Ceisteanna - Questions

Citizens' Assembly

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

1. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a report on the citizens’ assemblies pledged in the programme for Government. [52334/21]

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

2. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline for the citizens' assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [52452/21]

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

3. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach the plans for the establishment of the citizens’ assemblies promised in the programme for Government. [52351/21]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

4. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline for the citizens' assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [53054/21]

Mick Barry

Question:

5. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline and order of citizens’ assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [53183/21]

Alan Kelly

Question:

6. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress towards implementing the citizens' assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [53389/21]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

7. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline for the citizens' assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [54392/21]

Paul Murphy

Question:

8. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline for the citizens' assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [54395/21]

Mick Barry

Question:

9. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline and order of citizens’ assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [54650/21]

Gary Gannon

Question:

10. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Taoiseach the expected timeline for the citizens’ assemblies committed to in the programme for Government. [54774/21]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, together.

Under the programme for Government, the Government aims to establish citizens' assemblies to consider the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin; biodiversity; matters relating to drugs use; and the future of education. Consideration is being given to the appropriate methodology for future citizens' assemblies, but any decisions in this regard will be guided by the experience of the gender equality citizens' assembly which completed earlier this year.

An independent researcher was appointed by the assembly to monitor and record, among other things, the perceived deliberative quality of the assembly. This report, published in July 2021, will assist in decisions on future assemblies' use of virtual meetings. Officials from my Department are engaging with officials from relevant Departments on the approach to be taken with regard to these assemblies. It is envisaged that they will be established after the Dublin mayor citizens' assembly has completed its work, but the specific timing of each assembly has yet to be confirmed. I am open to suggestions on prioritising the sequencing of these four assemblies. However, I believe the citizens' assembly on biodiversity is very important, as is the one on drugs. Deputies have asked me specifically about those two at different times in the Dáil.

By their nature, citizens' assemblies require large gatherings to be truly effective. There has, therefore, been an unavoidable delay in the establishment of the next citizens' assembly due to the public health situation.

If the Taoiseach is looking for suggestions on which citizens' assembly to prioritise, I will obviously plump for the one on education. The sector faces a number of issues, as the Taoiseach knows. Leaving certificate reform springs to mind and the joint committee on education is in the middle of discussions on that. The reform of July or summer provision also needs to be seriously addressed given that only 20% of eligible students had access to the programme in the past year. I welcome progress made on the school meals programme. Not every child has access to two or three meals per day and a school setting provides an opportunity in that regard.

I have to mention school transport. We speak about this issue in the House every summer and it is one that we dread as September approaches. It is another aspect of education we need to address. Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, designation for schools is a nettle that we need to firmly grasp by removing from principals and boards of management the discretion to determine whether a school has an ASD class. The Department needs to step in and allocate ASD provision in schools on the basis of demand. It should not be at a board's discretion.

The programme for Government commits to convening a citizens assembly to consider matters relating to drug use. The report published yesterday by the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force demonstrates the urgency of this commitment and starkly highlights the devastation addiction causes for family and communities. Demand for task force services in Tallaght has doubled over the past decade and this reality is replicated throughout this State. Despite this, task force funding remains at pre-2008 levels. The autonomy of task forces has also been radically reduced since the HSE took over funding them in 2015. This policy decision has stymied the ability of local task forces to respond effectively to localised challenges. The HSE does not understand the mission of the task force network. Accessing funding, which is limited, continues to be too difficult and slow and does not recognise local need. I am especially concerned for the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, as the Department of Health, with the assistance of the HSE, is actively pushing out community and voluntary members. I would like an engagement with the Taoiseach on this matter.

I am deeply disappointed and alarmed by the Taoiseach's continuing opposition to a citizens' assembly on Irish unity. A live and growing conversation is under way about reunification and there is an absolute need to start planning for constitutional change. It is my strong view that the onus is on government to prepare for a referendum and the prospect of reunification. I hope the Taoiseach will, eventually, in the time left to him as Taoiseach, choose to step up to this challenge and responsibility on this front.

