Order of Business

Tuesday’s business shall be No. 4, motion re draft Commission of Investigation (National Asset Management Agency) Order 2017, and No. 13, Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed). Private Members' business shall be No. 29, Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014 - Report and Final Stages, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday’s business shall be No. 14, Criminal Justice Bill 2016 - changed from Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 13, Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed); No. 30, Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 - changed from Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 - Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Heritage Bill 2016 [Seanad] - Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 108, motion re Caranua, selected by Independents 4 Change.

Thursday’s business shall be No. 5, motion re framework agreement between the EU and Mongolia, back from committee, to be taken without debate; and No. 2, Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Second Stage of No. 32, Pension Fund (Prohibition of Levies) Bill 2016, will be debated in the evening slot.

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

(1) The Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of the proceedings on the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014 but in any case not later than 11 p.m.;

(2) The motion re draft Commission of Investigation (National Asset Management Agency) Order 2017 shall conclude within 80 minutes. Speeches, which shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each, and all members may share time; and

(3) Report and Final Stages of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014 shall be taken.

In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that Report and Final Stages of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 - changed from Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 - be taken in Government time.

In relation to Thursday's business, it is proposed that the motion re framework agreement between the EU and Mongolia, back from committee, shall be taken without debate after Questions on Promised Legislation and the weekly divisions shall take place on conclusion of the motion.

I have three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed.

The programme for Government features a commitment to improve "the lives of people with disabilities through better access, supports and independence". While this is a very admirable aim on which everyone will be in agreement, the reality is much different from the aspiration set out in the programme for Government. Many people with very serious special needs who are in need of residential or respite care have no chance of accessing such care. As a result of difficulties that may arise, people with special needs are being taken out of their accommodation and, in some instances that I am aware of, placed in mental health facilities. These are totally inappropriate placements. The position is unacceptable for families who are having undue pressure and anxiety placed on them.

It is May and no appreciable progress has been made in the provision of residential and respite care and accommodation for people with special needs. In other instances, money is being spent where existing facilities are being wound down, for example, in County Kerry, yet there is nowhere for people to go. In other places, there are no services available. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, who I had hoped would be present, could come to the House at some stage to facilitate a debate on this matter and try to establish some connection between reality and aspiration?

I do not object to Deputy Martin's request. It would be good if, at an appropriate time, Members had an opportunity to contribute to a debate on disabilities and hear directly from the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, regarding the efforts and improvements being made in this area. I will be happy to facilitate Deputy Martin.

Ba mhaith lion ceist a chur faoin UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed by the State in 2007. More than 150 states have now ratified the convention. That this State has not done so is nothing short of a national disgrace. The primary purpose of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 is to provide for ratification of the UN convention. There is a concern that the Department of Justice and Equality is dragging its heels and unnecessarily delaying the process by failing to bring forward amendments for Committee Stage.

This is an issue of basic and fundamental rights. Joanne O'Riordan, who champions the rights of disabled citizens, summed up their desire as follows:

I want to be a contributor and ... to be treated like a full equal member of my community ... I will not allow this Government or any other people to treat me like a second class citizen.

Ms O'Riordan is correct. It is evident that the Government has failed her and many more disabled citizens. While I understand the need to put in place the necessary legislation to facilitate full compliance with the UN convention, this process has been going on for ten years. When will the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 be passed and when can we expect the State to ratify the UN convention?

The Deputy makes the point that this is a matter of rights. While it is a matter of rights, it is also a matter of procedures and follow through. We could have ratified the convention without being able to fulfil what it means. In this country, we have always taken the view that we deal with the legislation, put it through and implement it and then ratify conventions so that we can stand over them and say we ratified a convention because the necessary legislation was in place.

I have answered questions in the House about this issue for a number of years. A suite of legislation had to be passed. Believe me, the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, has raised this matter at Cabinet on a number of occasions and we are coming close to reaching a conclusion. That is the story. I will have the Minister of State respond to the House on this matter. It is not a case of dragging heels but getting the legislation through properly - the last piece of it is quite sensitive - and then ratifying the UN convention in order that we can stand over it.

In its latest country report on Ireland in which it makes country-specific recommendations, the European Commission adopted an ultra-conservative position in respect of Ireland, so much so that its recommendations will cut the fiscal space for Ireland by €7 billion over the next three years. This means the country will have less capacity to spend on vitally needed infrastructure. Last week, the Dáil passed a motion that the sale of a part interest in Allied Irish Banks should be postponed until such time as the proceeds from such a sale can be committed to capital spending.

In another part of its report, the Commission points out the severe infrastructure shortcomings in Ireland, specifically in transport, water services and housing.

