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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Sep 2015

Vol. 891 No. 1

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 46, Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 - Report Stage (resumed); No. 6, Finance (Tax Appeals) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 7, Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members' business, which shall be No. 206, motion re social housing (resumed) and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in relation to No. 13a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the 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 and such Members may share their time; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case; and (iii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 13a, motion re relocation opt-ins; No. 6, Finance (Tax Appeals) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 7, Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the first proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the second for dealing with No. 13a agreed? Agreed.

There has been much talk about billions of euro and so on. My office was contacted last night by Respond housing association in order to highlight that on Monday last it announced the closure of its women's refuge in Tallaght at Christmas. There are nine families housed at that refuge right now. Respond has been funding the facility itself for three years at €350,000 per annum. It has now run out of funds and has appealed to various Government Departments. However, it has been informed that it will not obtain access to funding. The families at the refuge, some of which left extreme circumstances of distress and domestic violence, will become homeless. Under the provisions of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, I urge the Government to intervene. Something should be done. An episode such as this illustrates how out of touch all the rhetoric, verbiage and announcements are when, in reality, in places such as Tallaght, very good services are shutting down for the want of meagre funding.

I note that in the programme for Government, under the criminal law reform section, the Government commits to enacting legislation by stating, "We will enact legislation to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to forfeiting the proceeds of crime." Given the size and scale of the Project Eagle deal, is the Government absolutely satisfied that there is nothing to be concerned about regarding the allegations of misappropriation of funds, bribes, offshore accounts and pay-offs? Some of this is accepted. The £7 million in an offshore account is accepted in terms of what happened there. Deputy Wallace has raised other serious issues. I have been raising this since July in terms of the establishment of a commission of investigation as a result of the fact that this matter involves taxpayers' money. Is the Taoiseach certain there is nothing in the Project Eagle deal about which to be concerned? When can we expect the proposed legislation? I suggest that the Criminal Assets Bureau requires legislative enhancement and the Taoiseach says he is going to do it.

That was four years ago, admittedly. It is to be addressed in respect of two matters, the first of which concerns cross-jurisdictional issues in the North and Republic. This would apply to Project Eagle should the Criminal Assets Bureau be involved in that scenario. The second matter concerns paramilitary criminality in terms of fuel laundering and smuggling. The National Crime Agency and MI5 are getting involved in this. Why is there not a proposal by our Government for a joint approach between CAB and the National Crime Agency in terms of tackling what has occurred for years and what continues to occur? Up to £70 million has been lost through smuggling, fuel laundering and many other such activities.

I can confirm to Deputy Martin that there is a great deal of information shared among the authorities in the Republic and Northern Ireland in regard to criminal activities, money trails and so on. I do not know all the details, obviously, because it is a very specialised business dealing with fuel laundering and other criminal activities. There have been quite a number of seizures of equipment and people brought before the law in respect of those matters.

The Deputy is aware that there are two ongoing investigations in Northern Ireland, one by the police and the other by a parliamentary commission. In so far as NAMA is concerned, the Minister for Finance has answered questions on quite a number of occasions and has agreed that whatever information from this jurisdiction might be required in those investigations will be made available. NAMA itself has responded in considerable detail-----

It has not gone up.

-----to the Committee of Public Accounts here. I mentioned to Deputy Wallace yesterday that he will have an opportunity tomorrow to have the information given to him and evidence to back it up, if necessary. This can be raised at the committee that is accountable to the House in respect of NAMA.

With regard to the women's refuge in Tallaght that the Deputy mentioned, I do not have the details. If it was in receipt of €350,000 per year, there must be a reason-----

No. It has been raising that money itself.

Does the Deputy know the figure?

The Government is not responding to it and it announced its closure at Christmas. Nine families are housed in the refuge in Tallaght.

I misunderstood the Deputy. I believed he said the organisation had a grant of €350,000. He says it raised the money itself. I will have the details of this figured out-----

The organisation has approached the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach to continue.

I will have the matter followed through to determine the position. Obviously, there is-----

The Government is making a mockery of everything, with all the talk that goes on, the millions and plans. The people on the ground see all this happening.

Could the Deputy please stop interrupting?

This is a parliament.

Yes, but there is order in a parliament.

And flexibility as well.

NAMA is not actually accountable to the Committee of Public Accounts. That is the Taoiseach's kick and that of his Government, particularly the Minister for Finance. Far from answering questions on NAMA generally and specifically on the controversy surrounding Project Eagle, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, has studiously avoided addressing the issue. Therefore, I want to ask when he will make a full statement to the Dáil and explain why a corrupted bidding practice was allowed to continue, why he failed to inform the Executive in the North and why he was happy to allow a process to continue which, in the final analysis-----

We cannot debate the issue on the Order of Business.

We know for the second time was also corrupted.

