Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

Before we begin, rather than me coming in and out, I ask Members to kindly keep to the time limits.

Last week, we had data from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, showing that the average personal injury award has fallen by 50% as a result of the new personal injury guidelines which came in to effect on 24 April of this year. This has halved the cost of awards relating to personal injury claims by insurance companies. It is clear that the reduced cost in claims is not being passed on to consumers in the form of reduced premiums. A survey I conducted since the new personal injury guidelines came in to effect found that 58% of respondents had seen their premiums increase, while only 22% saw reduction fall in their premiums. This trend has been echoed in data from the Alliance for Insurance Reform. That can only mean that these savings are being pocketed by the insurance industry to prop up its profit margins. The Tánaiste knows only too well that that was not the purpose or the objective of the new personal injury guidelines.

Yesterday, the Central Bank published a report on the employer and public liability insurance market. It highlights the insurance crisis faced by small businesses and voluntary and community groups for far too long. It found that between 2013 and 2019, the average premium for employer and public liability insurance increased by 24%. For certain sectors, this increase is shocking and completely unworkable. The insurance costs in the arts, entertainment and recreational sectors have more than doubled. Unaffordable and unworkable, the dysfunction in the insurance market damages communities, jobs and local economies. The report also found that claim costs fell by 34% over the past decade, with the number of claims made falling by 47% during the same period. We can see the same pattern when we look at the Central Bank report on the motor insurance market published earlier this year which showed the same trends of claims falling but premiums increasing. That was before the new personal injury guidelines came into effect and awards were cut by 50%, with claims costs slashed for insurance companies.

In my view and that of my party, the insurance industry needs to be brought to heel. Premiums need to be reduced for motorists, businesses and all consumers and this needs to be done without delay. We must ensure that the reduced costs in claims are passed on, euro for euro, to consumers. I have no doubt that everybody in this House believes that is the way we need to proceed. There are ways to fix this.

In April, I introduced the Judicial Council (Amendment) Bill which would require the industry to report to the Central Bank on how it has or has not passed on these savings, euro for euro, to its customers. If it has not everybody would know about it and it would allow the Dáil to hold the industry to account and to put pressure on the insurance companies to do the right thing. Similar regulations were adopted in Britain last year in response to the reduction in whiplash awards. Insurance companies that operate here, such as Aviva, AXA, AIG, Allianz, Zurich and RSA are subject to these regulations in Britain and have to show that, pound for pound, the reduction in awards were passed on to their consumers. This has to be done in an audited way. I say to the Tánaiste that there should be no less oversight here.

The Government let the industry off the hook when it delayed my Bill which had passed Second Stage for nine months. That was an incorrect decision which was made for narrow party-political reasons and which, unfortunately, has served the interests of the industry and undermined the interests of consumers. Can the Tánaiste work with us? I urge him and the Government to reverse course and to stop delaying the Bill in question and provide the Dáil with a tool to hold this industry to account. The latter will ensure what we all want to see, namely, that the reduction in awards will be passed on to consumers without delay so that we can bring the costs involved to a more reasonable level?

I thank the Deputy. We are making good progress in implementing the action plan for insurance reform, which is something I am personally committed to. As Tánaiste, I chair the ministerial committee which oversees its implementation and I am determined as the Minister responsible for business but responsible also for consumers to see the cost of insurance falls for businesses, motorists, homeowners and everyone else over the coming year.

The personal injury guidelines are in place, as acknowledged by the Deputy. The Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021 has been passed and will be enacted soon. This legislation will help us to crack down on fraudulent and exaggerated claims. The National Claims Information Database is giving us a treasure trove of information that is helping us to understand in a much better way than we did before how insurance is priced.