What has the Government been doing that it has allowed the Commission, supported by the Department of Finance as I understand it, to spancel Ireland's potential for infrastructural growth at the same time that the Government is using AIB's proceeds to pay down debt?

Deputy Burton is well aware from her time as a Minister of what happens here. These are recommendations from the European Commission. Obviously, the Government takes these things into account but as we speak, the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform are meeting in Brussels with the European Investment Bank about the very issue of infrastructure in order that a proposition can be put forward by which funding and a stream of income resulting from major pieces of infrastructure can be put forward. Elements of that would be, for instance, the metro for Dublin or, for instance, the major motorway required from Cork to Limerick, in respect of which a stream of income would come to fund loans for those propositions and more to follow.

Deputy Burton is well aware that there is a €42 billion programme for infrastructural investment here. The review of the capital programme out to 2021 is currently under way.

The AIB situation has been referred to by the Minister for Finance on many occasions, a Cheann Comhairle. That is a paper exercise. When the testing of the 25% share sale is gone through, that will be used for debt reduction.

The Commission is entitled to make its views known, as it has. It has made its views known on Apple and it has made its views known on other things, but the Government would be very careful to manage prudently our economic affairs in the interests of our people-----

I thank the Taoiseach.

-----leaving us room to have infrastructure development. Deputy Burton does not want a situation in which we have an oversupply of money going into it, where construction inflation results and where developers reap the rewards. We need to have a balance between what we put in and the output that we get.

We are running over time.

Gabh mo leithscéal.

We have just discussed the Manchester tragedy. More than one Deputy rightly praised the work of the men and women who provided the emergency services. Members can agree these are people who get up early in the morning, to use a phrase that is doing the rounds.

Are we discussing promised legislation?

We are indeed. Yesterday, the Minister for Social Protection stated that the men and women who provide similar services in this country should have their right to strike restricted or even banned. Today, a man who bankrupted the country walked free. Yesterday, the men and women who are the backbone of the country were threatened with having their rights restricted.

Given that plans to introduce such legislation would undoubtedly bring about a powerful response from the trade union movement, is the Taoiseach seriously considering going down this road?

I do not want to comment on court announcements made in respect of any particular case.

The judgment will be given tomorrow, the jury has not been discharged and I do not wish to make any comment, or cannot make any comment, on that.

Obviously, in terms of party politics, there are contests that take place at different times for positions of responsibility. The Government has a programme here, and we refer to that programme, which is set out and agreed, for support both from inside Government and from outside Government. One of the issues that has arisen in respect of the Garda, for instance, is for it to have access to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, and the Labour Court. The legislation that is being drafted for that will take into account some serious matters that need to be considered, one of which is what the Deputy refers to, but that is an element of what Government is doing here and willing to do in respect of giving the members of the Garda full representation and hearing at the WRC and the Labour Court. There are consequences and there are issues that need to be dealt with, and they must be addressed in some detail when the Bill comes before the House.

The House is debating the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017. It seeks open disclosure by the HSE. That is the basic premise of the Bill, yet up to 500 families have major concerns about their daughters and Gardasil. They are bright, smart and normal people. We have mentioned the savage atrocity across the water, but these girls' lives have been devastated. While I am not saying it definitely is proven, there must be some disclosure by the HSE, not prevarication or a complete refusal to have any investigation into the possible severe impacts of this vaccine on young women and their families. The effects are devastating. I know some of the families. Their daughters were normal and healthy teenagers who were active in all walks of life but now they are turning over in bed and cannot even go to school. It has had a significant impact and there are 500 families. We have had too many health scandals. There must be open disclosure by the HSE, the Department of Health and the drug companies. They must allow for an independent investigation.

That Bill is currently going through the House and is due for a Second Stage debate here tomorrow. I am sure that Deputies from all over the House and different parties will have their opportunity to have their say in detail about this.

The Taoiseach was busy last week but I raised a matter with him then and the previous week. Last week, he said that he would revert to me within the day. It relates to Caranua and whether the Minister for Education and Skills - perhaps he will answer, given that he has not reverted to me - has given permission for Caranua to move into new premises and to sign a lease for extraordinary rent and whether he gave permission for the previous rent, which seems to have been paid to the Office of Public Works.

This is being taken on Private Members' tomorrow evening, as Deputy Connolly is aware. Caranua is an independent statutory body that provides a range of approved services in the areas of health and personal social services, education and housing services for applicants. It began accepting applications from former residents in January 2014. It has expended some €60 million in support of 4,000 individuals.

