Thursday, 17 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 2, Regional Technical Colleges (Amendment) Bill, 1999 – Second Stage (resumed), and No. 3, Horse and Greyhound Racing (Betting Charges and Levies) Bill, 1999 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Government satisfied that it has all the powers necessary to deal with threats to public health arising from dioxins found in processed foods? Has the Taoiseach or the Minister for Agriculture and Food raised this matter with their European counterparts or the EU to ensure consumer safety here?
The Taoiseach: I discussed this matter last night with the Minister for Agriculture and Food. We hope we have the powers but the Minister is very conscious of what is happening and he has been discussing the regulations on a regular basis in the past few weeks with the Food Safety Authority. There have been many scares recently and it is proper that we keep a close watch on this matter rather than assume everything is in order. There have been some unprecedented scares so rather than give a definitive answer that everything is in order, we should keep examining the situation to make sure there are no problems.
Mr. J. Bruton: Will the Taoiseach consider a debate on food safety a good idea? The Government could outline its current understanding of the situation. This could be done on an annual basis and the status of our food safety measures could be reviewed on an ongoing basis in light of the advances in science and the increased sophistication in the processes used in the production of food.
The Taoiseach: That would be a good idea. The establishment of the Food Safety Authority means we are ahead of many of our European  counterparts. This is a crucial area, and given what has happened, tension is increasing. We should be on guard rather than wait for something to happen, so I would welcome a debate.
The Taoiseach: I have no news other than what I stated the other day. Over the weekend the republican movement reiterated that it believed the locations given were correct and that group is the only one with information about this matter. The information given was very sketchy, given that it did not pinpoint locations. It referred to sites, some of which are extremely large. The Garda believes the information given was given in good faith. It has not been of much use in pinpointing locations but the gardaí will continue to search.
The Taoiseach: We should spare no effort in trying to resolve this matter for the families concerned. That is the prime consideration. I am subject to correction but I believe the gardaí have given up on some of the sites while they have intensified their efforts in other locations. They still hope for success in some sites while that looks less likely in other sites.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said he is satisfied the information was given in good faith but he has also said that some of those sites, on which information was given in good faith, have been exhaustively searched and nothing has been found. That seems to contradict his first statement. What is the basis for the Taoiseach's satisfaction that the information was given in good faith?
The Taoiseach: I have been given no evidence. The Garda believes the information was given in good faith as it believes that those passing information to the intermediaries were involved in this matter. The intermediaries and the gardaí believe the information was given in good faith. Confirmation has been given again in the cases of certain sites while in other cases the information given was too sketchy. Deputy Currie raised this matter with me several times. I have followed it for some time and met the groups involved. I understood that there was definite information in this regard but given the passage of time and other factors, that information has not proved to be very reliable.
Mr. Quinn: Is it not the case that one must now ask whether that information was given in good  faith and whether one atrocity has been compounded by another? In some cases the sites have been exhaustively searched and nothing has been found. What verification in advance of excavation did the intermediaries and the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains seek before raising the hopes of relatives?
Mr. Kenny: Is the Taoiseach happy with the application of the regulatory principles of the broadcasting sector? On Friday last, 10 June, Mr. Tom Reddy, the Fianna Fáil press officer, telephoned a television station to instruct it that the carrying of a particular item would be contrary to the moratorium on election coverage.
Mr. Gilmore: The Revised Estimate for the Department of the Environment and Local Government was considered yesterday in committee. No money has been provided for any of the measures recently announced by Government Ministers to deal with the housing crisis. Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce a Supplementary Estimate to give effect to these measures or will they be implemented?
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): Yesterday the House adopted a motion ratifying a Council of Europe agreement to establish the Group of States Against Corruption. The purpose of the group is to monitor the performance of participating states. Will the Taoiseach say what progress has been made regarding three Bills on the Government's list of promised legislation: the Criminal Justice (Fraud Offences) Bill; the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill; and the Proceeds of Crime Bill, all of which relate to corruption and are languishing at Nos. 10, 15 and 16 on the legislative C list? How can we monitor corruption in other states when we have been so derelict in our duty regarding corruption and fraud in our own country?
The Taoiseach: A High Court recommendation is being considered regarding the Proceeds of Crime Bill. The Criminal Justice (Fraud  Offences) Bill will amend and update the law on fraud offences with reference to recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission. That Bill is due in the autumn. The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill will also be ready in the autumn.
