It is proposed to take No. 1, Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 — Second Stage. Private Members' business shall be No. 32 — motion re cancer services (resumed) — to conclude at 8.30 p.m. if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
There are no motions to be put to the House.
The Ceann Comhairle is in a very poetic mood this morning.
Milton himself wrote, "...courage never to submit or yield".
Has the Taoiseach read reports concerning the difficulties the Irish troops are having in Chad because of the damage done to a number of their vehicles under the Defence Act? This was raised earlier in the year by Deputy Deasy when the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, said he was being irresponsible. It is a dangerous mission, as the Taoiseach is aware, in temperatures of 45° or 50° Celsius. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister of Defence to ensure that every facility is put in place so that our troops——
That is not in order. The Deputy must speak on the Order of Business.
——are not endangered? Will the Taoiseach say when the regulatory Bill in respect of mineral exploration will be produced, as some time in 2008 had been indicated? When is the Bill due for the conferring of statutory responsibilities on the Commission for Energy Regulation to deal with mineral exploration and petroleum rights, since 2008 was indicated for this as well?
I understand both those items of legislation are due later this year.
This morning we really have the tale of two turkeys. No sooner has one turkey bitten the dust in Belgrade than another rises to try to drag the President into the referendum campaign. Having noted the comments the Taoiseach made last week about discipline on the Government side——
The Deputy is not in order.
——will he say whether there is anything he can do with the former Independent Deputy, who now supports the Government——
We cannot have that.
——to exercise some——
The question is out of order.
I want to speak on that as well.
Deputy Timmins will have to take his turn the same as everybody else.
Bring back Senator Ivor Callely.
I asked last week for a debate on the report of the Morris tribunal. The Tánaiste replied at the time that there were other reports pending and the Taoiseach indicated it would be published in mid-June. Can I have an assurance that the debate on the Morris tribunal will take place in this session of the Dáil, and not be postponed until after the summer recess?
I hope that will be possible, yes. Agreement must be reached among the Whips on those issues, but I have no principled objections to the recommendations or the outcome of that tribunal report, when it is published, being laid before the House and discussed. This is the place to discuss it.
I am not sure what the arrangements were when the Fianna Fáil-led Administration had the support of the Workers' Party, as regards whether it had total control of its deliberations at the time.
That lasted six months, though.
I presume the Taoiseach is aware that this is Say No to Ageism week. Will the Taoiseach say whether there is any legislation pending from the Government to terminate discrimination against older people? Also, in that context does he agree with me that the poster advertising campaign launched by the Equality Authority, the HSE and the Council for Older People, which depicts older people——
That is not in order.
——at bus shelters and on public transport throughout the country——
Deputy Shatter is out of order.
——in a grossly uncomplimentary fashion, is in fact——-
Is legislation promised in this area?
——discriminating against older people?
To my knowledge, no legislation is promised.
No legislation is promised in this area. I call Deputy Charles Flanagan.
Does the Taoiseach agree those posters should be withdrawn?
The question is out of order.
Before Christmas, amid some controversy the Government introduced the Tribunal of Inquiries (Amendment) Bill, which concluded Second Stage here before the end of the year. In view of Deputy Cowen's current status as Taoiseach, will he say whether it is the Government's intention to enact that legislation before the summer recess?
I am not so sure that it will be enacted before the summer recess, but that Bill improves on the much older legislation, which needs to be updated. We discussed, yesterday, during Question Time, what the benefits of that Bill were.
In light of what we are rightly celebrating — the ten year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement — and given that the George Mitchell conference is in Belfast this week, when will the George Mitchell scholarship fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill be brought before the House? Also, in light of the continuing criticism of tribunal costs and all the rest, when will the legal costs Bill be introduced in the House?
The second Bill will be next year, and the other Bill, about which I notified the Deputy a couple of weeks ago, will be introduced later this year.
Article 26 of the Constitution, which deals with the referral of Bills from the President to the Supreme Court, expressly prohibits the referral of money Bills and Bills proposing to amend the Constitution. Deputy Finian McGrath would have known this, and it is outrageous for a Member of this House——-
We cannot be dragging the President into debates in this House.
