Order of Business.

Thursday, 7 March 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 550 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 19, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal regarding section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966, back from Committee; No. 20, motion re referral to Joint Committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal to the Treaty of Amsterdam, which is a proposal for a council framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings; No. 21, motion re Standing Order 92A; No. 50, Finance Bill, 2002, Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; and No. 22, motion re suspension of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, to be taken not later than immediately following the conclusion of No. 50.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight, business shall be interrupted immediately upon the conclusion of No. 22, and the sitting shall be suspended between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.; (2) Nos. 19, 20 and 21, shall be decided without debate; (3) the Report and Final Stages of No. 50 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m., by one question, which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (4) Private Members' business shall be No. 121, motion re accident and [219] emergency services, which shall be taken immediately following the announcement of matters under Standing Order 21 and shall be brought to a conclusion after three hours today. In the event of a private notice question being allowed it shall be taken immediately following the conclusion of No. 121; and (5) the proceedings on No. 22, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; Members may share time; (6) the Dáil shall sit tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 6.30 p.m.. There shall be no Order of Business, and, accordingly, the following business shall be transacted in the following order: No. 51, Competition Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage (resumed), which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12.00 p.m., No. 1, Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage, which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.00 p.m., No. 5, Courts and Court Officers Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, which shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 6.30 p.m.; (7) the Dáil on its rising tomorrow shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday 20 March 2002.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There are seven proposals to be put to the House. The first one is about the late sitting. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are being asked to give our consent to a very comprehensive Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are dealing with the proposal for the late sitting.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If you wish, a Cheann Comhairle, we can have seven votes on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  What is before the House is the proposal for the late sitting.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Let us get a sentence in, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is what is before the House.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  We know that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes, and I am saying it is unacceptable to us on the basis that we are being asked to abandon our responsibility as an Opposition party because the Taoiseach wants to run away. The Government is hiding. It is not prepared to sit the number of days we would normally sit in March. There is no need for the [220] House to adjourn until 20 March, and the Labour Party will not voluntarily acquiesce to the dereliction of our duty in holding this failed Government to account.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Would it be appropriate for me to raise a point of clarification, and not a political point, with the Taoiseach?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If it leads to the question before the House—

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  There is no provision for Government time in the debate on the motion on Deputy Ned O'Keeffe. Was it the Taoiseach's intention that the Government would not participate in the debate on No. 22? There is provision for Deputy O'Keeffe and Fine Gael and Labour Members to speak, but not for Government Members. I would have thought that at least the chairperson of the Members' interests committee, Deputy Killeen, would propose the motion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  If the Deputy would wait until we come to that proposal—

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  It is not provided for in the order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I would prefer to deal with the matter in the proper order; No. 22 relates to that question.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  It colours my attitude to the rest of the Order of Business, therefore, I would like clarification now. That is reasonable.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The motion is being taken in Government time. I understand the chairman of the committee will speak first, followed by the other three speakers.

Question, “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to,” put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 19, 20 and 21 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 50 agreed to?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This measure is being guillotined without the consent of the Labour Party. We are opposed to the guillotine. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that Deputy Ned O'Keeffe is being kept on side to ensure he will be able to vote on the concluding Stages of a guillotined Finance Bill before he is suspended from the House.

Mr. O'Flynn: Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  The Deputy got his answer in Cork.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is cynical manipulation to have the debate on the motion to suspend Deputy O'Keeffe after the guillotined Report Stage of the Finance Bill.

[221]Mr. O'Flynn: Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  The Deputy got his answer in Cork.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That is from the man who discovered spongers and tax evaders in Fianna Fáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is Deputy O'Flynn seeking asylum in here?

[222]Mr. O'Flynn: Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  Deputy Quinn got his answer in Cork.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are opposed to this guillotined measure.

