An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

I call the Government Chief Whip, the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, to announce the Order of Business.

Today's business shall be No. 15, motion re parliamentary question rota swops: (i) Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Education and Skills; (ii) Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Communications, Climate Action and Environment; and (iii) Departments of Finance and Rural and Community Development; No. 1, Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage; and No. 10, National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 210, motion re rural crime, selected by the Rural Independent Group.

Wednesday's business shall be No. 16, motion re Ireland’s ratification and signature of the EU Status of Forces Agreement and the NATO Partnership for Peace - referral to committee; No. 36, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 37, Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 1, Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded; and No. 10, National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded. Private Members' business shall be No. 211, motion re nurses and midwives, selected by Fianna Fáil.

Thursday’s business shall be No. 38, statements on Government's Brexit preparedness; No. 1, Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded; and No. 10, National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded.

Private Members' business shall be Second Stage of No. 58, Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Restoration of Birthright Citizenship) Bill 2017, selected by Deputy Paul Murphy.

I refer to the third revised report of the Business Committee, dated 15 January 2019. In relation to today's business, it is proposed that No. 15, motion re PQ rota swops for the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Education and Skills, Public Expenditure and Reform and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and Finance and Rural and Community Development, shall be taken without debate following the Order of Business and that any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately.

In relation to Wednesday's business, it is proposed that No. 16, motion re Ireland's ratification and signature of the EU Status of Forces Agreement and the NATO Partnership for Peace, referral to committee, shall be brought to a conclusion within 45 minutes. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for each party or group, or a Member nominated in their stead, which shall not exceed five minutes each with a five minute wrap-up from a Minister or Minister of State. All Members may share time and any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately.

In relation to Thursday’s business, it is proposed that the Topical Issue debate shall commence on the conclusion of statements re Government's Brexit preparedness or at 5 p.m., whichever is the later, and the Dáil shall adjourn following the conclusion of proceedings on No. 38, statements re Government's Brexit preparedness; and No. 38, statements re Government’s Brexit preparedness shall be brought to a conclusion after 2 hours 50 minutes with statements confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for each party or group, or a Member nominated in their stead, for a period not exceeding 15 minutes each. Following the opening round, each party or group in Opposition shall have five minutes each which shall consist of alternating questions and answers, with a 15 minute response from the Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time.

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

It is not agreed. We saw the Speaker of the House of Commons recently standing up for the rights of the Parliament. I ask that the Ceann Comhairle stand up for the rights of all Members of this Parliament in progressing legislation. In the final days before the break for Christmas, the Government blocked Deputy Bríd Smith's Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018, which deserves to get to Committee Stage, where we can talk about it.

We are dealing with proposals for today's business, not what happened before Christmas.

I object to the Government blocking the Opposition from progressing legislation. It talks about climate but does not do anything. It does not have a legislative programme but blocks Opposition Bills. That Bill was blocked from going to Committee Stage in a way that is fundamentally unconstitutional and against the rights of this House. I ask that the Business Committee look at it as a specific example of how the Government is blocking Opposition legislation that deserves to go to Committee Stage for a hearing. We should not progress any further legislation until the powers of the Opposition are recognised in this Parliament, because we have the numbers. The Government does not have the right to block Bills, not just that Bill but a whole swathe of Bills, of which that is the worst example. I have asked for the Clerk of the Dáil to provide a response on the specifics of what happened on that occasion in the committee when the Bill was blocked. I believe it is not constitutional and I ask that the Business Committee meet to get it put back on the agenda and to allow it to progress to Committee Stage.

We will convene a meeting of the Business Committee to discuss the Deputy's concerns tomorrow but regarding the business before us today, it makes no sense for anyone-----

If we allow that to happen-----

-----to start obstructing legislation. We are here to progress legislation.

I agree. I thank the Ceann Comhairle and look forward to the discussions of that committee.

I ask that the Business Committee consider scheduling time this week or next week for a report from the Minister for Health on how new abortion services are working. The reason is that it is historic legislation but three problems are emerging, including the safety of staff and women attending their own general practitioner, GP, provision-----

We cannot get involved. That is not related to the work that we do.

