Leaders' Questions

We will take Leaders' Questions under Standing Order 29. I ask Members to have regard to the time allowed for Leaders' Questions.

I am sure the Taoiseach will agree that accountability should be central to everything we do in this House. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste should be prepared to come to the House to answer in detail for their actions relating to the appointment of the former Attorney General to the Court of Appeal. It is an appointment which has been without precedent since 1995 and the 1995 Act, despite their disingenuous attempts to portray it otherwise. Section 18 of that Act was simply not adhered to and the law was circumvented. There is no question about that. The Taoiseach indicated yesterday, a week on from the controversy, that, the night before, he was aware of the possibility of an appointment being made on the basis that everyone knew there was a vacancy. Everybody knew there was a vacancy since March of last year. The Taoiseach is reserving the right to do it all over again by using the Constitution as his defence, because any new Act can be trumped by the Constitution and Article 1 in the future.

Today, we learned that Ministers were critical about the appointment at yesterday's Cabinet meeting. Behind closed doors, they said it should not have been dealt with in the manner it was dealt with at Deputy Enda Kenny's last Cabinet meeting. I do not know whether the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, got his review at yesterday's meeting. There was an acknowledgement at Cabinet, apparently, that it was badly handled. Why was it done so secretly and in such a covert manner? Why did Deputy Enda Kenny engineer this appointment in this way? Why did the Tánaiste collaborate with him in doing so with the Taoiseach's acquiescence?

As I asked on Wednesday last and, indeed, asked the Taoiseach on Sunday evening last, did anybody consider the Fennelly report and its findings in relation to this appointment and to the Attorney General at the time?

The Dáil should have an opportunity to debate this and to ask questions. Yesterday on the Order of Business, I thought we had got an agreement that would happen. The Government side fought tenaciously to resist questions. I am glad to hear that there is some change in that direction but it needs to be a comprehensive question and answer session, involving the Taoiseach and, indeed, the Tánaiste.

The Taoiseach invoked the separation of powers yesterday and that was bogus. In 1994, there was an open session here in relation to the appointment of Mr. Harry Whelehan to the High Court with full questions and answers taken by the then Taoiseach. That was a bogus invocation of that.

I do not know why the Taoiseach is so reluctant to come to the House to answer detailed questions in relation to it. Does he agree with his Ministers' assessment that this was badly handled? Does the Taoiseach accept that he essentially ignored all the Opposition's concerns about this appointment and that he rammed it through on Sunday evening to avoid accountability to the House? Did anyone raise the Fennelly report when this appointment was going through the Cabinet?

I am absolutely in favour of accountability before this House. I am here to answer any question Deputy Micheál Martin wants to ask me in relation to that appointment or any other matter today, as I was yesterday and as I will be on Tuesday and Wednesday next. I understand that discussions are under way at the Business Committee and among the Whips about a debate later on today involving other Ministers and a more comprehensive discussion and I have no difficulty with that provided the terms can be agreed.

As I stated yesterday, I knew there was a vacancy. It was a matter of public record. In fact, it was advertised. I knew that it was a possibility the evening before that this appointment could be made. I did not know it was going to happen and did not have any sight of the memo until the Cabinet meeting itself.

Ultimately, what happened here was that a suitable person was appointed by a lawful process. No matter how much Deputy Micheál Martin tries to make this into an issue different from that, what happened here was that a suitable person who was appropriately qualified was appointed to a vacancy lawfully using a correct process.

What concerns me, though, is that yesterday Deputy Micheál Martin cast aspersions on the suitability and qualifications of Máire Whelan, who is now a judge of the Court of Appeal. I want Deputy Micheál Martin to be mindful of the separation of powers that exists between Parliament and the Judiciary and I also want him to be mindful of the allegation that he made against my Government in undermining the Judiciary. I want to give Deputy Micheál Martin an opportunity in this House today to correct and clarify the remarks he made about the suitability and qualifications of Ms Justice Whelan.

Take the opportunity to withdraw it.

