Order of Business.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 649 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is proposed to take No. 5, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2008 — Financial Resolution; and No. 11, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2008 — Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 5 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 28, motion re anti-social behaviour.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 5 agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Will the Taoiseach report on his contacts with the Ministers for Education and Science and Health and Children on the delay in opening the autism unit in Castleknock? I raised this matter with him last week and received a reply.

Has the Taoiseach confirmed the date for the referendum on the EU reform treaty? Will it be held at the end of May or in early June? I ask this because Fine Gael wants to lay out its programme of public meetings and get on with its schedule of supporting the treaty publicly and strongly. I would like to know the date of the referendum as soon as possible in order that we can make those arrangements.

The Electricity (Transfer of Transmission Assets) Bill, No. 38 on the list, concerns the transfer of ownership of the transmission assets from the ESB to EirGrid. Is the Bill still on the cards following the recent announcement by the Minister or is it dead?

[35]In respect of the Human Tissue Bill, No. 59 on the list, the Taoiseach has met parents of children whose organs were confiscated and retained by hospitals without authorisation. Under the Human Tissue Bill, no human tissue can be retained without authorisation. In the light of the ongoing concerns of parents of children whose organs were retained, is it the Government’s position that it wishes to discover the truth about this issue and will this be done by way of a public inquiry or other method in order that the people concerned can bring an end to what has been a very sensitive and personal saga for them for 20 years?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In respect of the referendum Bill, I will have a word with the Deputy about the date but we are talking about early June.

In respect of the Human Tissue Bill, a consultative forum was held last year which was followed by a national consultation on draft proposals for the legislation. The analysis of submissions received in response to the consultation process is nearing completion and discussions are ongoing with major stakeholders on issues identified from the submissions. It is expected that the proposals and the scope of the legislation should be known shortly.

In respect of the Electricity (Transfer of Transmission Assets) Bill, the Department is undertaking an analysis and discussion of all dimensions, including legal and financial issues, to ensure the optimum outcome on foot of the transfer process for both the ESB and EirGrid.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  What about the school in Castleknock?

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  When the Taoiseach replied to Deputy Kenny, I presume he intended to include the leader of the Labour Party in the loop as far as consultations on the date of the referendum were concerned.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Certainly.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I know the Taoiseach is very much aware of the appalling killing of two young Polish men last week. I have previously raised the issue of the level of violence and the level related to alcohol or its availability. A review of off-licences was promised by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. When is it likely to be completed? It appears that there is considerable growth in the number of off-licences. According to Deputy Upton, there were 15 applications for planning permission for off-licences in her constituency in recent times, 14 of which were granted. We can all repeat this story.

I understand the Seanad has completed its consideration of the Defamation Bill but that it has not yet been introduced in the Dáil. One of its provisions concerns an arrangement whereby a judge can give a direction to a jury in a defamation case as to the amount of compensation that might be awarded. When is the Bill likely to be brought before the Dáil?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Defamation Bill has reached Report Stage in the Seanad and will be brought here as soon as Report and Final Stages are completed in the Seanad. The review of off-licences will be finished by the end of this month. The Minister is hopeful that legislation will pass through the House before the summer.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  In the context of previous questions about the date on which the referendum on the EU reform treaty will be held and when the Bill will be published, when will a copy of the treaty be made available for the people to peruse? There is a crying need for that to happen. When will we receive the White Paper that was promised? Will we receive a copy of the Attorney General’s advice on the constitutional grounds for the referendum in order that the House which must approve the legislation will have an opportunity to see what precisely it is voting for?

