Thursday, 23 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 16, motion re Memorandum of Understanding for a Framework of Co-operation between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the State of Israel, and No. 39, Planning and Development Bill, 1999 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 16 shall be decided without debate.
Mr. R. Bruton: The Minister has indicated on several occasions that the proposed reform of the Transport Acts is under consideration. However, like everything else the Minister has touched regarding Dublin transport, this has been marred by procrastination. There are QBCs but no park-and-ride; there is no integrated ticketing and now the bus service will be withheld from 200,000 people.
Mr. R. Bruton: What are the Minister's intentions regarding these Acts? Will she outline her latest much vaunted tough stance when yesterday the Leader of the Seanad indicated this dispute was entirely understandable?
Mr. Rabbitte: I hope there will be an opportunity to deal with the important issue of the imminent Dublin Bus dispute during Private Notice Questions. Has the Government or the Attorney General made any contact with the Taxing Master concerning the tenor of his extraordinary remarks on current tribunals?
The Tánaiste: The Government shares the concern expressed by Deputy Rabbitte; the remarks were unwarranted. The Attorney General, who returned from abroad yesterday, has been in contact with the President of the High Court to express his concern. The Taxing Master is an officer of the High Court and a public servant. His remarks were clearly offensive to the Oireachtas, the judges presiding over the tribunals and previous members of the Judiciary who presided over them. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has contacted the Chief Justice to suggest that the new judicial ethics regime should cover officers other than members of the Judiciary.
Mr. Sargent: Dublin Chamber of Commerce is under the impression that legislation is proposed to privatise the bus service. In view of the  impending strike, where is this legislation listed or is a page missing from the list of promised legislation circulated to Members?
Mr. Yates: The Chair has disallowed my request to adjourn the House under Standing Order 31 but I have tabled Private Notice questions on this matter. Before the Dáil sits again on Tuesday, there will be significant disruption if the strike is not averted. I ask the Chair to consider the Private Notice questions favourably.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Will the Tánaiste be more specific as to whether it is intended to amend the Road Transport Act, 1932 to give Dublin Bus routes to a privatised service? Instead of sending belligerent messages attacking Dublin Bus drivers from a five star hotel in Lisbon, would it not be better if the Taoiseach—
Mr. Finucane: Will the Tánaiste give a reassurance that the activity centres safety legislation will be enacted before the summer recess? This legislation has been promised for some time on foot of a Private Members' Bill produced by Fine Gael.
Mr. R. Bruton: Today we read that there are 100 homeless children sleeping rough in Dublin. Every day we read reports of Mr. Justice Kelly remarking that there are no facilities for children who have serious behavioural problems. What is the reason for the huge delay in the child justice Bill and the children's ombudsman Bill? Both are key measures in establishing proper rights for children but they appear to be bogged down in the system.
Mr. Gormley: In light of the EPA figures on waste which were released yesterday and which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government described as “a wake up call”, when will the promised environmental measures, such as tax on plastic bags and the new EPA legislation, be introduced? Does she agree that it is also a wake up call for the Minister and the Government about the harm being done to the environment?
The Tánaiste: The heads of the environmental protection agency (amendment) Bill will go the Cabinet in April and will be published later this year. The issue of waste, charges and so forth is largely a matter for local authorities.
Mr. G. Mitchell: The Tánaiste has forecast that we may need 240,000 immigrants to sustain growth in the economy. Can she give a precise date for the introduction of legislation dealing with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants so these important matters can be debated?
The Tánaiste: Many of these matters were raised on the Order of Business yesterday. It is true that an economic study carried out of behalf of Forfás predicts that we will need 200,000 additional workers to implement the national development plan. It is envisaged that at least half of them should be returning Irish emigrants.
Mr. Currie: I am reluctant to interrupt my constituency colleague. In view of the recent decision of An Bord Pleanála to turn down an application for an extension to the Liffey Valley Centre, largely on the grounds of traffic, will there be a statement from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on the implications it might have for the new national stadium at Abbotstown? If the same criteria are applied, there will not be a national stadium there.
Ms Fitzgerald: There is increasing concern about the cost of compensation which the State is obliged to pay. Two legislative measures are important in this regard. Is the Government serious about establishing a State claims agency and when will the legislation be introduced? The second measure is the legislation to establish a tribunal to deal with deafness compensation claims from the Defence Forces. I understand there is a change in Government policy and that the Government now intends to introduce legislation where previously it had stated it would not. What is the timetable for that legislation?
The Tánaiste: The heads of the Defence Forces (hearing losses compensation) Bill are expected to go to Government in the next week or two and April is the publication date. The national treasury management agency Bill will be ready in the summer.
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