The Central Bank report on employers’ liability, EL, and public liability, PL, mentioned by the Deputy is an excellent piece of work. I encourage anyone interested in the issue of insurance to read it. I know that the Deputy has done so. It tells us a great deal more on how insurance is priced and how it works. It is interesting to see, which the Deputy will know from the report, that the average businessperson pays approximately €2,000 a year in EL and PL, and 90% or more of these individuals pay less than €5,000 per year. The profit margin for the companies is approximately 5%, and during some periods these companies are actually making losses. It is important to acknowledge that.

The insurance industry has to reduce its premiums and that is the message that it is hearing from me and from the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming. It is important, however, to acknowledge what was in the report. If one pays €100 in insurance, the profit margin for the company is approximately €5. That, perhaps, was not fully reflected in the Deputies earlier comments. It is interesting to know that profit margin figure for companies. The vast amount of what is paid in insurance used to pay people who have made claims, legal costs, reinsurance and administration costs. Approximately 5% is the margin taken by the company.

There has also been a reduction of approximately 50% in awards by the PIAB for minor injuries as opposed to those for catastrophic or severe injuries, which are different. That is, however, just in the context of two months of data taken from this year compared with an entire 12-month period prior to that. We have no data yet as to what is happening when these cases go to court. Are the judges upholding the amounts awarded by the PIAB or are they increasing these amounts? A little bit more time will be needed before we see that.

Do I expect to see premiums fall? Yes, I do. As the Deputy pointed out in the past, insurance companies work by making provisions for claims that they believe they will have to pay out. It is now reasonable to assume that they have made more provision than was necessary and that, therefore, they should be in a position to reduce premiums and to do so quickly, if not immediately.

As I have said previously, we are completely open to the Deputy’s Bill.

We are giving it consideration. As is the case with any legislation relating to the insurance industry, we are required to consult the Central Bank on it and we will do that.

I welcome the Tánaiste's comments on my legislation. He has said before that it was a sensible idea. We have translated that into legislation and it has passed Second Stage. Unfortunately, however, the process of putting a nine-month stay on it just does not make any sense and nor does it make any sense that we cannot look at the Bill or even, as a committee, ask the Central Bank its views on it for nine months. This can serve only the insurance industry's interests. The Tánaiste talked about two months' data and no data from the courts and the profit margins of insurance companies and that was before awards were slashed dramatically. I heard him ask how much insurance premiums should come down because of the reduction. He was not able to answer and I could not answer that question either because we do not know. That is why that legislation is really important. It makes the insurance company satisfy the Central Bank that these rewards were completely passed on to the consumers and done in an audited way. I therefore ask the Tánaiste not to take a delaying approach, which is what has happened in this regard. We now have the same approach to motor insurance and public liability. The cost and the number of claims are going down but premiums have gone up. Let us lift the stay on this Bill, allow it to go to pre-legislative scrutiny, hold the industry to account and bring transparency to this area.

A nine-month timed amendment does not mean that nothing can be done for nine months. That is certainly not my interpretation of what a timed amendment means. It is prudent to ask the Central Bank for a view on the legislation. We have accepted legislation Deputy Doherty has proposed on consumer contracts and we are open to accepting the legislation he is proposing now. However, as is the case with any legislation that affects financial services or industries such as insurance, we are required to get the view of the Central Bank, and I will consult my colleagues to see if we can get that view over the summer. I do not see why we would be required to wait nine months to do that. I might be wrong but I undertake to check up on that and come back to the Deputy.

We move on to Páirtí an Lucht Oibre. An Teachta Bacik, an ea? I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat, a Theachta. Ní bhfuair mé deis comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat go hoifigiúil agus fáilte chroíúil don Dáil a chur romhat.

Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and I thank the Tánaiste for his warm words last week following my by-election result. I am deeply honoured to be here to represent Dublin Bay South in the Dáil. It is a great honour indeed.

