Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 34, statements on European Council, Brussels, pursuant to Standing Order 102A(2)(b); No. 9, Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 – motion to instruct the Committee (resumed); and No. 33, Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and adjourn at the conclusion of Private Members’ business which shall be No. 192, motion re one-parent family payment scheme (resumed), which shall take place at 9 p.m. or, in the event of a division being in progress at that time, immediately thereafter, and which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; and No. 34 shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business and that the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and that the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group who shall be called on in that order, may share their time and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; a Minister or a Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes; and a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called on to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes and be followed by the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 23(1).

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 33, Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; and No. 5a, Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to?

No, it is not agreed to. I object to the rescheduling of Private Members' business which clearly is being done by the Government to facilitate the railroading through of contentious legislation before the Dáil goes into recess. The Private Members' motion is about cuts to lone parent payments, yet the Government is moving the debate to prioritise even more austerity measures for hard-pressed citizens. The punitive measures to cut allowances for lone parents will take effect tomorrow and affect 30,000 families, many of whom will be pushed further into poverty. I am sure the Taoiseach knows that the CSO's figures show that 63% of lone parent families live without basic necessities and are among the most vulnerable in society. In another broken promise, the Tánaiste said the cuts would not be implemented without affordable child care and afterschool care services being available, but these services are not in place. Rather than have a proper debate on these matters, the Government jiggles and jigs the clár to allow it to bring forward other measures to facilitate the passage of legislation that will penalise people in not paying water charges they cannot afford. It is a very bad way to deal with Dáil business and shows nothing but contempt both for Government backbenchers and Opposition Deputies.

The Sinn Féin Party is perfectly entitled to table its Private Members' motion on the one-parent family payment scheme. This is not the first time there have changes to the Order of Business. The important point is that Deputy Gerry Adams, as leader of his party, and the members of that party are perfectly entitled to make their case during Private Members' time. There will be an opportunity to vote on the issue, which is normal procedure during Private Members' time. It does not show contempt or anything else for Members.

The Deputy's party is fully entitled to avail of Private Members' time. It chooses what to debate and its spokespersons have their opportunity to make their case. It is a rearrangement of business-----

To suit the Taoiseach.

-----but Sinn Féin's motion is an important part of it. I am quite sure the Deputy's voice will be heard during the debate.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with the late sitting be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Staon, ; Níl, 43.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

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

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 34, statements on the European Council in Brussels, pursuant to Standing Order 102A(2)(b), agreed to? Agreed.

The Minister for Health has been performing some extraordinary somersaults on Government health policy in recent times. This morning he was on "Morning Ireland" attempting to give the impression that the programme for Government was not as strong in terms of its commitment to universal health insurance as what was included in the Fine Gael manifesto in 2011. He also made comments to the effect that universal health insurance could not be introduced in one big bang. The programme for Government is emphatic and clear. It states, "[t]his Government will introduce Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all" and "[a] system of Universal Health Insurance (UHI) will be introduced by 2016, with the legislative and organisational groundwork for the system complete within this Government’s term of office". On 9 March 2011, when introducing the Government's programme, the Taoiseach said, "In the vital area of health, we will introduce universal health insurance...." In case people will suggest the Labour Party had not signed up, the then Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, said on 2 April 2014 at the launch of the White Paper that in 2001 the Labour Party had been the first political party in Ireland to propose universal health insurance based on multiple insurers. The Labour Party was in favour of universal health insurance before Fine Gael. The introduction of universal health insurance was an explicit commitment on the part of both Fine Gael and the Labour Party and it is extraordinary that the Government has essentially wasted four years on a flawed policy based on a flawed model which it presented to the people.

Is Fianna Fáil agreeing or disagreeing with Leo?

We are agreeing with him.

It represents perhaps one of the biggest untruths before the general election.

Leo does not know himself.

Why does Deputy Micheál Martin not just say that in the first place?

The Deputy might allow me to speak. It is not a laughing matter when one considers that individual taxpayers could face a bill of up to €3,000 under the Government's proposals.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has undertaken a major study on this and it was presented to the Minister on 21 May. However, the document is being held back.

Deputy Martin is agreeing with the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar.

