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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Jun 2022

Vol. 1023 No. 4

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

I move:

Tuesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Referral to Select Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the reports by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2020 and 2021 (without debate)

- Motion re Referral to Select Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Ireland's participation in four Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Projects (without debate)

- Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Second Stage) (to adjourn, if not previously concluded, after 3 hours and 25 minutes, and any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage on Wednesday)

Private Members' business shall be the Motion re Appropriate School Places for all Children, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Institutional Burials Bill 2022 (without debate and any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Report Stage of the Institutional Burials Bill 2022)

- Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 (without debate and any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Report Stage of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022)

- Statements on “Annual Transition Statements” (not to exceed 145 minutes)

- Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Second Stage, resumed, if not previously concluded, and Committee and Remaining Stages) (Second Stage to conclude within 30 minutes, and any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage, but in any event no earlier than 5 p.m.; Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken no earlier than 5 p.m. and to conclude within 45 minutes)

- Institutional Burials Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages) (to conclude within 2 hours and 30 minutes)

- Electoral Reform Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages) (to conclude within 90 minutes)

Private Members' business shall be the Motion re Energy Security, selected by the Rural Independent Group.

Thursday's business shall be the Statements on Special Educational Needs (not to exceed 210 minutes). Thursday evening business shall be the Motion re Report entitled "Report on Reducing Emissions in the Transport Sector by 51% by 2030".

Announcement of Proposed Arrangements for this week's business

In relation to Tuesday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the extent that Government business may continue after 6.12 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be interrupted after 3 hours and 25 minutes to take private members’ business, with consequential effect on the commencement time for the items of business following, as well as on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 10.30 p.m.: Provided that if Government Business concludes before the 3 hours and 25 minutes has expired, private members’ business shall be taken on the conclusion of Government business;

2. the Motion re Referral to Select Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the reports by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2020 and 2021, shall be taken without debate;

3. the Motion re Referral to Select Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Ireland's participation in four Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Projects shall be taken without debate; and

4. any division claimed on the proceedings on Second Stage of the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2022 shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage on Wednesday, but in any event no earlier than 5 p.m. on that day.

In relation to Wednesday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the extent that-

(i) oral Parliamentary Questions to the Taoiseach pursuant to Standing Order 46(1) shall not be taken, with consequential effect on the commencement time for the SOS and for Government business;

(ii) Government business may continue after 8.45 p.m. in order to allow the proceedings on the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 to conclude; and

(iii) the weekly division time may be taken later than 8.45 p.m. and shall, in any event, be taken on the conclusion of proceedings on the Electoral Reform Bill 2022, with consequential effect on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 9.30 p.m.;

2. the Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Institutional Burials Bill 2022 shall be taken without debate and any division claimed thereon shall be taken immediately prior to Report Stage of the Institutional Burials Bill 2022;

3. the Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 shall be taken without debate and any division claimed thereon shall be taken immediately prior to Report Stage of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022;

4. the Statements on 'Annual Transition Statements' shall not exceed 145 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 135 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time;

5. in relation to the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2022, the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes and any division claimed thereon shall be taken no earlier than 5 p.m. but in any event immediately prior to Committee Stage; and

(ii) Committee and remaining Stages shall be taken no earlier than 5 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice;

6. the proceedings on Report and Final Stages of the Institutional Burials Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 2 hours and 30 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; and

7. the proceedings on Report and Final Stages of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

In relation to Thursday's business, it is proposed that:

1. the ordinary routine of business as contained in Schedule 3 to Standing Orders shall be modified to the extent that topical issues pursuant to Standing Order 37 may be taken earlier than 7.24 p.m. and shall, in any event, be taken on the conclusion of Government business; and

2. the Statements on Special Educational Needs shall not exceed 210 minutes, with arrangements in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 200 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 10 minutes, and members may share time.

