Order of Business.

Thursday, 9 December 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 595 No. 1

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The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. a1, Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 21, Health Bill 2004 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of oral questions to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which shall be taken immediately on the conclusion of No. 21; the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. a1: (i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours, the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; (ii) the proceedings on Committee and [3]Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes 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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and Report and Final Stages of No. 21 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.30 p.m. today 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 Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, conclusion of Second and Subsequent Stages of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments Bill 2004, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 21, conclusion of Report and Final Stages of the Health Bill 2004, agreed?

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  This is the third day in a row we have had a proposal for a guillotine. I understand from Deputy Twomey that Committee Stage of the Bill was not satisfactory and there was inadequate time to debate at least 50 amendments. This is fundamental legislation. In the context of my warnings to the Chief Whip in the past two days and because of the importance of the Bill, I oppose the guillotine motion.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I agree. Two and a half hours is the suggested time to debate a Bill to which there are 151 amendments, most of which come from the Minister and will diminish accountability, which is the issue at the centre of the Bill.

A Deputy:  It is crazy.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Bill will increase the number of bureaucrats in the service rather than the number at the coalface. However, that is a policy issue. It is unacceptable that such major legislation, for which we have waited 18 months, is brought forward in the dying days of this session and pushed through in an afternoon while amendments are not subjected to scrutiny of any value. This is not the way to do business. I am very surprised the Tánaiste is promoting this approach to enacting legislation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  It was striking as Committee Stage proceeded how many amendments came from the Government. I ask that an Bille Sláinte 2004 be reassessed. Second Stage may have to be rerun before it can proceed to Committee Stage because the Bill has been fundamentally changed. Accountability is being reduced. The Dáil is, effectively, putting itself out of business in regard [4]to accountability for health policy. Will the Tánaiste take account of the reality that the Bill has not been thought through by Government and that it is being changed on the hoof, which is not the way to enact good legislation?

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I oppose the imposition of a guillotine in regard to Report and Final Stages of the Health Bill. This Bill does not represent reform, let alone the radical overhaul the health services require. It tampers with bureaucracy rather than deal with the real problem which is at the coalface of the delivery of health services, most particularly, acute hospital services throughout this jurisdiction. The time offered is inadequate.

The number of amendments tabled by Government demonstrates that the presentation of the Bill by it was poorly thought out because a significant change is being made as a result of the amendments now presented. The volume of amendments and what they represent fundamentally alters the proposition first put forward, one which was already flawed and which now further removes democratic accountability in regard to the health services from the accountable elected voices in this State.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There seems to be much misunderstanding in regard to this matter. Many of the amendments are on foot of the accountability issue which I took on board on Committee Stage and which, I think, Deputies opposite will acknowledge. There was no guillotine on Committee Stage and many of the amendments tabled are as a result of those tabled by Deputies Twomey, McManus and others.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Many of them do not.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is precisely because we are enhancing the accountability of the new executive that many of the amendments are necessary. After the 1996 Act, which parties opposite brought forward when in office, many of the powers of health board members went to the executive. There was no accountability. This new executive will be accountable to the Dáil, not to the Department of Health and Children. That is a fact.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  That is not a fact. It will be accountable to the Minister.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is important the new administrative management model for the health services, which is all about improving patient care, can come on stream on a statutory basis on 1 January. That is why we are taking the legislation through so rapidly. I apologised before to the House for the speed with which we are taking this Bill. However, there has been no secret about the Government’s plan in this area for 18 months.

[5]Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  The Tánaiste could not even convince Professor Halligan of what she was doing.

[6]Question put, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 21 be agreed.”

[5]The Dáil divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 53.

Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe.
Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Michael Collins  Zoom on Michael Collins  Collins, Michael. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony. Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Mildred Fox  Zoom on Mildred Fox  Fox, Mildred. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael.
Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  Walsh, Joe. Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  


[5]Níl
Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Breen, James. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul. Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.  

[5]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.

[5]Question declared carried.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Yesterday marked the third occasion on which a carefully choreographed set of circumstances did not lead to a final agreement [6]in respect of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. That is a cause of regret. Credit must be given both to the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister for the extensive time they have devoted in attempting to resolve this matter [7]in recent years. It is a disappointment to everybody that it has not been possible to conclude it successfully.

Will the Tánaiste confirm that there will be a debate on Northern Ireland next week? The Whips raised the matter and I understand that two hours are to be allocated for the debate. That may not be sufficient time, however, as many Deputies from all parties and none may wish to make contributions.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  That is for sure.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  In advance of that debate, will the Tánaiste indicate if it is intended to publish the bilateral arrangements between the Government and Sinn Féin, which were not directly related to the matters under discussion yesterday by both Governments and both parties?

