Ceisteanna - Questions

Future of Media Commission

Alan Kelly


1. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the establishment of the Future of Media Commission; and the role his Department will have in supporting the work of the commission. [35142/20]

Paul Murphy


2. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the inaugural meeting of the Future of Media Commission. [36612/20]

Richard Boyd Barrett


3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the establishment of the Future of Media Commission; and the role his Department will have in supporting the work of the commission. [36675/20]

Mary Lou McDonald


4. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the establishment of the Future of Media Commission and the role of his Department in its work. [36853/20]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.

I am pleased to report that the commission has been established by Government and is now fully up and running. It has met on two occasions and will continue to meet on a regular basis the coming months. I provided a pre-recorded video message to mark the commission's inaugural meeting on 29 October.

The commission has been constituted as an independent expert body, and its members have been appointed by the Government on the basis of their expertise in broadcast, print and online media. The collective expertise of the commission spans areas as diverse as public service media, independent journalism, social media, new technology platforms, media economics, culture, language, creative content, governance and international best practice.

It is envisaged that, over the coming months, the commission will engage comprehensively with stakeholders, including broadcasters, journalists and their representatives, publishers, regional media and the wider public. The secretariat to the commission has been provided by officials from the Department of the Taoiseach in conjunction with officials from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. I very much look forward to receiving the report and recommendations of the commission in due course.

The Taoiseach will be aware that the Labour Party expressed concerns at the time about the fact that there was no trade union representation on the group and no regional print media representation initially. The Taoiseach went some way towards addressing that issue with the appointment of Ms Siobhán Holliman, who essentially wears two hats. She is the deputy editor of the Tuam Herald but also an activist of the National Union of Journalists, NUJ.

The Taoiseach said at the inaugural meeting that it is important that we examine how the media can be funded. Does he have any suggestions in that regard? I draw his attention to a policy that emanated in 2018 from the then Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson, Senator Dooley. He proposed a €30 million fund for print journalism, the ring-fencing of VAT and a 6% levy on all digital advertising. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to implement this proposal?

Has the Taoiseach a view on the review and reform of our defamation laws? Is there a timeline for a review? Does the Taoiseach believe juries should be removed from defamation cases?

I want to raise the issue of the broadcasting charge, which was alluded to in the past couple of weeks by RTÉ's television controller, Mr. Andrew Lynch, at the Oireachtas committee. Why is the Government insisting on pushing ahead with plans for a new stealth tax on every household with this talk of a broadcasting charge? Did the Taoiseach not learn any lessons from his experience of the water charges? For years, he has been pushing for a broadcasting charge. Last year, he went so far as to say that if we were Taoiseach, he would introduce it in his first year. Now we have a commission on the future of the media and part of its purpose is clearly to give cover for such a tax. The reality is that the current TV licence is a very unfair, regressive, flat tax. It may be loose change for someone on the Taoiseach's salary but it is a lot of money for a low-earning family. With Covid, many people are struggling to pay the charge but, instead of a bit of understanding, it was announced that TV licence inspectors are still calling to people's homes in the middle of a level 5 lockdown. One cannot have any family over unless they happen to be a television licence inspector. How can the Taoiseach justify that? Rather than charging the fee or imposing a new broadcasting charge on ordinary families, should we not be levying a charge on the massive digital media companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, and using the funds to invest in quality media and broadcasting?

Irrespective of the criticisms we may sometimes have of RTÉ, public service broadcasting and having a national broadcaster are important because the alternative is the big, private, for-profit IT companies and the big digital online purveyors of movies, such as Amazon and Netflix, which are making an absolute fortune. If we are to safeguard the future of public service broadcasting and the media, we should, rather than imposing broadcasting charges on ordinary people who are already paying through the nose for Sky, Netflix and God knows what and then imposing another charge on them, impose a digital tax on the profits of the companies.

