Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 5e, motion re membership of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the Committee of Selection; No. 6 motion re election of Leas-Cheann Comhairle; No. 1, Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad] - Second Stage, to be adjourned at 1.30 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 7a, statements on delivering sustainable full employment; and No. 7, statements on mental health services (resumed).

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 5e shall be decided without debate; that in relation to the election of Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the speech of each proposer shall not exceed five minutes in each case, following which contributions shall be allowed for a period not exceeding 30 minutes, whereupon the question on motions made shall be put in the order in which such motions were received; that the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 7a: the statement of a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, AAA-PBP, Independents4Change, Rural Alliance, Social Democrats-Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such members may share their time; the statement of each Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or a Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 8 June 2016.

There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 5e, without debate, agreed to?

I know that the Ceann Comhairle is seized of this matter. There has been a big delay, given that it is almost 100 days since the Government came to office, in getting these committees in place. I want to stress the importance of this. This has been put off for another week and the issue needs to be dealt with as speedily as possible.

That is why agreeing to the motion will be of enormous help to us and we want to get on with it speedily. I take it that the proposal is agreed to? Agreed.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 6 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for No. 7a agreed to? Agreed. It is the proposal that the Dáil on its rising shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on 8 June 2016 agreed to? Agreed.

In the programme for Government there is a commitment to establish an independent patient advocacy service and another commitment to "ensure appropriate patient care pathways". Anyone who listened to Ms Jillian McNulty, who has cystic fibrosis, being interviewed on "Morning Ireland" this morning would have heard her outline, in a very articulate way, the extraordinary impact the drug Orkambi had had on her quality of life. Essentially, she has five more weeks supply of the drug and does not know what will happen to her on an individual basis. It seems in the entire debate that the issue of patient advocacy and patient care pathways is not at the highest end of the agenda. The new Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, is adopting a very responsive manner to Deputies who are raising these issues.

He has been very fair and open and is genuinely seeking to help patients in these situations in the provision of cancer drugs and so on, an issue we dealt with earlier in the week. However, for people with cystic fibrosis, Orkambi is a life-changing drug. It is a condition that is particular to Ireland and the genetic make-up of Irish people. It is one in respect of which we should be in the foreground in breaking new ground, with new technology and new innovations. I accept that the pharmaceutical companies have responsibilities too and that there are further negotiations which have to take place on Orkambi. However, people like Jillian McNulty who are on the medication should be facilitated in its continuation. The negotiations should be intensified on all sides, given the commitment in the programme for Government to establish an independent patient advocacy service, which is necessary. I do not know what the timeline is for that advocacy service.

The Tánaiste made legislative commitments on the amount of cash a person could have on his or her person which would allow gardaí and the Criminal Assets Bureau to investigate, question and arrest people in connection with the proceeds of crime, particularly as a result of drug sales. Changing the threshold for the freezing and confiscation of property will require legislation, in particular an amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996. Will the Tánaiste indicate if that legislation will be before us before the summer recess? The seizure of cash threshold might be a matter to be dealt with in secondary legislation and involve the amendment of the relevant statutory instrument. Does the Criminal Assets Bureau's power to seize property require legislation? Will all three Bills be before the House before the summer?

I thank the Deputy for his comments on the approach the Minister for Health has taken to the very sensitive issue of the drugs available to patients. I will come back to him on the matter of patient advocacy development included in the programme for Government. I am sure most Members heard Dr. Barry speak this morning about the assessment process for these drugs and the particular stage Orkambi was at. I also heard the patient who said she had five weeks' supply left. Obviously, I understand, as the Deputy does, how very difficult the situation is for patients and their families. It is the wish of the Minister for Health and the Government generally to ensure that in the circumstances people will receive the drugs they need. We have a system of assessment and the assessment of Orkambi is at a certain point. The assessment group has stated there are major issues with the assessment. The cost presents a particular difficulty. I welcome the decision taken yesterday by Bristol-Myers Squibb on continuing to provide another drug and making it available in a compassionate way to people at this point. It is critical that drug companies do not hold countries or patients to ransom in pricing. The real challenge is presented by the very high prices sought by manufacturers for new drugs. Dr. Barry made it clear this morning that in his expert opinion the manufacturers of the product had got it wrong when it came to pricing. Obviously, we want to ensure patients will receive the drugs they need. I have no doubt that there will be intensive discussions about this. The Minister for Health is very conscious of the issue and has already made several announcements on other drugs this week. He is working hard to ensure progress can be made in the supply of Orkambi. The assessment made has raised questions about the efficacy of the drug, although for some patients, it clearly has worked to their benefit.

