Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Jul 2022

Vol. 1024 No. 7

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

I move:

Tuesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Isle of Man) Order 2022 (without debate)

- Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Guernsey) Order 2022 (without debate)

- Motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimate for Public Services [Vote 29] - Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (without debate)

- Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2022 (without debate) (any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage on Wednesday)

- Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 – Financial Resolution (without debate) (any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage on Wednesday)

- Motion re Arrangements for Parliamentary Questions (without debate)

- Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2020, Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2021 and Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Ireland's participation in four Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Projects (to be debated together and to conclude within 105 minutes)

- Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Second Stage) (to conclude within 220 minutes) (any division claimed to be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage on Wednesday)

Private Members' Business shall be the Motion re Back to School Costs, selected by Sinn Féin.

Wednesday's business shall be:

- Motion re Report of the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform on Rota for Leaders' Questions (without debate)

- Motion re Opt-in to EU Directive on protecting persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings ("Strategic lawsuits against public participation") (to conclude within 55 minutes)

- Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 [Seanad] (Second Stage) (to adjourn after one hour)

- Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 (Committee and remaining Stages) (to be taken no earlier than 3.59 p.m. and to conclude within 45 minutes)

- Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2022 (Committee and remaining Stages) (to conclude within 45 minutes)

- Remediation of Dwellings Damaged By the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022 (deferred division on Second Stage and Committee and remaining Stages) (to conclude within two hours)

- Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Committee and remaining Stages) (to conclude within 45 minutes)

- Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Bill 2022 (Committee and remaining Stages) (to conclude within 45 minutes)

Private Members' Business shall be Motion re Cost of Disability, selected by the Social Democrats.

Thursday's business shall be:

- Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 [Seanad] (Second stage, resumed, if not previously concluded) (to conclude within 220 minutes in total between Wednesday and Thursday)

- Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Bill 2022 [Seanad] (Second Stage) (to conclude within 220 minutes)

Thursday evening's business shall be Second Stage of the Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021.

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 is modified to the following extent:

(i) oral Parliamentary Questions to the Taoiseach pursuant to Standing Order 46(1) shall not be taken;

(ii) Government business may continue after 6.12 p.m. in order to allow the debate on Second Stage of the Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022 to conclude, with consequential effect on the commencement time of the items of business following, as well as on the time for adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 10.30 p.m.; and

(iii) Topical Issues pursuant to Standing Order 37 shall not be taken;

2. the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Isle of Man) Order 2022 shall be taken without debate;

3. the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Guernsey) Order 2022 shall be taken without debate;

4. the Motion re Leave to Introduce Supplementary Estimate for Public Services [Vote 29] - Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, shall be taken without debate;

5. notwithstanding anything in Standing Order 187, the Motion re Instruction to Committee on the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2022 shall be taken without debate and any division claimed thereon shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage of the Bill on Wednesday;

6. the motion for a Financial Resolution for the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 shall be taken without debate and any division claimed thereon shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage of the Bill on Wednesday;

7. the Motion re Arrangements for Parliamentary Questions shall be taken without debate;

8. in relation to the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2020, the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the report by the Minister for Defence, regarding service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2021, and the Motion re Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of Ireland's participation in four Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Projects, the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) the motions shall be moved and considered together in one debate;

(ii) the arrangements for the debate shall be in accordance with those agreed by Order of the Dáil of 30th July, 2020, for 100 minutes, following which a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 5 minutes;

(iii) members may share time; and

(iv) the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 105 minutes, with a separate question on each motion and on any amendments thereto; and

9. on the conclusion of the first speaking round on the Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022, a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply, which shall not exceed 10 minutes, whereupon proceedings shall be brought to a conclusion: Provided that any division claimed on the Second Stage proceedings shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage.