Sinn Féin is opposing the Order of Business because of the last-minute introduction of an amendment to the Electoral Reform Bill 2022. It is an old-fashioned stroke, to be quite frank. There is no time to debate it. The Government wants to push through a motion. What is it about? It is about Fianna Fáil being blocked in the court, following the actions of a private citizen, with regard to its €500,000 lottery. Rather than have full scrutiny of changes to the law that would facilitate that, the Government wants to barge it through. That is a stroke but to see Fine Gael and Green Party Ministers go along with it says an awful lot. I hope the Government will change tack and make provision for a full scrutiny of the change Fianna Fáil wants to bring in. If it does that, we will agree to the Order of Business.

I will address the same issue. It is wrong, as the Taoiseach will have to agree, to push forward the Electoral Reform Bill 2022, with Report Stage to be guillotined after 90 minutes when the Government has tabled more than 150 amendments. We also have the stroke of allowing political party lotteries to take place.

There has to be full scrutiny. We will oppose the Order of Business for that reason.

This is nothing but a good old style Fianna Fáil political stroke. It is political reform Fianna Fáil style. It is disgraceful. We were told through the media, by a spokesperson from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, that this measure was agreed by Cabinet on 24 May. We had a Dáil select committee meeting two weeks ago. This measure could have been brought to the select committee. Before that, another stroke was attempted by nodding through an instruction to committee. We then had a 60-minute debate on some new sections that were added to the Bill and the Government is trying the same thing again. This is even more devious, because it seeks to introduce, at the eleventh hour, a new way for political parties to raise money. We know about the toxic influence of money on the political system. Our history has shown us that. By virtue of that alone, we need serious scrutiny of this measure in this House. We need a full plenary sitting of the Dáil to interrogate and ventilate the issues properly. We have 90 minutes to discuss 150 amendments.

The Deputy's time is up.

Some of them are technical and inconsequential. Having just 90 minutes to debate something of this import is disgraceful. It is a poor reflection on the Government parties, which are railroading an important issue through the Dáil with minimal scrutiny.

This is incredibly important legislation. We have long awaited it. It is not acceptable for it to be treated in this way. We also see the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill being rushed through. This time of the year is quite dangerous for process. With a poor process, one often gets inadequate scrutiny and poor outcomes. This is not a way to handle legislation. Only a couple of weeks ago, we were dealing with statements, because there was not sufficient legislation coming through. This is a misuse of the House's time and then rush things through. It is not acceptable.

I have a saying that your health is your wealth. The communication between the Minister for Health and the HSE about the future of the emergency department in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is deplorable. The HSE has announced that the hospital does not meet the safe clinical standards for some patients. The emergency department was closed and will be replaced by general practitioner referrals, a 24-hour medical assessment unit and an injury unit. The intensive care beds will close. On my local radio station this morning, I heard the clinical director of the hospital and surgeon Gerry McEntee speaking. He spoke on behalf of the HSE.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is out of order.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is out of order.

What is Deputy Fitzpatrick seeking?

I am asking for time this week for the Minister-----

If the Opposition did that, they would not be-----

This is a democratic Parliament.

(Interruptions).

Over the last ten or 15 years, the people of Meath have been made promises. Gerry McEntee came onto the local radio station and spoke on behalf of the HSE. Will the Taoiseach make time this week for the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, to come in and tell the people of Navan and the surrounding areas exactly what is happening in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital?

I acknowledge the hard work of the staff of the Business Committee. After many phone calls, matters were pushed onto the committee by the Government. We had decisions to make within an hour. I object to the Order of Business, due to the ongoing controversy surrounding An Bord Pleanála. We need an urgent debate. We have a housing crisis which we have never seen the like of. An Bord Pleanála's carry-on and questionable behaviour in many cases is not helping. There is no confidence in it. It is the highest planning authority in the land. Nothing would be found out but for judicial reviews. These judicial reviews cost money. People need a proper functioning An Bord Pleanála, which we do not have. It is mostly political cronies of two Government parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - I have the list here. The Taoiseach can nod all he likes. All his friends are in An Bord Pleanála now. He cannot deny it. It is the same with the Electoral Reform Bill. You have not changed your spots. The leopard never changes its spots. I am glad to be away from ye, that is one thing that is sure and certain. I am still trying to get rid of the spots.

