An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Maidir le gnó na seactaine, is é gnó an lae inniu: No. 20, motion re Twenty-first Report of the Committee of Selection; No. 21, motion re Technological Universities Act Appointed Day Order, back from committee; No. 22, motion re judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters, back from committee; No. 23, motion re co-operation between the courts of member states in the taking of evidence in civil and commercial matters, back from committee; No. 24, motion re title of physical therapists, referral to committee; No. 38, statements pre-European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October, pursuant to Standing Order 111; No. a1, motion re nomination of member to the Government; and No. 39, Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 - Second Stage (resumed). Private Members' business shall be No. 60, Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, selected by Fianna Fáil.

Is é gnó na Céadaoin: No. 39a, statements on disclosures tribunal report, Charleton report; No. 39, Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 - Second Stage (resumed); No. 41, Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 12, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 13, Local Government Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members’ business shall be No. 61, Road Traffic (Quads and Scramblers) (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, selected by Sinn Féin.

Is é gnó an Déardaoin:: No. 26, motion re Ministerial Order Competition Act 2002, back from committee; No. 39, Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 - Second Stage (resumed); No. 12, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 13, Local Government Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. No. 27, motion re report on gender budgeting from Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight, shall be taken in the evening slot.

Fógra maidir leis na socruithe atá molta maidir le gnó na seachtaine seo, I refer to the first revised report of the Business Committee, dated 15 October. In relation to today's business, it is proposed that: (1) Nos. 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 shall be taken without debate; (2) oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Education and Skills shall not be taken and that the rota shall continue with oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality on Wednesday; (3) No. 38 shall commence immediately after questions to the Taoiseach and shall be followed by No. a1 - the statements shall be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and confined to a single round for a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a member nominated in their stead, for a period not exceeding ten minutes each, with a five minute response from the Minister or a Minister of State, and all Members may share time; (4) No. a1 shall be confined to a single round of five minutes each for speeches by the Taoiseach and the leader of other parties or groups, or a person nominated in their stead, and all Members may share time, with the Topical Issue debate taking place at the conclusion of proceedings on the motion; and (5) No. 60 shall conclude within two hours.

Maidir le gnó na Céadaoine, beartaítear:

(1) There shall be no questions to the Taoiseach and the sos, in accordance with Standing Order 25(1), shall be taken on the conclusion of Questions on Promised Legislation;

(2) Second Stage of No. 61 shall conclude within two hours; and

(3) The opening round of statements on No. 39a shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, of 15 minutes each and shall adjourn after the opening round and shall not resume that day. Statements of all other Members shall not exceed ten minutes each with a five-minute response from the Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time.

Maidir le gnó an Déardaoin, beartaítear:

(1) No. 26 shall be taken without debate;

(2) Private Members’ business under Standing Order 143F for the Independents 4 Change will not be taken on Tuesday 23 October 2018 but will instead be taken by the Social Democrats-Green Party Group, following which the rota shall continue unchanged with Fianna Fáil’s Private Members’ business on Wednesday 24 October 2018;

(3) Oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Education and Skills shall be taken not later than 5 p.m. and the rota shall continue with oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Health on Tuesday. The Topical Issue debate shall take place on the conclusion of oral parliamentary questions; and

(4) No. 27 shall be taken on the conclusion of the Topical Issue debate. The Dáil shall sit later than 7.48 p.m. and adjourn on the conclusion of the motion.

There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to?

No. I will say this once and it reflects on the whole business of the week. On Thursday of last week, the debate on the budget was cut short because of other business and I have no objection to that. I note there is a considerable amount of business this week. Many Members from this side of the House and from the other larger party on the other side have not had an opportunity to contribute because the time was cut short. I respectfully request that the Business Committee reconvene to reinstate the time lost or an appropriate amount of time to allow the conclusion of the budget debate.

Is that agreed? We will ask the Business Committee to consider that matter.