The Taoiseach has not answered the question. The Government fought tenaciously against accountability yesterday and did not facilitate a questions and answers session yesterday in the House.

They had two hours last night. You refused.

Withdraw the remark.

I put it to the Taoiseach that yesterday in the House he stated that this was the first he has learned about questions about the suitability. It was not the first he had learned about it because I told him on Sunday evening last in a phone call. I made it clear about the Fennelly commission and concerns I had about it. I made it clear to the Taoiseach, as I did last week in the House. I referenced Fennelly in my speech.

I do not like and, as I said to the Taoiseach on Sunday night, do not want to get involved in personal issues but one cannot separate suitability from an appointment. The point is that I did not invite this yesterday; the Taoiseach did. It is the Taoiseach who brought in the personalities and he named names. None of those persons-----

Withdraw your remarks.

None of those persons who the Taoiseach named-----

The Taoiseach praised them.

-----had any negative tribunal findings hanging over them.

The Taoiseach praised them. He did not criticise them.

The bottom line is-----

I thank Deputy Micheál Martin. The time is up.

The bottom line is that the former Attorney General, at the Fennelly commission, had to apologise for having given a contrary impression in her evidence to the commission and regrets that her at times "trenchant language" had undoubtedly left the commission with what she calls an "erroneous impression" that she had used such language at the meetings and in particular that she had used language alluding to criminal activity at the meeting with the Taoiseach and Mr. Fraser on 23 March 2014. If one reads Fennelly-----

Deputy Micheál undermined the Judiciary.

This is not being personal at all and I have no axe to grind with the individual-----

Deputy Micheál Martin did yesterday. Withdraw the remark of yesterday.

All right. I thank Deputy Martin.

I am making the point-----

Withdraw what you said yesterday.

Withdraw what you said yesterday.

With the greatest of respect, a bit more transparency from the Tánaiste would not go amiss in respect of all of this.

Deputy Martin is undermining the Judiciary.

The Government has undermined the Judiciary by its actions.

I am simply making the point that there are substantive issues here arising out of Fennelly.

Thank you, Deputy.

The Taoiseach cannot try to escape from that or try to cast aspersions on references I made that were made genuinely. The Taoiseach invited the comparisons, not I.

Thank you, Deputy. The time is up.

The Taoiseach did so to circumvent the issue that goes to the heart of this.

Deputy Martin made the comparisons yesterday and in doing so undermined the Judiciary. He should withdraw his remarks.

The Taoiseach tried to create the impression that there were precedents with these individuals, but there were not. There was no precedent with those individuals.

Deputy, please.

It was disingenuous. That is what the Taoiseach was at and he should not have done it. The Taoiseach should be much more straight about it. He should come clean, say this was badly handled and that it circumvented the law. That would end all of this. A bit of straight-talking and honesty from the Taoiseach in respect of the issue is needed.

(Interruptions).

Deputy, please.

A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order-----

There is no point of order, thank you.

You have allowed two minutes for the reply of this Deputy.

Resume your seat please, Deputy. There is no point of order on Leaders’ Questions.

It is very unfair to the rest of us, given his disgraceful comments yesterday. I do not know what he is talking about.

If Deputy Broughan had listened, he might know.

Resume your seat, please. The Taoiseach to reply.

Deputy Martin had two hours of his party's time to discuss this if he had wanted to, and he chose not to.

That is not true.

I understand there are now discussions under way involving the Whips about us using our time to allow the Opposition to discuss this matter further, including a question and answer session. I am sure we can come to agreement on that. It is always the case that I am in the Dáil twice a week. Deputy Martin can ask any question he likes of me and I will do my very best to answer it.

What Deputy Martin said earlier is correct. Deputy Martin did say to me in his telephone call to me on Sunday night that he was questioning the qualifications, capabilities and competence of Máire Whelan. Deputy Martin also said he would not go there publically.

That is not true.

Deputy Martin did go there publically and doing so, in my view, was a mistake. It was wrong. Perhaps Deputy Martin did not mean to go there.

