Order of Business

Tuesday’s business shall be No. 5, motions re EU regulation in justice area and in insolvency proceedings - referral to committee; No. 6, Financial Resolutions for Minerals Development Bill 2015 [Seanad]; No. 7, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 7a, motion to instruct committee on Minerals Development Bill 2015; and No. 16, Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Second Stage (resumed). Private Members' business shall be No. 28, Equal Participation in Schools Bill 2016 - Second Stage, selected by Solidarity-PBP.

Wednesday’s business shall be No. 17, Planning and Development Bill (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 18, Criminal Justice Bill 2016 - changed from Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. Private Members’ business shall be No. 108, motion re consumer impact of increased insurance costs, selected by Fianna Fáil.

Thursday’s business shall be No. 18, Criminal Justice (Offences Relating to Information Systems) Bill 2016 - amendments from the Seanad; No. 2, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Second Stage of No. 31, Residential Tenancies (Housing Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) (Amendment) Bill 2016 will be debated in Thursday's evening slot.

With regard to the announcement of proposed arrangements for this week’s business, I refer to the first revised report of the Business Committee dated 15 May 2017. In relation to Tuesday’s business, it is proposed that:

(1) motions regarding EU Regulation in justice area and in insolvency proceedings - referral to committee, Financial Resolutions for the Minerals Development Bill 2015 [Seanad], which shall be moved together and decided by a single question, and motion regarding ministerial rota for Parliamentary Questions will be taken without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately;

(2) the motion to instruct the committee shall conclude within 60 minutes and the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons, or a member

nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed 7.5 minutes each and any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately; and

(3) Second Stage of the Equal Participation in Schools Bill 2016 shall be brought to a conclusion, if not previously concluded, at 10.00 p.m.

In relation to Thursday’s business, it is proposed that the amendments from the Seanad on the Criminal Justice (Offences Relating to Information Systems) Bill 2016 shall be taken after Questions on Promised Legislation and the weekly divisions will take place on the conclusion of the amendments from the Seanad.

There are two proposals to put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to?

It is not agreed to. I call Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

Loath as I am to object to the Order of Business, there was a protocol put in place for Whips and Deputies in case of events of national importance that need to be addressed in this House breaking over the weekend after the Business Committee has decided the Order of Business. I submitted such a request on Saturday. I believe it is one of the most important issues that should be tackled in this House. It relates to illegal telephone bugging by members of An Garda Síochána. I also submitted a Topical Issue request and a private notice request to try to see whether we as Whips could come up with some mechanisms to allow the Taoiseach, as the person who receives the report on phone-tapping from the judge each year, and the Tánaiste to come before the House to explain the background to this and maybe answer questions. Thus far, all we are getting is what has been in one newspaper. That is scandalous enough in itself. There are disturbing revelations. It is important that we know the full extent of this, who was affected and whether the officers themselves-----

I ask for a brief statement, Deputy.

That is all I was going to say. It is important that we have that debate. I believe this is the place to have it, rather than it being in the media only and this House always playing catch-up. I went through the normal process. I know the judgment lies with the Ceann Comhairle. However, in this instance in particular, this issue is of national importance.

I know that Deputy Boyd Barrett is offering. Just to help Members, five Deputies tabled Topical Issues on this issue today. I was of the belief, correctly as it transpired, that the matter would be raised on Leaders' Questions. I was of the view that if it was raised on Leaders' Questions and dealt with to everybody's satisfaction, there would be no need for a Topical Issue matter.

If Members are not satisfied, it is open for them to submit again tomorrow.

I was one of those who submitted a Topical Issue matter request. I note that over the weekend, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, also said that legislation is being drafted to deal particularly with the misuse of power in office. The allegation that was made over the weekend is of a shocking order, suggesting the possibility that influence was exercised by a Minister to tap the phone of a constituency team member of a sitting Teachta Dála for political reasons.

We all appreciate the political import of it but we cannot have a debate on it now.

That is a shocking further revelation.

Given we have not succeeded in getting a Topical Issue debate on this, we cannot allow this week to pass without the issue being discussed, particularly now the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has said legislation is being drafted on it and the Government is serious about it. It is a shocking allegation-----

Thank you, Deputy.

-----that has to be addressed and it was not addressed in the Taoiseach's response.

Deputy Howlin wants to come in on the same matter.

I share the Deputy's concerns about what is an allegation at this stage. The Taoiseach will recall I raised it with him last week in Leaders' Questions. It fits into wider concerns Members of the House have about An Garda Síochána, as Deputy Shortall has rightly laid out. I understood the Taoiseach agreed last week the Tánaiste would make herself available to answer questions on the broader concerns that everybody on both sides of the House has. Will that happen in the course of this week?