Can I make my case, which I should be entitled to do for a minute?

The Deputy can make a case about something relevant to what is before us. We are talking about the business for today.

The Ceann Comhairle said the Business Committee was meeting. I will speak on Wednesday if the Ceann Comhairle prefers but thought it would be better to do so now. The Topical Issue debates tomorrow or Thursday could instead be a time where the Minister could come in and report. There are serious issues emerging where women cannot get access because of the opt-in service that is emerging and where 11 weeks is now the new norm in hospitals such as the Rotunda, which is not what people voted for. We need to have a report and discussion in Parliament on it.

The Deputy's representative on the Business Committee can raise that matter tomorrow when the meeting is convened.

All those points taken on board, is today's business as proposed agreed to? Agreed. Is Wednesday's business as proposed agreed to?

Not agreed. I wish to object to Wednesday's business. While we will have a briefing later from the Government on preparedness for Brexit in a no-deal scenario, and while there will be statements on Thursday with five minutes of questions from each grouping at the end, we have argued that these statements should take place tomorrow, Wednesday. A vote is to take place in the House of Commons tonight, the outcome of which will be clear, and we should as a Parliament discuss it tomorrow in the context of the Government's position as to whether it has rejected the agreement that the EU member states and governments-----

The business before us is that which the Business Committee has agreed. I would have assumed that Sinn Féin's representative would have agreed to this process.

Yes. Our representative put forward the proposal that the debate should take place on Wednesday - I am sure the Ceann Comhairle is aware of this, although I am not sure whether he was at the meeting - but he argued that there should be more urgency than is being shown in the proposed business before us. That is why I rise today. We were not in a majority at that meeting. I am making the point again that this debate should take place tomorrow, given the vote tonight in the House of Commons and its importance to people throughout the island of Ireland, but especially to people in my constituency. I travelled across the Border twice to get here today.

We all appreciate the importance of having a debate on the matter.

People want to know what their future holds in store. I argue that we should reconsider this, as should the Government because I believe it was the Government that objected to the holding of the debate tomorrow. The Government should show a sense of urgency-----

The Deputy has made his point.

-----and we should have the debate tomorrow.

I call the Chief Whip.

The Government does not have a majority on the Business Committee; we have two votes. We did not have a meeting; we had an incorporeal meeting. As far as I understand, and I am open to correction, this issue was not raised. The issue that was raised in respect of Brexit concerned timing and the facilitation of questions that Fianna Fáil and others requested, and we acceded to that request. What was, therefore, agreed at that incorporeal meeting, following some back and forth and a number of discussions, was a third draft stating that the statements and questions on Brexit would be on Thursday.

May I come in on Thursday's business?

No. We will get to Thursday's in a minute.

It is on the same issue.

Go on. The Deputy might as well.

It relates to the Brexit debate. I said this before Christmas. We have a difficulty, as a party with up to 45 Deputies, with a pattern that has developed. My understanding was that a conclusion had arisen out of the Dáil reform committee that proportionate time would be allocated to the larger parties that would allow those parties to come back in a second time on substantive debates. Deputy Ryan is correct to stand up for the rights of Members of Parliament. I am standing up for the rights of the members of my parliamentary party. I signalled this before Christmas. A pattern has developed whereby there is a set 15 minutes for a party with 45 Deputies and a set 15 minutes for a party or grouping with two or three Deputies.

The Deputy is trying to squeeze out the Independents.

No, I am not at all.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the one party now.

What emerged from the reform committee was that-----

Put them in together - full stop.

-----there would be a second opportunity for Members of the larger parties to contribute to a debate, but the debates have been shortened. The Government's initial proposal of a five-minute speech from each of the main representatives of each party on Brexit was insulting to the Dáil. It was just pathetic. This is the defining issue of our time, and the Government was offering five minutes to each party. Obviously, I do not mind any party having a say and an opportunity, but we have 45 Deputies. There must be some degree of proportionality. D'Hondt does not apply to debating time; it applies to everything else. I say this only in the interests of fairness and objectivity. A Brexit spokesman can get into a debate but a spokesman on foreign affairs, finance, social protection or agriculture cannot.

