Ceisteanna - Questions

Programme for Government Implementation

Micheál Martin


1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if there are understandings rather than actual agreements with any particular Independent Deputies. [27013/16]

There are no understandings of the nature suggested by the Deputy with any particular Independent Deputies. The programme for a partnership Government sets out the agreement between the parties and Deputies who are participating in or supporting the Government. There was one issue that occurred in the meantime beyond what is already published. That was a letter which issued in respect of a matter in Waterford to the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan. That letter was also published. There are no other understandings with any Deputy.

I appreciate the Taoiseach's reply. With regard to the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, and the letter issued to him, he clearly believes that was a clear breach of the understanding he had arrived at with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, and others at the time. The Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, is clear that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, told him that this was a done deal, that the catheterization laboratory would be provided on a 24/7 basis and that it would happen.

I can almost hear the words from the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, that the review will be just a formality. I can almost hear him saying gently to the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, not to worry, it is a formality and it will be all looked after. The Minister of State genuinely believes he was taken to the cleaners on this and misled. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, told the Minister of State, who was at the time just a Deputy, not to worry and that if he did not do it, it was going to do it. Therefore, Fine Gael said it was going to build the second cath lab. That relates to the quality of the understanding the Taoiseach arrived at and the agreement with the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan. The latter has been very clear that he believes the agreement was breached. He feels he was told in good faith that there would be a cath lab in Waterford. He has now been told that will not happen.

The Taoiseach, in fairness, denied there was any understanding with Independent Deputy Michael Lowry. He will recall the announcement of the modular building for South Tipperary General Hospital by Deputy Michael Lowry in July. As the Taoiseach will have noted, there was a big headline at the time: "Bitter words fly between Tipperary TDs over Lowry announcement on South Tipp General Hospital". The Deputy announced there were plans for a 40-patient modular patient hotel to ease overcrowding at the facility, along with 22 new jobs. The Taoiseach said there was no deal, written or otherwise. A newspaper article from 6 July states, "Mr Lowry's support for the minority Government has been the subject of much debate and the matter was the subject of a debate in the Dáil yesterday." That was the last time this was dealt with. In the aftermath, Deputy Lowry clarified his position by saying he never had a deal with the Government but, rather, an understanding with Fine Gael, and that he was very happy with it. The newspaper article states:

I never said there was a deal, but I do have an understanding with the Government. I made representations in relation to the crisis at Clonmel hospital and I was very happy with the responses of the minister and the HSE.

At that stage, it seemed that Deputy Lowry was getting far more out of it than the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan. Deputy Lowry stated that he did not have a deal but he had an understanding with the Government and he was happy with that understanding. He is very clear he has an understanding with Fine Gael. Elsewhere, he is quoted as having said his support for the Government would pay dividends for his constituency. Is he telling the truth? Can the Taoiseach enlighten the Dáil on what the understanding with Deputy Lowry might be, particularly in terms of South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel?

The Taoiseach is correct in saying that, in the confidence and supply arrangement, there was a written commitment that all deals would be published. In fairness, all the commitments made with the Independent Alliance are in the programme. Some are now arguing those commitments have not been fulfilled, as in the case in Waterford. Nonetheless, Deputy Lowry is adamant and sticking to the line that he has an understanding with Fine Gael and expects it to yield benefits in his constituency. Could the Taoiseach give his views on what the Deputy is saying? Even in the aftermath of the Taoiseach's comments to the Dáil, Deputy Lowry has said all this. The Taoiseach has robustly denied it in the Dáil but the Deputy is saying that while it is not a written deal, it is an understanding. That suggests an informal agreement with Deputy Lowry that may be to his advantage electorally and politically in the constituency. Could the Taoiseach comment on that? Is it the case or is the Deputy just fibbing?

On the first matter the Deputy mentioned, the position is very clear. The letter was quite clear in respect of an independent analysis of the requirement and the needs of the people of the south east in so far as a second cath lab in Waterford was concerned. It was agreed that a person of stature and independence would examine that. A consultant, Dr. Herity, did an outstanding job based on the clarity of his finding. Within that finding, his view was that there should be extra hours approved for use of the cath lab, the premises should be improved, extra staff should be appointed and further money should be spent on it.

The Minister is quite happy to do that.