Following yesterday's health committee meeting, I wish to raise the pressing matter of the proposed new national maternity hospital, which we might say is both a local and very much a national issue. During the by-election campaign the issue of women's health and maternity healthcare was raised with me many times. I heard from women who were due to give birth and who were deeply concerned about the ongoing unduly restrictive practices being adopted in many maternity hospitals and from partners of pregnant women anxious about their exclusion from labour wards. We urgently need to ensure better and more consistent provision for women's healthcare and maternity hospitals. In that context I also heard deep frustration from many people about the tortuous legal negotiations which have been ongoing for so many years surrounding the proposed new national maternity hospital. I heard about the many serious and valid concerns which remain about the ownership and the clinical independence of the proposed hospital. All of us absolutely accept the need for a new national maternity hospital. We agree it should be co-located with an adult acute service. However, without State ownership of the land on which the new hospital is to be built, valid concerns will remain about the clinical independence and the ethical governance of the hospital. We saw an all-party consensus emerge on this in the Dáil in the motion passed on 23 June. The key question I have is what the Government has done since 23 June to ensure that the hospital will be built on State-owned land and that these concerns will be met. We did not get an adequate answer on this at yesterday's health committee hearing.

As someone who campaigned for many decades for repeal of the eighth amendment, I was so glad that in 2018, with repeal, we finally got to a situation whereby women here in Ireland could access the legal abortion and reproductive healthcare we need. However, that progress within our laws with repeal is not reflected in the negotiations on the new maternity hospital, especially, I fear, not in the structures around the Catholic successor company into which ownership of the site is to pass. I have called this syndrome whereby religious entities pass ownership of their assets into an ostensibly lay company the developer's wife syndrome, whereby we see male developers handing over ownership of assets to their wives or spouses in order that the legal liability will no longer attach to the person who holds the assets. My serious concern is that this legal device will be used in this transaction with the national maternity hospital and we will see a Catholic successor company continue to hold ownership even for a long lease. In the eyes of the church, 149 years is not a long time. I am deeply concerned, therefore, that without State ownership we will not have the clinical independence and guarantees that women will have access to all the services we need.

Once again, I congratulate the Deputy on her election to Dáil Éireann. Her arrival in this House is long overdue.

I thank the Tánaiste.

It might be said that she played the long game, and sometimes that is the most successful strategy to adopt. I am also very pleased as a Trinity graduate to welcome her to the House and sorry to lose her from the Seanad's Trinity constituency. I am sure there will be an interesting contest for that by-election. I believe it has already begun.

As for the wider issues, as Minister for Health, one of the things I am very proud and privileged to have been able to do was to make sure that Ireland for the first time had a national maternity strategy to ensure we had the highest standards of care for pregnant women and neonates. That strategy is being implemented and funded. I am glad to see that is the case and I am determined to keep a watching eye over that as Tánaiste. We also have new guidelines on partners visiting maternity hospitals. It is the view of the Government and the HSE that partners should be able to attend a labour ward or ICU if their newborn is there and should be able to attend for important scans, such as anomaly scans. I understand that is not the case in a small number of maternity units for local reasons and I am disappointed that that is the case, but we need to allow local infection control managers and clinicians to make local decisions in certain circumstances.

As to what is happening with the national maternity hospital project, an engagement is, as I understand it, under way or at least about to be under way involving all the partners involved, that is, the HSE, the Department of Health, St. Vincent's and the National Maternity Hospital itself. What we seek to achieve is the co-location of the new national maternity hospital on the campus of St. Vincent's. This is the best option for women and children. I have no doubt about that. I know people talk about alternative sites. There is not a better alternative site that provides co-location with an adult hospital with the facilities and standards St. Vincent's has. Going down that route, I think, would case a delay, and nobody can say how long that delay would be. It is therefore the right decision to co-locate the hospital with St. Vincent's, and I am determined we should go ahead with that. The Government has red lines and these have moved on since the Mulvey report. We are insisting that we own the hospital, that we own the building. We are insisting that there is a cast-iron legal guarantee that any service that is legal in this State should be provided in the hospital, whether gender reassignment surgery, terminations or assisted human reproduction. These are absolute red lines. I think we have achieved that. There is still issues around the governance, representation by the State, by the people on the board and the lease. It is by far our preference that we own the land, but it is a little like Lesotho being surrounded by South Africa. It is not as straightforward as people may think. The site is a piece of land surrounded more or less on all sides by St. Vincent's Hospital and its campus. We need to make sure that any arrangement we have around any lease is one that we are satisfied with and that is long enough.