Some of the necessary criminal justice legislation to which the Deputy referred can be introduced, as he says, by way of regulations. However, provisions in relation to the Criminal Assets Bureau will need legislation. It is being drafted urgently and I hope to be in a position to bring it to the House in the coming weeks. I hope to receive support across the House for its passage in this term.

Tá trí cheist agam inniu ach beidh mé gasta leo. Baineann ceann amháin acu le cearta an Luchta Siúil, baineann ceann eile leis an reformed and consolidated domestic violence Bill agus baineann an ceann deireanach leis an supplementary budget for health.

The State signed the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence last November and the programme for Government states the Government will implement the convention in full. A key component of this is the enactment of the reformed and consolidated domestic violence Bill. The general scheme of the Bill was published last July, almost a year ago, but there was no mention of it in the list of 13 Bills the Taoiseach gave to the Dáil on Tuesday. This is supposed to be a priority matter. As such, when will the domestic violence Bill be published?

The last and current programmes for Government contain commitments to deliver on the principles of social inclusion for the Traveller community. The Government also promised to publish this year a national Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy. Can the Tánaiste confirm if it will be in place by the end of the year? She told me two weeks ago that a special working group was to be established to audit the current delivery and implementation of local authority Traveller accommodation plans and consult stakeholders. In the light of the controversy surrounding the decision in January by Louth County Council to evict Travellers, when does the Tánaiste expect the working group to be established. Will the Government consult Traveller advocacy groups and the Traveller community? When does the Tánaiste expect the report of the working group to be published?

At the end of last year the Government said EU fiscal rules prohibited future supplementary budgets for health. At the start of the year it was reported that the HSE was already €100 million short in its 2016 budget in the provision of funding for acute hospitals. On Monday The Irish Times quoted informed sources claiming they expected the overspend by the HSE this year to be on a par with last year's figure of €600 million. Can the Tánaiste confirm that the HSE is spending more than was allocated in its 2016 budget and indicate whether she expects a supplementary health budget to be required later this year?

The domestic violence Bill continues to be worked on. The programme for Government commits to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention and the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. In order to commit fully to the Istanbul Convention, we need the domestic violence Bill. A huge amount of work has been done on the Bill and we expect to publish it towards the end of the year.

What is the reason for the delay?

It is a very comprehensive Bill and consolidated legislation. There has been a huge number of issues to deal with, including, for example, how the courts deal with domestic violence. There has been contact with the Courts Service in recent times and extensive queries have been raised with the Department on the Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. We have been dealing with all of these issues and the legislation is well under way. There is a commitment to publish the Bill because we want to commit to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention by the end of the year. In fact, every Department has been asked as part of the work being done to outline the pathways they identify for the work they have to do in the implementation of the strategy. The work on the Bill and the strategy goes hand in hand. The social inclusion strategy is being developed and it is intended to have it in place this year. I do not have a timeframe for the working group I mentioned, but I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, to contact Deputy Gerry Adams in that regard. The Minister of State met representatives of the Traveller community this week and has also attended a conference on some of the current inclusion issues.

A process must take place on the Estimates for various Departments.

That must happen in the coming weeks. As the Taoiseach stated yesterday on the Order of Business, he expects some revisions to the Estimates that were originally published but that will be a matter for the House in the near future. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will undoubtedly inform the House on the precise timetable.

No, I am sorry. We need-----

The Tánaiste did not answer my question. I asked whether she could confirm that the HSE was spending more than was allocated for 2016. Does she expect a need for a supplementary health budget?

Very briefly, please.

It is clear that there are major demands on the health service. This issue will be addressed in the coming Estimates.