In respect of the reference to shifting some facilities out of Waterford, the Minister was not agreeable to that. The Government has responded very clearly to the findings of the independent consultant and will do what he has outlined. If he had outlined something else, the Government would have complied with that. There was a clinical analysis by a professional, independent person, and I respect that completely.

In so far as the second matter is concerned, I am not sure whether the Minister for Health met the Deputy who Deputy Michéal Martin mentioned, namely, Deputy Lowry, and a number of doctors about Clonmel hospital. I think he did that out of normal courtesy for any Deputy and provided an opportunity to meet with medical personnel.

These days, if one passes somebody in a corridor, one has had a meeting. Even a courteous meeting can become an understanding or an intention. Let me confirm for Deputy Martin that he heard one side of the situation. Deputy Lowry has been an Independent Deputy in the House for a number of years. I appreciate that he has supported the Government in terms of his record. There are no understandings with any Deputy on the part of Fine Gael or the Government. I do not have any information to the contrary. Any Deputy from the Fianna Fáil Party or any other party can meet the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, for instance-----

-----about projects in wherever and have a good discussion. Does that become an understanding, intention or something following which a decision is made?

In so far as anything that has been published, that is why I referred to the letter in respect of the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan. If a meeting between a Minister, Deputy and a number of doctors becomes an understanding, I cannot deal with all of these matters in so far as they concern any Deputy.

I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. When we refer to Deputy Lowry and he talks about understandings, we know what he is talking about - it is an inside track, in terms of getting things done. The Taoiseach said clearly that Deputy Lowry does not have an inside track and, essentially, without the Taoiseach actually saying it, it is being suggested that Deputy Lowry is fibbing and not telling it as it is. He does not have the kind of deal or understanding that he has let on he has with the Government. That is essentially what the Taoiseach is saying. He is dismissing his assertion that he has such an understanding.

When Deputy Lowry talks about an understanding with the Fine Gael Party and Ministers, he is not talking about walking along a corridor. Let us not be naive, we all know full well what he means by those words. In the aftermath of the last Dáil discussions, he was emphatic when he said he did not have a deal but rather an understanding with the Government and is happy with that. That is not passing along a corridor and the Taoiseach should not dismiss it as such.

I refer to the comments of the Taoiseach on the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, and the deal on the catheterization labaratory, on which he feels he was shortchanged. It is worth pointing out that I understand why he feels he might have been shortchanged. We need to remember that clinicians were involved in the configuration report. They recommended splitting the service, whereby Kilkenny and Wexford would go to Dublin and Waterford would be attached to Cork. That was an unprecedented proposal, because Waterford was always the centrepiece of the south east. In the configuration report there was an expectation that there would be a second catheterization labaratory, but the reality is that what was recommended by clinicians in the report was not implemented. The commitments made to Waterford in the context of the configurational report were not fulfilled.

I accept that the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, did a deal in good faith, but he has a case. In the heat of the discussions there is no doubt he was promised this would happen and that the review would be just a formality. If one read the configuration report, one would find that the likelihood was that the recommendations would be followed through. I accept the advice of different clinicians and specialties in terms of the commentary, but nonetheless there is a sense that Waterford was shortchanged by the configurations and that the commitments made in the configuration report were not fulfilled.

Clinicians outside, not in, Waterford have said this to me. They believe that part of the issue is the degree to which the service in Waterford was not given the level of support it was promised in the original configuration report and recommendations which led to the break up of the south-east model and the attachment of services in Wexford and Kilkenny to St. James's Hospital and services in Waterford to services in Cork. That is why the Minister of State with responsibility for training and skills, Deputy John Halligan, was of the view that Fine Gael had broken his deal and that the Ministers, Deputies Simon Coveney and Michael Noonan, had not fulfilled their side of the agreement reached with him.

I was reflecting on what the Taoiseach had said during the general election that he would not be dependent on support from any Independent. I am also reminded of what Deputy Micheál Martin said that his main objective in the general election was to make sure Deputy Enda Kenny would not be returned as Taoiseach and that Fine Gael would be put out of office. In the spirit of Deputy Micheál Martin's question, will the Taoiseach explain the understandings and agreements reached between the Government and Fianna Fáil, as a result of which we have seen these huge U-turns? The Government has done an U-turn on NAMA, bin charges, zero-hour contracts, Irish Water and the Moore Street project. Perhaps the Taoiseach might indicate, in the spirit of transparency, what other understandings to which he has come with Fianna Fáil.