I must say, I agree.

The Taoiseach agrees but he never does anything about it. The idea of 15-----

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are all the one now.

It is a very shortened-----

You scratch my back, I scratch yours.

With the greatest of respect, Deputy Healy-Rae's back has been well scratched by the reforms. Dáil reform has been beneficial to all and sundry, and this Dáil has been the fairest to all parties, irrespective of size-----

But not fair enough to the Deputy's party.

-----and no one can contradict that. What has happened here because of Dáil reform since the 2016 general election is unprecedented. That at least should be acknowledged and put on the record. However, there is a need for balance. We all agree with the use of D'Hondt in the allocation of Members to committees.

The time on Leaders' Questions-----

The same should apply to the backbenchers of large parties who are equally entitled to have some say on debates that are defining for this country and Europe.

The Deputy's point is well made. Proportionality was at the core of what was decided in respect of reform and speaking times. Let us bring forward the Business Committee meeting that was proposed for tomorrow. Let us have it this afternoon and consider the points made by Deputy Micheál Martin and others and supported, I think, by the Taoiseach.

Not by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I have no issue with this. To my knowledge, it has not been raised at the Business Committee during my time on it over the past few months.

The Chief Whip is right about that.

It is right and proper that we do it but this protocol preceded me and was agreed by the Business Committee before Christmas on similar issues and was put forward for the incorporeal meeting.

We will have our Business Committee-----

With respect, the Ceann Comhairle asked for the Business Committee to discuss the issue Deputy Micheál Martin raised. The substantive issue is that we address this issue with seriousness-----

And we will discuss the issue.

-----and urgency. I am asking for clarification that the proposal we made before the Business Committee, and that I make again, that the debate on the preparedness for a no-deal Brexit take place on Wednesday, will also be discussed.

Was the Deputy not listening?

On behalf of the Rural Independent Group and on my own behalf I ask that we also discuss the overrun of time on Leaders' Questions. The Ceann Comhairle has tried his best to stop it. We could change or rotate who speaks first and second because small groups are being squeezed out of any coverage or anything else week in, week out by the bigger parties which want to stifle us.

(Interruptions).

Can we have that on the agenda as well?

Yes, we will have it all on the agenda.

We cannot get them to shut up.

We will have a great time.

I do not know anybody who has ever squeezed a Healy-Rae.

Nor Mattie either.

(Interruptions).

Can I finally ask is the proposal for dealing-----

Can I just say-----

That is very helpful, a Cheann Comhairle.

The Chief Whip has been in twice already.

If the Brexit debate is moving to Wednesday, that means that votable business that was scheduled for Wednesday will now be on Thursday afternoon.

I am not saying anything about votable business.

It includes the notification regarding NATO, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2018 and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018.

That is a matter for the Business Committee. Let us not anticipate.

Let us not anticipate.

If we are changing them around like this-----

Let us not anticipate here what we are-----

That is a matter for the Government.

-----on the floor of the House it has consequences for votable business.

I am very aware of that.

Of course, but let us not anticipate. We cannot determine what the meeting will decide before we have it. Wednesday's business is agreed without prejudice.

Nothing is agreed.

Is Thursday's business agreed?

Subject to the Business Committee.

Subject to the Business Committee's coming back with its proposals. Really and truly, if we are not going to run amok here every Tuesday we need to stick-----

There is no point having a Business Committee.

-----to the agreements and arrangements that have been made-----

On the Business Committee.

-----otherwise the Business Committee becomes an irrelevance.

The Labour Party does not talk to the representatives you are sending to the Business Committee.

This debate has been going on for a long time.

The whole Dáil is allowed to say something about the business as well.

Can we now proceed to Questions on Promised Legislation? There are 21 Deputies offering but I am not going to be able to reach everyone. I call Deputy Micheál Martin.