It is outrageous that important national matches, certain GAA matches and so on can be viewed only on some of the private, pay-per-view platforms. It should not be allowed. Similarly, we also need to ensure the public service broadcasters give more time to domestic musical and cultural output. Indeed, a set percentage of their output should be committed to this.

The Taoiseach has previously remarked that the commission has been constituted as an expert group rather than a stakeholders' representative body. This observation is to miss the point of the concerns raised about the breadth of the commission's membership in terms of addressing the limitations of the goals set for its work. There is no reference in the terms of reference to the consideration of declining employment prospects, media plurality or media ownership. Their inclusion is crucial if the stated purpose of the establishment of the commission is to be realised.

Precarious contracts have become the norm for a significant number of workers within print and broadcast media, both public and private. The economic shock of Covid-19 will be felt for some time and will exacerbate this reality. Local media, as has been said, have taken a battering over recent months. It is with these newspapers and radio stations that young journalists have traditionally cut their teeth. Employment rights, career opportunities and the ability to progress are the foundations of the professions' and sector's sustainability and credibility. How will these be factored into the commission's work?

The latest Media Pluralism Monitor from the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom highlights common challenges across the European Union. Just over half the member states, including Ireland, score a medium risk under market plurality. This, of course, is not a new concern. How will that be addressed?

I see that the Taoiseach was quoting Lenin down in UCC recently. I will give him a quote from Lenin myself.

John or Vladimir Ilyich?

It was Vladimir Ilyich that he was quoting. Lenin — it was not John Lennon — once said there is freedom of the press in capitalist society for those who own one. I want to ask the Taoiseach about the high concentration of media ownership in this State. The Media Pluralism Monitor states it puts this State at high risk. Reporters without Borders said last year it was the single largest threat to press freedom in this country. It is not talking in the abstract; it is talking about circumstances like those in which Denis O'Brien and Communicorp control Newstalk and Today FM, or 52% of the Dublin market, and 29.9% of shares in Independent News and Media, which owns the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald and the Sunday World. Rupert Murdoch and News Corp own and control The Sunday Times, The Irish Sun, five radio stations etc. What is the media commission going to do to tackle this problem? I favour the ending of the for-profit element in media ownership. Media should be collectively owned and democratically controlled and reflect the diversity of viewpoints in society. There is a debate as to the best way to tackle this. What timescale has the commission, particularly given that there are vacancies in it?

We did respond to the points Deputy Nash raised in the House regarding trade union involvement, but also regional media involvement. That occurred in the context of the additional appointments. We respond to points raised from time to time. As the Deputy said, the appointment of Ms Siobhán Holliman — the deputy editor of the Tuam Herald, member of the Press Council and joint cathaoirleach of the Irish executive council of the NUJ — goes some way towards addressing those issues.

On the observations of those on the far left, decisions have got to be made on this at some stage, rather than saying the commission is a cover for the introduction of a charge or whatever. We need independent public service media, and the commission has a role in that in terms of analysing RTÉ and TG4.

How does one ensure arms-length independent public service media? That is an important consideration.

Deputy Murphy is right. I have in the past advocated the replacement of the RTÉ licence fee with a universal charge that would cover everyone because of the emergence of new technologies and so on. The capacity to sustain independent public service media is at risk. I say that without fear or favour. I do not necessarily benefit from any good coverage one way or the other in some respects. That is not the issue. The issue is how we develop media in Ireland that are independent and how we develop a funding model that is sustainable. I have no wish to prejudice what the commission may come to, but private sector media in Ireland are under pressure and regional media are under pressure. How do we deal with the social media platforms?

There was a media commission on ownership and plurality some years back. It identified the growth of social media as a new platform for media and as something that was disruptive in the classic sense of "disruptive". That really created a new plurality, some of which was good and some not-so-good. Hence, in terms of what was not-so-good, the need for strong, robust, independent public service media and independent media as well. The challenge is how we create a sustainable funding model for private sector media as well that could give greater independence in terms of employability. The sector will require a proper funding model in terms of sustainable employment and good quality employment in journalism. What is going on at the moment is not satisfactory. It must be a difficult career choice for young people going into journalism. It is difficult and challenging. It is never-ending. It involves multitasking and all of that. I suggest strongly to the House that the funding model as it currently stands is not sustainable.

