Wednesday, 14 December 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 19, the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 12, the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 — Financial Resolution; No. 13, motion re establishment of a commission of investigation into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy operating under the aegis of the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin and related matters; No. 3, the Social Welfare Bill 2005 — Second Stage (Resumed) and Subsequent Stages; and No. 30, the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Committee and Remaining Stages.
In accordance with the Order of the Dáil of 13 December 2005, it is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m., business being interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m. Proceedings of the resumed Second Stage of No. 19 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.30 p.m., No. 12 being taken immediately thereafter and decided without debate.
The proceedings of No. 13 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes, and the following arrangements shall apply. The speech of a Minister or Minister of State, the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party, the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, 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 that shall not exceed five minutes.
The following arrangements shall apply regarding No. 3, the Social Welfare Bill 2005. The proceedings on the resumed Second Stage, if not previously concluded, are to be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. tonight. The proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. by one question, to be put from the Chair, which shall in relation to amendments include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.
Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 19 and 12, conclusion of Second Stage of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 and Financial Resolution for the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005, without debate agreed?
Mr. Kenny: We do not agree with the proposals for dealing with No. 19 or No. 12. The Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 is a bureaucrats’ paradise. There has been no consultation with fisheries interests, and the Bill’s essence is that it criminalises fishermen and their families for the most minor indiscretion, which would have the practical outworking that throughout the west no one could go to America on holiday or business thereafter because of restrictions on travel. There has not been the same element of discussion with the industry or industry interests, and the Government’s backbenchers have opposed it seriously. The Bill is opposed in detail and principle, and it should be withdrawn, with clear discussions on the matter, after which it could return to the House in the spring. For that reason, I urge the Taoiseach to withdraw this. We oppose the taking of No. 19 and No. 12.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I wish to record my opposition, as I have done before, to the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005. The proposal that No. 12 be taken immediately after the Second Stage resumption and decided without debate is yet another slight on the workings of this House. On a matter of such importance, it is typical of the last days of any session of this House in my experience since 1997 that the Government seeks to railroad and ram-stam legislation through without the due care and consideration that it deserves. I am opposed to much that is proposed in this legislation, and I reflect the views of many people with interests in the maritime industry.
Mr. Broughan: On the same point, this is clearly major legislation, and many Deputies have not yet had an opportunity to speak. Many maritime and coastal communities are concerned. Given the fact that a series of wide-ranging amendments is being prepared by the Minister and that the Bill, as presented, will not be that which emerges in February, it is incumbent on the House to have more time to discuss it.
Mr. Boyle: Can the Taoiseach give a full explanation of the Financial Resolution, No. 12? It seems somewhat out of order that the House be asked to decide on such a resolution after the Bill may have passed its Second Stage and before it goes to Committee Stage or is finally approved by the House, thus pre-empting a decision of the House. Does the Government intend for this resolution to pre-empt the Bill itself and that charges should apply from 1 January?
Mr. Broughan: I thought that we were discussing only No. 19. I echo the views of Deputy Boyle. It seems the resolution being brought forward pre-empts the views of the Dáil, the Seanad and the committee.
The Taoiseach: The Financial Resolution on the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 is required; it must be brought in. We have given the legislation additional time. The reason we wanted to have it passed today was to allow the committee sit in January when the Minister is prepared to give a lot of time to deal with the Bill. He has already made provision for an extensive debate and detail on these issues. It is true that many issues have been highlighted that will amend the Bill but that is the purpose of Committee Stage. We will have plenty of time for an adequate debate on this issue in the second, third and fourth weeks of January.
Question put: “That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 19 and 12, conclusion of Second Stage of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 and Financial Resolution for the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005, be agreed”.
|Ahern, Bertie.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Brady, Martin.|
|Brennan, Seamus.||Browne, John.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Carey, Pat.|
|Carty, John.||Collins, Michael.|
|Cregan, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|de Valera, Síle.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Dennehy, John.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Ellis, John.||Fahey, Frank.|
|Fitzpatrick, Dermot.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Jacob, Joe.|
|Keaveney, Cecilia.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Tom.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||McDowell, Michael.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGuinness, John.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Donal.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M. J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Donnell, Liz.||O’Donoghue, John.|
|O’Donovan, Denis.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Keeffe, Ned.|
|O’Malley, Fiona.||O’Malley, Tim.|
|Parlon, Tom.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Roche, Dick.|
|Sexton, Mae.||Smith, Brendan.|
|Smith, Michael.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Dan.||Wallace, Mary.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Wilkinson, Ollie.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Boyle, Dan.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burton, Joan.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Connolly, Paudge.||Costello, Joe.|
|Cowley, Jerry.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Enright, Olwyn.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Kenny, Enda.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McHugh, Paddy.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.|
|Murphy, Catherine.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Pattison, Seamus.|
|Perry, John.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Ryan, Seán.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Sherlock, Joe.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13, motion re establishment of a commission of investigation into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy operating under the aegis of the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin and related matters, agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Kenny: A number of people with knowledge of the electricity sector have informed me that the number of medium risk orange alerts has doubled in the past 12 months and that the national grid was put on a full-scale red alert earlier this year. What steps have been taken to ensure that we have capacity in the event of a severe winter? When will the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill and the electricity Bill be published? Can the Taoiseach guarantee that the electricity system will not fail to meet the country’s needs over the coming months?