We are all conscious of the letter that was signed, sent and published by 300 artists about the policy of the national theatre, the Abbey Theatre, which has given cause for concern about whether there is a national policy for the Abbey and whether the Government is committed to it in terms of the historic significance of the Abbey, its original objectives and how they can be met in a contemporary world. Allied to that is the very real concern about the huge difficulties that artists generally have in making meaningful returns on their work. The average income for many artists is around €22,000 per annum. That comes from 144 artists who were surveyed between August and October last year. There is a real issue and concern within the arts community. I ask the Minister to meet the Theatre Forum and update and brief the House on the issue.

I have written to the theatre practitioners and the Abbey Theatre about some of the issues raised. The Abbey has acknowledged some of the difficulties that the theatre practitioners are experiencing and I hope it will report back to me in a month's time on progress made.

I will be in a position to update the House shortly. I will also be responding to parliamentary questions tomorrow, at which time I am sure the issue will be raised.

There is considerable concern among many parents about meningitis and the fact that a number of children - I understand it is three - have died in recent weeks as a result of contracting meningitis. We know from the programme for Government that there was an extended vaccination for meningitis B for children born after October 2016. for children born before that date, however, parents have to pay for vaccination privately at a cost of between €300 and €450. It is a major concern that many families simply do not have the money to protect their children. Many families have one child who is protected because he or she was born after October 2016 and other children who are not. Those families are seriously concerned. The president of the National Association of General Practitioners, Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail, has stated that the fact that only children who were born before October 2016 and whose parents can afford the cost are being vaccinated amounts to medical apartheid. He also stated this leads to significant parental stress and anxiety. Will the Minister do what thousands of parents and GPs right across the State are calling on him to do? GPs are being inundated in their clinics and have to break the news that, regardless of whether one has a medical card, one cannot get this vaccine for one's child if he or she was born before October 2016 without paying for the privilege. Will the Minister ensure that there is a catch-up programme for all children under the age of 18 in order that we might protect children from meningitis B and ensure that it is eradicated by having the necessary level of vaccination within the State?

I thank the Deputy for the question. There has been an increase in the number of cases of meningitis B. There were 11 new cases this year as opposed to five last year. It is important to note there has been no new case since 6 January. No one has been diagnosed since then.

On the Deputy's question about vaccination, this is not a decision that the Minister for Health can or should make. It is made by the national immunisation advisory committee, which has not recommended that immunisation against meningitis B be provided for children. Since 2016, all newborn babies receive the vaccine. It is not recommended for others. We rely on the advice of the national immunisation advisory committee.

The Taoiseach informed the House earlier that the Government has reduced the number of priority Bills in this session to six. May I suggest a seventh? I do not know if the Taoiseach had the opportunity to listen to the "This Week" programme last Sunday on which Jackie Fox, a mother, spoke with compassion and eloquence about the pressing need to tackle the issue of cyberbullying. She spoke eloquently about her late beloved daughter, Nicole. The Labour Party's Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017, passed Second Stage a year ago this month. The Government agreed to support the Bill as long ago as last May. There have been meetings with officials about the type of amendments the Minister for Justice and Equality wants to bring forward. I applaud that. I heard of many cases over Christmas of individuals, particularly young people, suffering harassment and bullying online. This is a matter on which we are not focusing on enough. Will the Government give priority to the Bill in question and provide some indication that it can be passed into law before the summer recess?

Deputy Howlin is right. This is an issue that was the subject matter of debate here in the last session. Matters are with the Attorney General for some advice on a number of questions I have asked. I assure the House that I will continue to engage in respect of the Bill. I acknowledge the positive disposition and contribution of the Labour Party on it. Notwithstanding the very busy schedule that is ahead of us this term, I hope matters can be advanced.

Faced with historic industrial action by nurses, midwives and psychiatric nurses, is it not time to repeal the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act and acknowledge that, when rents are increasing by 15% per annum, when there are record corporation tax receipts and when we are in economic recovery, it is the Taoiseach's ideological opposition to workers of all kinds, including those in the public sector, obtaining any increase in their living standards that is about to give rise to this action being taken?

The Taoiseach says we cannot afford to pay nurses or teachers. I would add that two out of three of their unions have also said they are going to take strike action and the country could be plunged into further chaos because of the Government. The nurses' action is completely just. It is a completely different era now from ten years ago and they have suffered ten years of austerity. They are not and should not be willing to do it any longer.