When the commission comes back with recommendations, the real challenge for us is whether we can put our ideology to one side, bite the bullet and make decisions? I am prepared to make decisions, even if they are unpopular. I get the sense that others want to look at whatever might come as a basis for another campaign. Deputy Paul Murphy is great for campaigns but they do not achieve a great deal other than stymie decision-making.


Through the Chair, I am saying that as a general observation. We can campaign all we like. I believe our national broadcaster needs sustainability and support. It needs reform and it needs to change. Fundamentally, given what has happened in other countries and states, we need to be mindful and careful of the degree to which democracy can be undermined by a plethora of platforms that seek to distort the truth and do not give the citizens of our democracy good, objective material.

What about accountability?

The Taoiseach would be better to focus on his own performance.

I do not understand. I am making a general point in answering. I was asked questions on the idea of the universal charge. It has been around for a long time. It is not a new concept. An all-party Oireachtas committee supported it in the past. It is my understanding that the committee, either by majority or unanimity, supported the idea of a universal charge. Anyway, it is up to the commission to decide.

I do not understand-----

The Taoiseach challenged Deputy Murphy.

No, I did not. I made a political point.

There are 35 seconds left to reply.

As I said, the commission is broad in its membership and I believe it will deal with the core issues that are necessary, especially in terms of public service broadcasting. Then it will deal with regional media, local media and the private sector media as well.

Departmental Functions

Mary Lou McDonald


5. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the parliamentary liaison unit. [35252/20]

Alan Kelly


6. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the parliamentary liaison unit in his Department. [36603/20]

Richard Boyd Barrett


7. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the parliamentary liaison unit. [36676/20]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, together.

The parliamentary liaison unit assists Government in its relationship with the Oireachtas. It works with the Office of the Government Chief Whip on issues that arise at the Business Committee and the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform, including Dáil reform proposals and amendments to Standing Orders.

The unit also supports the Office of the Government Chief Whip in the implementation of the Government's legislative programme. The unit assists the office of the leader of the Green Party in work relating to Cabinet, cabinet committees and oversight of the implementation of the programme for Government.

The unit provides detailed information on upcoming matters in the Dáil and Seanad. It highlights any new Oireachtas reform issues and provides assistance in engaging with the new processes arising from Dáil reform.

The unit is staffed by 3.5 whole-time equivalent staff, made up of 1 principal officer, 1.5 higher executive officer and 1 clerical officer.

First, I am increasingly at a loss as to what this liaison unit is doing. The Taoiseach has cited its efforts - no doubt they are legion - to effect Dáil reform. Yet, not 40 minutes or an hour ago we had an exchange in which the Taoiseach steadfastly refused even the current accountability mechanisms not to mention any new innovation. I imagine we will all take that with a grain of salt.

Second, I have raised with the Taoiseach the issue of the need for provision for remote learning for children living with a medically vulnerable person. I have written to him on this. He has come back with a completely unsatisfactory answer - it is almost dismissive - to the effect that health and safety standards relating to mask wearing and handwashing and so on have to be observed by these children. By the way, their parents are terrified to send them to school, such is the nature of the medical vulnerability in their homes. That was the kind of brush-off answer I got.

Funny enough, when my colleague, Deputy Bríd Smith, raised the same issue with the Tánaiste, he was far more engaged on this matter. The Tánaiste informed her that he was engaging with the Minister for Education to establish exactly how an online platform could be provided for these children. There is neither rhyme nor reason to what the Taoiseach is at. He is blocking us from doing our job and, it seems, all the while not doing his own.