A woman in her 50s was attacked on Sunday evening in Fermoy while out walking her dog. A man in his 20s or 30s approached her and struck her to the ground without warning and sexually assaulted her. He fled when two witnesses answered her cries. The Garda says it would have been far more serious had gardaí not arrived. The woman was taken to hospital. This is just one of the latest examples of Ireland's epidemic of gender-based violence. The latest evidence from Trinity College and Maynooth University shows 49% of women and 19% of men have experienced sexual assault or harassment. The Citizens' Assembly on gender equality is demanding action on these issues. It wants gender-based violence to be covered in schools, guidelines to be produced on specialist training for judges and lawyers and the appointment of a victims and survivors commissioner as an independent voice and advocate. I support these measures and others which go beyond them. I ask the Taoiseach whether he will support these recommendations and whether, on foot of them, he will now stop the blocking of the sex education Bill put forward by Solidarity in the previous Dáil.

When will the citizens' assembly on drug use be established?

There has been call for action on the tsunami of crack cocaine addiction in south-west Dublin. The issue has been all over the airwaves and it will become bigger and bigger in the years ahead. It is not isolated to Dublin. Ailbhe Conneely has covered the issue in depth for RTÉ, as the Taoiseach is probably aware, over the last two days. The Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force found that one third of those seeking help for addiction are women. The task force is only meeting 25% of demand. There is a tsunami of cases and issues here. When will a citizens' assembly on drug use be established?

I think this is the sixth time I have raised this issue in this House. The Citizens' Assembly on gender equality has published its recommendations, one of which focuses on the definition of the family. I have raised a case in the House involving a gentleman who lost his partner. The couple made a number attempts to get married but she was very sick and subsequently passed away from Covid-19. We need a referendum to amend Article 41 of the Constitution. The way in which families come together has changed and family units are different in modern Ireland. When will the Citizens' Assembly that deals with this specific area conclude? When will we be able to put forward a referendum to change this article? This is necessary. There are over 150,000 cohabiting couples - the figure is 158,000, to be precise - affected by this. These couples pay tax on everything together, but when it comes to the State looking after them in their hour of need, they are discriminated against. The Citizens' Assembly has taken a view on this, which is good. However, we need to see action on a referendum on Article 41 and changing the position in the laws we bring in here. We should start with the social welfare Bill in the next couple of weeks.

The programme for Government includes a commitment to convene a citizens' assembly on drug use. I am sure the Taoiseach saw some of the harrowing coverage yesterday of what has been described as an epidemic of crack cocaine use in Tallaght. People’s lives and communities are being destroyed, yet the total figure allocated to address crack cocaine use in budget 2022 across the entire State was €500,000. Funding for the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force remains €100,000 a year lower than it was ten years ago. That funding still has not recovered from the cuts of more than 20% in mainstream and interim funding between 2009 and 2013. The people involved in the drugs projects are doing incredible work in extremely difficult circumstances but they are being let down by the State. They do not need words of sympathy or claps on the back. They need actual supports and resourcing. At a minimum, what is needed for the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force is an additional €1 million in funding. Will the Taoiseach agree to commit to that funding and to properly funding the task forces around the country?

I thank all the Deputies for the points they have raised in the context of this question. Deputy Pádraig O’Sullivan, who tabled one of the questions, called for a citizens' assembly on education. That would be useful. Other mechanisms have been used in the past, such as the National Education Convention where all the various partners in education convened for a general discussion in seeking out information on educational policy more generally.

Measures were taken in the budget to expand the schools meals programme. I accept that scheme can go further. There is a review under way on school transport. My view, in the context of the Government decision to halve the cost of public transport for younger people, is that in addition to all the other metrics that are used, we should look at school transport now through the prism of climate change. I have made this point to the Minister for Education, Deputy Norma Foley, as well as the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath. School transport is a complex scheme that has evolved over the years. It seems to me that having more kids on buses and fewer parents driving cars to schools, where that is feasible and possible, is part of the climate change agenda. I have asked that this be fed into the review of school transport that is under way in the Department of Education.

All schools should provide for children with special needs, as should all organisations, including those in the voluntary sector. Many schools are not State owned. As regards special schools and so on, the idea that schools will not accept a class or additional pupils has grown and that has to stop. The State will provide additional places and funding for them. Given that we have had mainstream special education over the last 25 years, it is important, particularly at post-primary level, that everybody is on board with inclusivity, as well as with facilitating access to schools for children with special needs. That needs to happen. The Government is working towards achieving that.