It is precisely because of our support for public servants and our recognition of the immense work they do in our hospitals, classrooms and Garda stations that the process in respect of the repeal of the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation is well under way. We are in our second year of a wage agreement with our public servants that looks to undo the FEMPI legislation, which was a result of the economic crisis. This month alone, the first change in the second year of that agreement comes into effect. In respect of the challenge we have that the Deputy has raised regarding the potential for industrial action in our hospitals, as I have said about every other public servant, we greatly value and appreciate the significant work nurses do in our hospitals. A meeting is taking place today between the nurses and the Health Service Executive on the potential for industrial action. A further engagement will take place on Friday between the nursing unions and the public service stability oversight committee, where all unions will be present to engage on the matter. The challenge we have is that if there is any movement or change in our wage bill for this year, every other public servant will expect the same.

We need to be fair to everybody in protecting the wage agreement, which also allows us to make progress on many of the priorities that are raised by Members every day in this House.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government to the schools and school building accommodation. Our Lady of Mercy's girls' school in Cahir and Cahir boys' national school have been promised an amalgamation and a new building for 30 years. The children, teachers and staff do their best in appalling conditions. When and where is this building going to proceed? When are we going to have proper accommodation for the young people of Cathair Dhúin Iascaigh? I want answers. We want to see this work. The Sisters of Mercy have given a site for the amalgamated building and we are grateful for that. A lot of work has been done by the boards of management and parents' councils. We need to see action on this building.

A Topical Issue matter or parliamentary question might have been more appropriate.

We need the school, not a response.

When it comes to the issue of property tax, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, seems to be saying that there should be one law for the rest of the country and another for the well-to-do. The Independent Alliance, sniffing a popular decision about to be made, is keen to get a credit ahead of the pack. What exactly is the Government planning to do, legislatively or otherwise, on property tax? Will the Taoiseach consider undoing the mistake made six or seven years ago and introducing a site value tax rather than the formal property tax, which is being undone by his own Cabinet before our eyes?

There is enough tax.

Where is Deputy Ross? Is he canvassing?

He is out and not stopping.

I can assure the Deputy that all members of the Cabinet are eager to build on the local property tax to come up with a regime that continues to be fair to everybody. I am sure that it is not only the Minister, Deputy Madigan, who is concerned about the matter. I am sure it is of concern to Deputy Catherine Martin, the Deputy's party colleague. I see her nodding in agreement and am glad she also has an appreciation of this issue.

I am arguing for a site value tax.

I look forward to working with all my colleagues in Cabinet to get agreement on how we can ensure that the local property tax in 2020 is fair, affordable and brings clarity to where everybody stands.

The issue of drones caused some consternation at Heathrow and Gatwick airports over Christmas. I note that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, convened a meeting during the break on the topic as well. Drones present many recreational and commercial opportunities but they also pose risks when used irresponsibly. I introduced legislation in 2017, two years ago now, dealing with many of these issues, including geotagging, georadar, fencing, licensing, registration and training.

If the Minister, Deputy Ross, or the Government wants to engage on this issue, there is legislation before the House which could be very usefully taken up and used by the Government.

As I understand, we already have quite robust legislation in this area, in that there is a 5 km exclusion zone around airports-----

It is a statutory instrument.

-----and a drone of more than 1 kg must be registered. We have stronger laws than the UK has. Obviously enforcement is a different issue from laws. I am perhaps not as well briefed-----

It is secondary legislation.

-----as either the Deputy or the Minister, Deputy Ross. I will let the Minister know the Deputy raised it and ask him to speak directly to him.

In March 2018, the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government decided to give the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, time to introduce amendments to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016 and he was to come back to the committee with these amendments within two months. We wrote to him on 13 November seeking an update. He responded on 18 December stating he could not give us a timeline for when these amendments would be ready. The committee is very keen to proceed. We have given the Minister and his predecessor an enormous amount of time. I ask him to give us an indication of when he expects to have his amendments so that the committee can be allowed to progress with the Bill.

