Mary Lou McDonaldCeist:
1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the status of the work of the international division of his Department. [18477/20]
Vol. 996 No. 6
1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the status of the work of the international division of his Department. [18477/20]
2. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach his plans for State visits. [22650/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.
The international section of the Department supports my work at international level, beyond the EU, to promote Ireland's foreign and economic policy objectives and to maintain and develop strong bilateral and multilateral relations. Working closely with other Departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the international section provides me with advice and briefing on international issues, bilateral and multilateral relations. It also supports my engagement with Heads of State and Government and other senior international figures and organisations.
The international section also assists with coordination of relevant whole-of-Government initiatives, such as the Global Ireland 2025 strategy and the sustainable development goals implementation arrangements. It also supported the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with the successful campaign for Ireland's election to the UN Security Council and will work closely with that Department as Ireland prepares to assume its seat from January 2021.
In recent months, the section has contributed to work across Government in relation to Covid-19, notably in monitoring the epidemiological situation, policy responses and practical actions taken by other countries.
The international section co-ordinates my international travel, including bilateral visits and attendance at multilateral engagements such as meetings of the European Council and leaders' summits at the United Nations. International travel is severely restricted at present and I do not expect to undertake international travel in the period ahead other than for meetings that are deemed to be essential to Ireland's interests. If it is decided that meetings of the European Council take place in person, including meetings planned for later this month, October and December, I will attend to represent Ireland, as I did when it met in Brussels in July. While I will be participating in this year's UN General Assembly, the leaders' summit has been recast as a virtual event.
I thank the Taoiseach for his response.
I wish to raise the issue of the intensification of attacks on Gaza by the Israeli army throughout last month. These attacks included the use of war planes with Israeli army offensives carried out almost daily from early August. In addition to the military attacks, Israel imposed further restrictions on the people of Gaza, which involved banning the entry of fuel for Gaza's only power plant. International media reported significant attacks on the Gaza Strip, resulting in ever-increasing and significant infrastructural damage. These attacks take place within a strip of land 41 km long and 10 km wide, with a population of some 2 million people. The psychological impact of these attacks on families and children is unimaginable and unconscionable.
The latest round of military attacks against Gaza took place in advance of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visiting Tel Aviv and the Middle East to shore up support for the United Arab Emirates' efforts to normalise relationships with Israel. Such efforts are deeply divisive and will serve to further destabilise the region.
Sinn Féin has welcomed the significant joint communiqué from the main Palestinian political forces in recent days, agreeing on the need to come together in their opposition to the normalisation of relationships between the Arab states and Israel and to the plans to annex Palestinian lands. Will the Taoiseach lend his support to this cross-party Palestinian initiative?
From a foreign policy point of view, I would like the Taoiseach's assurance that this Government, and all parties in this House, will do absolutely nothing between now and November to facilitate, encourage or promote assistance to Donald Trump's campaign to return to the White House. I think this is a priority. Under normal circumstances, one might say we have to maintain friendly relationships with the US but I am of the view, as I have said many times in this House, that Donald Trump is inciting the most dangerous political forces. He is encouraging a politics of hate and legitimising it across the world, along with people like Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orbán. These people are actively encouraging and legitimising hate, division, conflict and racism in a dangerous way that echoes the politics of the fascists of the 1930s. I think Biden is useless and I am not particularly promoting him either. However, it is in all of our interests that we do not do anything that could be used by Trump to assist his return to power.
Palestine, which Deputy MacDonald has just raised, is a case in point. Trump has given license to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to annex Palestinian territory, to manipulate in a dangerous way the situation in the Middle East, to renew assaults on Gaza and so on. It is another instance of the danger of Trump.
The Government will continue to accord a high priority to the Middle East situation, particularly the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the necessity for genuine movement towards a two-state solution. We welcome the fact that Israel has removed its threat to annex further settlements in Palestine. It is suspending the plans originally announced. We are still concerned by subsequent comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu that any suspension is temporary. Ireland's position is that any such plans should be permanently withdrawn.
