It is proposed to take No. a5, motion re Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, and No. 7, statements on the report of the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings relating to No. a5 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, AAA-PBP, Independents 4 Change, Social Democrats, the Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead, and a non-party Deputy, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. The following arrangements shall apply in respect of No. 7: the statement of the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, AAA-PBP, Independents 4 Change, Social Democrats, the Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead, and a non-party Deputy shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business which shall be No. 14, motion re domestic water charges, resumed, to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a5 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7 agreed? Agreed.
The Taoiseach may be aware that staff at the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, were called to a meeting last Friday where they were informed that the CRC had dissolved its pension plan effective from Wednesday, 18 May 2016. About 50 staff attended the meeting. They have an average of at least 20 years dedicated service with the CRC. A total of 50 long-serving staff are on the old private pension plan as well. These are HSE-sanctioned posts and their salaries are funded by the HSE. I know that when the Minister for Social Protection was appointed, he made very strong statements about pension provision. Will the Government intervene in this situation and, in particular, liaise with the officials in the HSE and the Department of Social Protection in order for them to directly intervene to assist staff in the CRC? An immediate decision was taken by management to wind up the pension scheme and it illustrates the vulnerability of many people in respect of many pension schemes.
There is a commitment in a programme for a partnership Government to review the existing proceeds of crime legislation. It states that the Government will ensure that adequate resources are provided to support the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, and that it will examine how communities can better engage with CAB on suspected local use of the proceeds of crime and the potential establishment of a smaller criminal assets bureau to target regional assets. That kind of language in a programme for Government can be interpreted in many ways. I suspect that Independents or people from various constituencies suggested that this should happen. It is a demand from many of the communities at the coal face of the drug trade and the crime lords who are ruling the roost. Their view is that mini criminal assets bureaus would have a huge impact. Is this a commitment to establish criminal assets bureaus in communities to target local drug pushers or is it language that means nothing will happen because it could be interpreted that way as well? Could the Taoiseach clarify when that legislation will be reviewed and when we can expect the review and actions emanating from it?
The Government announced proposals for the reform of the budget process. At the end of the statement from the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance, it says that the Ministers will make themselves available to the Select Committee on Arrangements for Budgetary Scrutiny to discuss the proposals. The first meeting of the committee is expected to take place in the coming days. Our Whip contacted the office of the Chief Whip to be told that this is not imminent and that it all is part of the Dáil reform programme.
We were hopeful that the Government would have learned the lessons of indulging in spin over substance or taking an element of the Dáil reform package negotiated by all parties, repackaging it and spinning it as a Government commitment or decision on Dáil reform. The Government needs to cease this practice fairly quickly. Can the Taoiseach clarify the position with regard to this committee in respect of budgetary scrutiny? The statement says a meeting will be held in the coming days but to the best of my knowledge, nobody is clear about that, at least from our side in terms of being notified of it. Can the Taoiseach tell the House when the legislative programme for this session will be finalised and made available?
I am not sure whether the CRC pension scheme is a private scheme but I will look at it and come back to the Deputy.
In respect of the budgetary process, it is intended to change the way budgets are prepared and presented. There will be far more involvement from all Members of the House and far more opportunity for them to make their cases. The first thing is to set up a budgetary scoping committee. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has commented on this. This is a short-term committee that will evolve into a full Oireachtas budgetary committee that will deal with all the issues surrounding Votes in general and the overall allocation of money available.
Does the Taoiseach accept that the Dáil has spent about a month discussing all of this?
The timetable is also set out for everybody, both in terms of the spring statement, the early provision of Estimates, the overall allocation for 2017 and the engagement through each of the sectoral committees of the Dáil with this committee so that there is far more involvement for everybody in the budgetary process. It will be very different from what it used to be.
We decided that in the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform - not the Government.
We have had Leaders' Questions.
The Government approved the detail of the presentation of the budgetary strategy at its meeting on Tuesday. That will be made available to all Deputies so that they will understand the timescale and provisional dates for the different segments of it. I think Deputy Micheál Martin asked a third question.
It was about the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2009 have been worked to the full.
I mentioned earlier the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill. There will be primary legislation to deal with enhanced provisions in respect of legalised drugs. The Commissioner has already appointed Garda personnel to work in individual areas on the basis of operating as mini-CABs. What we are now looking at is how we can engage with communities in the provision of information on suspected local use of the proceeds of crime and the potential of smaller CAB units being established to assist on a regional basis where criminal activity is taking place.
