The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 6, Finance Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.00 p.m.; and (2) the Second Stage of No. 6 shall be taken today, and the following arrangements shall apply; (i) the opening speech of the Minister for Finance and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 45 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (iii) Members may share time; and (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 20 minutes.
Order of Business.
I will not be supporting the Order of Business, either under the heading of the late sitting or the second item and, therefore, I suppose I might as well take issue with the late sitting. We still want the Taoiseach to come into the House and explain Deputy Ned O'Keeffe's resignation. We want the Taoiseach to answer questions and until he does so, I cannot agree the Order of Business.
A second issue has also arisen which I might take simultaneously. Dúirt an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív, go raibh díomá an tsaoil air, go raibh an t-uafás oibre déanta aige san áit in a raibh sé. Whatever about his disappointment about being moved from his job, he further stated:
I don't know what this new brief means. Maybe there is something great in it that I don't see yet . . . but as far as I can see there is neither function nor funding in it.
Why is the Taoiseach appointing such a reluctant hero to a job which has neither function nor funding? Will the Taoiseach come in here and, in explaining Deputy Ned O'Keeffe's resignation to our satisfaction, also explain the reshuffle and the inappropriateness of putting a person into a job in which he sees no purpose and in which he believes there is neither function nor funding?
I have given him a few tips already.
Is this not extraordinary? Surely the Taoiseach sees the necessity to make a full statement in the House about Deputy Ned O'Keeffe's resignation and about the subsequent appointment of Deputy Coughlan, which had the universal approval of the House, and the step-aside appointment of Deputy Ó Cuív, who is reluctant to cover the non-functions with the non-budget with which he has been supplied?
Deputy O'Dea has a job like that.
We will not be agreeing the Order of Business for the reason that we have repeatedly asked for the Taoiseach to come into the House to make a statement on this matter. I have been in order, Sir, in requesting under Standing Order 31 that an invitation be extended to the Taoiseach to make such a statement in the House but that request was not allowed. I asked a Private Notice Question on the same matter and it was not allowed. I tabled a question to the Taoiseach to the effect that, following the number of meetings or telephone discussions he had with Deputy Ned O'Keeffe between 1 December 2000 and 17 February last, if he discussed with Deputy O'Keeffe the possibility of him being moved from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development to the position of Minister of State at another Department, the outcome of any such discussions; and if he would make a statement on the matter. That question has not been accepted by the Taoiseach's Department.
We have tried in every way that is orderly to have the Taoiseach come in and explain to the House what has happened. If the Taoiseach is reluctant to so explain, perhaps he might arrange for his programme manager to come into the House and explain. He seems to be capable of speaking more directly than the Taoiseach.
Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an mbeirt a labhair romham. Tá mise ar aon intinn maidir leis an díomá atá ar an Aire Stáit Ó Cuív faoin bpost nua atá aige. Bhí mé ag súil go mór le Bille na Gaeilge, ach feicfimid.
It is difficult for the Opposition to agree to the Order of Business when the crisis relating to agriculture and food seems to be following the Taoiseach, as well as Deputy Ó Cuív, in and out of office. The Taoiseach must try to end this matter by coming in and explaining clearly and fully what happened and how we go on from here.
Does the Taoiseach wish to comment?
Has he nothing to say?
Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.Dennehy, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Mary.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.
Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Bell, Michael.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Hayes, Brian.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Jim.Mitchell, Olivia.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.O'Keeffe, Jim.Penrose, William.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Sargent, Trevor.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.Yates, Ivan.
We now come to the second proposal on the Order of Business. Is the proposal for dealing with item 6 agreed? Agreed. I will now take leaders' questions.
What action does the Taoiseach intend to take arising from the ISSI report on Newtown House where during the watch of this Government children have been badly treated, have suffered injuries, including one boy having his leg broken when physical restraint was used. Physical restraint was used on occasions when cases could have been de-escalated by more sensitive handling. Specialist therapeutic services were very hard to get for children and appointments could take up to six months. Health board social workers, many of whom had good relations with the children, were not given sufficient access to information about the children when at Newtown House.
A health board investigation into complaints about physical restraint was inadequate. As the ISSI investigated over 20 such homes and reported Newtown House as the worst, is the Taoiseach concerned about activities in other homes? As this is not something from the distant past, has the Government a proactive policy on it and what steps will it take to ensure other incidents are dealt with fairly and that proper secure accommodation is provided for children at risk.
