Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 11 Oct 2007

Vol. 639 No. 3

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 11, statements on the establishment of committees, and No. 3, Fines Bill 2007 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 11 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.

There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11 agreed? Agreed.

My party has long held the view that victims of crime should be given full information in respect of cases as they proceed. In light of the comments of Mr. Justice Carney in respect of a particular case, will the Tánaiste indicate if any legislative change is envisaged in order to ensure that the victims of crime will be kept fully apprised of the progress of cases? As the Tánaiste is aware, in a number of sexual abuse cases, victims were informed by their abusers that those cases might not proceed to court or that the DPP might not be taking them forward. Has the Government decided to react to Mr. Justice Carney's comments by instigating a legislative change which would ensure that victims will be kept fully apprised of the facts relating to cases as they proceed?

It is normal practice that we do not make comments in the House in respect of members of the Judiciary. However, the Tánaiste may reply to the question on legislative change.

As I understand it, legislative change is not being advocated in respect of the lecture given last evening in Cork. The subject of the lecture was the issue of procedures within the court system. Such procedures are, in all circumstances, a matter for the courts. We should maintain the separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary as regards the internal workings of the courts.

Is the Tánaiste aware that unless action is taken quite soon, it is likely that the entire Aer Lingus fleet will be grounded in the next week or so as a result of the threat by management to lock the pilots out? We may find ourselves in a position where not only are there no services out of Shannon, there might be no services out of Ireland. In light of the gravity of the situation, has the Government considered asking the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to use section 38 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, which was introduced — in a previous capacity — by the Taoiseach to allow the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission or some other body or person to bring the two parties together? Does the Tánaiste agree it is time to knock heads together before Aer Lingus passengers suffer and damage is done to the country's reputation as a place to do business?

That is not strictly within the limits of the Order of Business. We are confined to asking questions about either promised debates or promised legislation. Does the Tánaiste wish to comment?

I only wish to say that the Taoiseach addressed this matter in the House last Tuesday when the leader of Deputy Burton's party asked this question. He was of the view that it should be possible for both parties to come together and try to resolve whatever differences exist between them in the interests of proceeding in an orderly fashion. Obviously, the industrial relations machinery remains available at all times to parties who are finding difficulties in resolving disputes to seek its assistance where that is required or appropriate.

Does the Tánaiste agree that things have moved on in this dispute since the Taoiseach spoke earlier in the week, that we are now effectively facing a management lock-out of the pilots and that some efforts should be made to bring the parties together before serious damage is done to the economy, passengers and our reputation?

Deputy Burton might think of another way of raising this issue during the course of the day.

Will the Tánaiste agree to a debate in the House on this issue?

The Order of Business has been set.

As the Deputy is aware, the Order of Business has been set for today by the House.

The Government has signalled its intent to set aside the funding provisions contained in the equal opportunities child care programme for community-provided child care services, which will have a clear effect, particularly in the area of low-income families and those already struggling to meet demands. There is legislation promised in the Government's programme of legislation that is intended to address low-income families in particular and those receiving lone parent payments. I am speaking specifically about the social welfare lone parent and other low income families reform Bill. In light of what is now signalled and its intended implementation in 2008, is there any prospect of the Government bringing forward that legislation that can address some of those who will be directly affected, although I emphasise clearly that not everyone will be affected?

The Bill referred to by Deputy Ó Caoláin is to give effect to the proposals arising from the Government's discussion paper, Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, which will provide for the introduction of a new means-tested payment for lone parents and other families on low incomes and will replace the one-parent family payment. That is not due for publication until next year. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brendan Smith, continues to discharge his responsibilities in respect of the child care issue.

In view of the recent report by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which is a prestigious committee of the Council of Europe, and considering that this is the third successive occasion over the last six years or so that the same committee has condemned the conditions in Irish prisons and a number of Garda stations and that three prisons — Mountjoy Prison, St. Patrick's Institution and Limerick Prison — were not fit for human accommodation, how does the Government intend to respond to these infringements in terms of human rights and rehabilitation? Does the Government intend to put the Prison Service on a statutory footing so we can have some accountability in the area?

