Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a10, motion re by-election for Dublin Central; No. b10, Motion re by-election for Dublin South; No. 2, Finance Bill — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 21, Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 70, motion re banking system (resumed), to be taken for 90 minutes at 7 p.m., or on the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later, and that Nos. a10 and b10 shall be decided without debate. It is proposed that the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 2 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal that the Dáil should sit later than 8.30 p.m. agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal that the motions re by-elections for Dublin Central and Dublin South be taken today without debate agreed to?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I welcome the fact that the Government is moving the writ for the by-elections in Dublin Central and Dublin South and I note that it is proposed to be taken without debate. We have had two debates on the writ already, one in respect of a Labour Party motion some time after Christmas, in which we sought to move the writ and, more recently, a Fine Gael motion some two or three weeks ago which sought to move the writ. The Taoiseach indicated very strongly yesterday that he does not like talk in the House about elections, a new disposition for the Taoiseach. The year in office has had a terrible effect on him. He used to love elections and debating elections and it is dreadful to see this happening to him. However, in deference to his desire not to discuss elections I agree to have the two motions taken without debate.
Deputy Enda Kenny: When does the Minister expect to make the order nominating polling day? The reason I ask is to do with candidates and election posters. Some of these people have been fined already. We wish to comply with the rules, but we cannot do anything until the Minister makes an order naming the date. When does he expect to do so?
Deputy Joan Burton: We are in a situation where the Finance Bill will get the most cursory review. Essentially, there is no opportunity to have a proper, full Second Stage debate, not simply on the content of the Finance Bill but the commitments made by the Minister at budget time, for example, to either tax or means test child benefit. There is no opportunity to have a debate in the House about such a significant change in Government policy and whether it can technically be implemented. Women in Ireland deserve an opportunity to hear what the Government has in prospect for them. The one benefit women rearing children get from the State is child benefit but the Government is preparing to launch an all-out assault. There is no opportunity for women Members to contribute to the debate. We oppose the guillotine.
There is also the situation in respect to the tax changes proposed by the Obama Administration in the United States. There will be no opportunity whatever to debate the implication of these and what the Government proposes in respect of them. The Minister for Finance acknowledged yesterday that the average, effective tax take for a family on an income of €80,000 is 36%. The marginal rate will be from 51% to 53%.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Sinn Féin Deputies are not prepared to agree to the Order of Business. The proposal to guillotine Second Stage of the Finance Bill at 7 p.m. will ensure there will be very limited participation and that the vast number of Deputies will not have a chance to contribute to Second Stage of the legislation. This is very important legislation, an outworking of the supplementary budget of 7 April. It has significant consequences for low and middle income families placing an extra steep and stiff burden on their already hard-pressed condition.
However, with all that is entailed in the Bill, there is no provision whatsoever for the National Asset Management Agency. As legislators, we are expected to allow the Government to proceed with the proposition without any legislative basis whatsoever. A burden is being placed on the citizenry of the State that will have potentially serious consequences for all citizens for many years to come. This is, yet again, another lost opportunity for any real proposals in the area of job retention and creation. The Government has completely failed to address this essential and integral part of any effort to deal with the current difficulties in the economy and to rejuvenate economic activity throughout the State.
The Taoiseach: The resumed Second Stage of the Finance Bill is being taken until 7 p.m. There will be ample opportunity on Committee Stage, as there always has been in respect of Finance Bills, to go through all aspects of policy in respect of the financial situation in the country. That was my experience when I held that position and it is one fully taken up by members of that committee. The Bill can then return to the House for Report Stage. The provisions in the Finance Bill are as outlined in the budget. Any other legislation required in respect of other announcements made in the budget will be forthcoming in due course. The question of how we extend the taxation base in the country will be taken by Government in future budgets, taking into account whatever ideas or recommendations may emerge from the Commission on Taxation.
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Andrews, Chris.|
|Ardagh, Seán.||Aylward, Bobby.|
|Blaney, Niall.||Brady, Áine.|
|Brady, Cyprian.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Browne, John.||Byrne, Thomas.|
|Calleary, Dara.||Carey, Pat.|
|Collins, Niall.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cowen, Brian.||Cregan, John.|
|Cuffe, Ciarán.||Curran, John.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Fitzpatrick, Michael.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||Kennedy, Michael.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Michael P..|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Moloney, John.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M. J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Brien, Darragh.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||O’Hanlon, Rory.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Rourke, Mary.|
|O’Sullivan, Christy.||Power, Seán.|
|Roche, Dick.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Allen, Bernard.||Bannon, James.|
|Barrett, Seán.||Behan, Joe.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Connaughton, Paul.|
|Coonan, Noel J.||Costello, Joe.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Creed, Michael.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Flanagan, Charles.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Higgins, Michael D.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McEntee, Shane.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McHugh, Joe.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Rabbitte, Pat.|
|Reilly, James.||Ring, Michael.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheehan, P. J.|
|Sherlock, Seán.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Upton, Mary.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: Has the Taoiseach turned his mind to the timing of the Lisbon treaty referendum? Does he have an idea whether it will be at the end of September, in October or possibly later? Will the Bill giving effect to the referendum include a clause requiring parties or organisations that intend to campaign in that referendum to produce evidence of where their funding comes from?
