An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Go raibh maith agat. Tá gnó na seachtaine leagtha síos i dtuairisc Choiste Gnó na Dála, 21 Méan Fómhair 2019.

Don lá inniu, is é atá molta ná No. 14, motion re sittings and business of the Dáil in budget week, and No. 14a, motion re reappointment of five members of the Legal Services Regulatory authority, referral to committee, all to be taken without debate and any division demanded thereon shall be taken immediately; agus No. 38, statements on the status of history in the framework for junior cycle, to conclude within 100 minutes, with the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each, followed by a second round of 15 minutes in total for members of the Government, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to be divided proportionately on a 40:40:20 basis, respectively, with a five minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time.

I dtaca le gnó na Céadaoin, is é atá molta ná No. 62, Second Stage of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2019 shall conclude within two hours; No. 39, statements on industrial action by school secretaries, shall conclude within 100 minutes with a statement of a Minister or Minister of State and the spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes, followed by a second round of 15 minutes in total for members of the Government, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to be divided proportionately on a 40:40:20 basis, respectively, with a five minute response by a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time; agus No. 40, statements on climate action following the UN Climate Action Summit, shall conclude within 100 minutes, with statements of the Minister or a Minister of State and the spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each, followed by a second round of 15 minutes in total for members of the Government, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to be divided proportionately on a 40:40:20 basis, respectively, with a five minute response by a Minister or Minister State, and all Members may share time.

I dtaca le gnó an Déardaoin, tá sé molta go nglacfar le No. 14b, motion re reappointment of five members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, back from committee, gan díospóireacht.

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

They are not agreed.

We requested at the Business Committee that there be a discussion on the importation of American fracked gas, otherwise known as the LNGs from Shannon.

We made that request absent the knowledge that this Friday the energy regulator in the European Union will sign off on projects of common interest, which include the Shannon LNG project. We asked this question in September but we did not get an answer. We were told it would be sometime in October. As a consequence, there is a committee discussion scheduled but it will take place after the fact that we will, as a nation, have signed off on a project which will import American fracked gas. This gas is extremely dangerous to the people and environment of North America. This House and people generally know little about this dangerous move. We need time for discussion. Are we ignoring the advice of the EU energy regulator who said we should not sign off on this because the cost outweighs the benefits?

This is on the Order of Business. We cannot have a lengthy statement on the matter.

Can we have a discussion before Friday on fracked American gas being imported into this country?

The Deputy has raised a legitimate point. The Minister is going to respond.

The position is that Shannon LNG has been on the list of projects of common interest for six years. It is likely that it will remain on that list. Gas has been recognised as an important transition fuel, as we move away from oil, peat and coal to renewables. I am considering the terms of a motion tabled by the Deputies.

On a point of order-----

I have also signalled-----

Will the Minister give way to a point of order from Deputy Thomas Byrne?

This is a question about the timing of a debate. Can each of us have the same opportunity to ask a Minister a detailed question?

The context is important if the Minister is to answer the question.

This concerns the Business Committee.

Deputy Bríd Smith is taking advantage of the Ceann Comhairle’s generosity to get a detailed response. This is about the scheduling of debates.

Hold on Deputy. Can we stop the clock? Deputy Bríd Smith raised a matter which was dealt with at the Business Committee. She has chosen to come in here and raise it again.

That is not correct.

Excuse me, Deputy. We dealt with the matter at the Business Committee. We understood it was to be referred to the appropriate Oireachtas committee.

That is not fair. We had an agreement in the absence of the knowledge that the projects of common interest should be signed off this Friday.

Will the Deputy resume her seat?

What is the point in having a debate on it next week?

Will the Deputy resume her seat? That is why I asked the Minister to respond to the Deputy. The Deputy’s query is reasonable in the circumstances. The Minister has given the Deputy his response.

No, he has not.

He has not given the response the Deputy wants.

He just went on about gas as a transitional fuel. We need the debate on Shannon LNG before Friday.

That is only if the Dáil decides we need it.

Otherwise we will be letting people down not just here but internationally.

This is a hijack.

(Interruptions).
Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Tuesday’s business be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday’s business agreed to?

It is not agreed on the same basis that there needs to be a slot allocated for this discussion.

The Deputy has made her point.

I have the support of other Deputies.

Can I just add my voice to that?

The idea that-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Murphy should resume his seat. I know he has departed his grouping but, to some extent, he is still part of it. We will have only one speaker per group.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Wednesday’s business be agreed to," put and declared carried.
Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Thursday's sitting be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 35; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Bríd Smith and Richard Boyd Barrett.
Question declared carried.

