Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 23 Nov 2006

Vol. 628 No. 2

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 21, Citizens Information Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 1, Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage.

There are no proposals to put to the House on the Order of Business.

I wish to raise a number of issues. I understand that another man was shot dead in Drogheda this morning, which is another appalling incidence of crime.

It is appropriate that the Citizens Information Bill should be on the Order Paper today. The Tánaiste should apologise on behalf of the Government to the 500,000 people inconvenienced yesterday by an appalling lapse in traffic management because of a hole in a road.

The matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Wait until a truck breaks down in the tunnel.

On 27 June, the Tánaiste told the Seanad it was his view that "the law as it currently stands is sufficient and has served us well". In his humble way, he cast aspersions on the issues raised by Fine Gael about home defence. However, the Law Society has made recommendations in that regard which the Tánaiste has accepted. Will he advise the House when he intends to introduce that legislation, which will be supported?

Can the Tánaiste comment on the latest fiasco in Waterford, where a District Court judge struck out 17 motoring offences because of an inability to supply copies of the original charges? Is this another example of mismanagement in the system of dealing with motoring offences on the part of the Department of Transport and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

Another own goal.

Today's Irish Examiner carries an appalling version of events relating to domestic violence. Six Departments are involved and it appears that the reporting of domestic violence by the Garda Síochána has declined.

Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business? If he has not I would prefer he kept his questions and addressed them to the line Minister.

The Ceann Comhairle is an esteemed and long-serving Member of the House but he should not always presume to know what a Deputy is about to ask.

The Chair has already been generous this morning in allowing the Deputy two questions. I will allow the second if it is in order.

My second question is in order and I will explain why.

Come directly to the question.

Does the Tánaiste have any legislative proposals to draw together the six agencies and Departments dealing with domestic violence, both against men and women? There are many examples of both and the issue needs to be given much greater priority than it has.

The Deputy raised an occupier's right to defend his own home. It is the intention of the Government to deal with that in the forthcoming criminal law miscellaneous provisions Bill. I have indicated to the House my views on that issue and have pointed out that the difficulties that we face arise, as the Law Reform Commission pointed out, from legislation tendered to this House in 1997 which cast upon people the obligation to retreat. The Deputy was more familiar with that legislation than I was, as it was put through on his watch.

No legislation is promised to take away functions from the Departments dealing with the various aspects of domestic violence and centralise them in one Department. Domestic violence covers many issues. It is not proposed, for example, that the funding and provision of hostels for victims of domestic violence be transferred to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Why have gardaí stopped recording those cases?

Deputy Stanton's leader is entitled to hear an answer to his question.

There are, however, clear justice angles to domestic violence and a family law Bill is proposed for next year.

A preliminary examination of the case in Waterford suggests legislative change is not required but that the matter is one of procedure.

Does the Minister intend to come into the House to make a statement on the case of Baiba Saulite and the many disquieting factors that appear to surround it? Was Garda protection refused, or considered and refused——

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

——especially given the fact that her solicitor had such protection?

I suggest the Deputy raise the matter in the appropriate way, which the Chair will facilitate.

Statements should be allowed. The matter is very serious.

Only one in six contract murders leads to a conviction.

I would prefer if Deputy Rabbitte stayed within Standing Order 26, as everybody else is expected to do.

I thank the Chair for his assistance.

Was the Minister consulted by the Taoiseach before he made his announcement at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis about the constitutional amendment relating to children's rights?

The weekend newspapers carried stories to the effect that the Taoiseach intends to exhume the Manchester martyrs. Was the Tánaiste consulted on that?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

He did not show any interest in exhuming details of his own activities in Manchester. Did the Taoiseach bypass the Tánaiste on this?

I cannot make any comment on an ongoing Garda investigation. The legislation to hold a referendum has not yet been promised because we have not yet completed the consultation phase on what would or would not constitute the elements of a referendum on the rights of children.

It was a mere Fianna Fáil promise.

I was in conversation with the Taoiseach before the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis and he did not make the announcement without consulting me. I know nothing about exhuming the Manchester martyrs.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

Excuse me, Deputy Sargent.

I did not realise Deputy Rabbitte was still in full flow.

I called Deputy Sargent.

Does the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform have a blind spot about Manchester? He never knows anything relating to that city.

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

I want to ask about a piece of legislation but I will not ask about a Garda investigation. I understand the Tánaiste would not give me details if I did. I will ask, however, about the deployment of gardaí and his role as Minister in that regard. An area such as Swords, the same size as Waterford city——

That is a question for the Tánaiste as line Minister. It is not a question for the Order of Business.

I appreciate the delicacy of the situation so I will not pursue it. However, I wish to put it on the record that it is an issue that needs to be attended to.

The Deputy will have to find another way of putting it on the record and the Chair will facilitate him.

I already have. On promised legislation——

Will the Deputy ask a question on promised legislation?

I have not had the chance to ask it yet.

I wanted to alert the House to the fact that the Deputy was about to ask a question on promised legislation.