The Taoiseach: I answered this question yesterday. Until such time as the June Council meeting is finished and we see what is being provided by colleagues at the European Council in respect of the reassurances we sought and it was agreed at the December Council we should get, the question of calling a date for a referendum is premature. The position of the Government is that on the basis of obtaining and giving legal effect to many of these commitments, we would then be in a position to consider favourably the question of a further referendum. It is an issue we should defer until after the June Council meeting.
Deputy Joe Costello: On the same issue, we seem to discover more information from the media than we do in this House in regard to the Government’s intentions. Certainly, there is more information in today’s The Irish Times, namely, that the Government is apparently negotiating a protocol that would be introduced with some future accession treaty for Croatia, which is more than the Taoiseach has said in the House. We have no idea of what the content of the guarantees might be and there is no opportunity to debate the matter in the House. When will that happen?
What is indicated in the media today is that the Taoiseach would present something of a fait accompli at the summit on 15 June. When will we have an opportunity to know what is in the mind of the Taoiseach in regard to the content and method of implementation? This House and the Opposition parties deserve to know. Nothing at all has taken place since the middle of December last in regard to informing, discussing or consulting with the other Members of this House as to the intentions of the Taoiseach and what direction he is taking. If he negotiates a deal with the other countries without discussing it in this House, what will happen? We do not want a repeat of the situation which happened the last time.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Interestingly, we can be of agreement in regard to the fact we have not been made privy to the full detail of what the Taoiseach is actively pursuing, if “actively” is the appropriate word. I have asked time and again in the House in regard to how it is intended to present legally binding guarantees, how it is proposed to have such in place, what methodology will apply and how will that come to pass, and what specific areas are being addressed by the Taoiseach and his representatives who are engaging with the other European member states. These matters must be addressed in this House and, irrespective of one’s position on the Lisbon treaty and the first referendum, we all have a shared entitlement to that full exposure and to a proper debate on these matters in this Chamber.
The Taoiseach: In the normal way, statements were made after every European Council meeting as to what took place. We had that debate in the House and the position was clear. I outlined to the House that political undertakings had been given to the Government and we believed that if they were transposed in the way we sought and agreed by the June Council, we would be prepared to call a referendum. I also indicated we have to work with the Presidency in that matter and there have been a number of developments in regard to the current Presidency. We took the opportunity in Prague last week to again discuss that issue with the outgoing Prime Minister and the newly appointed Prime Minister, Mr. Fischer. We are working with the legal services division, the Commission and the Presidency and we must get agreement from other member states as to the exact wording they will agree to, based on the undertakings we have received. When we know there is a consensus emerging on that, we can then conduct a discussion at home prior to the Council meeting taking place.
Deputy Joe Costello: There is only a month until the summit. The Taoiseach has indicated he intends to have everything tied up at the summit so whatever guarantees are agreed will be approved at the summit by the 27 leaders, and that is the end of it. Will we have a debate in this House prior to the Taoiseach going to that summit in the middle of June, making the arrangements with the other countries and agreeing the way forward? We could find ourselves in a situation where issues are agreed that this House has not discussed and we would have no opportunity to make our views heard. For example, we have not heard one word about the workers’ rights issue and we do not know whether the Taoiseach will proceed with a protocol. These are legal guarantees. None of the issues raised in media reports has been the subject of discussion in this House because we have had no opportunity to do so. What has been going on behind the scenes may have been going on since the middle of December but we do not know anything about it. When will we know about it?
The Taoiseach: We obtained commitments last December from member states as to the nature of the reassurances they were in a position to give, short of re-ratifying the treaty themselves. That is the situation. We are now dealing with the wording and drafting to give expression to that so a decision can be made at the June Council in regard to these matters.
As the Deputy knows, in the aftermath of the December Council discussion we outlined our position in regard to each and every one of those matters, including the issue on workers’ rights. We have set that out on the record of the House. The technical work that must be done is ongoing. We must make sure that all other member states agree to the texts so we can give effect to the undertakings we received in December. That work is ongoing, primarily through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs. As soon as the finalisation of that process comes about, which we would hope will happen in the coming weeks, we can explain what it is that member states are prepared to agree to, based on the undertakings we have received.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: It was stated in the briefing notes circulated with the Government’s second budget for 2009 that the NAMA must be established and start its work quickly to have the most impact and help the economy start to recover as soon as possible. That was over five weeks ago, but it has not been established yet. No legislation has been published for it and the Government has now rejected the sensible proposal being put forward by the Labour Party for an alternative way of dealing with the banking crisis. When will the legislation to establish an bord bailout be brought before the House?
