Before proceeding to Question Time, I call the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Paul Kehoe, who has a proposal to put to Members regarding the business of the Dáil.
Business of Dáil: Motion
That notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, business after Oral Questions today shall be No. a13, motion re Aer Lingus Group PLC, and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case and such Members may share time; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 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 15 minutes.
Is the proposal agreed to?
It is not agreed to. I object in the strongest possible terms to the manner in which the Government is trying to ram and railroad this proposal through the Dáil without adequate analysis or any due respect for the institution of the House. There has been no contact from Whip to Whip about it. The Chief Whip did not even have the basic courtesy to ring our Whip to discuss the proposal.
In the Dáil yesterday, I asked the Taoiseach to outline details of the proposed sale of Aer Lingus. He steadfastly refused to provide me with any information, despite the extensive briefing of the media and trade unions that has taken place. Late yesterday evening, at about 9 p.m., it was revealed that Aer Lingus is to be sold. It is all about orchestration of news media, news management and an absolute contempt for the Dáil. The Government Whip should be proposing to refer this matter to the transport committee, where witnesses should be called and a proper analysis undertaken of whether this deal is in the best interests of the country. The Government has spent months behind the scenes, behind closed doors, working on this deal. Perhaps it was delayed until now because of the by-election or other electoral considerations, but it is entirely unsatisfactory that notice should be circulated to Members late at night, at the 11th hour, to announce a change to the scheduling of Dáil business the following day at 9.30 a.m. It was a kind of slippery, sleeveen approach to orchestrating the business of the House.
Order, please. Deputy Martin has the floor.
I am asking the Chief Whip to withdraw his proposal because the measure requires detailed analysis. I do not know whether the Government was made aware - certainly, the Dáil was not - of the analysis that was commissioned last February by Aer Lingus and IAG in terms of the cost savings that would arise in the event of a merger. That is set out in the Nyras report, but we have had no briefing on that report. From my understanding, it is an analysis that is clearly focused on making Aer Lingus a low-cost airline. It identifies that all ground-based operations, administration and staff costs in Aer Lingus are 40% higher than at Vueling or EasyJet. It talks about the outsourcing of all ground-based operations. There is no cost comparison with British Airways, for example, or other airlines at that level. The Nyras report identifies the need for job cuts in several areas as part of cost reductions under phase one, including 20% cuts in ground handling, 40% in catering, 15% in maintenance, and 25% in heavy maintenance to eastern Europe.
We will have that debate later, Deputy.
We will not be having any debate.
The Government is shutting down democracy.
We have had the proposals from the Government without any consultation or discussion whatsoever. I raise the Nyras report as just one example and illustration of the need for detailed analysis and clarity as to what the agenda is. Was Aer Lingus forthcoming to the Government about that report? Has the Minister seen it and, if so, when? The Dáil has not seen it. The analysis in the report compares Aer Lingus with IAG's low-cost carrier, Vueling, rather than British Airways. That is just one dimension.
Another, very significant, issue is jobs. The other issue is to do with the 15,000 Aer Lingus pensioners who were screwed by the Government. Deferred pensioners lost 60% of their pensions and retired pensioners-----
The Deputy is not speaking to the motion, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. It is about the ordering of business.
The Minister of State had his opportunity to speak.
I am within Standing Orders.
The Government must give us the information and allow the committee time to discuss it.
Twelve weeks pay was taken from existing pensioners. Why did that happen? It happened because the Government was preparing Aer Lingus for sale. It got rid of the pension deficit and got its 25.1% stake sorted.
The Deputy is supposed to be making a brief statement.
I am about to conclude. There are a lot of stakeholder groups, such as the pensioners, who would like an opportunity to put their case before the transport committee of the Oireachtas.
It is called democracy.
There are a lot of people from the regions and a lot of Deputies who would like to hear a better analysis.
While Deputies made a valuable contribution, Independent Senator Sean D. Barrett, for example, a very well-informed expert on aviation, made very telling points at the Oireachtas committee. I do not see why the Government-----
This is outrageous. We are dealing with an allocation of time motion.
It is not the Chief Whip's job to chair the Dáil. He should not try to heckle the Chair to put him under pressure.
He has even lost the will to fight at this stage.
I ask Deputy Micheál Martin to conclude; these are brief statements.
There are key issues about regional connectivity and jobs.
All I am asking-----
We cannot hear what is being said. Deputy Stagg, please. I want Deputy Micheál Martin to conclude and to be able to hear what he is saying.
Thank you. The Government has come in at the eleventh hour and asked us to change the entire schedule for today in order to ram through a motion on the sale of Aer Lingus. I am entitled to oppose that proposition and speak about it-----
You sold Aer Lingus.