Is the Taoiseach saying they have been established already?
The Commissioner has already appointed Garda personnel to work on the basis of operating as smaller CAB units in individual areas.
I do not think so.
I will supply Deputy Martin with the detail of that.
On that point-----
No, there is only one opportunity.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Tá trí cheist agam faoi chlár an Rialtais. Tá ceann amháin faoi thuairisc McMahon, ceann eile faoi chearta mhuintir na Palaistíne agus an ceann deireanach faoi chearta an lucht oibre. I put the question about the McMahon report to the Tánaiste last week and did not get any sort of satisfactory answer. The draft programme for Government contained a commitment to implement the McMahon report into direct provision but it was removed from the programme that was published. The Taoiseach may recall that Uachtarán Higgins raised his concerns last weekend about direct provision. He described the McMahon proposals as reasonable and practical and said if they were implemented it would mean considerable progress. Mr. Justice McMahon described the refusal to allow asylum seekers the right to access the labour market as absolutely heart breaking and immoral and he described their treatment by the Government as narrow and mean and urged an amnesty for those who are here for more than five years. I have visited the direct provision centre in Mosney several times. No one should live there for months, never mind years, yet some children have lived their entire lives in that place. Will the Taoiseach consider a one-off amnesty and will he reinstate the commitment on the McMahon report to the programme for Government?
The Taoiseach will be aware there will be a strike tomorrow by Tesco workers. The company is trying to force long-serving workers to accept a new contract with less money and worse conditions of employment. Will he acknowledge that the programme for Government fails to defend the rights of workers and their families and will only assist unscrupulous employers that want to make bigger profits? There is no mention of a living wage. There is a vague commitment to tackling the problems caused by the casualisation of work but nothing about "if and when" contracts. Will he consider introducing fair hours legislation as recommended by the ICTU?
There is a programme for Government commitment to recognise the state of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict but in December 2014 the Oireachtas voted in support of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. That was a substantial and very positive development. It was unconditional because people either have this right or they do not and this Oireachtas believes that the people of Palestine quite rightly have that right. The peace process has been very limited and there has been no real progress. The UN has reported the killing of 25 Palestinian children in the last three months of 2015. By the end of December 2015, 422 Palestinian children were imprisoned and since October 2015, 204 Palestinians and 28 Israelis have been killed. We can assist the process and the minority Government can accept the will of the Oireachtas by formally recognising the Palestinian state by doing what many other Governments have done, by upgrading the Palestinian mission in this State and add our moral support to the need for a peace settlement in that region.
I will repeat that the political reform committee established the budgetary scoping committee which will set the terms of reference for the budgetary committee. The Minister outlined his road map in that regard. I note the point Deputy Adams makes about the McMahon report. I do not want to get into any conflict here, either with Deputy Adams or anybody else, but I have appointed a Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, to deal with immigration, migration and the question of direct provision. Just because it is not mentioned in the programme for Government does not mean the Government does not have every intention to follow through on it because it has. The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality will deal with this. It is a case of understanding that the programme for Government contains 600 to 700 commitments and, obviously, one could put another 1,000 along with that if one wanted to. We are committed to the implementation of the McMahon report.
The Minister of State will comment on that. He will have his programme of work which includes that and which is very challenging. In fairness to Mr. Justice McMahon, he did great work in a relatively short time and presented a very clear report for implementation.
In respect of the Tesco position, it is principally a matter for the company involved to resolve the issues with the workers and their unions.
Workers have to have rights.
The State, as Deputy Adams knows, made available all the industrial relations facilitates to help the parties come to an agreed solution. I understand the talks at the Workplace Relations Commission aimed at resolving that dispute adjourned on 19 May after 14 hours without agreement. More discussions took place between Tesco and Mandate in the Workplace Relations Commission on 23 May into the morning of 24 May. I am informed that those discussions adjourned without agreement so that both parties could go away and consider the position. I implore both parties to return to the WRC to resume talks before this escalates any further. I heard some comment on it this morning. I hope it will be taken up and that they will both return to the Workplace Relations Commission to sort this out. Obviously the pay claim by Mandate and SIPTU was brought to the Labour Court in early 2016, so the facilities are there. I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will be challenged by his requirement to deal with a whole range of challenging areas including the McMahon report.
Deputy Brendan Howlin.
Chuir mé ceist ar an Taoiseach faoin bPalaistín agus ní bhfuair mé freagra.
