Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Thirty-one Deputies have already indicated, including 13 carried forward from yesterday. I call Deputy Mary Lou McDonald.

The continuing refusal by the Government and the Minister for Justice to come before this House to make a statement and take questions on the appointment to the Supreme Court is outrageous and unacceptable and I urge him to remedy that situation without any further delay. We have learned today that on the day his Government appointed Séamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court, a second appointment was made to the Circuit Court. Can the Taoiseach explain to us his role in that appointment? The Tánaiste, Deputy Leo Varadkar, has confirmed that he knew that the person appointed to the Circuit Court had previously worked with the former Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charlie Flanagan. Was the Taoiseach aware of this when that appointment was made? Can he tell us how many applications or expressions of interest were made for that position on the Circuit Court? Can he confirm, once and for all, that there will be accountability here and that the Minister for Justice will present herself, make a statement and take questions?

In terms of accountability to the House, and if I could be given a minute or two on this and pre-empt further questions, I have answered questions on this issue twice on Leaders' Questions, on 18 and 24 November, with Deputy Shortall and, if I am correct, Deputy McDonald before that. The Tánaiste has taken Leaders' Questions three times on the appointment of Séamus Woulfe from Deputies Doherty, Kelly and Catherine Murphy.

There have been seven written questions from Deputy Kelly which I have answered.

No, they have not been answered.

The Taoiseach has not answered my questions.

I am going to answer the Deputy's questions.

The Taoiseach has not. Do not mislead the Dáil.

I am not. I will come to the core, if I may.

Do not mislead the Dáil. The questions have not been answered.

That is the Deputy's observation.

People have been asking important questions. The Taoiseach has asked for a little time to answer those questions. Will Deputies let him answer?

With the proviso that there are specific questions-----

I cannot predict what the Taoiseach is going to say. The Deputies have asked him questions. Will they let him answer?

There has to be accountability here.

Let us hear the accountability.

There have also been ten parliamentary questions from Deputy Kelly to the Minister, Deputy McEntee, which have been answered.

They have not been answered.

There have been two from Deputy Shortall. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, has made it clear that she is willing to answer questions in this House. She said that last Thursday evening. The Opposition opposed that and any facilitation of that, which was due to happen next Tuesday, because of the format of how the questions would be asked. I believe withdrawing from the Business Committee based on the format of how questions are asked is wholly disproportionate. That is a reform that I championed. I believe in the Business Committee and I support its continuation. I want to make that clear. I spoke to the Ceann Comhairle this morning. The Ceann Comhairle has legal advice about the parameters and the nature of what can be asked. He is clear that questions must be on process and not commentary on the suitability of candidates or criteria, which some Deputies asked me about earlier. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, and I discussed this issue. The Minister was taken aback last week when she made an offer to come into the House and answer questions-----

Are we all going to get-----

The Minister is committed to coming into the House to answer questions.

We need to conclude.

That is four minutes.

She wants to deal with this and she will answer questions on this. The Business Committee should reconvene. The Minister is prepared to come into the House tomorrow afternoon to make a statement-----

To make a statement.

-----and answer questions as well. I suggest that the Business Committee meet to go through the format of that and work it out. That will be as early as tomorrow. From the outset, my main aim and responsibility as Taoiseach is to maintain the separation of powers and also to maintain confidence in our judicial system-----

That is completely bogus.

-----and the Legislature. It is not, Deputy Kelly, and you are wrong to suggest that.

In answer to Deputy McDonald's questions, those appointments came through-----

Five minutes.

-----the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board in accordance with the-----

Are we all getting five minutes now?

I thought the Deputy would be pleased with that.

We will extend questions on promised legislation by five minutes. The Taoiseach has attempted to answer questions that Deputies have persistently raised. Deputy McDonald has asked her question. I will move to Deputy Kelly.

On the appointment to the Circuit Court that I asked about, was the Taoiseach aware that the person appointed had a previous professional relationship with the former Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan?

There is no facility for asking the same question.

Can the Taoiseach inform us if there were other expressions of interest in this post? Please do not give the waffle about JAAB. That is one channel. There are others.

Please, Deputy.