During the previous Dáil, the Taoiseach was a champion of Dáil reform. He committed to end Government control of Dáil business in 2016. Yet, as soon as he took over the reins, he seemed to go into reverse. As Deputy McDonald said earlier, basic levels of accountability that we expect in this House are not being complied with, as is evidenced from the Taoiseach's approach only half an hour ago in response to legitimate requests by Opposition Members to have the Minister for Justice come to the House to answer valid questions regarding the selection process for Mr. Justice Woulfe. These are valid legitimate concerns.

The Taoiseach spouts all the time about the separation of powers and issues that are completely bogus. It is guff entirely. As Taoiseach, he should ensure that another central tenet of the Constitution is protected. He should ensure the ability of the Legislature to oversee and critique the function of the Executive and decisions that the Executive makes.

The Minister for Justice was able to go on "Six One News" and LMFM - my local radio station and hers - yesterday to talk about this process. Yet, she does not see fit to come to this House to answer legitimate questions that Members, individually and collectively, have for her.

I heard the Taoiseach say in his initial response that there was a function for the parliamentary liaison unit in supporting Green Party members. Am I right? Can the Taoiseach elaborate a little on that? Can he elaborate more generally on the actual role of the parliamentary liaison unit is at the moment given that there are no Independent members of Government?

It seems to me that the parliamentary liaison unit remit is to do everything to shut down the voices of questioning from the Opposition. There has essentially been a systematic drive by the Government to do that. The latest example of this is the refusal to allow the Minister for Justice to come to the House to address questions. We also saw this with the change in speaking arrangements. I have raised this several times but I am really aggrieved tonight. We have an important debate on Covid-19 strategy. Our party will have six and a half minutes. The Government will have 75 minutes. We will hear speaker after speaker backing up the Government line. Yet, we have six and a half minutes to put forward our thoughts and suggestions. To be honest, these suggestions might actually help the Government in the current situation.

They might provide some important feedback to help it come to a reasonable perspective and strategy. However, we get six and a half minutes. It is a joke. The Government did that deliberately to shut the Opposition down and to push certain parts of the Opposition so far down the speaking order that their voices will not be heard. In the end, the Government's undoing will be these cynical parliamentary games it is playing to shut down the Opposition. They will always surface. The mistakes will come back to haunt the Taoiseach. I urge him to stop playing games of shutting down the Opposition and to allow for open debate in this Chamber.

I thank Deputy Nash for his acknowledgment of my championing of Dáil reform in the previous Dáil, which is true. We brought in many reforms after the 2016 general election. They were significant and they were advances on anything that went before.

The Minister for Justice is willing to come into the House. She offered to come in next Tuesday and was turned down by the Opposition. Those are the facts. The Minister said she would come in and answer questions. Members would have to table the questions. That is fairly normal but that was refused. I have answered questions on the same issue, as did the Tánaiste.

To respond to Deputy Boyd Barrett, the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, answered questions, as did the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and the Tánaiste. There have been many examples of Ministers coming in under this Government in a short space of time on specific issues.

Not on this issue.

Deputy Boyd Barrett makes the point about having only six and a half minutes but I could equally refer to the perspective of others. The three parties that make up the Government have well over 80 Members in total. It seems to be the position of Deputy Boyd Barrett and some others in the House that backbenchers and Members from the larger parties should be shut up forever and never get an opportunity. That happened in the previous Dáil, unfortunately. They were marginalised, even though they are as entitled to be heard as the Deputy. It seems to be the view of groups of six, seven, eight or more that anybody who is a Member of a large party does not have the same right or entitlement to time in a debate. It is difficult to manage it all over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but that is the context. The degree to which many Deputies were denied opportunities to have their voices heard appropriately in the previous Dáil simply because they were members of larger parties was a bit of a joke. That was their strong point and campaigning position.

It has gone too far in the other direction.

On Deputy McDonald's point on remote learning, I do not adopt a dismissive attitude to issues of that kind and I regret the Deputy using that phrase, which is not fair or correct. The Deputy raises a lot of issues with me and I have answered them fairly. I do not dismiss them. It is a serious issue for the Minister for Education and her Department. I have approached them on the issue. They will have to deal with and provide for it and there has been challenges in relation to it.

