Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 9 Nov 2006

Vol. 627 No. 2

Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 10a motion re the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk; No. 16, National Oil Reserves Agency Bill 2006 — Report and Final Stage, resumed, to adjourn at 1 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 18, statements on Transport 21, resumed, in accordance with the Order of the Dáil on 2 March 2006. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10a shall be decided without debate.

There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10a agreed?

On a point of clarification, will the Tánaiste confirm that the House will have an opportunity to address the report of the sub-committee in the Dáil Chamber as early as possible? Will he accommodate the earliest address of the report in December rather than allowing it to drift in to the more difficult period prior to the Christmas recess when there is limited media attention to such matters? If the Tánaiste is in a position to clarify both of those issues, I would be grateful.

As the Deputy knows, the sub-committee is seeking a two week extension of the time within which to prepare its report. The report will then come back to the House and if the Deputy's Whip raises the matter with the Government Whip, I am sure his desire will be accommodated.

Is the proposal agreed? Agreed. I call Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business.

Will the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform state if he proposes to make a statement to the House on the spate of tiger kidnappings in the country?

Second, what is the status of the two reports into the Garda published by Senator Maurice Hayes and Ms Kathleen O'Toole which state that there are 66 gardaí working in the IT section, 88 in human resources and 14 in the Garda press office? Are they to be translated into change and will legislation be required?

That is a question for the line Minister.

Third, the Tánaiste is always prepared to be accountable to the House. Last week, I raised with him the number of cases likely to be dropped under the statutory rape charges process. The Tánaiste did not answer that question. Last June, a letter from me and Deputy Rabbitte was required to elicit responses. Can the Tánaiste now give us the answer to that question, in view of the work of the committee?

Deputy Kenny should submit those questions to the line Minister.

The Ceann Comhairle thinks I should submit questions to every line Minister.

It is important that Members remain within Standing Orders.

My job is to stand here and ask, under the appropriate legislation, questions of the Tánaiste.


Hear, hear.

There is no need for the Ceann Comhairle to protect the Tánaiste. He is able to answer for himself.

The Chair is not protecting anybody. If the Deputy is not happy with Standing Order 26, he knows what to do.

There is no need for the Ceann Comhairle to make suggestions about what we should ask because we understand the rules.

We are on the Order of Business. Deputy Kenny should ask about legislation.

Unfortunately for Members on both sides of the House ——

Both sides.

——the Chair has to rule on what is and is not appropriate——

The Chair presumes to know what Opposition Deputies want to ask.

——in accordance with Standing Orders laid down by this House.

I understand that. I have asked the Tánaiste four perfectly legitimate questions. He is a man given on occasion to not incomplete sentences, so I am sure he is prepared to answer my questions in the public interest.

I want to be orderly.

That is a change.

Deputy Kenny will be aware that I answered questions on tiger kidnappings during oral questions this week, during which time a lengthy discussion was held. I congratulate the Garda Síochána on the work it is doing with regard to investigating these cases and I had discussions on the subject with the Commissioner today.

I am not in a position to give an answer to the Deputy on decisions taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions with regard to whether individual cases will be prosecuted because that is a matter for the independent judgment of the DPP. If I come into possession of information which I can pass on to Deputy Kenny and others, I will do so.

What is the status of the reports produced by Senator Maurice Hayes and Ms Kathleen O'Toole?

With regard to the Garda Síochána, the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and Senator Maurice Hayes will not require legislation and it is the intention of the Garda authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to expedite their implementation.

The Tánaiste advised us that he was to receive the report of the working group on domestic partnership by 20 October. Has he received the report and does he anticipate that a constitutional amendment will arise from it? Given the apparent intention of the Government to hold a referendum in the near future, would it be appropriate to take the entirety of amendments at the same time?

When the amendment on judicial misconduct collapsed and was withdrawn in 2001, the Government promised to introduce legislation. Some five years later, that legislation, the judicial council Bill, remains on the legislative programme. Without making any reference to current matters, when is it proposed to bring the Bill before the House?

I am told that I will receive the report to which Deputy Rabbitte refers in the next two weeks. I have seen a draft of the report and I will publish it as soon as I have it to hand.

Regarding the Deputy's question on a referendum, the Taoiseach has indicated that the Government will propose to deal with the issue of civil partnerships on a sub-constitutional basis because it is his judgment, which I share, that a constitutional referendum on the matter would be divisive and unlikely to succeed.