I agree with Deputy MacDonald regarding the effect that attacks, by their nature, have on such a narrow strip as Gaza. I have been to Gaza and seen at first hand how explosions and bombings can be devastating for the civilian population. There is no way to avoid injuring and killing innocent civilians in such attacks. That is the case and the lack of proper utilities in Gaza reduces significantly the quality of life of the citizens, both in terms of energy and clean water.
Ireland, along with the European Union, remains a steadfast supporter of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, which provides significant relief to the people of Gaza and to the people of Palestine more generally.
On the international developments, the US engagement with Israel has not been helpful in bringing a resolution to this or in moving this into a space where it could gain momentum and get a genuine engagement from all sides towards a two-state solution. That is a concern of ours.
On Deputy Boyd Barrett's points, we take a non-partisan approach to elections in other countries, particularly in other democracies. I recently spoke on the phone with Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's special envoy for Northern Ireland and I spoke to Representative Richard Neal of the Congressional Friends of Ireland. Both of them were still concerned about the situation here with Brexit and so on. We speak to both sides of the aisle on a continuing basis and we do not interfere in the electoral contest itself. I met former Vice President Biden some years ago at a breakfast event. He is proud of his Irish heritage and has a great love for this country. We will continue to work consistently with both sides of the aisle in the United States' political system and that will not change.
As the Taoiseach noted, the threat of the further annexation of Palestinian land has been suspended but it has not been definitively taken off the table. As the Taoiseach is also aware, the state of Israel is additionally and in any event consistently in breach of international law. It is the essence of what we might call a rogue state. We want to get to a solution. I want Ireland to be as constructive and helpful as possible in that regard and at times that means we have to lead from the front.
As the Taoiseach knows, the Oireachtas has agreed on a position that we should recognise the state of Palestine. The Taoiseach needs to do that. He needs to honour the decided verdict of the Oireachtas on that matter. That would be of help in unlocking the situation and for us, in our own way, to lead from the front in respect of the two-state solution. The occupied territories Bill, which the Taoiseach and his political party supported, should not have been offered up on the altar of political expediency to cut a deal with Fine Gael, which did not support that legislation. Fine Gael may have been unique among parties in the Oireachtas in not supporting that legislation. I propose the recognition of the state of Palestine and advancing and enacting the occupied territories Bill as concrete ways and contributions to what the Taoiseach states he wishes to see, namely, a resolution of the Palestinian question and the achievement of that two-state solution.
I know the Taoiseach will not be as explicit as I might be about Trump but I am asking the Department of the Taoiseach to be careful not to inadvertently offer any public relations opportunities to Donald Trump between now and November. That is what I am urging because he is a danger to the whole world. Whatever I may think about Biden, this guy is a threat to democracy.
On Palestine, I agree with the call to support the occupied territories Bill and for the recognition of the Palestinian state. I want to point out to the Government, to Sinn Féin and to others that there is a contradiction between saying that we do not interfere with the politics of other states and pinning our colours to the mast of the two-state solution. Palestinians are divided about a two-state and one-state solution. In this country, we completely reject two-state solutions. It is called partition, we reject it and we recognise that partition was a disaster. Why would we support, as a matter of principle, the continued partition of Palestine when there is a very valid argument from many Palestinians that the solution to the conflict in Palestine is to have a single state where one's religion or ethnic background makes no difference and where one is treated equally? That was the historic position of the Palestinians. They conceded that under pressure from the Israelis and since they have done so, the situation has been a disaster. The two-state solution has not worked and is not now even viable but it copper-fastens partition on ethnic and religious grounds. The Taoiseach may agree or disagree with me but we should not fix our mast to the position of two states because it is dangerous. We should look at Lebanon, where there were similar arrangements and it turned out to be a disaster for the whole history of that state. The people of Lebanon are now saying they cannot have these institutionalised sectarian partitions. I put it to the Taoiseach that the same point applies to Palestine.