A control of exports Bill is promised for this session. Is the Bill forthcoming, given the amount of armaments and weaponry, including grenades, coming into the country? Secondary school students, including some in the constituency of the Minister for Finance, could do a deal with an Israeli arms dealer because of the lack of controls on imports.

Is legislation promised?

I ask if legislation is promised because it is a matter for the Tánaiste as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The law is perfectly adequate in that respect.

It certainly is not.

Is the Tánaiste aware that last Sunday night, when a doctor reported for duty at the SATU unit in the Rotunda Hospital, five women who had been sexually assaulted at various times over the weekend were still waiting for treatment? Will the €2.8 million funding recommended in a recent report for these units, and for a new unit in the midlands, be provided?

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

When will the medical practitioners Bill and the nurses and midwives Bill be published to ensure there are enough doctors and nurses?

The medical practitioners Bill is due this session and the nurses and midwives Bill is due next year.

Meanwhile assaulted women can wait.

Does the Government intend to pass the criminal justice corruption Bill before the end of the term of this Government? I will ask a question as an addendum to the earlier question on the case of Baiba Saulite. Is the Minister sure that households, particularly those headed by women which are under constant, vicious anti-social pressure involving attacks which endanger the lives of the householders, are safe?

I suggest the Deputy find another way of raising the matter. The first question was on legislation.

The question relates to Tánaiste's Department and these dastardly crimes take place on his watch.

This is the Order of Business and the Tánaiste is deputising for the Head of Government.

I want the Tánaiste to address the question posed by Deputy Rabbitte.

The Tánaiste is not in the House today in his capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The question of whether these people are safe was posed by Deputy Rabbitte and should be answered by the Tánaiste.

The criminal justice (United Nations convention against corruption) Bill is expected next year.

I will ask questions on two items of promised legislation. No. 65 is the enforcement of fines Bill, to end the inappropriate and arguably unjust practice of imprisoning people for non-payment of fines. Has the Government approved the heads of that Bill and when will it be published?

The second issue is No. 71, a Bill to provide powers to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding sentences imposed by the District Courts, an issue that has been in the news recently. Has the Government agreed the heads of that Bill and when will it be published?

The drafting of the fines legislation is at an advanced stage in the Attorney General's office. One issue was holding it up but I believe that has now been disposed of. Is the Deputy referring to the legislation empowering the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal lenient sentences in the District Court?

Yes. In both cases I asked whether the heads of the Bills had been agreed.

The Deputy may not be aware that I asked the Law Reform Commission to examine that issue. Its report, published some days ago, suggests that it might not be wise to provide for that power after all. We are considering that report before proceeding with the legislation.

In light of the fact that the Garda has not been recording domestic violence incidents for the past two years, have the heads of the family law Bill been approved yet by the Government? This Bill has been promised for seven years. Did the Minister give his approval to the Garda to stop recording incidents of domestic violence? Ireland has the lowest conviction rate in Europe in this area. It is a serious issue.

The legislation is expected in 2007, as I said earlier.

There is no comment on the rest of the question.

My question is about No. 35. Does the Minister plan to introduce legislation on the regulation of private airports and the fact that it is possible to smuggle drugs, guns and people into the country?

Is legislation promised?

The Minister for Finance has promised a review of the activities of customs officers but we still have not heard anything about it. Has the Tánaiste spoken to his colleague, the Minister for Finance, about this issue? Has he done anything about it?

No legislation is promised.

There is legislation listed.

No legislation is promised. I call Deputy O'Sullivan.

The criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is included in the list. Is the Minister interested——

Deputy Burton, we cannot have a debate on it.

Does the Minister know the number of young people dying from drugs?

We cannot have a debate on the issue.

Is the Minister aware of the number of young people being murdered in drug wars?

Deputy Burton should facilitate her colleague, Deputy O'Sullivan, who has been called.

The Minister is laughing.

The Deputy is being disorderly.

We are burying tens of young people as a result of the drugs epidemic——

I ask Deputy Burton to resume her seat.

——and the Minister does not care.

I call Deputy O'Sullivan.

On the point raised by Deputy Stanton, are the gardaí not legally obliged to record cases of domestic violence?

That does not arise at this stage.

It is a legal question.

I call Deputy Naughten.

I have other questions, a Cheann Comhairle. The Minister for Education and Science is seated beside the Tánaiste. She is responsible for two Bills in the list of legislation to be published in this session. I asked yesterday about the student support Bill but the Taoiseach could not tell me when it will be published. Perhaps the Minister could advise the Tánaiste on it. Second, when will the education miscellaneous provisions Bill be published? Both Bills were expected to be published this session but there is no sign of action on them.

It is proposed to publish both Bills this session.

Any idea of the time?

This session.

The Minister said they would be brought through both Houses before Christmas.

The Minister said that about the student support Bill.

No. I said they would be published this session.

Under Standing Order 31, I raised the issue of the trafficking of persons. This is now the third biggest illegal trading activity in the EU. When will No. 36, the criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual offences) Bill, be published?

That is almost drafted and I hope to publish it in the first few weeks of next year.

Will it be before the start of the next session?

I hope so.

One of the Bills on the Order Paper had the objective of closing down or abolishing tribunals, the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005. What has happened to that Bill?

