Order of Business

Táimid ag dul ar aghaidh anois go dtí an chéad phíosa gnó eile. Iarraim ar an Teachta Ó Snodaigh tuairisc a thabhairt dúinn ón gCoiste Gnó.

Is iad seo a leanas na socruithe atá aontaithe ag an gCoiste Gnó le haghaidh an sceideal gnó don tréimhse Dé Máirt go Déardaoin, 7 go 9 Márta 2017.

Is é gnó na Máirte ná Uimh. a4, tairiscint maidir le coimisiún imscrúdúcháin (cás Grace). Is é Gnó Comhaltaí Príobháideacha ná Uimh. 22, an Bille um Chosaint na Beatha le linn Toirchis (Leasú) 2017 - an Dara Céim, arna roghnú ag AAA-PBP.

Is é gnó na Céadaoine ná Uimh. a4, tairiscint maidir le coimisiún imscrúdúcháin (cás Grace) (atógáil); Uimh. 9, ráitis roimh an gComhairle Eorpach; Uimh. 2, an Bille Sláinte (Leasú), 2017 – Ordú don Dara Céim agus an Dara Céim; Uimh. 10, an Bille um Cheartas Coiriúil (Pianbhreitheanna Príosúnachta Fionraithe) 2016 [Seanad] - Ordú don Tuarascáil, An Tuarascáil agus an Chéim Dheiridh; Uimh. 11, an Bille um Cheartas Coiriúil (Cionta a bhaineann le Córais Faisnéise) 2016 – Ordú don Tuarascáil, An Tuarascáil agus an Chéim Dheiridh; agus Uimh. 12, an Bille um Mí-Úsáid Drugaí (Saoráidí Insteallta Maoirsithe) 2017 – an Dara Céim (atógáil). Is é Uimh. 92, tairiscint maidir leis an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Síceolaíochta Oideachais, NEPS, arna roghnú ag Fianna Fáil, a bheidh mar ghnó Comhaltaí Príobháideacha amárach.

Is é gnó na Déardaoine ná Uimh. 13, ráitis maidir le fógra an choimisiúin imscrúdúcháin a dhearbhaigh go bhfuil taisí daonna ar shuíomh iar-áras máithreacha agus naíonán Thuama; Uimh. 2, an Bille Sláinte (Leasú) 2017 – an Dara Céim (atógáil); agus Uimh. 12, an Bille um Mí-Úsáid Drugaí (Saoráidí Insteallta Maoirsithe) 2017 – an Dara Céim (atógáil). Déanfar díospóireacht ar an Dara Céim de Uimh. 24, an Bille um Dhlínse Uilechoiteann do Chearta an Duine 2015, le linn an tseala um thráthnóna.

Ba mhaith liom aird na Teachtaí a tharraingt ar an dara tuarascáil leasuithe ón gCoiste Gnó dar dáta an 6 Márta 2017. Maidir le gnó na Máirte beartaítear:

(1) I ndáil leis an tairiscint maidir le coimisiún imscrúdúcháin (cás Grace), go mbeidh gach óráid d’óráidí an tairgtheora Rialtais agus na bpríomhurlabhraithe páirtithe nó grúpaí, nó Comhalta a ainmneofar ina n-ionad, deich nóiméad i bhfad, go mbeidh cúig nóiméad an duine ag gach Comhalta eile, go dtabharfaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit freagra cúig nóiméad, agus go bhféadfaidh gach Comhalta am a roinnt; agus

(2) Go ndéanfar Uimh. 22, an Bille um Chosaint na Beatha le linn Toirchis (Leasú) 2017, a thabhairt chun críche ar 10 p.m.