On the recognition of the state of Palestine, we have made it clear in the programme for Government that we will honour our commitment to recognise the state of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict or in advance of that when we believe that doing so will progress efforts to reach a two-state solution or protect the integrity of Palestinian territory.
On practical support for the Palestinians, it should not be forgotten that Ireland provides significant levels of development and humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Palestinian men, women and children. In 2020, this support will amount to €16.2 million in total and in light of the threat posed by Covid-19, the Government has expedited this year's funding to agencies and civil society organisations working on the ground with the Palestinian people. One of our main partners on the ground is UNRWA and we will provide €7 million this year to support its vital work in providing education, healthcare and humanitarian relief to approximately 5.6 million registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. We are also providing funding to the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Education and Higher Education; the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; the West Bank Protection Consortium, which works to deter demolitions on the West Bank and civil society organisations advocating for human rights and peace. We continue to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the worst of the suffering in Gaza, including through our support for UNRWA, which provides a lot of public services, such as health and education, in Gaza.
Deputy Boyd Barrett raised an important point on the question of a one-state or two-state solution. It seems to me that the general consensus internationally and the European position have been in favour of a two-state solution. That said, the continued policy of annexation and settlements makes that a difficult prospect into the future and it would seem to me to be in the best interests of all to create a momentum behind what many people think is the practical and realistic idea of a two-state solution.
3. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the protocol and general division of his Department. [18557/20]
The protocol and general division of the Department of the Taoiseach has responsibility for State protocol, including protocol for the Taoiseach and the Government. This involves the organisation and co-ordination, in conjunction with relevant stakeholders, of State and official functions. Such functions include the annual Easter 1916 commemoration, the National Day of Commemoration and State commemorations arising from the decade of centenaries from 2013 to 2023, presidential inaugurations, State funerals and inward visits from Heads of State or Government.
The programme of structured dialogue between the Government and churches, faith communities and non-confessional organisations is facilitated by the division. The division is the liaison on administrative matters between the Department and the Office of the Attorney General, the Chief State Solicitor's Office, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Law Reform Commission and the Moriarty tribunal. The division is responsible for liaison with the Office of the President. It supports the Taoiseach's functions relating to the Constitution, including its formal enrolment and publication. The division also provides secretariat support to the interdepartmental group on security of Ireland's electoral process and disinformation.
That is exactly what it says on the website.
Why did the Deputy ask the question then?
I asked the question because I wanted to raise certain matters. Is that not why one always asks questions? Has the role of the division changed in any way since the Taoiseach has taken up office? Are there any changes the Taoiseach wants to bring about in this area of his Department?
How is the section dealing with the fact that we now have another aide-de-camp traversing the country on behalf of the Tánaiste? Who requested this aide-de-camp and how much is it costing? What is the protocol for using this aide-de-camp? As none of this information is public, the Taoiseach might enlighten us as to why this aide-de-camp was requested, who made the request, how much this is costing and what the protocol is for the aide-de-camp role? Did the section have any role in suggesting another aide-de-camp was necessary? Did it have a role in making recommendations as regards protocols beyond that, particularly now that we have another Minister with a Garda driver? Has the role changed? Has the protocol division changed? As I outlined, some practical changes have taken place. How is this going to work?
What is being done with regard to protocol for parity of esteem for the three party leaders? Have there been changes in that respect? The Taoiseach referred to that several times so there must be changes.
The protocol section is also responsible for official events. As we know, the proposal in January to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary, RIC, caused a complete mess. What is being done to prevent such a mess occurring again? Will the Taoiseach provide a list of proposed events and commemorations for the rest of 2020 and 2021? That would come under that section of the Department as well.
Deputy Boyd Barrett would like to contribute.