Question put, “That the proposal for dealing with the Report and Final Stages of item No. 50 be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Flood, Chris.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
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.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Martin, Micheál.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Brian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Howlin, Brendan.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Shortall, Róisín. Stagg, Emmet.[223]

Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
[224]Upton, Mary.
Yates, Ivan.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the fourth proposal, the proposal dealing with Private Members' Business, agreed to? Agreed. Is the fifth proposal, the proposal dealing with No. 22, motion re suspension of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, agreed to?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  No, Sir. The House has agreed that an ethical code be established for Members and that sanctions be applied to those who breach it. The Committee on Members Interests has recommended, by way of motion, that Deputy Ned O'Keeffe be suspended for ten days. It seems, given that the House has established a code of ethics and imposed sanctions, that we should impose them in the full light of day. If we are to be strong enough to sanction Members and, like other professions, self-regulating, we should not try to hide the matter in the middle of the night. This item should be taken after the Order of Business, not at about 10.25 p.m. when it will receive no attention.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I have already referred to this matter. I agree with Deputy Noonan and we are inviting the public to be cynical about the manner in which we purport to carry out business in this House. On many occasions the Taoiseach has admitted that politics has been brought into disrepute by the actions of many members, or former members, of his party. He has attempted to claim credit for the establishment of the tribunals which, in many cases, were forced upon a reluctant Government.

A Deputy:  That is not true.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is true. We are cynically being asked to acquiesce to Fianna Fáil getting Report Stage of the Finance Bill, which is being guillotined, through the House before taking away the vote of a Member. Deputy Noonan is correct to state that we should deal with this item now. The matter was raised at the Whips' meetings and we are doing no service to any Member by acquiescing to this measure. That is why the Labour Party is opposed to this proposal.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I have tried to find out why we are not taking this matter now, but no reason has been given. This proposal appears to be a cynical exercise to allow the Government to get Report and Final Stages of the Finance Bill through the House. I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to ensure that this House is spared whatever cynicism is possible and that this item is dealt with expeditiously. The matter has been well publicised and I am sure the public is wondering why it has to be put off until late this evening.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think that anyone could suggest that this proposal has anything to do with a close vote on the Finance Bill. We have just seen what is the vote. I have listed the matter concerning Deputy Ned O'Keeffe for the order for today and the Deputy will speak on the matter. However, the Finance Bill is one of the most important Bills of the year and takes precedence. The other matter will be dealt with today and a tough sentence will be imposed on the Deputy. The matter can be debated during the day.

Question put, “That the proposal for dealing with item No. 22, suspension of Deputy Ned O'Keeffe be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Flood, Chris.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P. Kitt, Tom.[225]

Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Martin, Micheál.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Flynn, Noel.
[226]O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard.
Farrelly, John.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Brian.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Howlin, Brendan.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Neville, Dan.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
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  Is the proposal for the sitting and business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed to?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Tomorrow, one of the listed items to be guillotined is Second Stage of the Courts and Court Officers Bill, 2001. On 19 February the Government announced the appointment and naming of three distinguished people to be appointed judges to assist in the Flood tribunal. Since the announcement, those individuals have ceased practising while waiting to be appointed as judges which requires an amendment to the Courts Bill. The Courts Bill, in my name, is No. 77 on today's Order Paper. Will the Government consider a proposal I made and accept a simple one line amendment to that Bill to increase the number of Circuit Court judges by three? All sides of the House could accept that by agreement and the three judges could be appointed tomorrow to take up the important work of the tribunal. That would allow us then to deal expeditiously with the Courts and Court Officers Bill, 2001. This is complicated legislation which has important amendments with which we could deal on the understanding that we would conclude the Bill by the end of this Dáil.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  When the Deputy raised this matter I brought it to the Minister's attention. He informs me that he intends his Bill, which will include the amendment sought, to go through before Easter. The Minister will get his Bill and the Deputy will get his amendment.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I will not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy may only ask a brief question.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I have had discussions with the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, [227] Equality and Law Reform this morning and with the convenor—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy cannot speak twice on the same motion.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  May I just make a point?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Just a question.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will the Government allow us have both measures tomorrow, by agreement? We can let the judges be appointed to the Flood tribunal and then proceed with the Courts and Court Officers Bill, 2001. We can pass all Stages of the single section Bill tomorrow as well as Second Stage of the Taoiseach's proposal. My proposal makes sense because there is a danger that we will spend weeks waiting for the appointment of the three judges.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will ask the Chief Whip to raise the issue with the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Is the proposal for tomorrow's sitting agreed to?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  No.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We can only have one speaker from each group. We cannot drive a coach and four through Standing Orders.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are all trying to be sane and rational.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair has no option but to apply Standing Orders. Has the Deputy a very brief question?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes. If the Chief Whip is amenable to the proposal, do we need to change the Order of Business for tomorrow?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Chief Whip can arrange that.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  In relation to the item agreed—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Under Standing Orders, there can only be one speaker from each group. I cannot allow any other speakers.