Will the Taoiseach set out the situation in the Government on votes on social issues among members of the Cabinet? I am referencing the position on the eighth amendment to the Constitution which, as the Taoiseach knows, is a source of great concern to people throughout the State. Has he devised a new doctrine or a change in the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility? Has it been agreed in principle that on social issues and perhaps economic issues independent members of the Government may, in fact, make a choice on whether they will vote with or against the Government? It is a fundamental principle of our democracy in the context of new politics. The Constitution implies that there is collective Cabinet responsibility. If the Taoiseach has developed a different understanding of the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility to allow Ministers a free vote, for example, in upcoming votes in the Dáil on social issues, especially the eighth amendment to the Constitution, does this imply that there will be this freedom in the course of the debate on the budget, social welfare legislation and economic issues?

I am not sure if there is an understanding or agreement, but there is a commitment in the programme for Government to provide a new emergency department in Beaumont Hospital. The Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, was particularly active on the issue during the negotiations on A Programme for a Partnership Government. I want to know if that commitment is on track because Beaumont Hospital is 30 years old, there has been no investment in it and there is a crisis every winter in its emergency department, at the height of which there could be 50 patients on trolleys at any one time. A new emergency department is badly needed. The programme for Government states planning will take place towards the end of 2016 with a view to providing funding next year. I hope the Minister of State, working closely with Deputies in Dublin Bay North, will ensure the facility is provided once and for all.

I remind the Taoiseach that we are out of time; will he, therefore, please give a brief synopsis?

On the issue raised by Deputy Micheál Martin, the South Tipperary General Hospital management team identified the most immediate priority actions to support the emergency department, including providing for pilot or temporary on-site acute bed capacity through a patient hotel solution, subject to the procurement process, the planning, development and implementation of the frail elderly pathway and the extension of the provision of community intervention team services.

I assume that the meeting that took place between the Minister and the doctors was about this matter. Obviously, it was subject to the procurement process and planning.

If management was doing it, why was there only one Deputy with the Minister?

We are badly over time.

I do not know. I cannot answer that question.

Does the Taoiseach understand the point I am making? If management had already agreed to it, what was the Deputy doing there with the Minister?

I have advised Ministers that when they meet representatives from constituencies, they should meet the whole lot, not discriminate and treat them in a fair way.

Not too many have observed that advice in the past five years.

I thank the Deputy.

Or in the five years before that.

To reply to Deputy Gerry Adams's question, the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil has been published. In essence, it is to facilitate the passage of three budgets and have a review at the end of 2018 as part of a five-year programme. It is like some of the documents in which the Deputy's party might have been involved during the years.

To respond to Deputy Joan Burton's question, the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility has not been and will not be changed. It has always applied and applies now. When the matter is referred back to the Dáil from the citizen assembly and recommendations are made-----

It will not apply.

-----everybody will vote in accordance with his or her conscience.

Therefore, conscience has now been divorced from the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility?

No. I have already made this clear-----

That is a major constitutional development.

The principle of collective Cabinet responsibility has not changed.

It happened in the 1970s.

On the question of having a free vote in the Dáil on a social matter of such divisiveness as the eight amendment and what it might mean, everybody will have the opportunity to vote in accordance with his or her own conscience. That is the way it should be.

What is Government policy then?

On the matter of Beaumont Hospital, the project is included in the programme for Government. We will commence the design of a new emergency department later this year, with a view to funding for construction being provided as part of the 2017 capital plan review. I know that there is pressure is on Beaumont Hospital on a cyclical basis. We will see to it that this objective in the programme for Government is followed through.

Therefore, Finian has got a better deal than John Halligan.

Tá breis is trí nóiméad sa bhreis caite ar an gceist seo. Táimid ag bogadh ar aghaidh.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Gerry Adams


2. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with President Francois Hollande in July 2016. [27031/16]

President Hollande’s visit to Dublin on 21 July had initially been planned as a full State visit, but it was curtailed following the devastating attack in Nice on Bastille Day in which 84 people were brutally murdered. In the circumstances, his visit was limited to three elements: our meeting at Government Buildings, his meeting with President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin and interaction with some members of the French community in Ireland at Dublin Castle.