I point out to the parties to that particular matter that if it had been brought to our attention prior to this sitting, it could have been dealt with without this time being taken. However, we will now proceed.

We did not know until the weekend.

We will proceed now to questions on promised legislation. There are 24 Deputies offering and 25 minutes remaining.

In the media this morning, specifically the Irish Daily Mail, it is outlined that the number of active insurance claims against Dublin City Council has increased by approximately 820% in the past two years. I refer to claims following slips and trips. As the Taoiseach knows, such claims may relate to injuries due to potholes in footpaths and so on. The number of such claims is rising dramatically across the country. It is clear from the statistics that a compensation culture is rife. Councils have been penalised, insurance costs are far too high and the Alliance for Insurance Reform is concerned that motorists, businesses and community groups will continue to be under huge strain unless moves are made to recalibrate injury awards. As the Taoiseach knows, the Judicial Council Act has been passed, but the Minister for Justice and Equality has yet to commence a key section that would provide for the setting of new guidelines by the judges-----

I thank the Deputy. His time is up.

-----for personal injury awards. Can the Taoiseach give an indication as to when the relevant section will be commenced?

The issue is that a request has been made to the Chief Justice in respect of this matter stating that there is no reason the personal injury committee within the judicial council cannot be formed in an informal manner and act in parallel with the establishment of the judicial council to recalibrate the awards in the five primary areas, which would account for approximately 75% of personal injury claims. This can be done by the end of the year if there is a willingness to do it.

Is it there, though?

I notice from the Taoiseach's comments earlier that he has obviously had sight or some account of our pre-budget proposal. If that is the case, he will be aware that we want the Government to make medical cards automatically available to all patients suffering from cancer. As matters stand and as the Taoiseach knows, medical cards are automatically awarded to children suffering from cancer who are under the age of 18. We believe, however, that this should be the case for everyone who has the devastating diagnosis of cancer. As the Taoiseach is aware, a cancer diagnosis can often cause a person to have to reduce their hours or even give up work, and medical expenses can increase significantly. Such a diagnosis can be financially as well as emotionally crippling. In that context, I ask the Government to adopt this proposal from Sinn Féin. It is part of a wider budgetary scheme to give families and workers a break, but this cohort in particular is in need of attention.

That matter was examined by an independent expert group a number of years ago. I was Minister for Health at the time and Ms Kathleen Lynch was a Minister of State in the Department. The expert group concluded that to do what Deputy McDonald proposes would not be the right way forward because, of course, we would then be saying to people with multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease, for example, that their diseases do not merit automatic eligibility for a medical card, even though they are very severe and debilitating illnesses, but that somebody who may have a curable skin cancer would be automatically entitled to a medical card. If the Deputy can explain why she thinks somebody with a curable skin cancer should be automatically entitled a medical card and somebody with multiple sclerosis should not, she can tell us.

I return to the issue Deputy Harty raised regarding Shannon Airport. While the Taoiseach made some encouraging noises in his response, any replies to parliamentary questions to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport indicate that Government policy is not to support Shannon, despite the fact that the Government can do so under EU rules on foot of the passenger numbers.

Basically, there is an incongruity between aviation policy and planning policy in respect of regional balance and the importance of connectivity to a region. Will the Taoiseach ensure that support is given to Shannon Airport, as he appeared to indicate he might do, particularly as he can do so under European rules? In addition, will he review aviation policy to ensure that it ties in with the policy of achieving more regional balance in this country?

There are many ways to support airports. The State can aid them through capital expenditure grant, CAPEX, and operational expenditure subvention, OPEX, schemes or it can provide them with route development and marketing supports. That has been done in the past for Shannon and is open for consideration again.

In June this year, the Minister for Health introduced a protracted medical access programme for cannabis. The Taoiseach and Members know that this followed a very lengthy process. To date, no cannabis has been prescribed. The medication is in the country but medical practitioners cannot prescribe it. People want to know when the medical cannabis access programme will commence.

The situation is the same as the last time I answered this question for the Deputy. The current arrangement is that a consultant prescribes it as necessary for a patient and the Minister can sign a licence. We are a long way from the position the Deputy seeks where it will be widely available. Work is continuing in the Department on it, but that situation is some time away.

Fiafraím ar an Aire, nó ar an Taoiseach, soiléiriú a thabhairt faoin aersheirbhís do na hOileáin Árann agus an síneadh conradh a bhaineann leis. Chomh fada agus atá sé ina sheasamh, an dtabharfaidh an tAire soiléiriú maidir leis an bpróiseas ceannacháin freisin?