A Cheann Comhairle, I asked a specific question and did not waste any time.

Yes. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, announced a consultation on-----

Permission was not given.

-----proposed draft terms of reference for a review of eligibility for Caranua.

Was permission given?

Maybe the Minister might like to respond to the particular question that Deputy Connolly raised.

Caranua has its own independent board and does not require permission from me to arrange its accommodation.

Page 64 of the programme for Government refers to driving down costs to provide new treatments, drugs, etc. and asserts that the Government will examine opportunities to leverage purchasing power. As the Taoiseach may be aware, time is running out for the 21 alpha-1 patients who are receiving Respreeza on a compassionate basis from CSL Behring. The patients, some of whom started the trial ten years ago, were receiving the drug on a month-to-month basis. Last week, they were informed that it would only be available to them on a week-to-week basis with no guarantee for the future.

I appeal to the Taoiseach to ensure that this life-saving drug is made available without delay. He oversaw the provision of Orkambi for cystic fibrosis sufferers. Twenty-one people are on this trial and a further 40 are awaiting it. Ensuring that this is handled would be a great use of his time in the next few weeks.

This is an important issue for the patients and the families involved. It is not just a question of general legislation. I will have the Minister respond directly to the Deputy.

I thank the Taoiseach.

The legislative programme includes a rates Bill, which is due to be published shortly. Currently, rate revaluations are taking place in south Dublin, Kildare and elsewhere. Some small employers have been hit with rate increases of between 50% and 100%. These are businesses that weathered the storm of recession and are just about to consider hiring new staff or restoring wage cuts that were undertaking during the recession. Instead, they are being hit with large and unjustified rate increases.

The rates system is unfair, contains significant anomalies and is bad for employers, workers and local economies. Will the Government use the opportunity of the rates Bill to provide a comprehensive overhaul of a system that is not fit for purpose?

Deputy Ó Broin raises an important point. Obviously, others have had reductions, but we do not hear about those too often. The heads of this Bill were cleared in April by Government. There has been quite a deal of discussion between the Attorney General's office and the Department. I expect that when the Bill comes before the House and is cleared for discussion, that the intent will be to have a comprehensive response to a situation that I know causes difficulties where increases in rates occur.

House building is one of the Government's main objectives. However, many young couples and individuals are being denied the ability to build their own houses because of the planning guidelines that the Department insists local authorities use.

These young people have the money to build their own houses, they have the sites and they have the need. However, the guidelines are preventing many from obtaining planning permission. The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government put in place another stumbling block in 2012 whereby people who wish to build houses for themselves cannot access national secondary routes. I want the Minister to address those issues, which are depriving many people of the opportunity to build.

It is not a matter of legislation. There has been a substantial increase in the number of planning permissions applied for and granted, and these apply in all cases. Clearly, local authorities and the transport authority have an issue in respect of more exits on national routes. We have had occasions in the past where roads have lost their national secondary or primary status because of the incidence of new exits - traditionally through section 4 notices - given that there is a matter of road safety involved where that happens. That is a matter for discussion between local authorities and the transport authority.

In respect of the planning guidelines, obviously, any couple or individual applying for planning permission in the Deputy's county or anywhere else goes through a preplanning discussion with their local authority. It is not national guidelines that are imposed in the vast majority of cases. This can be seen in the rate of increase in the number of planning applications applied for and approvals granted, which is substantial.

They are being denied preplanning.

Most Ministers and their Departments have at this stage made submissions with regard to the mid-term capital review. In that context, I requested from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport details of his submission. I was concerned because the submission was made in the absence of a public transport policy review, which has not taken place. I ask the Taoiseach to ensure that those submissions made in respect of the mid-term capital review are published and that we have a full debate in the House on the review.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is in Brussels today. I am sure he will have no objection to a discussion on the mid-term capital review, in respect of which work is under way.

Will he publish the submissions from the Departments?

I think these are publicly available in any event but I do not expect the Minister will have any objection to that.

That was the purpose of the question. I had asked this of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport directly but they are not currently available. Somebody on the other side of the House is going to have to take that step to make them available. However, it is no use making one submission available; it is the entirety of the programme that we wish to see.

Given that these are matters of public issue in any event, I do not see any reason for secrecy about priorities that are deemed important by Ministers. I will have that matter taken up with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

In the past eight weeks, four women have died at the hands of men known to them and nine children have been left motherless as a result. Data published by the relevant European Union agency shows that the incidence of domestic abuse in Ireland is 7% above the European average. A concern highlighted by Women's Aid - and by Justine McCarthy at the weekend - is that the statistics we have from the Garda are unreliable and that domestic violence incidents are not being classified appropriately. According to Garda figures, there were 6,000 incidents in 2016. However, according to Women's Aid, the figure is 20,769, so there is surely something wrong. When should we expect the Domestic Violence Bill to be enacted? Does the Taoiseach feel it goes far enough? Are we examining the discrepancy between the figures?