At our meeting, I was accompanied by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, the EU digital single market and data protection. President Hollande was accompanied by Mr. Harlem Désir, the French Minister for European affairs. In opening the meeting I reiterated the sympathy and solidarity of the Irish people with the people of France in the wake of the horrendous attack in Nice and the other recent terrorist attacks in France. President Hollande briefed the meeting on the security situation and his government’s response. We agreed on the urgent need to accelerate ongoing work on a range of EU counter-terrorism and security actions, including promoting close and effective co-operation between police and security services. The surest way to assert and protect Europe’s fundamental values is to refuse to bow to terrorism and its assault on these values.

We discussed the EU-UK relationship, the renewal of the European Union, economic issues, external relations and counter-terrorism measures. In dealing with the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom we agreed that maintaining the closest possible partnership was key, based on a balance of rights and obligations, including in respect of the four freedoms. Our two countries are the United Kingdom’s nearest neighbours and each has unique concerns to be addressed in future negotiations. President Hollande acknowledged Ireland’s special position in the maintenance of the Good Friday Agreement and as a country with a land border with the United Kingdom. We noted the economic progress made nationally and in the euro area generally but also the risks ahead, including as a result of the outcome of the UK referendum. We reaffirmed our shared commitment to the European Union as the essential framework for peace, prosperity and security in Europe. The confidence of citizens in the European project needs to be renewed. This can best be achieved through an improved functioning of the European Union and the faster and better delivery of practical results in areas of priority which should be the focus of European action. They include internal and external security, growth and investment in order to create jobs, fighting unemployment and strengthening our economies. It is vital that the difficult challenges facing young Europeans are addressed through ambitious programmes.

On global issues, President Hollande outlined progress made on the French initiative aimed at injecting new momentum into the Middle East peace process, an initiative in which Ireland has been participating in a situation which has now changed seriously for the worse. We also spoke about the security situation in the Sahel. President Hollande welcomed Ireland’s increase in its contribution to the EU training mission in Mali.

I also took a moment to congratulate President Hollande on the huge success of Euro 2016 and thank the mayor of Paris for acknowledging the Irish supporters who were such a feature of the competition and the celebrations.

Given the horrific attack in Nice the week before, it was good that that visit went ahead, even if it was slimmed down, and that the Taoiseach was able to express our solidarity with the President and people of France.

We cannot be blasé about the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. It is very important that we argue for proper humanitarian approaches and peace processes across all of that region.

I wish to concentrate on our own situation. It is clear that President Hollande supports the Government's objectives in negotiations to minimise the impact of Brexit on the peace process, the common travel area and so on. The Taoiseach has said he raised with the French President concerns, concerns echoed by him, about the potential adverse impact on the Good Friday Agreement. I noted yesterday that the Taoiseach had given an example of where he had pointed out to the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, MP, that the Government had, rightly - in a modest way I was supportive of this - given information at the inquest into the Kingsmill massacre. The Taoiseach commended this to Mr. Brokenshire as an example the British Government should follow, but it did not follow it. As I said to the Taoiseach yesterday, it is blocking funding to deal with legacy issues for the victims of British terrorism. The Ballymurphy families, whom the Taoiseach, the leader of Fianna Fáil and others may have met, walked out of a meeting. Therefore, the Taoiseach's plea to Mr. Brokenshire and good sense approach did not work. Mr. Brokenshire totally ignored what the Taoiseach had said to him. In his discussions with President Hollande I wonder if the Taoiseach gave such examples.

We talk about our unique relationship with the British Government. There are many unique issues of common interest to us and the people of that island. However, on this issue, the Government is in breach of a huge number of its obligations under international treaties for which it has equal responsibility. I have said to the Taoiseach many times that we need to use our influence with friends abroad to ensure the British will live up to their obligations on all of these issues.

To return to the question I raised yesterday, to which to Taoiseach has still not given me a satisfactory answer, it is of key importance that the Government recognise, accept, advocate for and promote the vote people in the North have. If the Government does not do this within the international forum, who will? Nobody else will. The Deputy First Minister will and Sinn Féin might be able to do it in a limited way. However, Deputy Enda Kenny is the Taoiseach. He has to be very clear in saying to President Hollande and others that the people of the North voted to remain within the European Union and that the Government recognises, supports and is advocating for this because it also shares that position. If the Taoiseach is not clear on the issue, as on all other issues, the British will weasel their way out of it and it will be the people of this island who will pick up the pieces afterwards.