I do not like the attitude of the Government that it wants to suppress my right to speak as a Dáil Deputy about the changing of the scheduling of business. The reason I am doing this is we know that the Labour Party received a briefing on the issue privately. We have been told that the Labour 7 are on board, with the possible exception of Deputy Michael McNamara, although I do not know what the issue is in that regard. However, the rest of the Members of the Dáil have been kept in the dark deliberately by the Government. There has been no proper briefing of Opposition Deputies on the issue, nor has any documentation been sent to Opposition Deputies in advance of the rushed debate this morning. The Government is treating the House with absolute contempt. What is being done is contemptible. I ask the Minister of State to withdraw the proposal and to agree to referring the issue to the transport committee for a proper detailed analysis. I know that the Government wants to take next week off, which is all part of the agenda, to get the issue out of the way.
May we have order for Deputy Gerry Adams, please?
I compliment the Government on what was a classic case of media management yesterday.
Order, please. We cannot hear what is being said.
Deputy Gerry Adams was very impressed when Aer Lingus served Belfast. He was representing Belfast at the time.
The Taoiseach refused to answer questions put to him on a range of vital issues about jobs and outsourcing, compulsory redundancies and the so-called commitment made, which will only last seven years. What will happen then? It will be a case of sin é. While the Taoiseach was refusing to answer any of those questions, at the same time, the media were being briefed. Then we had the farce of putting the issue beyond the 6 p.m. news programme. It is patently obvious that members of the Government parties were briefed, while Members on this side of the House were totally ignored. While I asked for a debate on the issue, I also asked for publication of all of the documentation on the case. Will we read it tomorrow in the newspapers? Why can it not be brought here? The Government has a whopping majority and a compliant herd of sheep-like Deputiess who do exactly-----
Aer Lingus is being shorn bald.
I think the rams have become hoggets.
Quiet, please. Deputy Gerry Adams has the floor.
It is true that the Government is finishing the work begun by Fianna Fáil, but that is another issue entirely. What always strikes me is the huge arrogance of the Government in its refusal to have a debate on these issues. Will the Chief Whip explain when we will receive the documentation and when we will see the details? Some 15,000 deferred pensioners were robbed by the Government. They paid their divvy, worked very hard for the company and contributed to the tax system, but now they have been left. I have met many of them and I am sure all Members have been lobbied by them. Will the Chief Whip explain when we will have sight of the details in order that when we have a debate, we will be able to have an informed debate?
Questions are to be asked by the leaders of eligible parties, unless the Chief Whip wishes to respond.
I wish to address Deputy Micheál Martin's use of words such as "ram", "slippery" and "sleeveen". I will leave using such words to him because he is well used to using them. Yesterday the Taoiseach responded to Deputy Gerry Adams who was the only one who asked if there would be a Dáil debate on the issue. The Taoiseach said that once the Government had agreed to the deal, which it did yesterday evening, we would have a debate. That is why I am tabling the motion.
Will the Chief Whip please have the manners to respond to the questions being put to him? When will all of the documentation be put before the Members of the House?
Let us get on with the discussion.
Deputy Gerry Adams should show manners and allow the Chief Whip to speak. Is it one rule for the Deputy and another for the rest of the country?
The Minister of State has the floor.
I inform the Members opposite that the Whips were informed yesterday evening at 7.43 p.m. precisely. I would not describe that as being late in the night but rather late in the evening.
I suppose it is not late when one gets up in the middle of the day, like some of those opposite.
I refer to the time when Members opposite sold 75% of Aer Lingus and ask whether that issue was debated in the Dáil. We will have an open and transparent debate. The Minister will outline what the Government agreed to yesterday evening. The motion I have proposed will stand.
I must put the question to the House.
On a point of order, the Chief Whip has been dishonest in his presentation. An email was sent from his office. From my knowledge, he did not ring our Whip or anyone else in the House or the Independents. He did not show that basic courtesy. The Chief Whip came into the House yesterday and everybody thought there was a certain amount of business to be conducted today.
Perhaps the Deputy does not want to have a debate on the issue.
It happened late last night. We only learned about the deal on the evening news and relatively late last night. I will not argue about whether 9 p.m. is considered late because that would be a bit petty.
The boys opposite get up early and fall asleep at the wheel.
Those opposite fell asleep on the job for four years.
The bottom line is that this proposal should be put to the Oireachtas committee. At the very minimum, time should have been made available for a proper presentation of documentation and an analysis to be given to Deputies who would be asked to vote on the proposal. Members will get up and make statements. It is contemptible. The Government talked about reform-----
This is outrageous.
