Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 18 Jan 2012

Vol. 752 No. 1

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 12, Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 - Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages; No. 13 - Health (Provision of General Practitioner Services) Bill 2011 - Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages; and No. 4 - Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 - Second Stage (resumed). Private Members' business, No. 39, motion re provision of guidance counselling in schools (resumed) shall conclude at 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.

There are no proposals to be put to the House.

I note a Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs has yet to be appointed and there is a meeting of the committee next Friday. Will the Government facilitate a discussion on the forthcoming treaty at the Oireachtas committee next Friday? This is a very important issue which will have a profound impact on the country and its future. It is incomprehensible that the Dáil has not had the opportunity to have any input into this treaty. The least that should be facilitated is a discussion with the relevant Ministers and officials at the Oireachtas committee on the draft treaty and the implications in terms of the new fiscal rules and so forth. It is a basic requirement.

I meant what I said earlier that this House is being treated with contempt on this issue. The very least we deserve as Members is an opportunity to have our say and an input. There is no point presenting a fait accompli next week, or a take it or leave it situation in terms of this treaty, which is what is happening. If that is what materialises, it will come back to haunt the country in terms of people’s attitudes towards the European Union. We have legitimate points to make in this regard. I do not share the Taoiseach’s scepticism about the RTE EU department.

That is a separate issue and is not for the Order of Business.

I have not seen the Deputy's proposals on the draft text which is online.

The Taoiseach has seen them.

I have not.

The Taoiseach has seen them.

I have not.

I have articulated them in this House in debate after debate.

I have not seen-----

The Taoiseach has seen them.

-----the Fianna Fáil gold-plated response-----


Will Deputy Martin resume his seat?


-----to a draft text.

The Taoiseach has seen it.

Deputy Martin can send me his provisions on all the drafts-----

The Taoiseach certainly has seen it.

-----despite the fact it has not even concluded yet.

Deputy Donohoe will chair the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs in the absence of the Minister of State, Deputy Joe Costello, but I will discuss that matter and the question the Deputy has raised.

It has been a good week for the Costellos.

I disregard completely the Deputy's claim that this House is being treated with contempt. We are giving so much more time, and rightly so, to European Union issues.

It is optics, spin and a sham.

Sorry, Deputy Martin-----

Next Tuesday the Deputy can give me his definitive text arising from what will be concluded tomorrow by the officials. I will look forward to it.

Can I ask two questions about the timing of debates?

Yesterday the Taoiseach committed to a debate on the HSE service plan. On Monday a citizen, Maureen Kane, collapsed on the streets of Drogheda and died before she could be taken to the hospital, which was only a stone's throw from where she was and a stone's throw from the Cottage nursing home. This is the second time that has happened in Drogheda. Another citizen, Peter Sherlock, also died. It shows the urgency of these issues and I call for an urgent debate.

I welcome the debate next Tuesday on this austerity treaty. It would help if the Government made available to us a copy of the Irish submission to the EU and if we knew what the Government was pitching in all of this, so we can have an informed debate.

I am only a short time in the House but I do not believe that there is inclusive discussion on these issues or that the Oireachtas is getting the respect it deserves from the Government on these crucial issues. This austerity treaty is very bad for the EU but, more important, for the people of this State. The Taoiseach knows that and that is why he is dodging the issue. He is for it and we deserve the right to influence his opinion on this matter.

I will take the second matter first. Not only do I treat the House and its Members, who are elected by the people, with respect but I gave a briefing to Deputy Adams and Deputy Martin. As a consequence, Deputy Adams came up with his own words which leads me to believe that in future I will have to take very careful notes about what I say so that when I hear Deputy Adams report what I said, it will be accurate.

The Taoiseach can have my notes.

At least Deputy Martin had the respect and responsibility to treat a confidential briefing as such.

I listen to Tony Connelly a lot.

Deputy Martin might not agree but at least he did that and I commend him.


I will deal with another matter Deputy Adams raised.

I asked about the Government's submission-----

We are not discussing the issue. We are discussing when the debate will take place.

The officials will conclude their work tomorrow on whatever text emerges. That then goes to the Heads of State and Government. We will have a discussion on the text at the pre-European Council debate next Tuesday and Deputy Adams can have his say then.

Deputy Adams raised another matter of importance. Anything I say cannot bring back the deceased and I tender my sympathies to her family and friends. It is important to put on record that the national ambulance service confirmed that a 999 emergency ambulance call was received at 5.22 p.m. on 16 January for the Drogheda area. The vehicles stationed in the Drogheda area are tasked with being on call all of the time. Following the standard operating procedure, the closest available ambulance was dispatched at 5.23 p.m., which was one minute later, and it arrived at the scene at 5.40 p.m., which was 18 minutes later. The patient, God rest her, was then transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and arrived at 6.05 p.m.

