Order of Business

Today’s business shall be No. 6, motion re appointment of a member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority; No. 22, Radiological Protection (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 23, Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 177, motion re health service reform, selected by the Rural Independent Group.

Wednesday’s business shall be No. 24, statements on the future of the European Union, to conclude within 80 minutes; and No. 23, Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage. Private Members’ business shall be Second Stage of No. 44, Gambling Control Bill 2018, selected by Fianna Fáil.

Thursday’s business shall be No. 4, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 7, motion re interim report of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care, which shall be debated in the evening slot.

I will read the announcement of proposed arrangements for this week’s business. I refer to the report of the Business Committee dated 3 May 2018. In relation to Tuesday’s business, it is proposed that the motion re appointment of a member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority shall be taken without debate.

In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that:

(1) the Dáil shall sit at 2.00 p.m.;

(2) proceedings on Second Stage of the Gambling Control Bill 2018 shall conclude within two hours; and

(3) statements on the future of the European Union shall conclude within 80 minutes. Statements shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties and groups, or a member nominated in their stead, which shall not exceed ten minutes each, and all Members may share time.

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

I mentioned earlier that we had sought to move an amendment to the Private Members' motion put forward by the Rural Independent Group in respect of reform of the HSE. Our amendment was ruled out of order and I want to register our great disappointment that this has proven to be the case. I understand the Ceann Comhairle was bound by some rule or other in making this judgment. For the purposes of clarity, can he place on the record of the Dáil the basis for ruling our amendment out of order?

I am quite happy to do that. If serious charges are to be made against a person outside the House, ruling No. 470 of the salient rulings of the Chair provide that this can only be done by way of substantive motion. An amendment to another motion is not, and has never been considered to be, a substantive motion. Notwithstanding that the matter is of major importance, it was not possible to take the motion as proposed.

Can the Ceann Comhairle clarify ruling No. 470, its provenance and what it consists of?

It sets out very clearly that if an accusation or a charge is to be made against somebody outside the House - a person who is not in a position to defend himself or herself - the only way it may be done is by way of substantive motion.

I understand the meaning, I am asking about the ruling's origins.

It originated before I arrived but I do not have the date.

I understand it dates from 1994.

Like anything else, if Members are unhappy with the rules or procedures, they can definitely seek to change them. I cannot change them unilaterally and I cannot interpret them.

I was not asking the Ceann Comhairle to do that. I sought to establish, for the purpose of the record, the provenance of this ruling.

I cannot interpret the rulings unilaterally or to anybody's particular satisfaction.

Whatever about the technical judgment and whether this issue can be raised by way of an amendment, we object to it and we expressed dissatisfaction with the decisions that were made following the meeting last week of different parties. Our delegate, Deputy Bríd Smith, indicated that she was unhappy that the course that was proposed to deal with cervical-----

Is the Deputy referring to a meeting that took place of health spokespersons and the Minister for Health?

That is not something that arises on the Order of Business.

The point is that we think those matters, the plan of action set out by the Government, should be discussed and scrutinised in this House. We are certainly not happy with it. I want to register that last week in the all-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health we asked Mr. Tony O'Brien direct questions about figures on the accuracy and detection of smear tests in the different labs. It was first said that the results could not be given to us. Then it was said the results would be referred to as A, B and C. Finally, Mr. O'Brien said that we would be given the figures. We still have not seen them. The Government is saying that will all be dealt with by the scoping inquiry and the commission of investigation-----

We cannot have a debate on this Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Yes, but there are certain facts that should be in the public domain now because Mr. Tony O'Brien told us he would give them to us.

The only facts-----

He has not given them to us and that is why we want a debate.

Deputy, please. The only fact we are debating here is the proposed Order of Business for today, Tuesday. That is all we are debating.

I am not happy with the Order because these questions are not being answered.

We will ask the Government to respond to that in just a second. I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

On behalf of the Rural Independent Group, and Dr. Michael Harty who did most of the work on the motion, I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the clarification. We were never asked at any stage would we be open to having an amendment or any discussion or debate. Our motion was submitted before this crisis arose and that is why it is the way it is. I am glad of the clarification and I hope it is clear that we did not have any way to stop any motion of no confidence or otherwise being imposed.