The Deputy's time is up.

(Interruptions).

We need a debate on the carry-on of An Bord Pleanála. We need to have the Minister in and to have a full Dáil debate.

On the schedule, there is a proposal to approve Ireland's further participation in the PESCO military project without debate. Some of us believe that PESCO is putting in place the basis for a European army and that the Government is waging a very sustained attack on our neutrality, most recently expressed by the Taoiseach claiming we do not need a referendum to join NATO. There is, of course, a very sustained call from NATO to increase military expenditure across the EU. Now we have a proposal to move from Ireland's current involvement in one PESCO project to an additional four PESCO projects, further involving Ireland in arrangements with the European militarisation project and with NATO, with non-EU forces and their military projects, as one of the projects suggests. At the very minimum, this should be debated in the Dáil because some of us are going to fight to the death to prevent the Government from destroying Ireland's neutrality.

The comments from the Opposition are deeply disingenuous. Sinn Féin is the wealthiest party in Ireland with over 200 staff, 50 properties and a network of fundraising in the United States, as well as an inheritance that would be illegal here in this Republic. With the greatest respect to the Deputy opposite, he has some neck to start lecturing other parties on fundraising. There is nothing wrong with political parties having legitimate means of fundraising. If that is by a raffle, there is nothing wrong with that. Providing for that in law, in my view, is the correct thing to do. It is transparent and open. Political parties should have legitimate avenues to raise money within the legal framework. That is simply what is going on here.

Why not scrutinise it now?

If the Deputy looks back at Sinn Féin's history and the history of his movement going back over decades, I would love a similar level of transparency in respect of the historical fundraising his movement engaged in over the decades. I really mean that. If Sinn Féin wants to hold other parties up to scrutiny, it should hold itself-----

Where did Fianna Fáil come from? What happened in Cork in the 1920s?

Sinn Féin has raised $15 million in the United States over the last number of years. It received €4 million of an inheritance.

God only knows what happened when Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA were one and the same thing. No one knows where the money went then or how it was translated. That is the bottom line.

Last year, Fianna Fáil was raising money illegally, half a million.

I really would love scrutiny and transparency in respect of all of that. When I come to Deputy Nash, his party has had alternative means of fundraising through a proportion of trade union subscriptions down through the years as well. Many of those trade union members were Fianna Fáil supporters and voters as well as anybody else.

That is very different.

That was limited in 2015 when there was a limit placed on corporate donations. We changed the law.

Let us not pretend that this was some sort of stroke or whatever. It is not. We have some of the better legal frameworks governing political fundraising in this Republic.

Thanks to the Labour Party and no thanks to Fianna Fáil.

Yes, thanks to Fianna Fáil, actually, and other parties in what has transpired over the last 20 years in terms of this Legislature.

Should we thank Fianna Fáil for every tribunal we ever had?

The comments have been overstated. It struck me that when Deputy Fitzpatrick raised what for him and others in the north east is a legitimate issue, he was shouted down by everybody because he was not obeying the dictatorial attitude of everybody. In other words, because he was not discussing the issue the Deputies raised, all of them were saying he was out of order. All he wanted was time to discuss Navan hospital.

Not all Governments support Independents.

That is democracy - shout down the Independents because they are raising issues of legitimate concern to them but that do not suit the agenda. It is a sign of what is to come if we do not toe the line with certain agendas on a given day, politically and democratically speaking.

This is distraction.

In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett, there will be a full debate after committee in respect of the issue he raised, namely, participation in four PESCO projects as opposed to one. I have no difficulty with that. We need interoperability and we need to work on a whole range of issues, from peacekeeping to peace enforcement, and making sure we have the capacity to do all that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath raised the issue of An Bord Pleanála. There is a review under way in respect of the specific issue, which the Minister has announced. We should await the outcome of that review.

