It is proposed to take No. 218, motion re hospital emergency departments (resumed); and No. 40, statements on reports of the Convention on the Constitution. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in relation to No. 40 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.42 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and (ii) the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time.
Order of Business
There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 40, statements on the reports of the Convention on the Constitution, agreed to? Agreed. On the Order of Business, I call Deputy Cowen.
In the context of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government Bill, will the Tánaiste give consideration to allocating time to discuss proposed legislation on foot of the Private Members' Bill by Deputy Troy and by Sinn Féin on one authority for the Shannon region and jurisdiction over its maintenance, and also a Bill produced by Deputy Michael McGrath seeking mandatory insurance for those whom reside where flood defences have been put in place? The Minister of State, Deputy Harris, has stated that the Government has not ruled out the possibility of one authority. If there were heads of Bills produced, maybe it could be debated and there could be agreement amongst all parties on an authority that would receive the full support of the House. Those three issues are intertwined, as the Tánaiste will be well aware. In light of the time that remains, would the Tánaiste make an effort to single out specific time for elaboration on those areas in order for a more informed decision to be made ultimately by Government that would benefit all concerned?
The Taoiseach addressed this yesterday. I am perfectly happy to see more time allocated to these important intertwined issues in relation to a single authority for the Shannon. A Bill on that was published by my colleague, Deputy Penrose, some time ago and some of the current work relies fairly heavily on Deputy Penrose's work, and I acknowledge that work here.
On Deputy Michael McGrath's proposal in relation to householders being covered by the insurance sector where flood defences have been installed, I stated earlier there is an issue around demountable flood defences, which have been put in in various areas and where the rate of insurance coverage is much lower than in relation to more traditional flood defences. That is a topic we will return to. The Taoiseach and I will also meet the representatives of the insurance sector again by the end of next week. I am perfectly happy to see time allocated but I suggest the detail might be left for discussion by the Whips.
My party did not object to the Order of Business today but it is extremely disappointing that such a limited amount of time is being allocated for the discussion of the reports from the Constitutional Convention. We have waited and waited and now, at the 11th hour, we have what is a minimalist debate. We did not object or look for a vote on the Order of Business simply because at least now there is some form of debate on reports that have been long outstanding.
The second issue I raise is the issue of Moore Street. A number of Deputies have submitted Topical Issues. I understand that my party's Topical Issue has been accepted.
Were they read out earlier?
I will get the list.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle might check that for me. In any event, we need a deeper discussion on this issue than a Topical Issue affords us. The Tánaiste will be aware that there has been a campaign for the best part of two decades to force the State and whatever Government to treat Moore Street, the entire terrace and the vicinity around the GPO up as far as Parnell Square, in a fitting and appropriate manner. People would be rightly horrified at the idea if anybody suggested today that one might bulldoze Kilmainham Gaol and put up a shopping mall but I remind the Tánaiste that Kilmainham Gaol is only now what it is because of the activism and insistence of people on the ground. The State let that place too go to rack and ruin with absolutely no regard for its historical import.
We are at a crossroads and we need a full debate here in the Oireachtas. The stall needs to be set out. I plead with Deputy Burton, as the outgoing Tánaiste and as a person in leadership in government in the centenary year, to do right in respect of Moore Street.
The State's response has been minimalist, almost to the point of being insulting to the memory of the men and women who, 100 years ago, struck a blow for the Republic. There is major economic potential for the inner city of Dublin and beyond in creating what would be a tourist mecca and a massive economic hub in the north inner city.
For those reasons, I appeal to the Tánaiste to make time for us to debate these issues. I hope every Member of the Oireachtas, irrespective of political stripe, finds it within himself or herself to support what is blindingly obvious, namely, the necessity for the full preservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street terrace in its entirety and the entire revolutionary quarter.
There will be a Topical Issue debate, raised by six Deputies, including Deputy McDonald, on the restoration works on the national monument, Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street.
I have had a very long-standing interest in Moore Street and have had the privilege of being in Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 Moore Street. I have also had the opportunity to look very closely at the plans proposed by the various historical experts and public bodies which will undertake the work. While not everybody agrees with this, the proposals rank alongside what I have seen done in similar situations. It is a very high-quality proposal which fits in with maintaining the fabric of a street on which I partly grew up. I know every corner of the street. I shopped on the street with my mother from when I was a very small child. I know all the lanes and I know where everybody came out, where nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell came and where The O'Rahilly was shot. It is part of all our history. What has been proposed deserves very careful consideration by everybody.
