On the previous occasion the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, moved amendment No. 29 but no debate had taken place. The Bill has been recommitted. Will the Minister address the recommital of the amendment?
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
It has been recommitted.
Are any Members offering?
I was in possession.
You were in possession. Well, my apologies.
I was at that time, yes. Earlier this morning I was doing an interview, and at this stage in the debate it is only right to acknowledge on the record of the Dáil a nice lady by the name of Donna who very sadly and tragically lost her son in a road traffic accident. It is only right and proper to do so in case anybody thinks that Deputies on this side are ignoring the fact of people dying on our roads because of all different reasons, not just alcohol related-----
-----not just because of young drivers but because of all different reasons. I lost my best close personal friend due to a road traffic accident many years ago. It is only right, especially because of that interview this morning, to acknowledge on the record of the Dáil people like Donna, the mother of a young boy, and all of the other people who have lost their lives on the roads. It is proper order and the respectful thing to do to put this in the context of the debate and, when we are debating any issue to do with our roads, that we recognise the fact that, sadly and unfortunately, people do and will continue to lose their lives on our roads.
The last evening when I was in possession we were on amendment No. 29, which states:
"Offences by owner of mechanically propelled vehicle driven by another person
35A. (1) An owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle shall be guilty of an offence where a person, not being that owner, drives the vehicle in a public place at a time that the person—
(a) is not the holder of a driving licence or learner permit for the category of vehicle concerned, or
(b) is the holder of a learner permit for a vehicle of a category specified in clause (iv) of Regulation 17(6)(b) of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 537 of 2006) and is not driving the vehicle in accordance with that clause.
These are changes the Minister has made which, to be perfectly honest, have caused delays. He and others have accused me and others of delaying the Bill's passage through the Dáil. I certainly disagree with that. The debates that have taken place until now have been very reasoned and plausible. The contributions that have been made by me and others, including by the Minister, are very important and deserving and should be heard. Something that should be heard a lot more when the opportunity arises, and I know he did so the previous evening, are the Minister's views and opinions.
The Minister was good enough to come to Kerry a couple of weeks ago to launch what I categorised at the time, and I believe rightly so, as a publicity stunt and a publicity campaign. He also went to Deputy Mattie McGrath's county of Tipperary. He went to Tipperary and Kerry, which was unique in itself, to announce the initiative with regard to the rural link service. I want to make it quite clear the rural link service is a service that we all appreciate very much and, of course, any additional funding is welcome, but the money the Minister is giving is minuscule and is only tokenism. It is like taking out an advertisement in a newspaper as much as to say the Minister and the Department are doing something about rural isolation and are providing a service when they are not. As I clearly stated to him, if 100% of the more than €400,000 allocated nationally were to be allocated just to County Kerry, it would not come near enough to give a service to the people I represent. Whether it is south, north, east or west Kerry we have vast terrain that needs to be serviced if a service is going to be provided, and the €400,000 that is being provided nationally would not cover one tenth of County Kerry.
Coming back to amendment No. 29, earlier on the evening the Minister came to Kerry I met a number of groups of concerned parents and other organisations who had come together to discuss the fact the Minister was going to be in Kerry. They would have liked to have met him but, unfortunately, his diary did not allow for it. I appreciate this fully because when a Minister comes to a county, he or she cannot meet everybody. I know that on the previous occasion he came to Kerry he very kindly agreed to meet as many as he could humanly possibly fit into the trip he made-----
And the Deputy is still attacking him.
-----and people were very grateful for the fact he did so.
There is one thing I will acknowledge, because I am always fair about everything. The vintners in Kerry wanted to meet the Minister at that time and he agreed to meet them. He sat down with them and he was not in a hurry. He gave them all the time they required and we appreciated that. We were not happy with the outcome of it afterwards, but I recognise the fact the Minister was willing to sit down with them.
The Deputy should have backed him then.
They were there from all over County Kerry and that was very important. I know the Minister did not meet many vintners from the rest of the country so I appreciate the fact he met them in Kerry.
The Deputy is straying from the subject matter of the amendment.
The Minister has been very nice to the Deputy. Support him now.
I am coming back to amendment No. 29, which is the point I am making. On the evening the Minister was in Kerry, the main concern of many of the groups I had met prior to his visit had nothing whatsoever to do with the alcohol limit or anything like it but specifically with regard to amendment No. 29, which is what I am speaking about.
These were the concerns they had and they were very concerned. Our young people are our future. I have always said this. Everyone inside in the Chamber today and every person in all of the different jobs and roles they have in Ireland at this precise moment are only on a wheel. We will not be there indefinitely. We are only passing through time. The important people in the country today are our young people. They are inside in national and secondary schools. They are on holidays now and I hope they are enjoying the good weather. They are our future. They are the important people and of course we should be doing everything we can to protect them.
What the Minister is doing with amendment No. 29 is not protecting our young people. He and the Minister for Education and Skills and other Ministers should be coming together and stating our young people are so important to us. They are the future politicians, the future employers and the future employees and they deserve our total attention. When it comes to such a serious and important issue as being in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle, we are sure of one thing, which is that it is quite safe to say that 99.9% of all of the young people today, whether they are in national school or wherever they are, will finish up driving a mechanically propelled vehicle, be it a car, motorbike, tractor or machine. They will be driving something. Why do we not get serious about educating them? Why do we not get serious about the issue of road safety? Why is being safety conscious not on the curriculum at national school-----
The Deputy is wandering away from the subject matter of the amendment.
I am 100% sticking to amendment No. 29.
A day trip to the Kerry hills. It is the Ring of Kerry.
With the greatest of respect to the Deputy, and I admire his ingenuity, he is referring to it but he is not speaking about it.
I am coming back to it.
The Deputy should try to take the direct rather than the circuitous route.
I will take the straightest line I can take.
When it comes to what the Minister is proposing, I ask him to think about all of the other good legislation he could have brought forward instead of going about it like this and attacking it. We were always told that it was so much easier to bring people with us than to antagonise them. It is the same in politics and life. The main concerns of the people I met that evening who wanted to meet the Minister when he came to County Kerry were the effect it would have on young people and the fact that the Minister was virtually criminalising the parents of these youngsters. How are they supposed to go to work and college?
I found the most recent statistics for waiting times. I am sorry that I do not have them with me, but I only got them the other day. I received the specific statistics for County Kerry, that is, for Tralee and Killarney. I acknowledge the great work being done by driving instructors, the people who conduct the tests and those who actually assist by giving people driving lessons in the best way they can. They tell me directly about the resources they are receiving. Again, I am talking about the driving test centres in Killarney and Tralee. Why, in the name of God, is the Minister not starting from the premise that he wants people to have a full driving licence as quickly as possible and asking what he can do to achieve this? He is doing nothing to achieve it. Instead, as the Ceann Comhairle said, he has come along with amendment No. 29. It is like coming along with a big rod and saying he is going to beat people, instead of coming with his hands open, sitting down and doing something sensible and plausible to ensure that once young people obtain their provisional licence and make up their minds that they want to sit the driving test, they will not be told that there is an endless waiting list. As I say, I only got the statistics the other day from the Road Safety Authority and the waiting times are extraordinarily long. The driving instructors who coach people and try to give them a practical understanding of the rules of the road tell me how frustrating it is. They deal with young people who have completed their driving lessons and are waiting in the queue to be called to receive their full licence. Instead of being given hope or assistance from the Minister, the Department and the Government, they are being told that they will be criminalised if they are caught driving unaccompanied.
Let us come back to the issue of young people driving unaccompanied. Of course, it is not ideal and not acceptable if someone is living in an urban area where there are other modes of transport available. In my book, it is not acceptable for a person with a provisional licence in this or any other city to get into a car and drive without being accompanied by a qualified driver if he or she cannot be called for the driving test. However, compare that to the case of a person living in a place I represent. He or she may be living on the Beara Peninsula, the Iveragh Peninsula, in east Kerry - Scartaglin, Barraduff or Killarney - any part of north Kerry or west of Dingle. The Minister should explain this to a young person living there. He should tell that person who might have a job in the Liebherr crane factory in Killarney town or Tralee, or who may be expected to drive to Cahersiveen to work on a part-time basis, how he or she is supposed to have a fully qualified driver accompanying him or her. It is actually impossible for that to happen and cannot happen. He or she is relying on the Minister to come along and ensure adequate resources are being given to testing centres. I made a great case to him in the past, which I pursued diligently, about the lack of a testing centre in south Kerry. He might not follow it. He thinks of County Kerry as being divided between north Kerry and south Kerry. South Kerry includes the Iveragh peninsula, in other words, Cahersiveen and Waterville, and covers Portmagee, Ballinskelligs and Valentia Island.
