Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing certain acts in the field of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters; No. 12, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (Effective Date for Certain Bodies) Order 2015 and the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (Exempted Public Bodies) Order 2015; No. 39, statements on European Council, Brussels, pursuant to Standing Order 102A(2)(b); and No. 6, Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 189, motion re water charges, which shall take place at 7.30 p.m. or on the conclusion of Topical Issues, whichever is the later and shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; Nos. 11 and 12 shall be decided without debate; No. 39 shall be taken immediately following the Order of Business and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the order shall resume with Topical Issues; and the following arrangements shall apply in respect of the proceedings on the Second Stage of No. 6: the opening speeches of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 6, Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 - Second and Remaining Stages (resumed); and No. 13, motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 13 shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 6 and shall be decided without debate.

There are five proposals to be put to the House. First, is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed.

Second, is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing certain acts in the field of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, without debate; and No. 12, motion re referral to joint Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (Effective Date for Certain Bodies) Order 2015 and the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (Exempted Public Bodies) Order 2015, without debate, agreed to? Agreed.

Third, is the proposal for dealing with No. 39, Statements on European Council, Brussels, pursuant to Standing Order 102A(2)(b) agreed to? Agreed.

Fourth, is the proposal for dealing with No. 6, Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, agreed to? Agreed.

Fifth, is the proposal for dealing with No. 13, motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015, without debate, tomorrow, agreed to? Agreed.

I call Deputy Martin on the Order of Business.

Yesterday, over 100 repossession cases were scheduled for the Circuit Court in Castlebar. Throughout the country there has been an increasing number of such cases in different courts. Given that Castlebar is the Taoiseach's own home town, will he accept at long last that the number of repossession cases is out of hand? It is indicative that the Government's response to the mortgage crisis is not working. The legislation that Deputy Michael McGrath brought forward last week should have been accepted by the Government.

The Taoiseach has repeatedly said that people should only lose their homes as a very last resort. That is not happening, however, because banks continue to have a veto on mortgage resolutions. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, promised to change the legislation. He said that legislation underpinning the personal insolvency schemes would be tweaked and changed. In addition, the Tánaiste has said she supports Deputy Penrose's legislation on reducing bankruptcy from three years to one year.

Two proposals for legislative change have been put forward by Ministers, so can the Taoiseach indicate when the Government will amend the personal insolvency legislation? Can he also indicate when the timeframe concerning the bankruptcy period will change?

As the Taoiseach is aware, the Government subsumed the Consumer Agency into the Competition Authority. Consumers need protection but I hope it will not be diluted in the agency. There are vast differences in the cost of premiums quoted by insurance companies. Can the Taoiseach inform the House when the insurance Bill will be published? Will it contain sections to protect consumers from companies charging exorbitant rates on prices for basic insurance cover?

Last night RTE had a special programme on loyalist and IRA so-called punishment beatings of individuals. It was vicious and brutal according to the testimonies given by family members and individuals. The scale of it would have taken a lot of people by surprise. Not only did the programme represent vicious beatings, but it was also about controlling communities and society. At the end of the programme it was stated that the whole phenomenon has not ended.

I am sorry, Deputy, but we cannot discuss television programmes on the Order of Business.

I know. I am coming to the Bill. There were approximately 600 beatings in the North in recent years. I wish to ask three questions. First, when can we expect the criminal justice Bill to be published? Second, has this issue been discussed at any stage at the North-South ministerial meetings? Third, will the Taoiseach allow time in the House to discuss the content of the RTE programme and debate it?

The consumer protection Bill is due later this year.

There are a range of criminal justice Bills in the course of preparation. I can give the Deputy an update on that. It might be appropriate to have a discussion on Northern Ireland, including the situation that applies now and elements of the past. We can arrange that through the Whips later.

As regards mortgage arrears and repossessions, clearly the Government does not want people to have their homes repossessed where that is preventable. I am not sure how many were actually approved yesterday. The Government is committed to bringing forward a further package of measures in April to deal with the mortgage position.

I am aware of the Bill put forward by Deputy Penrose to reduce the period of bankruptcy from three years to one year. The Government has not considered this as part of the overall package, but will give consideration to it. However, this is not a magic bullet to resolve matters. It does not apply in the case of mortgages because that is a secure debt.

The position must be considered that the banks would actually have a greater opportunity to have credit unions and everybody else shoved aside and would be able to acquire possession much faster and the mortgage would still remain. People who might assume that a reduction to one year of bankruptcy is some sort of panacea for all of these difficult problems need to be very careful about what it is that we actually implement here. The Government will consider a range of other measures and bring them here in April. It is in everybody's interest that there be engagement and that people hold onto their houses where that is at all possible.

Tá trí cheist le cur agam faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta. Baineann an chéad cheist leis An tAcht Sláinte 2007. Baineann an dara ceann leis An Bille um Dhóchmhainneacht Phearsanta (Leasú) 2014, the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Bill 2014, and baineann an tríú ceist le the general medical service Bill 2015.