The Taoiseach invited the comparisons.

Perhaps he said something in the heat of argument.

The Taoiseach has disregarded the rule of law.

We have all been responsible for that in our time. However, in doing so, Deputy Martin cast aspersions on someone who is now a judge of the Court of Appeal.

Why did the Taoiseach not reappoint her as Attorney General?

Deputy Martin said that she was lesser than other people.

The Taoiseach created the problem. Why did the Taoiseach sack her as Attorney General?

Deputies, please.

The Taoiseach did not sack her as Attorney General.

(Interruptions).

Deputies, please behave with a little decorum. The Taoiseach has been asked a question. He is attempting to respond.

Deputy Martin specifically cast aspersions on the competence, capability and suitability of a Court of Appeal justice, Ms Justice Máire Whelan, in this House yesterday. Deputy Martin said that she was a lesser person or of lesser character or less capable than other people he mentioned.

I did not say that.

I am referring to the specific people he mentioned.

Mindful of the separation of powers that exist between this House and the Judiciary and mindful of the need for people in important positions, such as Deputy Martin and I, not to undermine the Judiciary, I would like to give Deputy Martin one more chance to withdraw the remarks he made about Ms Justice Whelan.

The Taoiseach undermined the Judiciary by his actions. He undermined the Judiciary by making the appointment.

(Interruptions).

Can we have order, please?

I want to raise with the Taoiseach the position of Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, and the virtual conveyor belt of crises that continue to engulf An Garda Síochána.

It is no secret that public confidence in the Commissioner is in tatters. It is certainly not difficult to see why. The Commissioner has failed to tackle persistent malpractice and a blatant lack of accountability in the upper echelons of Garda management.

Yesterday, the scandal surrounding serious financial irregularities at Templemore and the Commissioner's handling of the affair took yet another turn. At the Committee of Public Accounts it has emerged that the Comptroller and Auditor General was misled by the serving Garda Commissioner. The Commissioner wrote to the Comptroller and Auditor General on 31 July 2015 telling him or reassuring him that all was well regarding the integrity of Garda finances. However, the Commissioner knew that this was not true. She had known that, she says, since 27 July 2015.

The Committee of Public Accounts has heard evidence of attempts to contain, if not cover up, financial irregularities at the Garda training college. As part of that process, senior management sought to muddy the waters in communications with the Department of Justice and Equality.

As the Taoiseach knows, there were in excess of 50 bank accounts being operated at Templemore and it has now emerged that GSOC is conducting a serious fraud investigation into what has become known as the Cabra account. The Taoiseach is aware of all of these scandals. He should make no mistake that any refusal to act by his Government makes this a crisis not only in policing but also in the leadership of the State. If, like his predecessor, Deputy Enda Kenny, he chooses to turn a blind eye to the seriousness of the situation, the credibility of his Administration will be broken. He has an opportunity to avoid that and do the right thing. He can bring to an end the evasion and political gymnastics that so dominated the previous Taoiseach's handling of these scandals and turn instead to an approach that would really change the administration of policing for the better.

Yesterday, during the proceedings of the Committee of Public Accounts, the Commissioner could or would not express confidence in her senior management team. How can anyone have confidence in the head of police if she cannot express confidence in her own team? It is incredible that anybody, not least the head of Government, could seriously argue that the Garda Commissioner is the right person to rebuild public confidence in policing. While the political establishment in the State stretches the bounds of credibility every day, even in Ireland credibility does not stretch that far. The Taoiseach has to face up to reality. The Commissioner has to go. Her position is absolutely untenable. Does the Taoiseach have confidence in Nóirín O'Sullivan?

Yes, I do have confidence in the Garda Commissioner, as does the Government. The problems besetting the Garda are long-standing. Most, if not all, predate her becoming Garda Commissioner.

That is simply not true.

I believe she is somebody who is fighting many battles on many fronts in an effort to put things right.