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá síneadh breise ceithre mhí sínithe don chonradh seirbhís d’Aer Arann, suas go deireadh mí Eanáir 2020. Ina dhiaidh sin, beimid ag breathnú ar chonradh fadtéarmach agus tá muid fós ag brú ar aghaidh leis an iarratas chun an t-aerfort agus na haerstráice sna Mine a cheannach ar son an Stáit.

Like many people in rural Ireland I am a little confused by the Fáilte Ireland decision to stop promoting greyhound racing, both nationally and internationally, as part of its itineraries. This is bizarre. It is damaging for the industry and for the livelihoods of people such as small-scale greyhound owners and the many people who benefit from greyhound racing through employment and so forth. I do not know what is going on or who is running the Cabinet. How can Fáilte Ireland be interfered with by a Minister and requested to do this? Imagine if the Guinness Storehouse was taken off the itinerary. This is blackguarding rural Ireland again. It is a Dublin-centric Cabinet that just says to hell with rural Ireland - to hell or to Connacht and leave everything. This is madness. I call on the Taoiseach to reverse this decision and insist that Fáilte Ireland advertise the full range of sporting events we have and not victimise a particular sector.

Is the Taoiseach willing to distance himself from statements made by a colleague which I consider to be an attack on our greyhound industry? The people Deputy Mattie McGrath and I speak for adore their greyhounds. They love their greyhounds and their sport. There is nothing wrong with that sport. It is a proud tradition. As with everything, there was an exposure recently of practices that were not right, but nobody condones those. No Member of this House would condone any type of cruelty or the like under any circumstances. It is the opposite. The people we are talking about love their animals and their sport. There is nothing wrong with that sport. Will the Taoiseach distance himself from those comments and show that this Government is not against everything we stand for in rural Ireland?

Is it appropriate for a Minister to interfere with the advertising campaigns of the tourism promotion agencies in this country? I believe it is not. Is the Taoiseach happy with a Minister making such an intervention? To put it in context, last year I and many of my constituency colleagues were seeking support for the Valentia-Renard ferry through a tourism grant from Fáilte Ireland.

The same Minister made it very clear that he could not interfere with the decision making process of Fáilte Ireland. Subsequently, the ferry service did not receive the necessary funding. If it is not appropriate to talk to Fáilte Ireland about funding processes, then neither is it appropriate to talk to it about its marketing campaigns. I ask the Taoiseach to distance himself from those remarks.

Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe on the same matter.

It is ironic that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who is causing problems here today, is the colleague of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan, who is also responsible for greyhound racing. This House only recently passed the Greyhound Racing Bill with the backing of Fianna Fáil. While I have some concerns about the RTÉ programme which was somewhat like "Rolling Back the Years", the way the greyhound industry is being portrayed by some of the Taoiseach's ministerial colleagues is appalling. How can we have confidence in the Government, having passed the Greyhound Racing Bill? The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Andrew Doyle, has said that he will bring forward amendments to correct animal welfare legislation and here we have a senior Minister undermining the whole industry. I remind the Taoiseach I was in Shelbourne Park last Saturday week and went with friends to Curraheen Park last weekend where the first round of the Laurels was run and there was a full house. More importantly, the prize money has been guaranteed for the next four years because of public support. I ask the Taoiseach please to intervene.

No one in this House would condone cruelty or mistreatment of animals. I know we are all agreed on that and that is not what this is about. I understand that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, asked Fáilte Ireland to consider this matter but it made the decision for itself. For my own part, I go to Shelbourne Park every Christmas and have a very enjoyable evening. I intend to go again this year-----

He should bring Deputy Ross with him.

-----and would recommend-----

If he can find him.

-----that anyone who wishes to form an opinion on this should go along to their local meeting and make a decision for themselves as to whether they want to promote it or not.

That is not satisfactory-----

Deputy Eamon Ryan is next.

The Minister must ask Fáilte Ireland to reinstate the funding.

The Deputy should put down a Topical Issue.

I am trying to avoid legislative work here but it seems to me that there is a lacuna in our law. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, seems unwilling to take action against Communicorp which has recently made a decision that certain members of the media, namely Mr. Tom Lyons and Mr. Ian Kehoe from currency.ie will be restricted from taking part in any radio programmes on its stations. It is similar to the decision taken two years ago in response to an article by Fintan O'Toole which saw journalists from The Irish Times banned from the same stations. The recent case is, they say, because of commercial rivalry. My sense, having talked to every grouping in the House today, is that every party is in agreement that this is egregious and has a poor effect on our democracy. We need a free press that is open to debate and allows different voices to be heard. Whether it is for commercial reasons, an editorial view or the fact that a certain owner might not like what is written in a newspaper, to ban journalists from radio stations is not what we want. In order to avoid legislation, I ask the Taoiseach to join the other groupings and leaders in this House in writing a letter to Communicorp asking it to reverse the decision in both cases and to stand up for press freedom. I am keen to hear the Taoiseach's views on that.