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 following extent:

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

(ii) Government business may continue after 8.45 p.m. in order to allow the proceedings on the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Bill 2022 to conclude;

(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 the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Bill 2022;

(iv) four additional Topical Issues pursuant to Standing Order 37 shall be taken as the last item of business, and such additional Topical Issues shall be submitted by 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning; and

(v) the Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of the Topical Issues taken as the last item of business;

2. the Motion re Report of the Committee on Standing Orders and Dáil Reform on rota for Leaders’ Questions shall be decided without debate;

3. the Motion re Opt-in to EU Directive on protecting persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings ("Strategic lawsuits against public participation") shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 55 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) the order of speaking and allocation of speaking times shall be as follows:

- opening speech by a Minister or Minister of State - 10 minutes;

- speech by a representative of Sinn Féin - 10 minutes;

- speeches by representatives of the Labour Party, Social Democrats, People-Before-Profit-Solidarity, the Regional Group, the Rural Independent Group and the Independent Group - 5 minutes per party or group; and

- a speech in response by a Minister or Minister of State – 5 minutes; and

(ii) members may share time;

4. the proceedings on the Second Stage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 [Seanad] shall, if not previously concluded, be interrupted either at 3.59 p.m. or one hour after the conclusion of the Motion re Opt-in to EU Direction on protecting persons who engage in public participation from manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings ("Strategic lawsuits against public participation"), whichever is the later, and shall be resumed on Thursday;

5. in relation to the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022, the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) Committee and remaining Stages shall take place either on the adjournment or conclusion of Second Stage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 [Seanad], or on the conclusion of any division claimed on the Financial Resolution motion on the Bill, as appropriate: Provided that Committee and remaining Stages shall, in any event, be taken no earlier than 3.59 p.m.; and

(ii) the proceedings thereon 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 the Committee and remaining Stages of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2022 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 Health;

7. in relation to the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged By the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022, the following arrangements shall apply:

(i) the division claimed on 30 June, 2022, on the Second Reading motion shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage; and

(ii) the proceedings on the Committee and remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 2 hours 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;

8. the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of the Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022 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; and

9. the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Bill 2022 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 Education.

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 later than 7.24 p.m. and shall, in any event, be taken on the conclusion of Government business, with consequential effect on the commencement time for the Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021 and on the time for the adjournment of the Dáil, which may be later than 9.27 p.m.;

2. on the conclusion of the resumed first speaking round on the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 [Seanad], a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply, which shall not exceed 10 minutes, whereupon proceedings shall be brought to a conclusion: Provided that any division claimed on the Second Stage proceedings shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage; and

3. on the conclusion of the first speaking round on the Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Bill 2022 [Seanad], a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply, which shall not exceed 10 minutes, whereupon proceedings shall be brought to a conclusion: Provided that any division claimed on the Second Stage proceedings shall be taken immediately prior to Committee Stage.

Is the Order of Business agreed?

It is not agreed. The haste with which the Government wishes to move the defective blocks scheme of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, through the Oireachtas is extraordinary and scandalous. I know time is short and we are coming towards the summer break, but we should reflect on the fact the defective blocks containing mica and pyrite have devastated the lives of homeowners and their families in Donegal, Mayo, Clare, Limerick, Sligo and at least eight other counties. It is fair to say those homeowners, families and entire communities are in a state of shock due to the scheme published by the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, last week. They have submitted 80 amendments to this legislation. It is extraordinary the Government is closing down scrutiny on this scheme and is giving the deaf ear to the real concerns of these families.

The Deputy has made her point.

This merits comment. The Government is attempting to ram this matter through without proper scrutiny-----

The Labour Party is next.

-----and without proper amendment to produce another scheme that will fail. I will place on the record of the House-----

The Deputy is way over time. I call Deputy Bacik.

-----that the time allowed for consideration of this is wholly inadequate. People's homes, people's lives-----

The Deputy has made her point. We are way over time.

-----and a lot of taxpayers' money is at stake here.

I call Deputy Bacik.

I will not be rushed, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in making that point in the most forcible way-----

The Deputy has made her point.

-----I can on behalf of those families and communities.

We have now eaten into the time of other Deputies and the time for questions on promised legislation. We will not be finished on the list.

