Ceisteanna (Atógáíl) - Questions (Resumed)

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Mary Lou McDonald


1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the foreign visits he plans to undertake from September to December 2018. [29284/18]

Joan Burton


2. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his engagements when he attended the United Nations in New York. [30086/18]

Joan Burton


3. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the foreign visits he will undertake from September to December 2018. [30088/18]

Mary Lou McDonald


4. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the United States of America. [30678/18]

Michael Moynihan


5. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach the issues he highlighted during his visit to the UN. [38531/18]

Joan Burton


6. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the meetings he has planned with heads of government and heads of state over the next six months. [38649/18]

Micheál Martin


7. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he met President Abbas when he visited Ireland; and if so, the issues that were discussed. [38526/18]

Richard Boyd Barrett


8. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with President Abbas. [38831/18]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, together.

I travelled to New York in July to participate in the launch of Ireland’s election campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2021-22 term. During that visit, I attended and spoke at the event that formally launched Ireland's bid. I also spoke at an event commemorating Ireland's record of 60 years of unbroken service on UN peacekeeping operations and met with representatives of more than 30 African Union member states to emphasise Ireland's commitment to partnership with the continent, and to highlight Ireland's Security Council campaign.

I made a return visit to the UN earlier this week to represent Ireland at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, where leaders and representatives of more than 130 countries gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela as part of the week's events around the United Nations General Assembly. The political declaration from the Summit reaffirms the signatories’ commitment to the three UN pillars: peace and security, development, and human rights. It also reaffirms the importance of the multilateral system in preventing and resolving conflict. Ireland and South Africa led the preparation of this political declaration.

While at the UN this week, I had the opportunity to meet bilaterally with the Presidents of South Africa, Namibia, Columbia and Mozambique, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi.

During each of these meetings we discussed our bilateral relations as well as Ireland's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council. I also had the opportunity to discuss these issues in informal conversations with several other Heads of State and Government, including the Cypriot President, Prime Ministers Trudeau of Canada, Muscat of Malta, and Ratas of Estonia, and with senior UN officials including Secretary General António Guterres, Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, and President of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés.

Attendance at the United Nations also presents the opportunity to engage on an impromptu basis with many people in leadership positions in politics, international development and civic society. Among others, I met informally with the widow of Nelson Mandela, Ms Graca Machel; the Secretary General of the Arab League, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Mr. Kumi Naidoo, and representatives of the Governments of Monaco, Bahrain, Guyana, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

I am sure the House will agree that Ireland's credentials as a candidate for the Security Council are very strong. Since joining the UN in 1955, Ireland has made a sustained contribution to the international community’s efforts to tackle important global challenges like peace and security, human rights, international development, climate change and sustainable development. Ireland’s candidature for a seat on the UN Security Council will deepen our UN engagement at a time when the multilateral institutions which are so important for international peace and order are under pressure.

Before I travelled to New York last weekend I had the opportunity to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his short visit to Ireland. We were joined by the Tánaiste and by members of President Abbas's delegation including Deputy Prime Minister Abu-Amr, Foreign Minister al-Maliki, and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Our discussions covered the Middle East peace process, Ireland's support for the Palestinian people and challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people regarding peace, security, welfare and human rights. I emphasised to President Abbas the Irish Government's continued and consistent support for the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

As regards further international engagements over the next six months, I will attend the scheduled meetings of the European Council in Brussels on 17 and 18 of October and 13 and 14 of December. I will also attend any extra meetings of the European Council that are scheduled, including the one mooted for November. I expect to attend the next meeting of the British-Irish Council scheduled for 9 November in the Isle of Man.

I will also continue with my programme of bilateral meetings with other members of the European Council. I will keep the House informed as and when details of any future visits and engagements are finalised for announcement.

I think it is absolutely necessary for the Taoiseach to move beyond articulating an aspiration of recognition of the state of Palestine to actually doing so. He has long-fingered this issue. He says that he will do it in the context of a two-state solution, at a time when that looks very remote; a time of great trouble in the Middle East and particularly in Gaza. It is the will of the Oireachtas to recognise the state of Palestine. Rather than waiting for the solution, I argue that recognising Palestinian statehood is a necessary precondition and ingredient of advancing towards it.