There have been a number of throwaway comments about shops being in the vicinity. The Deputy represents the north inner city now. The essence of the north inner city is that it is a very large retail shopping area. The whole of the wider O'Connell Street area almost as far as the canal is part of the 1916 Rising battlefield. It is similar on the south side. The question must be faced by all big cities that have a vast amount of fascinating history which, as the Deputy rightly said, is a very big draw for citizens of the Irish Republic which was created 100 years ago. We are the proud inheritors of it.
We must face the question of how we have the city function as a city centre. Other countries have done this very well. If the Deputy examines many of the books and photographs of the time, she will see that the proposal is very true to what the street looked like at the time. I have a particular interest in this and have examined them over many years. I hope the people from Éirígí who went into Nos. 14 to 17 recently did not do any damage to what are extraordinarily fragile buildings. I ask the Deputy to use her good offices as a political leader to ensure no further damage is done to the fabric. What is proposed is a modern conservation in which a limited number of people-----
It is a shopping mall.
There will be a Topical Issue debate on it.
There is nothing wrong with people in the north side of Dublin wanting to shop in the vicinity of the GPO. I have done it all my life, and it is one of the great pleasures of being around the GPO and being in Henry Street and the surrounding area.
In a shopping mall.
This is the Order of Business.
We will not have a debate on it now.
This is a lecture.
We need a plan which will reinstate the fabric, give the experience to people who visit and make us all proud. It means the strictest planning guidelines must be adopted on the whole area, which includes much of the city centre between the canals. Dublin City Council has an extraordinarily serious responsibility in this. I hope all the bodies can agree, and we should not take cheap shots at shopping malls. It ill becomes the Deputy.
Can we have the debate?
I ask Deputies to be brief in their questions.
Everybody has shopped there for decades and generations.
The Tánaiste is missing the point.
Will the Leas-Cheann Comhairle ask the Tánaiste to be brief?
The change to the National Minimum Wage Act to introduce the new national minimum wage of €9.15 is very welcome for employees, particularly employees of community employment, CE, schemes and Pobal, which are funded by the Tánaiste's Department. There is concern across the country that the grants have not been increased in order that they can pay the new national minimum wage of €9.15. While it is very welcome for employees and must be supported, the CEs must also be supported with additional funds to pay it. Otherwise they will be under severe financial pressure, as the Tánaiste will know from parliamentary questions I and others have asked. Many schemes seek reassurance and an answer from the Tánaiste. Will she inform them whether she will, through the Department of Social Protection, provide them with the funding to pay the national minimum wage which she has increased?
It is a matter for a parliamentary question.
My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, dealt with the matter yesterday during Question Time. The Deputy might care to examine the very detailed responses. There are just under 400 community services programme, CSP, sponsored and supported companies throughout the country and more than 60% of them pay more than the minimum wage. Yesterday, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, said the rate of pay was approximately €11 per hour, which is significantly above the minimum wage.
Relativity will kick in.
He also said we will deal case by case over the coming weeks with CSPs which are affected. Many of the organisations raise funds through various services they provide and receive income streams from other Departments and users of the services. We will deal with it case by case over the next few weeks. I am very confident that what is a very progressive move to increase the minimum wage by 50 cent per hour will be addressed in a productive way by the CSP organisations.
There are Government guidelines for universities to comply with remuneration, allowances, pensions and staffing. When will the universities (amendment) Bill come before the House?
It is listed for publication in the next few weeks.
Is a particular sequence proposed for prioritising the promised legislation which might receive the most urgent consideration? There are 15 items on the short list of legislative proposals. Is this the exclusive list or will other required legislation be introduced during the period ahead?
Two subjects that are not on the list will definitely arise before the end of the Dáil term. One is the proposal to choose the Ceann Comhairle by way of a secret election, for which room must be provided.
Second, following on from the discussions on flooding we have had since the Dáil came back, certain matters relating to insurance and the regulatory framework for the broad River Shannon might need to be addressed. They are a couple of subjects which come to mind. Otherwise, a number of matters have already been dealt with. I refer, for example, to the adoption (amendment) Bill. Three Bills were taken for publication this week. I know that a great deal of work is ongoing in relation to the others.
I would like to raise three matters with the Tánaiste. Where does the Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 stand at the moment?
Does the Deputy want to put the three matters to the Tánaiste together?