Maidir leis an gcéad cheann, the Minister for Health last month said he planned to give more power to HIQA and to do this by amending the Health Act 2007. This takes on a particular urgency given the loggerheads between the HSE and HIQA at this time. Part of the problem is that HIQA recommendations in a report on one hospital do not carry across into other hospitals, although they may face the same problems. There is actually no mechanism that I can find within the Department of Health or the HSE to implement recommendations which HIQA makes in reports. When will the legislation to allow the Minister's proposed reform be published and will it put in place a mechanism to ensure that the HIQA recommendations are implemented across the health services?

As regards the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Bill, there are more than 7,000 orders for repossession sitting in the courts, and the fact is that current Government policy facilitates the repossession of family homes because it provides the banks with a veto over any efforts to find a resolution. According to Central Bank figures, there are now 37,778 homes in the most serious of arrears and these families are most likely to be facing legal actions. This is double the figure from September 2012. The Government says it plans to introduce new legislation - is this is addition to the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Bill? Was this crisis discussed this morning at the Cabinet meeting? Does the Government intend to change or do away with the veto that the banks exercise?

The general practitioner medical service Bill 2015 was to provide universal GP services to all persons aged 70 years or over. Last year, the Dáil passed the Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014 to provide for free GP care for under-sixes. We were told this would be in place by the end of last year. When that deadline was missed in December last year, the Tánaiste said she was confident it would be rolled out in the new year. It is still not there and now we are told it will be in place by June this year. Can we get some clarity on this? Will the long-promised free GP care be available in June this year and when will the health (general practitioner medical service) Bill 2015 be published?

In respect of the over 70s, the Government this morning approved the authorisation for the Minister to draft that legislation. The question of the medical cards for under-sixes is under negotiation between the HSE, the Department and the GPs. They are not concluded yet. I understand there is a further meeting this week and the Minister will report to Cabinet on the outcome of that meeting. Clearly, these depend upon participation by general practitioners to make them work. I do not have a date for the Deputy in respect of the HIQA Act to which he referred, that is, the Health Act of 2007. I will update Deputy Adams on the work that is under way there.

I have already said to Deputy Martin that the Government will bring forward a number of options for further enhancing the situation in so far as mortgages are concerned. I would say to Deputy Adams that 100,000 cases have been settled and agreed and the vast majority of those are able to sustain the commitments entered into in the rearranged position and that is to be welcomed. There are others out there that have a different range of difficulties, and they can only be sorted out by having engagement and a process by which they might be concluded. We will come back to that in April.

In light of the motion that was passed at the recent Labour Party conference to reject the proposed fish farm off the west coast - and I want to compliment the Labour Party and particularly Deputy McNamara, who is in the Chamber - and the issues and concerns inland fisheries have regarding this proposed fish farm and the effect it will have on the angling industry on the west coast, when is the inland fisheries (modernisation & consolidation) Bill, No. 72 on the Government legislation programme, coming before the Dáil? Will the Taoiseach withdraw this proposed fish farm?

We cannot deal with that on the Order of Business.

It will have a huge effect on the angling industry in the west of Ireland and will not create the jobs that have been proposed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I do not have a date for Deputy Grealish for the publication of the inland fisheries Bill. Perhaps if the Deputy puts down a question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as I know he is interested in----

I have done that but he still will not give an answer.

I will have a report sent to Deputy Grealish in due course about this matter.

The mediation Bill is promised legislation and has some broader impact, as the name would suggest. Can I ask the Taoiseach what the intentions are regarding bringing it before the House as soon as possible? Similarly, a Bill that is also promised is the new children's hospital development board Bill. What developments have taken place in preparing that for introduction to the House at an early date?

On the second one, there is a great deal of work going on and I will update Deputy Durkan on the different sectors that are involved. I do not have a date for the publication of the Bill. The mediation Bill has appeared on the horizon. It is due in the second half of the year and is coming more and more into focus.

I commend the Taoiseach on raising the issue of illegal Irish in America during the St. Patrick's Day weekend. I agreed with him when he said that immigration reform required political courage. Was the Taoiseach a little bit nervous when he was raising this issue with Barack Obama----

Deputy McNamara had better ask the Taoiseach that in the corridor.

Was the Taoiseach nervous that Mr. Obama might question what reform this Government had carried out with regard to illegal immigrants here, who include American citizens? I will ask the Taoiseach the same question I have asked twice before in this Chamber - when are we going to see a Bill reforming the Irish immigration system?

The Deputy's question should concern promised legislation.

Will we consider the type of reforms we are asking Americans to implement with regard to illegal Irish in America?

No, I was not in the slightest nervous raising the matter with President Obama----

He did not shake hands with him either.