In supporting the question put by Deputy Noonan, is the Taoiseach taking steps to ensure that similar institutions to Newtown House are properly inspected by the ISSI and will he ensure adequate places are made available for disturbed children in conditions that meet the standards which we would expect of ourselves at this time?
I will allow the question although the matter is to be taken by way of Adjournment debate this evening.
The Minister of State responsible, Deputy Hanafin, has prepared a very comprehensive statement on this issue. I will, however, reply to Deputies Noonan and Quinn.
This is a worrying report. It highlights a number of areas of serious concern at Newtown House – the centre is now closed. The chief executive officer of the health board, the body with statutory responsibility, is to take urgent action to address the findings of the report and ensure they do not happen at this centre, if re-opened, or any other such institution again. Resources have been made available, through the health board, for this purpose.
The report clearly demonstrates the importance of having an independent inspectorate. When the Government established an inspectorate last July, the Minister of State requested the inspectorate to carry out this report. She has expressed her concern that the report indicates that good child practise was not followed in a number of instances.
The matters, as referred to by Deputy Noonan, took place. Children admitted to residential care have experienced a great deal of adversity and difficulty in their lives and that is why, almost without exception, they are placed in such homes. It is important that vulnerable children receive services of the highest quality. That obviously did not happen.
The safety and care of children must always be—
On a point of order, may I ask the Taoiseach to circulate his script?
I do not have a script, I merely have a copy of the press release and some notes of my own which are in the public domain and were placed on the record of a committee of this House this afternoon.
The Minister of State has asked the health boards to report on the arrangements they have in place to safeguard the rights of children in residential care. I have asked the Minister – if I might reply specifically to Deputy Noonan – to ensure such circumstances do not apply elsewhere. The health board is currently carrying out investigations and the Minister of State has also asked the East Coast Area Health Board to take urgent action to address the findings.
A sum of £90 million has been invested in child care services. The resources for this year alone provide for the recruitment of between 600 and 700 staff in this area. We all know this has been an under-resourced area. Of the 4,000 children currently in care, approximately 3,500 of them are in foster care and approximately 100 of the remaining 500 are in need of very dedicated treatment, assistance and care. It is a recognised fact that the therapeutic aspects of this care have not been available to the extent required.
The Government has not addressed the issue in three and a half years.
That issue is being addressed through the resources being made available. It has also been suggested that the education and qualification system required to deal with the most difficult cases are not up to standard. The Minister of State has had extensive discussions with the university system in an effort to improve this situation.
Deputy Shatter is correct, resources provided for this area have not been good. Newtown House was used in the first instance because proper resources were not made available.
The Taoiseach did not ensure qualified staff were put in place at Newtown House.
Deputy Shatter, I would ask you to be silent when the Chair is speaking, please. We are taking leaders' questions. The only person entitled to ask a further supplementary is Deputy Noonan, when called. The Taoiseach is entitled to make his reply now. I will then call Deputy Noonan if he wishes to ask a supplementary. Deputy Shatter does not fit into that category.
A sum of £90 million has been invested in this area for child care services. In 1997 there were only 17 places, while now there are more than 70. There will be 120 places by the end of the year. The findings of the disturbing report on Newtown House have to be dealt with and rectified, and the Government and the Minister of State with responsibility for child care are determined to do this.
Is the Taoiseach aware that Newtown House is the old Trudder House, which was closed because of the sexual abuse of children in care? Newtown House, the renamed Trudder House, which was supposed to provide high quality care for children at risk referred to it by the courts, has been closed because of the physical abuse of children. This did not happen in the dim and distant past from which we can learn; it happened during the Taoiseach's watch over the past year and a half-two years. What is going on in the child care section that as we go into the new millennium a child can have his leg broken by being restrained? The story of the Department of Health and Children is that the Minister for Finance is supplying the money. However, there seems to be no result on the ground. This does not date from the 1950s or 1960s; it happened during the past year or two. It is absolutely appalling and there must be a stronger response than what the Taoiseach has given us. There must also be a stronger response than the one given by the Minister of State, Deputy Hanafin.
