An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The House has agreed that for the duration of the emergency only the rapporteur's report of the Order of Business will not be read out but will be taken as read. Arising from that, there are three proposals to put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed?

We requested the Government to publish the draft regulations that will replace the regulations which will soon expire and which are having such a profound impact on people's lives, and that we would debate those regulations in this Chamber. I am aware that the Government is hiring additional public relations companies to assist it with its message, but yet it cannot come into this Chamber to submit its regulations to proper scrutiny, to have them debated and to get agreement.

As that is not happening, Sinn Féin will be opposing the proposed Order of Business.

We too in the Rural Independent Group have significant concerns. The lack of clarity is astounding. Today's announcement brought no further clarity. The regulations were changed last Thursday week when the Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020 was debated, voted on and passed by the House. The regulations were supposed to run out last Sunday night, but I do not know whether that happened. The Taoiseach could not tell me that when I spoke to him. We do not know where we are. Why can the Taoiseach not explain the situation to the House? Why is the Government taking on well known and high-powered PR companies? The people want empathy. They do not want sympathy anymore but want support and clarity instead. They are not getting them and we need them, so we are not happy either to support the proposal.

This matter was the subject of some debate at the Business Committee. Does a member of the Government wish to respond?

The business of the House should proceed as planned. The Business Committee made a decision. I note that the Business Committee meets every week and makes a decision, but that decision is then queried in the House and a vote called on it.

That is not the case.

The Taoiseach is damn good at it himself.

On a point of order, the Taoiseach knows well that there were five dissenting voices at the Business Committee when it came to agreeing the schedule.

(Interruptions).

This roadmap is pretty much the most-----

This is not about the roadmap. It is about regulations that were debated last week and are being continued.

We have had a very serious announcement about public health restrictions. I think it is crazy that the matter is not being debated this week in the House so that it can be explained.

I wish to register the ongoing opposition of Solidarity-People Before Profit to the changed speaking arrangements which were, in our view, deliberately designed to minimise the voice of the smaller parties. We will continue to oppose those changed speaking arrangements. I point out that trying to gag and silence some voices in the House is not the way for the Government to bring everybody with it. Last week, we saw an example of what that will mean when the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, was not present for the contributions of the lead spokespeople of approximately five of the groupings in this House. That is unprecedented.

We cannot have a detailed debate on the matter. The Deputy has made his point.

I thought the request made by Deputy Mac Lochlainn related to the regulations that are being renewed this evening-----

-----to continue the level 2 restrictions and which were the subject matter of comprehensive debate and a vote last week in the Dáil.

That was to do with a different matter.

It happened. There was a big debate last week. It would be very unusual to be debating regulations weekly.

(Interruptions).

That is not true.

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

These are public health measures that must be introduced this evening and continued in accordance with advice from NPHET. I presume all Members wish for the Government to follow the advice of NPHET and implement the regulations.

I have no issue with the broader plan being debated. That is a fair point to make. The Business Committee has set parameters in respect of the Order of Business for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as it entitled to do. We would welcome a debate on the Covid plan for the next six months. I have no issue with that at all, but it is a separate matter from the regulations.

Question put: : "That the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's sitting be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Marc Ó Cathasaigh; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.

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

I call Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

We also raised this issue last Thursday. We are asking hundreds of thousands of workers, students, teachers, doctors and nurses to work in conditions that we are not demanding of ourselves in these Houses.

The imagery from the Convention Centre is appalling. It is a cavernous space with huge gaps between us. It is not sustainable so our party has put forward proposals for the third time. They are currently being examined. We will oppose the Order of Business every week until we get all Dáil business back to Leinster House and we have a similar standard for Deputies and Senators as we expect for hundreds of thousands of workers, students, teachers, doctors and nurses.

As the Ceann Comhairle knows, the Independent Group has consistently opposed sittings in the Convention Centre and has asked that we would come back here to Leinster House when it is safe to do so, with a view to examining the possibility of having 1 m social distancing. I have nothing against the Convention Centre and I compliment the staff here and in the Convention Centre for looking after us. As the Ceann Comhairle is aware, we also put forward a position paper which we have discussed. I thank him, and Charles Hearne, for the interim report issued today, and I believe we will discuss it again on Thursday. I am happy with that progress but I agree with the reasons outlined by Deputy Mac Lochlainn. We are creating a bad image. We should be able to work and show leadership when we expect hundreds of thousands of people, and children in schools and everything else, to work in restricted places. We should do our best here. I believe we are doing our best with the examination of this report, so I am happy to wait until Thursday's meeting to discuss it again.