We are back to the Ring of Kerry.
Why is there no testing centre in that area? If there was, south Kerry would be covered, mid-Kerry would be covered from Killarney and north Kerry would be covered from Tralee. There is a great case to be made for such a testing centre. I made it on behalf of the people who came to me to put forward a proposal, which I submitted to the Minister. Unfortunately, it did not happen. It was a sensible proposal and would have been self-financing. It would have meant the Minister and the Government being seen to do something for young drivers, rather than doing what he is doing with amendment No. 29. He is really putting the boot in, not only to young people but also to their parents.
Since I came here first I have always tried not to act in a negative way but in a positive way. I have come with proposals. The problem I have with this legislation is that when I see a Minister who is not listening to people on the ground, I do not expect him to have the answers. That is why we are here together. No Minister is infallible. There are issues in the Minister's constituency about which I do not have a clue. There are things with which he is intimately involved in his constituency-----
The Deputy is wandering again.
-----that are very sensible, practical and important to him, with which I am not in tune. I am trying to get him to see the enormity of what amendment No. 29 means to people on the ground. The people to whom I am referring are the people of County Kerry. They are the ones I have been elected to represent in the first instance. I am not just talking about County Kerry, I am also talking about all other parts of rural Ireland which are affected in exactly the same way as we are affected in County Kerry. There are Deputies here who are completely in favour of the Minister's legislation and the amendments and they are backing him 100%, but that is a matter for them. However, there are many people in their constituencies who have exactly the same concerns as me and others. It is not as if we have a monopoly on the problem. We do not.
On a point of order, the people on the ground want to see improved road safety measures. The people of Marino, Artane, Darndale, Coolock, Sutton and Howth in my constituency want to see this kind of road safety measure to support victims and their families.
So do I. The Minister of State might remember that I started this debate in that way only a few minutes ago. I recognised a respectable lady who had had a tragedy in her life. I spoke purposefully about it at the beginning because I wanted to recognise the people that the Minister of State, everyone in this Chamber and I represent. The Minister of State is right to make that interjection, but I had recognised the point at the beginning of my contribution. He should not think, therefore, that I was ignoring the fact. It was the first and most important thing I said when I took to my feet.
I want to come back to the Minister and what he is proposing in amendment No. 29 and how important it is. The debate on it cannot be rushed. It cannot be railroaded through the Houses of the Oireachtas because the Minister has failed continuously. I refer to education. For the life of me, I cannot see or understand it. If the Minister is serious, if he goes though what he is proposing line by line, why does he not come at it a different way, starting with the education process in national schools, continuing into secondary school and university?
I am sorry, I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but, as he knows, that is not relevant to amendment No. 29. At this point five other Deputies are offering to speak. In fact, there are six. My dilemma is this. We have a limited amount of time in which to do the work before us. Everybody else wants to speak, as well as the Deputy.
As the Ceann Comhairle knows, I am allowed, under standing orders, to do anything I am doing-----
-----in speaking to the amendment, which I am doing. What I would like to see the Minister do when he is answering directly is to take on board the questions I am asking on behalf of the people, in particular the people who were there on the evening the Minister came to Kerry. They were farming groups, educators, people from schools and a group of parents who had large families and who were very concerned. They heard the issue being discussed on Radio Kerry. They heard what the Minister was proposing in amendment No. 29-----
On a point of order, this is the third time we have heard about some visit of the Minister to the constituency. Deputy Healy-Rae needs to address the key points of the amendment, which he has not done, for example the issue of insurance. He has not even referred to it once. He does not seem to be aware of it.
I am trying to get to it.
Perhaps he will give the other Deputies who have come in this morning to debate this critical legislation an opportunity. At this very moment, we know that 80 of our fellow citizens died on the roads in 2018.
The Deputy's point is made. We cannot get into-----
We have a worse record on the roads this year than last year and we are listening to this rambling discourse which is now the third time around for the same story. Will the Deputy please give other Deputies a chance to speak?
Deputy Healy-Rae is still in possession.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I remind the Deputy that when I get a chance-----
The Minister recommitted the Bill, not me.
It is very undemocratic.
It is the Minister's fault.
The Minister recommitted the Bill.
The Minister of State should mind his own corner. He should find his own corner and-----
What is he doing about disabilities?
The Minister has made a dog's dinner of this Bill.
I spent years campaigning for the rights of Independents to get speaking rights.
Minister of State-----
If the Minister of State keeps going the way he is going-----
The Minister of State is not helping.
Throw them all out.
Deputies are bringing the House into disrepute.
The Minister for-----
Will the Ceann Comhairle tell him to mind his own corner?
I thank the Ceann Comhairle. What I want to say to the Deputy who wanted me to stop is that when I turn over the page when I get a chance I will be coming on to the section about insurance, because it is something I have an awful lot to say about but I have not gotten a chance to get to it yet because I am trying to finish-----
Do not bother turning the page.
I am trying to finish on the section I am on. There is one thing I will take exception to and that is what Deputy Broughan said, "Throw them all out." Thankfully, the only people who will throw me out of this Chamber are the people who threw me into it, not the Deputy.
Deputy Broughan did not say it.
On a point of order, I did not say that. I said Deputy Healy-Rae should give other Deputies a chance to speak.
Sorry, it was Deputy Ó Snodaigh. I am sorry.
I did not say that.
I am sorry. It was Deputy Ó Snodaigh.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh will not throw me out of this Chamber. However tough the Deputy is, he will not throw me out of here.
I did not suggest I would throw the Deputy out.
What the Deputy said was "Throw them all out."
Deputy Ó Snodaigh should resume his seat.
There are standing orders if people are----
Only the people of west Cork-----
The Deputy should resume his seat.
The people of west Cork will be the only ones who will put me out of here.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh is dead right.
The Minister of State should mind his own corner because he is not doing it. He has let down the people with mental health issues and disabilities. That is what the Minister of State does. He has done nothing.
The Minister of State should please not provoke a situation that is difficult enough as it is. I ask Members please to have some respect for the Dáil. This is the people's Assembly. Deputies should treat it as such. The less interference we have in this process, the better.
As I am in possession, I would like to be allowed to continue without this prevarication-----
There needs to be some end in sight as well.
-----and insulting, bully-boy talk from the other side of the House. No bully will throw me out of here. The people who elected me will put me out when they see fit.
A point of order.
I will not be bullied by Deputy Ó Snodaigh.
I have asked to make a point of order. Will the Ceann Comhairle clarify to the Deputy the standing order that means the Ceann Comhairle has the power to ask Deputies, including me, to leave if they are unruly or have them removed?
That is correct.
That is all. It is nothing to do with me or anything else. There are no bully-boy tactics.
There is no physical ejection involved.
It is a standing order the Ceann Comhairle, not me, has the right to impose.
On a point of order. I am glad Deputy Ó Snodaigh clarified that. He actually said "Throw them all out, physically." He is used to that stuff, I suppose, but it is disgraceful.
Anybody watching my contribution this morning will know I am not insulting anybody. I am trying to carry on if I am allowed to do so. I have important points I want to get across to the Minister while I am in possession.
I want to come back to what I was saying about the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, working in tandem.
The Deputy should address the Bill.
Why in the name of goodness - I discussed it before with the Minister - was amendment No. 29 thought to be correct at a time when we have thousands of young people who desperately want to comply with the law? They desperately want to comply with the legislation that is there at present. They want to sit their driving tests. They want to become the holders of full licences. The proudest day in the lives of the young people in my extended family, including nieces and nephews, is the day they get their full licences. They are on the phone and with modern technology they text to say, "Great news, I got my full licence." These people want to comply with the law. They want to comply with the legislation. The Minister and previous Ministers have let them down by not putting adequate resources into our driving test centres.