If the Taoiseach does not understand that at this stage, I have to wonder-----

Please, Deputy. The Taoiseach may comment briefly. Is he going to do so? He cannot. I call Deputy Kelly.

I will give way to Deputy McDonald.

This is a very unusual procedure.

I do not go into the relationships of people to any former officeholders or to Deputies in this House if they are appointed to a position through a recruitment process or the-----

What about Máire Whelan?

-----Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, which this appointment went through. It was brought to Cabinet in accordance with the law and the Constitution. That is it.

Were there other applicants?

Please, Deputy McDonald. The Deputy is out of order. I call Deputy Kelly.

We have a period in Taoiseach's questions to return to this topic, a Cheann Comhairle. That may facilitate you given the time that has been used. I object and find the way you are behaving in the Chamber today wrong.

Excuse me. The way who is behaving?

The way the Taoiseach is behaving, by not answering questions. That is utterly without precedent. I asked 18 questions of the Minister for Justice and the Taoiseach last week. The Taoiseach has repeatedly said that if Deputies have questions, they should submit them and they will be answered. They are not being answered. One simple question that I asked was when the Taoiseach was informed that Mr. Justice Woulfe was to be appointed. No date was provided. All 18 questions were merged into one generic, rubbish answer from the Minister for Justice and the Taoiseach. I will seek to meet the Ceann Comhairle later today to discuss how we will go forward. I have been down this road before with Ministers and I will not stop until I get my questions answered. The people of Tipperary put me here to hold this Taoiseach and Minister for Justice to account, and it is my intention to do so. We will get there, slice by slice. The Taoiseach can trust me on that.

Before I ask my question on promised legislation, I want to express my condolences to Damien Carrick, Ciarán, Ríoghna, Sorcha and Eoin on the death of Trish. I have had some dealings with Damien. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.

I asked the Taoiseach to consult party leaders before making decisions on the changes that will be brought about post level 5, which he is to announce on Friday. He has not done so, which is his prerogative. It is wrong. It is too late now and it is wrong. I offer my commiserations on last Sunday, when my county beat the Taoiseach's county. It is slightly ridiculous that for the sake of ten or 15 extra people, full panels cannot be allowed at all-Ireland semi-finals and finals. I presume common sense will prevail on this.

The Deputy's time is up.

If the Government is going to allow inter-county travel from a certain date in December, there are workers, particularly in healthcare, who give up their time at Christmas to allow people with young children to be at home at Christmas.

The Deputy's time is up.

I am finishing. These healthcare workers give up their time. Will the ban on travel between counties be lifted to allow healthcare workers to travel over the new year period? People should be able to travel until early January so they can go home and see their loved ones. For some workers, New Year's Eve is more important than Christmas Day because they have to relieve people with young families over the Christmas period.

I take strong exception to the Deputy's remarks. I have repeatedly answered questions in here and I have answered the Deputy too.

The Taoiseach might go back and-----

No impersonation of John Wayne will phase me. The Deputy keeps melodramatically suggesting that he will deal with people and that kind of thing.


I am committed to the separation of powers. I am not so sure the Deputy is.

It has nothing to do with the separation of powers. The separation of powers is the reason for asking the question.

The Deputy needs to come clean. At the beginning of this, he suggested to me that I should seek the publication of correspondence.

That is a separate issue.

The Deputy implied that he knew what was in the correspondence.

The Taoiseach had no issue with that either.

So the Deputy knew.

I did not say that.

The Deputy implied that he did.

That is an important issue. The Deputy has come in week after week to create a melodrama that is disproportionate to the issue.

We look to the leaders to supply leadership and set examples. Maybe we can stop the clock for a minute. People have understandably been asking the Taoiseach if the Minister will come in and answer questions. He has told us that he wants the Business Committee to meet. I will convene a meeting of the Business Committee this afternoon with a view to seeing what arrangements can be made for the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, to come in. Are we saying that he does not want the Minister to come in tomorrow?

Deputy Kelly is shaking his head at me.

We want a statement.

I need to get clarity on this. Members have repeatedly requested that the Minister for Justice come to the House. I ask Deputy McDonald to resume her seat. The Taoiseach has come in and said that he would request the Business Committee to meet. I am prepared to convene the Business Committee this afternoon, with a view to arranging a meeting here at which the Minister for Justice would answer the questions that Members have.