As the Taoiseach says, on Monday he addressed the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in New York, held in honour of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. That is a considerable honour and privilege, and I hope it was a productive engagement. I read the speech in which the Taoiseach quite rightly held up our own peace process as a beacon for building peace and reconciliation. The Good Friday agreement remains a triumph of hope over despair, and it is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. Of course it is regrettable that 20 years on, the political institutions of the agreement are not functioning. In the context of Brexit, the actions of Tory hardliners, the denial of rights by the DUP and the actions of a British Government that in my view is undermining the agreement, it is absolutely essential that we recommit ourselves to the Good Friday Agreement. Those institutions are what is best for all of us, for our economy, our public services and for building reconciliation. The way forward is not to discard the agreement but to embrace it and to re-establish the Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly on the basis of equality and respect as was intended.

As the Taoiseach knows we have tried to do that over the last year. We reached an agreement with the DUP leadership to do so in February. They walked away and the thing collapsed. Listening to some of the Taoiseach's Ministers last night, one would be forgiven for thinking that the impasse in the North was entirely to be blamed on Sinn Féin, that we were somehow behind the renewable heat incentive, RHI, scandal or that we were denying fundamental rights to citizens. However, the Taoiseach knows the state of play and his Tánaiste, Deputy Simon Coveney, knows it even better. Yet the Taoiseach's Ministers, Deputies Ring, Doherty and Griffin engage in opportunistic sniping that is patently inaccurate and untrue. The Taoiseach cannot be a statesman and rejoice in the benefits of the peace process one day, and then watch as his Ministers descend into the gutter with comments like those that were made last night.

I think it would be useful for the Taoiseach to discuss this at ministerial level. Perhaps it is the case that the Taoiseach is not actually briefing Cabinet accurately or fully. If that is the case, I ask him to remedy that situation. The only way we will find a viable pathway back to full power-sharing is with the active and fully informed engagement of everybody. Crucially, that includes every member of the Taoiseach's Cabinet.

I am interested in the discussions the Taoiseach has had about the application for Security Council membership. This is an application I and the Labour Party strongly support and we have used our contacts to advance it. In general, has it compromised our ability on the world stage to criticise countries as we look for their votes? The Taoiseach met the secretary general of the Arab League. That was an important meeting. I had the privilege of meeting the secretary general last year when we were on the delegation to Egypt. Are we inhibited from criticising Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen? Are we clear in what we say internationally, that although we are looking for support we are not holding our punches in our normal role? That would be a mistake. It is important if we ask people to support us that they know we are honest brokers and we will call out violations of human rights where we see them, without fear or favour. That is Ireland's strength in our application. I am interested to hear the Taoiseach set out this in clear terms.

With regard to the point made previously about recognition of the state of Palestine, it is an important position for us to advance now. Every time it has been raised, although it was supported by all parties in the House, the Taoiseach's general view is it is contingent on a two-state solution. Things have moved remarkably badly in the wrong direction, particularly since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the movement of the United States embassy to Jerusalem. It is important that we are clear we support a two-state solution but in the interim that we recognise a state of Palestine and the legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people to their own state, which would include, of course, a capital in Jerusalem on an agreed basis.

In the past when Ireland has succeeded in being elected to the UN Security Council at regular intervals, it has been through a relentless focus on diplomatic contacts. We have all been involved. I was involved in previous Governments in getting direction from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the state of play. This is why it caused some surprise that the Government decided to assign a marketing expert to the campaign. There has been a lot more showboating and razzmatazz about this. One gets the sense it is for a domestic audience as opposed to the international reality of how these things happen and how election to the Security Council is won. People were surprised by how the former head of the strategic communications unit was by the Taoiseach's side in New York on Monday. Will he explain to whom he reports and why the Taoiseach decided we needed marketing expertise in this bid? Was there a competition for the particular post the person now occupies in line with normal procedure?

With regard to the visit of President Abbas at the weekend, will the Taoiseach explain whether he is any closer to clarifying what appear to be entirely contradictory policies on Israel, Palestine and the occupied territories? Ireland's position as a country, and the Oireachtas in particular, has consistently been in favour of a two-state solution as well as recognition of the humanitarian crisis especially in Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu's Government has effectively made efforts to undermine any possibility of reaching a two-state solution. That is where we are now. It has been steady and consistent in reducing the feasibility of an eventual two-state solution. There is a worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, and we should acknowledge the negative role of Hamas in this deteriorating humanitarian situation. The question is whether the international community acts or simply stands on the sidelines.

