Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the proceedings on No. 19 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply. The statements shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes, shall be confined to the Taoiseach and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who will be called upon in that order and who may share time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case. Immediately following the statements a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes. It is proposed that (2) the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) shall take place at 1.30 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 19, whichever is later, until 2.30 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal relating to No. 19 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal relating to the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 23(1) agreed? Agreed.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I understand that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Cowen, has been nominated and selected as leader of the Fianna Fáil Party and, I assume, Uachtarán Fhianna Fáil. I congratulate him on the unique honour that has been bestowed on him by his parliamentary colleagues and wish him the best of luck. We will have many opportunities to debate and discuss matters in this House and outside.
I was going to ask the Taoiseach when the Explosives Bill is likely to be produced, but that may not be appropriate today. Does the Taoiseach expect the Dublin Transport Authority Bill to be published shortly and to come before the House before this session ends in June?
Deputy Joan Burton: This must be an emotional day for the Taoiseach and listening to the tributes to the late former Member, Mr. Gene Fitzgerald, puts us all in a reflective mood. I wish the Taoiseach well when he stands down and wish his successor, Deputy Brian Cowen, all the best as leader designate of Fianna Fáil.
While the Taoiseach still holds his office and represents the north side of Dublin, I wish to ask him about transport matters, specifically the Dublin Transport Authority Bill. Dublin buses are barred from using the port tunnel, which means people from the Swords area can spend up to half an hour extra trying to get to work in the city centre.
Deputy Joan Burton: The tunnel is open to private buses but the taxpayer paid for it. It is not open to the public bus service that is the major service provider for taxpayers. Will the Taoiseach address this matter with the Minister for Transport? I do not think solving this issue requires the enactment of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill. There has been much dawdling because various pieces of bureaucracy must be overcome. Will the Taoiseach address this matter before he leaves office?
Deputy Joan Burton: The Taoiseach promised legislation relating to the Civil Unions Bill, which was due before the end of March. It is almost the middle of April and there is no sign of the Bill. What is the Government’s position on the Civil Unions Bill?
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: I wish the Taoiseach well. I refer to the criminal justice miscellaneous provisions Bill, which was brought up in the context of the criminal justice (forensic sampling and evidence) Bill. The Taoiseach mentioned yesterday that that Bill would be dealt with during this session but I wish to know when. The funeral of Mr. Mark Moloney is now taking place in Limerick and in light of this I want specific provisions dealing with gangland crime to be introduced under this Bill.
Gardaí in Limerick are doing excellent work but they feel their hands are tied. I ask the Taoiseach to introduce legislation that will allow gardaí to get exclusion orders from the courts when they feel individuals are involved in criminal activities and should be barred from specific areas of the city.
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: When exactly will this come before the House? “This session” could mean 3 July. This matter is too serious for such a vague answer and I ask the Taoiseach for a specific date.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Yesterday Deputy O’Donnell sought the adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 32 on a matter relating to the serious crime situation and the total breakdown of law and order, but the Ceann Comhairle did not consider it to be in order.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: The Government’s response so far has amounted to interviews from the constituency given by the Minister for Defence, Deputy O’Dea, that are closer to reports from a war zone than a response to the issues involved.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Between pink sheets and white sheets, there is a total of 42 justice Bills. More legislation is promised by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform than by any other Department. Despite this, an independent committee appointed by the Government and the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. McDowell, reported this morning for the first time that Garda resources are insufficient to deal with the problem.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, as well as the Taoiseach, to facilitate a debate in the House where the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can present his appropriate plan of action, if any, to deal with this matter. I have submitted a private notice question to you for later in the afternoon. I beg your indulgence to allow these issues to be discussed.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: On a similar subject, it transpires, having watched “Nightly News with Vincent Browne” last night that in some quarters it is believed that crime levels have dropped in this country.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: The pharmacy No. 2 Bill has been around for some considerable time. The Minister for Health and Children is not in the House nor was she here yesterday and I do not know about next week. When will it be considered expedient to bring in that Bill in view of the ongoing concerns of the pharmacists and the damage being done to the whole structure of the provision of medicines for the general public?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: That is promised legislation. Given that we have achieved international fame in terms of crime, legislation is promised under the white list to give legislative effect to certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on transnational organised crime. This is very appropriate in the Irish context when Irish gangland warlords are living abroad in the lap of luxury clearly with impunity. Will the Taoiseach indicate when that particular Bill is likely to come before the House as a response to the issue I have raised?
