Questions on Proposed Legislation

With regard to the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill, the Taoiseach is aware of the case of Mary Boyle who went missing in 1977 while visiting her grandparents’ home in County Donegal. It has been the subject of considerable public interest. Her family are, obviously, devastated by their loss. Obviously, no one in the House can interfere with an ongoing investigation and it was recently confirmed that the serious crime review team, known as the cold case unit, was investigating Mary Boyle’s disappearance. That is to be welcomed. Will the Taoiseach ensure, in the context of victims’ rights, sufficient dedicated resources will be made available and that the investigation will be wholly independent of previous investigations and separate from what happened before?

I have received correspondence from the Minister for Justice and Equality on a request made by Mary Boyle's sister, Ann Doherty, regarding when the coroner's inquest would take place. There is a legal precedent for accepting her request. Again in the context of victims’ rights, will the Taoiseach re-examine the issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality? I have received a reply from the Minister on it, in addition to the replies to parliamentary questions I have tabled, in which she has confirmed that she is very much aware of all the issues involved and the allegations that have been made about the case but that the Garda, first and foremost, is investigating such allegations. I believe the forum in question would be the proper one in which to investigate this case.

Like the Deputy, I have had some meetings with members of the family. I am glad that the special unit will examine the case completely independently. It will be seen to that the resources it needs to do its job independently will be made available because the family is still grieving over the loss of Mary Boyle.

The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill is priority legislation and a great deal of work has been done on it. I do not know whether it will be published before the end of this session, but it is moving towards completion. A coroners Bill is being worked on in the Department of Justice and Equality. I will update the Deputy on the extent of the work done in this regard.

Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur faoi chlár an Rialtais. The programme for Government states the Government will utilise the rural development programme to support the promotion of farm safety. The Health and Safety Authority's report for 2015 has revealed that 56 people were killed in workplace accidents, 18 of whom were working in the agriculture sector, the sector with the highest number of deaths. The report also reveals that there were over 7,500 non-fatal injuries, which represents a huge increase on the figure for the previous year. At the same time, there has been a decrease in the number of inspections and investigations, by more than 40%, since 2009. The chairman has blamed this on resource issues. Is this acceptable? What steps will the Government take to honour its commitment in the programme for Government to promote farm safety? Will it increase funding and make more resources available to ensure health and safety at work?

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Government as a whole are very much aware of the tragedies that occur. The haggard or paddock can be a lonely place these days and big machinery can be lethal. This is an ongoing issue in which information, education and constant vigilance are required.

Resources are required.

I have seen many of the demonstrations that are provided on farms advising people to be exceptionally careful near power take-off, PTO, shafts and bigger equipment and machinery that can cause tragic deaths. There is a constant stream of warnings and calls to people to be exceptionally careful when working with farm machinery in any location. More inspections and contact with farmers by the authorities is part and parcel of this. Unfortunately, lives are lost every year in accidents involving machinery, PTOs, and tractors that one might think would never happen.

Having regard to the ESRI report published today on the impact of the economic crash, particularly on young people, will the Taoiseach confirm that the Low Pay Commission report on the new proposed minimum wage will be published next week? Will he provide time before the Dáil recess to debate this report? The Low Pay Commission is also conducting a second report on sub-minimum wage pay to people aged under 18 years. Where lies that report? Does the Taoiseach agree there should not be a differential in pay rates for people of a younger age?

Yes, I do agree actually. I expect that if the report is to hand, it should be published. It is a matter for the Government side and the Business Committee to make arrangements for a discussion in the House and I hope such a discussion will take place. I will advise the Deputy on that matter and on the report on sub-minimum wage pay to which he referred.

The Government's stated position on people in mortgage and housing difficulties is to keep them in their homes. The previous Government phased out mortgage interest supplement for new applicants as of the beginning of 2014. Everybody who receives the supplement will be removed from the scheme as of 1 January 2018, while those in receipt of mortgage interest relief will no longer receive it as of 1 January 2017. The Government has made a commitment to replace these schemes with what it describes as sustainable solutions. When will we see the sustainable solutions the Government has promised aimed at keeping in their homes people who previously received some assistance through these schemes? I am dealing with people who are in trouble. They took the Minister's advice and contacted their lenders and some have done deals, but they continue to find themselves in extreme financial difficulty because mortgage interest supplement or relief is not available to them. When will the promised sustainable solutions to replace these schemes be introduced and what action will be taken in the interim for those who find themselves in difficulties and are no longer able to avail of the schemes?

The Minister with responsibility for housing is working on a new action strategy for housing. The Minister for Justice and Equality is considering a new and enhanced service from the Money Advice & Budgeting Service, MABS, which would deal specifically with these issues. This will be brought forward as soon as possible. It is in everybody's interest that as many people as possible are allowed to stay in their homes. These timelines mean that an alternative service has to be produced in order that people can avail of these facilities to stay in their homes. I will update Deputy Boyd Barrett on the work that is under way. A new enhanced MABS is being considered and worked on to deal with many of these kinds of cases.