I will move on to the other item pertinent to this, and that is the whole aspect of insurance. With regard to amendment No. 29, many people have talked about people breaking the law if they are driving without a full driving licence and do not have insurance. I have checked this out before talking and it is incorrect. Anybody who tries to state that people do not have insurance is incorrect. People have accidents because by the law of averages accidents will happen. Young people have had accidents while driving on provisional licences with insurance. It is wrong for people to make out that such young people are not insured and to give the impression that any young person driving on a provisional licence without a fully licensed driver with them is doing so without insurance. It is not a fact. The insurance companies will say that. What the Minister is proposing to do here is wrong because these young people are struggling to pay enormous insurance premiums. We see people buying a motor car for €1,000 or €2,000. When these young people buy their first vehicle they adore the fact that they have their own set of wheels and that they have a key and independence, and they respect the fact they have a motor car. They want to protect their licence, whether it is a provisional licence or a full one, but they are being put to breaking point when they go to get insurance and get quotes of €3,000, €4,000, €5,000 and €6,000. It is an outrageous sum of money for these young people. It is two years since the matter of the cost of insurance for young people was discussed by an Oireachtas committee. In fairness to the politicians who were involved at that time from all parties, they did everything they could to highlight the difficulties with the heads of the insurance companies. We thought they had been given a good hearing but the only good thing that came out of it was that when insurance companies give an extraordinarily high quotation for a young person's insurance they are obliged to explain why they are charging so much. If they are asking a young person for €6,000 for 12 months for insurance, which is €500 a month, they have to give an explanation for why the premium is so high. When it comes to amendment No. 29, why are the Minister and Government not really getting serious about tackling the high cost of insurance? When it comes to insurance and the reason why insurance is so high, why are the Minister and Government not doing something about the bogus claims culture in Ireland which means there are people who make a living and a career out of it?
It is far more sensible for a person to be involved in a bogus claim than it is to rob a bank or a post office because they might get caught robbing the bank or the post office but there is far less likelihood of being caught being involved in a bogus claim. Returning to amendment No. 29, why in the name of goodness did the Minister not see fit to help our young people rather than penalise them? Why did he not do something practical about the high cost of insurance? When young people get some part-time work to pay for their college and car insurance costs, they will find, if this is backed by the legislators here, that they are going to be hit further. The insurance companies are coming down on top of them and now there will also be the Minister and the Deputies who wish to line up behind him and support him.
That is their prerogative. Unlike other people, who make personal attacks on me because of the opinions and views I have, my answer to Deputies who have a completely different viewpoint to mine is that I totally respect their opinions. There are respectable people on the other side with whom I am friendly, such as Deputy Martin Ferris, who might have a different opinion. I would not take from his opinion, or from anybody else's either, not even from the people who try to antagonise me. My attitude is that they are entitled to their opinion, they have their mandate and they are perfectly entitled to use it-----
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae is wandering.
I am coming back to amendment No. 29, as I continue trying to do, if I am left alone. Why is the Minister not looking at the bigger picture? There is a bigger picture to be seen. We are where we are today and I am glad that the Business Committee has agreed to allow for a further two days of debate on this Bill next week. That will allow every Deputy to make his or her contribution and it was a sensible decision by the Business Committee. It is a valuable use of time.
The Minister has already made changes that have resulted in the delays that have taken so long. Like the lady I was engaging with this morning, people are accusing me of holding up this legislation. It is actually the Minister who is the biggest culprit when it comes to the legislation being held up because of the changes he made. The Minister's recommital of this Bill was what caused the big delays. It is the responsibility of the Minister. The answer to any member of the general public, or the detractors that I and my colleagues might have around the country, accusing us of holding up this legislation, is that the person responsible is actually the Minister himself. That seems to have gone unnoticed perhaps because the media have a different agenda but I would like them to make it clear that the Minister is the cause of us being where we are now.
I hope the rest of the time today and the other two days next week, if that is to be the finish of it, will allow every Deputy, including the Deputies who have a different view, to stand up and say why he or she thinks amendment No. 29 is a good idea and why this legislation should be implemented in its entirety. I would like to see them justify it. Whether Deputies are from County Kerry or from County Tipperary, I would like to hear those backing the Minister blindly speak directly to the parents and the young people. Being a legislator is an important and responsible job. The one thing the people here making laws have to think about is the effect they are going to have on the people the laws are going to be imposed upon.
I would like to hear from those Deputies and hear them explain to the mothers and fathers-----
We would like to get a chance to do that.
Deputy Catherine Murphy most certainly will. That is the Ceann Comhairle's job when I am finished.
There are still two more days next week.
I am in possession and I said I welcome the Business Committee agreeing to two more days next week. If that will not be enough, perhaps diligent people like Deputy Mattie McGrath, who is representing our group, will be able to get more time from the Business Committee. If they do, I will welcome that.
There are only 24 hours in a day.
The funny thing is I do not know how many of those 24 hours the Deputy uses, but I know I use quite a lot of them.
I know exactly how many hours there are-----
I might use a few more of them-----
On a point of order, I think we are perhaps in our 17th or 18th hour on this Bill. I do not recall-----
We are heading toward the 15th hour.
-----in my time in this House ever spending the same amount of time on the key social protection or finance Bills, which we do every year, as we have on this Bill. We have heard everybody on the subject-----
This is bad legislation.
-----on amendment No. 29 already and, indeed, on the Bill itself in the earlier amendments. The Ceann Comhairle's distinguished colleague, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, at our last session, where we again had rambling discourses about material not relevant to the Bill, established a precedent in respect of recommital-----
No, he did not.
-----in that he said that Deputies who wanted to speak would at least have to have a few minutes and then the Minister would be heard. Will the Ceann Comhairle consider that format? This Dáil has about 20 Bills next week - it is certainly eight or ten items of critical legislation - that are important to many sections of our society. We have a responsibility to do that. The tactic of Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, speaking now, is to talk this Bill out, hope a general election will be held and then when he returns that he will do a deal with an incoming Government that this legislation will never see the light of day.
I thank Deputy Broughan. He has made his point of order.
I ask the Ceann Comhairle to ensure that the Deputies who are here get a chance to say a few words in the next hour, to hear the Minister and to dispose of this matter.
I am anxious to hear the other Deputies who are offering. We have two hours today and it would be presumptuous to assume that we have any more time beyond that.
We have next week.
The longer Deputy Michael Healy-Rae talks, the less time there is for others.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I would like to clarify that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle - he is an experienced politician and entirely entitled to do so as Leas-Cheann Comhairle - admitted afterwards that what he did on that last evening of the debate was unusual. It was not in Standing Orders: it was outside of the Standing Orders. If any Member had insisted on the night that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was wrong and that the Members were entitled to carry on in the way they were doing, they would have actually been entitled to do so. I had a copy of the Standing Orders in my hand that night but I did not want to make a big issue out of it because I did not want to be argumentative with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, whom I respect very much. He, however, made a decision and Deputy Broughan knows that was a personal thing the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did then.
It was agreed by the House.
It was not-----
We are wandering away again-----
Deputy Healy-Rae is on his feet in respect of amendment No. 29.
I am, but I was interrupted by a Deputy making a point of clarification which was incorrect. I want to highlight that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did it himself. Deputy Broughan is saying that he did so with the permission of the House-----
He did not.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle operated outside of what were the Standing Orders-----
We did not agree.
We did not agree. I stood up that night and said that I objected. That meant that he did not have the full agreement of the House.
It is not my job to comment on the Leas-Cheann Comhairle or anyone else in the Chair but I cannot allow Deputy Michael Healy-Rae to say that he operated outside of the Standing Orders.
I am sorry, can I-----
He operated in a manner, as I understand it, to facilitate the maximum number-----
-----of Members in the House having an opportunity to make a contribution.
The Ceann Comhairle is 100% correct.
On a point of order-----
As the Ceann Comhairle knows, I agree with him and he is 100% right. I did not mean to infer that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did anything wrong. He did it himself but I am just saying that he did not have full agreement because I voiced my objection at the time. It is unfair to say that he had the agreement of the House. He did not.
