Order of Business.

Wednesday, 21 February 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 531 No. 1

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. 5, Social Welfare Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 48, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 2000 [Seanad] – Second Stage.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m. Private Members' business shall be No. 108, motion re Road Safety (resumed) to conclude at 8.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There is one proposal to put to the House and that is the proposal for the late sitting. Is that agreed?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I will not agree to the Order of Business unless I receive an undertaking from the Tánaiste that the Taoiseach will make a formal statement in the House on the Deputy Ned O'Keeffe affair and answer questions from the Opposition. In replying to my request, will the Tánaiste clarify something? Deputy O'Keeffe indicated last Friday that he would resign at 4 o'clock. At 5.30 p.m., someone on behalf of the Taoiseach briefed that the Taoiseach would take action on a case that had already been decided. The Tánaiste intervened in the late afternoon. At what point was she informed by the Taoiseach that Deputy O'Keeffe was resigning his position? We need to know that piece of information to establish whether the Tánaiste was misled or whether it was just the public who was misled.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Much as the Ceann Comhairle might like it, this matter will not go away. I would like to—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I remind Members that we are considering the proposal for the late sitting.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The late sitting and the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  No, just the late sitting. That is the only proposal before the House. The Order of Business is not before the House.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We would be more than happy to sit not just until 10 o'clock but until 12 o'clock to have this matter dealt with. Was the Tánaiste consulted on this decision to put pressure on the former Minister of State to resign after he had indicated on Friday that he would do so? Does she not regard her position as Tánaiste as one for which she has collective responsibility in Govern[6] ment and that she cannot therefore wash her hands of this matter as she tried to do on Friday?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  On the late sitting—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The proposal is opposed.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will the Ceann Comhairle allow the Tánaiste to reply?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The proposal is opposed.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Has the Tánaiste anything to say?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Tánaiste has not offered.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  She used to have a lot to say.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am more than happy to speak as Deputies opposite know. I did not make any statement about this matter on Friday. Deputy O'Keeffe made the right decision to resign and I have already said that. Clearly the resignation of any individual from office is a difficult time for them and their families and we should respect that. I discussed this matter with the Taoiseach some time ago. I was not misled. The logistics of how the resignation came about are a matter for the Taoiseach and Deputy O'Keeffe and not for me.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Can I raise a point?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  No, the Deputy cannot speak. Under Standing Orders only one speaker from each of the main parties is allowed on this matter.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  No, we are on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are not on the Order of Business. We are on the proposal for the late sitting and only one speaker from the main parties can speak on that.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Who said that?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair is on its feet. There cannot be a point of order when the Chair is on its feet.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Has Deputy O'Keeffe a point of order?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Yes, but I cannot speak while you are on your feet, Sir.

Mr. Wade: Information on Eddie Wade  Zoom on Eddie Wade  The new smarty.

[7]Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  I prefer to keep in order. Perhaps the Government side could do likewise.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should abide by Standing Orders.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  I am trying to do so. We are asked to agree the order as presented by the Government and there is a reasonable request from the Opposition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  You are only asked to agree the late sitting. That is all.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Yes, but as part of the point raised by the Leader of Fine Gael and supported by the Leader of the Labour Party, the Tánaiste has been asked to clarify a point of information. She has deliberately—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is disorderly. I must put the question.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Stagg on a point of order.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  This is the first test of the straitjacket. The Ceann Comhairle appears to have ruled that the leaders of the two main parties in Opposition can raise issues that are before the House. Any Deputy can raise issues on a question to be put to the House, not just the party leaders.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Or indicate opposition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The matter is dealt with by Standing Order 26(2).

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We are not on that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are on a proposal.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We are on a question to be put to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  And I must now put that question.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  On a point of order—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We need clarification.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will allow Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  This needs to be clarified now. We do not need a new straitjacket.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have allowed Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I refer to Standing Order 84(2). I understand that I am recognised as a member of a party under that Standing Order which allows me to question the proposal of a late sitting. I [8] understand that is in order and the Ceann Comhairle is ruling me out of order. I want to clarify that matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It is not in order. I just want to point out—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Why?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  That is a point of order and I want it clarified because I believe my rights in the House are being denied. Can the Ceann Comhairle clarify that for me because I wanted to speak on the late sitting proposal?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A brief comment on the late sitting.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Is it now in order?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We need a clarification on the ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There can be no clarification if Members keep jumping up and down.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  We do not need a new straitjacket. We got one last night.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There can be no clarification if Members—

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It is very important that the Ceann Comhairle clarify the position. Deputy Sargent is entitled to speak.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have given the floor to Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  I welcome that, but you need to rule that your earlier ruling was wrong.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have given the floor to Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  You need to withdraw your earlier ruling. Otherwise it will be on the record that no one except the leaders of the main parties can speak on this issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have given the floor to Deputy Sargent. Deputies should cease jumping up and down.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I raised a point of order and sought your clarification on the matter. Was it wrong for me to be ruled out of order when I sought to speak—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is entitled to speak briefly on this.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It was wrong?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is entitled to speak briefly on this matter.