Question put: "That the proposed arrangements for this week's business be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 65; Níl, 57; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Ged Nash.
Question declared carried.

Workers and families now face the biggest squeeze on household income for a decade. People are being ripped off at every turn. The price of fuel has hit new record highs - up 11% in just two weeks. In some parts of the country, this means petrol prices have hit €2.30 a litre. I accept that there are international factors at play in this but it is clear to us that we need an emergency budget and that people simply cannot wait until October. We need actions immediately to get the cost of fuel down and, therefore, I ask the Taoiseach to do two things. First, I ask the Taoiseach to reduce the excise duty applied to petrol and diesel by the maximum level, which would bring prices of petrol down by 13 cent and those of diesel by 9 cent. That, alone, will not be enough. I ask that the Taoiseach engage with the EU Commission to seek out further reductions in VAT and, indeed, in excise. I ask that that engagement happen as a matter of urgency. We should not have to come in and put this to the Taoiseach for months, as was the case last year on these matters.

First, as I have said, the cost of living is bearing down very heavily on people. We are acutely aware of that in government and we have brought in approximately €2.4 billion of measures already.

As I stated earlier, we cannot chase inflation like we did in the 1970s, when we had a decade-long inflationary cycle that went out of control and undermined people's real incomes, jobs etc. The forthcoming budget will be a cost-of-living budget. We want to do things that target those in need but also deal with a range of issues that also support the economy and jobs and gives us an overall 12-month framework to deal with this issue and take on board the views of the social partners as well in respect of strategic issues that impact on the cost to people, from childcare to housing, and pay and the inflation issues arising also.

I take it that is a "No".

Today, Women's Aid published its annual report for 2021 revealing a shocking number of disclosures of domestic violence. There were over 33,000 such disclosures last year. Over 2,300 cases of sexual abuse were disclosed to the organisation last year.

Disappointingly, we have yet to see publication of the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which has been promised for some months. As Chair of the Joint Committee on Gender Equality, I should say we have engaged with the Minister for Justice, with stakeholders and with Women's Aid, Safe Ireland and other organisations seeking to see the implementation of the important Citizens' Assembly recommendations on tackling gender-based violence.

There has been positive change in recent years, notably, among other legislation, the Domestic Violence Act 2018 and the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020. However, we urgently need to see the strategy published by the Department of Justice and, indeed, to see then how we can proceed to carry out any further legislative reform that is needed. I ask the Government to commit to seeing that strategy published before the end of this Dáil term in July.

Of course, Deputy Bacik is correct. The Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, has worked with a range of stakeholders in respect of this. These figures are shocking. The Minister is leading work on a whole-of-Government approach to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and to develop and to publish the strategy as soon as we possibly can. The Minister engaged with all of the stakeholders in that regard. I will ask the Minister to engage with the Deputy and others in respect of the timelines around the publication of the strategy, but also the follow-up work in respect of the work that Tusla has been doing in terms of accommodation etc.

In this Chamber we hear much about the cost of living but the Society of St. Vincent de Paul report from several months ago captured the issue more succinctly. For too many families in this country, it is the cost of survival. There was a report yesterday from the ESRI that demonstrated clearly that those most vulnerable are, once again, lone parents and adults of a working age living with a disability. We need targeted interventions immediately. We in the Social Democrats are asking for advanced targeted measures for people who are worried about the cost of survival, be that to feed themselves or the cost of electricity, and to do it more quickly. We cannot simply say to people who are hungry in this country that they must wait until October and see what happens then. We need it more immediately. We are asking for an intervention that comes before the budget. People are really struggling at this point.

The Government has already taken measures. We accept that people are struggling. We accept the need. There has to be targeted measures, particularly for families and directed towards children in need and children who may be vulnerable, but the budget gives us the framework, but also the opportunity in advance of it to engage with many stakeholders and people who have views on this to make sure that we deal with this strategically. What is happening is unprecedented because of the war in Ukraine. We cannot just have measures every month. That will not suffice. The budget gives us an opportunity on all fronts to redistribute the impact of the unprecedented inflationary cycle on people and to target those who are suffering the most.