Are we now saying that we do not want to do that? Is that what Deputies are saying? If that is the case, let us move on, please.

A Cheann Comhairle, can I assist you in this so that we have perfect clarity?

We are not saying anything of the sort. If the Ceann Comhairle is convening a meeting of the Business Committee with a view to the Minister presenting herself, making a full statement and taking questions and answers, that is precisely what the Opposition has sought now for weeks on end.

That is precisely what I heard the Taoiseach say and it is precisely what I am proposing to facilitate.

I ask then that the Taoiseach take to his feet and confirm it will be a full statement, with questions and answers, as per precedent in this House.

The Taoiseach said that the Business Committee should convene to decide how this should be transacted. I presume he is not going to interfere with how the Business Committee decides.

I presume he is not going to interfere with how the Business Committee decides.

Does the Ceann Comhairle want the Business Committee to meet so that the Government Chief Whip will let-----

Let us go ahead.

Let us have the meeting this afternoon.


So you do not want have the meeting.

That is disingenuous.

Excuse me, Deputy McDonald. I am not being disingenuous. I am proposing that we take up an offer that was not available heretofore and we work out the arrangements for conducting a question and answer and statement situation tomorrow. There is nothing disingenuous about that.

On a point of order, on behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I welcome that. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to stop the clock and allow the other Deputies who want to speak to do so. We have spent ten or 12 minutes on this issue which has taken up all the time. That is not fair to all the Deputies from all parties. We should add more time because this has gone way over time.

We will wind the clock back. Sure God knows, we are used to being here all night in any event.

We are not going to start back to that issue. Deputy Kelly has already asked a question. I ask the Taoiseach to resume his seat. Deputy Kelly has had his say.

I asked a question which the Taoiseach did not answer. It had nothing to do with the earlier issue.

The Taoiseach already answered the Deputy at length.

He has not answered me.

I ask the Taoiseach to be brief, please.

It is not too late to brief party leaders on level 5-----

Take the battery out of the clock.

-----and I have no issue in talking to them, as I have consistently in the past. What I said earlier stands. I cannot stress enough that the Minister, Deputy McEntee, is anxious to come in and deal with the issues that Deputies want dealt with.

Will the Taoiseach answer the question on travel and healthcare workers that I asked him?

This is becoming farcical. We are moving on.

During Leaders’ Questions yesterday, the Taoiseach indicated that restaurants would get proper notice of when and, most importantly, how they can reopen following the expected ending of level 5. Today, Micheál Lehane said it is likely to be 7 December when gastropubs and restaurants will open. The Irish Independent has run a story that pubs can serve indoors but only if they have a chef on site. The Tánaiste has gone on a solo run saying gyms, barbers and shops will open first and gastropubs and restaurants will potentially open after that. This is creating major anxiety in the city centre constituency I represent. I am not asking the Taoiseach to give me clarity today on an exact date. Will he tell me what constitutes proper notice, as referred to by him yesterday? Is it a seven-day or five-day period? What will constitute proper notice for restaurants and gastro-pubs in order that they may open at some point following the cessation of level 5?

I am not responsible for the various media commentary and reports. I always admire the capacity of good hard-working journalists to secure information from various sources, which continues apace. I stated at the commencement of level 5 that the landing zone for the Government was in and around level 3, and I have been saying that consistently. If the Deputy looks at what is allowed for at level 3, he will get a fair idea of what would be permissible if we keep the numbers down and low this week. The last two days have been good but it does not take rocket science to work out some of the main areas that would be permissible under a level 3 scenario. I indicated yesterday, in answer to a question from Deputy Richard O'Donoghue who spoke about the need for preparation, that I believe preparation is important and that adequate notice will be given to the various sectors that require that notice.