We had an excellent meeting with the Opposition spokespersons on health and others last week. With the exception of Deputy Bríd Smith, who would say the same thing if she were here, there was a consensus in terms of the approach we should take in regard to it. All of the Opposition submissions - two members of Deputy Boyd Barrett's group made submissions - were taken onboard in the framing of the terms of reference. We will not stop at that. We will also give the submissions to the Chair of the scoping inquiry. I agree with Deputy Boyd Barrett. Let me be clear. That should not stop the HSE providing information to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health. It should do that forthwith and I will follow up with it.

Are the proposals for dealing with today's business agreed to? Agreed. Finally, is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. I thank Deputies for their co-operation.

On the scoping inquiry, the Taoiseach might answer on whether it should report to a different Department. That is a separate matter, however, and I will come back to him on that. What is striking in terms of the reforms that have been announced is that the director general of the HSE announced his retirement date months ago. We now know that he will be leaving in eight weeks time. The advertisement for his replacement, however, is only going out in the coming weeks. What was envisaged by the Government in respect of the intervening period? Were we to have a HSE without a director general effectively for six months because it will take a considerable length of time to find a replacement? One would have thought that headhunting would have begun much earlier for the new director general in respect of the reforms that have been announced. That is the big story. Was the position going to be, or will it be, vacant for quite some time given the lateness of the advertisement going public?

The intention of the scoping inquiry report is to report to the Department of Health as the commissioning Department but perhaps it may make sense-----

-----for it to report to the Government.

To the Taoiseach's Department.

We have no wish to do anything other than publish it as soon as we have seen it and read it. I will give-----

It is in the terms of reference.

-----that consideration over the next day or two. On the other point, I understand that an executive search or some headhunting has begun already. The delay in placing the advertisement was related to the fact that the Department of Health wanted to define the role. There is a reform programme underway - it was set out in the Sláintecare report - to restore a HSE board and to retain the HSE as a body in place. The delay in advertising for the position was simply because the Department wanted to get it right and make sure that the position and its responsibilities were clear in respect of the advertisement being put in. Some initial work, however, has been done already on the executive search.

Is there a timeframe?

It is intended that there will be a gap. Inevitably, by the time the advertisement is placed, applications are made and interviews take place, there will be a gap in that period. The Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, will appoint an interim director general from among the directorate.

The judgment then is to be without a director general.

The daft.ie rental price report for quarter 1 of 2018 makes for shocking reading and highlights how the Government's rent pressure zone legislation has failed. In every single county in the State, with the exception of Donegal, the 4% rent pressure zone cap is being breached on new lets. In Dublin, average rent is now at a record high of €1,875 a month. This is 12.4% higher than the same period last year and three times the 4% cap. Double-digit rent inflation was noted in 14 other counties, including counties in the Dublin commuter belt, and the average rent in Meath, Kildare and Louth increased by over 10%. This is creating massive affordability issues for those trying to access the private rental market.

This issue cannot be left unresolved. We need to introduce real rent certainty, and the Residential Tenancies Board needs the power and resources to begin policing breaches of the 4% cap. When will the Taoiseach review the rent pressure zone legislation? Will he reconsider providing real rent certainty by linking rents to an index such as the consumer price index, CPI? When will he publish and move the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill to give the RTB additional powers?

The daft.ie report makes for interesting reading but it tells us something we already know, in that rents are increasing. It discusses rents sought rather than agreed rents, which is what the RTB collects. It also looks at a much smaller data sample than the RTB report, which gives us the quarterly rent index. The last RTB report from the final quarter of last year told us two important things, namely, that the increase in rent was slowing down dramatically, with a 1.1% increase in the fourth quarter, and that the rent pressure zones in Dublin, which have been in place for 12 months, are working. There was an almost 3% decrease in rents being asked for over the course of 2017 when measured against 2016. Having said that, we recognise that new powers are required for the RTB. It needs to become a more independent regulator to enforce the market robustly on behalf of landlords and tenants. That legislation is being prepared at the moment by the Office of the Attorney General, in conjunction with my Department, and we hope to publish it at the beginning of June.