Deputy Boyd Barrett raised an important point but I do not want anybody to be under any illusions, presumption or perception that this allegation is relevant to the current period. It is important Deputy Boyd Barrett understands that.

It refers to a sitting Deputy.

My understanding is-----

That is what the report says.

My understanding-----

I do not know why the Deputies are shaking their heads.

Let us be clear. My understanding is this allegation refers to a period back in the early 2000s. There was a judge in place at that time. I will not make any further comment on it.

He was paid off only last month.

It is not correct for the Deputy to stand up and leave a perception that this carry-on, which is very serious, is of the current time. The second thing I want to say to Deputy Howlin-----

When will it be dealt with?

-----is the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality has come before the House on a regular basis where there are provisions to call any Minister before the House either by way of Topical Issue debate or priority question. The Tánaiste also answers questions on Thursday mornings in the vast majority of cases.

If Topical Issue matters are submitted again tomorrow on this matter and Members continue to be dissatisfied, they will be considered. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed. On proposed legislation, I call Deputy Martin.

There has been some concern about the lack of legislative proposals before the Dáil, particularly Bills emanating from the Government. There has been a lack of engagement on a number of Bills. The one I want to raise is the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which was before the Seanad prior to Christmas. It is a wide-ranging Bill and has been the subject matter of numerous all-party Oireachtas committees. It was withdrawn from the Seanad before Christmas. It is now the month of May, six months on. It is generally accepted and regarded as a matter of urgent public health concern yet as I understand it no progress is being made with it. There is no indication it is coming before the House before the summer recess. The Irish Cancer Society is adamant it should, as are many other public health bodies. There may be issues around certain aspects but it does not mean it cannot be debated here and dealt with and that there cannot be engagement on it. There are a number of other Bills like this that are in the system but are not being progressed.

The Deputy's time is up.

When can we expect the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be brought back in?

The Government considered the legislative programme this morning. I will ask the Whip, Deputy Doherty, to deal with the question.

The Whip will answer the question.

There are eight Bills in the programme for Government that have already been published in this session. There are ten to come in the next number of weeks and there are six we are working on and hope to publish by the end of July before the House rises for the summer.

The Bill the Deputy refers to is not stuck anywhere. It will be taken by the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, in the Seanad in the coming weeks. The reason for the delay was to address the concerns raised by parties inside and outside of the House so that when it comes to the Seanad it can pass successfully with everybody's support.

The programme for Government commits to transparency and accountability. The Taoiseach coined the phrase, "Paddy needs to know". Paddy wants to know. The issue of phone tapping has been raised by many Deputies following news reports that the phone of a PA of a sitting Deputy was tapped. As I understand it, it was someone who was in the Opposition and in the same constituency as a Minister.

The Taoiseach read the judge's reports on phone taps, but they were phone taps which had been properly cleared. However, these allegations involve phone taps which had not been properly cleared.

That is not relevant in the context of promised legislation.

It was also 20 years ago.

We have had this mentioned and it is not relevant in the context of promised legislation.

Actually the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, has promised legislation in this area.


The interception legislation needs to be amended.

I raise this issue in the context of interception legislation. The allegations involve phone taps which had not been properly cleared and, therefore, could not have been part of the judge's reports. As the Taoiseach went on to say it had happened in the early 2000s, he knows exactly what happened. As he has the reports, why can we not be told? Why can he not tell us what happened, who was involved and so on?

I do not have the details of what happened back then.

We know the details.

What I read for the Deputy and the nation was the last report received from the justice dealing with the issue.

He had asked questions of An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality. He had asked for records, computer records and other information.

He needs to talk to a whistleblower.

In both cases, that is, in respect of An Garda Síochána and the Department, all of the questions had been answered to his satisfaction. His conclusion which is lodged in the Oireachtas Library was that-----

Somebody lied to him.

-----An Garda Síochána and the Department were fully in compliance with the Acts.

He needs to speak to the whistleblower.

It is not only about a small number of cases in which the law was complied with because he asked questions about a range of issues, as a justice would, in that regard-----

He got the wrong answers.

That was his report. I do not have the report from the early 2000s and do not know for what period it was or who the Minister for Justice was at the time.

The Taoiseach should find out.