I have made proposals in respect of the judicial council Bill which are currently being considered by the Chief Justice. I am awaiting his views before proceeding and, as soon as he offers me a clear opinion on alternative methods for dealing with the matter, I will arrange for the legislation to be expedited.

Will the Tánaiste join me in condemning the comments of certain irresponsible public representatives that is all right to drink and drive? Does he agree that the Government's own attitude to our biggest drug problem, alcohol, is somewhat ambivalent?

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business.

It pertains to promised legislation. The reason for the Government's ambivalence is that it dropped the alcohol products Bill.

We cannot have a debate on the issue.

I am not debating, I am asking a question.

If the Deputy has legislation in mind, he should ask a question on it.

With regard to my question on the alcohol products Bill, I ask the Tánaiste to refrain from offering the stock answer about voluntary agreements. Will he join me in condemning those public representatives?

The Deputy should confine himself to the legislation.

When will we have the alcohol products Bill?

Deputy Crawford asked about the alcohol products Bill yesterday and his question was answered.

The position regarding the alcohol products Bill is that voluntary agreements have been reached with the alcohol and advertising industries.

It is always the same answer.

Deputy Gormley does not want that answer; he wants a different one.

Allow the Tánaiste to continue without interruption.

The Department, therefore, wishes to delay the introduction of this legislation pending the outcome and evaluation of the voluntary arrangements. I am aware it is hard for some people to accept that it is sometimes better to achieve ends by means of voluntary agreements than by compulsory legislation.

The Government is kowtowing to the alcohol industry.

Did Deputy Gormley have a second question?

Does the Tánaiste condemn the public representatives to whom I referred?

I certainly condemn anybody who defends breaking of the law. We all live in a constitutional democracy and Article 9 of the Constitution states that loyalty to the State is the fundamental duty of every citizen. Those elected to public office have a special duty to uphold the law.

Today, the Central Bank alerted us to the totally dysfunctional nature of the Government's housing policy, which at present provides only one affordable house for every 40 houses built.

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

I refer to the housing miscellaneous provisions Bill, which is intended to provide for the rental accommodation scheme. The Central Bank has advised that four out of five people will not be able to afford housing.

The Deputy cannot discuss on the Order of Business matters he could raise on Second Stage of a Bill.

Is it the sole element of Government policy that people will be restricted to renting because of the problems that have emerged in terms of affordability?

The legislation will be introduced next year.

Yesterday, Deputy Rabbitte told the House that Deputy Wall's name had been removed from the register of voters. Last night, I checked the register and discovered that not only was my name removed but so also were the names of my entire family. I am not paranoid——

Does Deputy Stagg have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

——but that does not mean they are not out to get me.

It sounds like a purge to me.

Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government suggested legislation may be required to deal with the Deputy Rabbitte's proposal. Although the Minister for Finance, who took the Order of Business yesterday, knew nothing about the issue, the Tánaiste may be better informed. Can he tell us how, in terms of legislation, the Government intends to address the issue?

I understand that legislation is not promised. If Deputy Stagg was to look more carefully at the register for County Kildare, he would find himself in the K Club.

My colleague is doing well for himself.

That goes to prove Labour's responsibility for creating the Celtic tiger.

Can the Tánaiste indicate whether the Chief Whip will accommodate an opportunity in the coming week to debate the issue of voter registration with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government?

If a debate is not promised, it is a matter for the Whips.

Will time be allocated in the coming week to address the substantive issues which have been highlighted in regard to the electoral register?

With regard to the promise by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to introduce a broadcasting Bill in the coming year, can the Tánaiste indicate when that legislation will be brought before the House?

With regard to the Deputy's second question, an e-consultation process is under way. When that process is completed, the matter will be further progressed.

No proposals have been made in respect of holding a debate in the House on the issue of the register. I urge everyone, as has the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to check the register and to comply with the legal provisions. I note that some counties, Louth and Donegal, have an unexpectedly higher number of people on the register than in others.

The Tánaiste has the right man sitting beside him.

When is it intended to commence Operation Freeflow? I ask the Tánaiste to respond to calls from this side of the House to introduce it early, particularly in the vicinity of the M50 where conditions are appalling.

There is no legislation.

There should be.

I call Deputy Crawford.

I believe the Tánaiste would like to answer.