Is the proposal for the sitting and business of the Dáil tomorrow agreed to? Agreed.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  It is a different item.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is unfair.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We now come to No. 7.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil tomorrow be agreed to,” put and declared carried.

[228]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will now take leaders' questions.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I have always regarded this Administration as one of the most incompetent we have ever had. This is principally due to the fact that instead of doing their jobs in the Departments, everybody from the Taoiseach down is opening pubs and off-licences around the country and nobody seems to be accountable. Against that background, how did it come about that a dormant shelf company with assets of £4 sterling has received the contract for running the aquatic centre attached to Campus Stadium Ireland? The Tánaiste says that she does not know how a shelf company with no track record could have succeeded in a contract such as this and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation says that he does not know how it happened either. Who is in charge? Who actually runs Departments now? Who is accountable and answerable to this House when fiascos such as this occur? Since the buck should stop at the Taoiseach's desk, will he inform the House what he knows about this? What is happening?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Whom does the Government intend to blame this time?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It appears that the Taoiseach is the person responsible for this. Does he intend to make a comprehensive and detailed statement on the matter? He must be well prepared as this issue could have been anticipated. Does the Taoiseach not agree that the project was brought into disrepute by avoiding or by-passing all the normal procedures of due diligence within the Government? There was no memorandum to the Department of Finance. The matter was brought straight to Cabinet and there was no examination of the proposal. A company to which the Taoiseach was personally close was given the contract to operate and manage this project. The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation was excluded from the process from the beginning. Look at him now – he is as far away as he could possibly be.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  I might move over to the Tánaiste.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Tánaiste has stayed as far away as she can from this project.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Tánaiste has become a backbencher.

A Deputy:  There is trouble in paradise.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This is the reality. It was pathetic last night when people were saying they had received a report a page and a half in length which did not answer all of the questions. This is a serious matter and the Taoiseach must explain, considering the amount of money involved, how a contract which has caused so much concern to other members of the Cabinet, including the [229] Tánaiste, has been awarded. Perhaps she has a view about what is happening and perhaps the House, the Members of which will be required to vote for the allocation of moneys to this project, will be told what is going on. We want hard information.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Why is the Tánaiste sitting at the back? It is quite unusual.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is completely out of order.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Following queries from The Irish Times on Tuesday and a subsequent article in yesterday's paper about the awarding of the operating contract for the aquatic leisure centre at Abbotstown, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation requested that the contract awarding authority of Campus Stadium Ireland provide, as a matter of urgency, a comprehensive report on issues raised in the article. These are the issues raised by Deputies Noonan and Quinn. The Minister was provided with a response late last night and has now sought further clarification from Campus Stadium Ireland on a number of issues as a matter of urgency. Until that clarification is obtained from the company and considered I can make no further comment about the matter. The Minister has also recommended to the executive chairman of the company that a meeting of the board should be held immediately so that members have an opportunity to discuss the issue in detail. The Government will also investigate the matter.

Deputies:  It is a cop-out.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Government has been aware of this for about three days now. Members are entitled to an answer which we are not receiving this morning. Who was responsible for scrutinising the tenders? Was it done by the chief executive of Campus Stadium Ireland or by the board? What consultation took place with the parent Department? What was the involvement of the Minister? Was a report made to Cabinet about the award of this contract? Since it is the Taoiseach's pet project, I presume a report was made to him and that he was at least informed of what was happening. Did he sign off on this contract himself, as the main proponent of this increasingly white white elephant?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I had understood that Deputy Noonan and everybody else were totally in favour of this aspect of the project.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  That is not the question.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  We are heading for another tribunal.