There are other homes which are subject to inspection – more than 20 homes are inspected. I thought the drift of the interview with the spokesperson on radio this morning was that while this was the worst case and had to highlighted and acted on immediately there were also questionmarks over other residences. There must be a fuller response than, "we will deal with it". I ask the Taoiseach to say if time can be allocated in the House at the earliest possible date so that this matter can be debated more fully.
I reiterate that it is because of the inspectorate set up by the Government to investigate these matters that at least we are finding out what is going on. That is a change from the experience in the past. However, this is not adequate if we are still finding problems.
The Taoiseach should not be looking for praise for setting up an inspectorate when the Government has not put in place a proper child care system.
Please, Deputy Shatter.
The Minister of State has asked the health boards which have children in residential care to make them a priority in terms of psychological and psychiatric services. The Minister of State has sought and received resources for the therapeutic and training aspects and is implementing these. She has also put in place a number of other measures in child protection services. Clearly, the past neglect in these areas is being addressed. The resources made available this year will enable 600-700 people to be employed in this area.
They are not available.
They are not in Newtown House. Where are they?
It is the present for which the Taoiseach is responsible.
This is Leaders' question time.
The national children's strategy which was launched last winter provides a framework for the provision of services and supports for children. The strategy sets out an ambitious programme of change, working with the National Children's Office. Hopefully, these measures and the additional resources will deal with this issue as quickly as possible. The Minister will continue to work closely with the social services inspectorate.
On a separate matter but related to health, today's newspapers report that Mr. Patrick Plunkett, a consultant in emergency medicine, has resigned from the board of St. James's Hospital. He cited in his letter of resignation the following:
I cannot reconcile the conflict between my needs to advocate on behalf of my patients, who represent the oldest, most socially and financially deprived and the sickest amongst our community, with my responsibility for running an organisation which is, to all intents and purposes, overstretched to the point of lunacy.
The Government has been in office for almost four years. It is the first Government in the history of the State—
A question, please, Deputy.
—fortunately not to be constrained by a lack of resources. Yet after effectively four years we have this problem. What managerial intervention is the Government going to take to address the problems which led to a consultant resigning in this manner?
Is the Taoiseach aware that the consultant also stated that elderly patients were kept on trolleys for hours on end before being assigned beds in wards? Is he also aware that the chaos in accident and emergency departments is not confined to St. James's Hospital and that the hardworking and dedicated staff in Beaumont refer to its accident and emergency ward as Calcutta, people are left on trolleys for up to two days and patients are sent home because consultants believe they are safer there than in the hospital? These patients are admitted subsequently for tests when the pressure is off the accident and emergency department.
I do not know the details relating to the individual consultant so I will comment on the case. St. James's Hospital is one of our most modern hospitals. An enormous amount of capital and equipment have been put into the hospital. According to any account of the health services, it is a fine hospital.
The resources for the health services have been practically doubled and approximately 70,000 additional patients are seen in hospitals. However, there are still issues which need to be addressed, and there will be an opportunity to do this during the debate later this evening. It is clear that the problem is not a lack of resources and that there are other issues which must be looked at, for example, the manpower services of the Department of Health and Children. The report on staffing in the Department of Health and Children has recently been completed. There is a strategy programme which will be implemented over the next five-seven years, while working groups are looking at casualty and accident and emergency departments, beds and specialities to see what additional measures must be taken. More will have to be done.
The Government has been in office for four years.
During those four years the resources of the Department of Health and Children have been doubled.
The situation has got worse.
Services for the elderly have been substantially improved.
The services have got worse.
Ask the people on the trolleys.
The Government is throwing money at it but there are no services.
The Government is throwing money—
The hospital capital programme at approximately £2 billion is higher than it has ever been.
Who will administer it?
Approximately £2 billion will be spent on services and staffing.
Did the Taoiseach hear the interview with Pat Kenny about the 90 year old man who spent 24 hours waiting for a bed?
These issues have to be addressed.
It is like saying theTitanic was a wonderful ship.
Will the Taoiseach accept that as Leader of the Cabinet and Government he has a managerial responsibility as well as a responsibility to provide the necessary resources to undertake certain tasks and to achieve certain outputs and that fortunately the Government has not been constrained by a lack of resources? Nobody is disputing that resources have been allocated, but what is the Taoiseach doing to ensure that they are effectively and efficiently employed? The Government has been in office for almost four years. These problems have not suddenly arisen overnight and the Government is not constrained by a lack of resources. Is there a managerial lack of intent? Why can the Taoiseach not get Ministers and Departments to roll up their sleeves? As Deputy Noonan said, there is clearly an emergency in many hospitals. Will the Taoiseach accept that simply saying resources have been made available and that there is a strategy programme in place – welcome and all as they are – does not address the problem? The problem requires a hands-on management approach by the Government.