This is beyond a joke.
It is not. On a point of clarification, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle said that it was an informal arrangement. That is being fair to everybody.
I thank Deputy Mattie McGrath.
To make the point clear so that nobody would think that-----
Can we go back to the amendment?
We can, yes.
The Deputy might conclude, if he is in a position to do so.
I will of course, when I get to finish the point about the high cost of insurance and that the Government and the Minister are completely neglecting the enormity of the implementation of amendment No. 29 and what the effect of it will be on people on the ground.
I have already said that when it comes to them trying to go to college or work there are so many things against them. This will be another millstone around them. We should think of the practicality of it. If they cannot get a licence and if they are being told they have to wait 15, 20, 25 or 30 weeks for a test, what are they supposed to do? What will they say to the Deputies who support the Government, if they are from Kerry or elsewhere? These people will be pulling the car out from underneath these young drivers.
I certainly do not want to put my name to that because these young drivers are diligent and do their best every day. They are working part time at night in public houses and hotels. They are working in factories. They are working with agricultural contractors. They are sitting into their little van or their car and going about their business. If they were not able to work, how would their parents manage? Their parents cannot afford to finance them. They cannot afford to finance the high cost of their third level education and the accommodation they have to pay for every week. These young people need to educate themselves and to do so they need their part-time jobs. I would like to hear the Minister answer this when it comes to amendment No. 29. How are these young people supposed to manage? The Minister is hurting them severely with this legislation.
In answer to the Deputies who have objections to people like me having a voice on the matter, these people would really like to hear the answers the Minister will have to those types of questions. I would like to hear it sooner rather than later.
So would I.
What comfort can the Minister give to them if he gets his way with this legislation? I have heard nothing from him or his departmental officials that offers any hope because he is not addressing the difficulties they have. He is certainly doing absolutely nothing to speed up the process of getting full licences. At a time when we are all interested in road safety-----
The Deputy is repeating a point he has made very well earlier.
When I turn over the page, I will be on a completely different issue, if I get to it.
On a point of order-----
I just need the opportunity to do so.
I call Deputy Breathnach on a point of order.
Although I am one of the newer Deputies to this House, I am certainly not innocent to what is going on here. I say this sincerely. We are listening to nothing other than verbal diarrhoea with the stalling of the legislation. I have spoken to the Members privately on it. It is incumbent on us to pass legislation in this House. Stalling it is absolutely inappropriate. As someone living in a rural area, I might share some of the concerns of the Independent Deputies. However, it is incumbent on us to pass legislation. The House should come to an informal arrangement whereby everybody gets an opportunity and that we move on to passing the legislation, irrespective of whether we like it. We are stalling something we know is inevitable.
Is Deputy Michael Healy-Rae going to conclude?
I do not know how many times I have now been interrupted. The only thing I can say is that every time I am interrupted, all it does is delay the process further.
On a point of order-----
The Deputy has had three quarters of an hour.
-----not if the Deputy had agreed to what I suggested.
Everybody knows I am operating within Standing Orders and if the Deputy wanted to change Standing Orders, he had a party Whip. If he has this opinion now, has he already relayed his opinion to his Whip? Did the Fianna Fáil Whip bring it to the Business Committee meeting? I can tell the Deputy that his party Whip did not. What he is saying now he never said to his Whip.
The Business Committee cannot change Standing Orders.
Changing the Order of Business for today was never raised at the Business Committee. The only thing that was changed related to the two days next week, which I welcomed. The Deputy should also welcome it if he is interested in the passage of this Bill. The Deputy cannot have it both ways.
Neither can Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.
It is very unfair to interrupt somebody when they are making their points. I was elected to this House as Deputy Breathnach was. I would not interrupt him or anybody else as long as they are on their feet. I certainly would not stand up and try to put somebody off what they were trying to do.
It is a case of "Don't let anybody else talk while I'm interrupting."
Deputy Breathnach, please. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae is in possession. I encourage him to conclude.
I would like to be allowed to do so if I could just get the opportunity.
When the Minister is addressing the issues and concerns that have been raised, I ask him to remember different views and opinions he heard from people on his two trips to Kerry and his trip to Tipperary, and those of the people on whose behalf I have relayed concerns whom he never got to meet on those days. Over the course of the weekend before the two days of next week when he will be making contributions on this, I would like to see the Minister come up with some of the answers people are looking for. Even this morning, this issue was being discussed on Radio Kerry. It is much-discussed legislation because of the impact it will have owing to rural isolation. Those living in rural areas will be adversely affected by what the Minister is proposing. I would like to see him having answers for those people.
I would like the Minister to listen to people who are involved in road safety who have come to me and said I am correct in what I am highlighting, which is that there is more to accidents that are happening on our roads than suggesting it is unaccompanied young people who are causing accidents. That is extremely unfair. The cause of accidents is the next section I would like to address. I have spoken at length to members of an Garda Síochána, who-----
Accidents have nothing to do with the subject matter of the amendment-----
-----which deals with somebody who does not have a full licence being in control of a motor vehicle.
I will explain why. Something is being insinuated here and the Minister has said it on the record of the House and in other forums. The Minister said it directly to me one time here in the Chamber and I take it very much on board. He said that people are dying in my county because they are driving unaccompanied. I have spoken to road traffic investigators and, of course, it is true to say there have been accidents where young people were driving without being accompanied by a person with a full licence. However, is it true to say that was the only contributing factor in those accidents? Not at all. If five people with full licences were in that car, the accident that happened could very well have happened. It is a very bland answer to give to people.
It is totally wrong to insinuate that there will be no road traffic accidents if we ensure that no driver will be driving without a person with a full licence in the car. I know of an accident where two beautiful young men lost their lives. That accident took place late at night. The two young men were doing nothing wrong. They were driving along heading home and unfortunately they left the road. While we cannot be absolutely certain, when the matter was investigated afterwards the cause was found to be a deer out on the road which they swerved around to avoid and they unfortunately lost control of their car and lost their lives. If a line of people with full licences were sitting in that car, how would it have changed the course of that?
Coming back to amendment No. 29, is this the magic bullet which, if implemented, will mean no more deaths of young people on our roads? The Minister knows that is not true. The Minister and others might say that if it saved one life, would it not be worthwhile. Of course, it would. Every one of us wants to see every life being saved. At the same time, the Minister needs to be balanced and sensible about introducing legislation. He needs to look at the enormity of what it will mean on the ground. If I thought the Minister was correct, I would be pointing out ways he could combine this with investing serious money - the economy is supposed to be improving - into speeding up the issuing of full driver licences.
If there were to be an immediate turnaround, or if everyone was guaranteed that within seven days of obtaining a provisional licence he or she could take his or her examination in the hope of passing it and obtaining a full driver's licence, would it mean nobody would have an accident afterwards? The Minister knows that that is not true. The law of averages dictates that the more someone is on the road, the more likely it is that he or she will have an accident. The circumstances are completely different from before.
This is directly related to the amendment because so many people have cars. It is not that many years since one saw no more than one car outside a house, particularly in rural areas. Now a household with five children and two parents could have seven motor cars outside the house. Although so many people are to be affected adversely by this legislation, does it mean that there will be fewer road traffic accidents? The Minister says the whole Bill is about saving lives. Will it save lives? I really and truly do not believe it will. Cars are now much safer, with crumple zones, etc. Is it really saving lives? It might be in a certain way, but, at the same time, why are we losing so many hundreds of citizens every year in road traffic accidents? There are other issues about which nobody is speaking. Even when people comply with the law by using mobile phones hands-free, their minds are distracted. There is nothing in amendment No. 29 or any of the others that takes into account all of the causes of road traffic accidents. I have been seeking this all along, but the Minister has done nothing. He is touching on perhaps two or three issues, but he is leaving out so many other important ones. When he introduced this legislation and when discussing the amendment and all of the others, including the amendments which were recommitted, I tried to express to him, both here and privately, everything he and his officials were leaving out. He had a golden opportunity, because of his position in government and unique circumstances, in addition to the fact that he seemed to have the backing of Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, to consider all of the complex reasons people were dying on the roads. However, he focused only on what is contained in the Bill.