——-to try to carry out a publicity stunt such as this. It is unbecoming of a Member of this House.
No, it cannot be done.
When we had the proposal for a vote, in fairness to Sinn Féin, they stood up. Deputy Finian McGrath was hiding around the corridors of this House.
The Deputy cannot be making political points such as that on the Order of Business, as he well knows.
Then he goes out to try to bribe the President. It is an absolute disgrace.
Deputy Timmins is out of order and will have to take that matter up somewhere else and do it in another way.
On a point of order——
May I please finish? Let us be quite clear about this now, because it is important. I would remind Deputies that it is a long-standing rule of the Dáil that the President should be outside and above debate in this House.
Take action against him.
I cannot allow the Office of the President to become a subject of controversy on the floor of the House. I call Deputy Pat Breen.
Is there any mechanism inside this House to deal with a Member who seeks to do just what the Ceann Comhairle has mentioned?
I cannot allow this. I have made my ruling.
On a point of order——
The Deputy should stop badgering the Chair.
If I allow Members to raise matters which might be regarded as an attempt to protect the President, by the same token, the President could then be open to criticism, and I cannot allow that. There is no point of order. I call Deputy Charles Flanagan.
In view of what the Ceann Comhairle has just said, I suggest he call an immediate meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to deal with the matter.
Why are negotiations with the US authorities taking so long as regards the provision of pre-clearance facilities at Shannon and Dublin Airports? Originally the deadline was 1 May 2008 and now we are being told by the Minister for Transport that it will be the end of the year. This relates to the air navigation and transport Bill. Is there any urgency on the talks at the moment? If not, we shall not have any pre-clearance in place until 2009——
We cannot debate the talks now. The House will hear the Taoiseach on the legislation.
We do not have a date for the Bill that Deputy Pat Breen suggests, but obviously we continue to discuss the matter.
Is there any hope of fast-tracking those talks?
We cannot go into that now. There is another way to raise that and the Deputy can bring it up on the Adjournment, if he wishes.
There are two sides in the negotiations.
The Ceann Comhairle will be glad to know I am not going to ask about diesel prices this morning. I am not even going to ask about the pharmacy Bill and the discussions with the pharmacists. I am not going to ask the Tánaiste to come back to me regarding the update on her discussions with Commissioner Mandelson, although she promised to do that. However, I am going to ask about the unfortunate Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. According to my calculations, it will take about 15 years to complete the legislative programme laid before him, at the present rate of progress. Not wishing to advert to ageism or anything like that, I would, nonetheless, be concerned for his welfare. Would it be possible to consolidate the 36 Bills on the Order Paper into four or five that might encompass the required legislative provisions as a matter of urgency? There is no hope whatever——
That is not in order.
Even the Minister for Foreign Affairs would be incapable of dealing with that.
Has Deputy Durkan a specific question on legislation?
I have. The Ceann Comhairle will be glad to know I do not intend to read out the titles of the 36 Bills. I have a composite question for the Taoiseach. Will there be an evaluation of the proposed programme for justice to determine whether steps can be taken to combat crime and bring the legislation up to date?
That is completely out of order. I call Deputy Bannon.
It is not out of order.
The Deputy should ask about specific legislation.
Does the Ceann Comhairle want me to ask about specific legislation?
We cannot have an omnibus question.
I could not state the specifics but the Bills are on the Order Paper. If the Ceann Comhairle wants me to read them out, I will do so, but I do not want to delay the House. I am merely asking whether the Taoiseach will consider the possibility of determining the most urgent Bills and bringing them forward?
As I said, the legislation committee is meeting this week and the new Chief Whip will assess what is possible. In fairness to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, it has a legislative record second to none.
We will see.
Last week I called for an urgent debate on the loss of all cytology screening from Ireland to a US company. This will result in a loss of expertise and jobs. We are training young people in the Dublin Institute of Technology for jobs that will not exist — we are training them for export. Have the Whips discussed this issue and will time be allowed for a debate? The contract will be signed by the end of this month or early June. We will literally lose an entire cohort of expertise from this country. There was some debate in the House on this. We have a number of accredited laboratories in this country.