The document is not being published. Will the Taoiseach confirm, first of all, that the commitment in the programme for Government to legislation - it states that universal health insurance legislation will be introduced - has now been formally and officially abandoned? A year ago the Minister said the same thing. The Taoiseach had a cut off him, marked his cards, said he was wrong and that universal health insurance was still on the Government's agenda. Anyway, he was clear this morning. He is now using new language, calling it universal health care. It is a real slíbhín approach, as if we will disappear or eliminate it, like George Orwell. It is almost Orwellian as if he is saying we never actually promised universal health insurance. It is as if he wants to bury all the documents or get rid of them. That seems to be what is happening. People are not fools. I want the Taoiseach to confirm it. Is universal health insurance off the table? Will the Government publish the ESRI report, which went into the costings of universal health insurance? Will the Government also publish the KPMG report it commissioned in respect of this policy?

Four years on the Government has created havoc throughout the health service with waiting lists, waiting times and accident and emergency departments across the board. There have been extraordinary increases in waiting times. The Government issue is not resolved by any shape or means. The then Minister, Deputy James Reilly, was disastrous during his tenure as Minister for Health. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, seems to be doing nothing more than to try to put a brave face on it and to get presentational issues right before the next general election. A big lie was told here on this health issue. A big, big lie was told before the last election to the people. It is time we got some truth, transparency and honesty from the Government in respect of this issue.

It is a common word that Deputy Martin uses these days. I assure Deputy Martin that the matter of universal health insurance is part of the Government's agenda.

It is not on the agenda of the Minister for Health.

I confirm for Deputy Martin that it will not be introduced in the lifetime of this Government. I confirm for Deputy Martin that the steps that have to be taken to restructure the health system for any particular form of universal health insurance are taking longer than anyone expected.

The Minister did not say that this morning.

Clearly we have gone a long way with the primary care teams, the building of the primary centres, the free GP care strategy for under sixes and over 70s and hospital groups that have been established.

That has nothing to do universal health insurance.

We have moved to hospital trusts to define what is best in the different areas.

We do not have hospital trusts.

There is far more use of generic drugs. The issues of consultant pay and stabilisation of the private health insurance market have been addressed.

The answer to Deputy Martin's question is that it will not be introduced in the lifetime of this Government. It is still on the agenda. The Minister received the ESRI report. It is a first draft and does not take into account the cost reduction factors that are put in there.

Is the Government going to publish it?

There are also issues about the unmet areas that have to be costed.

Will the Government publish it?

Obviously, the Minister will consider the report. It is not going to happen in the lifetime of this Government.

Will the Government publish the ESRI report?

Deputy Martin can believe me. Having examined the scale of the change that is necessary to get the kind of health system that we all need, it is clear it will take some considerable time of the next Administration.

We are further away from it now.

Deputy Gerry Adams is next.

It is a simple matter.

We are short of time.

I asked about the publication. Will the Taoiseach commit to the publication of the ESRI report? Why the secrecy? Why the failure to publish something that should be shared with everyone in this House and with the public generally? What is the Government trying to hide from the public?

Will the Taoiseach make a commitment to publish the ESRI report? That is what I asked.

I know the Minister is considering the figures that are in the ESRI report. As I said to Deputy Martin, this is a first draft. There is a great deal of further work to be done here. I have seen reports of figures but I have not read the report myself yet. I will do so. Obviously, I will consider what the best option is arising from that report, whether to publish it or whether to require further necessary work.

The Taoiseach wants to rewrite the report.

No, there is no need to be so smart at all.

I have called Deputy Adams, please.

The ESRI is an independent body. Will it be allowed to produce the report and publish it?

Deputy Martin was the Minister who famously said-----

We only have a short period.

Just because the Taoiseach does not like the messages that come from the ESRI is no basis for him to go and prevent it from being published. The Taoiseach is a bit of a dictator. If he does not like what the report says, he rewrites it.

Deputy Martin was the Minister who famously said in the Department of Health that he had no responsibility for anything.

I have called Deputy Adams, please.

He said he had no responsibility.

He does not have the courage to say he will publish it.

Sorry, Taoiseach and Deputy Martin. I have called Deputy Adams. We have only three minutes left.

Will the Government publish it? What is the Government afraid of? Will it publish the ESRI report on universal health insurance?

We have only three minutes. I am sorry.

Is it because it exposes the Government's policy, which has been hopelessly flawed from day one? A big, big lie was told to the people and the Taoiseach knows it.

This is the Order of Business. Deputy Martin, please. I call Deputy Adams. We only have two minutes left now.

I remind the Deputy that when he had responsibility he put 120 reports, at taxpayers' expense, on the shelf which were never published.

It is the Taoiseach's responsibility now.

Deputy Gerry Adams is next. Can we have order, please?

(Interruptions).

The Fine Gael Deputies cannot even remember the five-point plan.

Deputy Deasy knows of the difficulties of Waterford University Hospital because of this Government's policies.