Does anybody else wish to contribute? I have to say I am somewhat at a loss, and the way they vote is a matter for Members, because we are actively engaged in pursuing and investigating the proposals made for a return. I do not understand what that has got to do with the Order of Business but it is the Deputy's prerogative.

Can I respond to that?

You can if you want to do so.

Today, we were presented with a paper that rebutted the very proposition we were agreeing last week so I do not see the necessary progress and we will push this to a vote.

That is very constructive.

It is, yes. It is clear. We do clarity.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 11; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ryan, Patricia.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Marc Ó Cathasaigh; Níl, Deputies Matt Carthy and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.

Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed.

As we all know, taxi drivers have endured a really terrible time. Their business has collapsed and they see very little light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier the Taoiseach indicated that the Minister, Deputy Ryan, is willing to continue to engage with the taxi drivers' representatives. I hope this proves to be true and it is welcome news. I put it to the Taoiseach that he should support the motion Sinn Féin will bring before the Dáil this evening that sets out all the fundamental asks of taxi drivers up and down the State. Aside from financial assistance and help, it includes a pause on the issuing of new licences, reform of the taxi advisory committee, continued access to bus lanes, which is an issue, and temporary two-year extensions to the rule that requires taxis to be less than ten years old. All of these are practical responses and very necessary responses for the taxi industry. Will the Taoiseach and his Government colleagues support the Sinn Féin motion?

As I said earlier, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, met with the representatives of the taxi drivers last week and he has indicated that he will continue that engagement with them. I also made it clear that there is no question of taxi drivers not having access to new bus lanes. The Minister was very clear on that to me this morning. In my replies earlier to Deputy Boyd Barrett, who had raised the matter in Leaders' Questions, I also indicated that the Government was disposed to looking at aspects of the interventions so far in terms of helping businesses and people in particular sectors of the economy with income support above and beyond the pandemic unemployment payment itself.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will clarify a matter because I was a bit confused earlier. Will the regulations be signed for all the changes coming into effect from tonight?

On the flu vaccine, we are aware that children up to the age of 12, anyone who works in the health service, and at-risk groups are getting the vaccination. I am hearing worrying concerns from GPs around a shortage of vaccines. Why are GP practices being severely limited in the doses they receive? A practice in Cork, for example, was told it would only get 200 doses. Another practice with five doctors was limited to 70 doses of the vaccine. Dr. Nina Byrnes tweeted this morning that her practice has been told that only 100 vaccines could be ordered for delivery. Is there an issue here? There is a concern we will not get enough vaccine to carry out the desperate need for vaccinations between now and Christmas. Can the Taoiseach clarify that all GPs will be able to get the volume of doses required to vaccinate those groups?

At the outset there was a delay in terms of the vaccine and production of it. I will come back to the Deputy with a substantive response on the issue he has raised.

Over the past week we have seen devastating scenes from the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece.

We have seen very distressing images of thousands of children and unaccompanied minors sleeping rough with no access to water or sanitation. The Immigrant Council of Ireland has called it a humanitarian crisis. Germany and France have committed to taking some of the minors in as asylum seekers. Has Ireland also committed to doing so? How many unaccompanied minors will we take in and when will it happen? It is very important that Ireland plays its part quickly because we cannot leave those children in such a vulnerable position in Greece.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Thomas Byrne, spoke with his Greek counterpart on 9 September, immediately after the fire and offered Ireland's full solidarity and support. The Greek Government has requested assistance from its European partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian need. Without question this tragedy has highlighted the need for urgent action on the part of the EU to address the current migration situation in the Mediterranean. The European Commission is due to publish a major new proposal on reforming the European Union migration and asylum system, a new Pact on Asylum and Migration in the coming weeks. We will work closely with our EU partners to progress efforts in that regard.

On unaccompanied minors, the German Presidency of the EU has requested that 400 such minors who were resident at the camp be relocated to other EU countries. My colleague, the Minister with responsibility for children, disability, equality and integration, Deputy O'Gorman, has confirmed that he is working with Tusla to arrange for the swift reception into Ireland of a group of four unaccompanied children from Moria in the coming weeks.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, and the Mandate trade union have sent proposals to the Government for a State-run scheme to fund enhanced redundancies in the event of liquidation and to be paid for by increased employer social insurance contributions. It has been suggested that were such a scheme to be agreed in principle an advance payment might be made to resolve the Debenhams dispute by meeting the demand of the workers for two plus two or four week's pay per year of service. The view from the picket line is that this is a positive proposal but that it is medium to long-term and does not in any way change the need to keep the strike going, if not to escalate the dispute right now. This is an entirely understandable response given that the workers have been out for 159 days to date. This could be more than a medium-term project if it were to be prioritised by the Government and moved through the House in September or early October. Can the Taoiseach offer the Debenhams workers any hope that his Government will seize the opportunity to fast-track this idea in the coming weeks?