The Court of Appeal last week struck down a key provision of the Mental Health Act 2001. This legislation, namely section 15(3), covered the long-term detention of people in psychiatric institutions. The making of orders extending periods of detention by up to 12 months was ruled to be unconstitutional. There is a six-month delay in the ruling coming into effect. There are currently 78 patients subject to long-term detention orders and a further 15 patients in the Central Mental Hospital. We have heard nothing from the Government or indeed the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities on this issue during the past five days. What does the Government intend to do to address this matter?

This matter is being managed by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, and during the six-month period the court has given us we intend to legislate. We will introduce an amendment to the Mental Health Act 2001 to allow for tribunals to sit on a 12-monthly basis.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, announced over the weekend that she intended to launch a campaign on the issue of bogus self-employment. That is welcome, although is somewhat late in the day, given that people have been protesting about this issue for years. Will the Minister's campaign include other forms of precarious and insecure employment? Today 100 film workers, possibly more, protested outside the offices of the Ministers for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I was there with them. It was the latest in a series of protests they have held. They claim there is rampant abuse of workers' rights in the film industry and are particularly angry that conditions attached to the €70 million per year grant of public money that goes into the film industry are not being met. The money is supposed to be attached to a condition of quality employment, which does not exist in reality. The protesters say there is blacklisting and insecure employment and that people are refused further employment in the industry if they raise issues of health and safety, overtime or excessive hours.

There is no policing whatsoever of these public moneys and the precarious conditions under which many workers in this industry are suffering. Will they be included in this campaign? They have requested several meetings with Ministers on these issues and have been refused those meetings.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for raising the issue. We did not merely intend to launch the campaign he mentions, we actually did so over the weekend. It would be welcome were everyone, both inside and outside this House, to encourage people to contact us if they believe they are in a self-employed status not through their own making. To answer the Deputy's specific question, no industry is excluded. We are trying to reach people who are registered as self-employed not through their own choice. I have not received a meeting request from the people to whom the Deputy is referring. If he asks them to contact me, I am happy to meet anybody but I believe the people to whom he refers are employees in the main, as opposed to being made self-employed, and may have difficulties with regard to their conditions. The Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court are in place to assist those people. The new legislation, which we are bringing to Committee Stage on 17 May unless I am mistaken, should further strengthen employment rights for those who are on precarious and low-paid contracts.

The problem is they do not know by whom they are employed.

The new legislation will oblige their employers to provide that information within five days of them taking up employment. If the Deputy wants to get them to contact me I can certainly meet them.

I want to ask the Taoiseach about the deal An Post is supposed to be offering to postmistresses and postmasters of post offices to buy them out of their business, thereby denying the people of many small villages and towns in rural Ireland a post office. We are told that as part of this deal, An Post seeks to gag the people who have signed the contract. They cannot talk about cuts to rural Ireland. They cannot talk about issues around rural broadband. They cannot ask about the waste of prefabs in rural schools. They cannot ask about anything. I thought the heavy gang had left with the former Minister, Patrick Cooney. Are we back in the 1970s in this Dáil? Is this an attempt to stop people from having any democratic right to go about their business? They cannot speak about all these issues. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has been offered the chance to take the driving licence registration function away from the county councils operating through post offices. He flatly refused. What is the Government trying to do - close down rural Ireland, and to hell or to Connacht with the people? Is it trying to gag them and buy their silence? This is outrageous.

That is news to me, but I certainly will ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, to reply to the Deputy on that matter. I should say that is not the intention of the Government to close down post offices.

But it is closing them down.

Where the postmaster or postmistress wants to retire-----

-----a package will be put in place to allow him or her to retire on reasonably good terms. At that point, the contract for the post office will be offered to other people if they want to take it up, or potentially a nearby petrol station or shop, in order to retain-----

Why will the Government not give post offices responsibility for driving licences?