We cannot discuss that now.
We need an urgent debate.
Is a debate promised on this issue?
These are matters for the Whips to discuss with a view to determining whether a debate is possible.
It is an urgent matter.
I had the dubious pleasure of having another question disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle.
It was disallowed under Standing Orders.
It related to the requirement on students to purchase student travel cards for identification purposes. This strikes me as another way of penalising students financially. When will the public transport regulation Bill come before the House?
I understand the earliest it can be expected is next year.
There are three Bills on the legislative programme dealing with agriculture but I am concerned about the animal health and welfare Bill, which seems to be delayed. Will it be introduced? If Commissioner Mandelson gets his way, we will not have any animals left in the country. Will the Taoiseach clarify the position on this?
I do not yet have a date for that Bill.
Is the Ceann Comhairle or the Taoiseach aware that there are more than 50 children from St. Patrick's school in Skibbereen visiting the Dáil today?
It is hardly relevant to the Order of Business.
They are in the Visitors Gallery and there is not an information booklet on the House available to any of them.
We cannot discuss that.
Who is responsible?
Regardless of who it is, we cannot discuss it now.
An information booklet is supposed to be given to each pupil——
A guided tour would be far more interesting.
I call Deputy Varadkar.
It is a case of more cutbacks by the Department of Education and Science. Is the Taoiseach responsible? What about the Ceann Comhairle?
It is not in order and it cannot be raised now.
As the head of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, maybe it is the Ceann Comhairle I should be dealing with.
They were not available last week either.
Deputy Sheehan should call up to see me some time.
I have two questions. Given that this is Say no to Ageism Week, instead of spending so much money on advertising, the Government should inform us whether it intends to introduce legislation to end the prohibition on people over 70 from serving on juries, which is appalling discrimination against them.
That has been addressed.
That is done.
I am glad that is done.
We looked after that.
On promised legislation.
There is a need to update the software.
I will promise to read about these matters more closely in future. Will the Taoiseach allow more time to discuss the Lisbon treaty given that it appears that members of his Government, particularly the Tánaiste, do not seem to be aware of its provisions?
We cannot discuss that now. That discussion is over for today. I call Deputy Burton.
Bearing in mind the collapse of PPP projects in Dublin on foot of the withdrawal of Mr. McNamara's company therefrom, what is the position on legislation governing PPPs? A financial services regulation Bill has been promised but there is no regulation of PPPs other than through the mechanism in the NDFA for the NTMA to help with the financial structure——
To what legislation is the Deputy referring?
There is a huge gap. There are people all over Dublin who will live for another ten years in dreadful conditions in O'Deveney Gardens and St. Michael's Estate.
The Deputy should ask a question on legislation.
Finglas village is now in a complete state of uncertainty——
We cannot have a speech on it.
——because of the withdrawal of the developer from the PPPs.
To what legislation is the Deputy referring?
May I approach the matter in a slightly different way?
I must keep Deputies in order.
This is a massive issue for more than 20,000 people in Dublin.
There are several massive issues that do not relate to the Order of Business.
It also applies to a whole range of PPPs throughout the country.
Can we have a full debate in the Dáil?
Is a debate promised?
It is a matter for the Whips. On the basis of the setback that occurred during the week, we are now concentrating our efforts to determine whether it is possible for others to take the place of the developer. That is the focus of our attention and we should not assume all is lost. There are people trying to decide whether the matter can be addressed.
We cannot go into that.
On a second issue, we were advised yesterday that the Opposition is to be invited to discussions on the three or four Bills required in respect of management companies. This is a major issue, particularly for my constituency.
We cannot go into that now.
Can we have some indication as to the arrangement the Taoiseach referred to yesterday in this regard? What briefs apply? Deputy Rabbitte, my colleague, will be very anxious to know about this. We have already produced our guide to management companies.
I assume that is a matter for the Whips.
What are the arrangements?
That is not in order. The Deputy knows very well these arrangements are a matter for the Whips.
This issue affects thousands of young homeowners who are being completely fleeced by excessive management company charges.
Every other Deputy has issues that affect thousands of people also and I cannot allow them on the Order of Business although I wish I could. I do not draw up the Standing Orders; Members of the House do and I must abide by them, just as the Deputy must.