More importantly, I want the public to have confidence in the Garda. That is crucial in my approach to the matter. It is unfortunately true that trust and confidence have been strained because of the revelations that have beset the Garda in recent months and years. The Government has a duty to restore that confidence and trust. We have a policing model in Ireland that is based on confidence and trust. We do not have an armed police force such as in other countries which base their authority on arms rather than the relationship with the community.

Like in France or Canada.

The best way to restore trust and confidence in the Garda is, first, to ensure there is a thorough investigation of all of the allegations made. That is under way. The Committee of Public Accounts is carrying out hearings and sat for the entire day yesterday in order that the hearings could proceed. I also understand the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has begun a fraud investigation into accounts in Templemore. It is important that these investigations proceed and quickly. It is also important that they be allowed to run their course. We should not come to conclusions on their outcome until the people actually carrying them out have come to a conclusion having listened to all of the evidence.

We also need to accelerate the pace of reform in the Garda. I am not happy with the pace at which it is occurring. It is very important in the coming months and years that we build on the reforms that have taken place and also accelerate things in order that we can do what is most important, namely, restore the confidence and trust of the people in the Garda.

That is most uninspiring. The Taoiseach is treading the well worn path of Deputy Enda Kenny, a master of evasion who brought not taking decisions on Garda reform to the level of a higher art. Two things have been established and they are not in dispute. The first fact accepted by everyone, including the Garda Commissioner, is that she failed to comply with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 in failing to inform the then Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, of the serious allegations made at Templemore. That is not a matter of dispute. The second established fact is that the current serving Commissioner wrote to the Comptroller and Auditor General and misled him and his office.

There is no contention, debate or dispute about those two facts.

Leaving everything else aside, on the basis of those two established facts, the Commissioner has to go. If the talk of reform is more than rhetoric and if the Taoiseach is serious about a new era in policing, then accountability has to start at the very top and that means the Taoiseach, as head of Government, has to come off the fence, call things for what they are and ensure that the Commissioner goes in the interests of An Garda Síochána and public confidence. Anything short of that demonstrates for one and all that he is simply talking down the clock and talking the language of reform but not with any real seriousness.

Thank you, Deputy.

I have given the Taoiseach two established facts of failure in respect of Templemore that revolve directly around the serving Commissioner under her watch. What is he going to do about that?

First, I am not on the fence; I have been very clear and straight with the Deputy. I have confidence in the Garda Commissioner, as does the Government. I do not think that is being on the fence. That is being as straight as I possibly can on this issue.

In regard to the Act to which the Deputy referred, it requires a Commissioner to inform the Minister for Justice of certain things but it is in the judgment of the Commissioner as to whether the threshold is reached and it is something that needs to be referred to the Minister for Justice.

That is the case.

Does the Taoiseach believe the threshold was reached?

Deputy McDonald may not like that being the case but that happens to be the case and that is a judgment call.

In terms of the other facts she gave me, I can give her some facts too. The Committee of Public Accounts is currently carrying out an investigation.

I am on the Committee of Public Accounts.

It had hearings that went on for hours yesterday at which the Deputy was present. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, has launched an investigation looking in particular into alleged fraud when it comes to accounts in Templemore and a tribunal, the Charleton tribunal, is under way.

And the Commissioner remains in place. That is astonishing.

Yes, but it is the Deputy's contention that we should bypass all those investigations-----

-----a tribunal-----

-----GSOC and the Committee of Public Accounts and rush a judgment. I do not believe in summary justice or kangaroo courts.

Kangaroo courts-----

When the Deputy was on the backbenches he was fairly well able to delivery summary justice.

I appreciate that Deputy McDonald comes from a political tradition that is okay about that but mine is not.

(Interruptions).