On the abortion legislation, I was about to propose that if the Second Stage debate does not finish by Thursday, we may have to consider a Friday sitting. This adds to the proposal Deputy Curran made. I appreciate some changes were made by removing other legislation, such as the Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill, from the schedule. However, this Bill was obviously delayed for various reasons, including the messing with the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. We did not reach it in the week of the budget. This is urgent legislation because ten people are travelling abroad daily for abortions. We cannot have a scenario where Second Stage is not concluded this week. I hope we will begin Committee Stage next week. I propose that, in the interests of the women and pregnant people who are still forced to travel despite the country voting en masse for the democratic right to have an abortion here, the Business Committee factor in an extra sitting on Friday, if necessary, to finish Second Stage.

On the same Bill, I would like an assurance that there will be plenty of time for Deputies to speak on the legislation. I hope the Government does not guillotine it. I believe one hour has been provided for debate this evening and maybe three or four hours tomorrow evening.

As a new Independent Deputy, I am finding it very hard to get speaking time. As a member of the Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution I hope, like everyone else in the House, I will be facilitated with enough time to speak.

I assure Deputy Fitzpatrick there will be no guillotine on this or any other legislation. We have long since left-----

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but what I mean is that I would like to have the same speaking time as everyone else on this issue, given that I was a member of the committee.

It is a pity your friends were messing around on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

Excuse me, I showed everyone respect-----

Deputies should please speak through the Chair.

-----and I am looking for a bit of respect as well. I am only asking for the same speaking time.

I know. It is a pity Deputy Fitzpatrick's pro-life pals-----

They delayed vital legislation.

Will Deputies please be quiet? Deputy Coppinger, please.

I am an Independent Deputy now.

I showed Deputy Coppinger respect. She should show respect to me.

Please, Deputy Fitzpatrick. We will consult the Business Committee on the two matters that have been raised, and we will deal with it in that way. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed?

A Cheann Comhairle-----

Is there another matter?

What is the outcome regarding the proposal from Deputy Coppinger?

We have a request to consult the Business Committee and we will consult the Business Committee this afternoon.

Will you revert to the House, a Cheann Comhairle?

Yes. Is today's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed.

On 24 July last, the former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment informed the House that the heads of a Bill for the national broadband plan were with the Government and that the Bill was progressing well. The purpose of the Bill is to provide certainty with regard to the conditions of access to existing infrastructure for the State-led intervention on the national broadband plan, so it is obviously critical legislation, perhaps relating to the point I made earlier in terms of access to the existing infrastructure to make sure that the broadband plan can be realised. When can we expect the Bill to be published?

The legislation is on the priority list so it should be published this session.

The Taoiseach informed the Dáil a fortnight ago that the expert group considering a second sexual abuse and violence in Ireland, SAVI, report was nearing the completion of its work. He said he was keen to get the study of sexual and domestic violence up and running in the next couple of months. As he is aware, 16 years have passed since the first SAVI report was published, a report that is widely regarded by women and stakeholders as groundbreaking, but a second SAVI report is undoubtedly now needed. Has the expert group completed its work? Have its recommendations been brought to Cabinet? When will the group's recommendations be published? What is the timeframe for completion of the SAVI 2 report?

I agree with Deputy McDonald about the importance and urgency of this issue. I acknowledge what the Taoiseach said recently. I wish to assure the House that matters are proceeding. I expect to bring a memorandum to Government within the next few weeks and to proceed then with the setting up of the appropriate structures.

As well as the national broadband Bill the Government has also promised a communications management agency Bill. Apparently, the purpose of the Bill is to create a single entity to manage the State's commercial communications contracts, including the national broadband contract, and to act as a centre of expertise in the State's commercial activities. It is a pity that agency was not in existence. Those of us who came into the Chamber last Thursday to put questions to the then Minister, Deputy Naughten, about the tender process for the national broadband plan were precluded from putting those questions. Will the Minister of State, Deputy Breen, who set up the private dinner with the then Minister, Deputy Naughten, make a statement to the House and be amenable to questions? Will the new Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment take questions on those matters later this week?

The heads of the Bill are in preparation but the Bill will not be published in this session. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has not yet formally received his seal of office. People might give him a few weeks to get his feet under the desk and to figure things out before bringing him in for questions.