I thank Deputy Ryan for raising this matter which we have discussed in the past. My sentiments are the same as his on this matter. I believe in free speech and I believe in a free press. I do not believe anyone should be banned from the airwaves - journalists or citizens - except for very good reasons. Those reasons should be something like incitement to hatred but I do not think that anyone should be banned from the radio, the TV or from any publication solely based on who is his or her employer. I would be happy to join the Deputy in that.

The Citizens' Assembly has facilitated debate on a number of issues over the past number of years and continues to do so. What is the current position in regard to the gender discrimination proposal, which is about to come before the assembly? What is likely to happen in that regard in the future?

I thank Deputy Durkan for raising this matter. Today the Cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Catherine Day as chairperson of the new Citizens' Assembly on gender equality. The secretariat is already established so the next step now is to select the citizens. It is intended that the assembly will meet for the first time before the end of the year. I extend the thanks of the House to Ms Catherine Day, former head of the European Commission Service, for agreeing to chair the assembly.

My question is for the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, and relates to the lack of progress on the establishment of a mica redress scheme for the 5,000 home owners in Donegal whose houses are affected by mica in defective blocks. The Government has treated these homeowners disgracefully. Next Tuesday marks the first anniversary of an announcement that a scheme would be established and €25 million provided. The promise at that time was that the scheme's terms and conditions would be finalised and published by last Christmas, with work beginning on repairing the homes at the start of this year. As of now the scheme's terms still have not been published. It is absolutely unacceptable. Can the Minister update the House today on when the scheme's terms will be published, when homes will be fixed and if additional funding will be provided in the budget to accompany the €25 million fund announced last year, not one euro of which has been spent yet?

I sent a letter to Deputy McConalogue today on this matter so I will give him a short answer now. We agreed last year to allocate money in order to show our commitment to addressing this issue, to be fair to all of the homeowners affected. We did that, even though the scheme was not fully worked out at that stage. That work has been ongoing since then. As the Deputy knows, there have been some very good meetings between officials in the Department and the local authorities in Donegal and Mayo about the finer details of the scheme. That work is very close to its conclusion and the scheme will be able to start in the weeks ahead. That work had to go on and the Deputy was well aware that last year when the money was allocated that the scheme was not fully ready but we wanted to make sure that the money was there so that we could begin work.

I wish to refer to the decision that was announced this morning in relation to Oughterard and the fact that the tender for a direct provision centre has been withdrawn. This is incredibly worrying, particularly following on from what happened in Rooskey and Moville. At the end of the day, the direct provision system is far from ideal. It was introduced 20 years ago as a temporary measure. That said, it is what we have on offer for our asylum seekers and refugees, a third of whom are children. Given the current overcrowding in many of our direct provision centres and the fact that almost 1,500 asylum seekers are in emergency accommodation, I am really worried about the message that Ireland is sending out in the context of the last three centres that have been considered. Where do we go from here?

The Deputy's time is up.

One of the key issues raised in Oughterard was a lack of consultation. I agree that there should be consultation with the people of an area, with schools, doctors and so on. That should happen. I brought this up with the Minister myself in the context of direct provision in my area. Where do we go from here?

I thank the Deputy and share her sentiments. Direct provision is far from ideal but we will never be in a position, nor will any other country, to provide a house or an apartment to everyone who comes into the country as an asylum seeker. That is just not possible and no country does that. The sad reality is that the alternative to direct provision is what happens in France, Germany, Greece and Italy, which is camps and containers. I hope we never get to that point in Ireland. Part of the solution is proper consultation with communities. That is important and it has worked in places around the country. We must also explain to people what direct provision is because some have a misconception about it. It is not compulsory and people can leave at any time. They do not need to sign in and sign out. Many asylum seekers work and provide their own accommodation and many stay with friends and relatives. Direct provision is accommodation, light, board, food and spending money. We need to consult with communities but we also need people to understand direct provision better. We also need to explain to people that we will never be in a position to give everyone who walks into the country a house or an apartment. That is not feasible.

The alternative, which is camps and containers, is much worse and I hope it never happens.