Maidir le gnó na Céadaoine, beartaítear:

(1) I gcás nach ndéanfar an tairiscint maidir leis an gcoimisiún imscrúdúcháin a thabhairt chun críche ar an Máirt, go suífidh an Dáil ar 10 a.m. chun athchromadh ar imeachtaí ar an tairiscint agus go ndéanfar iad a thabhairt chun críche ar meán lae mura mbeidh siad críochnaithe roimhe sin. Má thugtar an tairiscint chun críche roimh meán lae, rachaidh an Teach ar fionraí go dtí meán lae agus tosóidh Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí ar meán lae; agus

(2) Go dtosóidh ráitis roimh an gComhairle Eorpach go díreach tar éis ceisteanna chun an Taoisigh agus go mbeidh ceisteanna chun an Aire Sláinte ina ndiaidh. Déanfar na ráitis a thabhairt chun críche tar éis 85 nóiméad agus ní dhéanfaidh ach Aire nó Aire Stáit agus na príomhurlabhraithe páirtithe nó grúpaí, nó Comhalta a ainmneofar ina n-ionad, óráidí a thabhairt, ní rachaidh gach óráid díobh thar deich nóiméad, tabharfaidh Aire nó Aire Stáit freagra cúig nóiméad, agus féadfaidh gach Comhalta am a roinnt.

Maidir le gnó an Déardaoin, beartaítear:

(1) Go suífidh an Dáil ar 10 a.m. chun ráitis a thógáil maidir le fógra an choimisiúin imscrúdúcháin a dhearbhaigh go bhfuil taisí daonna ar shuíomh iar-áras máithreacha agus naíonán Thuama. Má thugtar na ráitis chun críche roimh meán lae, rachaidh an Teach ar fionraí go dtí meán lae agus tosóidh Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí ar meán lae. Cuirfear an suí ar fionraí ar feadh 30 nóiméad tar éis an bhloic vótála agus tógfar ceisteanna chun an Aire Talmhaíochta, Bia agus Mara ar 4 p.m.;

(2) Go mbeidh ráiteas Aire nó Aire Stáit agus príomhurlabhraithe páirtithe agus grúpaí, nó Comhalta a ainmneofar ina n-ionad, maidir le fógra an choimisiúin imscrúdúcháin a dhearbhaigh go bhfuil taisí daonna ar shuíomh iar-áras máithreacha agus naíonán Thuama deich nóiméad i bhfad. Déanfar babhta eile 40 nóiméad san iomlán do chomhaltaí den Rialtas, Fianna Fáil agus Sinn Féin a roinnt go comhréireach ar bhonn 40/40/20, faoi seach, agus féadfaidh gach Comhalta am a roinnt; agus

(3) Go suífidh an Dáil níos déanaí ná 7.48 p.m. agus go rachaidh an Dáil ar athló i ndiaidh an Bhille um Dhlínse Uilechoiteann do Chearta an Duine 2015 go dtí 2 p.m. ar Dé Máirt, an 21 Márta 2017.

Tá cinntí le déanamh againn ar thrí mholadh. An bhfuil an moladh maidir le gnó an lae inniu aontaithe? Aontaithe. An bhfuil an moladh maidir le gnó an lae amárach aontaithe? Aontaithe. An bhfuil an moladh maidir le gnó na Déardaoine aontaithe?

Tá fadhb agam leis an moladh sin.

In the context of all the discussion we have seen in the media and in homes throughout Ireland, the two hours devoted to the discussion of the finding of babies' bones in Tuam is completely inadequate. It is not going to give Deputies in this House either an opportunity or time to find out the stories of the different institutions in their own constituencies. These institutions were spread all over Ireland. If the debate were postponed or took place in two parts, it might be a better arrangement. I am speaking probably as one of the few people in this Chamber and down the years in the Dáil with a direct connection to these events.

I find deeply upsetting some of the language being used in this House relating to people who were in mother and baby homes. I did not like the Taoiseach yesterday using the term "sub-species" in regard to people. I understand the context in which he used it. I do not like a Deputy over there talking about headage payments being paid in respect of our children to go to America. I am sure the Deputy did not mean any hurt by it but could we just stand back from this? I have had people on the phone to me and people I have known all my life who were in institutions. People are running away with themselves in allowing political points-scoring. We need to have a large dose of compassion with this.

I am not disagreeing with some of the arguments from the Deputies. Without a doubt, the very authoritarian Catholic Church must take the vast amount of responsibility. I have pursued in this House, as have others in the Labour Party, the fact that the church should pay the money it agreed in the nefarious deal made by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, along with the former Minister, Dr. Michael Woods.

Let us not get into a debate.

The former Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, is here today.

We should not get into a debate.

He was a Minister in that Government.

The Deputy is looking to score points.