I welcome the announcement today of the 80 electric buses to be provided this year and the plan to go to 800 over the next eight years. Much more needs to be done. It is welcome but it is a drop in the ocean compared to the urgency that is needed to deal with climate change and the cost of living. I note the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, has endorsed the People Before Profit policy of provision of free public transport, given he had a lovely trip to Luxembourg recently and had the experience of free public transport. As well as Deputy Troy endorsing the notion of free public transport, will the Government have the same ambition to move towards that demand, which is one of the key demands of Saturday's demonstration on the cost of living which will be an intervention before the budget? At 1 p.m. on Saturday, people will be marching through this city and one of the key demands is for free public transport. I encourage everybody to get onto that protest because it is an intervention we can make prior to the budget but I would like the Government to intervene and endorse the idea of free public transport. As the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, said, "This is [the] route we need to travel."

First, the Government has taken significant steps towards reducing the fares on public transport, in the most recent cost-of-living measures we took but also in the budget in October last in terms of young people's fares being reduced by 50%, which was a radical move. I welcome the Deputy's welcome for the 80 electric buses.

We welcome the Taoiseach's welcome for our welcome.

Cuirim céad míle fáilte rompu.

What is significant is that they come from a high quality factory, in terms of rights, in Ballymena.

The NTA has secured the capacity there. That illustrates the synergies North and South that have developed economically to the benefit of all on the island. That is a very practical example of that.

My question was about the policy for free public transport.

I thank the Taoiseach and call Deputy Verona Murphy.

A recent Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, survey found that more than 30% of nurses said it is likely or very likely they will leave their jobs in the next year. I am reliably informed that 11 of the current 12 interns at Wexford General Hospital have plans this year to emigrate to greener pastures. Our valuable nurses and junior doctors are leaving this country in their droves to work in health systems that offer better pay, fewer hours and simply show appreciation for their invaluable skills and vocation.

Will the Taoiseach tell the House what meaningful and radical plan his Government has to address immediately the now-critical recruitment and retention crisis across the health sector and implement the real change that is required to halt the tsunami that will wipe out our health service and its workforce?

Actually, over the past two years we have had record numbers of recruitment into our health service. We have invested very significantly in nurse education in this country and transformed it over the past 20 years. I was involved in it myself at the time, in the degree programme, the advanced nursing programmes and the postgraduate programmes. We need to continue to invest in nurse education and in all aspects of professional education within our health services. We are increasing annually the number of people working in our health service. That said, we are always seeking to improve human resource management within the Health Service Executive and within our health service more generally so that we create an atmosphere and environment that makes it more conducive to retaining staff and to keeping people in our health service. There is still work to be done on that front.

DEIS status schools have never been more important with the rising costs of living. DEIS status was awarded to a number of schools in Tipperary. However, Coláiste Dún Iascaigh in Cahir and the Edmund Rice Secondary School, Carrick-on-Suir, among others, were left out and denied DEIS status. They have appealed, as the Department told them to do. They are awaiting the results of the appeal. They were dearly hoping to get results before the summer break, so they can plan for the reopening of the school in the coming September. We hope they will be successful in getting DEIS status, because is vitally important nowadays, especially with the costs of sending children to school, as well as the costs of food, lunches and everything else. DEIS status is important to those schools and especially, as I said, Edmund Rice Secondary School in Carrick-on-Suir and Coláiste Dún Iascaigh in Cahir.

I commend the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, on taking the decision to expand DEIS. This has been the largest and most significant expansion of the DEIS programme. A recent ESRI study has shown the programme, since it was first initiated, has been a very significant contributing factor to better outcomes in education in the Republic, as opposed to outcomes in Northern Ireland. There is a shared island research study in that regard. A separate, independent body assesses who qualifies and who does not. It will go to an appeal. I understand the outcomes of the appeals should be within the next fortnight. It is hoped the schools the Deputy has referenced can be successful in their appeal. There is an independent mechanism for determining this.