In light of the extraordinary increases in the cost of electricity and gas, when will the protection of employment Bill be introduced to deal with redundancy issues? As it took more than six months for a person to be cleared to become a carer, when will the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children be introduced so that we can discuss the issue? Approximately one month ago I was promised that the Whips would discuss and agree when the Teamwork report would be discussed in the House——

That matter was raised yesterday. I call the Tánaiste on the first two issues.

When will the report be debated? Deputy Kehoe has raised the matter, which is extremely important.

We cannot have a debate on it now. The Deputy was doing very well on the first two issues.

The report into the death of Pat Joe Walsh was never discussed in the House.

The last matter is a matter for agreement between the Whips.

We asked for it.

The protection of employment legislation is expected next year, although it does not deal with energy issues.

It deals with redundancies.

However, it does not deal with energy issues. On the third matter raised by the Deputy, it is impossible to say at this stage.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption is held up in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that it is awaiting a review by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the necessary adjusting legislation. Does the Tánaiste believe that the convention will be ratified in the lifetime of the Government? Does he accept that the failure to ratify the convention is a serious erosion of the commitment in the White Paper on development aid?

The Bill is expected in 2007. As the Deputy will appreciate, it requires legislation and the Bill is scheduled for publication next year.

I call Deputy Joe Higgins.

It becomes law at the end of this year. What will the Government do then? It has been ratified by the required number of countries.

The Deputy should allow Deputy Joe Higgins to speak without interruption.

The White House has just removed from office its resident psychopath, Mr. Rumsfeld——

When will we do the same?

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

It should relate to legislation.

The Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his predecessor have said over the past three years that as events developed in Iraq, they would keep it under review and we would——

Sorry, Deputy, it does not arise on the Order of Business. I suggest the Deputy tables an appropriate parliamentary question on the matter.

It is in order for me to ask about debates that have been promised. There is an implied promise——

Is a debate promised?

——to have a debate as policy on Iraq changes.

Is a debate promised?

As the Bush regime has been subjected to shock and awe by the American electorate——

Sorry, Deputy, we need to establish whether a debate has been promised. We will hear the Tánaiste.

Can we have an early debate——

There is shock and awe when the Deputy is coming.

——on the changing situation in the United States, particularly its policy towards Iraq and its implications for the Government regarding whether it will continue to facilitate the Rumsfeld war machine, now that he has gone?

The Deputy should table questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the implications for Government policy of any developments in Iraq.

What about a debate?

The Deputy used the phrase "implied promise". He should wait until he has an explicit promise.

I am asking for a debate on the issue.

We could have a celebration in the interim.

In view of the clearly illustrated unreliability of electronic voting, as shown in the recent mid-term elections in the US, does the Government intend to review the system of electronic voting as proposed here?

The Deputy should submit a question to the line Minister.

Could the discussion take place under the electronic communications Bill or perhaps——

The Deputy has already raised the matter this week.

The Ceann Comhairle has not heard the next one. Perhaps it could be dealt with under the crimes Bill.

I call the Tánaiste on the electronic communications Bill.

It is to be published this session.

It could also be dealt with under the crimes Bill. I ask the Tánaiste when that Bill is likely to come before the House. Could the discussion into the scandal of electronic voting and the cost to the taxpayer——

We cannot discuss what the Deputy would like to see in the Bill.

——be undertaken in the context of that Bill?

It will not arise in the context of the crimes Bill.

It could arise.

I call Deputy Broughan.

Will the father of electronic voting step forward as the surrogate father is not here this morning?

I ask about the long-promised postal miscellaneous provisions Bill. Given the spate of attacks and kidnappings, has the Tánaiste held or does he intend to hold any talks on security with the new chief executive of An Post?

The first question is in order on the postal miscellaneous provisions Bill.

The matter is within the Tánaiste's portfolio.

The particular Bill has been removed from the list, as the Deputy will appreciate. I do not know whether the Deputy was here earlier when I said that I spoke to the Garda Commissioner today. The Garda Síochána is in consultation with all relevant levels of An Post down to post office and sub-post office level to ensure that proper security is put in place.

Given that 27 licences for public transport have been issued for new routes in the greater Dublin area with no provision for integrated ticketing under the 1932 Act, when will the public transport regulation Bill be published. Essentially we are making matters worse in the absence of regulation.

That legislation is promised for next year and I cannot say any more at this stage on the matter.