Sometimes proposals are presented as if they are simple to do but the idea of increasing social insurance contributions from all employers in order to cover the failings of some raises its own questions. There is also the issue of retrospection in terms of how one could apply any funding that would be raised in the future on foot of legislation passed here. These issues are being examined by the Department with responsibility for business, enterprise and innovation, led by the Tánaiste but they are not simple.

The Deputy has suggested that this is a medium to long-term proposal and it would need a lot of teasing out. I had a very preliminary conversation with ICTU on it some time ago. The proposal needs to be fleshed out in some considerable detail regarding what is envisaged.

I remain confused, along with many other people across the country, by the new living with Covid-19 plan. I welcome the announcement that spectators are to be allowed to return to the games and matches that are part of our culture. Up to 50 patrons or spectators are allowed at indoor sporting events but dancing classes, rince scoile, and other artistic events are restricted to six people. Dancing classes often take place in GAA centres across the country. Are we saying that for sport we can have 50 spectators but for dancing classes and artistic events we cannot? There is confusion there. I also ask the Taoiseach to clarify the restrictions on hotels. Up to 50 people are allowed to attend a wedding but we are not sure if 50 can attend other events such as funeral dinners. Are such events confined to six people in pods? There is utter confusion. It is time for the hotel industry and the people to be given clarity. I must declare an interest with regard to rince scoile - the McGrath school of dance is run by my niece. There are many more dance schools in Tiobrad Árann and across the country that need to get back to their activities for the sake of physical and mental health and cultural experience.

We can cherry pick and pit one activity against another-----

I am not cherry picking.

The provisions in levels one to five of the plan are informed by public health advice, particularly with regard to controlled and uncontrolled environments. Essentially we are talking about a combination of measures designed to reduce social contacts and limit congregation as much as possible while allowing for a reasonable quality of life in the context of sports, arts and so on. That is the overall principle. People will always look for subsets of this or that category but the overarching point is that NPHET and the public health doctors are very anxious to reduce the amount of uncontrolled engagement. That is what has informed the plan, the public health advice around that issue.

I seek clarity from the Taoiseach because I heard earlier that the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, which was due to end this week is to be extended until December. Did I hear that correctly? If it is being extended until December, will it be open to new applicants? Is it ending this week for existing applicants?

It is open to new applicants to the end of December. Given the trajectory of the virus and what happened in Laois, Offaly and Kildare recently, local restrictions could be put in place which could necessitate a reduction in economic activity, resulting in people being out of work. Therefore, we felt that such people should be entitled to apply for the PUP in respect of measures mandated by Government on foot of public health advice.

First I wish to correct the Taoiseach. He stated earlier that Sinn Féin had not acknowledged the fact that the schools-----

I said that the Deputy had not acknowledge it in her speech.

That is not actually what he said, in fairness and it has been acknowledged by many Deputies from my party. It is welcome but as I have said to the Department and the Minister, we must ensure that our schools stay open, which is as great a challenge.

On Friday and again yesterday many students found out that the leaving certificate results given by their school had been adjusted downwards significantly by the standardisation process. Many people who made major sacrifices over the course of 12 months are deeply disappointed and are frustrated by the fact that the recourse open to them is very limited. I ask the Taoiseach to examine the possibility of making a more substantial appeals process available to students. I also ask him to make a final and concerted effort to expand the number of third level places in view of the numbers who were downgraded and who have missed out on their higher preference. Finally, for those who did the HPAT this year, that should be allowed to carry.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae on the same issue.

The cornerstone of the predictive grade system was that the professional judgment of the teacher would be key. Teachers gave their professional opinion on the fairest grade an individual student would achieve if he or she sat the leaving certificate exam but that professional opinion seems to have been questioned by the State Examinations Commission. A full 17% of all grades were reduced. At higher level one in five of the estimated grades was lowered. How many grades, if any, were upgraded? How was it acceptable for the State Examinations Commission to refer to students' junior certificate results to determine his or her placing at leaving certificate? This disregards three or more years of students' development and the peers process is a farce. Some students had four or five of their subjects downgraded. How can this happen? The grades this year are up by 4.4% on last year which means that those who sat the leaving certificate last year, took a year out and applied for a college place this year are disadvantaged because the points for entry have increased.