Second, on the issue I raised with the Taoiseach earlier, I want him to point me to the legislation, or promised legislation, in the programme for Government in which he proposes to remedy the flaws in the law that have left families in fire traps and with big demands of cash made on them. There are no mandatory inspections before fire safety certificates are granted for buildings such as Longboat Quay. He should point me to the legislation in which he proposes to sort that out for people so we will not return to scenarios like this time and again.

The Taoiseach will recall that in December 2014 a Sinn Féin motion on the recognition of the Palestinian State was passed by the Dáil unanimously on a cross-party basis. In light of the fact that today, after a ceremony in New York, the Palestinian flag will be raised for the first time at the UN buildings, when does the Taoiseach propose to move on that motion to give to the Palestinian State and its diplomatic representatives here in Dublin full recognition, full ambassadorial status and everything associated with it?

I happened to be in the UN buildings on Thursday and Friday last week and had the privilege of speaking there. I was aware of the Palestinian flag flying, reflecting Palestine's observer status, outside the UN buildings for the first time. I will consider the point the Deputy mentioned.

The Minister for Finance has been before the House and has answered questions on numerous occasions about the matter raised. Obviously, the company in question was dropped. Other interests were expressed and the process continued. As I stated, there are two ongoing investigations. They are not in this jurisdiction. The Minister has been quite open and up-front in that whatever assistance he can give in respect of those investigations will be made available.

Can he make a statement to the Dáil?

We have made the point that NAMA itself has been before the Committee of Public Accounts discussing these matters in some considerable detail. Its representatives will be appearing again tomorrow.

With regard to Longboat Quay, the Minister has moved to address this. Clearly, it is a matter for the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, the receiver to the developer, the residents themselves and their management company, in addition to Dublin Fire Brigade, to resolve this collaboratively. I understand that all the authorities are trying to find a solution to this. In the interest of supporting owners and residents living in developments such as Longboat Quay where concerns are brought to light about non-compliance, particularly with fire regulations, the Minister has directed that a review be undertaken to develop a framework that will apply generally in future cases of this kind. That review will be undertaken by a steering group chaired by Mr. Martin Riordan, who was formerly manager of Cork County Council, and including representatives from Kildare County Council and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The steering group will be assisted by an independent fire safety expert.

Where is the legislative remedy? The law is insufficient and has left these people in the circumstances they are in. Never mind the review; where is the law?

I pointed out to the Deputy earlier that the law applies in terms of the planning permission issued-----

There are no mandatory inspections. The certificates are granted based on the plans.

We cannot have a debate across the floor of the House.

Is that not the very reason, given the mess that was left in the property, building and construction sector-----

I am not interested in him.

I know the Deputy is not interested in him. I am only telling her that is why the housing regulations were changed. That is why the delays have occurred and why costs have increased. We do not want the circumstances that applied before to continue.

Where is the evidence of this in the legislative programme?

Could the Deputy please allow the Taoiseach to continue? We are not having a debate on this.

The planning permission is issued in certain conditions.

The Deputy should put down a parliamentary question.

The situation was that there may be others in the system, and the Minister has already set up a structure to deal with where this may apply in other Longboat Quay situations, such as Priory Hall and other developments around the country.

Given the scourge of the rising levels of rural crime, robberies, break-ins and violent crimes, there are a number of justice Bills.

The Deputy must not have been here for Leaders' Questions.

When can we expect the criminal justice (corruption) Bill and the criminal justice (victims rights) Bills?

I can inform Deputy Bannon that both those Bills are due for publication in this session.

They have nothing to do with burglaries.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation confirmed yesterday at a committee meeting that he will be seeking a Supplementary Estimate of some €20 million, particularly in regard to the IDA property portfolio. When is it envisaged that the Estimate will come before the House? How many other Departments will be seeking increases or additional Estimates between now and the end of the year?

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is currently engaged with each Minister and Minister of State and their Departments in respect of provisions for 2016.

When those discussions have been completed, obviously the extent of any Supplementary Estimate will become known and the Minister will deal with that in the run-up to the budget.

We need to provide a legislative framework for the better governance of health information. Initiatives in this regard would include data matching, health information resources for use in health services, support for clinical audits and patient safety notification. Provision would also be made for the extension of HIQA's remit to private health service providers. When can we expect publication of the health information and patient safety Bill?

That will not be published until early next year.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said the Cabinet had approved the ordering of 150 modular homes on foot of a presentation made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Did he give any background details as to where they might be located, the costs associated with them or the fact that they may or may not have planning permission? NAMA sold 11,000 units in Dublin this year with planning permission. Is emergency legislation needed in order for construction to proceed at an earlier date than the normal procurement or planning process would take, namely, 18 months? This is just another example of the cobbled-together efforts the Government is making in order to make it appear as if it has some semblance over the situation, which it clear does not. Perhaps the Taoiseach will indicate whether new legislation is required or whether the planning legislation needs to be amended for these units to be put in place a lot sooner than is normally the case. He announced 7,500 units for this year this year, of which only 493 are available.