Two weeks ago, when the Taoiseach was absent from the House, I raised the issue of the south-east palliative care centre. The matter was addressed by the Minister for Health, who promised to meet a delegation of local Oireachtas Members. So far, he has not done so despite several requests from those Members. This centre cost in question more than €30 million to build. Capital funding was allocated. It involves 72 acute beds in one part of the building but the bottom two floors provide, for the first time, a palliative care service for the people of the south east. Two weeks ago, local Oireachtas Members, including the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Education, Deputy Halligan, and Senator Paudie Coffey, were given a tour of the centre. It is a fantastic facility that is equipped and ready to be opened but it has no staff. To date, funding has not been provided to open the facility. Will the Taoiseach indicate when that will happen? The people of the south east are scandalised that this unit has been built and yet cannot be opened because there is no funding available for staff.

I thank Deputy Cullinane for the query. As he is aware, the cost to build the facility was €31.6 million and the annual running cost is €5 million. We will consider whether it is possible to include the centre in the upcoming Estimates. The HSE has provided €300,000 this year to try to prepare the building to be opened. The Minister for Health will meet Deputy Cullinane and others from the south east on Thursday and is prepared to discuss the matter further with them. It is an initiative that will be considered when the Estimates are being prepared.

There is a reference on Page 7 of the programme for Government to wanting a green Ireland to inform all areas of policy and having one of the cleanest, safest environments in the world. The latter is something with which nobody can disagree. Residents of my city, Limerick, are extremely concerned that the ambition in the community is about to go up in smoke. Irish Cement was recently given permission to burn tyres and other rubbish at an incinerator in Castlemungret outside the city. Castlemungret is a suburb in which are located homes, sports fields and community facilities. The local community is completely opposed to this plan and we are extremely concerned about the impact it will have on the area and on people's health. Will the Government intervene and ensure that this plan does not go ahead? I would appreciate a response from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton.

Licensing of a plant such as that to which the Deputy refers falls within the remit of the independent Environmental Protection Agency. It makes decisions on applications and polices compliance with the conditions that it imposes on applications. It does not fall to the political system or to the Minister to make decisions on these matters, which have to be based on scientific evaluation and scrutiny of the individual application.

Will the Taoiseach find out the completion date for the southern bypass near Bandon, my home town? This bypass has remained incomplete for many years. If completed, it would substantially enhance the town of Bandon and the general area of west Cork. I stress the importance of a northern relief road being built in Bandon. It is important that the northern relief road would be completed in one phase rather than two because that would make it worse in the end by causing total gridlock in Kilbrogan Hill.

I know that both Deputy Murphy O'Mahony and the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, take real interest in these road projects. I will obtain an update from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and pass it on to the Deputy.

I thank the Taoiseach.

Will the Taoiseach or the Minister, Deputy McHugh, outline the position of the Department of Education and Skills regarding school secretaries and indicate whether it will engage in meaningful negotiations as required under the Workplace Relations Commission in 2015 and scheduled for this year, although this has not happened?

We are pulling together information now to try to establish how many are involved and what is required. I have had meetings with my officials about the matter and met representatives from Fórsa regarding other matters three months ago. In my first week as Minister, I raised this issue in the Dáil. It has been outstanding since 1978. There have been 23 Ministers responsible for education since then. I am the 23rd of those Ministers and I have some illustrious predecessors, including the current leader of Fianna Fáil. Bertie Ahern may also have held the position. This issue has not been addressed since 1978. We will deal with it through the mechanisms available in the pay talks. It is an outstanding issue that needs to be addressed and I appreciate the Deputy raising it.

My question relates to the commitment in respect of disabilities in the programme for Government and is directed to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Minister of State with responsibility for disability. Why have their Departments not taken a more proactive role in supporting Youghal woman Sinéad Kane to compete in the world championship ultra-running event in France this month. Sinéad has completed seven marathons in seven days despite being visually impaired but because she requires a guide runner, she has been excluded from competing in the world championships because she has a disability. I wrote to the Minister and the Minister of State but did not receive a reply. Will they meet with Sinéad Kane to try to resolve this issue? Will they write to Athletics Ireland to request that it to be more proactive in supporting Irish runners, regardless of whether they are disabled?

I am afraid that I am not familiar with the issue but I will mention it to the Ministers of State, Deputies Finian McGrath and Brendan Griffin, that Deputy Buckley raised it in the Chamber. I will ask them to reply to the correspondence to which the Deputy refers.

Deputies Danny Healy-Rae, Neville, Breathnach and Michael Moynihan have not been reached. They will be given priority tomorrow.