I appreciate how the theatre of politics works, but calling people in to answer a whole series of questions before they have had time to read themselves into their brief is, I think, a fruitless exercise.

Will it take a few weeks?

I am sure the Minister, Deputy Bruton, will be happy to answer questions, but I think it is only reasonable to give him at least a week or so to get on top of his new brief before he does.

He may have to be a speed-reader, Taoiseach.


He is already a member of the Government.


Can we have order for Deputy Coppinger, please?

After the Belfast so-called rugby rape trial, the Minister came to the Dáil and promised major legal changes on the issues of sexual assault and violence. Yesterday, we read that in this State in our courts a woman who was asked to have sex said "No". She was grabbed in her garden, pulled into her own house, dragged up the stairs and her jeans were forcibly removed. She was hit across the head twice. The man receives a suspended sentence. We have the same problems in this State.

We cannot become involved in this House in commentary on a court case.

The point I am leading to, a Cheann Comhairle, is the legislation.

We cannot become involved in this House in commentary on a court case.

If it is of public interest, we certainly can, a Cheann Comhairle.

All these matters-----

Every woman in this country is wondering why that can happen.

Deputy, please resume your seat. There is a separation of powers in this State. We cannot become involved in commenting on court cases.

We can ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when there will be training in this State for judges who can come out with a statement to the effect that feelings were running high after a marriage break-up as an excuse for giving a man a suspended sentence. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she leaves a relationship. This woman did everything right. She left a violent relationship and she had a protection order in place.

Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.

She took a court case and got no justice. What is the Minister for Justice and Equality going to do about it?

I acknowledge your view on this, a Cheann Comhairle, and I fully agree with it. I remind the Deputy that there are five tranches of legislation germane to the issue she has raised. Two were enacted earlier this year, namely, the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, both of which were long outstanding and are most reforming in nature, ensuring that victims of crime and vulnerable witnesses are fully protected.

I point to two Bills before the House that, with the co-operation of the Deputies opposite, we will have enacted before Christmas. I point to the review, as promised by me in the aftermath of the Belfast rape trial, which is being overseen by a group under the chairing of Professor Tom O'Malley from NUI Galway, a considered expert in the area of practice and procedure on the treatment of vulnerable witnesses. I expect that report to be completed in its entirety by the end of this year, whereupon the recommendations can be discussed by the House. I am keen to ensure that our legislation is fully updated and that resources are made available to victims of crime.

Will it train judges?

On the matter of training or otherwise, I point the House to certain aspects of the Judicial Council Bill, which is before the Seanad.

I raise with the Taoiseach an issue regarding a former Waterford health centre. It is a rural general medical practice on the borders of Tipperary and Waterford. The HSE carried out a recruitment process and selected a general practitioner back in July. We were told on 18 September that it would only be a matter of days before we would have an appointment there. Luckily, we have 1,700 patients and a thriving practice there. A total of four GPs applied for this practice so it is not the case that we cannot get them. Thankfully we can.

The HSE is foot-dragging and fooling. It beggars belief that it has €17 billion of a budget and this is the way those responsible treat a rural community with 1,700 patients in a lucrative practice. We cannot get clarity. We get emails from week to week about the contract being signed but it is not being signed. There is major uncertainty for the patients.

I wish to add that the staff there do excellent work. This is hard on everyone. It is typical of the HSE passing the buck.

I wish to raise the same issue. I support Deputy Mattie McGrath in what he has said. We both raised the matter in the House two weeks ago under a Topical Issue debate and we have not received a comprehensive reply. The situation is that a doctor is after retiring and there has been locum cover there for the past 12 months. We all know rural practice is in decline, but the situation is that 1,700 patients are very concerned. We need some kind of definitive answer. Will a full-time doctor be assigned?

I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue. I share their concern about the health of their constituents. I am reassured by Deputy Mattie McGrath's assertion that four people have applied for the post. That is encouraging and perhaps indicates that the improvements in the rural practice allowance have made a difference. I do not know what the story is with the contract, but I will certainly raise the matter with the Department of Health and the HSE and provide an update for the Deputies in writing.