Many states are now actively working to try to push back against Netanyahu's policies by recognising a Palestinian state and seeking new ways to combat illegal settlement. At each stage the Government has been resistant to action. In fact, we have been lectured - I do not like to use that word - by the Tánaiste about how we are damaging his efforts to bring peace to the region. I spoke with the Tánaiste about the occupied territories Bill. He is earnest, but he told me it could damage Ireland's peace role and the perception of Ireland by the United States. He gave me the impression a peace initiative was about to happen, but what was done by the US Government was the antithesis of any movement towards peace, as it removed its funding from UNRWA, the United Nations relief organisation that does extraordinary work in Gaza and the West Bank to feed people and educate children. I have been in the schools in Gaza where children are taught about the atrocities and horror of the Holocaust, but the one civilising and significant humanitarian response to the crisis is being steadily undermined and eroded by the US Government and President Trump. I have made clear to the Tánaiste that the bottom line is people's patience is running out with the response of this Parliament and the Government.

Is it the Taoiseach's view that targeting goods from illegal settlements is a problem in terms of EU law? What will he do to try to change this? Will he take any steps to implement the clearly expressed will of the Oireachtas?

On the peace process in the North, I must put on the record that the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle at the time should not have contrived to collapse the assembly and Executive. We now know from evidence that letters were written by Sinn Féin Ministers pleading for the extension of the renewable heat incentive scheme and that it would continue to be kept open. That is now out there in the public domain.

That is absolute rubbish.

That is a problem in terms of very important institutions being undermined.

I have never subscribed to the two-state solution when it comes to Palestine because it codifies and institutionalises the ethnic and religious partition of people, specifically Jewish people and Palestinian people, in a way that I do not think we would accept anywhere else, not least on this island. I do not accept it. Setting aside that debate, and the fact the two-state solution is falling apart anyway because of Israel's complete flouting of every elementary aspect of international law on human rights with regard to the Palestinians, what does the Taoiseach say in seeking nomination for Ireland to the UN Security Council about UN Resolution 194, which deals with the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to the homes from which they were expelled and to recover the property lost when they were expelled, whether in 1948 or 1967? In answering this question, the Taoiseach should consider the appalling conditions of refugees in camps in Beirut. I was there in July and it was absolutely shocking and worse than what we would see in the West Bank, Jordan or Syria. As the Taoiseach seeks to get Ireland onto the UN Security Council, do these refugees have a right, as those on the Great March of Return demanded, to have that UN resolution vindicated and be returned to their homes in what is now called Israel? If the Taoiseach does not believe this, his aspiration to be on the UN Security Council is meaningless because it is completely selective in its implementation of its own resolutions when it comes to the Palestinians.

Will the Taoiseach look at UN Resolutions 55 and 56, which deal with the Kimberley process and conflict diamonds? This is a process which the EU will chair and there will be a meeting from 12 to 16 November where reforms of the Kimberley process will be discussed. There is a big demand in this regard by those who support the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people themselves, because of Israel's flouting of international law, its suppression of Palestinian rights, its continuous use of violence, which we saw most recently against the Great March of Return and the killing of approximately 170 people, its use of administrative detention and the shocking national law passed by Netanyahu recently that states Israeli Palestinians no longer have the right to self-determination - another tenet of international law - in Israeli territory. Will the Taoiseach champion this demand, that Israel is suspended from the Kimberley process and that its diamonds, in which there is a massive trade that finances the Israeli military, are suspended from the Kimberley process and labelled conflict diamonds as they absolutely are?

I will allow Deputy Ryan to ask a short question.

I welcome the Taoiseach's visit to the UN and signal our ongoing support of the UN. Who in the Government will signal our disapproval of President Trump's comments yesterday in his UN speech? I do not know if the Taoiseach has had the chance to see it yet but the level of bellicose and threatening content was beyond belief. It would have been laughable in its arrogance if it were not so worrying in its intent. What is the diplomatic approach and how can we comment on that? Will the Taoiseach comment on it? He may not have had the chance to hear it so if the Taoiseach does not comment on it today, will the State, in the form of the Tánaiste or the Taoiseach, make some response to what was said? I ask the Taoiseach to listen to the comments and revert with a suitable response.

We have 25 minutes left and we should take the second group of questions. I will give the Taoiseach five minutes to reply as there have been quite a few questions. We may not get to the third group.

My view, and the position of the Government, is that all refugees should be allowed to return to their homes and recover any property expropriated from them. That applies to all refugees and not just Palestinian refugees.