There are other issues with the examination review. There have been number of reviews of the leaving certificate. The leaving certificate of today is much different from what it was 25 years ago. There has been incremental change. The big challenge has always been to balance the anonymity of the process, whereby it is not who you are or who you are connected to but, rather, results that matter. That is a good thing. On the other hand, the leaving certificate facilitates rote learning to an excess. There needs to be reforms around the leaving certificate assessment model. The national qualifications framework, NFQ, provides opportunities for all students, irrespective of points and so on, to access their course or programme via different routes. That should ultimately be the optimal way forward.

Deputy Barry raised a sad and unacceptable incident that took place in Fermoy where a woman was attacked and sexually assaulted. I hope the person is brought to justice for that assault. The Deputy also raised the issue of gender-based violence. The recent Citizens' Assembly on gender equality produced recommendations on which the Government will follow through. We are not blocking any sex education Bill. However, there is an important exercise under way involving the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, and interested parties. It is a review of the sexuality in education programme in primary schools and second level schools. It is important that it be informed by experts and that we get a proper, up-to-date, modern programme for sexuality education in our schools.

On Deputy Kelly's point, we need a Citizens' Assembly on drugs. As I said earlier, I believe we need a broader response. I have asked officials to draw up a broader programme on areas of disadvantage, not only around drugs but deprivation more generally and creating pathways for people and progression within areas of disadvantage. Funding of about €6 million has been allocated to the national drug and alcohol strategy this year. A further €1 million will be allocated and we will look at whether we can do more. I understand that €1.2 million has been allocated to CHO area 4.

The report on crack cocaine use is very worrying-----

The Taoiseach is out of time.

----but the whole drug epidemic across the country is worrying. We intend to pursue that. Deputy McDonald raised a similar issue.

On the constitutional issue, I happen to believe that citizens' assemblies are useful. However, there is a broader issue. First, we need an Oireachtas approach to Article 41.

On the future of the island and on unity, I was in government before the Good Friday Agreement and right through the process. I know what it takes to build up relationships and work with people. I do not need lectures on that. I do not need to be put into a corner via slogans. It suits one particular party to do that. That is not the way to go on this issue. I regret the tone that has entered into this debate of trying to pin people into a corner and saying “this person is opposed to this” and “this person is against that”. I have been for reconciliation of all the people and traditions in this island for all my political life. I intend to pursue that. I have my view on the best mechanisms to develop shared understandings and relationships. We should continue with that.

It was one of the great achievements of a Government that I was in along with other parties. The lessons about how we got there are still applicable today and should not be dismissed too easily.

United Nations

Seán Haughey

Question:

11. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the United States of America and his attendance at the United Nations in New York. [48197/21]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

12. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the United Nations in New York. [48308/21]

Paul Murphy

Question:

13. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the United Nations in New York. [48309/21]

Alan Kelly

Question:

14. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly. [48291/21]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

15. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent attendance at the United Nations General Assembly. [53056/21]

Mick Barry

Question:

16. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the most recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. [53430/21]

Gary Gannon

Question:

17. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly. [54775/21]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 17, inclusive, together.

I travelled to the United States on 19 September for a five-day programme in New York centred around the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, and Ireland’s presidency of the UN Security Council. On 21 September, I attended the opening of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly where I met with a number of world leaders. I delivered Ireland’s national statement to the General Assembly on Friday, 24 September urging the assembly to heed the alarms sounding for conflict, Covid and climate, and to commit to immediate action.

I confirmed Ireland’s contribution to global vaccine sharing, with the donation this year of 1.3 million doses to low-income countries, mainly through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, COVAX, with a further significant donation to be made in 2022. Ireland has contributed over €200 million in support to global health since the outbreak of the pandemic.

I chaired a debate in the United Nations Security Council on climate and security on Thursday, 23 September. Ireland is calling for the effects of climate change on peace and security to be taken into account in any analysis of the causes of conflict or approaches to peace-building.

I spoke at an event convened by the European Union and United Nations on women in conflicts and reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to the protection of women and girls in conflict and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace and security processes.