[9]Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I sought to speak previously. I am now allowed to speak although I was denied previously.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy can speak briefly.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I asked to speak on the late sitting.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is in order.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  If it is necessary to sit later than 10 o'clock to allow for the matter of the resig[10] nation of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, I am willing to accede to that. However, 10 o'clock is obviously not late enough if the Government feels there is not time to deal with this matter. I object to the late sitting on the basis that it is not late enough.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A point of order cannot be raised if the Chair is on its feet.

Question put: “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Collins, Michael.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGuinness, John J.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wright, G. V.

Bell, Michael.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Clune, Deirdre.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Gregory, Tony.
Hayes, Brian.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Olivia. Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.[11]

Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
[12] Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Sargent, Trevor.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Yates, Ivan.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We now come to the Order of Business and I will first take leaders' questions. I wish to clarify—

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On a point of order, I hope the Chair will forgive me for intervening but in the course of the crossfire before the division he made a statement that, in my view, would have serious consequences for the manner in which Deputies may raise points on the Order of Business, with particular reference to the late sitting. It would be most helpful if the Ceann Comhairle was to clarify matters because he made reference to a change in Standing Orders which, as I understand it, has no bearing on the point at issue. It is important that this matter be clarified by the Ceann Comhairle or his office at the earliest opportunity.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The first point I would make is that we were not dealing with the Order of Business, we were dealing with the proposal for the late sitting. We are only now coming to the Order of Business. I refer the Deputy to Standing Order 26(2) which should clarify matters.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I refer the Ceann Comhairle to Standing Order 26(2)(b).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We were not on the Order of Business earlier, we are only now coming to deal with it. We were dealing with the proposal for the late sitting.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On the question of the late sitting, the Ceann Comhairle referred me to Standing Order 26(2). I refer him to Standing Order 26(2)(b) which meets the point I am making and I ask him to reflect on it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We now come to the Order of Business. I wish to clarify the sequence as provided for under the relevant Standing Order. Provision is made, under the Standing Order, for a brief question on a matter of topical public importance from the Leaders of Fine Gael and Labour. The sequence is that first there is a question from the Leader of Fine Gael, next there is a supplementary question on the same subject by the Leader of the Labour Party and there then follows a reply from the Taoiseach. Following this, there is a supplementary question by the Leader of Fine Gael and a final reply by the Taoiseach. That is then followed by a question from the Leader of the Labour Party, a supplementary question on that subject by the Leader of Fine Gael, a reply by the Taoiseach, a supplementary question from the Leader of the Labour Party and a final reply by the Taoiseach.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  And the rest of us only then get the opportunity to pose questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Each leader can raise a different matter or, if they so wish, they can opt to ask questions on the same subject.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  And the rest of us are obliged to remain silent or leave the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Yes, and I hope the Deputy will comply with that.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  What is the Minister for Education and Science doing to solve the teachers' strike? The Tánaiste will be aware that a new schedule of strike action was published this morning, including a threat to the summer examinations and an immediate threat to the oral and aural examinations. The Tánaiste is aware of the grave concern among teachers that they cannot get back to teaching in their classrooms, the concern among parents and, in particular, among students, especially leaving certificate students who see the examinations looming and are extremely concerned and stressed. It seems to us on this side of the House that there is no sense of urgency in the manner in which the Government is dealing with this issue. In particular, there is no sense of urgency in the manner in which the Minister is dealing with this issue. Can the Tánaiste clarify the Government's position and give some comfort to those students all around the country who are particularly stressed out as a result of the publication this morning of a schedule of further strike action?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  To add to what Deputy Noonan has said, would the Tánaiste address the issue of concern that parents have with respect to the probability that the examinations will not now take place and what action can the Government take [13] at this stage to ensure that there is a satisfactory resolution of this problem?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I share the concern of both Deputies in relation to the ongoing teachers' dispute. This matter is before the Labour Court and we should await its deliberations. I strongly recommend that everybody should seriously consider its recommendations. We have put in place in this State machinery to deal with industrial relations problems, and there is an onus on all of us to use and respect that machinery. I also know that nothing motivates parents more than the education of their children. The Minister for Education and Science said in this House on 1 February that the examinations will go ahead and that contingency arrangements are being made to ensure that the integrity of the examinations will not be interfered with. That remains a priority for the Government.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I put it to the Tánaiste that it appears to the general public that the Minister for Education and Science has handled this in a most lethargic fashion. Were it not for his lassitude, this could have been solved prior to Christmas. Is the Government committed to accepting the Labour Court recommendation on this matter? Could the Tánaiste indicate when the Labour Court recommendation is expected?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not accept that there has been inertia on the part of the Minister in relation to this matter but, as Deputy Noonan knows, having meddlesome Ministers in industrial relations disputes is never the answer either.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is an unnecessary reflection on the Taoiseach when he is away.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The Minister is in China.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not know when the Labour Court will make its recommendation but I hope it will be soon. The Government would give very serious consideration to a Labour Court recommendation. If a dispute is referred to that machinery of the State, that impartial forum, there is an onus on us all to take seriously any recommendations it makes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Ruairí Quinn. We are on leaders' questions.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Tánaiste will be aware that I wrote to the Taoiseach on 4 January expressing my concern over a conflict of interest in relation to a member of the Cabinet which has collective responsibility. I refer to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government bringing in legislation which is starting its passage in the other House this morning and which proposes to increase the amount of money that can be spent while, at the same time, as joint treasurer of Fianna Fáil, he has responsibility for collecting or counting money. I wrote to the Taoiseach on 4 [14] January bringing to his attention this conflict of interests which affects Cabinet collective responsibility. I have been assured by the Taoiseach on a number of occasions that I would get a reply from him. It is now 21 February and I have not received such a reply. Would the Tánaiste share my concern that the shyness of the Taoiseach indicates some unhappiness and discomfort on his part, that perhaps he does not have the degree of confidence in the Minister for the Environment and Local Government that he should, like his failure to express confidence in the Minister of State, Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, on three separate occasions? Does she think it acceptable that the Taoiseach would not reply to a letter from the leader of a political party in Opposition in this House.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Has this conflict of interest been discussed in Cabinet? Has the Government decided how this should be dealt with when the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, proceeds in the Seanad with the legislation in question?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not believe there is a conflict of interest. The expenditure on elections that is being proposed by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is not confined to any one party, either inside or outside this House.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Is it confined to parties who get money from the big builders?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Please, there cannot be two leaders.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Has the Tánaiste learned nothing?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  One thing I have learned is that there is a difference between political corruption and fund raising. That, we all know. It is a pity some people are seeking to confuse both issues. They do a great disservice to the majority in this House.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  There is a connection.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Once again, the Tánaiste is wrong.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  She has learned nothing.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not think Deputy Quinn would suggest that the legitimate fund raising in which he or anybody else who spoke in the House this morning engaged in is in any way corrupt.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is it not time to change things?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Howlin should desist. The Tánaiste has the floor.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Minister for the Environment and Local Government will be speaking on the matter in the Seanad where it is being discussed this morning.