The protocol and general division deals with relations with the religious bodies. I appeal to the Taoiseach, through this division, to engage urgently with the Sisters of Charity and the Catholic Church generally on a scandal in the St. Mary's centre, a nursing home that also provides assisted living housing for people with blindness, visual impairment and disability. In a Debenhams-style, cynical, tactical liquidation the Sisters of Charity's wholly-owned subsidiary, set up by the order, has already liquidated the Caritas convalescent centre and representatives of the subsidiary are in the High Court as I speak trying to liquidate the nursing home, which provided for 50 residents. Social housing was also specifically provided for those with blindness and disability. By the way, that was originally financed by Dublin City Council but then outsourced to the Sisters of Charity - that makes me laugh - which is now dumping these vulnerable people and all the workers on the scrapheap, while hiding behind company law. The workers are in the High Court trying to resist this move, but they are up against high-powered barristers. We have to stop and remember that the Sisters of Charity, which is doing this, is supposed to be a religious organisation. These organisations and the services provided are funded by taxpayers. This cannot be allowed to happen. I ask the Taoiseach, through his Department, to crack the whip on these religious organisations.
Continuing on that theme, it is not only the representatives of the Sisters of Charity that the Taoiseach must speak to regarding these workers from St. Mary's, St. Monica's and the Caritas convalescent centre, but also the HSE. Many of these workers have given decades of service and worked right through the Covid-19 pandemic. They were front-line workers who were applauded, if the Taoiseach remembers. By the way, a decade ago when their wages were being cut, there was no doubt or debate about who was the employer of these workers. They felt the full weight of the economic crisis then, but not that they find themselves in the middle of this calamity, they are like orphaned employees. The HSE does not want to know and the Sisters of Charity order does not want to know. The really awful part of this, in addition to the gross personal insult to these workers and the giving of the lie to all the proclamations of admiration for front-line workers, is that this will mean some 200 beds being lost to the system. This is happening when we know we are facing into very difficult times with the flu season, Covid-19, etc.
I wrote to the Taoiseach regarding this matter. I have also written to the Tánaiste and to Mr. Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE. There must be an intervention in this case. It is unacceptable on every level. Whether that fits neatly into the ambit of this protocol section of the Department of the Taoiseach is an academic matter, as far as I am concerned. The Taoiseach, as Head of Government, needs to act on this matter.
He might also set out for us the peculiar set of circumstances pertaining to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, acquiring a Garda driver. We got some sense of that before we rose for the summer. If that is the idea of a three-stranded Government working together in harmony, God help us when we see division.
The question asked by Deputy Kelly related to the protocol and general division of my Department.
The Taoiseach should answer all the components of the question.
That is fine.
They are not components of the protocol division. Let us be clear about that.
There has been no change to the protocol division. There have been no additional staff provided and the section continues the work that Deputy Kelly and I know it does in organising, on behalf of the State and the Government, various events such as centenary commemorations. Regarding the aide-de-camp to the Tánaiste, there have been two occasions when the aide-de-camp has been used, namely, on 28 June at a wreath-laying ceremony for the Connaught Rangers at a memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery and then 11 July during the Tánaiste's attendance at a vigil to mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in the Millennium Park in Blanchardstown. Those are the two occasions on which the aide-the-camp has been used since his appointment.
The aide-de-camp has been assigned to the Tánaiste to carry out duties and assignments required by the office of the Tánaiste, primarily relating to State ceremonials. My understanding is that the Tánaiste requested that. Ten staff are currently assigned to the protocol and general division, of which six are full-time and the remaining staff work part-time. No additional staff have been assigned to the protocol and general division to provide support to the Tánaiste.