This goes to the heart of reform of the House. The Government is falling short yet again on a commitment to make this institution meaningful and relevant. It is the last place in the country to be briefed on anything by it. It has no time for this place. I have no doubt that between now and the general election its whole strategy will be to shut down the House as often as it possibly can.
That is not a point of order. I must put the question.
The strategy will be to prevent a detailed analysis of any serious issue. That is what it is doing on this issue. It does not want the deal to be questioned; nor does it want Labour Party Deputies to become windy over a period of time. Therefore, it is being rammed and run through.
Let us be straight. I would like to test the yardstick that Deputy Costello put when he described this deal as a bargain basement deal.
He got an extra two years.
Deputy Martin, please.
I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle-----
You raised a point of order. It is not a point of order.
My point of order-----
It is not a point of order. I have to put the question now.
The manner in which the Government is behaving in this House is bringing the House into disrepute.
I ask that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle adjourn the House and for consultation to begin between the Government side and the Opposition Whips.
On a point of order-----
I ask for proper, meaningful consultation between the Whips to order this House properly so that we can have a genuine approach to having this issue considered seriously. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has not done that and is not doing that.
I am putting the question now.
On a point of order-----
The question is that the proposal be agreed to.
This goes to the heart of how the Opposition feels about this. It is jackboot politics of the worst kind. It is outrageous carry-on.
I asked the Whip and Taoiseach yesterday when the documentation would be published. That is a reasonable question. The Whip refused to answer the question. The committee on transport and communications, including members of the Labour Party and Fine Gael, agreed and asked that this issue be brought back to the committee. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle can see the contempt that the Government has for the Opposition.
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On a point of order, I seek clarification. It is my understanding that Question Time is meant to run for 75 minutes from 9.30 a.m. It now seems that the time allowed has been arbitrarily and unilaterally halved, or at least reduced to about 45 minutes. This is an example of the absolute contempt of the Government side for the House.
The Deputy is wasting time.
He is wasting time.
Some 12% of children are living in consistent poverty and questions cannot now be asked about that matter because of the Government's approach.
The Government is doing exactly the same as it did on the Irish Water issue, which was a debacle. It made a mess of it.
I cannot understand it because we were promised a political reformation and reform of this House, but what we are getting is the complete opposite. There is an attitude of contempt towards parliamentary democracy and proper analysis by the Opposition of the Government.
Why does the Deputy not just sit down?
Shame on the Chief Whip because his only response was to make very weak personal comments that at any level were meaningless.
This is a speech.
The Taoiseach did not have the courage to come into the House this morning. He was asked questions yesterday about the issue which he steadfastly refused to answer. It was revealed last night on the "Nine O'Clock" news and then we received an email stating the planned scheduling of business in the House for the next two days was to be changed.
I want to convey to the Government side that the approach it adopts to the Dáil is disgraceful.
It is; the Deputy is dead right.
No wonder Senator Averil Power left Fianna Fáil. Deputy Micheál Martin is a leader without followers.
The Chief Whip may smile all he likes, but his tenure is-----
The Government is trying to close down democracy and decent debate. We have a hostile takeover, yet we are not being allowed to debate it. On top of that key issue, Priority Questions-----
I will have to suspend the sitting of the House.
The Government is closing down the Dáil and showing a lack of respect. I was in Clongriffin last night when I heard the news.
We are not closing it down but opening it up.
We need a proper amount of time for a proper debate; we need common sense. The Government should stop closing down-----
Under Standing Orders, parliamentary questions must finish at 10.45 a.m. I have no discretion in the matter. I do not know if the Minister of State can offer me any assistance by indicating whether we can continue past 10.45 a.m.
That is a disgrace.
On a point of order-----
We can continue beyond 10.45 a.m. I have asked the question. Can we now proceed to Question Time? We are eating into the time allocated.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle----
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle should take everything together. We are serious about the matter.
My question is very straightforward. I asked it of the Taoiseach yesterday, but he ignored it. I asked it three times today of the Whip and he, too, ignored it. When will the documentation on this issue be supplied to Deputies in this Chamber? Second, the transport committee, including the sheep from the Labour Party and Fine Gael, asked that this decision be referred to it to be debated.
Sheep. What about the terrified troops of Sinn Féin?
How are we going to have a proper debate if the transport committee is ignored and we are not given an answer to the question as to when documentation which has been supplied to the media in a spinning way will be supplied to the elected representatives in this Chamber?
I am very conscious that we want to proceed to Question Time. Deputy Timmy Dooley has a question to ask. He will be followed by Deputy Emmet Stagg and that will be it.
On a point of order-----
I hope it is a point of order.