In giving so much of his time to this matter - in addition to the time of his officials and the Department - the Minister is ignoring so many other issues. The Garda, which enforces the law, tells me that it is amazed the Minister is leaving out so much because he is concentrating on so little. He is missing the bigger picture as to why people are dying on the roads. It is a matter of great concern. I would like to hear the Minister address that issue again today, next week or at another time. Even at this late stage, I appeal to him to reconsider as it is not too late for him to do so. He might consider the bigger picture because it would be the right and proper thing to do.
There are just a couple of things that I want to use this opportunity to address. Again, I am speaking to the amendment. I was considering this matter this morning in advance of the debate because I did not know whether the Minister would get to speak to it today. On learner permits and the waiting time between obtaining a permit and the driving test to receive a full licence, a number of proposals were made that I put to the Minister through parliamentary questions which I submitted in advance of this debate. Again, I appreciate the responses I received. The Minister and his officials worked diligently to try to answer the questions I had raised, but at no stage did he really address what I was raising. That is another reason I have so many difficulties with supporting what he is trying to do. If I believed it was in any way possible for me to support or vote for amendment No. 29, I would be glad to do so, but, having studied and taken advice on it, with others, I continue to have grave concerns about it. I will certainly not be doing what others are suggesting, that is, blindly rowing in behind the Minister. In the fullness of time, other legislation that was rushed through the House was considered differently. Looking back, people concluded that rushed legislation or hurried law was bad law. I certainly do not want that to happen at this stage. I spoke to some of my colleagues this morning who have contributions to make and noted that, while we might all have broadly the same views on amendment No. 29, they have problems with what the Minister is proposing that are different from mine. That is why I could not vote for it. As I said, I will not question the Deputies who are going to support the Minister. That is entirely their business and they are perfectly entitled to do so.
The Minister has engaged in a lot of consultation with the Road Safety Authority. I have spoken to staff in the authority about amendment No. 29. I have to admit that many of them debated with me why they believed I was wrong. I do not want to wrong their opinion, but many more of them told me that the point I was trying to make was very valid and worthwhile. I appreciated the honest and frank engagement I had with them. Overall, while I have many problems with some of the activities of the authority, the powers given to it and the way they have increased in recent years, particularly regarding the way people with buses and lorries are being adversely affected, while I was discussing amendment No. 29-----
On a point of order, we have been about 250 miles away from amendment No. 29 for the past four or five minutes. Is it not time that the Ceann Comhairle gave other Deputies a quick opportunity to speak to the amendment and allowed the Minister to respond?
To be honest with the Deputy, I would have thought that today we would have found a way to let all of the Deputies offering to contribute to do so, but it is open to a Deputy, including Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, to speak in Committee Stage fashion on recommittal. Unfortunately, if it continues, it will deprive other Deputies of a right to contribute in the time allowed to us.
What is happening is that both sides of the House are playing to their own galleries. It suits the Minister and Deputy Michael Healy-Rae to drag this out indefinitely. What we need is leniency from the Cathaoirleach. With the agreement of all Members in the House, we could have a maximum timeframe for each speaker in which to make a contribution on the amendment, after which there would be an opportunity for the Minister to reply. That happened last week and it could happen again with the agreement of the House. It would facilitate the debate and all those who want to contribute on the amendment. It would enable us to bring the matter to a conclusion.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae has been speaking for over an hour.
Close to an hour.
He has been speaking for almost an hour. The Deputy is entitled to make his points, but we have heard them already. He has made them repeatedly, over and over again. They have been heard loud and clear. The Deputy is now regurgitating points. It is despicable, and hugely insulting to those who have lost their lives on our roads, to their families and to those who have been injured. At this stage it is despicable carry on. It would serve the Deputy well if he spoke to those families who have been affected in the Public Gallery.
We have met them. This is not a point of order.
The Deputy has spoken for almost one hour now, and other Deputies have indicated that they would like to speak. The Deputy is entitled to make his point, but this Bill is concerned with making our roads safer. The sooner those Deputies opposing it get it into their heads the better.
We cannot get into a debate about that. The Deputy has made her point of order.
This is about making our roads safer.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae to conclude.
I have made a suggestion.
Deputy Troy is correct; he made a suggestion. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae will conclude and we will then address the suggestion that has been made.
I have two points. They can be considered points of order or parts of my contribution. Deputy Broughan said that I was 200 miles away from amendment No. 29. I was referencing amendment No. 29 when I was interrupted. He should have allowed me to continue. Also, I cannot let what Deputy Munster said lie. She said that I was being disrespectful to the parents and the families of people who have lost their loved ones on the road. Perhaps she was not in the Chamber, but-----
This is not on the amendment.
I have to answer that charge, and I am entitled to do so. An accusation was made-----
Strictly the Deputy is not entitled to respond. The Deputy got up and made a point of order.
It was not a point of order, it was an attack.
I will decide if it was a point of order.
The Ceann Comhairle is the boss.
Deputies are not entitled to engage in argy-bargy on this point. I ask that the Deputy sticks to the amendment. It would be very helpful to all of us if he was to conclude and give others a chance.
As the Ceann Comhairle knows, and as he would expect from me, I am not saying anything disparaging to Deputy Munster. All I am highlighting for the Deputy, in case she was not here, is that I was not being disrespectful. At the very beginning, before I started, I mentioned the fact that I debated this morning on Miriam O'Callaghan's radio show-----
I heard the Deputy; he does not have to repeat himself.
-----with the mother of a person who lost their life on the road. I have engaged not just this morning but at every opportunity with people who are being affected by this legislation.
The Deputy is going back over peripheral matters. Can he deal with the amendment, please?
Yes we can. I have engaged with people who are being affected by amendment No. 29 and all of the other aspects of the legislation. I have spoken with those people at every opportunity. I have listened in a respectful way to the concerns they have, and I believe they would have to say the same.
It would be wrong not to say this on the record of the Dáil. Over the course of the weekend I received a number of phone calls from people who I believe are in the Public Gallery. To reply further to Deputy Munster, I have spoken to those people over the weekend and I can tell the House exactly what they asked myself and my colleagues to do. They asked that we allow this legislation to go through quickly and I was open and honest with them. I told them that I will contribute at every opportunity I have and where I feel I have something to say I will say it. I did not mislead them or give them short shrift on the phone. I gave them all of the time and the courtesy they rightly deserve. It was unfair for Deputy Munster to make that comment as if I had not taken their views into account.
Some of those who contacted me spoke particularly about this amendment because they knew that I was in possession and that it would be the first item discussed today. Those people gave me their views and opinions and I have to relay this because the lady said it and I know she would not have a problem with me saying it, obviously protecting her privacy. She said that her family member was affected by a road traffic accident - it was not a death but a serious injury. I take on board all of the phone calls, emails and letters I have received about this important issue and I am listening to every bit of it. However, I have to say that it would be wrong of me to come in here and forget my own principled view on this legislation and my own personal view on amendment No. 29 and the problems and difficulties I see it creating in the future.
I hope that when my colleagues make their contributions they will pick up on the points that I might have omitted or forgotten to raise.
I do not think there will be many left.
There probably will be, because I cannot remember every aspect of everything. I laid out my notes as good as I could and despite all the interjections I hope I am not leaving out the major thrust of the argument against this. I hope the Minister will reflect over the weekend. I suggest to the Whips, whether or not amendment No. 29 is concluded today and the Bill is ready for passage to the Seanad, that if more time is required it will be allocated beyond even the two days that Deputy McGrath and others secured for this very important issue. Those two days next week are going to be critical. It is obvious that the time will be required, because of the simple fact that we will possibly not get through the other complex matters in this Bill today.
I have just been informed that the two days allocated next week has now been reduced by one day, which is unfortunate: I thought it had been agreed there would be two days. In the time this is taking, and the recommital which the Minister engaged in with regard to amendment No. 29 and others, the Minister never explained why he moved the goalposts in the middle of the game. That is what he did in my opinion.
The Deputy is wandering away from the amendment. We can only consider the amendment. We have considered much besides the amendment. I ask the Deputy please to return to the amendment. It would be very helpful to the House if he would conclude.