I also attended a European Union-Africa leaders' dinner, where I participated in a discussion on strengthening co-operation between the European Union and the African Union. I met bilaterally with many leaders while at the UN, including formal meetings with the President of Vietnam and the President of Colombia, discussing matters of shared interest, including Covid-19, economic recovery and conflict resolution. I also attended a Pacific Island Forum event, meeting the President of Palau and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

During my wider visit to New York, I met the new Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul. We discussed responses to Covid-19, the importance of connectivity between the United States and Ireland and the current state of Kerry football, among other issues.

I addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, 22 September on Ireland-United States relations; Ireland’s tenure on the United Nations Security Council; our commitment to multilateralism through the European Union and the United Nations; and Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol. I also took part virtually in President Biden's global vaccine summit.

My programme also included economic, cultural and community events. I met representatives of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland client companies and visited NBC Universal to discuss current and future filming and production opportunities in Ireland. I attended a building dedication ceremony at the new Irish Arts Center in New York. I met representatives of the Ireland Funds and leaders of Irish community organisations who briefed me on their critical support of the Irish community in New York during the pandemic.

The Taoiseach had a full-on visit to the United States. In delivering Ireland's national statement to the UN General Assembly in September, the Taoiseach rightly referred to the three Cs, namely, conflict, Covid and climate. These three issues disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations in least developed countries.

I ask the Taoiseach about climate and security and his chairing of the debate on this topic at the UN Security Council. I also believe that the effects of climate change on peace and security must be factored into any analysis of the causes of conflict or approaches to peace-building. We are talking here about the least developed countries and small island states as if these countries did not have enough to cope with already. I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, at COP26 of €10 million in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation for these countries. What progress has been made on the need to accept the link between climate and security? Are Russia, China and India opposing this concept? Will the Taoiseach outline the current position in this regard?

Climate change puts our collective security at risk. It exacerbates conflict and insecurity. It goes without saying that the recommendations of the COP26 summit need to be implemented and that we must redouble our efforts with regard to the sustainable development goals. Where are we with regard to linking the concepts of climate and security?

I have a question on vaccine inequity. As we know, nobody is safe until everybody is safe. We have heard that said often in this House. It is a moral issue too. There is a crucial need for universal, equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. There have been calls for a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, waiver for Covid-19 vaccine technology and a waiver on intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines. The EU is not convinced that this is the right approach to take. We support the COVAX mechanism and have contributed substantial funding to it. Are we doing enough to address vaccine inequity for the countries affected in Ireland and at European Union and United Nations level?

The United Nations conference at Rio de Janeiro, among other things, developed a set of principles known as the forest principles, which relate to how important forestry is in combating climate change and biodiversity destruction. The Taoiseach and others attended the UN-convened COP26 and the Taoiseach was at an environmental session in New York where he discussed the issue of climate. Forestry is key in this, as has been said on a number of occasions. Last week, I raised with the Taoiseach the issue of the public forestry company, Coillte, selling 39 acres of forestry in a public amenity area in Enniskerry, which features Bronze Age stone pits, a right of way for the Dublin Mountains Way, important geological landscapes and so on. The Taoiseach, quite insultingly, tried to cast aspersions on the veracity of what I said but then said he would look into the matter. What I showed the Taoiseach was an advertisement from an estate agent's website, advertising the sale of this land for €250,000, an extraordinary price.

The public forestry body was selling off a public amenity forest in the context of COP26, protecting biodiversity, the forest principles of the United Nations and so on. It subsequently confirmed to me in a letter that the sale was going ahead. I went up to the forest where I saw "For Sale" signs all over the place. I am glad to say that I got a call from Coillte this morning stating that it had decided, although the sale was at an advanced stage, to abandon it. That is a victory. It also subsequently suggested that it was not really going to sell this forestry, even though there were "For Sale" signs everywhere and, as of this morning, it was advertised on the website of an estate agent. Why did members of the public or the Opposition have to point the Government to the fact that the State forestry company was selling off a public amenity forest? Why was there no proper oversight?

The Deputy is over time.

Has the Taoiseach looked into the matter? Does he believe there needs to be a role for greater oversight of the sale of public forest land by the State forestry company?