----or indeed with Vice President Biden, the Speaker of the House, the majority leader or the minority leader either. This matter was one that was given consideration by Deputy Stanton as chairman of the justice committee. I am anxious to have a conversation with him and read his report. This is an issue that needs to be reflected upon carefully. Separate from that, Deputy McNamara is aware that Judge Bryan McMahon is looking at the question of those who are here for quite a long time who are asylum seekers or refugees. His report is expected to be furnished to the Minister by Easter, in the next few weeks.

Following an LRC hearing on 3 March, the HSE accepted that Brothers of Charity and Ability West social care staff had a legal entitlement to what was called a twilight premium payment. The money and arrears due have been paid to staff in Dublin, but staff in counties Roscommon and Galway are being told there is no money available. When will we see the industrial relations (amendment) Bill? Will the Taoiseach use his good offices to ensure arrears due to staff in the west are paid to them, just as they were paid to their counterparts in Dublin?

There are two Bills. One is in respect of collective bargaining, while the other is in respect of regulatory requirements concerning REAs. Both Bills are expected to be published in this session. Equality should apply across the board.

Recent correspondence between the Taoiseach's Ministers and civil servants has revealed an attempt to play down the housing crisis and the exaggeration of the announcement of the €3.8 billion plan of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, to address the housing crisis over six years. The Minister announced plans to deliver 7,400 units this year, some 5,000 of which were to be in the private rental sector, but there is absolutely no possibility of this happening.

The Deputy is straying a little.

There are 45 families becoming homeless each month, but we still do not have rent controls. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, has hinted time out of number that he is considering some form of rent control. Last night he had not even brought-----

About what Bill is the Deputy talking?

I am asking about the housing Bill and also rent controls.

Does the Taoiseach have plans to hold a reception for the Irish women's and men's rugby teams following their magnificent achievements?

We all concur on that one.

The Deputy forgot about the women's hockey team which also did well.

The Minister has not played down the housing crisis. In fact, he has identified accurately the scale of the challenge and responded at Government level by providing €4 billion between now and 2020. The local authorities have been informed. Many of them have been allocated their moneys and are trying to get on with the job. As I said on many occasions, this challenge cannot be met successfully unless houses are built and that requires a credit line and a planning permission process. The Minister is very exercised in seeing to it that these commitments are fulfilled. One cannot have a situation like the one described by the Deputy. It is not that the Minister has played down the matter. He is certainly not running away from it. The Government has given its full support in dealing with this issue.

It is getting worse. It is absolutely out of control.

The legislation will be introduced later this year.

What about the rugby teams?

We all agree with that suggestion.

And the cricket team.

And the cricket team, as well as the ladies' hockey team. Anybody else?

Ballyhale Shamrocks.

When can we expect publication of the criminal justice (community sanctions) Bill, the purpose of which is to provide a modern statement on the law governing community sanctions and the role of the Probation Service in the criminal justice system? This issue was highlighted recently in respect of the poor box system in the courts. We must examine this issue.

It is an important one and it is included in the same package as the Bill mentioned by Deputy Bernard J. Durkan. It will be taken in the second half of the year.

I wish to inquire about two Bills, the maritime area and foreshore (amendment) Bill and the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, both of which are awaiting completion and will have an impact on my constituency in the creation of jobs at Foynes Port. When will all Stages be concluded and when will they come into law?

I expect the marine Bill to be published shortly after Easter. The Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is awaiting Committee Stage.

We need to implement updated administration and governance arrangements for the Heritage Council. When will the heritage (amendment) Bill be brought before the House?

At the back end of the year. That is three for October.

I wish to establish the position on the family court Bill.

We do not have a date for it. I will revert to the Deputy on it.

I call Deputy Peter Mathews.

Did the Ceann Comhairle call me? I thank him. It is appreciated. I was just wondering-----

What does the Deputy mean by "just wondering"?

It was because I did not hear you.

I beg your pardon. In a follow-through on some of the contributions made, I ask the Taoiseach to consider reintroducing Deputy Michael McGrath's Private Members' Bill and also that of Deputy Willie Penrose. Between 2001 and 2008, the banks' boards caused the problem.

Is the Deputy back on to banks again?

That can be shown by a balance sheet examination, as shown in No. 191 on the Order Paper. If instead of having the processional nonsense in a committee room, the banking inquiry, there had been a full plenary-----

Two Bills. The Deputy has made his point.

He wanted to be part of the banking inquiry.

-----in a full auditorium, with all directors of all banks in the years 2001 to 2008 present, with the balance sheets of the banks in front of them and the auditors behind them,-----

The Deputy is really tempting me now.

-----one would have had in three weeks the truth of the banking collapse that had caused the property boom. It was not the other way around.

The Deputy will have to learn procedure. I ask him to resume his seat.

I know, but I have been fired from committees, as the Taoiseach knows.

That is the Deputy's problem.

It is not my problem; it is a problem with the way this place is run.

As I said, the Government will bring forward a number of measures in April to deal with all of the further options for settling mortgage disputes where people are in distress.