In a week when we in the Opposition called for the urgent introduction of temporary targeted measures to alleviate the real hardship caused by the cost-of-living crisis, we are instead seeing urgency in the rushing through of Bills. Yet, there is no urgency in bringing forward measures that should have been done to address the cost-of-living crisis. Instead, we see five Bills will be shoehorned into five hours of debate on Committee and Remaining Stages tomorrow. These are significant Bills, including the remediation of dwellings Bill addressing the hardship experienced by many families due to mica, with no time for pre-legislative scrutiny and adequate consideration of the amendments. That is just one of the five Bills. Another is the Communications (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill, about which many civil society organisations have expressed serious concerns. It is again being shoehorned in, with 45 minutes given to address Committee and Remaining Stages. It is simply not good enough for the Government to seek to order its business in this way. We oppose the Order of Business for that reason.

There has been no explanation from the Government as it seeks to rush through this legislation, and no explanation as to why quarries are still operating in Ireland producing substandard materials that are going into homes leaving families, communities and the entire State vulnerable. There has been no explanation from the Government regarding why the quarries that have produced substandard materials have not been pursued by the Government to recover those costs. Yet, it is trying to force all the discussion, and the more than 100 amendments tabled on this, into a debate that will last for less than two hours. That is simply not acceptable. It does not allow Deputies to do the job we want and are elected to do. On that basis, I ask the Government to reconsider this. We will oppose the Order of Business.

It is completely unacceptable that the Dáil would consider going on recess in two weeks' time when inflation is running at 10%. That means that ordinary households, workers and pensioners, have each lost around €3,500 in income. That is the reality. Yet, the Government expects them to wait until mid-September for action to be taken. For three or four weeks now, I have asked for an emergency discussion on the housing, homelessness and rental crisis, which is absolutely dire at the moment. The families in emergency accommodation who are facing eviction and who cannot pay their rent cannot wait until September for this House to address the crisis they face. I do not believe that we should go on recess until both the cost of living and the family homelessness and housing situation are addressed.

The Business Committee has been made a mockery of. There are five pieces of legislation being rushed through the House this week. I do not want to be repetitive but for several weeks, I have been calling for a debate on a vital sector, our third biggest industry in agriculture, namely, the pig industry. My requests have been forgotten and ignored. The House will rise for recess on Thursday week and we will forget about the pig farmers, many of whom I met at the weekend at Clonmel Show at the weekend. Some farmers who have been in the business for generations are leaving the sector. It is a shocking indictment of the Green Party, in particular, members of which are supposed to be so-called great democrats, that they have bulldozed these arrangements through the Houses. They are ringing us every second day of the week for pairing arrangements. We are not to be plucked off like that. We are the Opposition. We are not a fake opposition. The people are waiting in the long grass for the Government. We are opposed to the rushing of the business this week.

I agree with the points made by other Members on the rushing of legislation through the House. It is ridiculous that we are here for months, yet legislation is rushed through in the final few weeks of the Dáil term. I disagree with the rushing through of the mica legislation, in particular. The fact that only two hours are scheduled for Committee and Remaining Stages tomorrow is not right. It is wrong, given that the families affected have put so much effort into putting amendments forward and making this legislation workable. It should be taken on board. The efforts of the families should be shown some respect, given their plight.

We have a very busy schedule this week. The Dáil will sit until 12 midnight tonight. It will resume at 9 o'clock in the morning and will sit until after 10 o'clock tomorrow night. It will resume at 9 o'clock on Thursday morning and sit until after 10 o'clock that night. I acknowledge that it is a busy schedule. However, there is important legislation that we need to pass, including a measure on the cost of living eliminating paediatric inpatient charges in our hospitals; an important anti-crime measure, namely, the Communication (Retention of Data) (Amendment) Bill 2022; an important special needs measure for children who do not have school places for this September; and important legislation on mica. We want to get the mica redress scheme legislated for before the recess so that we can have it up and running in the autumn. There has been a full-day committee hearing on the legislation already. There will also be a Seanad debate on the Bill. We are keen to get all the legislation through. I suggest that there is one thing that we need to think about collectively, which is that when we come back in September, we need to spend more time on legislation. I agree with the Taoiseach, who has made the point previously, that we spend too much time on statements and on show motions that have absolutely no legal effect. We do not need them. We need to spend much more time-----

(Interruptions).

The Tánaiste is the showman.

-----doing what parliaments are supposed to do, namely, spending time on legislation.

Change the Order of Business. Let us start today. Let us give more time to the mica Bill.