Please, we are finished that.

Tá ceist agam faoi the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill agus ceann eile faoi the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill. I will deal with that ar dtús. The Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill is up for debate tomorrow. It will allow creditors, including Irish Water, to apply for a court order that enables the attachment of earnings or deductions from social welfare payments for the purpose of the enforcement of debt. The Government has brought this forward without adhering to normal Dáil pre-legislative procedures. It failed to publish the heads of the Bill and failed to allow it to go to the committee for consideration by stakeholders. It has failed to allow a minimum of two weeks for offices to scrutinise the Bill upon publication. We only got sight of a draft of the Bill last Friday, and then that was changed on Monday. This is really an underhand method to force through the Dáil a Bill that will pick the pockets of low-paid workers and people on social welfare. It will force more people into poverty. I call on the Taoiseach to reconsider the position he has taken up and to allow normal procedures. The Taoiseach talked earlier about the need for democracy to prevail. Will the Government publish the heads of the Bill, allow it to go to the committee and allow proper scrutiny by the relevant offices?

The Government has said rightly that it cannot proceed with the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill because of a court case. It now appears that the case has to go before the Supreme Court and it could be a year before the first same-sex citizens are able to marry. I accept entirely the right of citizens to go to the courts, but it strikes me that the time involved is lengthy, particularly given that this was not only in legislation in the Dáil but a referendum by the people as well.

Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn and I have given a draft Bill to the Bills Office to amend the Referendum Act 1994 to provide for a statutory timeframe for 90 days within which referendum petitions must be heard and decided by the courts. We intend to bring that forward next week. Will the Government consider supporting this Bill on sight of it?

If the Supreme Court upholds the referendum result, how soon does the Taoiseach expect the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill to be published after that?

Deputy Adams referred to the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill. The Government is moving because of the body of work done by the Law Reform Commission. The commission set out a great deal of opportunity not to have people sent to jail for small debts and to expand that beyond one particular entity and have it for civil debt. This would apply across the board. I believe that is progressive. That has already being worked upon for a long time and the Government is simply building on that foundation in the form of the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill before the House. That will proceed.

Deputy Adams also referred to the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill. We need to be careful here. Deputy Adams spoke earlier about the will of the people. The people expressed their will in a referendum on the question and gave a resounding "Yes" to the question.

I am constrained here in what I say because there is clearly a separation of powers between the Oireachtas and the courts. If Deputy Mac Lochlainn’s Bill, which I am sure is well intended, were passed or if the Government decided to put its Bill through the House, it would be a direct affront to the independence of the Judiciary. We cannot go there. One could argue whether the people, having decided by vote in a referendum, have expressed their will. People take cases before the court. A case is due on 30 July. I cannot interfere in that process and I have no intention of doing so.

It is not seeking to interfere. It is a general Bill.

We are bound by the complete and utter independence of the Judiciary and the courts system. We will not interfere in any way.

It is not specific to a case.

One cannot give directions to the court.

It concerns the people's decision being decided upon quickly one way or the other.

We might all have wished for the result to be left as it was when the referendum was passed by the people, but people have a right to take court cases. It is not for us, the Deputy or the House to direct the courts on what to do. The Deputy should not go there because there is a complete separation of powers. The Government is anxious to move ahead with its legislation as quickly as possible and have it enacted and applicable by the year's end for those who wish to give three months' notice and get married. I cannot predict the outcome of the court decision, nor will I speculate on it.

The Bill is ready to go from our point of view but my advice is that it would be very wrong for the Oireachtas to proceed with it in advance of the court making its decision. I am sorry I cannot be more specific.

I thank the Taoiseach for his answer but wish to reiterate the point that Teachta Mac Lochlainn was making. I said in my remarks that we respect absolutely and uphold the right of citizens to go to the courts. We are not seeking to interfere with the court system or interfere in any way with the separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Oireachtas but there seems to be an unfortunate and overly long period for dealing with this issue, although it might not be intentional. We simply want to bring forward for consideration a proposition that establishes timeframes for the process but does not interfere with it.

Obviously, if one tries to give a direction to a court stating such a decision must be decided by such a date, how does one know the arguments that are going to arise? How does one know the other objections or elements that might be raised? One just cannot do it. I refer to the utter separation of the Judiciary from the Oireachtas. Deputy Mac Lochlainn's Bill might be well intentioned but he cannot give directions to a court through the parliamentary system.

I thank the Taoiseach. I regret I cannot call the other Deputies who are offering to contribute. I hope they will be able to try again tomorrow. That concludes the Order of Business.