[15] In relation to the Taoiseach's response to Deputy Quinn, this matter has been dealt with on the floor of this House on a number of occasions over the past few weeks.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On 1 December last year this House voted in principle to limit donations to political parties in this State to people who are registered to vote in this State. We are against the proposal to which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government wants to give authority in his amending legislation to the 1997 Act whereby corporate donations of up to £20,000 per annum from individual corporate bodies could be legally accepted by political parties. Will the Tánaiste state very clearly, on behalf of all Progressive Democrats both inside this House and outside, that, notwithstanding any of the revelations in Dublin Castle or any of the facts—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should be brief.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  —that have now become public in response to a tribunal that was established in this House with the support of the Progressive Democrats, she sees absolutely no conflict of interest in the fact that the Minister responsible for introducing this legislation and for the planning regulations is also the joint treasurer of Fianna Fáil?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I see no conflict in people holding positions in political parties and having a ministerial office. That includes leaders of parties who probably engaged in the past in more fund raising than anyone else. What is important is the integrity of the individual and the process.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I see. You do not need rules.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Deputy Quinn referred to the revelations. In so far as I have observed the revelations, they have involved wrong-doing and possible corruption. That is not the same as fund raising.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am talking about corporate donations.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not see the difference between corporations and wealthy individuals. Seven wealthy individuals who happen to have a corporation can individually give money, or people in partnerships who are not incorporated, but a corporation cannot give even a third of what they can give. I do not see why there should be a distinction between the two. There are many issues here that need to be teased out. That is why we would like an all-party committee so that we could come to an agreement on these matters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Richard Bruton on the Order of Business.