A question, please, Deputy.
What is the Taoiseach going to do about this?
The House passed the legislation setting up the Eastern Regional Health Authority so that there would be hands-on management.
Three hundred extra administrators.
It is a joke.
One of the early requests of that organisation and the Department was for vast resources for capital and physical equipment and staffing of the three areas.
Four years on—
Some £2 billion has already been provided. An enormous amount of the physical infrastructure is under way in St. James's Hospital, Beaumont, the Mater and several other hospitals around the country and in Portlaoise last week. The number of patients being dealt with, the number of operations taking place, the number of consultants appointed by Bord na nOspideál have all dramatically increased in each—
He does not know what he is talking about.
I do not know the individual case of that particular consultant. The issue that has still not been addressed is whether the country has enough beds overall.
Deputy Shatter, please allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.
That is why the Department of Health and Health is bringing forward a strategy to look at the next number of years to see if the bed—
Who is bringing it forward?
It has already fulfilled what it wanted to do for the past four years. Its purpose is to see where we will go from here.
In view of the serious and disturbing findings in the report published yesterday on Newtown House, may I ask about two Bills? It is clear from the report that there was no outside monitoring.
Please, Deputy, have you a question on legislation? The Deputy cannot anticipate the debate she has requested later this evening.
No, it is directly related to promised legislation in two areas. In view of the findings yesterday will the Taoiseach bring forward legislation to establish a position of ombudsman for children more quickly than he outlined here two or three weeks ago? It was promised for last year. What is the timetable for that legislation? In view of the extraordinary important role that an independent inspectorate plays, will legislation be introduced to establish that inspectorate on a statutory basis and to give it an increased remit? That was promised before.
The heads of the Ombudsman Bill have been approved. The Bill is due to be published this summer. After a passage of time on the working of the inspectorate it is the intention to establish it on a statutory basis.
The secretaries of Oireachtas members have felt compelled to take industrial action. Will the Government facilitate an early settlement?
If the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, was as handy bringing forward legislation on matters such as housing and road safety—
Has Deputy Rabbitte a question appropriate to the Order of Business?
I merely ask the Taoiseach if will facilitate an early conclusion to the industrial action—
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
—which is affecting everyone in the House except office holders?
On promised legislation, following the decision taken today by the Department of Health and Children after two years to contact 296 people who received suspect three-in-one vaccine, will he ensure this is expanded to deal with other suspect three--in-one vaccine batches? When will the health (clinical negligence) Bill be published and will it include a public inquiry into this scandal?
Draft legislation to establish the new arrangements to provide hospitals and their clinical staff with indemnity against the costs of settling claims for personal injury is at a very early stage. I do not have a date for it.
(Dublin West): Number 56 on the list is the Civil Service Commissioners Bill to make provision for direct recruitment by Departments. Since adequate reward would help will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Finance to concede the Dáil secretaries claim as quickly as he gave top civil servants and—
That does not arise on the Order of Business. I call Deputy Shatter.
(Dublin West): I asked about No. 56 which is related to recruitment to the public service. I was just throwing in—
The Deputy was wandering from the subject matter of the Order of Business.
(Dublin West): —that the Minister for Finance should concede to the secretaries as quickly as he did to the top politicians and civil servants.
The Bill will be published later this year.
Is the Taoiseach aware that in October 1997 the then Minister for Health and Children promised the Government would give priority to the enactment of legislation for the social services inspectorate? Is the Taoiseach aware—
Has the Deputy a question on the legislation going before the House?
No, it is in relation to the priority being given to the legislation.
That does not arise.
Will the Taoiseach indicate when he anticipates the legislation will be published in light of the fact that the social services inspectorate was denied access to reports by East Coast Area Health Board—
The Deputy cannot make a statement on it. It must be on promised legislation.
—when conducting its recent investigation into Newtown House?
There is no legislation.
There is no legislation. Deputy Woods is Minister for Education and Science and he should know.
Deputy Shatter, allow the Taoiseach to speak.