It is the function of Opposition sometimes to run with the hare and hunt with the hound but I do not know what they want at the end of the day. Sinn Féin's position was that socioeconomic profiling should be dropped but that there should be a standardisation process. I take it-----

We did not support-----

We are not going to have a conversation about this now.

My point is that it cannot have each-way bets on this.

Standardisation is important. It is very difficult for individual students in their individual circumstances, and I acknowledge that. We do not have an ideal situation in that we did not have a written exam and we did not have the normal leaving certificate, which always has standardisation, although it is not as visible in the normal presentation of exam results every year. Because of Covid-19, we have had a unique situation, which has proved very challenging for all concerned. However, a hell of a lot of work went into this by technocrats, if I can use that phrase, or people who are used to this kind of modelling and standardisation, and consultation did take place with Deputies. Once anyone starts pulling a thread on this, the whole thing unfurls. In terms of the appeal, the Deputy wants to change it as we go along. I do not think that is possible or feasible.

The Taoiseach spoke over and over again this morning about the Government's commitment to ramping up testing and tracing. I want to raise the issue of the provision of a Covid testing centre for Drogheda. As the Taoiseach knows, Drogheda is the largest town in Ireland but we are left without a Covid testing centre. The people of Drogheda and of south Louth who have been referred by their GP for a test have to travel to another town, and people who do not have transport - listen to this - have been told by the HSE to get the bus. These are people who have been referred by their GP because they are showing symptoms.

It is my understanding the public health centre in the Haymarket in Drogheda, which has been lying idle for some time, is still available to the HSE and has not yet been surrendered, and it could be operational in days as a Covid testing centre.

The Deputy should conclude. Her time is up.

Cases are rising in Louth. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health direct the HSE to examine the possibility of using the health centre in the Haymarket as a Covid testing centre, or another identified site, as soon as possible?

Deputy, please. The time is up.

Cases are rising and that is where the confusion and the chaos lies. The Taoiseach says they are ramping up testing and tracing yet the largest town in Ireland is left without a Covid testing centre. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment so people do not have to put up with this rubbish?

I want to come in on the same point. People in Navan who have been identified as possibly having Covid have also been told they cannot get the test in Navan and have to travel, which does not make sense from any perspective. The idea of people with Covid circulating on the public transportation system or in any manner does not make sense. We are asking people to stay put as much as possible yet we are asking these people, who are most likely to have Covid, to travel for testing. It does not make sense.

Again, the operation of the testing system in terms of locations and centres is organised by the HSE. I will communicate the Deputies’ representations in respect of their towns and their constituencies. The testing programme has been expanded very significantly over the summer and the number of tests has been significantly ramped up as well, which is not being acknowledged but, nonetheless, is a fact, particularly in terms of the serial testing programme, which has been very effective in nursing homes and other locations.

I raised the issue of the cross-border directive with the then Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, 12 months ago in the House. The question was whether the cross-border scheme would continue in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Many people have gone to Northern Ireland for hip, knee and, most importantly, cataract surgery. In the last year and a half, myself, Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, Councillor Ben Dalton O'Sullivan and Councillor Danny Collins have taken over 2,000 people for eye-saving surgery. Fianna Fáil itself used the cross-border service in one of its election promotion videos. The answer I got from the Tánaiste at the time was that if there was a no-deal Brexit, legislation would be put in place to make sure the cross-border scheme would continue. Can the Taoiseach tell us if the legislation is now in place to continue the cross-border directive if we have a no-deal Brexit? He must not let thousands go blind in Cork and Kerry on his watch.

First, the 2,000 people were paid for by the Irish taxpayer.

They would be blind otherwise.

Sorry. The cross-border directive was something we entered into under the EU. People have availed of it and the taxpayer has refunded them - that is the scheme. The Deputy and his colleagues have put on the buses and have run a great old operation for quite some time. The most important-----

Will we be allowed to continue?

If Britain leaves the EU, Britain leaves the EU. Does the Deputy understand that? Cross-border directives may no longer apply to it. I think that what is more important is that we improve capacity in our own system in terms of cataract-----

The Taoiseach is saying it is over.

No, I did not say that at all. I said we have to increase capacity in the Cork centre, which is the biggest in Munster in terms of cataracts and many other procedures. We should be doing it in Dublin and across the country. We should actually be sparing people the necessity to travel long distances for cataract operations.

Is the legislation in place?

Is the Taoiseach going to stop it? Answer the question.

Hold on. This is outrageous. I have told the Deputy but how can there be a cross-border directive in those circumstances? We will deal with that. The Minister, Deputy Donnelly, is taking a different approach to this in terms of making sure that people-----

They are going to stop it.