I will conclude at the first opportunity. Why did the Minister at the very beginning not have this organised in such a way that recommital would not have been necessary? It would have spared much of the upset and anger against what he is proposing. Many of the organisations I spoke to about amendment No. 29-----
On a point of order, on a previous occasion I asked that we invoke Standing Order 68. I do not think it is an ideal way to deal with legislation, and I would regret if it became necessary again. However, it is very clear what is happening here. A large amount of other legislation is being held up because of the deliberate efforts being made to ensure this Bill does not pass. That is what is happening. I would regret asking that Standing Order 68 be invoked, but if we continue the way we are going, not allowing other Members to contribute and not allowing the Minister to reply, some of us do not have an option other than to call for that. I ask the Ceann Comhairle if some intervention can be made at least to ration the amount of time available in fairness to those of us who were at pre-legislative scrutiny, at Committee Stage, and every single solitary stage of this legislation.
Deputy Troy has already made the proposal, which to me appeared reasonable, that we have a limited amount of time for all Members offering to contribute - seven Members, I think.
However, members of the Rural Independent Group say that is not in accordance with Standing Orders, and it is not. Therefore, if there are Members who disagree with that tactic, I am afraid-----
May I be helpful?
-----it is not one we can use. Yes, the Deputy could be helpful.
I will be helpful to Deputy Catherine Murphy, who I respect very much. She has been my neighbour above in the corridor for many years. I have listened to her suggestion, and if it is helpful, and if another seven Members wish to speak, I will conclude in the next minute or two, if that is okay, and will try to make my final points. I have always found the Minister to be fair and reasonable but not on this issue. I hope that in the contributions I have made this morning and on the other little occasions on which I got an opportunity to do so, I made my points clearly and that this will be remembered by the Minister. I hope the other Deputies who intend to support the Minister might think about the people in their areas who will be affected adversely by the Minister's legislation and what will become their legislation. I hope the people will see that what I and others are trying to do is to highlight what we believe to be the wrongs of the legislation and that this will be thought upon fairly.
I will conclude exactly where I started. Each one of us has children and will, it is hoped, have grandchildren and nieces and nephews in the future. The one thing no one ever wants to hear of is a family member or neighbour's child or anyone else being hurt or killed on our roads. Every one of us, when we speak in Dáil Éireann or vote for or make legislation, should have nothing but the utmost of genuine respect for the loss experienced by these people. I acknowledge that some of them are in the Gallery and have been there on other nights. I do not want any one of them to think that I or anyone else has disrespect for the fact that we are all in this world only for a short time. For those people who have lost family members, it is the most heartbreaking of things that could ever happen to anyone, and I wish to acknowledge that in a genuinely respectful way. I do not want them to think that it is a case of us and them or anything like that. It is nothing like that. Not one of us knows when something bad could happen to any household and I wish to acknowledge that.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle, the Minister and even the Deputies who tried to stop me. They are perfectly entitled to their opinions. I am glad to go along with the suggestion of Deputies Catherine Murphy and Broughan, who, again, I respect very much. Deputy Broughan is the one man still in his office in Dáil Éireann at 12 midnight. When many more Members might be gone to the hills, Deputy Broughan is in his office.
That is true, actually.
Deputy Healy-Rae should press the pause button.
It was just to acknowledge that.
You are very good. Thank you, Deputy Healy-Rae. I suggest to the House that to the seven remaining Deputies we allocate, say, three minutes each for a contribution.
Is that agreed?
If the proposal is not going to be agreed, I cannot proceed with it.
It is agreed.
It is not agreed by the-----
Must it be unanimously agreed?
Yes, because it is a departure from Standing Orders. If it is not agreed, I-----
At least 15 minutes each.
Can the House call a vote?
Then there would be a division on it.
There would have to be a division. No. Since the House does not agree to the proposal, I call the next speaker, Deputy Catherine Murphy.
The amendment we are talking about reads:
An owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle shall be guilty of an offence where a person, not being that owner, drives the vehicle in a public place at a time that the person—
(a) is not the holder of a driving licence or learner permit for the category of vehicle concerned.
I do not know what is being proposed by the Deputies who have spoken on the amendment, particularly Deputy Healy-Rae. Are they suggesting we dispense with licences altogether, that we have a free-for-all? The amendment has been tabled for a very good reason. People are granted licences for a very good reason. We make rules and regulations.
Deputies Troy and Munster and I are on the transport committee and have been through all Stages of the Bill, including pre-legislative stages. We received advice from the Road Safety Authority and heard from, for example, AA Roadwatch. Mr. Faughnan of AA Roadwatch said it was "absolutely demonstrably true" and "provable by any road data internationally" that it is unsafe for learner drivers to be on the road unaccompanied. Mr. Clancy, speaking after the inquest into the deaths of his daughter and his wife, which were incredibly tragic, said:
half a mile from us in Mallow today, there are two secondary schools and I guarantee if you go there you will find ... cars with L plates - how did they arrive there this morning? Were they accompanied by a qualified driver or were they accompanied by 14, 15 or 16 year old siblings?
There is a very good reason why this legislation and this specific amendment should be enacted. It has been introduced for one reason, that is, to improve road safety. When the Road Safety Authority was dealing with this, Moyagh Murdock said the number of learner drivers involved in fatal crashes is unacceptable. She told a radio programme that on average 12 learner drivers are involved in fatal crashes every year, ten of whom are unaccompanied, and that this compares very unfavourably with our near neighbour in the North, where in 2016 there were no reports of unaccompanied learner drivers involved in fatal crashes. It was asked why we are doing this. That is the reason we are doing this. It is not enough to go to funerals, offer sympathy and ask, "What can I do?" We are the people in a position to do something about this, including for the people in the Gallery. Sympathy is no good if, when one is in a position to do something, one does not do it. All of us probably know parents who had a child die on the roads. They say that if they can do anything that will ensure it does not happen again, they will do it. That is what these people are campaigning for: to try to ensure that what has happened to them will not happen to other people.
We have been taken on a tour of Kerry, Cork, west Cork and Tipperary over a very lengthy debate on the Bill.
You could not go nicer places.
This is about one thing: ensuring that this legislation is stretched out and does not pass. There is absolutely no good reason why in two hours we could not get through one amendment with the agreement of everyone in the House. That amendment is purely about ensuring that unaccompanied learner drivers or people without licences do not drive. In any kind of civilised society it would go through in minutes, never mind the protracted length of time it has taken to get through this legislation.
Perhaps this has been lost in the debate, but a learner permit permits someone to drive without a licence for the purpose of learning. That is key here. That is what a learner permit is all about.
While we are discussing this amendment and the Bill in general, the one thing to remember and that no one would have a hesitation in supporting is the view that one life lost on our roads is one too many. I do not know anyone who would disagree with that or fail to support this amendment on that basis.
It is important that there be more accountability and responsibility and that we take every measure possible to make our roads safer. This is a road safety issue - full stop. I came in earlier on a point of order. I had resisted up to that point because people are entitled to make their point, but it got to the stage where it was being laboured and regurgitated over and over. It is one thing for Deputies to make their points and feel disappointed if their arguments are not accepted or rejected but to carry on in the manner we have seen for weeks on end is despicable. It is horrendous behaviour which takes away from the credibility of the work that we try to do.
I will make a point to the Minister, which I have made to him numerous times. There is an onus on a Minister that when he or she introduces legislation it is backed up with the necessary resources. Last September, the Minister told a meeting of the transport committee that we would see a 10% increase in the traffic corps during the final quarter of 2017. It never materialised. The other issue relates to waiting times for tests. The figures obtained from the RSA cite waiting times of 23 or 24 weeks, which is a six month period. If the Minister was clever, when he was bringing in this legislation he should have put up the mother and father of a fight to ensure that he secured more funding so that there could be more test centres and that we could resource more driving testers. All he is doing is lending weight to the argument that we have been listening to. I hope he will pursue the matter with some vigour from here on because there is an issue about waiting times and on areas left without driving test centres where they are needed.
Nevertheless, I return to the point that this amendment and this legislation is about making our roads safer and one life lost is one too many.