[230]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understood that there was unanimity on that issue. The issue raised by Deputy Noonan was dealt with by the executive team of CSID Limited. The discussions of the board gave rise to the Minister's request for an examination of the issue and an early board meeting. The Minister will be glad to make public the results of that meeting. There was, of course, a report made to the Cabinet at the time but neither the Minister nor the Cabinet was informed of the matter of the shelf company.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  They should know these things.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Cabinet was informed about the consortium that made up the company. As soon as we have a full report it will be made available.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It stinks like the Battle of the Boyne site.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is the Taoiseach concerned about the collapse in confidence within the Irish economy among ordinary workers who are now faced with the reality that the jobs they thought were secure are manifestly insecure? Does he share with me the anger expressed by so many workers who lost their jobs in Tullamore and who no longer feel that their interests are being looked after by this Government? Earlier today my colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, tried to raise the issue under Standing Order 31. The reality is that over the past four months, 20,000 people have signed on to the live register. As we sit here, 165 people are signing on to the live register, 165 people a day who have lost their jobs.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It is a meltdown.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  What action, if any, will the Taoiseach take? In the glass bottle company in Ringsend, 375 jobs have been lost. Some 300 jobs have been lost in Tullamore, 200 jobs have been lost at Youghal Carpets and 160 jobs have been lost at EMC in Ovens. Across the country, jobs are being lost systematically.

What has gone wrong over the past four years? The Government was handed the economy in extremely good condition with a budget surplus. We now find that the accounts are in the red, the tax revenues are below the anticipated level and workers are losing their jobs. There is no sense of protection or urgency. What message can the Taoiseach give to the workers who have lost their jobs and the others who will lose their jobs in the future?

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It is a Fianna Fáil stamp on an envelope.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The job losses over the past four months or so are the highest for over five years. When the numbers are added up they are achieving record levels. The inward flow of investment to supply replacement jobs has also dried up and [231] international confidence in the Government's management of the economy is now very low. This is because a budget which was brought in in December is already off the rails, expenditure which was projected to rise at 11% is rising at 22%, and in the first two months of this year alone, the fiscal account is in deficit by more than £1.25 billion. I ask in particular whether the Taoiseach has discussed this situation with the Tánaiste. Has the Tánaiste confirmed that the flow of inward investment has dried up and that the prospect of new jobs through foreign investment in manufacturing industry is a very poor prospect for the remainder of the year?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I share Deputy Quinn's concern for the plight of the individuals concerned, whether in Youghal Carpets, Flextronics or in other companies. I hope industrial relations mechanisms will help to sort out the problems at some of those companies. However, in other companies it is market conditions that are unfortunately creating the difficulties. While in some cases jobs in the existing workforce will be maintained, it is clear that quite a number will lose their jobs. As always, the State agencies and the various Departments will do all they can, both for existing companies and communities, and will assist as they have successfully done in a number of cases. The record of the Tánaiste in helping these areas to recover quickly through task forces and other methods has been extremely successful.

I hope we are not in the business of talking down what is still one of the best economies in the world.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  The Taoiseach is dumbing it down.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It has been a very difficult period internationally following the difficulties in the ICT area, and especially following the events of 11 September.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  That has nothing to do with expenditure growth.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Some 50,000 new jobs were created last year in this economy. Employment grew by almost 3% last year. The latest survey shows that Ireland has for the first time ever reached the target of 1.75 million jobs. The latest figures from the CSO, the ESRI and others show that the economy is doing well. As I understand it, last week the live register fell. However, there have been job losses and we need to work ourselves through what has been a difficult international period, and continue to work successfully with the IDA and others.