This is another example of the scale of the catastrophe that the Deputy's crowd left behind them.

That might have washed five years ago, but it will not wash in five months' time.

It might wash, actually.

Let us bring it on, yes.

Let us listen to the answer.

Those opposite were building 100,000 houses.

Answer the question.

Will the Deputies please allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

There is no point.

Fifteen years of debt.

You are a waffler.

I call on the Taoiseach to reply.

If I am allowed to respond.

Would you hold on please?

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.

The previous Government was building 100,000 houses a year and that collapsed to fewer than 8,000. That is the mess it left behind. Now those in Fianna Fáil want to complicate the matter further. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has already made it clear that the modular units are on display for anybody to see.

He wants 150 of those provided immediately and a total of 500 will eventually be provided as a temporary measure. When the social houses are completed and built properly, they will be allocated to people on a permanent basis. The Minister is dealing with the issues he needs to deal with in terms of procurement or whether-----

Is planning permission needed?

-----permission is required on council ground or whatever. The locations have not been finalised.

Will legislation be required?

The Deputy wants everything done instantly and the answers yesterday.

The Government does not know how to deal with it.

Fianna Fáil should have dealt with it ten years ago.

I am sorry, we are not having a debate on the issue. The Taoiseach is just giving the information.

This is part of a response to deal with the situation that exists. A Deputy over here was seeking €4 billion now, today. He wants answers yesterday.

I only want to know if planning permission will be required,

Those opposite created a mess that we have to clean up and will continue to clean up for a long time to come.

Will planning permission be required?

I call Deputy Durkan.

This is something that might be of interest to the Opposition as well, having regard to the fact that they closed down the Templemore Garda training centre and have moaned about the consequences since. In view of the large number of gardaí who have been injured in the course of their duties in recent years - and commensurately during the past ten to 12 years - have the heads of the Garda Síochána (compensation for malicious injuries) Bill been approved? When is it likely to come before the House? Some 2,136 gardaí were maliciously injured in the past four years. In the previous four-year period a similar number were injured.

I think the Deputy has made his point.

In view of the number of man-hours lost as a result of those injuries, I ask that a level of urgency be exercised in the context of introducing the Bill.

The heads of that Bill have been approved for some time. I can inform Deputy Durkan that it is expected to be published early in the new year.

There was modular housing in my constituency when I started out in politics and people had been living in it for ten or 15 years. They had to be rehoused. Like other Deputies, I visited the display of modular housing and I honestly do not think the Taoiseach-----

That is all very interesting but what are we talking about?

For the Taoiseach's information, at €70,000 or €80,000 a pop, I do not think modular housing is the solution.

Perhaps the Deputy can have a chat with the Taoiseach afterwards.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about one other point he mentioned concerning the clerk of works scheme and the planning and development (No. 2) Bill. Why does he not just restore the clerk of works scheme? Many of us worked on sites when we were kids and found that the clerk of works system was brilliant, as Deputy Wallace has often said. Why does he not just restore it then? He will not restore it because of the liability to the State and it goes back to finance.

Is it the planning and development (No. 2) Bill?

I really wanted to ask him about the criminal justice (corruption) Bill.

I am sorry, but what did you say about the planning and development (No. 2) Bill?

It is the planning and development (No. 2) Bill, as well. My final point concerns the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. Before the end of the lifetime of this Dáil, would it be possible for us to have a discussion on the Garda investigations into criminality and irregularities that were discovered by the Flood, Mahon and Moriarty tribunals? I have asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, many times about that issue but she just keeps kicking it to touch. Will it happen in this Dáil at all?

I do not have any difficulty asking the Whip to arrange an appropriate time for a discussion on what the Deputy said. The criminal justice (corruption) Bill is due for publication this session, as is the planning and development (No. 2) Bill. The modular housing units are not meant to be a solution. There is a particularly urgent situation here that needs to be addressed. The modular units that are now available are very different from the ones to which the Deputy referred. These are warm, comfortable, well insulated and have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.

Why are people not living in them?

The people to whom they will be allocated should only be in them for the shortest possible time - 12 to 15 months - until their social houses are built and allocated to them on a permanent basis.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about three issues. The first concerns new wind energy guidelines. I have repeatedly asked when these guidelines will be published. I understand through leaked information that there is a disagreement between two of the Taoiseach's Cabinet colleagues about what new guidelines will be published. There is uncertainty out there and the general public needs to know what new robust guidelines will be produced and when we will have them.