I have already said much of what I wanted to say. In recent weeks I have watched the stalling of legislation, not only on this Bill but also on others, in an attempt not to deal with the matter fairly. Fianna Fáil made proposals that were defeated. There comes a stage where one should accept defeat in the interest of ensuring we have a safe society.
I am sure there are people in this House who were given some of the free licences many years ago when they were offered. It is well known, if one speaks to anyone who availed of them, that the people to whom they were given did not learn sufficiently about road safety. I am in this House today as an elected representative to do the will of the people and that is to see that this legislation is passed without any further filibustering. As I said earlier, I have watched this from the Chair. People are continuing on as though they are on a treadmill and their contributions are endlessly repeated. I appeal to those who are attempting to prevent it from being dealt with in this term and have it pushed out to the next to stop. I firmly believe we are in this House to pass legislation.
It is good legislation.
It is not.
I will not delay business so that others who wish to speak can have their say. I appeal to those who are stalling the Bill - and they know they are stalling it - to recognise they have had their say and made their pitch and it is now time for the House to decide whether it is good legislation or bad.
I support amendment No. 29. We have discussed it at great length over the past 18 or 20 hours of this debate. It is a reasonable amendment. We originally passed an amendment to this effect in Deputy Munster's name nearly two years ago. Although it was signed by the President in 2016 it was not commenced into law by the Minister.
Section 2 gives reasonable grounds for someone to argue that they have not committed an offence in allowing their vehicle to be used by an unaccompanied learner driver. It is a reasonable amendment that we need to dispose of, along with the Bill. The real reason we are here is that, according to the Minister's figures, 20 to 30 very serious crashes involved unaccompanied learner drivers over the past six or seven years. This year to date, 80 people have lost their lives on the road and I believe that includes some 30 people while this Bill has been under discussion. It is past time for us to finalise our discussions. We have heard the views of many interested Deputies at great length over the last three months.
I commend the Minister and believe this amendment should be passed.
Fianna Fáil will support this amendment on which I have some questions. Part (2) of the amendment states that "it shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle to show ... in the case of proceedings for an offence under paragraph (a) of subsection (1), that prior to the driving of the vehicle in a public place he or she took all reasonable steps to satisfy himself or herself that the person held a driving licence or learner permit". What will be deemed to be "all reasonable steps"?
As Deputy Broughan has said, this amendment is merely replacing a piece of legislation that is already law but that has not been commenced. I understand, but perhaps the Minister will clarify, that the fine under existing legislation is €2,000, and will be €1,000 under this proposal. What is the reason for this change?
Several Deputies have already made the point that whatever legislation is brought in, it is critically important that it is backed up with the necessary resources. I am deeply worried that the waiting lists for those who want to take their driving tests has risen quite significantly on the Minister's watch. In the time this Bill has been going through the Houses the Minister has not told us the concrete actions he can take to ensure those waiting lists are reduced. Two wrongs do not make a right.
If someone applies for planning permission, civil servants must provide an answer within two months. There is precedent of public bodies being obliged to do something within a maximum timeframe. There is an opportunity for the Minister to signal that he is prepared to put in a maximum timeframe for the Road Safety Authority to offer driving tests for those who seek their full licence.
We had a difference of opinion on one element of this Bill. I put my case as to why I felt the Minister's proposals were disproportionate, but we voted on it and moved on. I do not condone what is going on from the rural independent alliance in its filibustering. I have not engaged with it-----
We are not the rural independent alliance. We are the Rural Independent Group.
Deputy Troy should get that into his head, for once and for all. We are not the alliance. We are rural Independent TDs and Fianna Fáil would want to wake up to that.
Deputy Troy is long enough asleep there.
Do not be trying to tie us in with the Minister at all.
The Minister is going down the Swanee. Do not take us with him.
We are nothing to do with the Minister.
The Minister is finished completely.
We are not tied on to the Minister in any way.
Can Deputy Troy correct it?
Deputy Troy is only trying to antagonise us now.
That is all Deputy Troy is.
A slip of the tongue, I correct the record.
There has been a lot of it.
Deputy Troy's tongue was slipping for a long time. That is what the Deputy calls us every day.
It is interesting to note how the Minister was able to negotiate with the same grouping to ensure the passage of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017.
We did not.
It is interesting to note-----
We did not. We voted against it, with Deputy Troy.
-----when a crucial-----
The Minister negotiated nothing with us. Withdraw that remark.
When a crucial-----
The Minister was involved with negotiations with others and Deputy Troy's party. Deputy Troy and his colleagues sold their party down the tube. They will not propose a candidate for President of the country. They do nothing.
No, wait now, hold on. You are getting carried away. Will Deputy Troy focus on the amendments?
Will Deputy Troy focus on the amendments? Please, will the Deputies let Deputy Troy speak?
On a point of order, Deputy Troy has made a botún of calling us the wrong name. We do not want to be associated with any alliance or anything associated with the Minister, Deputy Ross. More importantly, we did not do any greasy deal. Fianna Fáil Members are the only ones who are keeping the Government in place. I would appreciate it if Deputy Troy would withdraw that remark because we did not do any deal with the Minister, Deputy Ross, and would not touch him with a 40-foot barge pole at this stage.
The Attorney General stated the Minister made a dog's dinner of it.
No, wait. Let us not turn the debate into a farce. I call Deputy Troy.
With respect, I have sat in for most of this debate. I have not contributed much.
No, Deputy Troy should be allowed to speak.
I should be allowed to speak for a couple of minutes. I will not speak at length.
For all the portrayal of the Minister, Deputy Ross, as someone who wants to bring in increased road safety measures, it is his fault we are in this position. It is the Minister who failed in the original Bill and it is this recommittal that has enabled any Deputy who wished to filibuster to do so. It is the Minister and the Government's fault that when the Dáil scheduling was happening, this Bill always seemed to come in on the tail end of other Bills.
Not only did that enable filibustering of this Bill, it enabled filibustering of other Bills. If the Minister was deadly serious about road safety, he would have prioritised this Bill over the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 and we could have had this Bill debated and enacted now.
Four months ago, when we were due to debate a proposal on the minimum passing distance for cyclists, the Minister, being good at PR, held a press conference stating that there was no need for an amendment, the amendment would be ruled out of order but there was no reason to worry because he would immediately sign a statutory instrument to bring this into law. That has yet to happen. We have not had the opportunity to debate that amendment in this legislation. The Minister cannot blame anybody for that.
The Minister is blaming the Independents, on my left here, for filibustering but it is the Minister's fault.
The Minister is blaming everybody. He states the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 is someone else's fault.
Deputy Ross has responsibility as Minister. He could have signed that statutory instrument in the past four months. The Minister did not do it. Despite the fact that the legislation was on his desk for 18 months before it, produced by his Cabinet colleague, the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, and there was cross-party support, Deputy Ross failed to do that.
In terms of this Bill, if we are talking about increasing road safety, I put forward an amendment in relation to the need for pedestrians walking on unlit roads in rural areas without the benefit of a footpath-----
Or a light.
-----or public lighting to wear high-visibility vests. The Minister did not accept that amendment when he had the opportunity to do so.
I happen to hold a contrary view that this suits the Minister. I think the Minister is happy that there is procrastination on this legislation and it is being protracted and delayed because every time it is delayed in this House, it gives him an opportunity to exploit bereaved families and to go on the national airwaves stating that he is doing his best and he is trying to get this through. Quite simply, the Minister's best is not good enough.
It is the Minister's fault we are here today. It is Deputy Ross's fault we have a recommittal. It is his fault that the Government, when setting the schedule, put this Bill at the end of every debate over the past number of months. It is the Minister's fault that the statutory instrument in relation to the minimum passing distance has not been assigned. Deputy Ross has sole responsibility and authority to do it.
I will finish on this point. If the Minister was serious about this - I will not cast aspersions on anybody but I will raise the question - it is amazing that the Members who have filibustered on this legislation for the past number of months were not around when there was an opportunity to defeat the Minister in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017.
Where were all Deputy Troy's own?
I do not know the reason.
That is not relevant to this particular matter.
Where were all Deputy Troy's own Deputies?