It is not true to say there has not been good inward investment in this country, in so far as there is investment moving anywhere around the world. Biotechnology plants are one of the biggest areas for inward investment. The IDA [232] continues to follow up some of the other big operations around the world in that area, and that is also the case for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry. We are doing remarkably well during a difficult period and must continue to do that. We must continue to try, where we regrettably lose jobs, to do all that we can to get replacement industries, to continue the flow of inward investment and to maintain our excellent economy in as good health as we possibly can.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I accept that this Government, despite taking the credit for the boom, does not have control over international market forces. I accept that its wonderful powers of spinning are limited and that there are some things over which it does not have control. However, the Government has control over other things. It has control over the 1967 redundancy legislation and the social insurance fund, when it is not being raided by the Minister for Finance. It could ease the plight of the 165 workers who will lose their jobs today, or who lost their jobs yesterday, or the 20,000 who have lost their jobs, such as the workers at Peerless Rugs in Athy and it could update the legislation for statutory redundancy payments to bring them from a half weeks pay for every year served up to the level of the recommendation from the Labour Court, and the demand now from congress, of three weeks pay per year served. That would get rid of the 41-year old sexist discrimination. The Tánaiste gave some indication or made some promise to the effect that this would be done because many of the firms that have gone into liquidation are not empowered to implement the Labour Court recommendations.

The Taoiseach expressed concern for the individuals who have lost their jobs. Many of those workers, because of their educational background and work experience, will not be eligible to take up the new jobs that will come into this economy because of its changing nature. I ask the Taoiseach to do the following things over which he has total control, and which are not subject to market forces or the recession following 11 September of last year. Will he and the Tánaiste bring in emergency legislation to at least give those who have lost their jobs some decent cushion through redundancy payments from the insurance fund that they have paid into? This will not cause any additional increase in taxation and will give those people a cushion of money that will enable them to look for other jobs or to avail of the retraining opportunities which FÁS can offer them. The Taoiseach could do that. This side of the House will agree to a single Bill to change those terms.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We have the Bill.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Bill is already there. I urge the Taoiseach to do that and to make it retrospective for those like the workers at Peerless Rugs and others, so that the hurt and harm caused to ordi[233] nary workers can at least be alleviated. The Taoiseach has control over that. I ask him to match his words with action, to bring in legislation that could be effective and to undo some of the damage that has been done.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In the first case, the Deputy knows that some of the companies have gone well beyond the statutory conditions that the Government would bring forward. The Deputy is as aware of that as I am.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  But they top that up again.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There are other companies that have not done that, and they stick fairly rigidly to the statutory position. We have already made some improvements on the tax side that will help workers. I answered the Deputy two weeks ago by saying the Government will look at that legislation. However, there is no imminent legislation on that matter.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That is some message.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  The Taoiseach has indicated his intention to bring in legislation to improve standards in the taxi industry. Will that legislation specifically exclude the granting of licences to former sex offenders? When will that legislation be brought forward and can it be done in this session? It is a matter of considerable urgency.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Government announcement some weeks ago made it clear that there would be regulation to follow all best practices. I am sure the matters raised by the Deputy and other matters will be included in that.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Because of today's events, I do not know whether the Taoiseach will delay in blowing the whistle for the general election but I ask him whether the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 1999, passed by this House, will be enacted in the lifetime of this Dáil. Will he consult the Tánaiste about the Act governing working time, as workers concerned with the St. Patrick's Day holiday are required to work in breach of that Act? There seems to be no response to that from the inspectorate or the Tánaiste's Department.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will bring the second matter to the Minister's attention. The Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 1999, is in committee. The Government adopted that Bill and, as I understand it, it is working its way through the committee.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It has not reached the committee yet. The Taoiseach is misinformed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is technically before the committee.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Technically, my granny.

[234]Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Government is running out of road, steam and energy.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Will the Taoiseach make a statement to the House on any recent contacts he has had with Mr. Mugabe in Zimbabwe to indicate to the House—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That question is not in order on the Order of Business. The Deputy can use the parliamentary question system.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  The Taoiseach might like to inform the House what advice he received concerning—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not in order. On the Order of Business, I call Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  In the light of the current controversy surrounding the Abbotstown project, can the Taoiseach say whether the Campus Stadium Ireland Bill is to be brought quickly to the Dáil as it seems to be long overdue? It was expected in early 2002 and is now on the paper as mid-2002. It was endorsed by the public in June of last year and early enactment was expected yet we have not seen the Bill.