Yesterday we heard that the Minister for Education and Skills intended to legislate to ban cheating services at third level. While legislation to strengthen Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, is welcome, it is hardly the most pressing matter in the education system. A year after his appointment we still have not seen the Minister's response to the Labour Party's Equal Status (Admission to Schools) Bill which was passed in this House and is due to formally pass Second Stage on 28 June. I am interested in a range of other Bills in the education sphere, but I wish to ask about one in particular. Will the Taoiseach provide an update on the Technological Universities Bill which has been stuck on Committee Stage since before the last election? The Bill is absolutely essential for the amalgamation of the institutes of technology and the creation of new technological universities, for which enormous efforts have been made. Originally there seemed to be a blockage because of a dispute with a trade union, but it cannot be the case that this is an impediment to an essential part of the third level education strategy. When will the Bill be advanced?

I will ask the Minister for Education and Skills to deal with that question.

The Deputy has referred to three Bills-----

As I am only allowed to refer to one, I thought I would reference the other two.

First, regarding the QQI Bill, it is important that we have a robust system in place to ensure standards and the reputation of the education system. The Bill is important in that context. As the Deputy knows, we have the ambition to earn €2.1 billion from international students. That would represent a 33% increase in the number of such students and we need to underpin it with legislation. Regarding the Labour Party Bill, we have had consultations on the changes to which the Deputy referred. The Dáil and the Oireachtas committee were given a 12-month period in which to look at this issue. As the Deputy said, that 12-month period will come to an end in June. In the meantime very considerable work has been done on the Bill.

Regarding the Technological Universities Bill, I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress with the Teachers Union of Ireland, TUI. The issues raised by it would have a profound impact on the progress of the Bill which we all want to see, particularly in respect of the institutes in the south east. I am pleased that the TUI will be putting the issues to a ballot. That will represent very significant progress on the Bill-----

When will the Bill progress?

The Bills must be introduced in such a manner as to ensure their passage through the Dáil.

I have never heard of legislation being held up pending the outcome of a trade union ballot.

If there are outstanding issues on which the House will not agree, we need to find a way to resolve them before bringing the legislation back before the House. That is what I am seeking to do.

The Minister needs to engage with the House. There has been no engagement whatsoever.

Curiously, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, seems to be promising a lot of legislation.

He is very busy.

The most recent promise or suggestion of new legislation from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, came this morning in response to a piece in the media about the Robin Hill apartments, which I raised last week. He responded this morning to the huge gaps and loopholes in the residential tenancies legislation, which are allowing vulture funds to evict people, ratchet up rents through back doors and get around the Tyrellstown amendment, by saying that a review of the legislation in this area will occur. When will that happen? It is a matter of absolute urgency because vulture funds are putting huge holes in the Minister's legislation by driving a coach and four through it. We need urgent legislative action to close those loopholes.

I will have to come back to the Deputy. I know the case he is referring to. I did not hear the Minister's comments but I will come back to the Deputy this evening.

It has been suggested that the draft heads of a new data protection Bill are on the way on foot of an EU regulation. Essentially, this relates to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. It has been reported that the new law proposes to exempt public sector bodies from huge administrative fines, except when they are competing against commercial interests. The State wants to exempt itself. Is this legislation coming forward? Has it been withdrawn? If it is coming forward, will there be pre-legislative scrutiny? The law of unintended consequences could deliver some very significant problems if this legislation does not receive proper scrutiny at an early stage.

This legislation is very important. Ireland is well ahead in dealing with data protection, which is being handled by the Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. The heads of this Bill were approved by the Cabinet last week. The issues mentioned by the Deputy can be raised, dealt with and teased out when the Bill goes for pre-legislative scrutiny. In light of the nature and scale of investment in this country by multinational companies that have extensive assets in digitised material, we need to be fully compliant in respect of this issue so that we will be ready for the new directive from the European Commission, which will kick in during January of next year. That means we will have to enhance the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, which we have changed and funded and to which we have provided experienced personnel. Further enhancement of that office might be needed, given the nature of the cases that might arise. The heads of this important Bill were approved last week. It will go for pre-legislative scrutiny. I am quite sure the Deputy's comments will be treated with proper respect in that context.

I asked about the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 last week, but I did not get an answer. I am raising it again now. This legislation provides for oversight over the board, which is no longer there, and over the CEO, who is now functioning without the oversight of a board. It seems to have been decided to use the dwindling fund to go into private property at a huge cost. Has the Minister for Education and Skills given Caranua permission under section 7(7) of the 2012 Act to spend the survivors' fund on astronomical rent? I asked that question last week and I am asking it again this week. I will ask it every week until I get an answer. What other permissions for contracts have been given by the Minister as he has to do under the Act?