[36]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The White Paper is due at the end of the month. It is not normal to present the Attorney General’s advice on a Bill but in respect of the discussions that took place, we will certainly try to give as much information as we can. I have already answered the question on the date of publication of the Bill. Of course, I will include Deputy Gilmore. I will check the matter with him.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  Why is there a delay?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In what?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We will allow Deputy Rabbitte to speak.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is just not finished.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I thank the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That is it. Simple.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  And the Taoiseach claims he is not distracted.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am not writing the White Paper.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  The Taoiseach did not state whether the Government would make copies of the treaty available.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The European Commission has prepared a copy but I do not believe it has been updated. The Institute of European Affairs has also prepared a copy. It is an excellent copy and it is the one we are using. It is a consolidated copy which was issued two months ago.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Why is the Government, which is charged with putting a Bill before the Dáil, asking the people of this country to vote approval of the Lisbon reform treaty without supplying them with a copy of it? It is a bit rich to expect the institute——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is not in order. These are your opinions on the referendum.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  ——to provide copies. I think it is in order. This is about legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It is not actually.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It is about the most important legislation the House could address, namely, an amendment to the Constitution.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Taoiseach on the documentation accompanying the legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The document to which Deputy Costello refers is very long but it is available on request.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is not the secret of Fatima.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Deputy could contact the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is a very long document but it is available if required.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  A better effort could be made for people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot have a commentary on this matter.

[37]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We will see how many people want the long document. However, I have seen a draft of the White Paper which is a very good document. It will be completed in approximately two weeks’ time and will be available to everybody.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  The Taoiseach has an obligation to provide it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have been through the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Amsterdam treaty in 1998 and the Nice treaty in 2001 and in 2002. Only a handful of the consolidated documents are ever read by anyone. However, the document is available for those who wish it.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  It must be made available for people to read it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is available.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It is headed for the best sellers’ list. We must move on, Deputy Costello, the Taoiseach has answered the question three times. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We are on the same side as the Taoiseach on this one. Maybe himself and Deputy Costello would arrange for public readings of the full text at St. Luke’s some evening or perhaps take it chapter by chapter.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the Immigration, Protection and Residency Bill in the context of the story on the front page of The Irish Times today about the manner of the discharge of functions of the tribunal. I wish to ask about the assertion by our former colleague, Michael O’Kennedy, that his record and that of others was misrepresented before the Supreme Court by the chairman of the tribunal. Does the Taoiseach know that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has very uniquely provided in that Bill that the current chairman shall continue ex officio under the new arrangements provided for in the Bill? Does the Taoiseach have any reservations about the current chairman continuing in that role, given what has been asserted this morning, if that version is correct?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Taoiseach on the Immigration, Protection and Residency Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I can only answer on the legislation which is on Committee Stage. The Deputy is asking another question.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is there any concern at all?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Rabbitte knows as well as I do that the other questions are not in order and that he will have to put down questions about them, whatever his views on the matter.

Deputy Seán Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  It is a very serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am sure it is and so are many other matters, but it is not in order now.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Not here anyway.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I have watched with admiration the sensible manner in which the Ceann Comhairle has allowed the members of the Opposition to discharge their function in the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Good.

[38]Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I thought, given the seriousness of the issue I am raising, that the Taoiseach would indicate whether there is any concern in Government about continuing this tribunal under the chairmanship of the current occupant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into the matter now. I call Deputy Broughan.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Is there any chance of getting the Dublin transport authority Bill before Easter or even before the Minister for Transport goes to Australia? It is good to see so many Green Party colleagues in the House for the Order of Business. The father of the Green movement has stated that carbon offsetting is a waste of time. Has the Taoiseach given any thought to abandoning the annual exodus of Ministers for St. Patrick’s day, including the Minister for Transport who is so badly needed here?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That has little to do with the legislation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister should take the bus. He should take one of the non-available buses in Dublin.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is hoped the Bill will be produced before Easter.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Statements on the constituency commission report were scheduled on the Order of Business for Thursday afternoon but have been replaced by a motion on the World Trade Organisation. Is it the case that the three reports on the cancer misdiagnosis in the midlands will be published tomorrow? If this is the case, and given the urgency of addressing the central focus of those reports which has been highlighted during Leaders’ Questions and by other Deputies——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is not in order.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is a question on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  It is not in order under the Order of Business.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  As Thursday’s Order of Business has already been changed, will the Taoiseach consider changing it again in order to address the detail and the outworking of the reports on the cancer misdiagnosis in the midlands and the already highlighted urgency of providing resources for colonoscopy and other diagnostic procedures within cancer care in this State? Will the Taoiseach and the Chief Whip with the Whips consider the redesignation of Thursday’s opportunity?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is completely out of order. I call Deputy Flanagan.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  No, a Cheann Comhairle, it is on the Order of Business. That is the Order of Business. It is the ordering of business——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——in this week’s programme.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am dealing with today, not this week.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The legislation being referred to today is not going to come before the House today.