Even the Catholic Church would consider it a long time.

I thank the Tánaiste for the kind words and the response but it is simply not good enough to say the Government would prefer to own the land yet not be able to do something about it. We have a compulsory purchase order process. That should be used if St. Vincent's will not pass the land to the State. The question remains why St. Vincent's Holdings CLG will not simply gift the land to the State and why it is so anxious to retain ownership. Without a sufficient answer we risk simply sleepwalking into the default position we have had for so long with our education and health institutions in this State, whereby religious orders or Catholic successor companies continue to hold the long-term asset, the land, yet the State pays - in this case €800 million - to invest in a new building and the salaries and running costs of that new building, a building which will be on land which will ultimately revert into the ownership of religious entities or religious front companies.

That is simply not good enough for women's healthcare in Ireland in the 21st century. That is why I am asking for clarity in regard to the State not simply preferring to own the land but that something urgent will be done by the Government to ensure the State will own the land on which the new hospital is to be built.

It is important to say that negotiations are still under way and are about to resume soon. We are not ruling out CPO as an option but we need to understand that the outcome of a CPO process is not guaranteed and would certainly result in delay, with additional costs, if it is successful, on top of those the Deputy mentioned. Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good, and we need to have an open mind as to what the best option is with regard to the governance arrangements, the lease arrangements around the land and the ownership of the land.

One issue that is probably not well understood in this State is that across the world, even in places where there is a strong public health service, such as in the UK, with the National Health Service, NHS, or in Germany or France, it is not unusual for hospitals to be owned by a voluntary body, a charity or a private company. It is the case that parts of the NHS are still governed by royal charter, private companies and charities. We need to ensure we do not lose the opportunity to build a world-class national maternity hospital because of issues such as this.

Last week, the Taoiseach told the Dáil the Government is committed to recognising the sacrifices that public sector workers, in particular front-line healthcare workers, have made. Twelve months ago, I raised with the Taoiseach the need to properly recognise the Trojan work of front-line healthcare workers, in particular all those across our hospital and community health services, from cleaners to consultants. I raised it again with him four months ago.

I have no doubt the Government is committed to providing recognition to staff but it seems, from reading between the lines, that the need to recognise front-line healthcare workers - doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners, porters and others who place themselves at risk by going to work every day to keep us safe and to care for those who are seriously ill - is now caught up in some relativity battle across the public service. I remind the Tánaiste of what the Taoiseach said last week, namely, that the Government is committed to recognising the sacrifices that public sector workers have made. That, I believe, is the reason the HSE, when it sat down with the health unions last week, stated it had no mandate from the Government to negotiate any bonus payment.

Staff on the front line within our health service have been put in a unique position during this pandemic. Right across the public service, staff have worked in challenging circumstances, but no group of public sector workers have put their lives and those of their families at risk to a greater extent than our healthcare workers. Many of them have put their hands into their own pockets to do so, paying for alternative accommodation in order that they would not infect a vulnerable person in their home or for additional childcare, if it was available, in order that they could cover for sick colleagues. I could go on.

Many of these staff are physically and mentally exhausted, facing into the fourth wave of this virus, dealing with the significant impact of the cyberattack, covering staffing shortages due to Covid infection and long Covid and now facing a backlog in waiting times for appointments and procedures. These staff need time off to recover before they break down completely. As the Tánaiste will be well aware, exhausted healthcare staff are a recipe for mistakes, with potentially fatal consequences for patients and very significant financial consequences for the State. We must now - today - recognise that time off is imperative for their health and give proper recognition to staff on the front line, as the Scottish Government has done by paying every NHS worker a bonus of £500.