I see the Minister, Deputy Ryan, had an article in The Irish Times last weekend in which he approvingly quoted Greta Thunberg saying, "No more blah, blah, blah." It is supremely ironic. How else can the words and actions of this Government on climate be described but as "more blah, blah, blah"? To take the example of transport, last week the Government announced a target of up to a 50% reduction in emissions in transport in the climate action plan. This week, we heard that a key investment in public transport infrastructure is to be postponed by another decade, and presumably beyond that. Second, there is a commitment to reduce by between 22% and 30% emissions in agriculture, the highest emitting sector in this country. This is completely inadequate. The Government refuses to tell the truth about the necessity to shift to a different model of farming and away from intensive beef and dairy farming, as well as how small farmers can be supported and do better with the model of regenerative farming.

Furthermore, the Government today announced a €70 million fund going to processors involved in that intensified, unsustainable production. The Taoiseach asked me two weeks ago who I meant when I referred to big agribusiness. Look at the list of the companies getting the €70 million. It includes Glanbia, Dawn Meats and Liffey Meats. The Taoiseach can read the list for himself.

Last month, the Israeli Government designated six prominent Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organisations. In an attempt to justify the unjustifiable, Israel circulated a secret dossier, which does not contain a shred of evidence to back up its outrageous claims. Did the Israeli Government or the ambassador to Ireland provide the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, with a copy of this dossier? The Oireachtas Friends of Palestine group hosted a briefing yesterday with three of the human rights organisations affected, two of whom are funded by Irish Aid. All of the groups are now effectively deemed illegal organisations by Israel, which means their offices can be closed, their assets seized and their staff arrested and imprisoned. This is outrageous.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch published a damning report that further exposed the human rights abuses of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli authorities and called out their crimes of apartheid and persecution. Let us be clear that designating these human rights organisations as terrorist brings Israel in line with the worst days of South Africa's apartheid regime. What engagement has the Taoiseach had with European and international leaders on the matter? What concrete action will the Government take to demonstrate in full its condemnation of Israel's latest attack on the Palestinian people's human rights and those who advocate for them?

COP26 is a United Nations climate change summit but there are more than just nations represented there. More than 500 accredited people at the COP have links to the fossil fuel industry. More than 100 fossil fuel companies have representatives in attendance at the conference. There are more fossil fuel company representatives at COP than in the largest national delegation there, namely, the Brazilian delegation. The number of accredited persons with links to the fossil fuel industry is greater than the combined number in the delegations from the eight countries most affected by climate change over the past 20 years. Fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber the official indigenous constituency there by 2:1. Fossil fuel representatives are members of the official delegations from 27 nations, including Canada and Russia. Does the COP represent the nations of the world or the fossil fuel corporations of the world? Will the Taoiseach join me in saying fossil fuel corporations should be shut out of the conference and future conferences on the grounds that they are part of the problem and not part of the solution?

Deputy Haughey raised the issue of conflict, Covid and climate. I pay tribute to our ambassador at the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, and her team. They have performed excellently on behalf of the country in advancing our agenda, particularly during the presidency of the Security Council.

In terms of the motion and the theme we are moving, there were reservations from Russia, India and China to different degrees. That work is ongoing and the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, and the Minister, Deputy Coveney are also working on that linking of climate with security as a core responsibility of the UN. It was well received on the day and much proactive work went into it in advance of the meeting and will continue. In the nature of UN politics it will progress and, in my view, ultimately be successful.

On vaccine inequity, I accept that no one is safe until everybody is safe. That is a basic mantra. The European Union is the largest exporter of Covid-19 vaccines to the world. It will continue efforts to increase global vaccine production capacity to meet global needs. Since last December, over 800 million doses have been exported to over 130 countries by the European Union. It is the only continent that had no export bans.

For Africa, what Europe is saying is that we will provide €1 billion in support of production within Africa of mRNA vaccines, which will give that continent long-term sustainable production capacity for vaccines and medicines that will be based on the mRNA platform. That is the most effective way to do this. We are working with other states in the WTO on flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement but there was much sloganeering around that which would not have achieved one extra vaccine. I am interested in getting vaccines into the arms of people in low-cost countries. Europe is again leading the way in concrete measures.

It is leading the way for the pharmaceutical companies. It is killing people. It is disgraceful.

Senegal and South Africa will be early beneficiaries of the idea to develop production capacity in those countries and the continent.