The Taoiseach: The pharmacy No. 2 Bill is being drafted. I do not have a date for its publication. It is dependent on the implementation of the new Act on the development of the framework for the proposed Bill as the pharmacy group recommendations relate to the pharmacy service, the contractual matters and the development of that framework. The Bill will depend on how these issues evolve at HSE level.
On the criminal justice United Nations Bill, the examination of the legislative requirements which are not being dealt with in other Bills is ongoing with a view to including heads in an appropriate Bill. I think that Bill is some time away.
Deputy Joe McHugh: In regard to No. 31, the merchant shipping miscellaneous provisions Bill, I ask the Taoiseach to use his intervention skills with his colleague the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, to introduce a training element to the Bill——
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: A number of other people here and in the media have referred to the need for new justice legislation particularly in regard to the situation in Limerick. A number of pieces of legislation which have been enacted but have not been commenced into law could make a real difference. The former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. McDowell, was always bringing in legislation that was going to solve these problems.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Yes. A juvenile justice Act, known as the Children Act, has been passed by the Oireachtas but has not been fully commenced into law. Particular elements of that Act would make parents responsible and bring them into court in regard to young people’s activities. There is a real problem in Limerick with youngsters.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: ——of a piece of legislation, is already law, will be commenced into law so that young offenders can be dealt with and do not become hardened criminals which they inevitably will if this does not happen.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: I have a question on legislation and one on the programme for Government. I raised the designated land housing development Bill on the Order of Business some months ago and the Taoiseach assured me that legislation would include a provision to ensure that school sites are handed over in a more efficient and cost effective way by developers to local government. I now read in the most recent updated version of the legislative programme that this Bill is designed to provide for a use it or lose it scheme, which could be deployed by planning authorities on a selective basis to accelerate the development of appropriate land zoned for housing and to address the issue of land options. It appears to be a Bill designed to speed up housing development and there is no mention whatsoever of the provision of school sites as previously promised by the Taoiseach. Perhaps he will explain that or clarify his previous comments.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: It can be put on the agenda of the House for the man sitting behind the Taoiseach, Deputy Tom Kitt. The Whip can perhaps organise it. That is the first point. A desperate problem has arisen in the region, which will no longer have a Taoiseach, in regard to building regulations and self-regulation. Has the Taoiseach any plans to ask the incoming Taoiseach to introduce legislation to bring to an end self-regulation? I appreciate the Taoiseach has answered a couple of questions on the transportation authority Bill. Is it possible that the current Minister, Deputy Dempsey, who is effectively stuck in a traffic jam in the Department of Transport for the past nine months and may be moving shortly——
Deputy Emmet Stagg: I raised the issue of management companies and their abuse of householders and the fact that there is no regulation for them previously. There are five pieces of legislation listed on the pink sheet for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. One Bill, No. 15, seeks to provide for the establishment of a property services regulatory authority to give effect to the report of the auctioneering review group. I am very interested in that but, as far as I can see, it will have no effect whatever on management companies, certainly not with that title. We were told last week that there would be legislation this term from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this matter. We were promised two other pieces of legislation, one from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the other from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. There is no sign of those two. All that seems to be on the horizon is a Bill to regulate auctioneers. We were promised this as a matter of urgency in the last term and were told those Bills would be coming forward but there is no sign of them. I ask the Taoiseach to find out from the Ministers what are their intentions and why they are not bringing forward the legislation.
The Taoiseach: I mentioned this yesterday. A high-level interdepartmental committee, comprising all relevant Departments, is working on this. It covers at least three policy areas. The committee hopes to identify the legislative measures required with respect to the multi-unit development report of the Law Reform Commission. The area covers justice, environment and company law so it will take three measures to address it. The committee hopes to conclude its work shortly. It is a Cabinet committee with the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Attorney General. I understand three legislative measures will be required.
Deputy Tom Sheahan: There is legislation promised on the name change from An Daingean to Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis. Two Ministers are throwing it from one to the other and, with all due respect to the Ministers, they would embarrass Hugo McNeill with their kicking for touch.
Deputy Billy Timmins: The Taoiseach alluded to the Cluster Munitions Bill. His colleague and namesake, the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, stated that he did not want to divide the House on the issue. I agree with him but it is within his power to decide not to divide the House.
Deputy Billy Timmins: I ask the Taoiseach to reconsider accepting our Bill before 8.30 p.m. The Government has received the kudos for banning investment of the pension fund into cluster munitions although it is not part of the motion.
Deputy Deirdre Clune: Deputy Broughan asked the Taoiseach about the Cassells report into the debt related to developments at Cork Airport. The Chief Whip indicated that there may be something happening in that area. Can we have an opportunity to discuss that?
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