It is easier for the Tánaiste to answer them one by one.
I understand the Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 will be debated on Report Stage next week.
Grand. Second, I would like to ask the Tánaiste about Ibrahim Halawa, about whom I asked the Taoiseach yesterday. As Deputies will be aware, the European Parliament passed a motion by over 500 votes to a negligible 11 votes stating that the transgression of human rights in this case is glaring. The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach should initiate a programme to put pressure on the relevant authorities, for example, by withholding visas from the Egyptian diplomatic office. It is just wrong that this is happening. As I said to the Taoiseach yesterday, he has a son of exactly the same age and what is happening to Ibrahim Halawa would not happen if it was his son who was involved.
That is disgraceful.
That remark is not worthy of Deputy Mathews.
It is just a comparison.
It is not.
I think it is fair.
My final question concerns the gambling control Bill. The advertisements for betting and all that sort of stuff that are being broadcast at the moment and were broadcast over Christmas on the radio and on television are hugely manipulative and persuasive. It is just wrong that free bets are being offered to people to entice them into this harmful and addictive activity. This issue has been on the agenda for the past two years.
To which Bill does the Deputy refer?
I am speaking about the gambling control Bill. The Government is doing nothing while people are losing their houses and families are being destroyed. It is wrong that the Government has put this on the long finger for the past two years. I invite the Tánaiste to listen to the advertisements. Does she listen to the radio? Does she watch television? They are shocking.
The Deputy has asked his question.
This is the most addictive form of destruction.
Everybody in the House is deeply concerned about the safety of Ibrahim Halawa, who is a young man.
The Government should do something.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, met the Egyptian ambassador to Ireland yesterday. Obviously, the key problem here is that the trial and the legal processes keep being postponed.
The Government needs to get tough.
Unfortunately, they have been put back again. The Government is certainly exerting all of the pressure it can with contacts at a high intergovernmental level-----
It is ineffective and hopeless.
-----to press the Egyptian authorities to provide for the safe return of this young man to his family and to his home in Ireland.
American and Australian people have been released.
The Deputy also asked about the gambling Bill. Like many people in Ireland, I enjoy racing. I agree that there are numbers of people with gambling problems and that there are serious newer forms of social media-based gambling. However, the gambling legislation referred to by the Deputy is unlikely to come before the House in the near or short term.
I wish to ask the Tánaiste about the long-promised wind energy guidelines. They were promised over two years ago. Permission continues to be granted for wind farms with giant turbines. There is serious concern in Laois, south Kildare and Offaly about such turbines. According to one of the Tánaiste's colleagues, the Ministers who are responsible for this area, Deputies Kelly and White, are squabbling. I understand that the Minister, Deputy Kelly, has publicly told the Minister, Deputy White, to keep his nose out of this matter because he does not know what he is doing and does not know anything about it. I do not know what is going on. Perhaps the Tánaiste can shed some light on it. I say sincerely to her today that there are significant concerns about the wind energy guidelines. We agree with the Tánaiste that the deregulation and the lack of regulation in construction causes very significant problems. We can all agree that we are still mopping up after the grief that has been caused. I put it directly to the Tánaiste that if we do not do something about the whole issue of regulations and guidelines for the wind energy industry, we will have another mess on our hands in a few years. I realise that the Government has a short period of time left in office. I ask the Tánaiste sincerely to try to have this problem sorted out in the short amount of time that is left, perhaps by bringing forward guidelines that can deal with the types of giant turbines we are talking about. They are 170 m or 180 m in height.
I was in the Deputy's part of County Laois recently with my colleague, Senator Whelan. I know that many people have concerns about wind energy issues. Officials in the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources are working with great dedication on the development of appropriate guidelines.
This is the same answer I was given one and a half years ago.
As the Deputy knows, we have also had discussions on the potential for using currently unused boglands and, on a modest scale and in accordance with good planning advice and guidelines, using upland areas where Coillte may have forestry. We want to see wind providing a significant amount of carbon-free or carbon-reduced energy to Ireland. I think Sinn Féin shares that objective. Practically all the countries on the planet recently held very detailed discussions in Paris. We need to get the energy guidelines for Ireland right. I agree with Deputy Stanley that we have to take community interests into account. At the same time, we have to reduce our carbon footprint. This work is ongoing. I do not yet have a date for its completion. This is a very important issue for everybody on this island. Obviously, it is of particular concern to people who may be near such installations.