I did not have a chance to hear President Trump's speech in full, although I heard some extracts from it. I am always reluctant to comment on extracts of a speech because comments heard in their entirety are often different from soundbites. I can comment on two matters. I strongly disagree with his assertion that we should abandon globalism in favour of patriotism; the speech seemed to be in favour of nationalism as opposed to globalism. The Government has a different outlook in that regard and we are globalists by nature. We are very much in line with European colleagues in defending and supporting the Iran deal, which we believe has been successful in discouraging Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We stand with our European allies and colleagues in that regard in disagreeing with President Trump's approach to Iran.

The Government recognises the Palestinian people's right to statehood, self-determination and to be treated decently. The programme for Government provides for the recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. It is important to point out that Palestine has not yet been recognised by many other peer countries and many OECD countries do not recognise Palestine as a state. They include Canada, Japan, United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as most western European countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. One of the few exceptions in western Europe is Sweden, and as a consequence of its recognition of Palestine as a state, the Israeli embassy was closed, relations were downgraded and Palestinians did not benefit at all. The country endured some criticism from the US for doing that, so we should bear that in mind when we make any of our decisions.

When I met President Abbas, I had the opportunity to raise with him concerns about the protection of the Christian minority in the Palestinian territories, which has dwindled over the years. I also raised the need to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual, LGBT, Palestinians. Decriminalisation has yet to occur in Gaza, although it has occurred on the West Bank. I also raised the need to advance the rights of women. I had a good engagement with the delegation on those points and they responded to my concerns. I encourage other Members when speaking about Palestine not to ignore such matters. We should support Palestinian statehood and self-determination but we should not allow ourselves to be silent when it comes to discussing the treatment of the Christian minority in the Middle East, particularly Palestine, as well as the need to promote women and decriminalise homosexuality in Gaza. I am disappointed when people speak about Palestine but seem to turn a blind eye to such human rights matters.

The delegation was also grateful to Ireland for some of its actions, particularly our support on the Jerusalem matter and voting in the interests of Palestine in the UN General Assembly in opposing the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The delegation also welcomed our support for Palestine's observer status and membership in the UN and the fact that we increased our contribution to UNRWA after the United States reduced its contribution.

Deputy Martin asked about the trade Bill and our advice is that the legislation contravenes a European law and, therefore, cannot be implemented. It would probably be struck down if challenged in the European courts. The advice should not come as any surprise, as trade is an exclusive EU competence and individual countries cannot make their own laws with respect to external trade.

Our UN Security Council campaign does not in any way inhibit us from raising concerns about human rights or objections to the actions of other states. I am sure the countries with which we are competing - Canada and Norway - will take the same view that the fact we are campaigning for votes should not restrain us in saying what needs to be said. The person Deputy Martin asked about is seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and reports to the Tánaiste. As a communications professional, that person is involved with the communications aspect of our campaign for the Security Council.

With regard to the Northern Ireland institutions, Deputies now know that, unfortunately, Northern Ireland holds the international record for the length of time in which a government has not been formed. It is something of great regret that we do not have devolved government in Northern Ireland and people do not have an Executive or Assembly to represent their interests. It is regrettable that we do not have functioning North-South institutions, as they have been there for a number of years. While governments are ultimately there to support parties, there cannot be an Executive formed in Northern Ireland unless Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party, DUP, are able to do a deal. Both of those parties are involved in breaking the world record as they have been unable to do a deal and form a government. It is deeply regrettable.

To a certain extent, Deputy McDonald protests too much at comments from my Ministers yesterday. It is a fact that Sinn Féin collapsed the Assembly and Executive over the renewable heat incentive, RHI, controversy. When the inquiry is done, it may transpire that Sinn Féin knew more about it sooner than it previously indicated. It is all history now and we must work together to try to get things going again. That is the position.

It is not all history.

What about the Kimberley process?

It is not all history.

I asked about the Kimberley process.

I will have to study that matter.

We will move to the second group of questions. It looks like that is as far as we will get as there are 19 minutes left.

The inquiry is not history; it is under way.

The Deputies are quite right. The events are in the past but they are still current, as the inquiry is under way and has yet to report.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Joan Burton


9. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee F, national security, last met. [30675/18]

Mary Lou McDonald


10. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee F, national security, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [30679/18]

Brendan Howlin


11. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet Committee F, national security, last met; and when it next plans to meet. [37753/18]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.