The Taoiseach made an announcement yesterday on consultation with the Opposition.
Can we have an indication as to what the arrangements are?
The Taoiseach wants to answer on this very important issue.
It is a matter for the Whips.
The Ministers will be in touch with the spokespersons concerned.
On a point of order, the Taoiseach referred to this matter in the House yesterday. Surely, therefore, it must be in order to try to obtain clarity on it.
In an effort to be helpful——
I understand and appreciate that.
It was an effort to be helpful, yet there is still a problem when one is helpful. To be helpful, I suggested the three Ministers considering the matter should discuss it with Opposition spokespersons to try to determine whether progress could be made. Deputy Burton asked about the arrangements. When the three Ministers meet, they will put forward a proposal or ideas and talk to the Opposition spokespersons. The Deputy should not ask me to micro-manage the meetings.
Will they meet the Opposition spokespersons——
Why not? I do not know. Let those concerned make the arrangements. It is not rocket science and the arrangements will be made.
May I return to the issue I raised previously in a way that is in order? The poster campaign being run on older people is grossly offensive to a large number of people. If a similar campaign were run——
The Deputy cannot discuss that now.
If the Ceann Comhairle bears with me, I promise I will be in order. If a similar campaign were run with regard to a racial or religious group, or individuals of a particular sexual orientation, there would be a national outcry. Has the Taoiseach had an opportunity to consider the poster campaign? If he does not realise its implications, he should request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is responsible for the Equality Authority of Ireland, to make a statement to the House today on this issue.
I cannot allow that, it is out of order. I call Deputy Lynch.
I ask the Taoiseach and the Minister to withdraw this campaign.
A Cheann Comhairle——
I hope Deputy Lynch will be in order.
It is an entirely——
It does not matter, it is not in order.
It is entirely unacceptable targeting of older people based——
It is not in order.
——on misconceived advice and very poor judgment. It should be withdrawn and——
——taxpayers' money should not be wasted on it.
One will have seen major effects during a week designed to promote the elderly in a positive, rather than a negative, light among the people.
I call Deputy Kathleen Lynch.
A Cheann Comhairle, may I——
It is extraordinary that three State bodies——
Deputy Shatter is completely out of order.
——are portraying older people in a grossly negative manner——
Unfortunately, Deputy Shatter now is testing the patience of the Chair.
——and in an insulting manner——
——during the course of what is meant to be a week to promote older peoples' rights.
This is quite extraordinary. Does the Taoiseach have——
I thank the Ceann Comhairle——
The Deputy is out of order.
The Deputy is completely out of order.
He should use the opportunity to express his view.
This campaign should be brought to an end.
The Deputy is completely out of order.
It is a national disgrace.
It is a disgrace to the organisation promoting it, which should know better.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for calling me. A delegation appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday to discuss acquired brain injury. The Taoiseach has taken an interest in this issue in the past. I refer to the health amendment Bill. While Members normally cannot speak on this——
——I beg the Ceann Comhairle's indulgence. Will there be provision in that Bill to have a debate on the provision of rehabilitation services for the south of Ireland?
We cannot go into that now. When is the health amendment Bill due?
I do not have a date for the health amendment Bill. Again, however, if such a debate is sought either in committee or in plenary session, it is a matter for discussion among the Whips.
I call Deputy Brian Hayes.
I am aware of the issue.
As the Taoiseach is aware, one of the clearest rights given to Members of the Oireachtas in the Constitution is the right to impeach a judge on the basis of stated misbehaviour. As he also is aware, this issue came to public attention some years ago in respect of a clear case. On that occasion, however, the judge in question resigned. Following the report made by a select committee of both Houses, it was agreed the Government would introduce legislation for judicial misconduct. While I understand it is promised, where does this legislation stand at present? Were this issue to come to public attention again within six months or a year, Members could again face this situation without having legislation in place.
The Taoiseach, on legislation on the Judiciary.
I understand a Bill called the judicial council Bill that would cover that scenario is in preparation. While it may not be introduced to the House until later this year or next year, I understand this is the position.