Is there promised legislation in that area?

I am not aware of any promised legislation. In his response to that report, the chief executive of the Prison Service pointed out during the course of the week that it is intended by the end of 2010 with the capital programme in place to address some of the issues which have been raised perennially and which are historic features of the prison system. There is a significant capital programme under way in that respect.

In light of the many difficulties families and individuals find themselves in regarding nursing home care and its cost, will the Tánaiste advise us as to when the Nursing Home Support Scheme Bill will be dealt with in this House?

In light of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue virus in the UK, is there any indication when there will be a full discussion in this House of animal health issues under the Animal Health Bill?

In respect of the Health (Provision of Information) Bill, many people lack information on the current situation in respect of MRSA. This Bill might clarify that situation and help to bring it to a head.

There are three pieces of legislation.

I understand the first piece of legislation will be taken in the House during this session, while the second and third pieces of legislation referred to by the Deputy are due for next year. I am sure there will be other opportunities in the meantime to discuss the state of agriculture in respect of the Estimates over the coming weeks.

Will the Tánaiste make available time next week in the House to discuss two reports published this morning which are a damning indictment of the Government's failure to provide adequate child care supports and facilities? One report was produced by the Health Information and Quality Authority, while the other was commissioned by the Office of the Minister for Children. The first report says that over 100 children, who would be better cared for through fosterage, are in residential care due to the mismanagement of the HSE. The second report says there are no real services available to provide assistance to children who are the victims of domestic violence.

Is a debate promised on either of those matters?

Discussion of any of these reports is a matter for the Whips. In respect of fosterage, there has been a significant investment by the Government in making this more widely available as an option for troubled children.

In the context of that, is the Tánaiste not aware that this report says there are over 100 children under 12 years of age inappropriately living in residential care due to the negligence and failure of the management within the HSE? That is a serious issue and discussion of the possible constitutional amendments relating to children's rights should not distract from the Government's basic obligation to provide essential children's services. It is a disgrace.

Would the Tánaiste consider a Supplementary Estimate for the HSE and the Department of Health and Children, even at this late stage? He made a decision a few months ago in respect of the budget for 2008 as he was trying to run a tight ship, which is having a huge impact on all our constituents. Virtually everyone in the Chamber has heard about very serious cases involving stroke patients and other people with serious illnesses who do not have facilities because of a decision this Minister took a few months ago. He is changing the Estimates system, perhaps correctly, so we can have a proper discussion of, for example, the Estimate for 2009 next year. I presume that is what the Tánaiste means. Is it not time, even at this late stage in this term, to consider some sort of Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Health and Children?

Is a Supplementary Estimate promised?

I wish to speak on the same issue. I also wish to speak on another issue, although I am not sure if I can raise it now or later. I called last week for a Supplementary Estimate in respect of this issue. Every day, we receive new information——

We cannot deal with it now. It is either promised or not promised.

The National Rehabilitation Hospital cannot take in new patients because it cannot discharge patients. It is an extremely serious issue. The HSE is very new. There is a strong case to be made for——

Perhaps the Deputy would use another method and put down a Special Notice Question if it is that important but we cannot debate it now.

We need an answer from the Minister for Finance because patients are suffering on a daily basis.

A Deputy

Hear, hear.

There is no Supplementary Estimate promised. The point to be made about all this is that, in the context of resource allocation and reform of the health services, if we want to have sustainable improvements, we must work within the budgetary guidelines we have. If we do not do so, given the economic scenario of the next few years, we will put at risk many of the real improvements that have been made in the last decade and which can be sustained if we manage the situation properly.

Reform the administration.

When can we expect legislation to deal with the plebiscite held in Dingle regarding the name change from An Daingean to Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis?

When can we expect the legislation to deal with that plebiscite and will it be dealt with through primary legislation or other means?