My question concerns reports on staff who have been let go from tracking and tracing during the Covid-19 crisis and are being replaced by people on CPL contracts. I asked the Minister a question, which was passed to the HSE, on the numbers of those redeployed from other services who come from speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and the psychologist professions. I asked this because there are tens of thousands of parents who are anxiously waiting for those services for their children. They include the parents of Shay, an eight-year-old boy from Walkinstown who has Down’s syndrome and has no speech and language, occupational therapy, physiotherapy or psychology services. In this context, the HSE tells me that. as of 18 September, 16 speech and language therapists and eight occupational therapists were redeployed to tracking and tracing. Given that those waiting lists for desperately needed services are expanding exponentially, can the Taoiseach guarantee that no speech and language, occupational therapist, child psychologist or other desperately needed personnel is or will be redeployed to tracking and tracing?

That is the objective. It is my view that there should be a separate dedicated workforce for swabbing and contact tracing. That is what the HSE has been undertaking. That means redeployment back to the front line and to key services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and other services. Those personnel are best deployed in those scenarios to look after people such as the young boy the Deputy mentioned. That is what we are going to do and very significant progress had been made on that. In my view, we should not have therapists doing the contact tracing work. There may be some incidents where someone could be in a managerial role-----

I asked about the guarantee and the 18 speech and language therapists..

I have said what our aim and objective is. There are people who will build up experience over the first and second phase. We do not want to throw all of the experience out immediately. Some people who know how to operate and manage the system will, I imagine and surmise, be required but our objective is to have therapists back providing therapy services.

As a new Deputy in the 33rd Dáil, I would like to be associated with comments regarding two families who were in mourning over missed scans today. I also disassociate myself from some of the political grandstanding that has taken place in the last few minutes.

The Deputy is a Government supporter, for God's sake.

Amendments to the Brexit omnibus Bill are set to introduce a new threshold of €75 to all non-EU passengers who avail of the VAT retail export scheme, enabling travellers outside of the EU to benefit from VAT relief from goods purchased in the State and brought outside the EU. This proposal will in effect move the threshold from a de facto minimis amount of 1 cent to €75. In County Waterford bus tours and cruise visitors avail of this VAT rebate when purchasing Waterford Crystal, woollen crafts and traditional gifts and mementos. This tax change will affect a significant number of retail businesses and geographic areas. For Waterford Crystal, it will remove nearly 60% of all US customer sales and will have a similar effect across the south and west coasts. This is being done to try to solve a problem with UK visitors. I ask the Taoiseach to look at this measure to see if some other form of enforcement can get us over this problem?

To be fair, the threshold was set much higher, at €175, and the Minister for Finance brought in amendments to bring it down to €75. There will be a need for a threshold from an administrative perspective. This is informed by Revenue and its assessment of the volume, data and so on. I have no doubt the Minister will keep this under review but he has brought the threshold down significantly from where it was in the recent amendment.

The people of Ireland have suffered greatly with Covid-19. They have been magnificent. Self-employed and ordinary people need guidance. The Taoiseach promised the leaders two and a half weeks ago at a meeting that he would have a further meeting with us to give notice to people of how they could recommence their business. The people will, in the spirit of Charles J. Kickham, the people of Mullinahone and T.J. McInerney, rise up because they are fed up with this and with being dangled on a string.

The Taoiseach never stood behind a counter or worked in a shop and so does not understand the damage, trauma and stress affecting families. Would he please at least respect them by giving them notice of what they can and cannot do in the coming weeks? They are on their knees. The banks and Revenue Commissioners are knocking at their doors and the Taoiseach is giving them no guidance. He is disrespecting the other parties in this House by not having the meetings he promised with Dr. Holohan and others to get the science and data, which he has not been given. He has not been given any science or data; he is operating on a wing and prayer and he will not even allow the people to say prayers.

The only person acting on a wing and a prayer is the Deputy. He has been acting on a wing and a prayer for a long time, as far as I can see.

How dare the Taoiseach.

We have informed the Deputy.

The Taoiseach has not.

He has met NPHET but he has consistently been in the denial camp regarding the deadly impact of Covid-19 on people's lives and health.

The Taoiseach is denying it.

It has a terrible impact on people's lives and health, and the Deputy should accept that. That said, we will provide guidance. Throughout every level, we have provided guidance. I am aware of the severity of the virus in terms of the impact-----

Show me the science and statistics-----

-----it has had on people's incomes and livelihoods. Covid-19 has been a terrible virus that has upended societies across the world. Given its low level of incidence, Ireland is at least in a much better position relative to its European partners and other EU member states. That is never said by the Deputy.