The committee last met on 8 February this year. The meeting was attended by Ministers and senior officials from the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Justice and Equality, Health, Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Transport, Tourism and Sport, Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Defence. Arrangements are being made for the next meeting of Cabinet committee F but a date has not yet been finalised. The role of the Cabinet committee is "to keep the State's systems for the analysis of, preparation for, and response to threats to national security under review and to provide high-level co-ordination between relevant Departments and agencies on related matters". Given the recent publication of the O'Toole report on the reform of the Garda, we intend to have a meeting of this Cabinet sub-committee and the justice sub-committee to examine the Government's response.

Did I hear the Taoiseach correctly in saying the committee met last February?

With all the difficulties besetting the Garda and given the important matters of national security, as well as Brexit issues, I find it unusual that such an important committee would meet so infrequently. We could also bear in mind that we have had a change of Garda Commissioner, among other changes in the Garda.

I ask about the long-standing discussion about how national security be addressed. The report on the future of policing has recommended the immediate creation of a national centre for intelligence collation and analysis. It would be a strategic threat assessment centre, STAC, situated centrally within Government, and which should be headed by a national security co-ordinator.

That would be a new post and that person would answer directly to the Taoiseach. Does the Taoiseach agree with this recommendation and will he implement it?

It also recommended the updating of our capacity to cope with cybersecurity strategy, which, as the House will be aware, particularly based on events in the UK, is important, and there is a proposal that the national cybersecurity centre should answer to the national security co-ordinator and, therefore, indirectly to the Taoiseach.

On the role of the Naval Service in the Mediterranean, I am sure the Taoiseach will be aware that the ship that Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, has been using to save lives, the MV Aquarius, has been deflagged by Panama. Has the Government considered offering to register that ship so that it can continue to save lives? I understand the responsible line Minister is Deputy Ross. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do that because MSF carries out important life-saving work in the Mediterranean?

I am delighted that the Taoiseach raised with the Palestinian President, Mr. Abbas, issues relating to women's rights and LGBT rights. No doubt in giving Mr. Abbas the benefit of his wisdom, the Taoiseach would also have reflected that he and his colleagues themselves are relatively recent converts to those causes. I am sure the Taoiseach can assist Mr. Abbas in walking that journey.

I welcome the publication of the report of the commission on the future of policing. I thank Ms Kathleen O'Toole and the commission for its considerable work. It is undoubtedly a significant and detailed report and it includes many positive recommendations in respect of modernising policing. I commend the important strong emphasis on community policing and policing within the community. I commend the emphasis on human rights and tackling cybercrime and on providing quality training for gardaí, as well as an access programme. All of these are welcome but there are some areas on which we will need further clarification and that we need to pause to consider.

We have concern around the proposal to abolish the Policing Authority and to reassign some of its functions, for example, with regard to appointments to a new statutory Garda board and the Garda Commissioner. It is not insignificant that there were differing views on that point within the commission itself and I note the minority view of Dr. Vicky Conway and Dr. Eddie Molloy contained in the report in that regard. We, in Sinn Féin, had sought more power for the Policing Authority, including in respect of appointments, because the authority was making progress and was advancing. An independent appointments process is essential and transparency has to be kept front and centre. It is our view that the current process is the best way of doing business and the removal of such powers from the authority is a regressive step.

Can the Taoiseach tell us whether the Government has considered the report, when will we have a debate and what is the current state of play? Can we have some sense of the next steps in the process?

In the context of the national security committee and its work, the report led by Ms Kathleen O'Toole is an important piece of work. The report is comprehensive and deals in a fundamental way with many of the issues that require reform in relation to security and in relation to Garda Síochána. I support, for example, its emphasis. Many of the recommendations tally with much of Fianna Fáil's submission to the review. We had called for this review originally. We were the first party to call for a fundamental Patten-style review of An Garda Síochána and we welcome it.

We are weak as a country when it comes to cybersecurity. It is a vulnerability and I note that countries are telling the Taoiseach that Ireland is vulnerable to cyberattack. We need more specialisms and we need faster routes to recruit specialists to An Garda Síochána in cybersecurity and related fields.

There are issues around the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate. I can recall someone articulating at one stage that there were five bodies to which a Garda Commissioner had to answer, including an Oireachtas committee, and there are question marks about that. Simplifying and streamlining that is important. I believe in a strong Policing Authority but there has to be a clear delineation of roles. The operational responsibility has to be with the Garda Commissioner and his team. A policing authority that is only about public commentary is not what I envisaged the authority to be about, for instance, every time an incident happens. I do not like the look of that. That is not where an authority should be. I would look at the minority view in the report and accept there is a debate to be had on that.