As I understand it, the social services inspectorate was set up in 1999 using the Child Care Act, 1981. What was said was that it was important to get it up and running and allow it to run for some time and then to put it on a statutory basis. It is up and running and effectively doing its work.
On a point of order, there is no Child Care Act, 1981, and there was no statutory basis for setting up the inspectorate. He is misleading the House if he thinks there is.
By an Order of this House we established the Lindsay tribunal to find the truth about the scandal relating to haemophiliacs. Since then the Minister for Health and Children has waived privilege in producing documentation in search of that truth.
Has the Deputy a question on promised legislation?
Yesterday the Tánaiste also supported—
On promised legislation.
In relation to legislation, this is an important matter—
Every matter raised in this House is important.
The Tánaiste has asked four institutions to waive privilege. So far they have refused to do so.
Has the Deputy a question on promised legislation?
The Taoiseach has remained silent on many things. I ask him to speak out in defence of haemophiliacs and ask all our institutions to reveal the documentation—
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is inviting disorder.
Deputy McManus is inviting disorder. She is totally out of order.
I wish to ask about two items of legislation – legislation promised to introduce strict carrier liability and the related legislation arising from the co-ordination of asylum procedures in new member states arising from Article 36.1 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Will the Taoiseach outline the legal basis for restricting access by journalists to asylum seekers as outlined in this week'sMagill magazine?
That does not arise.
Is there a legal basis for that?
The immigration (carriers' liability) Bill is due to be published this year. The heads of the Bill were approved before Christmas.
In the context of the compensation tribunal set up to deal with victims of institutional sexual and physical abuse where is this tribunal and what is the reason for the delay?
That does not arise on the Order of Business.
It is an important matter on legislation.
If the Deputy has a question on legislation he can ask it. Deputies cannot make Second Stage speeches or ask questions that are not appropriate to the Order of Business.
Compensation legislation has been promised. What is the reason for the delay on the matter of the compensation tribunal?
On the same issue, the legislation referred to is the compensation for persons abused in residential institutions Bill. What is the reason for the delay in regard to that legislation? Is he aware that many persons are anxiously awaiting compensation for abuses they received as children in institutions of the State?
Legislation is awaited for some time to establish a compensation tribunal for victims of institutional child abuse. I understand this has been awaiting Cabinet clearance for a number of weeks. Was it cleared by the Cabinet this morning and when can we expect the legislation?
The Deputy has made her point and asked the question. I call the Taoiseach.
May I finish, please?
No, because the Deputy cannot give the reason she thinks she might not see the legislation.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that pupils of day schools—
The Deputy is out of order. The Taoiseach on promised legislation.
The Government's decision on compensation for children who suffered abuse in residential institutions and for whom the State has responsibility, either directly or indirectly, was announced in October. There are approximately 40 heads of the Bill. The draft of the Bill was cleared today and the Minister will announce the details later tonight. It is hoped to present the Bill after Easter.
Should the Fine Gael Árd Fheis be cancelled due to the grave threat of foot and mouth disease?
That is not appropriate to the Order of Business. I call Deputy Howlin.
On No. 127 on today's Order Paper, will the Government provide an oppor tunity for the Bill which has been passed by this House to ban corporate donations to be proceeded with in a committee of the House?
The Bill is in the Seanad.
I wish to raise two issues. When will the medical practitioners Bill be introduced and will it cover insurance for consultants in hospitals such as Monaghan General Hospital.
That question is in order.
The legislation will be introduced—
The second issue relates to whether legislation is necessary for the island of Ireland—
That matter does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to find another way to raise the issue. I call Deputy Michael D. Higgins.
On item 75 on the Order Paper, the Tánaiste indicated last week that she was disposed towards dealing with this item which asks Dáil Éireann to note that human rights year was from 10 December 1997 to 10 December 1998. It might be time to conclude the discussion on the motion. I suggested last week that the Government might announce what conventions it will ratify when it brings this matter to a conclusion.
On Bille na Gaeilge, now that there is a new Aire Stáit and given that the other Aire Stáit has time on his hands, perhaps the completion of the Bill will be contracted out so that we might eventually see it in this millennium, given that it was promised several years ago.
On the Deputy's first question, I will try to resolve that issue. On the second question, the date remains the same.
Has the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, responsibility for the Western Development Commission Bill?
That issue does not arise on the Order of Business.