I explained to President Hollande that the European Union had strongly supported the peace process, as a result of which the guns had been taken off the streets and communities were getting on with their business.

President Hollande understands that and Europe still supports the peace process. I did not go into detail with President Hollande about our decision to supply to the coroner's inquest whatever material existed here on Garda files arising from the Kingsmill massacre and I did not mention the Ballymurphy case or the details of any other atrocities. However, I mentioned that issue to the Secretary of State, Mr. Brokenshire, as an example of how the fresh start, particularly in respect of legacy issues, could be commenced to deal with it. If the theory behind the fresh start were to apply in practice, somebody with a real grievance, for example, a person on either side who lost a family member during the Troubles, should have access, through an independent person, to all of the information about the case. The question is whether this approach will apply because it has clearly not applied to date. I spoke to the Secretary of State in the context of the previous Government's decision to supply whatever information we have to the coroner.

I accept that the result of the vote on Brexit was that the people of Northern Ireland, by majority, voted to stay in the European Union. I will articulate this point at the discussions that take place at European Council level. I do not suppose I am expected to articulate the same point on behalf of the people of Scotland who also voted to stay in the EU.

As this is the island of Ireland and we have a land border with Northern Ireland that will become an external EU border, I will articulate that people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. Given the particular relationship we have with Northern Ireland, it is important that this voice is heard. This is another reason for having an all-island conversation about where all this is headed and what implications Brexit may have along the line.

I very much welcome the Taoiseach's clear commitment to advocate for the people of the North in respect of the vote to remain in the European Union. Such advocacy will be very welcome. Having so clearly set out his commitment in this regard, we now need an all-party discussion on Brexit among the leaders and the forum must meet as soon as possible. I thank the Taoiseach for his reply.

Does the Taoiseach wish to make any closing remarks?

People made their decision in a vote and I respect that.

EU Summits

Gerry Adams


3. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the EU summit in Bratislava. [27032/16]

Richard Boyd Barrett


4. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent EU summit in Bratislava. [27127/16]

Joan Burton


5. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the outcomes he achieved at the recent meeting of the EU Heads of Government in Bratislava. [27227/16]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, together.

The Bratislava summit on 16 September was part of the process of political reflection launched at the meeting of 27 Heads of State and Government, together with President Tusk and President Juncker, that took place on 29 June after the European Council. The objective of the summit was to hold a broad debate on the key challenges and priorities for the European Union. A declaration was issued, along with a short work programme or roadmap, as set out by President Tusk, President Junker and the Slovak Presidency. Discussions covered migration; internal security; external security and defence; and economic and social development, including youth. I acknowledged the strong concerns our partners have on migration and security and assured them that Ireland will continue to contribute to the response to the migration crisis. I also stated we would engage in the further development of the Common Security and Defence Policy in support of international peace and security, as provided for in the EU treaties. I highlighted the priority that Ireland and many EU partners attach to economic issues, in particular the Single Market and digital single market, jobs, investment and trade, and noted that we need a balanced approach to the debate about the future of Europe.

There was also a short discussion and agreement at the summit on the question of ratification of the Paris climate change agreement. The European Union should be in a position to sign up to the agreement in Marrakesh in November without prejudice to the position of any member state concluding its own detailed responses to the individual country proposals.

There was no discussion of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, other than a report from President Tusk of his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May, and a reaffirmation of the agreed principles that there can be no negotiations until the UK triggers Article 50, and that access to the Single Market requires acceptance of all four freedoms. In my discussions with other leaders, however, I reminded them again of Ireland’s specific concerns on this issue, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland, North-South relations, the common travel area and bilateral trade.

It was agreed at Bratislava that the process of reflection on the future of Europe should continue at the October and December European Council meetings. Another meeting of the 27 member states will take place in Malta in early 2017 before the process concludes in March to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

Prior to the Bratislava summit, the French and German foreign Ministers called for a new European security contract and there was talk about establishing a European military headquarters and increased co-operation on military spending by EU states. After the summit, the German Chancellor and President of France claimed their plans for further defence co-operation had been well received and they would elaborate on the issue over the next few months. Will the Taoiseach provide some clarity on the French and German proposals? Will he assure the Dáil that no decisions will be taken and no agreements entered into by the Government that would in any way undermine our positive position of neutrality?