I agree. Again-----

I ask Deputies to speak through the Chair.

You always know you are speaking the truth and touching a raw nerve when the Opposition tries to shout you down.

The Tánaiste is a showman.

He is a showman.

We are-----

(Interruptions).

-----a Legislature. We are here to pass legislation. Looking at other parliaments around the world, they spend more time on legislation, doing what they are supposed to do, and less time on motions, statements and showboating.

We are duty-bound to discuss legislation.

We should change our rules in September so that we spend more time on legislation and less of all the other stuff.

We are entitled to do that as the Opposition.

(Interruptions).

We could start by sitting on a Tuesday morning.

Are the proposed arrangements for this week's business agreed to?

The Dáil divided by electronic means.
Rinne an Dáil vótáil ar mhodh leictreonach.

As the gap is only six votes and as the entire Opposition voted against the outrageous allocation of two hours for the debate on such important and crucial legislation that involves billions in taxpayers' money and in respect of which 100 amendments have been tabled, we are asking for a vote by other than electronic means.

Because the gap is less than ten votes, there will be a roll-call vote.

Question put: "That the proposed arrangements for this week's business be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 61; Staon, 0.

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • 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.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

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

SIPTU members employed by the Irish Wheelchair Association are on strike today. They are on the picket line because they have not had a pay increase in 14 years. Even though they do the same work as HSE healthcare assistants, they are paid a lot less, which is €3 per hour less. As the Tánaiste will be aware, this is a common problem across section 39 organisations.

These are organisations which do incredible work and provide vital services and yet are not adequately funded by the Government. Workers then pay the price in the form of poor wages. None of the workers at the Irish Wheelchair Association wants to be on strike. They want to be back at work. The Government needs to get real here and engage with the union with the aim of achieving pay parity for these essential workers.

I acknowledge the very important and valuable work done by the staff of the Irish Wheelchair Association. As the Deputy will be aware, this association is a charity and not a Government body and the staff there are not Government employees. Even if we were to increase funding for the charity, there would not necessarily be a guarantee that the money would go to the staff by way of increased pay, although I imagine there could be an agreement around that. However, as is the case with any pay or industrial relations dispute, the Workplace Relations Commission, which is an office within my Department, will be happy to become involved if that can be helpful.

Finally, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in respect of earlier events, we spent 35 minutes having the same vote twice. It was not necessary and shows that the Opposition’s concern about having an adequate time for legislation is not sincere.

I thank the Tánaiste but we are discussing questions on policy or legislation now.

Today the High Court is hearing an application from Tipperary man Johnny O’Meara. In 2021, very tragically, Johnny’s partner, Michelle Batey died after an illness. Johnny contacted Deputy Kelly and myself after he had been refused widower’s pension and recognition from the Department of Social Protection. It did not recognise his sad loss because he and Michelle had not been married. There was no recognition by the State of the 20 years they had shared living together, of their children, Aoife, Jack and Tommy, or of the taxes he and Michelle had paid throughout their working lives. We in the Labour Party believe that it is time for the State to recognise cohabiting couples in this way. Will the Government prepare to hold a referendum first to make the constitutional definition of family more inclusive and not just limit it to the family based on marriage? We are in fact looking at this in the Committee on Gender Equality.

Second, will the Government accept the Labour Party’s cohabiting couples Bill which seeks to address the situation Johnny finds himself in and will it seek to end this inequality for cohabiting couples?

We will certainly examine the Bill. Sometimes there is also the law of unintended consequences when it comes to these things so we will have to examine it carefully but we will do so with an open mind. I firmly support an amendment to our Constitution to modernise the definition of family which is more reflective of the world we live in than was the case in 1937 but there are many referendums on the go at the moment. It is an important one, however, and one I would like to bring forward.

In some parts of the country renters have been hit with staggering rent increases of up to 75%. This is utterly unacceptable and no renter can afford those kinds of increases. The way in which the rent pressure zones rules have been written means that those parts of the country will never be declared a rent pressure zone. Is the Tánaiste aware of this problem, what is the Government going to do about it and will the rent pressure zones be extended to cover the whole country?