The Taoiseach: The energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is down for the beginning of the session. The capecity of the electricity system to meet demand is always under review. Difficulties can appear when industry operates at full capacity and cold weather arises, particularly during the early evenings. No immediate concerns have been voiced about the forthcoming season. However, there is always a threat that the system will not meet demand during very cold weather.
Mr. Kenny: The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, received the recent report on the reform of the electricity market. When will this report be published?
Mr. Rabbitte: My colleague, Deputy O’Sullivan, highlighted the plight of Marie Therese O’Loughlin, who is protesting outside the House. Apparently, the Minister’s response to the assertion that there was an inspection function with the State for the Morning Star hostel, was that she could not confirm that because there are no records. It must be possible to put together——
The Taoiseach: Nobody is happy with the current situation pertaining to Ms O’Loughlin. Late last night and early this morning I checked the possibilities with regard to the Morning Star hostel. Ms O’Loughlin’s life has been a very unfortunate one. However, she also resided in a listed institution for a period and it is perhaps in that area that we should look.
I thank the Taoiseach for correcting the record with regard to legislation on the road safety authority. I understood that new legislation dealing with the authority was to be introduced. If this is not the case, could the Taoiseach inform the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, because he said there would be new legislation before Christmas? I understand that the new Bill is an amendment to the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill, which I hope will be introduced quickly in light of road deaths.
There has been some controversy about statements the Taoiseach made on translation costs for translations into Irish. I want to get itemised the actual cost. Could the Taoiseach clarify matters relating to the costs of translating documents into Irish?
Mr. Durkan: An analogous condition. It could be worse, because he cannot pass a Bill. The following is a list of Bills promised but not delivered: the Bord Gáis Éireann Bill, the broadcasting authority Bill, the electronic communications Bill, which allowed the Minister an opportunity to convert the electronic voting machines to an alternative use, the minerals development Bill — we could dig deeper and find out more about that one in the undergrowth — the natural gas regulation Bill, which would deal with natural gas, gas pipelines and so on, and the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. The latter Bill was faithfully promised by the Minister in this House on several occasions in the past 12 months but it has not yet been published. Christmas without the energy Bill will be something else.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should confine himself to enumerating the Bills. He does not have to make any preamble. He should not be repetitive. If Deputy Kenny has spoken about certain Bills, there is no need to raise them again.
Mr. Durkan: The electricity Bill was promised for a long time, as was the national oil reserves agency Bill, which Government party Members will remember affectionately. All these Bills deal with issues that are pertinent and need to be debated. When will the Taoiseach nudge the Minister in the right direction?
Mr. Broughan: Everyone welcomes the apparent resolution of the situation in Irish Ferries. However, the flagging issue has not been dealt with. Will the Taoiseach consider amending the Mercantile Marine (Avoidance of Flags of Convenience) Bill 2005 which was published by the Labour Party? He could do so early in the next session.
Mr. Broughan: I have no other way. They are being displaced by very cheap east European labour. Those Roadstone workers want to know if the Taoiseach will bring in legislation on the displacement of our workforce——
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to come in to the House and raise matters that are not for the Order of Business. The Deputy could have submitted that for the Adjournment but he did not do so.
The Taoiseach: I have already pointed out to the leader of the Labour Party the difficulties with its maritime legislation. With regard to the other issue raised by the Deputy and in the context of social partnership talks, I wrote a letter to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions about the Government’s desire to assist in legislation on the issue.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will the Taoiseach please take whatever steps are necessary to help Marie Therese O’Loughlin who is outside Leinster House? Will he respond to the letter I recently sent to him on that matter before we finish tomorrow?
A Bill to provide for the introduction of business improvement districts has been signalled. When will the heads of that Bill be published or agreed if they have not already been? I have never received notification of heads of a Bill despite having made several requests, including through the parliamentary question mechanism. How does one access heads of a Bill from a Department? When will the heads of this specific Bill be available? Will the Taoiseach make them available to Members?