I think we will all agree our healthcare workers have done an amazing job throughout the pandemic so far. We can be very proud of our public health service. It is much maligned and has its imperfections, but the pandemic has proved to us that it is much better than many people believed it was, and it really stood up and scaled up in the way we asked it to during the pandemic. While all public servants, including healthcare workers, have received modest pay increases over the course of the pandemic, I do not think they are adequate to recognise the value of the work that was carried out during the pandemic, and I know the Deputy will agree with that too.

The Government wants to recognise the work that was done in a special way. That could be done through a financial bonus or additional leave taken over a number of years, but there are complications and factors we need to take into account. First, the pandemic is not over yet - I guarantee that - and that will become apparent to people over the next couple of weeks. It is not just healthcare workers who have put their shoulders to the wheel when it comes to the pandemic. Many other public servants have too, in the Department of Social Protection, Revenue, my Department - ensuring that businesses got the grants they needed - the private sector in areas such as retail, transport and GPs, for example, as well as the many volunteers I have met during my shifts at the vaccination centres, and they need to be recognised too. It would be a mistake not to look at this in the round, and that is what we need to do.

Even among healthcare workers, there has been significant variation, with some people having to do twice the work they would normally have done, some being redeployed and others actually having reduced workloads because their service was shut down or suspended through no fault of their own. This is not straightforward. It is something we are going to have to work out and negotiate, and it is going to have to be fair and be funded.

As this might be my last opportunity to talk about Covid in the Chamber before the recess, there are a few things I would like to say. First, the pandemic is not over. We are entering a new phase of the pandemic. We have vaccines now, which has weakened the connection between cases and hospitalisations and deaths but has not broken it, and we have a virus that is more infections than ever before. At the start of the pandemic, older people were the most vulnerable. We asked them to stay at home and that saved lives and prevented much illness, but things have changed.

Now unvaccinated people, that is, people who have not been fully vaccinated, are the most vulnerable. Over the course of the next few weeks, people who have not been fully vaccinated are at greater risk than ever before because this virus is so transmissible. Two hundred people have been in ICU in the past two months, 199 of whom had not been fully vaccinated. We are seeing a major surge in cases, almost entirely among younger people and people who have not been fully vaccinated, and we as a Government and a Parliament have a responsibility now to protect those who have not been fully vaccinated. I ask them over the summer, at least until they have been fully vaccinated, to please avoid socialising indoors, please keep their social contacts to a minimum, please avoid non-essential foreign travel and please wear a mask, even outdoors, in crowded scenarios. People who are unvaccinated are more at risk over the next few weeks than at any point during this pandemic. It is not over.

Fifty-two weeks ago, I said to the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann that if it was not possible to reward healthcare workers with pay increases or some form of a bonus system, the minimum we should offer them is additional paid leave. It would be time to spend with their families, with whom they have sacrificed precious family time, and to recover from the physical and emotional tiredness they are undoubtedly feeling. The Taoiseach was generous in his response, stating that the Government would examine my suggestion and proposal.

In the spirit of the Taoiseach's response of last July, I sincerely ask the Government not to postpone the much-needed recognition until the end of the pandemic, not to incorporate it into some broader public service pay battle but instead to move on the need for recognition of healthcare workers now.

I agree with the Deputy's sentiments and will certainly discuss them with the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Health, but I will restate what I said earlier. This pandemic is not over. We are heading into a difficult couple of weeks when the number of cases will soar and those of hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths will increase, sadly. People who are unvaccinated are more at risk in the next few weeks than at any point since this pandemic began, and we need to get that message across to people. Our hospitals and health service are going to be busy again.

I think we can avoid, and we certainly want to avoid, any reintroduction of restrictions. Things are different now because of the vaccines, but still a huge number of people have not been fully vaccinated. Cases are increasing and they are at greater risk than they ever have been since this pandemic began, because of Delta. There is a risk that if they do not take care, they will overwhelm our hospitals and put those healthcare workers under enormous strain again.