There are rumours going around that that trip down to Kerry was very beneficial altogether in terms of-----
It is not relevant.
-----investment in order to ensure that Members would not be in this House.
That is a scurrilous allegation. It is a disgraceful allegation.
In relation to this amendment-----
On a point of order, I wish to put on the record that Deputy Troy is trying to insinuate that there was some sort of a deal done with the Minister.
That is not a point of order.
I wish to put on the record that I know, other Members of this group know and the Minister himself knows that there was no such thing as a deal done with the Minister.
I thank the Deputy.
It is unfair and wrong-----
I have a point of order too.
The point is made.
-----for Deputy Troy-----
It is a different story.
-----to try and insinuate that something was done because Deputy Troy has made that insinuation before.
Deputy Micheal Healy-Rae made the point.
I merely want to knock it on the head. Deputy Troy is wrong. Where were the rest of Deputy Troy's party when he wanted them? They were completely asleep at the wheel.
Please, Deputy, we cannot have a debate on it.
On a point of order-----
-----I want to clarify why I was not here for the vote.
The Deputy does not have to clarify it.
I will clarify because this fellow is construing that I had some deal with the Minister, Deputy Ross. I had no such thing. My son was getting married the following day and there were things that the family required me to do on that day. That is why I was not here. I spoke against the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 of the Minister, Deputy Ross.
I ask Deputy Danny Healy-Rae not to gesticulate at other Members.
Deputy Troy just wants to exploit me now for not being there. His own party, all of them, were not there and Deputy Troy should not try to blackguard us. I will apologise to no-one for not being here.
Will Deputy Danny Healy-Rae control himself? I call Deputy Troy.
On a point of order-----
Wait a minute, has Deputy Troy finished?
I will finish by making the point that we will be supporting this amendment. I ask the Minister to outline what he classifies as reasonable steps and why there is a reduction in the fine that was previously there. Can he confirm that he will use his influence at Cabinet to ensure that the necessary resources will be given to the Traffic Corps and that we have the resources and the personnel on the roads to enforce the legislation? Can he also confirm to the House whether he will give consideration to the suggestion I made that the Road Safety Authority would be requested to introduce a waiting list limit so that those who want to comply with the law will not be left waiting in some towns in excess of eight months for a driving test?
Deputy Catherine Murphy sought to raise a point of order.
I seek to invoke Standing Order 68, considering the length of time that has been given to this. We have heard from Members from all sides of the House. There is no value in stretching this to another day next week. It is an amendment; it is not a Second Stage debate. I ask that the Ceann Comhairle consider granting that request.
It is regrettable that we have got to a point where such a proposal is being made.
I will say - I am not required to give an explanation in these matters - I consider filibuster a legitimate parliamentary tactic.
Around the world.
However, this debate has been going on since 24 April.
It is a recommittal.
We are at a point where we have reached nearly 16 hours of debate on a four page Bill. I was particularly struck when Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said in his lengthy contribution that over two days next week they wanted to have more contributions on this matter.
I apologise - one day.
I am unhappy about having to accede to the proposal, but faced with the reality of the length of debate we have had and that Rural Independent Group Deputies have made 24 lengthy contributions to the debate at this stage, as Chair, I can be happy that no Member has been deprived of an opportunity to make his or her position clear on this legislation.
May I raise a point of order?
While some Deputies may have had ample time to discuss this legislation, I certainly have not. I have checked the amount of time I have talked about it since we initially discussed it last October and the figure is 29 minutes and 55 seconds. In nine months that equates to three minutes that I have had to speak to it per month. If that is what is called filibustering in this Dáil, we are in a sorry state. Three minutes per month is all I have spent in discussing this legisation, even though I have been accused of filibustering by the media and Members on the other side of the House because they keep pointing their fingers over here. I do not agree because in total I have only spoken for 29 minutes in nine months.
I am not attributing the accusation of filibustering to any individual Deputy-----
I know, but I am just saying-----
-----but the Deputy has made a proposal which I am prepared to accept, albeit reluctantly, and I must now put it to the House.
On a point of order-----
On a point of order-----
I will hear no more points of order.
Please, a Cheann Comhairle.
I want to correct the record.
I made an incorrect statement earlier.
There is no need to correct it.
I said the Business Committee had agreed to a figure of two days next week. That was incorrect.
Two days or one day, or whatever the number of days is-----
It is one.
-----I am putting the question.
Please, a Cheann Comhairle.
I accepted the motion and I am putting the question on it.
It is disgraceful.
It is disgraceful.
We know that.
Justice is all I want.
Let me be clear with the Deputy. Just as it is a legitimate parliamentary tactic for Members to filibuster-----
-----it is equally a legitimate parliamentary tactic to avail of the use of Standing Order 68.
On a point of order-----
We offered to take ten minutes each.
No, that was after-----
Deputy Michael Collins only spoke for three minutes per month.
I am putting the question.
Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
Deputy Mattie McGrath should not be bullying Deputy Lowry.
Deputy Mattie McGrath is bullying Deputy Lowry.
-----I want that remark withdrawn. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, accused me of bullying Deputy Lowry.
The Deputy is showing awful aggression there.
We never bullied----
He is showing awful aggression. Desperate aggression.
Will the Minister of State please withdraw his remark?
I did not hear the Minister of State.
Will he withdraw it?
Will the Deputy first resume his seat? Did the Minister of State make an inappropriate remark?
I will say that the Deputy showed aggression towards Deputy Lowry then.
I thank the Minister of State for clarifying.
I am not accepting that.
The Deputy is not accepting it, but there is nothing to do about that.
Deputy Michael Collins is showing plenty of aggression.
The Deputies are bringing the House into disrepute.
There is threatening behaviour on the Government side. The Deputies opposite are being bullied by the Minister, Deputy Ross. That can be seen.
The Minister, Deputy Ross, is taking jobs from those in rural areas.
Arise and follow Danny.
Will the Deputies resume their seats?
Deputy Matttie McGrath demanded that whatever the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, said be withdrawn from the record and then ten seconds later he tells us that we are being bullied by the Minister, Deputy Ross.
Yes. There is bullying.
Will the Deputy cop on to himself?
The Deputies will be in junior infants next year.
I remind people on all sides of the House that there are members of the public looking at these proceedings. This is Dáil Éireann, the national assembly.
Will Deputies please treat the House with respect?
When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?
It is time to send for the men in the white coats.
- Brady, John.
- Breathnach, Declan.
- Breen, Pat.
- Brophy, Colm.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Buckley, Pat.
- Burke, Peter.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Byrne, Thomas.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Canney, Seán.
- Cannon, Ciarán.
- Carey, Joe.
- Casey, Pat.
- Cassells, Shane.
- Chambers, Lisa.
- Connolly, Catherine.
- Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
- Cowen, Barry.
- Cullinane, David.
- Curran, John.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Daly, Jim.
- Deering, Pat.
- Doherty, Regina.
- Donnelly, Stephen S.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Ellis, Dessie.
- English, Damien.
- Ferris, Martin.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Fitzpatrick, Peter.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Harris, Simon.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy, Seamus.
- Heydon, Martin.
- Humphreys, Heather.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Martin.
- Kyne, Seán.
- Lahart, John.
- Lawless, James.
- Madigan, Josepha.
- McDonald, Mary Lou.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McHugh, Joe.
- McLoughlin, Tony.
- Mitchell, Denise.
- Munster, Imelda.
- Murphy, Catherine.
- Naughton, Hildegarde.
- Neville, Tom.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
- O'Brien, Jonathan.
- O'Donovan, Patrick.
- O'Dowd, Fergus.
- O'Sullivan, Jan.
- O'Sullivan, Maureen.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- Penrose, Willie.
- Quinlivan, Maurice.
- Ross, Shane.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Smyth, Niamh.
- Stanley, Brian.
- Stanton, David.
- Tóibín, Peadar.
- Troy, Robert.
- Collins, Michael.
- Daly, Clare.
- Fitzmaurice, Michael.
- Healy-Rae, Danny.
- Healy-Rae, Michael.
- Lowry, Michael.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- Wallace, Mick.
This is a sad day for rural Ireland.
The Deputies should respect the House.