I thank the Deputy for the question. We are awaiting wording from the Office of the Attorney General, but we have agreement to try to find the appropriate wording. I updated the committee and advised it that we, in the Department, believe we know the right wording for an amendment to the Deputy's Bill to be put to the people in a referendum. However, we now need the Attorney General to come back and confirm that wording is robust so that there are not any unintended consequences from the referendum to be put to the people. It is in the interest of everyone, if we are to have that referendum, that all political sides in this House agree on that wording thereby giving the referendum every chance of being successful when it is eventually put to the people.

Yesterday in response to a question on what he was personally doing to assist with climate change, the only answer the Taoiseach could give was the advice to eat less meat. As the leader of the country and in overseeing a programme for Government, an objective of which is to promote our beef sector and increase our international beef exports, would he accept that is not the type of leadership or direction we expect from him as Taoiseach? Instead he should be promoting the fact that Ireland is the most efficient country in Europe in which to produce beef. He should in future try to give leadership to our beef sector and not take the erroneous approach he took yesterday.

Climate change poses challenges for our country, but also presents serious opportunities for rural communities. A flippant comment such as the Taoiseach passed yesterday is totally inappropriate for a Head of Government and seriously damaging to a very important industry in our economy. It is an industry where primary producers are on their knees with beef prices 30% to 40% below what they were a few months ago. Farmers are finding it extremely difficult to get their stock killed and are suffering severe financial losses. I ask the Taoiseach to withdraw his inappropriate comment.

Farmers throughout the country are really concerned about the poor price for cattle. Although the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has left the House, I ask the Taoiseach to do something to increase the capacity for the live export of cattle. If there is a no-deal Brexit in the coming days, as looks likely, I ask him to ensure there are no obstacles blocking the export of our cattle through Britain to mainland Europe. Things are bad enough as it is and beef farmers are really on the ground. Since the Taoiseach is not going to eat half the amount of meat he was eating, he will have to do something to make up the difference. I am asking him, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to recognise that beef farmers are facing a really tough situation. The Government must do something to assist them. The price of cattle was never lower.

The Taoiseach has absolutely no understanding of the anger at the comment he made yesterday, be it flippant or whatever way he meant it. It is clear he is not a farmer with a shed full of cattle, trying to finish them and sell them at whatever price the factory would give him.

The prices are being controlled in such a way that it is very difficult for farmers to make money. The fact that the Taoiseach encouraged people to do their part by eating less meat shows clearly that he is not a struggling farmer trying to make a living from farming. He is the Taoiseach for all of the country, not just for Dublin city. He is the Taoiseach for every farmer in this country who is trying to make a living. He should be conscious of their plight. They are trying to raise their families. They are sending youngsters to school and to college and they are struggling. The Taoiseach should ask the Tánaiste and former Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, a man with a sensible head on his shoulders, what he thinks of what the Taoiseach said yesterday. I am sure he was gravely embarrassed by what the Taoiseach said. I urge the Taoiseach to act responsibly and think of the farming community when he is commenting on these matters. What he said yesterday was very hurtful.

Does Deputy Durkan wish to comment on the same matter?

He likes his beef.

Deputy Durkan should have a go at him as well.

(Interruptions).

As someone who was actually there and knows what I said, I did not give anybody dietary advice or suggest that anyone else do anything. I was specifically asked what I was doing on climate change and I said that I was trying to eat less red meat. I am not giving it up. Indeed, I had a very nice Hereford steak last night.

(Interruptions).

I said that I was trying to eat less red meat for two reasons, namely health and climate change. My comment was not flippant. It is a fact that red meat increases the risk of cancer and contributes more to climate change.

The Taoiseach is now making a bad situation worse.

I can assure Deputies that I have not become a vegan or anything like that.

He is happy as long as the Chinese eat more red meat.

I am very happy to eat fish landed in Donegal-----

We cannot catch any fish in Donegal.

(Interruptions).

-----and to eat poultry, turkey, pork meat and all of the wonderful products that Irish farmers produce.

That concludes questions on promised legislation. Apologies to the 11 Deputies who were not reached today.