On Deputy Boyd Barrett's point, because I was in COP and so on I was not in a position to have an in-depth conversation with Coillte. I am not in favour of the sale of forests. There can be local circumstances from time to time, such as sports clubs or national bodies looking for facilitation, but overall I want to grow more trees and we need to do so, particularly native species. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has overall authority in respect of that. We will seek a meeting with the Minister and Coillte to get their up-to-date position in terms of broader policies. I see the role of Coillte and Bord na Móna as being to fulfil the climate change agenda of the Government.

Deputy Paul Murphy raised "blah blah blah", a phrase that was actually coined by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, at the beginning of COP26. On the investment, I do not know whether the Deputy represents workers, but the workers of Charleville will welcome the investment in the plant there. The workers in Mallow will also welcome it. It is about going to higher end value, less commodity and diversifying to other markets, rather than relying on the British market.

On non-governmental organisations and Pegasus spyware, we support Palestinian human rights defenders as a Government and have consistently done so financially. We are a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition. We believe the human rights people have offline must also be protected online and we must ensure that emerging technologies privilege freedom, transparency and an open and tolerant society. In terms of the NGOs listed, we support Al-Haq financially and Addameer. We maintain a high level of oversight of our NGO partners and have robust controls. We do not accept the actions that have occurred in this respect.

Deputy Barry raised fossil fuel companies. I did not meet any fossil fuel company in Glasgow. I met with other Heads of State, with the young students from UCC I mentioned and with a group from the Dingle Peninsula who were developing a coalition of interests in terms of alternative energy provision.

Should they be excluded from the COP?

I said to the Deputy earlier that gas will be a transitional fuel but he did not come back to me on it. Ultimately, fossil fuels have no role in the future of energy supply and we have taken legislative steps to deal with that, as the Deputy knows.

Departmental Schemes

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

18. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the preparation of the language scheme of his Department. [47860/21]

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

19. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aindrias Moynihan den Taoiseach cuntas a thabhairt ar an slí ina bhfuil an Acht na dTeanga 2003 ag feidhmnú ina rannóg. [54413/21]

Áirítear leis seo cohórt foirne leordhóthanach a fhostú a bhfuil inniúlacht leordhóthanach acu an leibhéal seirbhíse a chomhlíonadh agus deiseanna a chur ar fáil chun cuidiú le baill fhoirne a n-eolas agus leibhéal úsáide a fheabhsú. Cé nach dtugann mo Roinn leibhéal suntasach éilimh faoi deara ón bpobal ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge, aithníonn sí an tábhacht atá le baill fhoirne a bheith ann atá líofa i nGaeilge agus atá in ann seirbhísí a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge agus leanfaidh sí ina bhun sin.

The Irish language will have full working rights in the EU from 1 January next year. Mar thoradh air sin, beidh gach reachtaíocht nua curtha ar fáil i nGaeilge, lena n-áirítear rialacháin, treoracha agus cinntí. At EU level, therefore, statutes will only be made available in Irish, including regulations, directives and decisions. It is astonishing that while we have made this progress in the European Union, the same language rights are not enjoyed here at home. In fact, the Government is appealing a High Court judgment that reaffirms the constitutional duty of the State to provide Irish language versions of Acts of the Oireachtas. Surely the Taoiseach agrees that all Acts, statutory instruments and regulations should be made available in Irish at the same time as the English version. It is unacceptable that the State is actively seeking to withhold language rights from its own citizens, rights that the European Union now provides. Níl sé sásúil beag ná mór go bhfuil an Stát seo ag déanamh a lán-dhícheall chun cearta teanga a shaoránaigh féin a choimeád siar - cearta ar a bhfuil an tAontas Eorpach ag freastal anois. Will the Taoiseach take a stand for Irish language rights and call on the Minister to withdraw his appeal? What action is envisaged to increase the number of High Court judges able to hear cases through Irish, as currently there is only one?