I thank the Deputy. I am aware of the problem but I am not sure if it is correct to say that the areas affected can never be defined as rent pressure zones. I will certainly let the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, know that the Deputy has raised the matter and I will ask him to reply to the Deputy again.

“Incredibly unkind”, “unprofessional”, and “a huge lack of respect” are the words of Michaela Willis, the author of the State’s 2009 Retained Organs Audit. She is describing the endless delays around the release of a report into the export of babies organs from Cork University Maternity Hospital, CUMH, to Belgium for incineration without parental consent. The South-South-West Hospital Group originally stated that this report would be released by November 2021. Why are these parents having insult added to injury and being left waiting a full eight months after that date?

We learned in the past week that the horrific practice engaged in in Cork was also engaged in in the University Maternity Hospital Limerick. In how many hospitals was incineration without consent practised? Can the Tánaiste guarantee that it was no more than these two hospitals? When does this Government intend to introduce legislation to ensure that such a scandal can never happen again in our hospitals?

I thank the Deputy for his question. I want to first of all express my sympathy on behalf of the Government to the families who having experienced the tragedy of losing a beloved child and had their grief compounded by the fact that organs and tissue of their child were disposed of in an inappropriate manner. These instances were identified as part of an audit of post-mortem practices in Cork University Hospital, CUH, and CUMH. I can confirm that since October 2022, the University Limerick Hospitals Group have been found in compliance with the sensitive disposal arrangements under the national standards.

This in no way diminishes the hurt caused to the families involved and on behalf of the Government we are sincerely sorry that this has occurred and for the stress that it has caused them. Ongoing assistance is being provided to the families through the HSE’s Patient Advocacy Liaison Service. I do not know why the report has not been published yet. There may be reasons for that but I can certainly understand the stress that has been caused.

Farmers are being told that crazy targets of 22% to 30% are to be set for a reduction in agricultural emissions. Targets, if set at these levels, will decimate farmers, particularly those at the lower income end. KPMG stated that 56,000 jobs will be lost if these targets are set and imposed. Those are rural Ireland jobs. At a time when we face the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory, and where we no longer produce sugar or mill flour, the Tánaiste’s party wants to put many farmers in rural Ireland on the breadline. Why is his party abandoning the rural farmers and their families? These are farmers who the Tánaiste’s party once regarded as its heartland voters. Why is the Government imposing crazy, batshit, urban-centric policy without justification, with targets which are draconian and unrealistic on farmers, and decimating rural Ireland in the process?

I thank the Deputy. The Government has not agreed any final targets yet for the agricultural sector but they will be in the range of 22% to 30%. As far as other sectors go, such as industry, transport or electricity, we are asking for the lowest emissions reductions from the agricultural sector because we recognise it is a special sector, is involved in food production, and needs to be specially treated. That is why the lowest targets of any sector are being asked of the agricultural one.

We are facing a climate crisis. It is real and is not made up. I will not repeat the word used by the Deputy but it is certainly not fake. The climate crisis is very real and we see it all around us now. If we do not turn the tide on the climate crisis in this generation, there will not be any agriculture at all. That is the truth of it.

I ask about the music and entertainment industries in Ireland. As the Tánaiste will know, they have struggled through Covid-19 as have the people, na daoine go léir, because they have missed this industry and they yearn for it to come back. This industry is struggling to come back and to get gigs going again because of the fear that is out there. The industry is looking for VAT reductions in the forthcoming budget. This is a vital industry and having to pay 23% VAT means that it needs reductions and supports to get back in full swing. This will allow the people to enjoy themselves, to go out to listen to music, go to the gigs, and to have some form of entertainment.

We see now where people cannot get a flight out of Ireland and most people are afraid to book them. The people at home need to respect that some people never leave but like to have their night out at concerts or at one-person or two-person bands or big bands. I salute them all. They are wonderful entertainers and are part of our cultural heritage. They need a tax break by way of a VAT reduction in this forthcoming budget.

It is great to see the number of gigs and concerts that are taking place all over our country, the length and breadth of Ireland. There are concerts happening again which are bringing great joy to those who are attending and to the musicians. This issue was raised with me last week by Deputy Cannon. To the best of my knowledge, we are unable to differentiate in VAT law for the musicians, which the Deputy raised. I committed to Deputy Cannon that I would follow up and check on this issue and I will.