The Taoiseach: The term “an bord bailout” is being used, but what we are trying to do is to assist those who depend on banks and get some stability into system. The matter is being dealt with as a priority in the Department of Finance. Interim arrangements regarding preparation of the work that will be conducted by the NAMA are being undertaken by the Minister. There is also a debate underway in the House where these matters are being discussed.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Given the recent announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, that directly elected lord mayors would be put in place, has this proposal been agreed by the Government? Will it require legislation and if so, when can we expect to see it? I believe a sum of €250,000 per year has been agreed for this post, or that this sum has been suggested by the Minister. Will the Taoiseach explain how this sum was arrived at?
The Taoiseach: The programme for Government made a commitment providing for a directly elected mayor of Dublin by 2011. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has confirmed that the Government has agreed to proceed with that initiative and to prepare legislation to ensure it can happen on time next year.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: On promised legislation, I was in a housing estate last night that does not include any flats or apartments, yet the management charge for the estate is €1,200 per household. Householders have just received a further bill for a sinking fund for €500, which they are legally obliged to pay. The only service provided is that the grass is cut, but not very well. I ask the Taoiseach to consider the urgency of stopping this rip-off of young families in housing estates, particularly when there are no apartments on the estate and no need for a management company. Will he bring forward the legislation on management companies as soon as possible? Will he give us a date for the legislation rather than say “as soon as possible” or “this session”, as we have been hearing such responses for a long time?
It is four years since we started calling for this legislation in the House. I am aware the Taoiseach has said the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is the person responsible and am aware that Department has a busy legislative programme, or used to have. However, will he indicate when we will see some direction in this area so that we can provide precise advice to these people?
Deputy Phil Hogan: The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has indicated that he wants to introduce major planning legislation. Has the Government considered that matter and when is it likely to be brought before the House?
The recent budget provided for a charge on second homes. When will the charge on a non-principal private residence be given legislative effect? The upward-only rent structure is beginning to have a major impact on employment. Will changes in legislation be brought forward with regard to upward-only rent, as indicated by some Ministers?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Will the Government schedule a debate on the censored report of the Monageer inquiry and will the Taoiseach and the Chief Whip accommodate that at the earliest opportunity, tomorrow or in the coming week? While I took heed of the Taoiseach’s responses to the Leaders’ questions put to him this morning, I note the HSE indicated this morning it had not received a copy of the uncensored report, even though the Taoiseach had indicated it would be available to the CEO of the HSE. There was, also, a lack of clarity with regard to that exchange earlier. Apparently, the report has not been received. Will the Taoiseach comment on that?
Deputy Paul Kehoe: We are all aware of the importance of this report and must move forward and ensure the recommendations made in it are implemented. The report must be discussed in the Dáil as soon as possible. Would the Taoiseach be in favour of making time available through the Office of the Whip to have the report debated or to have statements in the House so we can ensure its recommendations are implemented? This is a significant issue and we do not want to see what happened in Monageer happen anywhere else. We must take steps to have this debate as soon as possible.
Deputy Dan Neville: I support the request that this issue be debated as soon as possible, perhaps tomorrow. Clear suicide ideation and intention were expressed by the father of that family and picked up by the funeral undertaker, but the psychiatric services were not engaged. They should have been engaged immediately, with regard to the psychiatric condition of the father in particular. That was not done. We should have a full debate on all issues, including the failure to involve the psychiatric services which could have saved that family.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: On the same issue, I support what has been said about the need for a debate. I also support what my party leader, Deputy Gilmore, said that a mechanism should be found to publish the full report, perhaps through the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the Government will review again the failure to publish all of the recommendations of the report? Whatever about the rest of the material in the report, it is inexplicable that the recommendations have not been published in full. Will the Taoiseach respond on that and will the Government review the failure to publish the full recommendations so that we can learn from this event?
Deputy Michael D’Arcy: I support the call of my colleagues for a debate on the Monageer report. It is remarkable that some of the recommendations were deleted from public view. I ask the Taoiseach to ensure that some mechanism is found whereby we can know all of the recommendations made by those who formulated the report. The recommendations were independent and objective and for them to be deleted is most regrettable.
The Taoiseach: To make the point again, the recommendations that were redacted were done so on the basis that the manner in which the report was brought forward meant there were legal issues arising with regard to those aspects, as there were with regard to the narrative itself. It is not a question of censoring the report, but a question of having to act on legal advice in terms of what information can be made available consistent with the protection of everyone’s rights in these matters, including the families concerned. These are the reasons behind the decision and there is no other reason. I wish to make that very clear.