Tá ról ceannaireachta ag oifig an Taoisigh agus tá deis an-mhaith aige cúrsaí Gaolainne a chur chun cinn, ní amháin sa tír seo ach go forleathan ar fud na cruinne. Tá ardán mór agus láidir ag an Taoiseach agus a oifig i measc pobal na Gaolainne ar fud na cruinne. Tá an cheathrú scéim teanga i bhfeidhm ina oifig faoin tráth seo. Bheadh athnuachan le déanamh air sin an bhliain seo chugainn agus bheadh athbhreithniú ar siúl faoin tráth seo. Tá an Rialtas ag tabhairt chun cinn Bille nua a athróidh an tslí go ndéantar láimhseáil ar na scéimeanna teanga agus mar sin de. Mar sin, ní bheinn ag súil go mbeadh aon athnuachan á dhéanamh ach beidh athbhreithniú le déanamh. Cad iad na buaicphointí atá le feiscint mar chuid den athbhreithniú atá an Rialtas ag déanamh? Cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis na scéimeanna éagsúla a bhí i bhfeidhm in oifig an Taoisigh? Can iad na spriocanna atá amach romhaibh? Tá sé in aigne leis an mBille nua go mbeadh 20% d’earcaigh nua sa Státseirbhís ábalta a ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaolainn. An bhfuil na huimhreacha sin nó an líon sin daoine ann cheana féin in oifig an Taoisigh nó cathain an bhfuil an Taoiseach ag súil a leithéid sin a bhaint amach?

Ó thaobh na ceiste a chur an Teachta McDonald, tá an méid atá ráite aici dochreidte. Níl an Stát i gcoinne saoránaigh na tíre seo ó thaobh na teanga de. Táimid ag tabhairt gach aon tacaíocht don teanga agus do mhuintir na tíre ó thaobh na teanga a chur chun cinn. I find it very difficult to accept the language Deputy McDonald uses to exhort me to take a stand for the Irish language. There is a sense that we are somehow against it. I have learned Irish. I do everything I possibly can to promote Irish. I speak Irish. I want people to enjoy Irish. I have never weaponised Irish for political purposes and I regret that the Deputy tends to do that too much.

I certainly do not.

We are not endeavouring to stop anybody-----

The Taoiseach might answer that-----

An rud is tábhachtaí ná rudaí a dhéanamh i ngach slí gur féidir linn. Tá TG4 ag ceiliúradh 25 bliain ar an bhfód agus rinneamar an-chuid chun é sin a chur i bhfeidhm, le daoine eile.

Ó thaobh na ceiste a chur an Teachta Aindrias Ó Muimhneacháin, agus muid ag déanamh an athbhreithnithe ar an scéim agus ar an Acht, an rud is tábhachtaí ná déileáil leis an bpobal. Tugtar freagra i nGaeilge ar chomhfhreagras atá faighte i nGaeilge, mar shampla.

Maidir leis na buaicphointí, déanaim tagairt do na foilseacháin, preasráitis, óráidí, cáipéise agus beartais. Tá sé geallta inár scéim teanga go bhfoilsítear ar a laghad 30% de phreasráitis i nGaeilge. Tá ábhar statach agus grafaicí mo Roinne ar na láithreáin ghréasáin gov.ie agus merrionstreet.ie ar fáil sa dá theanga. Áirítear leis seo earcaíocht, oiliúint agus forbairt ó thaobh cumas teanga a fheabhsú. Ó thaobh poist shainithe Gaeilge, sainíodh dhá phost, ceann amháin i m’oifig phríobháideach agus ceann eile i Seirbhís Fhaisnéise an Rialtais. Ó thaobh seirbhísí i nGaeilge a phoibliú, cuirimid custaiméirí ar an eolas ar bhonn réamhghníomhach faoi na roghanna atá ar fáil chun tabhairt faoi ghnó linn i nGaeilge. Aontaím go gcaithfimid níos mó a dhéanamh chun freastal ar dhaoine atá ag iarraidh a ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaolainn agus sin atá ar bun againn. Tá mo Roinn sásta é sin a dhéanamh, agus gach aon Roinn eile, ach tá dualgas ar gach Roinn an tAcht a chur i bhfeidhm agus déileáil leis an bpobal.

I gcoitinne, tá an-chuid tacaíochta fós á thabhairt, gan amhras, do na Gaelscoileanna agus na Gaelcholáistí. Tá ceann nua an-mhór oscailte i gCarraig Uí Leighin le déanaí. Tá TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta ag fáil an-chuid tacaíochta ón Rialtas. Tá eagraíochtaí éagsúla ar fud na tíre atá ag déanamh a ndícheall an Ghaeilge a chothú agus tá mé ag tabhairt tacaíochta do na heagraíochtaí sin chomh maith.