We have just seen the vote which allows the Government's belligerent planning of the week's business. When I cast a clinical eye over the Government's legislative programme, I am drawn to the incoherence at the heart of it. It is casual and haphazard, at best. At worst, it is cynical and callous and this is more likely the deliberate intent.

Despite the pleas given voice in here by the Opposition from homeowners across the country, which were especially vocal from my constituency of Donegal, to allow more time for scrutiny of the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022, the Government is intent on bulldozing it through the House in two hours tomorrow. The owners of defective homes in Donegal will be watching and evaluating the truthfulness of the promises made to them by the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and various Government Deputies who have used their plight for photo opportunities with the media over the past five years. Following the passage of the defective blocks legislation, when is it envisaged that the Government's defective scheme will be open for application?

The intention is to have the legislation enacted by the end of next week and obviously it then needs to go to the Áras for the President to sign. All things going to plan, we anticipate the scheme being open for applications well before the end of the year. We want to see houses being repaired, demolished and rebuilt next year.

Kaftrio is a miracle drug used for the treatment of cystic fibrosis patients. The drug was approved for use for use by the European Medicines Agency in January 2022. Some 140 children are already using this miracle drug but a further cohort of 35 children do not have access to it. I have previously raised this issue on the floor of the Dáil. I have also met representatives of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the drug manufacturer, who are anxious to do a deal on this. I am calling for a meeting between Cystic Fibrosis Ireland and the Minister for Health to outline the status of these negotiations. Cystic Fibrosis Ireland is an important stakeholder. I ask the Tánaiste to encourage the Minister for Health to set up this meeting as soon as possible.

I will certainly make the Minister for Health aware of the request. I have engaged with Cystic Fibrosis Ireland on a number of occasions as Minister for Health and since then. I have found it a very professional patient advocacy body which works with Government, industry and specialist doctors very successfully. It has helped us to improve cystic fibrosis care in Ireland immeasurably over the past ten or 12 years. I will certainly make sure the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, is aware of the request. I am sure, subject to his diary, he will be able to facilitate it.

As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Tánaiste will be aware of the back-to-work enterprise allowance scheme. While it is not administered by his Department, it is an important safety net for many people setting up in business, coming off the live register. He will also be aware of the enormous shortage of taxis in our city at peak times. However, the back-to-work enterprise allowance is not available to people who are on the live register and who want to enter the taxi industry. This is just one example of how we are not taking in a long-term and strategic view of the future of the taxi industry which the National Transport Authority needs to do. We need a better deal for taxi drivers and we also need more taxis on our streets. I ask the Tánaiste to raise this with the Minister for Social Protection to see if we can encourage more people into the industry. There is still work to be done about a better deal for taxi drivers.

I will check that out. As the Deputy has acknowledged, the scheme is run by the Department of Social Protection under the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. I am not sure if there is a specific exclusion for taxi drivers or if it is a general exclusion relating to self-employment. It is definitely not that because I know of barbers who have availed of it and are self-employed. I will check it out. There may be a good reason for it, but maybe whatever the reason was is no longer valid. I will check it out and come back to the Deputy.

The third strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence was launched last week. It noted that there is work to be done to engage employers and trade unions and further develop legislation for statutory domestic violence employment leave and enhanced workplace protections from sexual harassment. There is no need for any member of the Government to engage in further consultation, as this issue has already been consulted on. I have consulted Women's Aid on my own legislation, which would do exactly what this consultation is hoping to arrive at. If the Government talks to those in Women's Aid, they will say that this issue has already been consulted on and they feel they have had their say. We are due to transpose the EU work-life balance directive on or before 2 August. This is an essential part of it. I have legislation on Committee Stage. It has gone through a period of consultation, has been drafted by parliamentary drafters and is ready to go. It would do exactly what the Government has committed to doing. Will the Government accept my legislation and can we work together to deliver this? Victims and survivors have waited long enough.