Following up on the issue of the Revised Estimates, I am getting worried that we are half way through the year and have not seen them. In tandem with the Revised Estimate Volume, will we have a revised stability programme update, SPU, as we are required to have under the Stability and Growth Pact? When will the revised SPU be prepared and submitted to the European Commission and will there be an alteration in the expenditure benchmark from the one that was set out in the April SPU that was submitted to and endorsed by the Commission?

Will the Tánaiste join me in calling on the then leadership of the IRA who directed the 1974 Birmingham bombing campaign to co-operate with the inquest that was opened yesterday by the Birmingham coroner?

The Deputy should ask him himself.

Will the Tánaiste add her voice to that of Ms Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was murdered in the bombings? Yesterday, she stated that those who had any level of humanity or moral compass should come forward. Would this not be the collective will of the House?

Let me address the question of the Birmingham bombings first. Obviously, there is an ongoing legal process in another jurisdiction. As Deputies will be aware, the senior coroner has ruled to resume the inquest into the bombings. This is a matter of the most serious and utmost concern for the families of the people killed in the Birmingham bombings in 1974. The reports on the Birmingham pub bombings remind us of the appalling violence inflicted during the Troubles, not just in Northern Ireland. As we heard yesterday, the pain and hurt of the victims' families and the survivors continues to this day. I understand the sentiment behind Deputy Brendan Howlin's comments. We make clear in the new programme for Government our commitment as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement to building on the substantial progress that has already been made and supporting the consolidation of peace in Northern Ireland so as to ensure we never return to the days of violence.

I am aware of the media reports that new information was submitted to the senior coroner during the process of considering whether to resume the Birmingham pub bombings inquest. She has decided to resume the inquest. It is not appropriate for me to comment further on that ongoing process, as it relates to another jurisdiction.

But we should call on people with information to come forward.

Of course. I understand the Deputy's call.

The former director of intelligence was on the news on RTE last night. It was extraordinary to watch.

We are not getting into a debate on this issue.

I understand the sentiment behind what Deputy Brendan Howlin stated. Every Deputy in the House would support it.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will address the issues that Deputy Brendan Howlin raised about the Estimates process. There will be ample opportunity in the House, although the business committee must agree the exact process to be followed in the near future. Yesterday, the Cabinet discussed the report that was due. It will be-----

Will there be an altered SPU?

That remains to be seen. I am sure that the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance will address that issue in the context of the Revised Estimates.

I welcome the programme for Government's inclusion of the opening of the cystic fibrosis unit in Beaumont Hospital. It has already been built and just needs to be staffed and so on, but the key aim is to try to keep people out of hospital. I refer to the drug Orkambi. Will the Tánaiste share the information on patient advocacy with the Dáil instead of just Deputy Micheál Martin?

Patients attending for appointments are assisted by the HSE with their travel arrangements, but I have been told by my constituents that this service has been stopped on the basis of cost. Is this move universal or local? Could it be remedied via the Estimates-----

Time has concluded.

-----or has a unilateral approach been taken to ceasing the arrangement?

I must ask the Tánaiste to correspond with the Deputy to address the question, as we no longer have time remaining.

How much time do we have on Thursdays?

We have the time allowed, 20 minutes, and it is-----

Is that the time available under the 2007 Standing Orders?

It will have to be extended.

I do not write the rules. I simply implement them.

That is because we would never get it in.

We will move on to a Private Members' Bill.

May I speak before we-----

No, the Deputy may not.

I want to ask for the Ceann Comhairle's guidance and assistance.

No, please. There is no-----

He is a new Member, in fairness.

I am delighted that a new Member wants to raise a matter, but-----

I want the Ceann Comhairle's assistance.

The Ceann Comhairle disallowed a question.

That is inappropriate at this point. The Deputy should come and talk to me in my office.

It is a public health issue relating to a boil water notice in my constituency.

Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?

It is a serious issue.

It is very unlike the Deputy to be unruly.

Will the Ceann Comhairle see me in his office?

The Deputy should come and see me in my office.


That is not a Mae West.

Twenty lines.

One hundred lines.