The final message I have from this House before we rise for the recess is to say to unvaccinated people that they are at very high risk and should treat this pandemic as seriously as they did at any point since it began.

I have raised the following issue a number of times in the House. It concerns the deep crisis facing our forestry sector. Almost a year ago, a forestry Bill was introduced by the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, in which she pledged to address the ongoing difficulties and backlog in respect of licences. Almost a year later, 6,000 licences are caught up in the backlog. It is unacceptable. Earlier this week, we met members of the IFA and all the stakeholders involved in forestry. Yet again, they are pleading with this Government to bring forward emergency legislation to address this issue once and for all and protect the 10,000 jobs that are at risk. This Government is well able to bring forward emergency legislation at the drop of a hat when it so wishes. The situation in forestry is putting livelihoods at risk. Forestry is very important in my constituency of Laois-Offaly. Many people are involved in it in terms of the sawmills, hauliers, foresters and farmers planting. It is an ongoing crisis and we need emergency legislation for both forestry and horticulture, where another 17,000 jobs are in jeopardy. What is very noticeable about this Government is that it seems to be totally disconnected from the reality, from the lives and from the hardship faced by working people. We need protections for these livelihoods yet the Government is dragging its feet.

From speaking to the real experts, I know there are lots of measures that could be brought forward. That is the mistake the Government is making. It does not speak to the people on the ground and consult with the real experts - the stakeholders. They are the people with the knowledge. From speaking to those stakeholders, it has been brought to my attention that many improvements could be made in addition to emergency legislation such as leaving out the thinning and management aspects involved in the process, which makes the process more cumbersome and more bureaucratic than it needs to be. We know there are issues in terms of the changes to appropriate assessment but there are other jurisdictions that do not face the issues and crisis we face. We are importing timber and the cost of building materials and building new homes have increased considerably. This is unacceptable. Everybody is paying the price for the Government's lack of action. We need urgent action. Once again, I ask the Government to bring forward the emergency legislation for the forestry and horticulture sectors where up to 27,000 jobs could be protected, which I think is significant.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue, about which she feels very sincerely. I know her passion for this issue, which she has raised previously. However, her comment about the Government was a bit unfair. We live in the same country as her, get elected by the same people as she does and talk to people on the ground every day just like she does. It is unfair to make comments about other people in this House in that way. We are all elected and we are only elected precisely because we engage with our constituents and talk to people on the ground all the time. That comment was very unfair.

It is not true.

The Government is very aware that there are serious issues with the licensing of forestry operations that are having a negative impact on the sector. This is as a result of necessary changes to the appropriate assessment procedure due to the European Court of Justice and Irish rulings relating to the protection of Natura sites. We are dealing with these issues robustly and a number of urgent steps have been taken to resolve them. These include the implementation of the Mackinnon report, which is well underway through Project Woodland. The project board and working groups have been meeting regularly since early March while a project manager and a business analyst have also been engaged. There is significant investment in resources with more ecologists, forestry inspectors and additional administrative staff assigned to licensing. We saw improvements in licensing output during the first half of this year. June was the highest month to date. Over 1,770 licences have been issued so far this year. This is a 29% increase on the same period last year. While accepting that significant further gains are needed, we are at last moving in the right direction. The average output for the past seven weeks alone is 95 licences per week with farmers being the largest beneficiaries of this receiving 75% of licences. The Department received just over 3,000 applications to date this year. This includes a batch application for 1,800 new applications from Coillte to cover its output for the next two years.

Of course, licence output is only one measure of performance. The more realistic metric is the volume of material licensed, which is what really matters to the sector. In this regard, felling volumes are 77% higher than at the same point last year, the area for afforestation is 19% higher, roads licensed are 121%, Coillte's 2021 felling programme is fully licensed and it is working with the Department to ensure the availability of this supply to the market.