A month ago, I raised the issue of overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick, UHL. The Taoiseach told me there was an expert group in place there to deal with overcrowding at the time and to develop recommendations into the future. I asked when it would report, to whom it would report and what were its terms of reference. I asked in particular whether the existing one model 4 hospital and the three model 2 hospitals were adequate. The Taoiseach did not know. He told me would come back to me, but he did not. I wrote to him since. I still have no reply. Today, a month later, there are 105 people on trolleys in Limerick. That figure was 81 when I raised the issue a month ago. What is going on in UHL? Does the Taoiseach even know?

The HSE established the task force and the team to go into University Hospital Limerick. It is obviously reporting back to the HSE.

The Taoiseach is washing his hands of it. He set up the HSE so that he could wash his hands of it.

No, I did not. That is nonsense. We saw during the pandemic the value of a single body to manage a pandemic. God forbid if we had 15 separate regional bodies trying to manage a pandemic and all that would have unfolded. There are pluses and there are minuses. Medical advice, royal college advice and so on, have all been of the view the configuration-----

Is the Taoiseach going to come back to me, or is he going to waffle?

The Deputy is heckling and he is interrupting. I simply made a point----

The Taoiseach is waffling.

No, I am not. Not at all. I simply made the point that a team was appointed by the HSE and it is reporting back to the HSE in respect of the challenges facing the mid-west, particularly University Hospital Limerick-----

-----where there has been very significant investment.

As the Taoiseach knows, in early 2021, the Northern Ireland planned healthcare scheme was put in place as a replacement for the European Union cross-border directive, following Britain’s exit from the EU. This scheme and its predecessor have enabled large numbers of patients to access treatment or surgery or both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, paid for by this State. By and large, these were patients who had been on long hospital waiting lists. Similarly, people from Northern Ireland have access to treatment in private hospitals in this State where there is spare capacity across some specialties. This scheme needs to be put on a legislative basis and not just on administrative basis as at present. We should be seeing more use of this scheme, especially for children who are awaiting therapies, for example. I would like if there were a timeline in respect of the legislative measures.

I thank Deputy for raising the issue. This scheme has been in effective operation since January 2021. It ensures patients have not lost important access to private providers in Northern Ireland following the cessation of the EU cross-border directive arising from Brexit. Using the latest data available from the HSE, more than 5,500 reimbursements have been made to persons in 2021 who have continued to access healthcare in Northern Ireland under either the cross-border directive transitional arrangements or the new Northern Ireland planned healthcare scheme. This equates to the reimbursement of approximately €9.7 million to patients accessing care under the scheme. Patients also continue to access care in other European Union nations under the provisions of the cross-border directive.

On the point of the legislation, this is on administrative basis at the moment. Work is under way by the Department of Health to determine the legislative framework that is necessary to underpin the operation of the Northern Ireland planned healthcare scheme. That will continue over the coming while. I will come back to the Deputy with more specific timelines.

I have used almost every opportunity in this Chamber to emphasise the value to the State of cost rental affordable housing and 100% housing on public land. The LDA recently informed the housing committee that it would now build 100% public housing on public land and that 75% of its units will be cost rental. This amounts to approximately 30,000 units over the next 20 years. I personally welcome these Green Party policies. However, recent newsprints suggest delays. Will the Taoiseach give us assurance here today the LDA is on track to deliver 30,000 costs rental units, as prescribed in its 20-year programme?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. Given the green credentials of the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, I have no doubt the LDA will be pursued. The LDA wants to deliver here-----

It is not doing a very good job.

-----and we want to deliver as much housing as we can, as quickly as we possibly can. I will certainly articulate the Deputy’s perspective again to the Minister.

