum be held in May 2015 to coincide with other referendum matter?

Will the Taoiseach allow time to debate the State's response to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Louise O'Keeffe and, by extension, victims and survivors of abuse in schools throughout the State down the years? The scheme concocted by the Government has been described as a minimalist interpretation of the ruling and has caused widespread anger, not least for Louise O'Keeffe, who described it as discriminatory and outrageous.

It would be all the more outrageous if such a scheme were to go ahead without any scrutiny or debate in the Dáil.

I can confirm for the Deputy that the Government made two decisions yesterday on the holding of referendums. One was to authorise the Minister for Justice and Equality to draft the Bill on marriage equality. The second was to approve the drafting of the Bill on the reduction of the age of eligibility from 35 to 21 years to stand for election as President of Ireland, Uachtarán na hÉireann. This applies to citizens living in the State; it is not about an extension of voting rights, which is a separate matter. That question will be decided by a different decision. This is about a reduction in the age of eligibility from 35 to 21 years to stand for election as President.

When will the Taoiseach make the decision on the other extension?

It applies to citizens living in the State. The referendums will be held on the same day in May next year.

What about Louise O'Keeffe?

I met Louise O'Keeffe and the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, some time ago. We said we would bring forward a memo before the Christmas recess. The Minister presented it yesterday. As the Deputy is aware, the award is based on that determined by the European Court of Human Rights. In that sense, it is an important step. Clearly, it is impossible to determine the number of potential cases if we were to have a general assessment throughout the country, but it could run into thousands. The Minister was clear and careful in her response on the matter. These things will never please everyone.

It did not please Louise O'Keeffe.

We indicated that we would make a decision on the matter before Christmas and that has happened. There will be no objection to having a debate on it in the new year.

I am afraid that the clock has beaten us.