Níl an t-eolas cruinn agam. Tá súil agam go mbeidh mé in ann freagra a thabhairt don Teachta tráthnóna inniu nó amárach.

Go raibh míle maith agat, a Thaoisigh.

The programme for Government commits to "review the Agriculture Appeals Act 2001 to ensure the independence and efficiency of the office in dealing with appeals from farmers". I know of a farmer in County Tipperary who is waiting for €12,500 so he can pay his bills. This money will be a lifeline to him. He had a penalty of €2,000 because he was ill, which was unfortunate enough. He accepts that, but he is still waiting for the other €10,500. Small farmers are not in a position to have the State owing them money. They have bills to pay to contractors and co-ops. They owe people rent and everything else. They like to pay their bills and they do so. This is totally unfair. We have been told that there are computer glitches and backlogs. It is just not acceptable that farmers are being treated like this. It would not happen to a State organisation.

If it was the other way around and the Revenue Commissioners were owed the money, considerable interest and penalties would be applied. It is not acceptable that this is continuing to happen. A commitment was given in the programme for Government that this would be reviewed.

Deputies Breathnach and Aindrias Moynihan wish to comment on the same matter, and I ask them to be brief.

With respect to payments due to the agricultural sector, it is totally unacceptable that where some slight misinformation appears on a application for a farm payment the computers in the Department spit out the form into a corner, such files are being left there and nobody is handling them on a manual basis. I have been informed by senior officials in the Department that this is what is happening. It is unacceptable that is happening where a small error exists. I will give brief example of a case. A person got a €50 reduction when they were paying their bill and because that discrepancy of €50 arose with respect to their €50,000 cheque, their file is not being dealt with. That is one of numerous examples of cases across the country.

Thank you, Deputy.

We have a Charter for the Rights for Farmers and it is unfair that the grants that people are due are going towards paying bank interest. That is unacceptable and we need to get to the bottom of it.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government to review the appeals mechanism and a scoping exercise was conducted prior to last Christmas but the review does not seems to have progressed from that point. This is very important for people who are caught up in this system. A number of examples have been given and I will cite the example of a case in my area where a farmer who had one digit wrong in the nine-digit parcel number has his 2014 payment held up until this February. That is ridiculous. It is pure black magic with respect to the way that an applicant puts in their details and it takes such a long time to find out if anything is going to come through the appeals system. More information needs to be given to farmers and there also needs to be a follow through on the commitment to improve the appeals process.

Deputy Danny Healy Rae also wishes to comment on the same matter.

Many farmers are being blackguarded when it comes to the current system. We asked the Government to review it. Where farmers' payments are being held up due to small misdemeanours, why can they not be paid 75% of what they are owed and the matter at issue dealt with after that? That is what we are asking to be done. These people have to live, they have to put food on the table and they have to send their children, and they are entitled to their payments. The Department is holding up everything. That is very wrong.

Thank you, Deputy.

It was promised that the appeals system would be reviewed and that something would be done about it but nothing has been done.

I accept that everybody who is due a payment or grant should be able to receive it on time. This, however, is not a legislative question. I am sure that a written Dáil question giving the details would result in an answer being given. I take the point about the scoping exercise that was being carried out and I will arrange for the Minister, Deputy Creed, to follow through on that. The process and the system are in place and if farmers were being paid 75% of what they are owed, the Deputy would be asking me in this House why were they were not paid the remaining 25%.

No, I would not-----

The fact of the matter is that the person will get 100% payment if they get it right in the beginning.

The Deputies should table a Topical Issue on the matter. I call Deputy Durkan.

The level of low morale in An Garda Síochána has often been a topic in this House. What is particularly attributable to that is the degree to which the bail laws of this country are abused by criminal elements. To what extent are our proposals to restrict bail likely to be successful in dealing with this very important issue with particular reference to recidivism? Is it intended to introduce further legislation which might curtail the activities of the criminal classes?

Deputy Durkan has raised this issue many times over the years. He is aware of the sequencing of consecutive sentences and that bail can be refused. The Criminal Justice Bill 2016, which is the new bail Bill, will be dealt with in the House tomorrow.

Thank you, Taoiseach.

With regard to the routine orthodontic waiting list within the Kerry and Cork community health care organisation, in an effort to reduce the waiting times a national list initiative commenced in 2016 whereby treatment was offered to clients placed on the routine orthodontic waiting list up to December 2012, that is, those who have been waiting four years or more. I was informed by the HSE last Friday that there is no money left to fund this initiative, which was working very well and had served 235 people in Cork and Kerry areas, and there are still people waiting to be called for the past four years. When will that initiative get further funding as it is now stalled waiting for money to be allocated to it?