[16]Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  In relation to the shambles of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, when will we see secondary legislation establishing a statutory authority to deal with education welfare? We read in the newspapers that 45% of children in disadvantaged areas in Limerick are regularly non-attenders at school, and there is still no action on this legislation even though it was passed 12 months or more ago.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Act was passed last July. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to say when the regulations will be made but I will revert to the Deputy later today.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  It is a shambles.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I wish to ask about two matters. On yesterday's Order Paper, item 72 referred to a motion in the name of the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, asking the Dáil to note UN human rights year, which extended from December 1997 to December 1998. Is it proposed to complete the discussion on that motion, which would enable the House to discuss the ratification of outstanding UN conventions, or is it proposed to withdraw the item from the Order Paper? Yesterday, the Taoiseach gave an undertaking that he would contact the Government Whip with regard to arranging time for a discussion on recent events in Iraq. Given that the Security Council is meeting today, will we have an opportunity tomorrow to discuss Ireland's attitude to the bombing of Iraq by the US and Britain—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There was an Adjournment debate last night on Iraq.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am aware of that and I read the report. However, that is historical at this stage. There is a Security Council meeting today which follows the Minister, Deputy Cowen's, international meetings in Moscow and New York to discuss a new initiative.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Deputy is impressed.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am anxious, therefore, to hear from the Minister tomorrow.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It would be a good idea to have a debate on the two matters raised by the Deputy. Perhaps the Whips could discuss the logistics.

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  The Tánaiste will be aware that a High Court judge described the services for children as descending into farce. Is the Government serious about introducing an ombudsman for children and, if so, why has there been a delay of several years in this regard? It is clear from what is happening to children that the residential care services are in chaos. A social services inspectorate has been established but does the Government intend to put it on a statutory basis to co-ordinate what is happening with residential services for children and to increase the supports [17] for staff? Clearly, the staff believe they are not being sufficiently supported. Otherwise, children would not have to be put in hotels, bed and breakfasts and garda stations.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  And in mental hospitals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not make a statement if she wishes to get answers to her questions on proposed legislation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill providing for an ombudsman for children were cleared by the Government last April. The Bill is due for publication in the middle of this year.

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Tánaiste will be aware that the UK authorities have confirmed the first case of foot and mouth disease in the UK. Is she not concerned—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That issue is under consideration for a Private Notice Question.

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  —that the Minister for Education and Science has been displaying classic symptoms of foot in mouth in his handling of the teachers' strike? What steps does the Government intend to take to ensure this issue is resolved as quickly as possible? Will the Minister return from China immediately to give it his attention?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter was dealt with under Leaders' questions.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  With regard to promised legislation, it is a sad reflection on the Government that I can ask only about the Irish energy centre Bill to draw attention to the devastating reports from the intergovernmental panel on climate change in Geneva on the effects this change will have on this and many other countries in terms of water shortages and other devastating consequences. Will the Irish energy centre Bill be supplemented or surpassed by any meaningful legislation which will show the Government is serious about dealing with our obligations under the Kyoto protocol and various other conventions dealing with climate change?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government last July and the legislation is expected shortly.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  What procedures will be put in place under the nursing Bill to ensure mothers, babies and staff in maternity hospitals are not exposed to the risk of TB—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Provisions in the Bill are not a matter for the Order of Business.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  —and will the Tánaiste make a statement on how 27 mothers and 20 staff of the Rotunda Hospital were exposed to TB?

[18]The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The heads of the Bill are due later this year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  On a point of order, there is a major problem in the Rotunda and the Tánaiste should address the issue raised by Deputy Neville.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Not on the Order of Business. All we can do on the Order of Business—

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Can we have a commitment from the Tánaiste that a method will be found to reply to Deputy Neville in the course of the day?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Twenty nine mothers and their young infants have been contacted by the hospital with a view to being screened. Twenty one have been screened and arrangements are being made to screen the remainder. No case of TB has been detected to date among those screened.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The tests would not be finished yet. The doctors said it would take three weeks.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  With regard to the promised immigration legislation and the legislation on work permits for which the Tánaiste is responsible, does she share the concern and frustration expressed by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, yesterday—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Asking if somebody shares concern is not a question for the Order of Business.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  —at the slow pace of change on these matters? Will she introduce the legislation sponsored by her Department and when will the two Bills be enacted to bring a change in the shambles described by her colleague, the Minister of State, last year?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The immigration and residence Bill will be published later this year. Work is proceeding rapidly on the work permits legislation. An unprecedented number of work permits have been issued. I have taken the most liberal approach to work permits of any Minister in my Department.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Unfortunately, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform does not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I always share a concern that it takes so long in this House and in the country generally for reform to take root, as we saw yesterday when there were three hours of debate on various matters.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Tánaiste share the Minister of State's concern?