In the programme for Government there is a focus on a number of key programmes. One of these is the extension of BreastCheck to all women aged between 65 and 69 years. As we all know, early intervention is essential in a successful outcome. What is the timeframe for this extension and when can we expect the roll-out?

There is no legislation on that.

It is in the programme for Government.

It was in the programme for Government. It is a key focus. The Government has a focus on a number of key programmes. Page 56 of the document refers to the extension of BreastCheck to all women aged between 65 and 69 years.

I will come back to Deputy Butler on that. I will consult with the Minister for Health and advise the Deputy in respect of that issue.

For those who do not know, a PTO is a power take-off. There were some quizzical glances at the Taoiseach when he mentioned a PTO earlier. I say this as much to be helpful to those are not of an agricultural disposition.

We appreciate that.

I wish to ask a question on promised legislation, in particular, the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill and the Geothermal Energy Bill.

You can ask about one, so we will take the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill.

In conclusion - I am within the timeframe - and on a serious note I wish to inform the House that there was a fire at the Patrician Academy post-primary school in the early hours of this morning. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education and Skills make all resources available to ensure that temporary accommodation will be set up in advance of the school year in September and that all resources are deployed?

As you well know, that is not appropriate to the Order of Business. Taoiseach, what is the position on the Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill?

In the case of the first two Bills, the heads are being-----

No, you can only speak about one.

The Deputy mentioned two. The heads are being worked on in the case of them. The Geothermal Energy Bill will be introduced once the Minerals Development Bill, currently before the House, is out of the way.

I will bear in mind what Deputy Sherlock said about the school.

Six days ago, last Thursday, I used Leaders' Questions to ask about the Macroom to Ballyvourney bypass to see when the project would go ahead. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, took the questions.

That is not relevant to promised legislation or the programme for Government.

It is, because of infrastructure, jobs and the health and safety of people going on the road to Cork.

Is it? All right, go ahead. You want an update, Deputy Healy-Rae. Is that correct?

Why was I not informed that this project was not going to go ahead until 2022? I have become aware that last Monday an official from Transport Infrastructure Ireland or, as it was previously known, the NRA, informed Cork County Council that this project was not going to go ahead until 2022. Who is in charge of the provision of infrastructure? Is it the NRA, the Government or the Minister? It looks to me like there is no accountability in Dáil Éireann.

Your time is up, Deputy. Do you want to respond to that, Taoiseach, please?

I know that when one crosses the county bounds heading for Cork, one runs into that particular problem every day. The National Roads Authority has responsibility in terms of the preparation, presentation and design of major road infrastructure throughout the country. The Government's role is to be able to provide the facilities and money to deal with infrastructure development, whether roads, bridges or whatever. There is a €42 billion capital programme out to the mid 2020s. If someone from the NRA says that the project is not due to go ahead until 2022 or whatever date Deputy Healy-Rae said, then there is a reason for that, whether it be objections or compulsory purchase orders or whatever. Those in the authority are professional in the way they do their business in respect of all the roads in the country. I recall when the capital programme was being put together that this road was deemed to be a priority. However, it is not for the Government to say that a route has to take this line or that line or a particular design based on the geological formation for the development of a road. As Deputy Healy-Rae is aware, from Ballyvourney outwards there are some difficulties with the terrain.

Can I just ask-----

No, you cannot say anything.

Will the Taoiseach agree to publish an updated economic statement between 7 September and 10 September? The data released yesterday along with the census data to be released tomorrow mean that the Summer Economic Statement as printed is not only inadequate because it was predicated on a "Remain" vote winning in the UK, but we now have the extraordinary new data and size measurements for the Irish economy. It makes it impossible to do the new politics in which we are meant to get information on a timely basis from which we can make economic decisions. I am not asking for it to be done next week, but if we could have it sometime around 10 September, the July and August figures would be incorporated and it might then be a serious measurement? It would also give the CSO time to look at the real size of the Irish economy.

The time is up. I ask the Taoiseach to respond very briefly.

This morning the Cabinet approved the publication by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform of expenditure trends at mid-summer. These will be dealt with by the sectoral committees in early September. As the discussion about Brexit develops, the situation pertaining to sterling and the outcome of yesterday's CSO figures will lead to that discussion taking place. I will bear it in mind and make arrangements with the Ministers for Finance, and Public Expenditure and Reform that it be dealt with either through the sectoral committees or here in the House when the opportunity presents itself.

That concludes questions on promised legislation. I apologise to the 11 Deputies whose questions have not been reached today.