Mr. Crawford: About 400 families will have a very lonely Christmas this year as a result of road deaths. When will the alcohol products Bill be brought before the House so that we can discuss these issues and find a way to minimise these dreadful events?
The Taoiseach: The alcohol products Bill has been deferred pending the voluntary agreements that have been reached with the alcohol and advertising industries. We are holding it off until we see how the voluntary agreements work.
Mr. Costello: The proposed solution in the Taoiseach’s reply to Deputy Rabbitte’s question about Marie Therese O’Loughlin cannot work. While she spent some time subsequently in Goldenbridge, which is a scheduled institution, her horrific injuries were sustained in Morning Star when she was a baby there.
Mr. Costello: I have a question on the legislation. A small number of those institutions are feeder institutions to the institutions that are scheduled. They have not been included, even though it was the State that transferred them.
An Ceann Comhairle: If it is included in legislation that is already promised, it is appropriate to the Order of Business. The Deputy is asking if something will be brought into the House that has not been promised.
Mr. J. Higgins: I have. Just because the race to the bottom did not get as low as Irish Ferries wanted does not mean that the settlement is right. The Taoiseach said that there were difficulties with legislation, but he was talking about this State. What about moving legislation within the European Union? This could ensure common arrangements for shipping so that the laws of this State can apply in ships plying the waters of the European Union and the exploitation of workers can stop.
Mr. Allen: Can the Taoiseach arrange for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to answer questions submitted to him in this House? I tabled two questions in mid-November, and they have yet to be answered. I raised this matter as regards a previous question in November, to the effect that it had been submitted in August, and I did not get an answer until November. Under Dáil reform——
Ms McManus: I am somewhat puzzled. I understood, because the Taoiseach has repeatedly stated, that the legislation relating to nursing home charges would be published before Christmas. It does not seem to have appeared yet. I am puzzled by that and wonder what is going on.
Normally at the close of business on the final day I have an opportunity to give Christmas greetings to the House, along with Opposition leaders. However, the European Council meeting starts tomorrow and I will not be in a position to do that. I would like to thank the Ceann Comhairle for all of his diligent work throughout the year and for the difficult job he has keeping order in the House. I do my best not to create too much disorder except when we are going over time. I thank the Superintendent, Captain, all the staff, including the administrative staff, ushers and service staff of the House and the press which reports all our activities throughout the year. I thank in particular all the Members of the House, and those I deal with every day, Deputies Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte, Trevor Sargent, Caoimghín Ó Caoláin, Joe Higgins and other members of the Technical Group, as well as our colleagues in the Upper House.
I wish everyone a happy Christmas. I hope people can have a restful period, unlike last year when the tragedies of the Tsunami broke on St. Stephen’s Day and turned the Christmas period into a time of international grief. We think of those people and we recall all the other tragedies during 2005. Unfortunately, it was a year when there were tragedies, though thankfully not in our own country. However, that does not alleviate our concern for all those people who experienced such enormous tragedies, many of whom are suffering this Christmas, mainly because of the climatic events that occurred throughout the course of 2005. I wish people a very happy Christmas. I hope people get a rest and spend it with their families. I extend my best wishes to all Members not in the House at this time.
Mr. Kenny: I, too, must take off my shoes at 6 a.m. tomorrow en route to the leaders of the EPP meeting in Brussels. It is opportune that we should express these sentiments now. I concur with the Taoiseach in expressing the thanks of the Fine Gael Party to the personnel of the House for their courtesy and diligence. The Captain was somewhat busier in the last few months than in previous times. I thank the members of the Fourth Estate, the press, for their activity and accuracy in reporting, the Garda for their attendance and all the Members. I, too, wish to be associated with this.
One matter concerns me. The Ceann Comhairle may not recall, but many years ago he said to me in the course of a dissertation about Leinster House, that one of the most important matters to be appreciated was the fact that one’s words were recorded forever for posterity. I am not sure whether there should be an investigation into this, but the Ceann Comhairle’s words approaching a mild expletive last week appear to have disappeared from the Official Report. The tape, broadcast to the nation, in clearly audible Cavan-Monaghan terms, recalls what he said. Yet, somebody, somewhere, in the depths of the building, has had a slip. I am not sure whether he recalls his words to me on that matter or not.