I wish to raise the question of recruitment of a new director general for the HSE and promised legislation. As has been said, Sláintecare recommends several items of accountability legislation pertaining to reinstating the independent board and ensuring accountability for the Minister, senior managers and clinicians. Would it not make sense to hold off on appointing a new director general until such time as that new legislation is in place? Can the Government clarify what the timescale is for that legislation?

I believe we are due to discuss the issues regarding Sláintecare and health reform at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health tomorrow. The HSE board legislation will go to Cabinet next week and with the consent and the assistance of the House, I hope we can pass that legislation very quickly. The progress and timelines of the other important Bills will be outlined in the implementation plan for Sláintecare, which I hope to bring to Government very shortly. I take the point the Deputy makes. I am not sure whether we can hold off on appointing a director general of the HSE but we can certainly appoint a director general who will become a CEO once there is a board in full knowledge of the changes that are coming down the tracks. I would be happy to give that further consideration.

My question concerns passports. We are coming into the holiday period and I acknowledge there are huge concerns every year at this time. I refer to cases where people book their holidays and then find out they have no passports. Could legislation be brought in whereby people would be required to show their passport before they book their holidays? I was hoping the Tánaiste would be here to answer the question. This affects quite a number of people. There is quite a lot of work being done by the Passport Office, and I must acknowledge the wonderful work it is doing, with a current backlog of something in the region of 70,000 passports. There are a lot of people who are concerned, through their own fault, because they did not check their passports in advance of booking their holidays.

I know this issue has been a huge one. Certainly it has been a big one in my constituency office, and I am sure it has been so for others as well. I do not think the solution to this is legislation. The solution to this is getting through the backlog. The Passport Office lost a number of days because of the adverse weather, but I understand that it is catching up. Legislation or no legislation, it is always a good idea for people to make sure that their documents are in date.

While the Garda Síochána (compensation) Bill in respect of malicious injuries is not due before the House this session, in view of its importance and its widespread influence, and given the number of members of the Garda who are awaiting the presentation of the Bill to the House, might it be reviewed again with a view to bringing its first reading forward?

Work is proceeding on this matter. The Deputy is correct when he says it is not due this term but in view of the representations he has made, I would be happy to have a look at it.

The programme for partnership Government states "people with disabilities should be supported in maximising their potential, by removing barriers". During the weekend Mr. James Cawley, a young teacher who is a disability advocate, gave 50 hours' notice of his intention to travel on Bus Éireann. He was forced to take a trip around the country and pay €200 in taxi fares to make a journey from Ballina to Longford. This is not the first time, unfortunately, that we have heard of stories of people with a disability left stranded by our public transport network. Can the Taoiseach give a commitment that he will talk to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues to ensure that people who have mobility issues or disabilities can at the very minimum be guaranteed that they can avail of public transport when they give the required notice? Currently, unfortunately, that is not happening.

I can certainly give that commitment. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, and I spoke about this last week. The Deputy will be aware that unfortunately, our public transport is not 100% accessible and that creates problems. However, over time, more and more of it is becoming accessible. I can certainly commit to discussing the issue with these members of the Government again.

The cross-Border healthcare directive office has the responsibility to ensure that people who avail of the National Treatment Purchase Fund are refunded when they come back after their operations. I know that hundreds of people are availing of that scheme. It is unfortunate that they cannot have the procedures in this jurisdiction but unfortunately, they have to go away. I understand the office dealing with this has 11 staff members, even though the workload has increased by 1,200% over the past two years. A business plan is being considered at present and I ask that this plan be approved without delay to ensure that people who have to avail of the scheme and have to travel are refunded as quickly as possible.

I thank Deputy Scanlon. When it comes to cross-Border issues, I note that the direction of travel goes both ways. Many citizens from Northern Ireland come to the Republic for surgery as well. On the important issue the Deputy highlights, I will check the progress of that business case with the HSE and revert to the Deputy directly.

In A Programme for a Partnership Government, it was announced that there would be an extra 1,100 members of the Garda. I welcome that this is happening throughout the country and in my own constituency. However, counties like Roscommon are far below where they were. We have lost five Garda stations and we still have a major issue with policing.