I am just saying the deal was not a good deal because-----

We were the first to do anything at all. The Deputy's Government neglected it.

The Deputy is scoring points now.

-----the religious orders have not paid the money.

The Deputy's Government neglected that. She should not go there.

That is what I am saying.

That is because the Deputy's Government neglected it.

There should be time for a proper debate. People should think of both the birth mothers, many of whom are no longer alive-----

They have all the records.

-----and of their descendants. Many of them went on to marry. The children who died in the home also have siblings. We should have some regard to human feeling in the wider families. We should also remember the local community in Tuam, which looked after the graves over a long period in the limited way it could. I agree with many of Deputy Bríd Smith's points about the responsibility of the Catholic Church but there needs to be some consideration-----

The Deputy has made a very useful intervention but let us try to keep things in proportion.

D'iarr muidne go mbeadh am leagtha ar leataobh an tseachtain seo sa dóigh is go dtig linn an cheist seo a phlé. Ó d'iarr an Teachta Ó Snodaigh an t-am sin, tá níos mó eolais curtha ar fáil don phobal sna meáin agus tá sé iontach tábhachtach go mbeadh níos mó ama ar fáil chun é seo a phlé. D'fhéadfaí na ceisteanna ar an Aire Talmhaíochta, Bia agus Mara a chur ar athló sa dóigh is go mbeadh níos mó ama ar fáil ansin. B'fhéidir gur féidir leis na páirtithe suí síos chun é seo a phlé. Seo ceann de na scannaill is mó atá feicthe ag an Stát seo agus, mar a dúirt mé leis an Taoiseach cheana féin, níl muidne sásta leis na téarmaí tagartha. Ní raibh muid sásta leo riamh. Caithfear é seo a phlé agus caithfear níos mó ná dhá uair a chloig a leagan ar leathaobh chun é seo a dhéanamh. Iarraim go dtiocfadh na páirtithe le chéile chun amharc an féidir níos mó ama a bheith againn ar an Déardaoin chun é seo a phlé.

I am glad the issue is being discussed on Thursday but I also question if two hours is sufficient.

The issue has serious repercussions. On Thursday, the Taoiseach should come here and make a statement about the criminal action that will be taken against the perpetrators who ran these homes and the repercussions for education, given that over 90% of primary schools are under the patronage of the Catholic Church. He should also tell us whether there will be excavations on the sites of other so-called mother and baby homes? They were far from "mother and baby" homes, given that mothers were not let near their babies. This is a key issue and two hours will not be sufficient. We should be willing, if necessary, to table more. Regarding the comment on headage payments, which Deputy Burton brought up-----

We will not help anybody by getting into that type of issue.

It was said in the context of the attitude of the people who ran these orders towards the children who were meant to be in their care but who were considered children of sin.

Cheapas go raibh sé seo socraithe ag an gCoiste Gnó roimh ré agus bhí. Níl aon deacracht againne má thugtar níos mó ama don díospóireacht seo. Táimíd ag lorg le fada an lá níos mó ama maidir le díospóireachtaí den saghas seo. Tá Fianna Fáil ag lorg i bhfad níos mó ama seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine, ach níltear sásta é a thabhairt dúinn. Ba chóir dúinn níos mó ama a chur ar fáil don díospóireacht agus cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do gach Teachta Dála, cúlbhinseoirí na páirtithe is láidre sa Dáil ina measc, seans a fháil chun labhairt. De ghnáth, ní fhaigheann siad seans páirt a ghlacadh i ndíospóireachtaí den saghas seo. Táimíd i bhfábhar níos mó ama a thabhairt go ginearálta.

I, too, agree with what Deputy Joan Burton said. We all received glaoch ar an teileafón ó dhaoine ar an gCoiste Gnó inné. We were asked if we would agree, and we did. I am sure we have no problem giving extra time. Some of the people who spoke here, including Deputy Joan Burton, have party members on the Business Committee and I am sure they were all contacted yesterday. Why did they agree to it if they are not happy with it today? I have no hang-up on extra time. It is an awful situation and we need to give it extra time. However, much of this is grandstanding.