Turning to events planned, in respect of the centenary, the then Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, on 2 January last announced a significant decade of centenaries programme for 2020, including a major commemorative programme in remembrance of the significant events that occurred in Cork city and throughout Cork county in 1920, not least the burning of Cork city. Work is ongoing on the programme, which includes a State ceremonial in November to reflect Cork's contribution to the struggle for independence. As with all event planning now, however, elements of the programme are being significantly reconfigured and rescheduled to comply with Covid-19 guidelines. I refer in particular to restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing. Hopefully, we will be able to have the event to remember Cork's contribution to the national struggle. I know Tipperary will give way in that regard.
It is fine, we already had Soloheadbeg. We are ahead of Cork.
Hopefully, people can learn in an insightful way from how the commemorations have been planned and developed.
The protocol division does not have a role regarding the Sisters of Charity. What is happening in this regard is unacceptable, however. We are in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic but, overall, this points to a need, over time, for the State to review fundamentally how we provide services, particularly for those with special needs and adults with disabilities, and how we can secure and give certainty and guarantees to people in settings such as this one. This is an historical legacy. Down through the decades and since before the formation of the State, religious organisations provided a variety of services. Increasingly, that is coming under strain. In more modern times, both lay and religious organisations in this area have been termed section 38 and section 39 organisations. That will not be satisfactory in the future.
For special needs education, such services can refuse to accept primary school children or open new places in their schools for a variety of reasons. That limits the State's capacity to help children who urgently need places. A more State-centred approach is going to be required in the future to provide places, particularly for those with special needs and disabilities. That will take some time and, in the interim, it seems to me that certainty has to be secured from existing providers regarding such services because the type of situation the Deputy outlined creates enormous difficulties for residents and workers. Legally, the State has limited entitlement to intervene and stop what is happening but, that said, I will talk again to the HSE and Paul Reid about this matter to see what can be done.
The Taoiseach should allow some time for Deputy Kelly to respond.
I thank the Taoiseach for his comments. I agree with him in the broader sense that we must change the whole system in respect of how the State provides such services and that will take time but we must also do something now. The behaviour of the Sisters of Charity means that we must put pressure on them through whatever levers we have at our disposal. It is outrageous. The people in question were lauded a couple of months ago and are now being treated disgracefully. That is not acceptable. The way in which we as a State have handled our relations with this organisation and others down through the years, not under the Taoiseach's watch, beggars belief. We need to ensure that the owners of institutions that provide services respect what they are undertaking and cannot just leave or disrespect workers with that service provision disappearing and that capacity lost to the system. That is not acceptable. We need to be much tougher and more direct with them. We should leverage everything we can to get a much more satisfactory outcome.
I asked a specific question about a change that has been made to the protocol and the Taoiseach mumbled something under his breath. There is now an aide-de-camp for the Tánaiste. Who requested that? How much is it projected to cost?
The Taoiseach will not have time to respond to the question unless the Deputy allows him to answer.
I agree with the basic point that the Deputy made about Caritas and the Sisters of Charity where workers are being left in an impossible situation. Many groups have provided very good services down through the years but it is my view that the State needs to step up and do more over time.
It is my understanding that the Tánaiste requested an aide-de-camp.
What is the projected cost of that?
I do not have the projected cost. There is no additional overall cost to the protocol.
4. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach his plans for legislation from his Department. [18558/20]
The Government legislative programme is currently being finalised and will be published by the Government Chief Whip next week. It will set out the Government's priorities for the autumn reflecting the ambition for legislative change set out in the programme for Government. The forthcoming legislative programme will include no Bills in preparation in my Department as there are no legislative matters that require to be prioritised at this time.
My Department will continue to play a central role in supporting effective co-ordination and prioritisation of policy and legislative developments across government through Government meetings and Cabinet committee structures and the Government legislation committee chaired by the Government Chief Whip.
I have heard the Taoiseach speak an awful lot about the legislative programme and the requirement to ensure that it is robust. However, as we spoke about earlier, there has been no discussion within these four walls on promised legislation because we do not have a legislative programme. It is a contradictory position. We cannot debate promised legislation in the Dáil because the Government has not published the programme.