It is very clear that this House has become totally and utterly subservient to the Government.
That is not a point of order.
I want to find out when the Ceann Comhairle intends to address that issue. It goes back to the fact that a Clerk of the Dáil has still not been appointed, almost six months after----
It goes to the heart of what is happening here today. The House is being abused by the Government. It has failed to appoint a Clerk of the Dáil, a chief executive, to allow the House to operate its own business. The Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, promised us that the matter would be addressed in legislation. Obviously, Fine Gael won yet again against the Labour Party.
The Labour Party has acquiesced to Fine Gael to allow it abuse the processes of this House. This House is now subservient to the wishes and the whims of the Fine Gael Whip. That is an outrageous situation to allow continue and I am asking him to address it now.
We will take that up.
I have raised a point of order. My question is: when is the House going to become independent again?
That is not a point of order. That is a question.
When is the Fine Gael Government going to take its clutches off the way in which the business of this House is managed and allow the Members to address it through the commission as they always have done?
How many leaders does Fianna Fáil have?
That is not a point of order.
I will bring that up with the Ceann Comhairle and I am sure the Deputy will too.
I am asking the Government side when will it let its hands go from the tiller of the way this House operates? The chief executive has not been appointed.
I will ask the Government Whip to reply on that.
Can the Whip please tell us when that is going to happen?
I will ask and he will reply.
The Deputy should sit down.
I have asked a question on a point of order.
It is not a point of order.
Before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle calls someone else will he get my question answered please?
He should answer the question.
Can I get my question answered before------
How many leaders has Fianna Fáil?
I do not want to get into a round robin situation here. When am I going to get an answer?
I have some discretion as to who I call. I will call Deputy Stagg. Then I will call the Minister of State.
I accept that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has that discretion but I am waiting for an answer.
How many leaders has Fianna Fáil?
Deputy Dooley should sit down, for God's sake.
Can I get an answer to the question? I have posed a serious question, raised as a point of order.
It is not a point of order.
It is not a point of order.
Can I please get an answer to the question?
We are delaying Question Time while this is going on.
This goes to the fundamental aspect of the way this House is run, how it orders its business and how the Members get to have a say in the running of the House. It is quite distinct from the way the Government does its business. It used to be said that our Parliament was weak by comparison to the control of the Government. Today it has become a sub-committee of Government.
Deputy Dooley should resume his seat.
Deputy Dooley should suigh síos.
I cannot accept that for the people who have elected us.
Is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle going to chair this House?
This is not Question Time. Does the Minister of State have any information?
I want to read out the e-mail that was sent to the Whips yesterday evening:
Following on this evening’s Cabinet meeting it is proposed to move a debate on the motion re disposal of shares of Aer Lingus group over the next two days. The debate will start at 10.45 and will run to 9 p.m. tomorrow and will resume on Thursday morning at 10.45 and will run through Thursday. There will be the usual time slots for PQs, Order of Business, Leader’s Questions and the Topical Issue debate. Private Member’s business will take place tomorrow evening and will run from 9 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. tonight. With the usual vote to follow.
Then we went through the proposed breakdown. At the end of it I said, “If any Whip wants to give my private office a ring” I have given my mobile number.
The only Whip that availed of it was Deputy Ó Snodaigh. There was plenty of opportunity for the Fianna Fáil Whip to seek any clarification.
The question I have raised has not been answered.
Does the Minister of State have any reply for Deputy Dooley?
He has no information on that.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has a duty to protect the interests of this House. He has a duty to ensure that I get an answer to that question but the Chief Whip has summarily dismissed an agenda question which goes to the heart of the way we do our business in this House.
Which I will bring-----
The Deputy should sit down.
He shows complete disregard for the Members of this House, not just for his own backbenchers but for the people in Government with him. It is one thing dismissing the issues raised by the Opposition.
I will bring the Deputy’s question to the Ceann Comhairle’s attention.
I want the answer today. This is about today.
On a point of order-----
In fairness to the staff of the Chief Whip’s office I want to amplify what the Chief Whip has said. The Chief Whip’s office in fact did its duty on the instructions of the Whip and myself-----
This is not about offices. This is about genuine discussion between people.
-----to send out the notice and offer to any Whip or assistant Whip the right to actually come back and discuss the matter. That was done as soon as it was possible to do so.
On a point of order------
North Korea would be proud of the Government.
We will go to 10 o’clock.
I am trying to raise a legitimate point of order which is about how this House is being operated.
As distinct from the last one.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle recognised Deputy Dooley’s question as a legitimate point. He asked a question.
No, he did not.
How could he have recognised it when he called him until he had asked it?