When will the roads amendment Bill be before the House? Will it give additional powers to local authorities? I raised the issue of the Teamwork report at the Whips' meeting in recent weeks. Can we get an understanding or commitment from the Government that it will be discussed in the House?

That is a matter for the Whips.

On Operation Freeflow, is it true that the Department of Transport is receiving advice from Deputy Callely on how to implement it?

The Government Whip informs me that a discussion on the Teamwork report can be arranged by agreement among the Whips. The heads of the roads amendment Bill were approved by Government on 17 October and it will be published next year.

Will the Tánaiste acknowledge that the usual mayhem occurred this Hallowe'en? No vehicles were confiscated indicating that no Border patrols took place.

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

Will the Tánaiste acknowledge that the recently introduced legislation has not functioned?

The Deputy should submit a question to the line Minister.

Is the Tánaiste considering amending the legislation to bring it in line with legislation in Northern Ireland so that——

No legislation——

——we can co-ordinate the activities rather than having two separate——

The Deputy should allow the Tánaiste to reply.

——regimes operating on either side of the Border, which makes it impossible? Will the Tánaiste now acknowledge——

I ask the Deputy to allow the Tánaiste to answer the question.

——that his approach has been a disaster and that the situation this year was worse than it has been before?

Deputy Ó Caoláin asked me about the matter a fortnight ago.

Hallowe'en came after that.

The legislation has recently come into operation.

The legislation is a joke.

It was a different question.

Did he have a good Hallowe'en before it happened?

Deputy Ó Caoláin asked me whether there was a proposal to approximate our legislation with that of Northern Ireland and I answered him in the House. That legislation was recently enacted by the Oireachtas. This year there has been a dramatic improvement in terms of the problem of fireworks. Instead of them going off for a month prior to Hallowe'en and for two weeks afterwards——

Or for two months.

There were some isolated——

They started in September this year.

Deputy Burton is being disorderly again.

The debate should take place by way of a question to the line Minister.

The fireworks started in early September this year.

Not where I live.

The Minister is living in a new dream world.

I call Deputy Rabbitte.

A Cheann Comhairle——

No, Deputy, I will not hear you on the issue. You asked a question on legislation and it was answered. We are not having a debate on the issue now.

I am not asking for a debate. I asked the Minister if he intended to amend the legislation to make it more pertinent to the situation.

Is legislation promised?

No legislation is promised.

Deputy Fiona O'Malley told the House last night that the price of electricity could be brought down immediately by 10%——

Hear, hear.

Sorry, Deputy, that does not arise on the Order of Business. I understand Deputy Burton wishes to move a Private Members' Bill.

She said it appears that ESB management is behaving in a nakedly profit-seeking manner in preparation for privatisation.

Deputy, you are out of order. I call Deputy Burton to move a Private Members' Bill, the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2006. I have called your colleague, Deputy Rabbitte.

Will the Tánaiste indicate if legislation is contemplated in this area?

Is legislation promised?

I am accustomed to the major party in Government behaving as if it is in Government and Opposition but if the Progressive Democrats has taken up the——

Deputy Rabbitte, the Chair facilitated you by calling you twice, which is most unusual. The least I expect from you——

Let us hear what he has to say.

——is that you would adhere to Standing Orders and obey the Chair.

It is most unusual, Sir. It demonstrates uncommon generosity on your behalf coming up to Christmas.

Deputy Burton wants to introduce a Private Members' Bill.

Can I ask the Tánaiste if this is more of the Progressive Democrats posing as the defenders of the poor and the vulnerable?

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle——

I call Deputy Connolly on a point of order.

I have been trying to——

Just one moment, Deputy. I would like to hear the Tánaiste on the issue I raised because to put the Tánaiste in charge of the poor and the vulnerable——

Deputy Rabbitte, you are out of order.

——would be like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

On a point of order, I have been trying to speak on the Order of Business. It strikes me that the Pat Joe Walsh report is being dropped. I want it debated in conjunction with the Teamwork report.

Deputy, have you a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

I want to ask the Tánaiste a question about post mortems in view of the fact that we intend to change the law governing the retention of organs. Will he take on board the fact that sudden deaths from road traffic accidents——

That is not a point of order, Deputy. I called you on a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

It is. I want addressed in legislation the fact that people should not have to wait unduly for the post mortem to be carried out.

A Deputy

Hear, hear.

That does not arise on the Order of Business, Deputy. I suggest you submit a question to the line Minister.