I also heard the Taoiseach say frequently that he did not want the Dáil to come back only to debate specific matters and that we needed to debate legislation. The Taoiseach kept repeating that when other Deputies were calling for the Dáil to come back. We are back but we do not have a legislative programme. When will the programme be published? There must be a sense of urgency on this. A considerable volume of important Bills has been put forward by many Members. I would ask that the Government and the Taoiseach take the content of some of those Bills on board. On what is the Chief Whip working? What are the Government's priority Bills? There has been a significant volume of emergency legislation but it is not good practice to live on pushing through emergency legislation. Foresight is needed. Rushed legislation is not always the best legislation. What are the Government's priorities?
I very much want the Taoiseach to tell me his views on a number of matters. The programme for Government contains a commitment to a raft of legislation relating to the disability sector in which I am interested. What is the Government prioritising in this regard? I drafted and sent to the Minister the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2018, which emerged from the Ruth Morrissey judgment. Where will it fit in the Government's schedule? The Minister has already told Vicky Phelan and the 221+ support group that he will look to prioritise that legislation. Where will it fit into the schedule?
There is an absolute need to legislate for sick pay in the middle of a pandemic and I have outlined the importance of that to the Taoiseach on numerous occasions. Where will it fit into the legislative schedule?
We have proposed legislation in respect of enhanced force majeure leave to facilitate the situations that Deputy Kelly has envisaged whereby people are prevented from attendance at work for health reasons. It would surely be a travesty if people felt pressured into going to work simply for financial reasons. This is a matter of some priority.
Does the Taoiseach agree with the proposition from his colleague in government, Deputy Eamon Ryan, that two-for-one specials enjoyed by shoppers in supermarkets and shops across the country will be banned? It is also proposed that levies and taxes will be placed on what Deputy Ryan has described as "cheap clothing" and that families and individuals will be fined for not separating their waste. I am sure we all understand that there are big challenges in terms of our environment and waste management practices but the answer is not to target and disadvantage the very households that have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis and lost jobs and income. Such households struggled to get their kids back to school last week and will struggle to have a decent Christmas. I put it to the Taoiseach that the propositions coming from his Government colleague, Deputy Ryan, are wholly unacceptable and, frankly, off the wall and demonstrate that he leads a Government that is not just chaotic but is entirely out of touch with the day-to-day realities faced by ordinary families. I ask him to have a word with his colleague, ask him to remove those proposals and put a stop to this.
I raised the problem I have with Questions on Promised Legislation being taken off the Dáil schedule on the Order of Business. While the Government might not have a legislative programme, there is a programme for Government, which contains commitments regarding various legislation, some of which has been rightly described by Deputy McDonald as "off the wall". We need answers to be given in the House about when those proposals will come forward.
Taxi drivers have been hammered during Covid-19, are unable to make a viable living and now face cuts to their pandemic unemployment payments. I have repeatedly asked questions on their behalf.
They are doing a drive-by protest, which I hope will be big, to the Dáil next Tuesday. They are looking for the assistance of the Government and to add insult to injury, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has said they have to get out of the bus lanes, as if they are not part of the public transport network. Does that require legislation? Is legislation planned in order that taxi drivers are no longer considered part of the public transport system?
It is kicking taxi drivers when they are down. Is that legislation coming forward? I hope the Taoiseach will tell the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, that is not acceptable. Rather than kicking the taxi drivers when they are down, I hope he will listen to some of the demands they have made and try to help them through this extremely difficult period.
I am trying to be fair to the people who put the questions to the Taoiseach.
I thank Deputies for their comments. The Dáil was due back on 15 September and we passed legislation last week, the Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill.
Yes, all emergencies.
I said I wanted a Bill put before the House and one was put before the House. The Government's public legislation programme will be published next week, on 15 September, as is always the case. Deputy Boyd Barrett is correct. There is a programme for Government. There are three substantial Bills, including the climate Bill, which we said we would publish within 100 days as key and substantive piece legislation to deal with the climate change agenda.