Is there any such promised legislation?

To be frank, I have no idea how it will be dealt with.


I call Deputy Durkan.

Could the Tánaiste——

I have called Deputy Bernard Durkan. Deputy Tom Sheahan has had a good innings.

——give an indication to the people of Dingle? It is very important to them.

It will be in the future.

I can see the Minister is anxious to answer the Deputy's question.

In view of the seriousness of the crime situation and the vagueness of the proposals in the criminal justice (money laundering) Bill, will it be brought forward as a matter of urgency instead of being published next year? Will the Bill be affected by the Government's proposal to opt out of certain provisions of the proposed EU reform treaty?

There are 18 Bills on the Order Paper, some of which will be dealt with in this session and others which will be published. The Bill in question will be published some time next year.

What about the opt-out from certain EU provisions in the proposed reform treaty? Will it affect this Bill?

I am not aware that the money laundering Bill has any relevance to that particular matter.

I think it might be different.

Regarding the student support Bill, this morning over 2,000 students received notification of an upgrade of their leaving certificate results. This has serious consequences for those students and their places on third level courses.

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

Yes. Will the Minister review the current system whereby one in five students——

That is not a relevant question to the Order of Business.

——who appeal their results have them changed? That has serious consequences for many students.

This is a serious issue and I am sure the Deputy will find a way of raising it in order.

All week I have been attempting to get a matter raised on the Adjournment concerning community pharmacists. It was ruled out again this morning. I want to raise it under the pharmacy No. 2 Bill.

Perhaps today would be a good day for that.

This issue concerns a unilateral decision by the HSE which is threatening pharmacy services to medical card patients. Has the Minister any comments to make on the issue? They are threatening to withdraw services——

It is not appropriate to the Order of Business but there are other ways in which it can be raised.

The pharmacy No. 2 Bill proposes to implement the pharmacy review group's recommendations. Unilateral decisions, without any negotiations with representatives of the pharmacists, should be a matter of concern to the Minister.

Tánaiste, when will the pharmacy No. 2 Bill be brought to the House?

Preparation of the Bill has commenced in developing a framework and clarification of policy objectives following the enactment of the Pharmacy Act 2007. It is not possible to indicate when it will be published.

What about pharmacy services next week?

I am trying to establish which Minister is responsible for inland fisheries. Originally, I believed it was the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Mary Coughlan, and the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy John Browne. I now understand it is Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan. Is that the case and, if so, why is he responsible for inland fisheries?

He is responsible and it was a Government decision.

It must be the pike.

He is not responsible.

A committee on foreign affairs has not yet been established. In the absence of such a forum, will the Tánaiste indicate if there is a possibility of a debate on the recent events in Myanmar and the failure of the UN to issue an appropriate declaration?

I am sure the Whips can decide on that matter.

There are concerns that hundreds, if not thousands, of monks have either been massacred or tortured in Myanmar. The response from Europe has been grossly inadequate. There is a need for a united European response and far more effective action taken at UN level than what has happened to date.

We cannot have a debate on the matter now.

It is an issue for which time in the House should be made available. There is no alternative forum as a committee on foreign affairs has not yet been established. It is a matter we cannot ignore.

The Deputy has made a forceful point.

Unfortunately, some comments made after the recent confrontation between peaceful demonstrators and the junta in Myanmar concentrated on the removal of the threat of immediate casualties or a repeat of the 1988 massacres. One can understand this but there has been less public attention on the detentions and the transportation of detainees to labour camps in the north of Myanmar. I support the request for a debate on these matters.

There must also be an acknowledgement by the Government of its mistake in accommodating the Burmese junta when it facilitated its participation in what was termed "constructive engagement" at ASEAN meetings. I acknowledge the Government's judgment at the time——

We cannot have a debate on the matter now.

——but it must be debated soon.

It is a matter for the Whips. If the House wishes to have a debate on this important matter, it should be possible to arrange time for a short debate.