We have talked about what is quite simply a Fianna Fáil stroke by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to table a last-minute amendment that will allow political parties to raise money through a lottery licence. Of course, the reason he is doing that is because that practice is currently illegal. Back in the 1980s, the Taoiseach will remember that Fianna Fáil was brought all the way to the Supreme Court by An Garda Síochána to prove it was neither a charity nor a philanthropic body.

Recognising the Minister’s amendment will make this legal for the first time, I have very specific questions for the Taoiseach. Will he explain to the House how Fianna Fáil raised more than half a million euro last year through a lottery licence? Did his party mislead the courts? Given the conditions of such a licence, which stipulate that money should go to charity, has Fianna Fáil now handed that money over to a charitable cause? These are very specific questions. I hope I get specific answers.

I would very much appreciate transparent answers from the Deputy’s good self-----

We have spoken about it.

-----on his party’s fundraising activities over the past 20, 25 or 30 years. I do not think it would bear too much public scrutiny. Anything Fianna Fáil has raised over recent years has been within the law.

No, it has not.

No, it has not. Fianna Fáil is changing the law to facilitate it.

Wait now. No, no. Resume your seat.

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, I have asked the question in respect of-----

Resume your seat, Deputy.

A Cheann Comhairle, may I make a point of order?

No, you may not. Resume your seat.

I have a point of order.

There is no point of order on these lines. Resume your seat.

I would like to make a point of order that the Taoiseach has clearly misled this House.

Please do not accuse anybody of misleading the House. Resume your seat.

They are changing the law to make it legal. They raised half a million last year illegally.

Has Fianna Fáil given it to charity?

Resume your seat, Deputy, please.

Has it given the money back to charity?

Resume your seat.

That is the law.

Please, Deputy.

The law is they have to give that money to charity. They have to abide by the law.

Please, Deputy. I call Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

He is not answering. The Taoiseach is refusing to answer the question, a Cheann Comhairle.

Maybe he could also explain why the permit, the lottery licence, which is supposed to be available in the court, is not available in the court.

Deputy, you are not Deputy Mac Lochlainn. I have called Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

The Cabinet signed off today on the updated defective blocks scheme, which we are told will cost up to €2.7 billion. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Government has not clearly said there will be full scrutiny of the legislation, given that €2.7 billion of taxpayers' money is involved. In 2020, as the Taoiseach knows, we had a so-called 90:10 scheme, which was a false dawn for all the families in counties Donegal and Mayo. In 2021, we had the introduction of a sliding scale. Families have been let down again and again. Will the Government work with the families to ensure proper scrutiny and that the legislation, at last, delivers 100% redress, is based on actual science and ensures taxpayers' money is spent prudently?

The Deputy welcomed and endorsed the 2020 scheme.

We learned the hard way.

The Government has decided today to expand the scheme even further to include counties Clare and Limerick and to take on board the recommendations from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI. It is time to move on this. One day, the Deputy will come in here and attack the Government for delaying. The next day, he will come in and - let us be honest about it - refer to scenarios that could create-----

(Interruptions).

I am just saying this straight up because the Deputy needs to be honest with people too. He should not come back to me next December saying the Government has done nothing on this because the legislation still has not been passed by the House. I am open to progressing this. I want honesty and transparency in the legislative process.

Is the Taoiseach agreeing to scrutiny?

The Deputy knows and I know what pre-legislative scrutiny means.

Are you agreeing to scrutiny?

I am simply saying that the Minister is very clear in what he has said to the homeowners. When I went to County Donegal and met people, they were complaining about delays in getting houses rebuilt.

The time is up, Taoiseach.

They wanted urgency in getting houses started. I understand 300 houses have been identified by Donegal County Council on which a start could be made. We need to get going, particularly on the houses that are most damaged and are not habitable at the moment. We need to get them demolished and rebuilt.

We are out of time.

I genuinely think we need to get on with it.

I would like to get on with it too. We are out of time. My apologies to those Deputies who were not reached.

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