KPMG attempted overnight to grab stock former Debenhams stores in Limerick and Tralee. Just after 1 a.m., security hired by KPMG arrived at the scene in Limerick and cut the chains securing the gate to the loading bay. An unmarked truck with a Dublin registration arrived at around 4 a.m. but the workers had gathered and prevented the removal of the stock from the store. The truck continued to Tralee and those on board tried, at around 7 a.m., to grab stock from the former Debenhams store there. The workers in Tralee stopped them again. I am aware that the Taoiseach met representatives of the Mandate trade union last week and the shop stewards. He said he would get back to them early this week. It is urgent that he do so. I do not believe he has got back to them yet in respect of the mediation process he was talking about. I ask him to get back to them. When will he do so?

The Deputy is correct in that I met representatives from Mandate and the shop stewards last week. I did say that we were going to activate a third-party intervention. We want the basis of that third-party intervention to be effective and, hopefully, achieve a resolution. I appeal to all parties concerned to give space to facilitate the intervention of a third party that might - I am not saying it will - effect a resolution to this long-running strike and situation for the women concerned.

I now call on Deputies whose names were carried forward from yesterday.

Almost 1,000 farmers have not been paid their basic payment scheme payment because the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine states it is awaiting a software update to allow it to finalise their applications. This is unacceptable. It is not an acceptable reason not to pay the farmers a payment that has been due to them since 16 October. Farmers are depending on it to pay for rations, to pay contractors and to live. The Taoiseach should investigate this and get the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to make sure that his Department pays the more than 1,000 farmers who are awaiting their basic payment scheme money.

On the same issue, farmers' incomes, we were advised yesterday on "RTÉ News" that there may be a two-way ban next year on a wide range of foods, including sausages, mince and prepared meals, moving between Great Britain and the island of Ireland. Industrial sources have warned that the problem could result in major disruption to existing meat supply chains between the island of Ireland and Great Britain and could reduce the price of cattle with immediate effect. What action did the Taoiseach take yesterday, last night or this morning in this regard? How are the Ministers for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Foreign Affairs addressing this problem, which is of massive concern to the farming community of Ireland?

That was not exactly the same matter but the Taoiseach may address the two matters.

On the first matter, I will talk to the Minister for Agriculture, Food at the Marine about the delay in payments because of a software update. I take the Deputy's point that there should not be delays of this kind in respect of payments to farmers who need the income.

On the question raised by Deputy Danny-Healy Rae, Brexit is not good news. It has created many challenges. The issue the Deputy referred to is due to different stances being adopted by the various parties to the negotiations on Brexit and the operation of the protocol to the withdrawal agreement. There have been technical discussions. Technocrats have been involved in trying to iron out details of that kind. The story is not over yet and the negotiations are continuing. We have an input in that regard through the joint committee in relation to the operation of the protocol relating to Northern Ireland and the Republic. We will obviously seek to prevent what the Deputy describes from materialising. It would be damaging.

The long-running saga concerning access to medicinal cannabis for sick adults and children goes on. It is a cause that has been championed by Vera Twomey on behalf of her daughter Ava and thousands of others in the country. I have always maintained that where credit is due, it should be given. I will give the Taoiseach credit today because he has helped Vera on more than one occasion over the past few years to jump the huge hurdles in her battle to gain access to medicine for her daughter and others. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, who is running a mile from this serious issue. Can the Taoiseach guarantee that the arrangement for the delivery to Ireland of medicinal cannabis products can be made permanent with the appointment of a distributor or whatever measures are necessary to provide security of supply in the future for Ava Barry and many more who need this medicine to save their lives.

This has indeed been a long-running saga. I have worked with Vera Twomey and others on an ongoing basis in regard to this matter. To be fair to all concerned, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and others, an arrangement had been made to facilitate the distribution of medicinal cannabis, from Holland to Ireland, during the Covid-19 pandemic. That has been facilitated by the State. Obviously, after Covid - we all want to get to a post-Covid world - measures will have to be adopted to facilitated the distribution in Ireland of the various medicinal cannabis products in order to prevent families from having to travel abroad. People obtain different types of medicinal cannabis from various distributors or manufacturers. That is important as well.