The Deputy raises two issues. One is in respect of the Bill, which is on Committee Stage in the Seanad. While it has not yet come to the Dáil, it will do so in due course. Obviously, Members will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on it.

The second point the Deputy raises relates to the statistics that are produced. In the context of statistics involving the Garda Síochána, there is an analysis going on in respect of another element of the statistics, which I expect will be quite detailed, and that can be followed through with regard to these statistics also. Unfortunately, domestic violence is an issue in Ireland. It causes havoc for families and family relationships, with a particularly dramatic and traumatic impact on children.

Tillage farmers along the south-west coast suffered huge grain crop losses last harvest due to shockingly bad weather It was the third year in a row that they experienced such losses. In mid-January, the Dáil voted to direct the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to provide a rescue package for grain farmers but, as yet, these hard-pressed farmers have not received any financial aid. Will the Taoiseach tell us if this is going to happen and when?

That is not a matter for legislation; it is a matter for decision by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I will have him respond to Deputy Collins. He is well aware of the details of the matter.

Supporting tillage farmers is not a matter for promised legislation.

The programme for Government contains reference to the farmers charter 2015-2020 from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This charter guarantees that farmers will receive their payments within a proper and orderly timeframe. Last week, the Minister of State in that Department announced that he is conducting a review of all land which was the subject of burning in recent weeks, much of it in the Taoiseach's constituency and in mine. A lot of mountain land was involved and hill farmers have been particularly badly affected. There is a suggestion that the review will look at the basic payments to which these farmers are entitled in order to withdraw them or to impose penalties. Many of these farmers spent the past couple of weeks trying to put out the fires and they fought very hard to try to deal with this situation. They are the victims of these fires yet we find that the Department is proposing to penalise them for it. Will the Taoiseach guarantee that the farmers whose land, much of which contained forestry, was the subject of these burnings will not be penalised for what has happened to them. In most cases the fires were caused by others, not the farmers in question.

I agree that farmers went out of their way to attempt to deal with the consequences of these fires. I deplore the actions of those who started these fires in the first instance. They were obviously unable to contain what happened afterwards and this resulted in massive destruction to property, assets and value, and also in terms of the impact on wildlife and nature in so many ways. For those who have been victimised by these acts of arson, if that is what they were, we cannot expect them to have the State suddenly say, "You are responsible for this yourself". If the land is blackened and the trees burned and if people's assets are decimated, I think it is an issue that needs to be looked at with some degree of compassion and consideration. It is a valid point and we will consider it very carefully.

In last October's budget, the affordable child care scheme was announced to much fanfare. Regrettably, however, the relevant legislation has still not been introduced. Is it in the Taoiseach's power to fast-track that legislation? There are 23,000 employees in 4,500 crèches across the country who are waiting for this legislation to be brought forward. They were promised it and they are awaiting the money. Perhaps the Taoiseach could help.

The intention was that the scheme would be operational and effective from September of this year. The heads of the Bill and the general scheme were approved by the Government on 20 January 2017. The joint Oireachtas committee met on 8 February for pre-legislative scrutiny and its report was received on 23 February. On 22 February, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs received formal notification from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel that a draftsperson was assigned specifically to work on the affordable childcare scheme Bill. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs started work together on the drafting of the Bill in March and this work is ongoing. No date is yet confirmed for when the drafting of the Bill will be complete. Nonetheless, the Government is conscious of the position and wants to make arrangements so that payments under the scheme will become effective in September. This is quite a complicated Bill and the timeline is tight, but it is hoped it can be met.

The programme for Government refers to a digital strategy for schools and commits to introducing new technology into classrooms. Last year, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, announced a €200 million spend over five years within schools. While this money is very welcome, without guidance, follow-through and professional implementation, I fear the money may not be utilised in the optimum way.

We know that school boards of management and management teams struggle with the challenges of new technology in the classroom, including cyberbullying, inappropriate images and digital usage across the schools. I am concerned that while the money has been committed, we are not seeing the appropriate support system in place, including technical guidance for boards of management to deal with difficult situations and making the right decisions on how to utilise technology within their schools.

The intention here is clear. I will have the Minister, Deputy Bruton, respond directly to the Deputy.

That concludes the Order of Business. I apologise to the six Deputies who were not reached.