Aontaím go bhfuil gá le tuilleadh ama maidir leis an díospóireacht. I fully agree that there should be more time. I am from Galway and have intimate connections with what happened in Galway. However, the Dáil is not the place for it. The Dáil is for holding systems to account. This is what the debate should be about this week and in the extended time. In Galway city, we have had numerous reports and nobody was held to account, from the hospital to the Brothers of Charity, to the mother and baby home to the institutions in Taylor's Hill, Letterfrack and lower Salthill. I am mentioning only a tiny fraction. I call for a rational holding to account of the system and that we listen to what the groups on the ground are seeking.

Chun rudaí a shoiléiriú, tháinig iarratas isteach ó bheirt chomhaltaí den Choiste Gnó ag lorg díospóireachta ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Cuireadh glaoch ar gach comhalta den Choiste Gnó ag iarraidh orthu an mbeidís sásta le díospóireacht maidin Déardaoin ar feadh dhá uair an chloig agus is é an freagra a fuaireamear ag an am ná go mbeidís sásta leis sin. Ní fheicim deacracht ar bith le tuilleadh ama a chur ar fáil.

Tá an Príomh-Aoire anseo agus tá sí toilteanach níos mó ama a chur ar fáil. B'fhéidir gur chóir go mbeadh cruinniú ag an gCoiste Gnó arís chun an t-am atá leagtha amach a leathnú más mian leis an gcoiste go mbeadh cead ag na cúlbhinseoirí ráitis a dhéanamh sa díospóireacht. Tá an Príomh-Aoire toilteanach é sin a dhéanamh. Glacaim leis an rud a dúirt an Teachta. Ba chóir go mbeadh díriú ar conas na dualgais atá orthu siúd a bhfuil dualgais acu a chur i bhfeidhm. Ba cheart go mbeadh sé sin lárnach sa díospóireacht.

Déanfaimid socrú breis ama a chur ar fáil. Tá sé aontaithe.

Níl aon gá go mbeadh críoch leis an díospóireacht ar an Déardaoin.

Ní críochnóidh sé ar an Déardaoin. Leanfaidh sé ar aghaidh ina dhiaidh sin.

Anois beidh ceisteanna againn ar reachtaíocht atá geallta. Glaoim ar an Teachta Micheál Martin.

Mar is eol don Taoiseach, tá Vera Twomey tagtha don Teach seo inniu agus í buartha faoi chás a hiníne, Ava. Tá mé féin ag déileáil leis an gcás seo ó mhí Iúil nuair a bhuaileas leis an Aire Sláinte. Bhí an Teachta Michael Creed agus daoine eile ann chomh maith. An deacracht is mó atá ann ná an deacracht le comhairleach péidiatraice a bheith ann chun cead a thabhairt cannabas a úsáid sa gcomhthéacs seo. We are familiar with the HPRA report. Sin tuarascáil tábhachtach agus tá dul chun cinn le feiscint sa tuarascáil. Tá moladh ann maidir le cannabas leighis agus seans é a úsáid i gcomhthéacs Dravet's syndrome, ailse agus araile. Tá sé geallta ag an Aire compassionate access programme a chur ar fáil ach caithfear reachtaíocht a chur i bhfeidhm. Cé mhéad am a bheidh i gceist go dtí go bhfeicfimid an reachtaíocht sin?

Thug an tAire cuntas don Rialtas ar maidin agus tá obair ar siúl maidir leis an mBille. Is cuma faoin mBille-----

Ní haon Bhille atá i gceist ach statutory instrument maidir leis an cannabis access programme.

Cibé Acht a bheidh ann, caithfidh an ceadúnas leighis a bheith ar fáil ón dochtúir speisialta do na leanaí. Tá a fhios ag gach duine go bhfuair leanaí agus gasúir eile an leigheas seo mar bhí ceadúnas leighis sínithe ag an dochtúir speisialta. Níl sé sin déanta sa chás seo agus níl cead ag an Aire an leigheas a chur ar fáil do Ava toisc nach bhfuil an ceadúnas sínithe ag an dochtúir speisialta. Sin atá i gceist. Tá an tAire chun bualadh le Vera inniu don cúigiú uair. Tá obair á dhéanamh aige maidir leis an mBille. Bhí cruinniú de chuid an choiste Oireachtais inniu faoin compassionate-----

Access programme.