Why has the Taoiseach's Ministers, Deputies Paschal Donohoe and Simon Harris, refused to provide the funding necessary for the restoration of staff salaries in section 39 health sector organisations? Unlike colleagues often doing the very same job in section 38 agencies and in the HSE, health workers in the 1,800 section 39 organisations have been discriminated against and denied pay restoration under the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Three weeks ago I hosted a Dáil briefing that was addressed by chief executive officers of the two largest section 39 organisations in the country, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Rehab. The briefing was well attended by colleagues from all sides of the House and the Seanad and was addressed by the two chief executive officers, Ms Rosemary Keogh of the Irish Wheelchair Association and Ms Mo Flynn of Rehab. I am delighted to extend a welcome to Ms Keogh who is in the Visitors Gallery. Both CEOs strongly warned that the services provided by their organisations will be in jeopardy if there is no urgent resolution of the pay restoration issue for their staff, and those most negatively impacted will be the tens of thousands of our citizens with disabilities receiving vital support services.

The Irish Wheelchair Association, which has its headquarters in Clontarf in my constituency, delivers 1.17 million hours of assisted living services to almost 2,000 people. It employs 1,500 people in providing assisted living services and it is the largest provider of these services in Ireland. It has approximately 20,000 members throughout the country. Ms Keogh succinctly informed us three weeks ago that if one works as a home support worker with a section 38 organisation or the HSE, one will receive the Lansdowne Road agreement pay increases but if one does equivalent work with the Irish Wheelchair Association, the State does not recognise one's right to seek pay restoration even though one will be carrying out the exact same tasks. Ms Mo Flynn of Rehab, which provides a similar level of services, highlighted the difficulty for section 39 organisations in retaining skilled staff, given that section 39 staff are now earning approximately €120 less per month than those doing the exact same job in the 44 section 38 organisations and the HSE.

Contrary to what the Ministers, Deputies Paschal Donohoe and Simon Harris, and the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, have been saying, members of not-for-profit associations such as the Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab were instructed by the HSE to align pay with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, legislation, adjust it and cut pay scales.

In 2010 the Labour Court ruled that pay cuts must be imposed because the pay scales of section 39 and 38 organisations had been aligned for more than 15 years. Why is the Minister, Deputy Harris, so disingenuous when he constantly passes the ball back and forth to the HSE whenever I raise this matter with him? It is simply impossible for the Irish Wheelchair Association to meet the €1.34 million needed for pay restoration this year under the Lansdowne Road Agreement or the €290,000 needed for last year without HSE and State support. SIPTU has rightly taken the matter to the Workplace Relations Commission for adjudication and the WRC has suggested a conciliation conference. Recently, SIPTU also tried to raise the plight of section 39 workers in Lansdowne Road 2 negotiations. Will the Taoiseach now support a process for the full restoration of these salaries for this dedicated and highly valued workforce which enables our citizens with disabilities to live independent and satisfying lives? The funding was supposed to have been in the 2017 Estimates and hopefully we will look at this in the Budget Oversight Committee. The Taoiseach needs to take action for the tens of thousands of our citizens with a disability. The workers concerned are people who get up early in the morning and work hard all day.

The Deputy and I both know, but maybe others in the House will not be as familiar with these issues and the Health Act, that the fundamental difference between people who work for a section 38 or section 39 organisation is that if one works for a section 38 organisation one is a public sector employee. One is effectively a public servant and therefore is subject to all the pluses and minuses that come with that, the pluses such as the very good public sector pension and minuses that arise from the various restrictions that apply to hiring and firing in the public sector, and pay reductions and increases where they arise. People who work for section 39 organisations are not public sector employees. They tend to work for a NGO, charity or religious order which is given a block grant from which they are expected to provide services and pay their employees. That is the difference between section 38 and section 39. It is not dissimilar to a company which receives a contract having to cover its costs, provide its services and employ its staff from the money it receives for that contract. It is not acceptable for any organisation that has had its budget increased to reduce the services it provides to its clients and I would take a very dim view of any organisation reducing services to its clients where its budget has not been reduced.