[39]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  If I start dealing with this week, we will never get out of here by the looks of it. I would stay all night but I must work within order. Does the Deputy understand?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I understand. I thought the full-back role had been vacated when Deputy O’Hanlon exited the Chair. I am asking the Taoiseach about a very important matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I must move on.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Can the Taoiseach confirm if these reports will be published tomorrow or not? Does he have that information? Will he give consideration to having them addressed in the House this week?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The Deputy’s constituency colleague looked for the motion on the WTO.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot go into that now. Every Member could do that.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is part of the Order of Business already scheduled this week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I call Deputy Flanagan.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  If I do not have an audience I cannot say anything.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Flanagan is in order.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. Last October, in response to the latest gangland killing, the Taoiseach contemplated the introduction of legislation to allow for special non-jury courts for gangland crime. The following day, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated his intention to proceed to legislate for reform of electronic surveillance. Where stand both of those initiatives some five months later? They have not been heard of.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That issue was not for legislation but it was to be reviewed within the Department and the agencies. That report is awaited.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  What about the first one?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The first one was whether we would have non-jury courts.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  That was just a runner.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Will the Taoiseach make time available next week to discuss the cancer service reports if they are published this week as we have waited so long for them?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot deal with that now.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Under pending legislation on the fair deal, we were promised last week by the Tánaiste that this legislation would be published this session. Does this mean we will have it before the Easter break?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not believe that will be available before the Easter break.

[40]Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I support my constituency colleague, Deputy Mansergh, who, at the weekend, said we should sell the electronic voting machines. When will this happen and will the Taoiseach consider this request? Not alone did Deputy Mansergh call for their sale, but so did Senator Donie Cassidy. They involve a substantial cost for taxpayers, including an ongoing cost for their storage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  No, not even if Genghis Khan called for it. I call Deputy Tuffy.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Know your betters.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Will legislation be required? They are a huge cost to taxpayers.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Nobody will buy them.

Deputy Joanna Tuffy: Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  When can we expect a review of the foreshore legislation which has been promised for some time? I tabled some parliamentary questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recently. While she mentioned the legislation she did not give a date. Obviously important decisions will be made regarding the development of our foreshore for matters such as wind energy and it is important to have the legislation modernised to make it as transparent as possible.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill is the foreshore amendment Bill. I do not have a date.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  When will the broadcasting Bill be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is still listed for this session.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I know it is listed. What is the likelihood of it materialising? We have been waiting a long time.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  When will we get to see it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  That brings us up to 1 April. So it is still listed for that period.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Will the Government expedite the health information Bill, in view of the very disturbing information that the media managers of the Government and HSE are deciding what is good for us and what information we should get? We are only getting the kind of information that we are getting on health through freedom of information requests. It is in the legislative programme.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill is due, but I do not have a date for it. There is a detailed discussion paper on this and the Bill has been prepared in the Department and forwarded to the HSE and HIQA for their comments. That is awaited.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  We need it.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  When are we likely to see legislation on collusion on both the Barron report and now the more unlikely scenario of HSE managers in collusion with the Taoiseach’s office to suppress information?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We cannot allow that.

[41]Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The legislation is——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is no promised legislation in this area, as the Deputy well knows.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  ——more urgently needed now than ever.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not a runner.

  5 o’clock

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I was somewhat surprised at the Taoiseach’s response to Deputy Tuffy’s question about the amendment to the foreshore legislation. Just prior to the general election, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government sent a letter, a copy of which I have, to the effect that if his party were in Government no further permits would be given for offshore wind farms pending the amendment of the foreshore legislation. I ask the Taoiseach whether it remains the position that no further permits will be given for offshore wind farms until the foreshore legislation is
amended.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The foreshore amendment Bill, which is under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is in preparation. I think some designation of functions issues have to be resolved in that area, but the legislation is due.


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