I thank the Environmental Protection Agency for the fine work it has done in the context of its report on the condition of our environment. I take some encouragement from the progress being made on greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report shows broadly that we have a huge amount of ground to make up. At a time when Covid dominates and many of us are re-evaluating our priorities, it is crucial that the Government also re-evaluate its priorities in this regard. I would like it to be essential in the new national economic plan that is to be published shortly that we secure a major commitment to State infrastructure for offshore development, waste infrastructure, which is deficient in Ireland, and water infrastructure, which needs to be developed. I draw the Taoiseach's attention to slippage in respect of some of the actions in the climate action plan, particularly regarding the maritime Bill, wind regulations and the rolling out of electric vehicle chargers. It is understandable that there has been a delay because of Covid-19 but we need to get these back on track.

I have taken a personal interest in the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill. I have been working with the Minister concerned and the Attorney General to get that complex legislation, which has been around for a bit, published and on the Statute Book because it is central to realising the economic potential of our seas and so forth. The Deputy is correct that the State will prioritise because the legislation is also key to offshore development. We regard offshore wind as a key factor in the future economic development of our country and also in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The Deputy is correct regarding waste infrastructure. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform prioritised water infrastructure in both the July stimulus package and the budget and will continue to do so.

This is because it is very important infrastructure for economic development and in terms of environmental protection and quality of water.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett is next. The Deputy is not lost for words, is he?

I was not expecting to be called, but it is fine.

I am hoping to be called. Will Deputy Boyd Barrett hurry up?

We are carrying Deputies forward from yesterday.

The issue of online content moderators needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It might be of interest for the Taoiseach to know - and I will ask him a little more about this later - that in the United States, online content moderators did not go into work at all between March and October because of Government restrictions there. Here, they have been working in large workplaces for the past number of months. To my mind, this is in complete breach of the level 5 restrictions. The Taoiseach will be aware that former members of this group of workers are taking legal cases here and in the United States over the post-traumatic stress disorder they suffered as a result of the content they dealt with for Facebook and others in outsourced, badly-paid jobs. Is this issue on the Taoiseach's radar and does he intend to address it?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. It has not been raised with me previously. If he wants to make a submission on it, he should do so. I will check it out further to see what the situation is in respect of online content moderators.

I have been contacted by the parents of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who has been on the waiting list for an assessment for autism for 12 months. They have been told he will have to wait a further six to eight months for this. This child is practically non-verbal. He needs speech and language therapy immediately but he cannot access it until he is assessed. The parents have been told that some staff are still redeployed to contact tracing, which is adding to the delay. Another parent was in contact. Her son is six years old. He attends the local school with an attached autism spectrum disorder unit. He was receiving services from Enable Ireland until he turned six. Then he had to return to the HSE list. He has been told that he will be waiting for services for five years. These families cannot afford to pay for these services privately and they should not have to contemplate doing so. The Minister of State with responsibility for disability services, Deputy Rabbitte, has indicated that she will ensure no one has to wait longer than six months for an assessment. I welcome that, but the first family will have been waiting 18 to 20 months before they get the assessment. Moreover, assessments need to be followed up by immediate access to whatever therapies are required.

Will Deputy Tully submit the details of that to the Minister of State? My understanding is that there will be some capacity to support parents to access services privately, if they can. I do not believe in this rule that has applied within the HSE and in bureaucracy to the effect that because a person has not had an assessment he cannot avail of therapy services. Some common sense and cop-on need to be applied. A student does not have to wait for assessment in the education environment and provision can be made.

I am unclear about why the six year old to whom the Deputy referred had to leave Enable Ireland services and go back to HSE services. Again, I do not know the individual details. My view generally is that all service providers, including the HSE, exist to look after children. Advocacy for children should be centre stage. All agencies and services should work together and co-ordinate to ensure that children get the services they need.