The Taoiseach has just repeated the old mantra. He and I both know the distinction which goes back to the Health Act 1953. The reality is that the Labour Court judged in 2010 that the pay scales of similar type jobs in both section 39 and section 38 had been aligned for 15 years. Those workers took a massive hit, in common with the rest of the public sector workforce. Because there is this precedent, it is a foregone conclusion that the WRC will rule that section 39 workers are entitled to increases under the Lansdowne Road agreement. Therefore it is a question of when, not if. The Taoiseach and the Ministers, Deputies Harris and Donohoe, are placing vital services in jeopardy by withholding funding from the organisations which would have gone to provide necessary services. There is widespread support across the Oireachtas for this restoration. Some weeks ago, I sent a letter to Deputy Harris, which has not been acknowledged, from members of my technical group, Independents4Change, Solidarity - People Before Profit, supported by Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the Rural Alliance, asking the Minister to meet with the Not For Profit Association. He has not even replied to us.

I have already met them.

The Minister has not even acknowledged the letter. The Taoiseach might ask him to do that. One final point. A constituent with a disability, who I know, sums up the need for urgent action on this issue. She receives a personal assistance package from the Wheelchair Association. Without it she would not be able to live her life to the fullest. She is holding down an important job, attending college and taking care of her young child and her family home. It is for her and the thousands of people like her that the Taoiseach should take action on this and not just give me these formulaic responses.

I want something different and some real action on this matter.

I have not seen that Labour Court recommendation, but, as the Deputy will be aware, Labour Court recommendations are made to the employer. In the case of section 39 bodies, the employer is the legal employer - the charity, NGO, religious or other body - not the State. Regarding pay restoration, staff in section 39 agencies were not subject to the provisions of the public service agreements or the FEMPI legislation which imposed pay reductions. I am informed that a dispute resolution process with the HSE was entered into by both the Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab and that significant progress has been made, as recognised by both sides. They have now agreed to a separate WRC process to deal with the issue of pay restoration issue. I believe the matter can be resolved at the WRC in the normal way.

They need the Taoiseach's help.

On foot of this process, the director general of the HSE has given a derogation to both the Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab to reinstate in full their funding levels.

I hope I am not about to reveal what was said in a private conversation, but as it has been done already during Leaders' Questions, perhaps it encourages me to do so. During the interregnum I was walking around St. Stephen's Green and who did I meet but the Minister for Finance who was walking the other way. We stopped to have a chat, as one does. We talked about social partnership, capital plans and, inevitably and briefly, books we would recommend to each other. I recommended to him The Myth Gap by Alex Evans, while he blessedly recommended to me a short book he had just read, On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder. It is a good book and worth reading as it is very interesting. It contains a thesis about politics having moved from the politics of inevitability, as he calls it, whereby it is just a question of the inevitable progress towards liberal democracy, to a political system, as we see here, where one party defends the status quo and the other just consists of negation. However, this myth was shattered in 2008 in the crash. It is a myth that has collapsed and is no longer viable. Mr. Snyder argues that it is being replaced in many countries by an alternative, the politics of eternity, as he calls it.

Most politicians would agree.

He characterises it as the seduction of a mythical past that prevents us from thinking about possible futures.

(Interruptions).

Order, please.

He says it is led, in President Trump, by a nationalist who encourages us to be our worst and then tells us we are the best. It is the antithesis of a patriot who wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best. I raise this issue because I understand the Taoiseach has taken on an historian as his speech writer. The book is all about understanding and applying the lessons of history that allow us to see patterns and make judgments. It sketches for us the structures within which we can seek freedom. It permits us to be responsible, not for everything but something. He says the younger generation, to which the Taoiseach belongs, which I can say, unfortunately, has an historic responsibility to make this choice and not go down the route of nationalist politics or stick to the old inevitability but to stand up against tyranny and be courageous in doing so. The Taoiseach has a chance to be what Mr. Snyder calls the creator in a moment of history.

In March the Taoiseach said he would not invite President Trump to Ireland. He is now the leader of the country, a country that wants to stand up against the demonisation of Islam, for which President Trump stands; to stand up against his treatment of Irish emigrants who are stuck in the United States undocumented; to stand up against his repudiation of the Paris climate change agreement which forms a central part of international co-operation; and to stand up with the German Chancellor and others who say President Trump is someone who cannot be relied on. How will the Taoiseach contact the US Government about the undocumented Irish when the United States does not have an ambassador here? In so doing will he discontinue the invitation to President Trump? Will he take the lessons of history and stand up against tyranny and for all that is good in this patriotic country?