On the liaison unit, its main function is assisting the Government in its relationship with the Oireachtas. The main focus of the unit is to liaise with the Oireachtas at official level on procedural matters and with Departments to ensure they are aware of any new processes arising from Dáil reform. That said, in performing its duty, the unit would be happy to engage with any Member of the Oireachtas, where appropriate. It is not the function of the unit to support any Deputies in the House. That is a political function.


That is in relation to Dáil reform. I will check and get further clarity on that for the Deputy.

The parliamentary liaison unit is headed up by a principal officer in my Department. It is a fairly small unit. I think there are about three members. On the commitments that have been made in relation to Oireachtas reform, the unit works with the Oireachtas and officials here on advancing the reform agenda; expanding the role of the Parliamentary Budget Office to independently audit the cost of individual tax and spending measures contained in political parties' budget submissions and general election manifestos to assess their broader economic impact; and continuing to ensure that Oireachtas committees chairs are allocated according to the D'Hondt system. These are all changes which occurred in the last Dáil and had not happened before. The unit also worked on introducing a new system to register Oireachtas attendance to protect the integrity of the expenses system; ensuring that funding to Independents under the leaders' allowance is fully vouched and audited as it is for political parties; fully responding to the ruling in the Kerins Supreme Court case and making appropriate changes; reviewing the Dáil Business Committee with a view to introducing the D'Hondt system; encouraging the use of Irish as a working language of the Oireachtas; expanding Oireachtas committees' research resources; supporting the work of the Oireachtas Women's Parliamentary Caucus; and developing supports and alternatives for Members of the Oireachtas to take parental leave.

Those are the broad range of activities of the liaison unit in working with the Oireachtas to try to advance and consolidate what we have achieved so far but also respond to emerging issues, such as the Kerins issue, which is finding its way through the committees and causing issues for members of various committees.

Cabinet Committees

Mary Lou McDonald


8. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the Cabinet committee on the environment and climate change. [35253/20]

Alan Kelly


9. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the Cabinet committee on the environment and climate change. [36604/20]

Richard Boyd Barrett


10. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the Cabinet committee on the environment and climate change. [36677/20]

Paul Murphy


11. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee which addresses climate change will next meet. [38833/20]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on the environment and climate change last met on 9 November 2020 and is scheduled to meet again on 7 December 2020. The members of the committee are the Taoiseach; the Tånaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Employment and Trade; the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications; the Minister for Finance; the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht; the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage; and the Minister for Social Protection, and Community and Rural Development. The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, is invited to the Cabinet committee and other Ministers or Ministers of State also participate as required. It is chaired by the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, and Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

This Cabinet committee oversees the implementation of the programme for Government commitments in relation to the environment and climate change. These include the climate action (amendment) Bill; just transition; agriculture and land use considerations; access to finance for climate action; the development of a national retrofitting plan; and the progression of matters in furtherance of our move to a higher rate of renewable energy, such as the marine planning and development Bill and the wind energy guidelines. In addition, it considers progress made on the implementation of the current climate action plan, and the planning which is now under way to develop the next iteration of that plan.

We previously discussed the programme for Government commitment to developing and protecting Ireland's biodiversity. An important component of this work is the National Biodiversity Data Centre programme, established by the Heritage Council 14 years ago. This programme collects data on Ireland's biodiversity and, thanks to the ecological commitment of its staff, the all-Ireland pollinator plan has been a tremendous success. As the Government has acknowledged, despite the centrality of the programme's work to Ireland's biodiversity commitment, it is neither a national centre nor a body. It remains privately owned and its responsibilities are delivered contract to contract with its staff also on short-term contracts. The programme's database comprises over 4 million records and is used by a range of agencies, academics and policymakers, yet this organisation and its work are not underpinned in legislation. The programme operates within a very uncertain funding framework. It appears that little value is placed on its work and that of its highly qualified staff, whose employment is precarious. I have raised this matter with the Taoiseach before and I am raising it again.