That measure is on the list for discussion in the House. The proposal for the Second Stage debate was withdrawn at the request of the Deputy's party.

It was not withdrawn. To correct the record, it was not withdrawn at the request of the Labour Party. We thought the Minister was very stupid to bring it forward——

It is not appropriate to refer to a Deputy in derogatory terms. I ask the Deputy to withdraw the remark.

I apologise to the genius.

It is so clearly not true in the case of the Tánaiste, it is not an insult.

With regard to the criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual offences) Bill, will it include a definition of "trafficking"? It is useless if it does not.

It is not appropriate to discuss the content of the Bill at this stage.

Given that the definition is central to the Bill, the Minister might be prepared to answer.

It is not appropriate to go into detail about what might be in a Bill at this stage. I call Deputy Gormley.

The working group on domestic partnerships has outlined proposals for gay marriage. When is it intended to introduce legislation to provide for gay marriage or does it first require a referendum?

No referendum-type legislation is promised. The report is being considered by the Government at present.

Given that people must wait at least two years to see a consultant before getting on a waiting list and that beds cannot be provided for people requiring serious cancer operations——

A question appropriate to the Order of Business, Deputy.

It is very appropriate. When will the health Bill be discussed in the House?

It is intended to deal with the health Bill as soon as the House resumes in the next session.

When will the long promised codification of the licensing laws, the Minister's magnum opus, be brought before the House?

That Bill is currently being drafted in the Attorney General's office.

I wish to raise three issues. The first relates to the continued use of the Internet by those with paedophilic tendencies and those who promote and glamorise other illegal acts. Does the Tánaiste accept there is a need to withdraw the electronic communications Bill and replace it with a Bill that will deal seriously with the issues in that regard?

That question was raised by the Deputy on Tuesday.

I will continue to raise it until we hear a reply.

The issue of grooming is being dealt with in the criminal justice trafficking Bill which will be introduced soon. The other legislation is expected in this session.

The European Commission has indicated that action should be taken at the communications level, apart from in other areas. Electronic means can be used to eliminate that type of material from a website at the initial stages——

We cannot have a debate about the content of a Bill. The Tánaiste has answered the Deputy's question. I call Deputy Sherlock.

Will the Tánaiste reply?

I call Deputy Sherlock. The Deputy should submit a question to the line Minister.

I have not finished my question. It is on the Order of Business.

The Chair has ruled it out of order.

The Tánaiste wishes to answer the question.

I call Deputy Sherlock.

A Cheann Comhairle, will you please allow the Tánaiste to answer the question? Does the Tánaiste think this is funny? Does he think paedophilia is funny?

I ask Deputy Durkan to resume his seat.

I have a question for the Ceann Comhairle. Last Tuesday, I examined the lottery of parliamentary questions. The Fine Gael and Labour parties tabled 120 questions but only managed to get four or five in the first ten Ordinary Questions. Miraculously, we had ten out of ten in the last ten questions. How did that happen? I put you on notice, a Cheann Comhairle, that I am dissatisfied with the lottery system. It is flawed. It is like the electronic voting system, about which the Tánaiste might have something to say in a minute. I want to officially request that the system be changed so the Ceann Comhairle will first adjudicate on the eligibility of the questions and that the lottery takes place afterwards. The current system whereby the Ceann Comhairle adjudicates on the eligibility of the questions after the lottery makes a mockery of the lottery system. I am asking that he does that without——

It is not a matter for the Chair, but rather for Standing Orders. I suggest that——

I am sorry, Ceann Comhairle.

——the Whips discuss the matter and the Chair will be glad to facilitate them. While I am on the point——

Will the Chair take that on board?

——-I want to make something else absolutely clear to the Deputy.

The Chair accepts full responsibility for questions that are refused. It is inappropriate for any Deputy to be discourteous to staff about questions that are turned down. The Chair——-

I want to also——

——will take full responsibility. I read the questions myself. If one looks at the statistics, one will find the Chair is very user friendly because we now have the lowest number of questions being refused——

I know all about that.

——in the history of the State. Those are the facts. I just want to make the point that——

The Ceann Comhairle suggests——

——I will not accept Members going in and being discourteous to staff.

I resent that implication——

The staff are not responsible. I take full responsibility.

——and I want to inform the Ceann Comhairle that it is the custom in this House that staff be courteous to Members — and that applies to all staff. If the Ceann Comhairle wants to go that way again, we shall do that.

The last question I wanted to ask the Tánaiste was in regard to the fact he has expressed a view on most issues with the exception of electronic voting. Has he expressed any preference as regards what to do with the now obsolete electronic voting system?

That question does not arise on the Order of Business and the Deputy must find another way of raising this matter. I call on Deputy Sherlock, who has been waiting very patiently.

The Tánaiste is silent on that issue.

As the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is very positive in his replies, has he heard from the Attorney General, as the Supreme Court has decided on the ground rent issue? Is it proposed to restore the ground rent issue to the Order of Business?

The position on that issue is that a case is still pending before the Supreme Court. I am unaware of any decision by the Supreme Court as regards that matter.