Now the report has been published, the question of a debate in the House is a matter for discussion by the Whips. That issue can be taken up in the normal way in terms of how published reports might be debated in the House, if that is deemed appropriate. On the question of the HSE and the chief executive officer, there is a statutory duty of care that puts him in a privileged position. The Attorney General confirmed that to us recently and the report will be made available to him on that basis.
Deputy Charles Flanagan: Two issues arise in connection with promised legislation. In an unprecedented display 5,000 people wearing red jerseys walked on the streets of Limerick last Sunday in a plea to the Government to deal with gangland crime and criminal activity. In response, after the march, the Minister for Defence, on behalf of the Government, promised new legislation which the Cabinet was to approve yesterday. Has it approved such legislation? When will it be published and enacted? Is the Taoiseach prepared to give the details of the legislation the Minister described?
A new crime of blasphemy has been reached on Committee Stage but to date has not been defined in law. The House did not debate the matter on Second Stage because it was a new measure in the form of an amendment that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform suddenly introduced. Does it represent Government policy? The Taoiseach might note the comments of the Green Party Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources who appeared somewhat surprised by and less than supportive of the measure. Will the Taoiseach detail why the legislation is being brought forward now and confirm that it has the full support of the Government?
The Taoiseach: The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform brings forward such legislative matters on behalf of the Government. In respect of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, while the Garda Síochána has been successful in arresting and achieving the conviction of gang members, this has not stopped people involved with gangs committing further acts of violence and engaging in intimidation. Recent killings of citizens and relatives of persons who have given evidence against gang members are attempts to intimidate witnesses and undermine the criminal justice system. This demands a response from the State. Several measures have been introduced to address organised crime, including the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill 2009. I confirm that at its meeting this week the Government discussed a series of legislative proposals from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, including measures to deal specifically with gang-related crime. Details of these proposals will be announced in due course.
Deputy Pat Breen: It relates to proposed legislation. Aer Lingus is to axe five services in Belfast and Dublin. The news on the ground is that the aviation sector is in crisis with further cuts to be made, probably by Ryanair and Aer Lingus. When will the Aviation (Pre-Clearance) Bill which is imperative to provide full customs and border facilities at Shannon Airport be brought before the House?
Deputy James Bannon: The number of Bills listed for this session which were included in the list for the autumn session and the session before that is a disgrace. It seems pointless to ask again but when can we expect the Education (Patronage) Bill to be published?
Deputy Seán Barrett: The Taoiseach’s predecessor, Deputy Bertie Ahern, gave a commitment to televising the proceedings of the House and its committees. Those of us who have been cavassing on the doorstep for the past couple of weeks realise that not alone is there an information deficit about the Lisbon treaty but also in respect of what happens here and at committee meetings. This stretches to people writing articles in newspapers who have no knowledge of what committees do. Will we proceed with televising the good work committees do? Many hours are spent there, yet nobody knows what exactly is going on. For example, last week the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service spent two and a half hours discussing with two professors the National Asset Management Agency. It was a very informative meeting in which there was good participation by committee members. We might as well have been sitting in private. When will we start to televise meetings as most other parliaments do? It would not cost a great deal of money. The cameras are here. There are 54 television stations available today. We might as well have 55 and at least give people the option of tuning in and arriving at a correct appraisal of what happens in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Will the Taoiseach please honour this commitment as quickly as possible?
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I do not wish to go over the Monageer issue again, other than to say, in concert with other Members, that it is utterly preposterous that a report of that nature should be presented with blank pages at a time when there is deep concern all over the country about system failures. It is not sufficient to sweep it under the carpet and presume everything will proceed accordingly. Some things are more important than litigation.
Have the heads of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill to give legislative effect to certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime which is due to be published in 2009 been discussed or agreed? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is making some timid efforts to raise his voice in respect of the rising level of crime but he is not proceeding with the legislative programme, nor is he raising his voice sufficiently because those involved in organised crime know that they are unassailable and can continue. Will the Taoiseach tell the House whether the Cabinet has discussed the heads of the Bill and, if not, why not?
The Taoiseach: The publication of the Bill will follow. The House is united in doing all it can within the terms of the Constitution to ensure we deal with those who would attack the democratic institutions of the State by the intimidation of witnesses and jurors and that we bring forward proposals to assist in every way we can the Garda Síochána which is achieving a fair measure of success and whose members have all our support.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When will the Merchant Shipping Bill be brought before the House? Will we have an opportunity to discuss the Goodbody report on taxis before the end of the session or even 5 June? Is it possible that the Taoiseach will begin to take a hands on approach to finding a replacement industry for SR Technics?
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: We are now told — the Tánaiste can probably confirm this — that two of the bids for SR Technics have been taken off the table. We are facing a dismal job situation in north Dublin.
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