I will mention funding for Dublin Zoo, which also makes an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity beyond our small island. The Government has allocated one-off funding of €1.1 million for Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park. The Taoiseach knows that the zoo's revenue has fallen by 60% this year because of Covid and its fixed operating costs remain very high, so the one-off funding is not sufficient. It will barely cover a single month's cost for Dublin Zoo. Last week, the Taoiseach committed that the Government would do everything possible to keep Dublin Zoo viable and open. I ask him to make good on that commitment, which means providing resources in addition to those that have been announced.

The climate Bill, though considerably delayed, was published on 7 October. Will there be significant further amendments to it? Is that being discussed by the Cabinet committee?

I was stunned by a reply I received last week to a parliamentary question to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, on the climate action delivery board. He confirmed to me that it had not met in a year. We are discussing the greatest existential threat facing not just this country, but the planet, yet an important body such as that, which is implementing key climate action plans, has not met. It beggars belief. The mind boggles. We knew that the previous Government's Climate Action Plan was entirely inadequate, but that the body charged with implementing it has not sat at all is extraordinary. It raises questions about the priorities of this Government. I accept that the Government has only been in place since the summer, but it begs the questions of what its priority on climate action is and what the point of the Green Party is.

The landslide in Donegal resulting from the construction of a wind farm was a shocking reminder of the Government's failure to take seriously what happens when the development of renewable energy is in the hands of private developers who only care about profit and do not give a hoot about the environment. It was not the first time we had seen that type of environmental damage resulting from the failure to conduct proper environmental impact assessments on such projects. This year, we were forced to pay €5 million in fines, with €15,000 per day in further penalties, as a result of the Derrybrien landslide in 2003 and the subsequent ruling of the European Court of Justice that the developers, namely, the ESB, which had built a wind farm on a mountain after cutting down the trees that held the mountain together, had ignored this basic knowledge about the role of forestation in holding mountains and soil together, thereby causing a massive landslide. We are paying €15,000 per day in penalties and have still not rectified the matter, and the same situation has occurred in Donegal. This is what happens when something as important as dealing with climate change and the development of renewable energy is put in the hands of private developers or people who are driven by profit. What will the Government do about this? Where are the directly employed ecologists, foresters and all the other people who will do the environmental impact assessment work for the State to ensure that this sort of disastrous situation does not recur?

In response to me, I believe the Taoiseach told me that campaigns did not achieve much. I do not take any personal offence at that.

It was not meant to be personal.

That is no problem. It sums up the Taoiseach's political philosophy. It flies in the face of history. This Parliament would not exist and we would be a part of the British Empire had there not been a campaign, one with a significant military element. We would not have the right to vote, to join trade unions or to have a minimum wage. Every substantial improvement in living standards and democratic rights for ordinary people has come from campaigns. History demonstrates that. The same applies to climate action. The only reason we have a climate action Bill is environmental campaigners such as school students, strikers, Fridays for Future, Ms Greta Thunberg, etc., putting this matter on the agenda.

The Government's climate action Bill has substantial flaws, though. It is a proposal to pursue carbon reductions and to aim for carbon neutrality by 2050, which will be far too late. It will not do what the science demands. In fact, those who are calling for the Bill to do what the science demands are being accused of ecopopulism by some establishment Green Party members. That is why there is a campaign to fix the Bill. There is an online petition asking that, instead of pursuing a 2050 target, the Bill should tie the Government into achieving complete decarbonisation by 2030, which is what is necessary if we are to avoid a climate disaster. There are a series of other demands concerning the just transition and so on.

Just as a point of clarity, I have no issue with campaigning or campaigns, but I am always reminded that, when Deputy Barry was elected in 2016, he made a very clear statement of his philosophy. He said that there was a saying in Paris, namely, that which parliament does, the street undoes. That sums up the difference in our philosophies. I am a committed parliamentarian and I believe in parliamentary democracy. I get the sense that, where any issue emerges, there is an orchestration to use it to build an electoral support base to undermine the Government of the day.