Hear me out. We have arrangements with Belfast and with Altnagelvin in respect of a whole range of health services. We would like to expand that with the North, and we would like to enter into contracts and procurement with them where necessary to provide treatment, and vice versa as well, given the North wants to avail of health services in the Republic. That is the way we should proceed.

Shame on the Taoiseach.

Page 47 of the programme for Government refers to increased capacity in hospitals. Last week, every single day, in University Hospital Limerick there was an average of 50 people on trolleys. Yesterday, there were 62 people on trolleys and today, unfortunately, there are 69 people, although they were not all on trolleys because the nurses told me they ran out of trolleys. The winter is approaching. It is now autumn and the flu season is upon us. What is the Taoiseach going to do? Is the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, going to intervene? We understand building is going on and new modular units are being built, but I understand no staff have been organised yet. Will the Taoiseach personally intervene at University Hospital Limerick because it is beyond a joke at this stage?

Yes, I will. Obviously, the winter initiative funding that was announced today is an additional €600 million, with €200 million on top of existing resources to the end of this year and €400 million for the early part of 2021. That is available now to deal with both with the human resources requirements for the hospital system, particularly on the emergency side, and also other measures to reduce pressures on emergency departments. I will bring the Deputy’s points to the attention of the Minister later today.

I would like an answer in regard to the timeline for the citizens' assembly on drugs. Obviously, many in this House and beyond will accept we have a huge drug problem as it relates to addiction, to the lack of services, to criminal gangs and to drug debt intimidation and the huge impact this has on communities and families.

I was shocked the other day when the Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy said he had written to the Taoiseach twice to get a timeline in regard to when the citizens' assembly would happen. I think it is a good idea that we have a citizens' assembly from the point of view that it is sometimes helpful to involve all the stakeholders and experts, and take it outside of this House.

I answered questions last week or the week before on the citizens' assemblies and the timelines for them. One of the big problems we have is that Covid-19 is impacting on the capacity to do citizens' assemblies. We have one at the moment on gender but it has been limited to one or two online engagements, and we are limited in terms of what we can do. I will revert back to the Deputy in respect of the drugs issue.

On the Taoiseach's party's website, I read the following line: “Fianna Fáil stands by its commitment that this project can only proceed on the basis that the lines are placed underground”. It is a line that was uttered by plenty of the Taoiseach's candidates in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath over the course of the most recent general election. I would like to ask him what is his position now, considering that the planning process was moved forward substantially when the minister from the Taoiseach's sister party in the North last night granted planning permission in that jurisdiction. The fundamental problem remains in place, which is that public acceptance simply is not there. Those of us who have followed this since 2007, a period in which the North-South interconnector has been met by delay after delay, recognise that the reason for those delays is the lack of public acceptance. Will the Taoiseach ensure his own party's pre-general election position is adhered to, and we fundamentally review this issue and move towards the undergrounding of the North-South interconnector?

Did I hear the Deputy correctly? Did he say the minister granted permission-----

-----or did it go through the planning process in the North?

The minister has the final say.

Is the Deputy's party not a member of that Executive?

Unfortunately, it is a unilateral decision.

There is no such thing as unilateral in an executive or in a government.

Yes, there is, actually.

The Deputy must accept collective responsibility.

I have asked the Taoiseach what his position is.

It is the duplicity that the Deputy's party consistently deploys in terms of its stances on various issues.

For the record, I will quote the line again: "Fianna Fáil stands by its commitment that this project can only proceed-----

If it does not like the decision of the Executive, it is not its decision.

-----on the basis that the lines are placed underground".

It did the same on social welfare in the past on the Executive-----

What is the Taoiseach's position now?

I respect the planning process. Our position has been very clear about the North-South interconnector and we will work to see what can be achieved in that regard.

What is the Taoiseach going to do about it?

I have just given the Deputy the position. The planning process in Northern Ireland is not our function. The Deputy will criticise, delay and delay-----

I am asking what the Taoiseach is going to do about it in this State.

The Deputy is trying to criticise a colleague of his party in the Executive-----

The Taoiseach is the Head of the Government.

-----yet his party is part of that Executive.

What is the Taoiseach's position today?

I call Deputy Durkan.

A Cheann Comhairle, the Taoiseach purposely refused to answer the question. It undermines the legitimacy of promised legislation. That is disappointing.

Thank you. I call Deputy Durkan.

What is the position with the Charities Act 2009 in respect of all sections and its applicability? Has it been fully endorsed and is it fully operational at present? Are there some outstanding amendments or changes?

It is not on the programme for this session, but the heads are still being prepared.