I know some people opposite me may not have the same enthusiasm with regard to climate change because every time anything comes up in regard to it, be it renewable energy or carbon, Deputies will always oppose it and then pronounce that they are for climate change. That is politics.
I think the Taoiseach means against climate change and for climate justice. One cannot be for climate change. That is what he said.
I meant climate change alleviation policies.
Climate justice is a better concept.
I have noticed a consistent trend of being populist on these issues.
It is not populist; it is good science.
It is good science.
Taoiseach, if you could just answer the questions please.
I answered the question. In terms of climate change, the marine development Bill is important and significant. There is a lot of work to be undertaken on that. I know the Tánaiste is looking at the issue of sick pay, which was raised last week in the Dáil. That also relates to our PRSI system, and the Government is reflecting on that in terms of the wider debate around pensions and provision for workers more generally when they are made unemployed to try to reduce the cliff fall for many people whose incomes have substantially reduced.
The Government moved very effectively to protect workers through the pandemic unemployment payment, which will continue right up to next year, as well as the employment wage subsidy scheme, which has been acknowledged as being an effective intervention to protect workers, jobs and enterprises. That needs to be acknowledged. The deficit this year could be in the order of €25 billion, which in itself reveals an unprecedented and unique intervention. The July stimulus was that.
I wish to point out that 11 items of legislation were passed in July. I cannot remember a Government that was formed in my lifetime that produced 11 Bills within a month. That has to be acknowledged. There is no paucity or dearth of legislation emanating from this Government. We will publish a legislative programme for the Dáil on 15 September. I will come back to Deputy Kelly at that point on his proposals on the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill. These are proposals that have to be worked up and worked through.
As for the waste strategy to which Deputy McDonald referred, it is a strategy for discussion and debate. There is no immediate specific proposal around any of the items she identified. I think she probably knows that. Nothing has come from the Government on two-for-one offers or any of the other issues she raised.
On Deputy Boyd Barrett's points, I will discuss these issues with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. He is not out to kill or get anybody. The Deputy knows the Minister. He is not that type of individual. He is open to dialogue and engagement. There are various utilities and State agencies doing different things. I take his point. We have been trying to support different sectors of the economy on an ongoing basis. We have done that in respect of quite a range of sectors. The pandemic supplement was available to taxi drivers but I acknowledge that they are facing other issues.
I thank the Taoiseach for his answer. I for one will welcome the climate legislation that is being brought forward as the Minister who brought in the original climate legislation in the Dáil and signed the COP agreement.
In the limited time left, I urge the Taoiseach to deal with the issue of sick pay and parental leave for the parents of children who will end up out of school. It is a small thing and can be dealt with pretty easily. Sick pay has to be dealt with. We have put forward a Bill. I do not mind if the Government changes it and brings forward its own but I ask the Taoiseach to prioritise it. It is a necessity. It is wrong that we are one of only five countries in Europe that do not have it in the first place but during a pandemic, it should not be a choice between going without pay or going into work.. It should not happen.
On cervical cancer, I urge the Taoiseach to act for many reasons, given the false commitments and promises made, sometimes accidentally, by his predecessor in regard to the women affected. The Ruth Morrissey judgment changes everything. I was almost alone in the House in opposing the State challenging the judgment. The State lost. Ruth has passed away. Her legacy should be an amendment to the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill which the Chief Justice has recommended. I ask the Taoiseach to please prioritise this. I have also drafted that proposal and I honestly do not mind if the Government changes it as long as the outcome is the same.
We have run out of time. There are a few seconds left if the Taoiseach wants to answer the questions.
Next week, we will publish the legislative programme.
That is why I asked questions this week.
I have no issue with that. I take on board what Deputies have said in terms of legislative proposals.
I thank Deputies for their co-operation.