I spoke to the Taoiseach yesterday about the hospitality sector. One fact for the Taoiseach is that from March until today, 0.002% has been the outbreak rate in the hospitality sector. The Irish Hotels Federation statistics are available. Every minute and every second that the Taoiseach takes before he tells them will count. The Taoiseach should give the statistics on the level that people can start ordering food. It will be at a certain level if we sustain this level. Those in the sector want the Government to address them now. The Government should stop acting like this. I said it yesterday. It is like if people do secret Santa. The Government should tell them that if we are at 100, then we are going to open. The Government should give them the statistics now. The figure of 0.002% is the figure provided by the Irish Hotels Federation. It covers the period from March, when Covid-19 first arrived.

First, the statistics do not show that. International data shows hospitality can be problematic. Those are facts and data.

I am talking about Irish statistics.

Irish data will also show a story relating to Irish hospitality or certain elements of it.

Will the Government publish the data?

The Government is destroying lives.

Does Deputy O'Donoghue want an answer or not?


I do not actually believe the statistics that Deputy O'Donoghue provided. We can park that because I do not believe that is the important point. International and nationally, where there is congregation and so on, the infection rate relating to the virus rises. The challenge really will be to try to control it. As we move from level 5 to level 3, the issue will be one of risk. No one in Dáil Éireann or the Government wants to destroy or undermine anyone's livelihood. I am sure that should be clear to everyone at this stage. All we want to do is protect lives and livelihoods. That is the only agenda. We want to do this as effectively as we can. Yet, there will be issues around this and people will get notice. They will get plenty of notice.

I want to raise with the Taoiseach the issue of the catheterization laboratory in Sligo University Hospital. At the moment there is a temporary cath lab that is available a couple of times per week. This is an ongoing issue and there has been a campaign to put in place the service for many years. People who live in the north west and who need the service are being deprived of it.

There is also an issue with the recruitment of a cardiologist. Dr. Donal Murray is due to retire. He told me personally that getting a replacement is a major issue because of the absence of a cath lab in the hospital. People who want to come and work as senior cardiologists want to ensure they have access to the proper services. The denial of that service to the people in the north west is having a knock-on effect. I appeal to the Taoiseach to speak to the Minister for Health to ensure that the service is put in place as quickly as possible. It is almost 30 years since it was first mooted.

I do not know whether Deputy Kenny has spoken to the HSE regionally or the save-the-hospital group in terms of what their plans are for the recruitment of the cardiologist and the cath lab. That is the level at which these decisions are being taken. Significant resources were made available by the Minister for Health in the budget. The amount involved is €4 billion in total: €2 billion to cover Covid-19; and €2 billion for additional services on top of the current services. There are substantial resources available. Operationally, it is clearly a matter for the HSE to get those issues sorted.

This is safer gambling week. In 2013, Fine Gael published the general scheme of a gambling control Bill. In 2018, the Fianna Fáil Party published the Gambling Control Bill. The Bill passed Second Stage but lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Dáil earlier this year. These two parties are now in government. Yet, the Minister of State with responsibility for public health and well-being, Deputy Feighan, told me last week that it will be the end of 2021 before he finishes drafting gambling control legislation. Why will it take over a year to draft legislation that is already sitting on the shelves gathering dust? The Fianna Fáil Party said it would be a political priority for the next Government.

This is an important issue. The Minister of State with responsibility for law reform, Deputy James Browne, is prioritising it. Obviously, he will be consulting with the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, and others. We will be progressing this as quickly and effectively as possible.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to ensuring that regional towns and villages act as hubs for sustainable development. Yet, towns in my county have seen the Expressway services cut, especially towns like Cashel, Cahir, Roscrea and Nenagh. When the restrictions are lifted and we beat this pandemic, my town of Cashel will be hardest hit by the withdrawals. We depend on the Expressway service to bring tourists to our town. We have no public transport. It is time the Government and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Ryan, woke up. The Minister fobbed us off last night by talking about the railway from Limerick to Ballybrophy. We need the Expressway service. We need public transport in rural towns like Cashel for students going to college and people going for hospital appointments. We depend on it. The two Expressway services in Tipperary are being taken away. I am asking the Taoiseach to intervene or make a statement on it for the people of Tipperary.

The Minister for Transport has answered the question on these issues in terms of the decisions of Bus Éireann relating to Expressway services. The company was of a view that there was a sufficiency of capacity on those particular routes.

I will engage with the Minister, Deputy Ryan, on the matter.