Young Friends of the Earth, Dublin Eco-Feminist Coven, Stop Climate Chaos and Not Here, Not Anywhere organised a demonstration at short notice outside Leinster House at lunch time today because they were hugely concerned about the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on global warming issued last week and the need for far-reaching transitions in the areas of land, energy, industry, building, transport and cities. When will the Government bring the report to the House to be debated because we need to discuss it in great detail, particularly in the light of it not bringing forward a carbon tax in the budget announced last week?

That is a matter for the Business Committee.

Will the Taoiseach expand on the review to be carried out by Mr. Peter Smyth that he announced last week? Is he writing the terms of reference? Is he reviewing the process? Is he internal to it? Is there any conflict of interest as a consequence? Will the Opposition have an opportunity to feed into the terms of reference? What is the timeframe involved? Will there be an opportunity to have a debate in the House on the matter to deal with the terms of reference or the process involved?

Mr. Peter Smyth is the independent process auditor; therefore, he is not internal. We should have the terms of reference in the next couple of days and anticipate that he should be able to report to the Government within three to four weeks. The final tender for the national broadband plan was received on 18 September and is being evaluated by the Department's procurement team. I ask Deputies on all sides of the House but particularly the Opposition benches to be careful in their language. There may be some people who want the national broadband plan to fail and some who think there may be political gain in it failing, but it is still in process.

The tender has been lodged with the Department and is being considered. I ask people who care about rural Ireland and want the 500,000 homes to receive high speed broadband to be careful, circumspect and accurate in their language in commenting on the issue.

The Taoiseach should tell Ministers that also.

Under new European regulations we have to have a new national energy and climate action plan by the end of the year. I am that afraid the new Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, will not have time to put his feet under the table because we were promised a public consultation process on the plan which surely will have to be launched in the coming days. It will lead to the entire national development plan which is not fit for purpose or the national climate mitigation plan being changed. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government will meet its legal obligations under European regulations in setting out a new national energy and climate action plan before the end of the year? When is the consultation process due to begin?

It is my understanding there is a national dialogue on climate change.

That is completely different.

I bow to the Deputy's knowledge. If there is a deadline, we will honour it and deliver the plan on time.

A further 17 Deputies are offering, with a little over eight minutes remaining.

I ask the Taoiseach if the Charleton report is likely to be discussed in the House and, if so, when?

I understand there will be a debate on the report in the House tomorrow. It would be helpful if the Business Committee could also provide time for it next week because I know that Members will want to give their views on it.

In this House two weeks ago the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, asked Deputies to give him solutions to the housing problem. I asked him to allow local authorities build on their landbanks. I also asked him if he would pay them the outstanding moneys in respect of the loans they had taken out on the landbanks. In my county Louth County Council is paying over €1 million a year in interest in paying off its loans. Yesterday the chief executive of the council said she would cut back the budget in order to balance the books. That means that local grants will not be paid.

The Minister asked for solutions and we are giving them to him. There are vacant houses in Dundalk and the surrounding areas in County Louth that are boarded up because they have no money to service them for re-letting. Two weeks ago, we gave the Minister the solution and I have heard nothing back. Will he please give me an update on the situation?

Local authorities are building houses on their own land. That is happening. The local authority in Louth is purchasing houses compulsorily and it does have money to repair houses and have them re-let. On debt on land, a land aggregation scheme was done after the crash. Working with the Housing Agency, we took on a number of landbanks and resolved the debt issues that existed for those local authorities. It is because of debt issues like those that we are being more careful and prudent in terms of how we are spending our money this time around in building public housing on public land. We are in the process of considering the potential for a further land aggregation scheme in the future where it may be necessary. The land has to be in locations where it makes sense to build houses.

