Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The Order of Business today shall be No. 10, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services, Vote 44, back from Committee; No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the treaty concerning the accession of countries to the European Union; No. 21, Aer Lingus Bill 2003 – Second Stage (Resumed); No. 22, Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill 2002 – Second Stage (Resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and that business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; Nos. 10 and 11 shall be decided without debate; in the case of No. 10 any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith; and Private Members' business shall be No. 35, motion re community employment schemes, which shall take place tomorrow at 12 noon and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
Mr. Kenny: No. 11 requires the consent of the House before 1 January, according to the note received from the Minister of State. The note stipulates it requires the amendment of the European Communities Act 1972 by enacting a short technical Bill. Will the Taoiseach say when it is proposed to bring that short technical Bill before the House and will there be an opportunity to debate that, if the House is to give its consent to the ratification of the accession before 1 January?
The Taoiseach: This is the provision to give effect to the accession of the new countries to the European Community. The Bill is before the Seanad. It went through this House last week, to the best of my knowledge. When it is passed by the Oireachtas, that will allow the President to sign it and it will then be in order.
The Taoiseach: It has gone through Second Stage here. I do not know if it is finished in the House but Second Stage was completed here last week. It has to come to this House before Christmas when it can be dealt with.
Mr. Sargent: On Nos. 10 and 11, it is surprising that we do not have any indication as to when and if there are going to be statements and a debate on the outcome of the Northern Ireland elections. I ask that the Whips—
Mr. Kenny: I am sure the House will join with me in extending sympathy to the family and friends of special elite Ranger Derek Mooney, who unfortunately lost his life in a tragic road accident in Liberia, as a member of the first group of Irish troops on a peacekeeping mission there. It is regrettable to see the tricolour flying at half-mast over the House today. I am sure the House joins with me in expressing condolences to his parents and fiancee on the tragic loss of life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Will the Taoiseach say whether it is proposed, as has been mentioned, that before Christmas there will be an opportunity to debate the situation that has arisen in Northern Ireland following the elections? In view of the polarisation of politics in the North, will it be possible for Members of the House to express their views and put to Government ideas and initiatives on the discussions that must take place?
The Taoiseach: I agree with Deputy Kenny's first remarks. I extend our sympathy to Austin and Theresa Mooney on the death of their son, Derek, to his fiancé, Denise, and his three brothers. I would like to send best wishes to his colleague, Seán Baldwin, who is critically ill in the Mater Hospital, and to his family. It indicates the difficulties and dangers of working abroad. This was an accident, but it is still traumatic for the family concerned.
Mr. Sargent: Thar ceann an Chomaontais Ghlais, the Green Party, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann an tSáirsint Derek Mooney, his fiancée and colleagues. I wish a speedy recovery to his colleague in the Mater Hospital.
I would like to ask about issues which will be on people's minds, if not out of their minds, as we approach Christmas. I am referring to alcohol products and the control of advertising, sponsorship and marketing practices. I would like to know the position on the sales promotions Bill from the Department of Health and Children and the related intoxicating liquor codification Bill from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Given the large increase in crime related to alcohol abuse, will the Taoiseach bring forward the legislation earlier than the published date?
The Taoiseach: The heads of the Bill are being completed and it should be ready for publication early in 2004. It will authorise the Minister to make regulations to restrict advertising and sponsorships.
I want to correct my earlier reply to Deputy Kenny. I was right the first time in that the European Communities Bill has been through all Stages in the House and has gone to the President for her signature.
Ms O. Mitchell: Given that two or three European countries raised objections last week to the tobacco regulations, what impact will they have on the introduction of the smoking ban and on the legislation currently before the House? Second Stage of the Bill is ongoing. Would the Minister consider it prudent to withdraw the legislation pending resolution of the problems surrounding the regulations?
Mr. Quinn: Last week in Brussels the Minister for Finance failed to support the Commission on the Stability and Growth Pact. Is it the Government's intention to make time available to discuss the matter and the consequences for the stability of the euro currency?
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: My colleagues and I wish to join in the expressions of sympathy to the family of the Defence Force member, Ranger Derek Mooney. We also extend our wishes for a full and speedy recovery to his injured colleague.
On the distribution today of the text of the Independent Monitoring Commission Bill 2003, this arises out of the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish Governments. It contains the text of an agreement signed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the British Ambassador on 25 November. The Taoiseach will recall that when I last raised the matter—
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is a question. The Taoiseach will recall that when I last raised the matter with him he indicated his understanding of our concern regarding this Bill. Certainly mindful of our past experience—
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: That is correct. The same courtesies and respect should be paid to my mandate as to every other Member. When will this Bill come before the House? Is it the Taoiseach's intention that the Bill, which is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, will come before the House before the Christmas recess?
Mr. Allen: Does the Taoiseach plan to introduce legislation to impose sanctions on political parties, such as his colleagues in Government who have racist policies in respect of admission to their party of non-EU nationals?
Ms O'Sullivan: A few weeks ago the Taoiseach said he expected the committee dealing with the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill to report by the end of November. As it is now December, is there any progress on the Bill?
The Taoiseach: I said the report would be completed by the end of November. A group of representatives of a number of Departments is due to report back at the end of November and I presume the report will be published in the next few days.
Mr. Eamon Ryan: Committee Stage of the Broadcasting (Funding) Bill is due to be taken on Thursday. We found out this afternoon that as the Minister will not be able to attend the Committee Stage debate, the Minister of State will be there in his place. Given that a number of key amendments are tabled on the ministerial powers the Minister is providing for in terms of funding individual programmes, will the Taoiseach agree it would be better if we ordered our business so that the Minister responsible could take Committee Stage of the Bill?
The Taoiseach: We have concluded our work. We have taken fully into account the issues which former Mr. Justice Barron has put to us. We will now require a resolution of this House which will go the committee. Somebody from my office will be in touch with the party leaders. We have already agreed this with the Justice for the Forgotten group but I want to agree the procedure and the motion in line with what we agreed in 1999.
The Taoiseach: No. A few weeks Ms Justice Laffoy indicated to Government there would be some delay with the final report. Subject to correction, if I recall correctly she said it would be finished by 12 December.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: In view of the fact that last week a Fianna Fáil councillor in Clare violated the anti-racism protocol for a political party by publicly supporting a hate crime in Miltown Malbay without sanction from his party—
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The appropriate question is whether the Government will introduce legislation to make that anti-racism protocol legally enforceable? Failing that, will it review or amend the Incitement to Hatred Act? Failing that, will it publish, as promised before the Christmas break, the equality Bill giving effect to three EU directives to ensure all political parties abide by the anti-racism protocol which they have accepted—
Mr. Durkan: In view of the shocking revelations in last night's “Prime Time” programme will the Taoiseach indicate under which legislative heading the Government intends to address those important issues?
Mr. Durkan: There is the Juvenile Justice Act, the Children Acts or the health and social care professionals regulatory Bill. Under which heading is the Government likely to address the issues which were signposted on that “Prime Time” programme?
The Taoiseach: For most of the issues raised in the programme there is already legislation. There are still some sections of the Children Act which have to be implemented but there is already tough legislation to deal with most of the individuals in that programme but it is an enforcement issue.
Mr. Gilmore: I am sure the Taoiseach's communications unit will have spotted an article in the weekend's newspapers which purports to contain the conclusions being reached by the commission on Dáil boundaries.
Mr. S. Ryan: In light of the ongoing damage and vandalism to our coastal dune structure and coastal erosion throughout the country, when is it proposed to bring forward a coastal zone management Bill?
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