Mr. Gormley: When will legislation to provide security of tenure to residential tenants, which was promised by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, be introduced? The Minister said he would examine the constitutional impediments to such legislation. Does the Taoiseach share my concern at the huge increase in evictions throughout the city of Dublin?
Mr. Howlin: Yesterday Amnesty International, in a review of all states, severely criticised Irish deportation procedures for asylum seekers. Will the Taoiseach allow a debate on the Amnesty International report and its implications for Irish law?
Mr. Howlin: I ask for this debate in the context of an Immigration Bill which is making slow progress in the House and which has been characterised as a deportation Bill. It is important to have this debate before that measure is enacted. Will the Taoiseach consider amendments to the Immigration (No. 2) Bill in the context of the criticisms of Amnesty International?
Mr. J. Bruton: On the Order of Business on 30 November 1997, responding to an Ombudsman's report which had criticised the way in which elderly people in nursing homes are subvented by the State and the discrimination which occurs in that regard, the Taoiseach said he was examining the regulations with a view to making changes to take account of the Ombudsman's findings. What progress has been made since 1997 in fulfilling his commitment?
Ms Shortall: Is the Taoiseach confident that the Juvenile Justice Bill will be published during the summer, as promised? It has been found that the provision of Garda clearance for child care workers is contrary to the Data Protection Act and no child care workers can be given such clearance. This is causing great problems. Has the Taoiseach plans to introduce urgent legislation to deal with this matter?
The Taoiseach: A new Juvenile Justice Bill is being prepared and will be published as soon as possible. I have no proposal to introduce legislation on the second matter raised by the Deputy. I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the Minister.
Mr. Finucane: The Fisheries (Amendment) Bill which will deal with reform and management of large inland fisheries is overdue. Will the Taoiseach say when we may expect that legislation to be published?
Ms O'Sullivan: Approximately a month ago the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform announced that measures relating to domestic violence would be introduced. These are to include regional family courts, training for judges and changes to barring orders. Is the Family Law Bill, item No. 40 on the Government's list, the legislation to which the Minister of State referred? If so, when will the Bill be introduced? This is a very urgent matter.
The Taoiseach: This matter was examined by a working group in the context of the Law Reform Commission report on family courts. The working group's report was published in April and has been referred to the Courts Service Board for consideration.
Ms O'Sullivan: This is an urgent matter. The Minister announced that the law would be changed. The Taoiseach's response is not acceptable. There has been a number of reports, including one from the Law Society—
Mr. G. Mitchell: Yesterday at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs the Minister indicated that Ireland would participate in the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR. I understand such participation would require the passing of a resolution by the House. When is it intended to bring this matter before the House?
Mr. Quinn: A report in The Examiner today indicates that compensation claims in the Garda Síochána are in the order of £4.1 million. In this context, when will the National Treasury Managment Agency (Amendment) Bill, otherwise known as the National Claims Agency Bill, be enacted? The Minister announced yesterday to the relevant committee that he has made provision for extra money to be spent in this regard.
Mr. Higgins: (Mayo): I am reminded of the song, “Poor Old Joe”. Some 13 months ago the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform received a report from an expert group on the law relating to sexual offences. We have heard repeated promises from the Minister that a register of sex offenders would be established and the necessary legislation introduced. Last week the Minister again promised this measure in banner headlines. When will this legislation be introduced and, in the light of the Minister's failure to introduce it, why did the Government not accept the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill which dealt with this matter?
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): The Eastern Health Board's women's health project has just produced a study which reveals an appalling litany of suffering, degradation, violence, rape and misery for a very vulnerable group of women in our society called sex workers, who are more commonly called prostitutes. Given that having a group of people in this position is such a condemnation of our society, on the eve of the next millennium does the Government have definitive measures to deal with this terrible suffering and  transform the lives of people in this vulnerable situation?
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not in order to advocate legislation on the Order of Business. The Deputy's question must refer to promised legislation. The Deputy has many other ways in which to raise that matter.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not challenge the ruling of the Chair. He speaks on the Order of Business every morning of the week and he should not challenge a ruling. The matter does not concern promised legislation. The Deputy has many other ways in which to raise the matter. The Deputy is advocating legislation.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy should put down a question. There are matters which have to be dealt with in this area and which the Minister has broached a number of times in the House. A question should be tabled for the Minister.
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