Thursday, 30 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 16, motion re report of the Committee of Public Accounts – Parliamentary Inquiry into DIRT, first report. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 16, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and of the main spokespersons for the Government and the Labour Party shall be called upon in that order and shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case. The speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case. The Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts shall be called upon not later than 4.35 p.m. to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.
Mr. Quinn: Will the Taoiseach, on his visit to Egypt next week, be the only Dubliner travelling in the remaining form of public transport available or will the Government invoke any of the consultative processes available to it, such as the Public Transport Partnership Forum, as set out in the recently agreed programme, or alternatively does the Government intend to convene an emergency meeting of the central review committee of social partnership to see what progress can be made to achieve a satisfactory resolution of this chaos?
The Taoiseach: Iarnród Éireann management and senior SIPTU officials held discussions through most of last night and into the early hours of the morning. These discussions will continue today at 11 o'clock – they will start in  about 25 minutes – with a view to ending the unofficial strike and enabling the negotiations on the substantive issues to get under way. Pickets have been placed today on a number of depots and there are still difficulties with services but many of the other services are operating normally today. When the unofficial action is ended, I hope later today, there still will be some disruption because all the tracks have to be inspected. I hope that will happen throughout the day.
On the Dublin Bus strike, the Government's position remains unchanged. Agreement is possible provided its basis is genuine productivity and restructuring measures. The negotiations that took place on that matter had the capacity to lead to agreement and if they were resumed within the normal industrial relations machinery, they would prove successful. Proposals by the company and the NRBU in that regard can provide a basis for the resumption of the negotiations and the Government hopes that at an early time they will take that course because it is the only course that will resolve this matter.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware that the people who are suffering most from the current traffic chaos are the most vulnerable sections of our community, people who cannot get to hospital, who have no car of their own and are isolated as a result of the strike. Is the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Minister responsible for the industrial relations machinery of the State, taking steps to ensure that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is the guarantor on the union side of the partnership agreement, is using its good offices, along with her, to find a resolution to this in the interests of the most vulnerable sections of our community who are suffering while others are merely being slightly inconvenienced?
Mr. Quinn: Will the Taoiseach clarify what he has just said? Do I understand him correctly to have said that as far as the Government is concerned there is now the basis of a possible solution and settlement consequently between the NRBU and CIE? If that is the case why can the negotiations not commence immediately? The unofficial strike relating to the rail matter does not affect the NRBU and the Dublin Bus dispute. Am I correct in my understanding that within the framework of the PPF the basis of a solution is now in sight? If that is the case can that not be pursued vigorously with the help of congress, if necessary, or the institutions of the Labour Court or the Labour Relations Commission?
The Taoiseach: I have already spoken about the unofficial action and I acknowledge the efforts being made by Iarnróid Éireann management, senior SIPTU officials as well as the Minister and officials of the Department of Public Enterprise. On the separate matter of the Dublin Bus strike, to reiterate what the Minister has been saying for days, we believe agreement is possible. As always, the labour relations mechanisms of the State are available. The Minister has outlined how there can be a resolution time and again and everyone is available at all times, as she outlined in response to two Special Notice Questions and a debate under Standing Order 31 in the past week. I hope people take account of what she has said.
Mrs. Owen: This matter is work-related. The day before yesterday the Government announced a system of work permits for non-EU citizens to come to Ireland. Have any regulations been drawn up on this? One of his Ministers seemed to imply that new legislation was not needed. What are the mechanics of the system that will enable those who need workers to get permits? Has any system been put in place?
The Taoiseach: Work permit legislation is due at the end of the year. As I said on Tuesday, to make the necessary changes the Tánaiste will have to extend what is an ad hoc system. The  whole matter will, however, be the subject of legislation at the end of the year.
Mrs. Owen: Is any legislation planned to deal with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? People not only need a work visa but they need a visa from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to enter the country. Are the two Ministers working together to ensure that people will not be refused permission because they do not have an entry visa even if one of the Ministers has organised his or her end?
Mr. Gormley: On legislation intended to amend the 1932 Transport Act, is it true this legislation will not come before the House until the NRBU accepts competition as part of the productivity deal and restructuring measures?
The Taoiseach: That is not a correct interpretation. As the Minister for Public Enterprise has outlined, there will be discussions of that legislation and other matters. There are no preconditions as to when it will come before the House.
Mr. Kenny: Late last year the Wildlife Bill stuck its nose up out of the ground before going back into hibernation. Will we see it before the summer? In the last month in Dublin, two 300-year old facades were demolished. What action does the Taoiseach propose to take under the appropriate legislation to deal with it?
Mr. Sargent: Will the Wildlife Bill be treated with urgency given that people who have been seven weeks in Cloverhill Prison are to go on hunger strike? They are defending European law and the Government is not. Will this be treated as a matter of urgency?
Mr. Hayes: Yesterday the Minister of State with responsibility for housing admitted to a committee of the House that house prices have more than doubled since the Government took office. When will the Government bring forward legislation to ban gazumping? The Taoiseach will be aware that the Government asked the Law Reform Commission to look at this matter and that body reported.
Mr. G. Mitchell: In view of the visit to Ireland today of Mr. Javier Solana and the ongoing surreptitious negotiations to abandon Ireland's neutrality, will the Whips consider a debate on the annual report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss these matters in the House just as they are being discussed in Brussels?
Mr. Belton: In view of the invitation issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to nurses to come into Ireland from abroad, will the Taoiseach ensure that student nurses' fees are paid?
Ms McManus: Is the Taoiseach aware that we are facing the horrific vista of junior hospital doctors balloting to take industrial action which would have a crippling effect on our hospital services? The Labour Party published a Doctors in Training Bill—
|Last Updated: 11/09/2010 03:18:25||Page of 121|