With respect to Deputy Healy-Rae, it is an important issue but it is not a legislative question.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government-----

It is a matter of allocation within the Vote for a very important issue and the HSE manager should be able to advise the Deputy as to the opportunities that exist to transfer other moneys into that Vote to ensure these orthodontic procedures can be carried out for people who need them in Cork and Kerry. That is not an issue of legislation, as Deputy Healy-Rae knows.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government on this-----

There is but-----

-----and the Taoiseach cannot walk away from this. He made promises and gave commitments. He cannot stand up in this House and say that I am wrong to raise that matter. I am within my rights because it is in the programme for Government. I am sorry. I am correct.

I call Deputy Eamon Ryan.

I said it was not a legislative matter. It is a matter of adjusting moneys within the Vote. Deputy Healy-Rae is perfectly entitled to raise it. I was just answering the Deputy's question.

As we speak, the Minister for Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, is meeting councillors from Dublin City Council on the issue of the Poolbeg strategic development zone, SDZ, which is a huge site that is very important to the development of housing in this city.

And related matters.

The city manager said last week that it is clear there could not be anything more than 10% social housing on the site because that was the legislative limit set. Is it considering or how would the Government introduce a raising of that legislative limit for other sites also but particularly for this SDZ site on which it is vital we have social housing in an area where the likes of Google, Facebook and other companies are buying up all the housing, making it impossible for local people to get a house? What provisions does the Taoiseach have to change the legislation to allow for a higher social housing limit in the Poolbeg SDZ?

I am sure this is a matter for discussion between the local authority and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. The question the Deputy has raised has not come before the Government for a decision because I assume the local authority, in the first instance, has its responsibilities and may decide to engage with the Minister with responsibility for housing in respect of the SDZ and what that limit is. I will have the fact of that matter checked for Deputy Ryan and revert to him on it.

The Taoiseach will know that the programme for Government committed to the establishment of an independent review of cardiac services in the south east. Dr. Niall Herity was appointed to do that work. He did that work and reported on it. Astonishingly, he recommended that all emergency cardiac services in the south east would cease. The Minister for Health has said he will not implement that recommendation subject to a national review. I have put down several parliamentary questions to him. I have contacted the Minister several times. He is still not in a position to tell us when the national review will take place, who will do it, whether it will be independent, if it will be a departmental review and what will be its terms of reference. The Taoiseach knows it is a very difficult, emotional issue for people in the south east, which is the only region that does not have full 24-7 cardiology services. Can the Taoiseach tell me when the review will take place, who will carry it out and when its work will be completed?

No, I cannot tell the Deputy but I will find out for him.

In A Programme for a Partnership Government there are various commitments to funding across many sectors. In that context, I am sure the Taoiseach will agree that the sale of any State asset should realise full and proper value for the people. We all read this morning that the LE Aisling was sold by the Department of Defence for €110,000 and is now on the market in Holland for an estimated €683,000. We have all heard the expression that one has to speculate to accumulate but this seems to be remarkable mark-up and the public is wondering why the taxpayer did not get a better price. Can the Taoiseach comment on the reason a reserve value was not set for that auction? Why was an independent valuation not sought for the LE Aisling?

The LE Aisling was decommissioned. It was 37 years old. It was sold by way of public auction in Cork on 23 March this year. It was decommissioned as it had far exceeded its life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. The sale was handled by Mr. Daly, a Cork-based agent and an expert in the field, who also handled the sale by auction of the decommissioned LE Emer in 2013 to a Nigerian registered company for €320,000, and the sale of the former LE Deirdre in 2001 to a UK company for €190,000. The same approach was followed in respect of the LE Aisling. I am advised that Mr. Daly is a ships sales broker with almost 40 years' experience and very strong international connections. The auction was advertised by the ship's auctioneer in the international publications, TradeWinds, which is a global shipping and maritime news publication, Lloyd's List, and the Afloat magazine.

I am also advised that following her withdrawal from service, the retention of LE Aisling at the naval base at Haulbowline was creating considerable pressure on Naval Service resources, including berthage space. It is estimated the retention of the vessel since its decommissioning from June last year to April this year cost approximately €370,000 for the assignment of a skeleton crew and approximately €10,000 on tug hire costs. While a crew was posted to LE Aisling, the personnel could not be deployed to other operational units where they were needed.