Bhí an cruinniú sin ar siúl ar uair an mheán lae.

Tá sé ráite go soiléir sa chlár Rialtais go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh pobal rathúil sa chathair agus faoin tuath a thógáil. Ag éirí do mhuintir na tuaithe ar maidin, chuala siad na cinnlínte ar an nuacht go raibh se beartaithe níos mó seirbhísí bunúsacha a dhruidiú i gceantair tuaithe. Tá suas le 80 oifig phoist le druidiú, mar atá ráite sna cinnlínte. Tuigtear dúinn go bhfuil Ulster Bank ag amharc ar 30 banc a dhruidiú i gceantair tuaithe. Anuraidh dheimhnigh an Dáil go soiléir go bhfuilimid i gcoinne laghdú ar bith ar an líonra d'oifig an phoist agus i gcoinne seirbhísí ar bith a bhaint dúinn. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil seirbhísí bus faoi bhagairt ag an phointe seo fosta. Thug mé faoi deara i bhfreagra ar cheist pharlaiminte le déanaí go bhfuil sé beartaithe ag na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim riar maith dá gcuid brainsí i gceantair tuaithe a reáchtáil ar bun coinne amháin. Is é sin go mbeidh siad ag druidiú an tseirbhís siúl isteach. Bhí tuairisc le foilsiú ag grúpa a láraigh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Ring, maidir le hoifigí poist. Bhí siad ag rá go mbeidh na hoifigí poist mar chroílár an phobail agus go mbeidh ról tábhachtach acu ó thaobh imeachtaí sóisialta agus eacnmaíochta. Chuaigh na míonna thart agus níl an tuairisc sin foilsithe aige. Cén uair a bhfeicfimid beart de réir briathar ó thaobh ceantair tuaithe de?

Ní plean Rialtais atá i gceist anseo ach tuarascáil a cuireadh ar fáil.

Tá sé soiléir nach bhfuil cuid mhaith de na hoifigí poist beaga ag déanamh gnó ar bith nó tá fíor-bheagán gnó á dhéanamh acu. Tá daoine ag dul thar na hoifigí sin go dtí an baile mór. Tá siad ag déileáil le cúrsaí digiteacha freisin. Tá an tAire Stáit, Teachta Ó Rinn, ag déileáil le seo. An plean atá ag an Rialtas ná seirbhísí nua, cibé iad, a thabhairt do na hoifigí poist seo i dtreo is go mbeidh siad in ann gnó eile a dhéanamh dóibh féin.

Níl cumhacht ar bith againne ó thaobh na mbanc de. Chonaic mé an nuacht faoi dhúnadh Banc Uladh sa Tuaisceart agus in áiteanna ar fud na tíre. Ní hé an chéad bhanc a dhein é sin. Maidir le na hoifigí poist, foilseoidh an tAire Stáit, Teachta Ring, an tuarascáil seo agus beidh díospóireacht againn sa Teach. Tá gnó ann gur féidir le cuid de na hoifigí poist seo a dhéanamh. B'fhéidir nach gcuirfeadh sé cosc ar iad a dhúnadh ach ní dhéanfadh sé an gnó atá á dhéanamh acu a laghdú níos faide. Tá an Rialtas toilteanach chuile chabhair a thabhairt dóibh is gur féidir as seo amach.

Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil níos mó cearta ag mná na hÉireann ná mar a bhí ag a máithreacha, a seanmhaithreacha agus a sinseanmháithreacha. Fós féin, níl an comhionannas idir fir agus mná beartaithe amach go hiomlán. Is iad na fir atá fós níos treise san ionad oibre. Léirítear i staitisticí ón gCoimisiún Eorpach, a fhoilsíodh anuraidh, go bhfuil an bearna pá idir fir agus mná ag leathnú. Amárach, beidh mná ar fud na tíre ag ceiliúradh Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan. An bhfuil aon phlean ag an Rialtas an fhadhb sin a réiteach? Is é sin an bearna pá atá fós ann agus ag leathnú idir fir agus mná. An bhfuil reachtaíocht ar bith geallta ag an Taoiseach chun an fhadhb sin a réiteach?