It is Sinn Féin's intention to introduce a Bill shortly which would insert the principle of neutrality in the Constitution. Will the Taoiseach indicate what will be the Government's attitude to such legislation? I would like to think it would support such a measure.

On the issue of refugees, I again commend the actions of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean and note that the LE James Joyce rescued more than 1,000 people in recent weeks. However, 3,498 people have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, which is unimaginable. These events take place day in, day out before the eyes of the global community, in particular the European elites. Refugees, many of whom are children, are enduring terrible conditions in the camps.

I note the Government co-chaired a UN summit on refugees at which the Tánaiste admitted - she could do little else - that the Government had been slow in meeting its commitments to resettle Syrian migrants. Of the 4,000 Syrian refugees we committed to accept, fewer than 1,000 have been resettled. We also have the scandal of people being incarcerated in direct provision centres, which has been ongoing under successive Governments. The International Rescue Committee called on Ireland to accept 1,223 refugees per annum for the next five years. Will the Taoiseach indicate how many refugees the Government expects to be resettled in the next 12 months and when the State will reach its target?

On the issue of Palestine, the Government has failed to act on the Oireachtas decision to recognise the State of Palestine. I have raised this issue with the Taoiseach month in, month out for a long time and he dodges the issue time and again. Recognition could be achieved by a simple declaration. Will the Taoiseach state clearly that the Government will recognise the State of Palestine, which must not be contingent on negotiations? Palestine either has the right to statehood or it does not. My request is similar to asking someone to recognise the right of the Irish people to nationhood, which is above and beyond negotiation. The Palestinians have the same right and I ask the Taoiseach to be very clear on the issue and not to dodge it. Ireland must assume the leadership role people in the region want us to take, as opposed to shedding the crocodile tears we see week in, week out while the position in Palestine deteriorates.

The Taoiseach may be aware that in ancient Roman mythology and religion, Janus was a god with two faces, in other words, two people in one. I suggest to the Taoiseach that when it comes to his attitude towards EU announcements, people could be forgiven for believing we have two different taoisigh or two taoisigh in one body.

When it comes to the European Union telling us we should collect €13 billion in unpaid taxes from a tax evading company, Apple, the Taoiseach is the patriotic firebrand and eurocritic who is standing up for the nation and telling the EU not to interfere with the right of the Irish people to decide their own policies. However, when it comes to the EU telling us we must accept a regressive, unpopular, unwanted austerity tax in the form of water charges, he suddenly becomes a little puppy dog who rolls over in the most servile fashion and tells us we must obey every single diktat that comes from the EU, regardless of the fact the people of this country have clearly given their verdict on water charges and do not want them.

I want the Taoiseach to explain these two different taoisigh and these two utterly different attitudes to the EU. When it comes to standing up for ordinary working people and, indeed, democracy on an issue like water charges, he says that, no, we just have to do what the EU tells us-----

Deputy, you are going beyond the confines of the question.

I doubt water charges was an issue on the agenda at Bratislava. Your question concerns a report on what transpired at Bratislava.

I would say the Apple ruling was a very explicit reason for the meeting in Bratislava, as were the reasons why Britain had left and why there was widespread disillusionment with the EU. I put it to the Taoiseach that widespread disillusion flows precisely from these double standards that seem to characterise our approach to the EU and its policies on a whole range of issues. People are utterly bemused by these double standards and, very specifically, by the Taoiseach’s double standards. I ask very seriously how the Taoiseach explains these two absolutely contrasting approaches to the EU. Would the real Taoiseach please stand up?

When I, as Tánaiste, had the honour to work with the Taoiseach, he and I reached a widely publicised agreement that Ireland would accept 4,000 migrants over a period of time in the context of people fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Syria and other areas. If he recalls, we spoke specifically about prioritising the situation of families with children in camps in countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which are close to Syria. We spoke about the situation of unaccompanied minors who are in various different countries and at significant risk in terms of what may happen to them. We spoke also about family reunification in regard to people who would be settled here but who would have other family members - possibly spouses, children and siblings - in other jurisdictions and who would wish to join their family member who had been settled here. All of this was based on well-established practice in humanitarian aid situations.