The national ambulance service works on an area basis rather than on a local one and it is a dynamic and not a static service. Seven emergency ambulances operate in the area - two in Drogheda, four in Dundalk and one in Ardee. They are supported by ambulances from surrounding stations in the first instance and by ambulances from adjoining area. The response time in this incident was within the Health Quality and Information Authority target for clinical status one incidents, which is 18 minutes and 59 seconds, but that is of no consequence to the family of the deceased. Any confusion that may have arisen here, which may have led to the impression that the response time was considerably longer, happened because of a procedural omission. I understand that when ambulances arrive at an incident like this there is an on-scene arrival status button which is pressed to record the time of arrival at the scene, but that did not happen in this case. While it is important to note the response times, anything I say here cannot bring back the life of the deceased.

Just for the record, there is no ambulance station in Drogheda. That is what the Taoiseach left out of his reply.

We cannot discuss that issue now. I note that the Deputy has requested the matter be debated during Topical Issues. He will be better able to deal with it tomorrow.

If the Deputy raises the matter about a debate on the health service plan at the Whips' meeting, I am sure the Minister will be happy to accommodate that at an early date.

Is any legislation planned to deal with a situation whereby there is a difference of over 2% in the variable interest rate being charged on mortgages by State-owned banks? The Taoiseach asked the Financial Regulator whether he wanted additional powers to intervene in this area, and the answer was "No". Will the Government take the initiative to bring forward legislation to address a clear anomaly, which is affecting mortgage holders who are already in serious distress?

We will bring forward a package to deal with the mortgage issue. I referred yesterday to the personal insolvency Bill, which I expect to come before Government next week. When I wrote to the Financial Regulator I pointed out to him that he is the regulator, but that if he requested powers from the Oireachtas the Government would respond to his claim. He wrote back to say that, on consideration, he did not require and neither was it opportune to have powers given to him.

It is up to us; we can give him powers.

It is not a case of the Government saying that we will supersede the regulator. If a claim is made by the regulator for increased authority or a changed responsibility in that regard, the Government will respond to it.

He works to the rules we set. We set the rules.

On a similar topic, the Taoiseach told me yesterday, and has now confirmed it, that the personal insolvency Bill is due to come before the Cabinet on Tuesday. The Taoiseach was unsure yesterday whether or not it would cover mortgage debt. Does he agree that if it does not cover mortgage debt, it is pretty innocuous? This is the major problem we will be dealing with, so will he use his influence at Cabinet to ensure that the legislation will cover mortgage debt?

It is a very extensive Bill because of all the legal implications involved. I do not want to give any indication of the Bill's range until the Government has made its decision next Tuesday.

That is what everybody is asking.

I am well aware of what the Deputy is saying.

The Legal Services Bill commenced Second Stage before Christmas, but there was no regulatory impact assessment accompanying that measure. I tabled a parliamentary question but the reply said it was being put together. I would have thought that would have preceded the legislation. Will that regulatory impact assessment be available before we recommence Second Stage of the Bill next week?

I cannot answer that but it is expected that the Bill will be processed through the House by Easter. There will be a great deal of consultation, debate and discussion about it. I will raise the question of the regulatory impact assessment with the Minister for Justice and Equality and he will respond directly to the Deputy.

Bhí sé geallta i gclár an Rialtais go mbéadh leasú á dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Cén fáth nach bhfuil seo ar an gclár reachtaíochta?

Chomh maith leis sin, an bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Taoiseach iarraidh ar an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna ceartú a dhéanamh ar an méid adúirt sé sa Teach an lá faoi dheireadh maidir leis an mBille um Sheirbhísí Uisce, nuair a dúirt sé rud a bhí thar a bheith mí-chruinn?

Níl a fhios agam céard a dúirt an t-Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna. Ní raibh mé ag éisteacht leis. Ní raibh mé sa Teach nuair a bhí sé ag caint. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil freagraí cruinn soiléir leagtha amach ag an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil faoin rud seo.

Bhí mé ag léamh ar maidin faoi ráiteas an Teachta Ó Cuív i gContae Chill Mantáin faoi chúrsaí séarachais agus costaisí a bhaineann leis. Ní raibh a ndúirt sé cruinn. Ta sé i bhfábhar coinníolacha a bheith ag baint leis an gcóras nua. Bíodh sé cinnte de seo. Beidh an t-Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil an-soiléir faoi seo. Ní bheidh aon dabht in aigne an Teachta féin céard go díreacht atá i gceist, ó thaobh na hEorpa de agus ó thaobh ard-chaighdeán maidir le séarachas agus uisce. Níor chuala mé an rud a dúirt an t-Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna.