I am sure that the Taoiseach will agree the second runway at Dublin Airport is of critical strategic importance for the economy. The Dublin Airport Authority is relying on the establishment of an independent noise regulator to progress the necessary infrastructure, as are the residents in the area. The Minister, Deputy Ross, wasted 18 months on the establishment of the Irish Aviation Authority as the independent noise regulator. That failed. We were informed at the start of this year that the new Bill to make Fingal County Council the independent competent authority was urgent and was going to be prioritised. Despite this, we are falling behind the timelines set for the Bill by the Department and the Government. Two weeks ago, we had pre-legislative scrutiny that had been due to commence at the start of September and was due to be completed by 30 September. It has not been completed. Two weeks on, we are still awaiting answers on critical questions that were raised at pre-legislative scrutiny. Does the Taoiseach feel it was right and appropriate for the Minister, Deputy Ross, not to attend pre-legislative scrutiny to answer concerns from Opposition Deputies? How can we have confidence that the Minister is going to bring this critical legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas as promised before the end of this year?

My understanding is that pre-legislative scrutiny is usually handled by officials rather than by Ministers. Of course the Minister, Deputy Ross, comes into the House regularly to answer oral questions and respond to Topical Issue matters.

There have been no orthopaedic services in Tralee general hospital since last June. I have raised the matter with the Taoiseach twice already this term. About ten days ago we got notification from the general manager of the hospital that services were to begin yesterday but they did not begin. People do not know when the orthopaedic section of the hospital will open again. I have asked the Taoiseach to ask the Minister to intervene and see what is going on there. We have been promised so many times that this section would open. People are roaring in excruciating pain and there is still nothing happening. What is the Government going to do about it? We have five Ministers for Health. The people of Kerry are being let down. We are trying to take as many as we can up North to get the procedure done, but what is going to happen when the cross-border directive falls when England leaves the European market? Where will we be then?

I am not in a position to answer specific questions about University Hospital Kerry. I imagine the manager of the hospital can do that for the Deputy. If not, I am sure we can get an answer for him from the HSE. I do not do that here.

Mine is a question to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Following on from the very welcome announcement on budget day, following the Cabinet meeting, that there will indeed be a redress scheme funded by the Government for the homeowners in Donegal and Mayo who are affected by mica, will the Minister confirm that the Government will ensure that the redress scheme will be approved by the end of this year? Will he also confirm the details on the roll-out of the scheme and that homes will commence to be fixed early in 2019?

I thank the Deputy for the question. I thank the Ministers of State, Deputies English and McHugh, for the work they have done with Deputy McConalogue in trying to find a resolution for this issue. Last week the Cabinet agreed in principle to having a remediation scheme for concrete block works. We agreed to finalise that scheme this year so it can be commenced next year.

My question to the Taoiseach is also about broadband. While I accept what he has said about the plan for the future, in my constituency 52% of households are awaiting the roll-out of the national broadband plan. This is affecting businesses and farmers who have to make applications online. It is a real problem for the Roscommon-Galway constituency. How long will it be before we can expect broadband in that area? It is a necessity and I am impressing on the Taoiseach the urgency of this matter. Despite the Government's best efforts to revitalise villages and towns, this will be a serious issue if we cannot get the plan up and running in a number of months.

I am afraid I cannot give the Deputy a definitive timeline, but the final tender came in on 18 September. It is being evaluated by the Department's procurement team. There is an evaluation committee and a procurement board. Should they be in a position to make a recommendation to Government, we would be able to make a decision on that. I do not want to give definite timelines at this stage, other than the commitment from me personally and from the Government that we will do everything in our power to expedite this and ensure it gets done.

The programme for Government committed to enhancing financial services and enhancing life in rural areas. How can the Government stand over the closure of the credit union branch in Drimoleague in west County Cork? It used to be open two days a week and now opens only one day a week. It will close its doors permanently at the end of November. People have been told they can go to the branch in Skibbereen. However, there is no bus service from Drimoleague to Skibbereen. To my mind the Government is not committed to rural living at all.

I am very sorry to hear that the credit union in Drimoleague is closing. With the greatest respect to the Deputy, while the Government is responsible for many things, the opening and closing of credit unions is not one of them.

I apologise to the 11 Deputies who were not reached. I again ask Deputies to try to make their questions relevant to promised legislation and to keep them within the timeframe.