I know the Taoiseach is genuinely concerned about this. What is the possible explanation for the number accepted and processed so far by Ireland being so poor? Was there detailed discussion at the Bratislava meeting of the obstacles involved? This is not just a matter for Ireland but, obviously, given we are discussing it here in the Irish Parliament, what are the bottlenecks in regard to Ireland taking what Irish people in communities right around the country have genuinely agreed to? While we know this is a very difficult issue in other countries, Irish people have been genuinely welcoming. We have some of the best international humanitarian relief organisations in the world, as well as many people throughout the health service who are ready to volunteer and to go to help when called on under very long-standing arrangements. Will the Taoiseach give us a rational explanation of the problem and what discussions he has had with his fellows Heads of State and Government?

There were discussions in regard to the views of some countries of the 27 around potential higher levels of military co-operation post-Brexit. As the Taoiseach of a proudly neutral country, was Deputy Kenny part of those discussions? Were those discussions just among the like-minded countries or general to all 27 member states? We know the British were not present because of the Brexit vote-----

Excuse me. As there is only a short time remaining, I call the Taoiseach to respond.

Let me confirm for Deputy Adams that there will be no change in our situation in so far as neutrality is concerned. We participate in European common security and defence issues within the European treaties and the constraints upon us. We have always contributed in that sense and there will be no movement in that regard.

Deputies Adams and Burton referred to refugees, which I will deal with shortly.

I mentioned the recognition of Palestine.

I will come back to the Deputy on that. I met Prime Minister Netanyahu some time ago and said to him I would like to go to Israel and Palestine. He said he would be very happy to welcome me to do both. If I get the opportunity, I would like to do that.

Would the Taoiseach go to Gaza?

I hope the gods the Deputy mentioned are with us on Saturday when we take the field against the Dubs.

Deputy Boyd Barrett talked about patriotic firebrands, and I like the way the Deputy articulates his views here. We defend our right in respect of our competence on corporate tax. It is written into the European treaties that this is a national competence and we will stand up for ourselves in that regard, irrespective of any comment from Europe or European commentators. It is enshrined in the European treaties and we defend and will always defend it.

He defends the corporations.

The issue of state aid is a matter for the Commission. We believe Commissioner Vestager made a major mistake here, and we appeal this on the basis of getting legal clarification from the European courts on this matter.

I would also say to Deputy Boyd Barrett that we have always had a philosophy in Ireland of paying for what we get. I do know how he can assume that one should not make a contribution for water that is treated.

We do. Who pays for it? It is not somebody from outer space.

In this city, there was less than a 2% tolerance for years but it is now 15%. I believe very strongly in the issue of having a national utility for the procurement and provision of water services. I believe very strongly in conservation measures, which can only come through measuring, which comes through metering.

The Taoiseach is in a minority. It does not matter what he thinks.

If Deputies do not appreciate the scale of the wars that will happen in time about water, they should reflect on some of those gods. I believe there has to be a fair and affordable contribution for the water we use.

So it is not a national competence for us to decide how we pay for water.

In respect of-----

Could we have order please? We have exceeded the time.

Could I have 30 seconds to conclude?

The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will deal with questions in respect of refugees later this afternoon. We did say we would take 4,000 refugees from resettlement programmes, which is from outside the EU, and relocation programmes, which is from inside the EU. A total of 486 refugees have arrived out of a commitment of 520 for resettlement here. In the relocation category the commitment is 2,622 and only 69 have arrived. It is the same problem with other countries. Sixty-nine have relocated in total from Greece, of which 33 are children, with the latest arrivals on 8 September. A further 40 have been assessed and are cleared for arrival. Arrangements for their travel to the State are currently being made. Ireland has indicated to Italy that we have 20 places immediately available for relocation from Italy. Progress has stalled due to delays relating to the implementation of security assessments. It is not the Minister's fault and not ours. We have places and the ability to take people but the problem has been at the other end.

In the Taoiseach's view, whose fault is it?

Between 2012 and 2015, we allocated €42 million for Syrian aid. The Minister will deal with those issues in greater detail on Question Time.

The question is to the Taoiseach.