That is not-----


That is the way politics works, and that is the way it has worked. That is what the Deputies are at.

Dearie, dearie me. Jesus, that is good.

The Deputy instanced correctly the War of Independence as being a campaign, but what about comparing that to whether we should replace the RTÉ licence fee with another charge? That is the point I am getting at. The Deputies will still believe that it will become a big, unjust tax and they will run a big campaign and big protests around it. The point is: Parliament and decision-makers have to make decisions. On climate change, the Deputies will again oppose everything that we bring about to get our carbon emissions down.

Yes, the Deputies will.

If the Government does what is necessary, we will agree with it.

They will do everything they possibly can to resist what this Government, including the Green Party, has proposed in different iterations. For example, on the Oireachtas committee in the previous Dáil, a majority of parties decided on a course of action to try for a reduction. That involved a carbon tax and to utilise that money to protect against fuel poverty and to deal with retrofitting, but also to deal with alternative farming so that we could increase and enhance our biodiversity on our farms and recalibrate agricultural performance in rural Ireland. However, that all gets opposed and then becomes the subject matter of another campaign.

The bottom line is that we are running out of time. Trying to get to 2050 will be, in itself, an enormous challenge.

That will be far too late.

As we discovered during our programme for Government discussions, trying to bring levels down by an average of 7% over the next ten years will be very challenging, but we are committed to doing it as a Government.

The climate change Bill is a good Bill. It has a whole range of commitments. It establishes a 2050 emissions target. It introduces a system of successive five-year economy-wide carbon budgets, starting in 2021. It will strengthen the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council in proposing carbon budgets. It introduces a requirement to review the Climate Action Plan annually and to prepare a national long-term climate action strategy at least every decade. It introduces a requirement for all local authorities to prepare individual climate action plans, which will include both mitigation and adaptation measures. It gives a stronger oversight role for the Oireachtas through an Oireachtas committee. I invite the Deputies to support that endeavour.

Regarding the points that were raised earlier, I think Deputy Nash asked whether amendments would be forthcoming. It has gone through the pre-legislative phase. On Committee Stage, the Minister will consider any amendment that comes from the House-----

And then dismiss it.

-----and he will do so in a constructive manner. His main aim is to improve the Bill if people come forward with workable improvements. The Bill in itself is a major advance on what we have had and is something that commends itself to the House. He is open to amendments, of course, given the detailed examination that has taken place. In the House, Members may come forward on that.

In relation to the climate data centre, I will have a look at that. I will talk to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, about that. I accept the extraordinarily valuable work that it does and the large database that it has.

I am very keen to work on similar initiatives to the all-island pollinator plan and a whole range of biodiversity projects on an all-island basis. I have made that clear to our colleagues on the Northern Ireland Executive in respect of developing joint approaches to the environment and the climate. We are looking, as part of the shared island unit, to the creation of a dialogue on an all-island approach to climate change and to the challenges that protecting the environment present to society, particularly in terms of protecting biodiversity on our island.

That is important.

The Government has moved quickly to try to deal with the crisis in organisations such as Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park and others. My Department has now decided to work with other Departments, the OPW, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, the Departments of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, and the Office of the Tánaiste to try to work out a more strategic approach to our zoos and a more sustainable system for them, in particular given the significant impact of Covid-19 on their operations.

Dublin Zoo could have up to 1 million visitors a year. That has not now happened principally because of Covid. Its revenue has been significantly undermined. We are very conscious of that. We wanted to intervene this week to make sure that we could deal with the current crisis. We are very committed to helping out on a medium-term basis.

On Deputy Boyd Barrett's point in respect of Donegal, there will be private development of wind projects. Not everything will be done by the State. The next big wave in respect of wind energy will be offshore wind. The marine development Bill is important because it opens up the opportunity to develop the economic potential of our seas for the betterment of our people. Wind energy is very important in terms of the climate change agenda.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.