Nach breá an Ghaeilge atá ag an Teachta. Tá sé ag déanamh go maith. Níl a fhios agam go díreach cén sórt reachtaíocht atá ar intinn an Aire, ach cuirfidh mé scéal chuig an Teachta Howlin. Is fíor an rud atá sé ag rá. Tá difríocht ann idir pá na bhfear agus pá na mban. Tá sé thar am go mbeadh an pá céanna don obair chéanna á fháil ag gach duine sa tír seo. Cuirfidh mé scéal chuig an Teachta.

Before this session I went for a walk and as I walked into town with Vera Twomey and her army of supporters, there were construction workers on scaffolds who stopped to applaud them, cars that honked and women on the streets with shopping bags who came out to shake her hand. My question for the Taoiseach is this. When will we have progress on the AAA-PBP Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis? It passed its Second Stage in this House before Christmas but I understand it is not due to be discussed on Committee Stage until 5 April, nearly a month away. Given the urgency of the issues at stake, is the Taoiseach willing to intervene to assist in bringing that date forward?

This is a matter for the determination of the agenda of the Dáil and I do not have any control over that. As the Deputy is aware, the Business Committee does its job. I want to make it very clear that if we introduce a Bill and it becomes law, the requirement, even in compassionate circumstances, is that there be a prescription in cases like this of there being a paediatric neurosurgeon available. Whether it is done on compassionate grounds or on legal grounds, that is required. When Deputy Barry is on his walk, if he goes into a pharmacy and looks for something he does not have a prescription for, he will not get it unless it is freely available to everybody else. This applies in the case of serious issues like those affecting this young child, who has serious challenges. That is the process.

On a point of order, I understand the health committee under Deputy Michael Harty was having that discussion today, with it having been brought forward by five weeks. We all want to support Vera Twomey.

Sa programme Rialtais, gealladh lán-chabhair do na hoifigí poist ar fud na tíre. As the Taoiseach knows, bhí scéal sa pháipéar maidin inniu about 80 post offices that might go under the Kerr report. The Rural Independent Group had a motion in the House some weeks ago and we spent a long weekend negotiating with the Taoiseach's office, the Minister of State, Deputy Ring's office and the Minister, Deputy Naughten's office to agree that motion. We were grateful and we submitted it, and the Government supported it and allowed it through. How can it happen, some short number of weeks afterwards, that a selective leak can come out just days after the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, announced last Friday he was going to have a consultation about how community banking could be rolled out in the post offices? Tá ceist mhór anseo. We need action. We on this side of the House cannot be used in this way. The Rural Independent Group wants to support rural post offices. The Government accepted the motion but then we have this kind of balderdash coming out in the newspapers this morning.

First, I have to declare an interest as I am postmaster of a small post office. On page 48 of the programme for Government a clear commitment is given to our post offices. Can the Taoiseach explain why, today, we have a report of 80 post offices closing? That is not the big story, however. The big story is that, as I told the Taoiseach before in this House, 700 post offices will close in the next three years. The Taoiseach will not close them, nor will the next Taoiseach. It is ourselves who will close them. I was speaking to a postmaster today who told me his income will go from €27,000 down to €12,000. The Government needs to implement the merit of the motion we brought before this House, which got unanimous support in November from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Government, the Independents and everyone else. Unless the Government implements that in a real fashion and brings in community banking to follow the success around the world such as in China or New Zealand-----

Tá an t-am caite.

We need to look at all the places where community banking has worked and has saved their networks. I plead with the Taoiseach and his Government to work in a proper fashion to ensure we do not go down the wrong road, and to save our post offices.

With regard to similar issues, page 41 of the programme for Government spoke of the Government making a Cabinet-level Minister responsible for regional and rural affairs. I do not see a Cabinet-level Minister. Indeed, if it is the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, or the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and I am not sure whether he is at Cabinet, the question of what we are doing can legitimately be asked.

We have become consumed and conditioned by a culture of service reduction and alienation of rural and regional Ireland. Is it the Government's policy to continue to ignore the regions? The national planning framework, which should underpin the future of post offices instead of the rumoured 80 closures we hear of today, is written in such a way that the template provided for people to give submissions next week is going to exclude the whole north-west of the country and west of Mullingar. We seemed to have defined it in such a way that the future growth and potential of the country is going to come from elsewhere. It seems to be written in terms of the pretence given to the strategic environmental assessment that it is going to undermine the potential of these regions to perform to their capacity.