I am delighted that the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, is making the same book recommendations to the Deputy as he is to me. He gave me the book On Tyranny for my 38th birthday. I have read it and it is a good read.

Is the Minister trying to tell the Taoiseach something?

I know that for many members of the Deputy's party, the world stopped at some stage in the 1980s and that he has not read any political philosophy since, but it is-----

(Interruptions).

I thought he had made him a social democrat.

Again, 1980s concepts, big time.

I recommend that the Deputy read some books from the 1990s and this century which talk about other concepts. They are a good read. There are 20 lessons and the Deputy can read them just before bedtime. The Minister for Finance's other recommendation is The Hillbilly Elegy, while the Minister for Education and Skills recommends The Political Brain, both of which are a good read.

How does one join the book club?

Perhaps after pilates, we can also have a book club.

To answer Deputy Eamon Ryan's question frankly, in March an invitation was issued by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, to President Trump. I will not, of course, rescind that invitation. It would be inappropriate and create a diplomatic incident if I was to rescind an invitation once made but no progress has been made in organising such a visit, for which there is no timeline. I assure the Deputy that in my dealings with the American Government and my interactions and engagement with the chargé d'affaires who is here and acting US ambassador to Ireland I will approach them based on the long-standing friendship between our countries and the familial, cultural and economic links, but I will never shirk from raising issues such as climate change. I totally reject and oppose President Trump's attempt to withdraw the United States from the commitments made in Paris. I will also raise our concerns about human and LGBT rights and other issues in America that very much oppose the values of the new European centre about which I talk.

I understand it is difficult diplomatically to rescind an invitation and perhaps this might go the way of the United Kingdom's which the American President said he would not take up because there would be protests. There will be protests here if he comes and perhaps he might make the same decision not to come. It would be a deeply divisive moment because he stands for values against which we must protest. I am interested in the Taoiseach's next steps. His job is important and occasionally one has the sense that the path of history is evolving. We are watching his steps to see what path he will take. He has said he cannot rescind the invitation. What steps will he take to say the United States is not to be relied on, as Chancellor Merkel has done? What opportunity will he take to stand up for our values and against tyranny which is the central argument of the book mentioned? Where will he be courageous? In what way will he set his values and define what he represents? It is not good enough to stay shtum for the next ten months, visit for St. Patrick's Day and have the entire parade start again. What will the Taoiseach do if he is not willing to rescind the invitation? What has changed from what he said in March other than the confines of his office? How might he break from them in a truly enlightened and historic way? His historian might help him craft a speech, which is what I would recommend.

I have not hired a speech writer, but I have hired somebody who is a professor of history. I have a great interest in history which I believe is the study of the future because few things have not happened previously and it is a good idea to fill one's suitcase with history books because they are a good guide to what might happen on the road ahead.

We are in for more of the same.

When it comes to any engagement I will have with the American authorities, I will stand by the values of this country and the European values for which the Government stands also. Whether it is interactions with the embassy in Dublin or the US authorities at other meetings or during a visit to the United States which may happen next March, the Deputy can be assured that I will absolutely include in those meetings discussions of the issues he mentioned, whether it be climate change, human rights, LGBT rights and the need to respect Muslim people, whether they are citizens of this or another country.

The undocumented Irish in the United States are being arrested by the dozen.

That too, of which the Deputy can be sure. When President John F. Kennedy addressed this House in 1963, he said the power small countries had was to use their voice and set an example.

That is exactly what I intend this Government will do, namely, use our voice as a small country to promote those values into the future.

That concludes Leaders' Questions. I have to say many of us have shown scant regard for the Standing Orders on the time allowed. We move to Questions on Promised Legislation. I remind Members that one minute for one question is what is allowed.