GSOC has not worked out. There are gardaí investigating gardaí. There are two many minor issues getting in GSOC. Gardaí are being sent to investigate every kind of complaint whereas their primary responsibility should be to continue to do their job. I refer to a higher management rank in certain parts of the country.

Unfortunately, the sense of satisfaction with GSOC inquiries among the public does not seem to be high. I base this on those who have come to my party seeking inquiries. I find it difficult to recommend to such persons that they should pursue serious issues with GSOC. I am reluctant because it could extend the trauma for the individual without any definitive sense of there being closure at the end of the GSOC process. The process is far too long altogether.

There has to be a radical look at GSOC. Its operation should be concerned with more serious complaints as opposed to those that should be primarily dealt with by the internal governance structure within An Garda Síochána, which has not worked in practice for the past while.

Cabinet Committee F is a new committee, which I set up to deal with national security issues. It is not designed to meet on a regular basis but on an ad hoc basis as needed. A separate Cabinet committee deals with public sector reform, including justice reform.

My practice, as I have explained to the House in the past, is to deal with more issues in the Cabinet as a whole. I believe in collective Cabinet responsibility and where important matters need to be discussed such as Brexit, I prefer to have them discussed by the whole Cabinet rather than a sub-committee of the Cabinet. Sometimes that takes more time. It is why we often must have two meetings a week or why meetings take longer than they did in the past, but, as much as possible, I prefer to have a matter, if something is of great importance, discussed by the Cabinet as a whole rather than a sub-committee. I appreciate one needs different types of government and different styles of government for different times, but I certainly felt during the previous Government that many matters were decided by the party leaders or decided by the Economic Management Council, EMC, and then rubber-stamped by Cabinet. I have tried to adopt a different approach, involving the Cabinet more collectively in making decisions. For example, the O'Toole report was discussed by the full Cabinet first. We got to discuss it as a whole rather than sending it to a Cabinet sub-committee, which would then just refer it on for a short discussion by the full Cabinet. The same applied to the appointment of the Garda Commissioner. That went straight to the full Cabinet rather than to a Cabinet sub-committee.

With regard to the commission on the reform of policing, I want to put on the record my profound thanks to Ms Kathleen O'Toole and her team for the good work they have done over the past few months to produce this report on time and to inform us regarding a roadmap for the reform of the police service between now and 2022. The commission identified that date as the centenary of the creation of An Garda Síochána and suggests that we set it as our target date for introducing a reformed policing service in Ireland.

Among points that are particularly appealing to me in the report are the acknowledgement that policing is about more than the Garda, the need for more of what we saw yesterday, for example, which was a joint approach between the Garda and social services to responding to crime, preventing crime and preventing recidivism, and some of the proposals in respect of GSOC.

I agree with Deputy Micheál Martin regarding some of the proposals in respect of GSOC. It makes sense to move GSOC from being what it is now into an independent office as the police ombudsman, to use its permanent staff more and second gardaí a little less, and have minor complaints dealt with at Garda level rather than at the level of the ombudsman. It was correct to establish GSOC but it needs to be strengthened and modernised. The report also allows for the Garda Commissioner to be allowed to do his or her job, which is also important. The current accountability arrangements where there is a garda inspectorate, a Garda authority, GSOC and regular requests to appear before at least two committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas, namely the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and the Committee of Public Accounts, are quite strange. One must get the balance right between allowing people to do their job and being accountable for it and then spending all their time accounting, which can make it hard to execute the job. The reports suggestions on the Garda Commissioner may be a step in the right direction in that regard.

The Government considered the report at Cabinet, noted it and provided for its publication. We have committed to study it, respond to it and develop a reasoned response and a timelined action and implementation plan before the end of the year, which is the next step. The Minister for Justice and Equality will develop a reasoned response to the report and to each of the recommendations and then a timelined action and implementation plan, which will go to a Cabinet subcommittee and then to Cabinet.

It would be useful and welcome to have a discussion on this very good report in the House. I do not want any of my comments to be misconstrued as the Government not accepting the report or the vast majority of it. That does make good sense. There are one or two particular recommendations which are controversial and, as has been noted, on which there is disagreement.

What about on national security-----

No, we have not made any decisions in principle. We said that we would note the report, publish it and develop a reasoned response and implementation plan before the end of the year.

As we only have three minutes left, the Taoiseach would not have time to answer the next question and do it justice.

Written answers are published on the Oireachtas website.