Go raibh maith agat. Tá an t-am caite.

Is it Government policy to continue as it has with this culture, which undermines the very culture of our citizens? People live outside Dublin, outside our cities. What are the Taoiseach's Ministers going to do to deal with this issue?

Three years ago, under the previous Government, there was an announcement by the then Minister, Mr. Rabbitte, that there would be a whole-of-Government response to the issue of post offices. I am not sure what the definition of a whole-of-Government response was three years ago but in my opinion, there has been no response. This morning's report bodes very poorly for rural Ireland. It is time for action to be taken in regard to empowering An Post in order that it can have a service that will empower the postmasters and postmistresses to have a vibrant operation within their communities.

The people in rural Ireland are devastated with this news today. What is the Taoiseach going to say to Bank of Ireland, which is proposing to close one in every four bank branches in the country? Given the last Government and this Government supported this bank, is the Taoiseach going to allow it to do this again to the people in rural Ireland? It is the people in rural Ireland who will be hit first.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, put together the post office hub working group last year to identify potential models under which post offices could act as community hubs, particularly in rural areas. That considered a number of options, for example, shared value post offices, which would see local post offices act as multi-purpose bases for the community. That report will be brought to Government shortly by the Minister of State. The perception that this is some sort of secret Government plan is far from the truth.

Inaction is the same thing.

It is what they call fake news.

Good man, Donald.

Alternative facts.

The Kerr report is a good and realistic document and it will be back before the Dáil. The Deputies will all have their say shortly. The Department-----

-----is willing to work with An Post and the IPU to establish common ground to progress actions that can support the network, such as the operation of four pilot shared value post offices, which can be rolled out to up to 150 post offices subsequently. The Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten, has brought forward amending legislation that will have the effect of removing the price cap mechanism on postage stamps.

Nuacht bhréagach.

The Final Stage of the legislation is being taken in the Seanad this week. The report referred to in the media today was commissioned by An Post for An Post.

Tá sé ag caint faoi nuacht bhréagach.

That is not a Government report. News stories are referring to the report from the network renewal implementation group. The group included representatives from An Post and the IPU and it was chaired by Mr. Kerr. The Kerr report was provided to An Post in December 2016. My understanding is-----

Scéalta gan fhírinne.

-----that it is being considered by the company.

Tá an Taoiseach caillte anois.

An Post is a commercial State body. Decisions with regard to its size and distribution are a matter for the board and management. Any decision to close individual post offices is a matter for An Post. The Government has not decided to close any of these.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae declared his interest. He is quite correct because if people do not use the post offices, they will not survive. The Government is quite willing to offer whatever support it can. The previous Government made the decision to have that position of basic banking available in post offices. As the Deputy knows, it will not suit every case.

We said at the time that it would take two and a half to three years to actually implement it.

Tá an t-am caite. Caithfimid deireadh a chur leis.

I wish to respond to Deputy MacSharry. He comes in here with this issue all of the time. I did not see him at the Leader function in the Sligo Park Hotel the other night-----

-----where people from all over Sligo presented in a very optimistic and positive way the work they are doing-----

I did not have time to pay homage to the Taoiseach, I had to work for my constituents.

-----and the people they are employing right out through Enniscrone, out beyond Benbulbin, Rathcormac and everywhere else.

The Taoiseach should give them more money.

There was no sign of Deputy MacSharry. Deputies McLaughlin and Scanlon were there but there was no sign of Deputy MacSharry.

I did not have time for a photocall.

The Deputy's father, former Deputy Ray MacSharry, would have been there right up in the front seat to hear the Taoiseach give a dissertation about how well Sligo is doing.

Bhí sé i mBaile Átha Cliath.

Go raibh maith agat, a Thaoisigh.

I ask the Deputy not to not give me that every week he comes into the House.

Sin deireadh le-----

I will. For as many weeks as the Taoiseach has left, I definitely will.

Deputy MacSharry should have been there.

Sin deireadh le ceisteanna ar reachtaíocht atá geallta.