Will there be an attempt by the Government in the coming days to arrange for the DUP and Sinn Féin to sit down together, face to face? Proximity talks brought a great measure of progress on some very sensitive issues but the issue to which the Tánaiste referred yesterday — the modality of decommissioning and its verification — remains the problem. Is it the Government’s intention, therefore, to work with the parties and perhaps have them both sit down, face to face, with a view to reaching a conclusion as to how that might be achieved?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Like Deputy Kenny, I greatly regret that the consistent efforts of both Governments in recent months have failed to revive devolution in Northern Ireland and to arrive at the comprehensive settlement that seemed to be in prospect. Most people on the island will find it incomprehensible that a comprehensive agreement was, or is being put at risk by the demand for a photograph, and that the other side was prepared to put it at risk by the refusal of such a photograph. Before we have the debate next Wednesday, I hope the Government will publish the remaining documents associated with those which some of us could only access early yesterday by downloading them from the Downing Street website. Other documents relating, for example, to the killers of Detective Garda McCabe, to the issue of the right of audience in the Oireachtas for elected representatives in Northern Ireland, and to any other bilateral side agreements the details of which have not been contained in the papers, should be made available to the Opposition before the discussion on Wednesday next.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The Green party is gravely disappointed but not entirely surprised that there has been a stalling in the process. We assume it is only a stalling. Will the Tánaiste indicate the Government’s assessment of where lies the particular challenge at this time? The Tánaiste mentioned that it was not merely a question of a [8]photograph but the Minister for Foreign Affairs seemed to narrow it down specifically to that issue. In the interests of informing the House and allowing us to see some light at the end of the tunnel, can the Government give some clarity to this matter?

  11 o’clock

In advance of the debate, it would be useful if the Government might indicate its assessment as to what items under discussion are effectively outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. These may include such issues as the fate of the killers of Detective Garda McCabe or the demand for a photograph. There is a clear idea that the Good Friday Agreement is being stretched on both sides and that items are being brought to the table from outside. Wherein lies the current difficulty? There seems to be a difference of opinion between Government spokespersons, including the Tánaiste, as to what the issue is. This should be clarified before next week’s debate, which we welcome.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I wish to record my disappointment and that of my colleagues at the failure so far to achieve the goal of a full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, a goal to which our party is absolutely committed. I join other voices in the House in commending the efforts of both Governments and of the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister.

I also strongly commend the courageous efforts of the Sinn Féin leadership and negotiating team who have demonstrated an absolute commitment to the address of all the difficulties that have bedevilled this island and the neighbouring island and our relationship for generations. They have shown themselves to be courageous leaders. I wish also to commend the leadership of the Irish Republican Army which has clearly demonstrated its preparedness to take historic and unprecedented steps.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  There is only one Army in this country. Dáil Éireann recognises only one Army.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  That must be acknowledged.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  For shame.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I am proud to stand in this House and so record.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Shame on Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Ms O’Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  Members of this House recognise only one Army.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Allow Deputy Ó Caoláin speak without interruption, please.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It would serve much better the goal to which, I hope, all voices in this House are committed, although at times it is difficult to recognise that commitment, if utterances [9]were measured because this is unfinished business and a work in train that must be pursued to achieve a satisfactory result acceptable to all sides in the conflict. I urge colleague Deputies to be measured.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is important that we are all measured. I would not applaud anyone who killed and maimed in the name of Ireland and carried out dreadful atrocities for far too long.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The majority of people in this country and this House only pursued constitutional politics.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Does the Tánaiste extend that sentiment to include Britain?

Ms O’Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  Deputy Morgan should get over it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As I said yesterday, the difficulties that arose relate to more than just a photograph. There are a number of issues, as the Taoiseach has confirmed. Clearly, what we want to see is an end to paramilitarism and criminality in all its forms.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  The Tánaiste speaks of criminality. What of the former Progressive Democrats mayor?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I point out to Deputy Ó Snodaigh that the Government remains committed to working as hard as it can to tackle criminality in all its forms.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Deputy Ó Snodaigh is not in a position to speak about criminality.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Tánaiste should be allowed to continue without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Government will work as hard it can to bring about a resolution so that we can get on with putting the Good Friday Agreement——

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  What about the former Progressive Democrats mayor of Dublin?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Ó Snodaigh must allow the Tánaiste to continue without interruption.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Deputy Ó Snodaigh is the last person who should be speaking about criminality.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Minister should allow the Tánaiste to continue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We want to proceed to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects, [10]which the majority of the people on this island have supported enthusiastically, is implemented in full.

In response to Deputies Rabbitte, Kenny and Sargent and others, I will try to ensure that the Opposition parties are briefed in advance of the debate on the latest position. It is an evolving situation and we are dealing with delicate and sensitive matters. We must all be responsible. The debate next week will be a full one.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Can the Tánaiste believe that the An Post management is threatening to drag the union to the courts for damages?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Joe Higgins should ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  My question is appropriate. Why should the management not be sacked immediately?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  This does not arise on the Order of Business. That matter has been debated in the House.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Will the Ceann Comhairle let me ask about the employee information and consultation Bill? When will that legislation be brought before the House?

The Tánaiste: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That legislation will be brought forward next year.

I wish to refer to an issue that has been mentioned on the Order of Business on a number of occasions, including yesterday. This is the matter of the charging by health boards of elderly people in public institutions. I inform Deputy Kenny that I have arranged today to write to the health boards and ask them to stop charging people in public institutions or in contract beds forthwith. The Attorney General’s advice indicates that issues may arise since the health boards became aware that this was not legally safe. I wish to put that on the record of the House because Deputy Kenny has raised it on a number of occasions and I received new advice on the matter from the Attorney General yesterday evening.


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