[19]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I wish to correct something the Tánaiste said about the tests to check if mothers and babies have contracted TB. It will take at least three months for the tests on infants to be completed and for results to be given to the mothers. One can imagine the anxiety they will live under during those months.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Does the Deputy have a question on the Order of Business?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Who will be responsible for the immigration and residence Bill, which was flagged by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the newspapers last week? Is it different from the work permits Bill? Will there be another long row, like that which occurred between the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance, with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in trying to decide who is responsible for sorting out the mess of allocating work permits, making arrangements for people to come to work in this country, sorting out their housing and so forth? Will there be a two year gap while the two Ministers row about who is responsible? It took two years to get the financial regulator sorted out and that was not done very well either.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On the contrary, it is model legislation. For the first time there will be a single regulatory authority for the financial services sector.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Fine Gael cleared the way.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is based on the Central Bank.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is not based on the Central Bank.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Tánaiste could have given in two years ago.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Tánaiste lost the argument.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  When Deputy Quinn accepted Democratic Left into the Labour Party, he thought he had merged both parties but we still see two very distinct and independent units.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Leopards do not change their spots.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  With regard to the work permits legislation, it is a matter for my Department. There is no confusion about work permits. An unprecedented number of them are being issued at present—

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne   (Carlow-Kilkenny): There is an unprecedented number of applicants.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is true. That is because of our buoyant economy. We need thousands of [20] workers to come here. Half of the people arriving are returning Irish emigrants. The immigration Bill is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  That is the end of it then, if the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I thought the Leader of the Opposition said he would focus on policies, not personalities.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  In light of the statement by the Minister for Health and Children that it now costs £300,000 to provide insurance for a consultant and that he, the Attorney General and others are examining this issue, is legislation promised to introduce State insurance to cover consultants working in hospitals? I am referring in particular to the consultants in the Monaghan maternity unit where the situation is extremely urgent. Is legislation promised or can it be brought forward to deal with this acute and desperate situation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I do not think legislation is promised in that regard.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  When will the legislation come before the House for the Government's proposed new bureaucracy to regulate the financial services sector? Would the Tánaiste not have been better advised to concede to the Minister for Finance on this issue two years ago, rather than creating the present uncertainty over the unworkable bureaucracy which is now proposed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Only the first part of the Deputy's question is in order.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government set out to achieve a single regulatory authority for financial services and that is what is being done.

(Interruptions.)

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The regulatory authority has its own independent chairman. The Government followed the same model which Deputy Quinn used for the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Forfás when he was Minister for Finance. The legislation will be introduced later this year.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  (Mayo): Last week, the House dealt with allegations that members of the Gárda Síochána had accepted hospitality from the tyre company, Advance Pitstop. Now a senior executive in Iarnród Éireann has been suspended because he accepted—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is this relevant to the Order of Business?

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins   (Mayo): Yes, it is very relevant. An Post is also investigating another senior executive in its procurement section. What is the [21] situation with regard to the Transport (Rail Infrastructure) Bill, which is to establish the rail procurement agency? When can we expect a definite code of ethics for people in State and semi-State companies who are involved in the procurement of goods and services?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Bill will be published in this session.

Mr. McDowell: Information on Derek McDowell  Zoom on Derek McDowell  There is growing public concern that the introduction of euro notes and coins at the beginning of next year may be used by some businesses to rip off consumers. The Minister for Finance said yesterday that the Government would consider giving the Director of Consumer Affairs additional powers to ensure that this does not happen and that this was within the Tánaiste's area of ministerial responsibility. Will the Tánaiste confirm that she is considering such powers and will she introduce the relevant legislation this year?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  If it is found necessary to give the Director of Consumer Affairs additional powers, the Government will do so. The Director is already very active in this whole area and has a number of initiatives under way.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  In her statement regarding new structures for the regulation of financial services, the Tánaiste avoided Deputy Rabbitte's question on the time frame for the new legislation. What is her intention in that regard? I understand that, in the interim, the Government intends to appoint a non statutory authority. Will the Tánaiste ensure that this House will have adequate opportunity to debate that proposal prior to the non statutory appointments being made?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We hope to have the legislation in place before the end of this year but in the meantime we wish to move ahead with the implementation process. An interim board will be appointed and will proceed to recruit a chief executive and a director of customer protection. We hope that will happen very quickly.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Have the heads of the Bill been agreed prior to the announcement?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No.


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