That is why he called him. He asked the Chief Whip a simple question: when is the administrator to run the affairs of this House going to be appointed, as promised by the Government? Will the Chief Whip answer that question, "Yes" or "No"?
Did Deputy O’Dea think of that?
He has no answer.
Is he not obliged to answer the question, once the Leas-Cheann Comhairle recognised it as a legitimate question?
On a point of order, the Chief Whip indicated what he is planning to do but there was a commitment given to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that this would be brought back to the committee and discussed there, and the Government members of the committee agreed to this. The Chief Whip has not mentioned this. We are going to have statements, and possibly a vote. The Government is rushing this through without it being looked at, without documentation being studied and properly evaluated.
What is going on here?
It is outrageous that on such an important issue, a national issue like this, the Labour Party Deputies have capitulated to this mechanism.
We will move on to Question Time now. Deputy Troy is the first Deputy I will call.
Hold on a second.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle-----
Is the Chief Whip going to answer the question, "Yes" or "No"?
Deputy Ó Cuív has not spoken on this. I call him now.
The ordering of the business of this House to allow proper debate is important. The Whip knew when he ordered the business of the House for today last night that there would be a debate and a vote on his proposal before the House and instead of ordering the business of the House in a way that Question Time would go for 75 minutes after the conclusion of the vote on the motion-----
They do not want to answer the question.
-----he decided to cut unilaterally Question Time because this Government-----
The Deputy is wasting time now.
Last week we had two days off and no questions. Next week, there will be no questions. The Chief Whip is avoiding questions all the time and it was purposely done last night in the way he did the ordering that there would not be a full Question Time today. He knew it as a certainty.
There was supposed to be one this morning and the Deputy is now using it.
What is the Government hiding from?
There is three quarters of an hour.
A vote takes 20 minutes when there is a debate before the vote and so on. The Chief Whip knew yesterday that ordinary backbenchers would be denied their right-----
It is a cover-up.
-----to ask questions in this House. He owes it to us to explain why he decided to cut Question Time today.
He owes it to us to explain why he misled the House.
I am going on to Question Time.
It is not the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s fault.
I want to ask Deputy Troy who has the first question-----
How long do we have for Question Time?
We have until 10.45 a.m.
We have discussed that already.
We are going to lose time.
I have explained those issues. Deputy Troy has the floor.
On a point of order, could I try to be helpful if I can?
That would be a change.
Could I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to suspend the House for ten minutes to allow a discussion to take place between the two Whips-----
Are there only two Whips now, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael?
-----to try to rearrange the business so that we can give an adequate amount of time to questions because I know the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Reilly, is only brimming with information.
He would hate if he could not get the information he has in all his red files into the Official Report. Could we suspend for ten minutes, please?
Which were written for him.
I appeal to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle so that we can have that matter addressed-----
I appeal to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to recognise the issue that Deputy Ellis, I and others have raised in respect of having the matter sent to the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport is a separate issue and we will deal with that later.
So much for putting children first. All the questions about children will be wiped clean.
Can we have a brief interlude where we can have a discussion between the Whips which will allow for all these important questions to be addressed? The Government wants to clean everything up today. There are very serious issues about children which we all agree need to be addressed. Can we even have a five minute interlude? Will the Leas-Cheann Comhairle please facilitate this?
The Deputy should sit down.
What is the rush?
We have debated the issue as proposed by the Government Chief Whip. We have voted and we are moving on to Question Time. I am calling Deputy Troy.
To race through the questions on children is outrageous. It is an absolute disgrace.
Have the documents been laid before the House?
In the Oireachtas Library.
Is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle sure?
Will the Leas-Cheann Comhairle ask the Chief Whip if he is prepared to allow five minutes-----
Deputy Dooley is wasting time.
The answer is "No".
The answer is “No”.
It is very clear that the Government is not even prepared to give the appropriate time for the discussion of this important sale. Equally, it wants to hide the answers to questions relevant to children. Is that not an appalling vista from a Government that promised transparency and openness and all we get today is a cloak being pulled over the children of this State while all the time it wants to rush through the sale of Aer Lingus to put itself in funds to fight the next election?
It wants to dish out goodies to try to win votes from what it believes to be an unsuspecting general public.
Serious issues related to child protection will not be discussed.
I have called Deputy Troy and we have ordered business for the first part of the day.
While I do not want to tell the Leas-Cheann Comhairle his business, the Chair has a duty to protect the interests of the House and its Members and should not acquiesce to the carry-on of a dysfunctional Government.
I will fulfil my duty and I have been fair to Deputies. They may raise issues on the Order of Business, which follows Leaders' Questions.
We are not allowed to discuss these matters on the Order of Business.