We had a motion here. I was there the day the Palestinian flag flew outside the United Nations. Work is progressing arising from that motion in the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will come back to the Deputy at an early time on that issue.
I will turn briefly to the point made on the McMahon report. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton is present. The Taoiseach makes light of the fact it is not in the programme for Government because not everything can be. The issue is that it was in the draft programme for Government and was dropped. Why was it dropped? Does it indicate that the 173 recommendations of Mr. Justice McMahon, which are really important, will be implemented or are to be reviewed or modified? As the Taoiseach knows, each Department takes the programme for Government as its working bible. If it is not in there, it is not part of the working bible. Is the report and its 173 recommendations to be implemented in full or reviewed?
In the new programme the Government has decided to abandon the previous Government's policy of developing new technological universities through the amalgamation of existing institutes of technology. The mandatory mergers are now to be reviewed. That has caused grave disquiet in the south east. The amalgamation of Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology is, as the Taoiseach knows, finally being advanced after many speed bumps. Will the Taoiseach give clarity to both institutions today that it is the Government's intention to proceed with the establishment of a technological university in the south east, as the previous Government envisaged, based on the amalgamation of Waterford and Carlow Institutes of Technology?
The Deputy can take it that the McMahon report is a central feature of the brief of the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton. While it is not in the programme for work, I give the Deputy that commitment now.
Why did the Taoiseach take it out of the programme?
While I was not involved in all of the negotiations, I know it was included in the draft along with many other items. We commissioned the former justice to produce that report. It is all about people, and some of them have been in the direct provision system, as the Deputy is aware, for 15 years. When the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, chaired the justice committee, he reported extensively on that over a period. He is very well acquainted with the report and I expect it will be a central feature of his work.
In respect of the establishment of a technological university in the south east, this was one of the first decisions the previous Government, of which the Deputy was an esteemed member, made following the closure of TalkTalk. There were quite a number of difficulties along that road. The Government is fully committed, as the previous Government was, to the establishment of a technological university for the south east. I am glad that at long last, after all the difficulties, Waterford and Carlow are getting their act together to establish a technological university with the standards that apply there. There are other technological institutions in the country that do not want to amalgamate with other institutions and instead want to proceed as technological institutes on the basis of the individual entities.
That legislation is being continued with?
Yes, it is being continued.
Six Deputies are offering, and if Members are brief I might be able to accommodate all of them. I call Deputy Danny Healy-Rae.
I ask the Taoiseach and the new Minister for Health, in light of the very disturbing article in yesterday's newspapers which highlighted that disabled and elderly persons' applications for home help would be delayed until later in the year, that this issue be dealt with in a proactive fashion, because elderly and disabled people do not have much time on their side. When they need help to get out of bed they need it immediately; it cannot be delayed. The programme for Government provides that a review of the operation and funding of national home help services is to be undertaken. I ask that this be dealt with urgently.
Operations and serious medical interventions and procedures are being delayed at Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital in Cork due to a lack of beds. Surgeons are ready and waiting to undertake operations but they do not have beds available for patients after their operations. I ask that these two matters be dealt with urgently.
In respect of the case of disabled people which Deputy Healy-Rae rightly raises, I am not sure whether he is referring to the disabled person's grant from the local authorities-----
No. I am talking about home help for these people. It is in the programme for Government.
-----or the home help service. They are often related, depending on the nature of the application, in terms of what is the best package for each individual person. I do not see why those applications cannot be followed through speedily. As the Deputy rightly pointed out, in many cases the people do not have much time left and they deserve to have the best facilities made available to them as quickly as possible. I will take up the issue with the Minister for Health.
The number of cancellations is a small percentage of the number of operations carried out. The Minister is about to carry out a review of bed capacity nationally in the hospitals. That work will be under way reasonably soon.
I read the briefing notes given to the new Minister for Health and I have some questions arising from that. First, under the section dealing with the tobacco and alcohol control unit, which, bizarrely, has responsibility for issues in respect of abortion, has the Taoiseach any plans to bring forward legislation to facilitate a referendum on appealing the eighth amendment? Second, with regard to the same section, what is the status of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which I understand is delaying the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes?
The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is one Bill that will be restored to the legislative agenda. This agenda will be produced in the next couple of weeks when each Minister and Secretary General comes forward with the legislation he or she really does require, as distinct from a long list of what they might require or wish to discuss. I have committed to setting up the citizens' convention within six months. There will not be any politicians on that. Citizens will be selected in an independent way and they will deal with the question of examining a number of legislative and constitutional issues, including the eighth amendment.