An rud a dúirt sé ná go mbéadh fíneáil ar an tír seo ó Mí Feabhra seo chugainn.

I am calling Deputy Broughan. We are not having a discussion.

An bhféadfadh an Taoiseach a rá leis an Aire go bhfuil sin mícheart?

Suigh síos más é do thoil é. I call Deputy Broughan.


I will speak in English, in case the Deputy does not understand my Irish. I am asking him to resume his seat immediately or else he will be taking a walk.


Will the Deputy listen to me? When I stand, he should not continue to ignore the Chair, which he does on a continuous basis.

I did not hear you.

I suggest that the Deputy must get his hearing tested. I shouted at him three times.

Specsavers are doing that now.

They are not paying any attention to him now.

I did not hear you.

The Deputy should show respect for this House, but he shows no respect for it. I call Deputy Broughan.

I do show respect for the House.

The Deputy certainly showed no respect for it last Friday with his behaviour. I ask him to resume his seat. His behaviour last Friday was a disgrace. I call Deputy Broughan.

Could I ask the Taoiseach-----

On a point of order-----

I have called Deputy Broughan. There is no point of order. The Deputy is play-acting again about this issue.

I am not play-acting.

What is your point of order?

You should show a bit more respect to people on this side of the House.

I do show respect.

You do not, actually. Your remark there did not show respect. When the House is misled-----

I am able to read.

-----I am simply asking for reports to correct the record of the House.

I am talking about behaviour in the Chamber.

I am able to read and I read the full transcript of what happened.

Yesterday, an attempt was made in this House to raise a point of order, but you did not even entertain the person. The person could not even speak and was dismissed. That is not good enough for a point or order.

If Deputy Martin is not satisfied with my performance, there is a method by which he can deal with it. I call Deputy Broughan.

You are doing grand, a Cheann Comhairle.

Thank you very much.

I have three brief questions for the Taoiseach. When is it expected that the Coroners Bill will be brought before the House?

Second, in reply to a number of questions on the personal insolvency legislation, the Taoiseach said yesterday that the heads of the Bill would come before the Cabinet next Tuesday. Has the Taoiseach raised with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, the flight of our builders and developers to the UK to avail of their California-style bankruptcy laws?

I am afraid that is not in order.

I am just asking the Taoiseach if he has raised the matter with Mr. Cameron. Does he think our legislation is adequate?

A parliamentary question would be suitable.

Third, I wish to ask about Priory Hall. There is a notice concerning this before the Supreme Court tomorrow. Has the Taoiseach spoken to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, about this matter? Are we making progress to resolve this horrifying situation for 50 families in my constituency?

The Coroners Bill is before the Seanad. I cannot give the Deputy any date when it will conclude there.

I did not raise the question of builders fleeing to Britain with Prime Minister Cameron. We had a range of other issues that we did discuss.

I have spoken to the Minister, Deputy Hogan. Deputy Broughan will be aware that the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, has met with some of the Priory Hall residents. This is a mess. When I hear claims from the major building organisations about cutbacks in the capital programme and so on, there is a responsibility here. The Minister, Deputy Hogan, is well aware of the requirement to put in place a system that does not allow this kind of cowboy tactic to impinge dramatically on the lives of families who, in good faith, purchased properties with a view to living their lives and raising their families there. They have found this horrendous spectre coming at them because of incompetence or greed. This has got to stop. The Minister is well aware of the sensitivity of this matter and is involved in discussions on it. There is another court case pending and a date has been set by the council in respect of the contribution it is making. We need to resolve this issue in respect of these families.

In the final sitting week before Christmas, I asked if it would be possible to have time set aside for a debate on the future of the A5 project from the Monaghan Border to the Derry Border. The Northern Ireland budget is coming up at the end of February and this project is critical to the future of the north-west. What progress is being made in allocating time for such a debate? Will the Taoiseach agree to set time aside to discuss the matter?

We discussed this at the North-South Ministerial Council on the last occasion in Armagh. I met with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Belfast and Armagh and indicated the decision of the Government that €25 million would be made available in 2015 and 2016 for the A5. That road is to be developed in three sections and officials met subsequent to our decision to reconfigure the budgetary figures from the Northern Ireland perspective for the development of the road. There is no need for any further debate on it and we have made our position clear. I communicated directly with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Belfast and at the North-South Ministerial Council.