I made the point, which was factual, that this Government is disconnected. I have spoken to supporters of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and I am genuinely and honestly telling the Tánaiste that there is a serious level of disconnect and the Government is not reaching out to the stakeholders and listening to the experts. It is all very well and good having a tokenistic meeting but following through on this and the commitments on the programme for Government is another matter. The Government is missing its own climate action targets. It has committed to planting 8,000 hectares annually. It is missing its own targets. I am hearing from constituents. I represent everybody in the constituency. Like the Tánaiste, I was elected but unlike him, I listen to the people on the ground all the time and I carry through on my commitments.

It is very obvious that this Government cannot see the wood for the trees. Some 27,000 jobs in horticulture and forestry are at stake. This matter could be resolved easily if the Government had the political will to do so and if it listened to its own supporters, it would be done. However, it is because rural Ireland is neglected all of the time and is not top of the agenda for the Government. This neglect of rural Ireland is the real issue.

We could all engage in cheap shots in this House.

It is not. It is true. I am telling it like it is.

As I say, we can all engage in cheap shots in this House and question each other's motivation. I could point out that this morning, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister of State, Deputy Heydon, were here for an hour and a half and took questions on any issue people raised such as agriculture, farming, fishing and forestry yet not a single Rural Independent Group Deputy turned up to ask those Ministers any questions. I could say that this-----

On a point of order, we did not have any questions. That is unfair. I want the Tánaiste to withdraw that remark. He knows the process for parliamentary questions. That is scandalous.

That is incorrect. The Tánaiste is misleading the Dáil.

The list of submitted questions is there.

We did not have the opportunity. The list rotated.

People had opportunities to intervene. As is often the case, I am being shouted down because the truth hurts.

Because the Tánaiste is telling lies.

The truth hurts.

Could we have this corrected because this is not the way the procedures run? The Tánaiste is giving misleading information. We are just asking for it to be corrected. It is very unprofessional of the Tánaiste to make such a charge here. It is not factual.

On a point of order-----

There is no point of order.

The Question Paper for today has not a single oral question from the Rural Independent Group to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is black and white. I have in here in my hand.

I think they want a row before the holidays again to make sure they are relevant. There is a list of questions from designated people. These are outrageous and scurrilous lies.

I pointed out the truth to these Deputies.

We are not allowed to have a question today. We certainly would have one if we were allowed.

It is in black and white. I challenge any Deputy to look at the first five pages of this document. It is clearly there.

Our names are not on that list.

Could we have a little respect for the Chair? In response to Deputy Griffin, that was not a point of order. It was an abuse of process. I ask the other Deputies to show a little respect. I am moving on from Leaders' Questions. I have made a ruling. It was not a point of order and is not acceptable.

Bhí mé chun rud dearfach a rá. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais go dtí Reachtaíocht a Gealladh. Seo, mar is eol don Teach, an lá deireanach den Dáil agus beidh sí ar ais i mí Mheán Fómhair. Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a thapú chun mo bhuíochas agus buíochas na dTeachtaí Dála uilig a chur in iúl don fhoireann uilig ó bhun go barr. Ní féidir leis an Dáil feidhmiú gan an obair iontach agus dheacair a dhéanann an fhoireann uilig. Gabhaim míle buíochas leo.

I was hoping we might end on a more positive note. The Dáil goes into recess today. In defence of all Deputies, I say we do not go on holidays but the Dáil is going into recess. I take this opportunity to wish us all the best during the summer. I particularly convey my thanks to Peter Finnegan and all the people who work here, from the top to the bottom. That might be the wrong expression; it is nicer in Irish, ó bhun go barr. I thank the ushers, the cameramen, the cleaners and everyone who works in the restaurant downstairs. The Dáil could not function without working as a team. It has been very difficult not just because of the Covid pandemic but for many reasons including sitting late into the night with many of the staff not knowing what time they will get to go home. I convey my thanks on behalf of the Deputies here and I am sure they all agree with me.