I ask the Taoiseach if there is any intention on the Government's part to amend the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015, which was the collective bargaining Act? It does not allow for trade union recognition. It is a form of yellow-pack collective bargaining. To mention the Tesco dispute, about which the Taoiseach responded earlier, one of the problems the Mandate trade union officials have is that they are denied the right to access any of the shops which would allow them go in, negotiate and deal with the workers. That is no way to ensure we have proper workers' rights. We want proper right of access for qualified trade union officials who have a job to do in representing their members in the workplace. That will only happen if we strengthen workers' rights, as Deputy Adams said earlier, and if we amend the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 to allow for the right to access, the strengthening of collective bargaining provisions and trade union recognition. Is that the Taoiseach's intention?
The Act in question was amended in 2015 after a great deal of discussion. It was accepted and passed by the House. That should be tested fully. Trade unions and their officials have their rights, as indeed have companies. The Bill was drafted on the basis of discussions about that very issue, and it should be tested to the full in the first instance.
Page 97 of the programme for Government contains many aspirations regarding Garda resources and policing. A very unsavoury incident happened in Corofin, County Clare, last week, and such distasteful incidents occur regularly. Members of An Garda Síochána accompanied men in balaclavas and an agent of a sheriff-----
I am sorry, but that is not appropriate to the Order of Business.
-----in an unmarked car with the number plates blocked out.
Is this matter relevant to the Order of Business?
It is relevant to the legislation set out in the programme for Government.
What legislation is that?
The legislation to strengthen the role of An Garda Síochána. The incident in question certainly is not strengthening the role of the An Garda Síochána but, rather, constitutes a waste of Garda time. It was a very unsavoury incident, and such incidents are taking place.
I would suggest that the Deputy is taking liberties.
No. We want to strengthen and support An Garda Síochána, which I always seek to do, but not when gardaí accompany masked men in a car belonging to an agent of the sheriff, with the number plates blocked out and no tax or NCT certificate displayed on the windscreen. It was a car similar to that used in the gangland crimes committed in Dublin. That was disgusting and scandalous, and it should be investigated by the Minister for Justice and Equality. Putting gardaí in that position when trying to evict a person from a family home is not appropriate.
Does the Taoiseach feel compelled to respond?
I do not think this is about legislation.
I do not think so.
I will get a response on that for Deputy McGrath from the Minister for Justice and Equality.
I welcome the fact that the Taoiseach proposes to establish a task force for the north inner city. Can he set out a timeline for the production of terms of reference or an initial draft of the form that might take? As the Taoiseach will understand, people in the north inner city, particularly in and around Cumberland Street and Avondale House, are extremely distressed today. It has come to their attention that media outlets such as The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, The Irish Mirror and others have placed footage of the fatal attack on Gareth Hutch online.
I call on them to take it down and I would like the Taoiseach to join me in that call.
It has created increased stress and distress in the community and it serves absolutely no useful purpose. I ask the Taoiseach to join me in that appeal.
Mr. Victor Stevenson, a man who campaigned long and hard on behalf of the survivors of the Bethany Home and the Westbank orphanage, has died very suddenly and he will be laid to rest tomorrow. Sadly, Victor died without having seen truth or any justice for his personal case and experiences, and there are many more like him. Is the Taoiseach agreeable to meet campaigners from Westbank orphanage and a number of the other institutions that remain outside the remit of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes?
I regret that good man's death. I will ask the Minister to discuss the matter with Deputy McDonald. This was the subject of discussions here and of Dáil questions over a long period, with answers given as to why Bethany Home was not included in the original facility.
In respect of the task force, discussions have started and I am anxious we do this quickly. As I stated earlier, I would like people in the House to have the opportunity to have an input into the terms of reference. We will consult with everybody quickly. Perhaps the Deputy was not here when I said it but I am meeting the Garda Commissioner and assistant commissioners this evening.
I know that.
There will be a full briefing and I will report to the leaders of parties and groups on that. We will set out quickly the terms of reference for a local task force, how it is to be resourced and what it is supposed to do. We will get Deputies' input in respect of the terms of reference.
What about the media footage of the killing?
I have not seen it but the murder took place just yesterday and media now have an instantaneous response. I think it probably should be taken down.