Second, I have repeatedly asked about a new tenant purchase scheme. Many people living in local authority houses wish to have the opportunity to purchase their own homes. There has been no scheme for those people for over 18 months. Councils use this money to reinvest in upgrading other houses, providing grants for people with disabilities and building houses. This has starved councils of much-needed revenue but it has also prevented families from purchasing their own homes. I have asked the Taoiseach about this matter, as well as submitting parliamentary questions to the relevant Minister as to when this scheme will be announced, but we are still no wiser.

Third, the vetting legislation has gone through both Houses of the Oireachtas and we are waiting for the Minister for Justice and Equality to sign the commencement order. When will that be signed?

I will come back to Deputy Troy in respect of his third question. As regards the tenant purchase scheme, obviously the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government reviews this on a regular basis. It is an important point because once a person is allocated a local authority house and starts to pay rent, a proportion of that money is used as an opportunity to buy out the house in due course. It also provides some revenue, small though the amount may be, to local authorities.

It has been closed for two years.

It is different if a person is allocated a house that was built by a housing organisation, which they cannot buy out. It causes a difficulty for people themselves. I will advise the Deputy on that.

Discussions in respect of wind energy guidelines are ongoing and until they reach a conclusion, the 2006 guidelines apply to wind energy situations.

I have three matters to touch on. The first is a combination of the good work that Deputy Catherine Murphy has done in revealing the shortcomings of IBRC. The liquidation of IBRC was done under very hurried legislation at night-time. I also wish to refer to the good work done by Deputy Wallace in regard to NAMA, the legislation relating to which was rushed through on 16 September 2009. These are two dark pools of malpractice. For example, fraud has been revealed with regard to interest rates charged, from the 1990s to date, in the case of IBRC.

This is the Order of Business.

John Morrissey won a case in the High Court under Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan. Following this, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Minister for Finance and the banking inquiry were written to-----

The Deputy must find some other way of raising this - perhaps a Topical Issue?

Nobody wants to address-----

There are matters the Deputy can raise on the Order of Business and there are other matters that must be dealt with in a different way. I am advising him that the important issue he is raising can be dealt with if he tables a Topical Issue matter, but not on the Order of Business.

To recap and to make sure I am not making a mistake, the business of the Dáil is to deal with upcoming legislation, the programme for Government and all related matters. This is a related matter in respect of how Ireland works.

Who told the Deputy about related matters?

It is, very much so. Deputy Wallace has shown that the loss to the Irish people-----

For the Deputy's information, the full list of matters that can be raised on the Order of Business includes business on the Order Paper; the taking of business that has been promised, including legislation promised either within or outside the Dáil; the making of secondary legislation subject to the proviso that the Taoiseach may defer replying to a question relating to secondary legislation to another day; and arrangements for sittings when Bills or other documents on the Order Paper needed in the House will be circulated. That is what is in order on the Order of Business so would the Deputy please stick to that? If he has other issues, he should submit a Topical Issue matter or find some other way and I will consider it.

As a result of the business, the decision by the Taoiseach and this House and the Ceann Comhairle's recognition of those decisions, IBRC and certain transactions are being investigated and reviewed. This is one that should be included. It involves fraudulent interest charges in two respects. One is the 365-360 day error, which was a very conscious error in favour of the bank, and the other is the fraudulent Libor, Dibor and Euribor starting in the 1990s, which overvalued Anglo Irish Bank by a factor of-----

The Deputy is out of order. Will he please resume his seat?

I said three things-----

Will the Deputy please remain in order? I do not like interrupting him.

I dislike this tension between us.

If the Deputy sticks to the rules of the House, I will not interfere with him. That is my job.

The Ceann Comhairle sees a problem where there is none. That is the trouble.

I have explained to the Deputy what is and what is not in order and I have told him how to raise other issues.

The gambling control Bill seems to be continually deferred. Paddy Power has taken over Betfair. It is one of the biggest gambling organisations in the world and we have no control over gambling. That is one issue. I ask the Taoiseach make it a priority.

The other issue is that the people of Ireland are losing about €3 billion as a result of what Deputy Wallace spoke about yesterday and last Thursday. The reason is because NAMA is a dark pool into which nobody can look and see how decisions are made. As a result, foreign funds mostly dollar-denominated as per the chairman, Frank Daly - 95% of them - buy cheap euro to buy cheap assets to make profits that go outside Ireland. In this context, €3 billion is twice the figure of €1.5 billion that the Taoiseach is talking about in the budget adjustments for this year

The Deputy knows he is out of order. There is one piece of legislation. Will the Deputy resume his seat? Other Deputies are waiting and there are only two minutes left.

There are no Deputies waiting.

There are. Will the Deputy resume his seat?

There is a leader of a party.

There are three of them present.

They are not interested in making any contribution to the Order of Business.

How do you know that?

It is because the Ceann Comhairle leaves me till last.

No, I did not leave the Deputy until last. When he indicates, I call him.

The gambling control Bill is due for publication in spring 2016. As the Deputy knows, NAMA is appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts tomorrow.