About two weeks ago in Strokestown, a daring robbery took place at the Bank of Ireland. At the time, it was a very frightening experience. It has now emerged - I do not know why it has not come out before now - that two young people, one of them with disabilities, were held hostage for quite some time. This is shocking.

While the efforts of local gardaí were outstanding, these guys got away. There is no sign of them and nothing has happened. I ask the Minister to look into exactly what happened and the full facts of the robbery. I ask him also to ensure we get more gardaí on the beat in all of our counties and towns, in particular Roscommon and Strokestown.

Not surprisingly, I do not have any evidence to assist Deputy Murphy along the lines of his plea. However, the Government is determined to ensure Garda recruitment continues apace. At the end of last year, we had succeeded in reaching our target of 13,500 gardaí. By the end of this year, that figure will have risen to 14,000 gardaí, many of whom will have been assigned to County Roscommon. I am happy to engage bilaterally with the Deputy on the point he raised about the distribution of gardaí, which is, of course, a matter for the Commissioner in the first instance.

The issue of rising rents across the country was raised earlier. In Sligo-Leitrim and many other parts of the country, people are on the housing list and directed to HAP to secure a house. I was talking to a person last week and I note that the cap for a single person is €350. That person cannot get anywhere for less than €450 to €500. In many cases, landlords are setting the rent barrier higher so that people who would avail of HAP cannot get into the rental market. Many of those who are on HAP find they have to pay that extra money through the back door to have accommodation and a place to live. As such, I ask the Minister to review the zones in which the HAP caps are in place.

I thank the Deputy for the question. We have approximately 20,000 landlords nationally who are engaging with HAP and taking HAP tenants into their accommodation. However, I recognise that in certain parts of the country HAP has not been as successful as it should have been. There is a 20% uplift which is allowed in most local authority areas. It is not being used in every case, nor does it have to be, thankfully. We are looking at certain issues around the HAP banding currently and I will come back to the House when I have a further update in that regard.

I raise the issue of the helpline for the CervicalCheck crisis. As the Taoiseach said earlier, 7,678 women are still waiting to be contacted. Can the Minister for Health advise the House if more staff will be put in place? There is anxiety and uncertainty among those waiting for a return call. I understand the staff there are extremely busy and this is causing huge distress. Can the Minister tell the House also whether the calls are being returned in order of priority or are they being returned by reference to when a call was initially logged?

I thank Deputy Butler for raising this important issue. I assure her that resourcing is not an issue in relation to the helpline. Whatever resources are required will be provided. As the Taoiseach outlined earlier, it is important that the message does not go out that nobody in CervicalCheck is bothered to return these calls. These are calls where women are, rightly, asking for specific information on their screening histories. That information has to be obtained and relayed to a woman by a clinician, be it a doctor or nurse. Often, these conversations take a significant period of time. Even as recently as the weekend, more staff were assigned to the helpline. The commitment given by Mr. Damien McCallion yesterday was that the overwhelming majority of calls will have been returned by this weekend. The Deputy is correct that staff are working their way through this and are prioritising calls on the basis of clinical need and level of concern rather than just the date the call was logged.

Contrary to commitments in the programme for Government, we have a crazy situation in County Kerry for young, qualified psychiatric and mental health nurses. They are being told that while the HSE has full-time work for them on qualification, they cannot go to Kerry but must go instead to Dublin. We need psychiatric nurses in our county and I know of plenty opportunities where facilities dealing with people's mental health care desperately need more nurses. However, the HSE says that while it will give them a full-time job, it will not be in Kerry. I want to know why. It does not make sense. If the jobs are there and they are needed on the ground, why are they being told to go to Dublin?

I thank Deputy Healy-Rae for raising the issue and acknowledging in the first instance that we are now offering all graduate nurses employment, which was not the case during the difficult years. In fact, we are now training more nurses than ever before in the history of the State. The challenge is to keep them here. As to the specific Kerry issue the Deputy raises, I am not familiar with the details. However, I will have it checked out and revert to him directly.

I apologise to the three Deputies who were not reached. If every Deputy stuck to the allocated time, we would be able to reach everyone.