Given its size, will the Taoiseach set aside the Communications Regulation Bill? There have been reports that it is to be rushed through even though it is a very complex and quite controversial Bill. Will the Taoiseach bring forward more urgent Bills such as the Campus Stadium Ireland Bill and the International Criminal Court Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The heads were approved quite some time ago and the Bill is being drafted. I hope it will be ready as quickly as possible.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The heads of what?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The heads of the Campus Stadium Ireland Bill. The International Criminal Court Bill, to give effect to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is a large one. I do not have a date for the completion of that long and complex Bill which will certainly take some time to prepare. It will not be brought forward in the life of this Dáil.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It is nine months since the referendum.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins   (Mayo): CIE presides over one of the most run down rail services in the western world. The company is heavily in debt and is perpetually subsidised by the taxpayer, yet it has the gall to run an expensive peak time advertising campaign telling people to hold on, that there are better times ahead. Before the Taoiseach even contemplates the Transport (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill, which is to increase the borrowing limit of CIE, will he telephone the chairman of CIE, Mr. John Lynch, and tell him to cut out the [235] codology, cop on and withdraw this expensive, ridiculous advertising campaign?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Railway Infrastructure Bill was enacted last year.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins   (Mayo): This Bill is No. 95 on the list.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The heads of the transport (miscellaneous provisions) Bill are expected in the next few days.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will Mammy not fund the ads?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill will be passed this year.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  When will the terms of reference for the tribunal of inquiry into what is called the McBrearty affair be brought before the House? Why has there been no consultation with the Opposition to date on the terms of reference as promised?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The tribunal Bill will be before the House before Easter.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The tribunal Bill and the terms of reference are two separate issues. The tribunal Bill needs to be amended but the terms of the reference for the tribunal itself is a separate issue.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understand they will be taken at the same time.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Will there be discussions beforehand as promised?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will raise that with the Minister.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Is it intended to amend the planning legislation to combat the situation whereby An Taisce is systematically preventing people from obtaining planning permission to build homes for themselves in rural areas, particularly since that body is funded, to some extent, by the Department of the Environment and Local Government and would appear to show a conflict of interest?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think there is a planning Bill covering that matter; I do not think there is a planning Bill on the schedule.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  In the middle of last year, the Taoiseach's colleague, the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs said the pensions Bill was the most important legislation in this Dáil. If that is so, is it not appalling that in the dying days of this Dáil, the Bill will be guillotined [236] tomorrow after a couple of hours? Every Member of this House—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A question please.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Every Member of this House, including many of my party colleagues, would like to make a few comments on this important legislation—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter has been decided.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  —and they are being preventing from doing so. While the Taoiseach and his colleagues traipse around the globe, we have about a week to table significant amendments to this legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy can raise that—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Is it possible to give us more time?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter has been decided by the House.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Does the Taoiseach remember that five years ago when on this side of the House he gave an absolute guarantee that if elected Taoiseach, he would re-open the live markets to Egypt, Libya and other export markets? Does he realise the price of beef—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That matter is not in order on the Order of Business.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  —has collapsed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy can pursue that matter in other ways.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  It is very hard to get hold of the Taoiseach in the House.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I would like to ask about two Bills, the Education (Children with Disabilities) Bill and the Arts Bill which is listed on the pink sheet. Will the Taoiseach inform the House why, for example, the Arts Bill is not a broader cultural Bill and why there is no Irish heading for it? When is the Bill expected and will the Taoiseach give me an update on it? It was listed as expected to be published in the start of the Dáil session after the Easter recess. What are the current Government proposals on the Education (Children with Disabilities) Bill and the Arts Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Education (Children with Disabilities) Bill will be published in the next few days. It will clear Cabinet today but it will take a [237] few days to publish it. It is still hoped to publish the Arts Bill before Easter.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  So that is the end of that.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Is the Taoiseach considering holding the general election on a Friday or Saturday?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That question is not in order.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It is very much in order—

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  It is very interesting.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  —and very topical. To allow young people to vote—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A question.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Does the Taoiseach still have the confidence of his Cabinet today?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy can table a parliamentary question.

Mr. Coveney:  There has just been a boat show in Dublin and there is about to be a significant increase in marine activity, both recreational and commercial, through fishing. Will the coastguard Bill to develop marine emergency services be brought forward before the end of this Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think the coastguard Bill will be brought forward this session. The Bill is due some time this year.


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