I will definitely check that out again. I know that the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, is bringing through the legislation to transpose the EU directive. My understanding is that it will be enacted very soon and before August. I am not sure if it covers domestic violence fully and that may be the issue. It largely relates to flexible working for carers and parents. I will follow up and come back to the Deputy. It might be legislation that we can do.

The shortage of home care workers is causing considerable undue hardship for older people and their families. It especially affects older people who may have had major procedures in hospital and cannot be discharged because they may require two home care workers. Because they cannot be discharged, they have to spend longer than they should in hospital. There is a solution to this. The Government could extend visas to home care workers from outside the EU and include home care workers on the critical skills list thereby providing home care hours to those who badly need it.

The Minister of State, Deputy English, who is responsible for work permits and work visas, is examining that matter at the moment. It is a good idea on the face of it but not as straightforward as we might like it to be. Unlike, for example, nursing or other professions, it is not fully registered or regulated either abroad or here. When a nurse or a doctor comes from overseas, for example, from India or the Philippines, we know who they are and we know who regulates them here. That is not so straightforward with home care. That is the conundrum at the moment and we are working on it. We believe it is part of the solution. It would also help the sector to have an employment regulation order to set minimum terms and conditions and raise the standards of pay for people who work in the care sector. We will not solve the problem of recruitment through immigration alone.

I also raise the issue Deputy Barry raised relating to the incineration of babies' organs without the consent of parents, causing enormous upset and trauma. The parents have been told numerous times that the report relating to Cork University Maternity Hospital, CUMH, would be published. It is simply not good enough that the date keeps being pushed back. Can we get an explanation for the delay? When might it be published?

I acknowledge that this is an unacceptable situation. I really feel for the parents who in many ways have had insult added to injury by the fact that this report has not been published yet. The note in front of me advises that the HSE will publish a number of internal audit reports by mid-July. It will include those completed by the HSE internal audit office during the second quarter of 2022. One of these audits relates to compliance by hospitals with the Health Service Executive's standards and recommended practice for post-mortem examination services. From reading this, I am not sure if that is the same report. Let me follow up on that also.

This morning I joined Irish Wheelchair Association workers on the picket line in Clontarf. I was shocked at what they told me. They told me that they worked during the height of the Covid pandemic doing things like collecting swabs from nursing homes and getting Covid because they were working with patients at very close quarters. They are not getting the €1,000 bonus, which is an absolute disgrace. They have not received a pay rise for 14 years. All of this is because the parity they used to have with healthcare assistants has been broken. Even though these are in effect critical parts of our health service - they are public sector workers in reality - they are being treated with utter disrespect. Will the Government give them the pay justice that they are on the picket line for?

I once again acknowledge the important and valuable work done by the staff of the Irish Wheelchair Association. As the Deputy will know, in fact and in law they are not public servants, are not employees of the State or any State agency or body. Maybe they should be, but they are not. They are employed by a charity, the Irish Wheelchair Association. Having said that the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, which is an office of my Department is always available to assist in resolving these disputes. I encourage the association itself, the staff affected and their representatives to engage with the WRC and perhaps we can find a solution that way.

I raise the case of a constituent of the Tánaiste and of mine who is waiting on a relatively minor operation for a hernia on his leg. He has been waiting for six months and has been told that he has another six months to go. He has been out of work for six months and must continue to get sick pay for another six months until the operation is done. His savings have been depleted. He approached the community welfare officer, was refused and is desperately worried about how he is going to pay his bills. He was willing to take out a loan to get it done privately but obviously he cannot do so now because he is not at work and there is no indication as to when he is going to get back into work. Does the Tánaiste agree that this is a shocking situation for this person to find himself in? What can be done to help this man to get the operation he needs to get back to work?

It is very difficult to reply without knowing the details of the individual case. I had the opportunity to visit Connolly Hospital on Friday, one of the hospitals in the State where we are seeing waiting lists fall, which is really encouraging. This is down to the quality of the staff, the management there and the additional resources. The fact that this man has been waiting more than six months for the operation should mean that he will be eligible to have the operation done privately through the NTPF and paid for by the State. I know it is not an ideal solution but it might be the solution for him. If the Deputy wants to pass on details to my office or if he wants to contact us directly, we will be happy to follow up on that.

Top
Share