To the Taoiseach, as leader of the Government, and the Tánaiste, it is our job to hold the Government to account, to expose the Government and its Ministers for failures to live up to their constitutional and ministerial duties and I hope we have tried to do that in the best way we can. For now I am happy to return the swords to their scabbards. I look forward to 2006 and hope, irrespective of what the political scene brings, for the good health of our democracy people understand and appreciate that a job has to be done in here for the political health of the nation, as it were. Whenever the Taoiseach raises the white flag or has it raised for him, I hope the people will all participate in making their choice. Finally, I wish a happy and holy Christmas to everybody and peace and good health to all mankind.
Mr. Rabbitte: I join with my colleagues in wishing the Ceann Comhairle and the staff of the House a happy Christmas. I extend our appreciation to all categories of staff for their diligent efforts throughout the year.
Like Deputy Kenny, I have wondered and indeed, had correspondence with the Ceann Comhairle’s office on a number of occasions in the past about the spoken word, as uttered in here and what actually appears in the Official Report. I have a very lengthy final definitive statement over the name of his predecessor, pointing out that the Official Report is only that — a report. It is not a verbatim record of what transpires in here. It is not a Hansard. From the point of view of archivists and future historians that is a great pity. Sometimes a form of linguistics is tried out in this House that the mother of all parliaments has never experienced. It is a pity that is not recorded as spoken.
I want to join in the seasonal good wishes to the Taoiseach. I was reading his latest interview in a magazine recently and I was very hurt when he suggested that I had, apparently, made some personal remarks about him. I never recall making any personal remarks about the Taoiseach. If he thinks I did I want to withdraw them. I sympathise with him when he says he has not got any newspaper group in the country supporting him. I understand that position and I hope that this, too, continues to be the case in the new year. Happy Christmas to everyone.
Mr. Boyle: I speak on behalf of my party leader and party colleagues. The party leader, unfortunately, had to attend a meeting of the surprisingly busy ethics committee. I wish to reiterate the Christmas greetings to the Ceann Comhairle and the staff of the House for the patience and fortitude that have been extended to Members during this session. When the House returns in 2006, it will undoubtedly be a somewhat more frayed session, the voices will be higher and louder and tempers will become more frayed. However, that is the future and now is the time for expressing seasonal felicitations and wishing all Members a happy and peaceful season.
I extend those wishes to the staff such as the porters who facilitate the day-to-day running of the House. I look forward to returning to a different Dáil and perhaps a more exciting and useful Dáil in 2006.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I join other Deputies in wishing a Nollaig Shona to the Ceann Comhairle, the Taoiseach and members of the Government and the Government parties, the Opposition Deputies of all parties and none and the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas in all the various roles they perform. I acknowledge their courtesy and helpfulness at all times throughout the year, which is very much appreciated by all Members of the House.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: We are well used to it. Because this is a difficult day for so many people, I extend every blessing and comfort to those who today and over the period ahead suffer the loss of a loved one, such as so many families experienced yesterday on the roads of our country. I am sure for each and every one of us, knowing the centrality of family at Christmas time, I can only say that the great weight and great burden that so many will suffer over this Christmas period is hardly imaginable. We must be mindful of those at this time of the year.
Mr. McHugh: On behalf of the Independent Members of the Technical Group, I wish to be associated with the expressions of thanks to the various people and wish everybody the best for Christmas and the new year.
An Ceann Comhairle: On behalf of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pattison, and myself, I thank the leaders for their comments. On the question raised by Deputy Kenny, that was a little tête-à-tête between myself and himself because the Chair also was indiscreet in saying “Enda” rather than Deputy Kenny and it was the first time the Chair said that. It was a little aside between the two of us.
An Ceann Comhairle: I checked the term in the Oxford Dictionary of the Ulster dialect and I discovered it means a working community in County Donegal. I am not sure whether it applies to County Mayo.
On behalf of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and myself, I thank the Members for their co-operation. It has been a very busy year, both for the parliamentarians and the staff of the House. Apart from the business conducted in this Chamber, there have been over 525 committee meetings and by tomorrow evening, there will have been more than 43,000 parliamentary questions processed. This is a record for the House and is 5,000 more than in the past. I am glad to say that only 3.78% of questions have been disallowed, which is the smallest number in the past ten years.
An Ceann Comhairle: I join the leaders in thanking the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant, the Superintendent, the Captain of the Guard, the ushers, all those we see around the building and all those we do not see because some of them are here and gone before we arrive in the morning. I thank all the staff who help to ensure that we have a very good functioning democracy. I thank the press, the Garda, the Army and those who are involved. I wish a very happy Christmas to all Members and staff. Members will be back here in early January to discuss legislation at committee meetings. In the meantime over Christmas, my advice is that they should take a break and enjoy themselves. Thank you.
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