Thursday, 14 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European asylum support office; No. 22, Industrial Development Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 21, Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed); No. 3, Fines Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 16 shall be decided without debate and that the proceedings on Report and Final Stages of No. 22 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in respect of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
An Ceann Comhairle: There are two proposals to be put to the House today. Is No.16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European asylum support office, agreed?
Deputy Richard Bruton: We are not happy with these two motions, namely, No. 16 which is being sought without debate and the subsequent guillotine. The House needs to set aside time to debate the imminent disappearance of hopes of recovery of the jobs in SR Technics. As the Tánaiste will know, the company has signalled the sale of key assets in this company which will pull the leg out from under the various proposals that have been developed by the IDA. Many feel that the Government sleepwalked into this crisis.
Deputy Richard Bruton: ——significant State money will go to fund the redundancy package of €15 million. The trade unions have signalled they believe the Government did not make sufficient effort to recover the jobs. Many feel that SRT has not co-operated to the extent necessary and that it has motives other than the recovery of employment. This is vital. It concerns 1,100 jobs on the north side at a time when we simply cannot afford the haemorrhaging of jobs.
Deputy Joan Burton: Before anything is agreed on the Order of Business, I would like to have a commitment from the Tánaiste that in the House today she will discuss what is another jobs disaster for the Dublin region. It concerns not only the north side of Dublin but also the counties of Meath, Louth and Kildare and surrounding areas where many of the 1,200 people employed by SR Technics live. This Government seems to be helpless in the face of a strategy by the company——
Deputy Joan Burton: ——-to take assets out of Ireland, asset strip the Irish company and only leave the base of the skilled workers — 1,200 men — with nothing to do. It is a tragedy for the families involved and the economy in a week when the Dublin Airport Authority has announced a further 400 redundancies. Will the Tánaiste come into the Dáil today before we agree to anything on the Order of Business——
Deputy Joan Burton: ——to see whether we can work out a strategy for the 1,000 workers at SR Technics who will be unemployed. From now on it will cost the State at least €20 million a year in addition to the €15 million it will pay out in redundancy payments. It is a no-brainer that the Tánaiste should put a package together to try to salvage something for the economy of the greater Dublin region.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I echo what the two Deputies have said. I, too, reject the Order of Business, unless a commitment is given by the Tánaiste that we will have a debate on how the Government has allowed a viable, strategic and world-class Irish industry to be destroyed by multinational vultures. I also urge that we have a debate in order that we can show the absolute failure of the Tánaiste, a waster of time and a waster of jobs——
The Tánaiste: As the Ceann Comhairle knows, there have been two requests to his office and it is for him to decide on time availability for Adjournment debates and private notice questions. I note Deputy Ó Snodaigh has not changed since the time the two of us were in college.
The issue of SR Technics has been raised on a considerable number of occasions by members of the Opposition whom I have met privately, as well asby my colleagues on this side of the House. I agree it is serious. At the time I met the unions to discuss the matter. I have also met all the agencies involved. I set up a special project team between Enterprise Ireland and the IDA and employed a specialist in aviation to support the decision making to be made on the basis of a number of bids being made by Irish people who wished to invest. As the House knows, there have been extensive contacts made by me, my officials and agencies with SR Technics over a considerable period of time and I am extremely disappointed with the decision made last night. However, the company indicated that the bids received from the Dublin operations which were supported by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland were well below its assessment of the current market value of the assets. I understand it is still open to bids for the remaining parts of the business, including base maintenance, line maintenance, the garage and remaining tooling and equipment. It has indicated that it will accept bids in respect of base maintenance until Friday, 22 May and Wednesday, 27 May in respect of line maintenance and the garage.
I reiterate that I will continue to work with Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and the DAA, as well as the remaining bidders and other interested parties, to maximise the available employment opportunities, in addition to the remaining 250 plus jobs in maintenance and design. We shall continue to endeavour to work to the best of our ability. The Government, through its agencies, has fulfilled its role and will continue to do so between now and the end of May.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Andrews, Chris.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Byrne, Thomas.|
|Calleary, Dara.||Carey, Pat.|
|Collins, Niall.||Conlon, Margaret.|
|Connick, Seán.||Coughlan, Mary.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Curran, John.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gallagher, Pat The Cope.|
|Gogarty, Paul.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kennedy, Michael.|
|Kirk, Seamus.||Kitt, Michael P.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|McEllistrim, Thomas.||McGrath, Mattie.|
|McGrath, Michael.||Mansergh, Martin.|
|Moloney, John.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M. J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Keeffe, Edward.||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.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Behan, Joe.||Breen, Pat.|
|Broughan, Thomas P.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Carey, Joe.|
|Clune, Deirdre.||Coonan, Noel J.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Durkan, Bernard J.||English, Damien.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Higgins, Michael D.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||Morgan, Arthur.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Reilly, James.|
|Ring, Michael.||Sheehan, P.J.|
|Sherlock, Seán.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Upton, Mary.|
Deputy Emmet Stagg: It is not agreed to. I do not propose to seek a division on this matter but I cannot understand why the Government has proposed to guillotine debate on a Bill which has only one amendment. There is no emergency and the debate could be finished long before the guillotine time. The Bill could be dealt with effectively in half an hour. The use of a guillotine is outrageous. I ask the Government not to abuse the privilege of using a guillotine, which is intended for emergencies, on standard legislation where there is no emergency whatsoever. Only one amendment has been tabled. Half an hour would be sufficient to debate it.
The Tánaiste: Before you proceed with the Order of Business, a Cheann Comhairle, I beg your indulgence for a moment while so many Members are in the House. Today, our usher team-leader, Mr. Mick Phelan, is performing his last official duty in the House, after many years of dedicated duty. As so many Deputies are present, it is appropriate that we wish him well.
We wish him well and thank him for his wonderful service. I have been advised that he served under many Governments as far back as the time of Liam Cosgrave. We have all known him as an absolute gentleman and he has always carried out his duties with the utmost decorum. He is a great enthusiast of the GAA and the Lily Whites. I do not know if they will be killed on Sunday but we wish them well. We also wish well his wife, Patricia, and wish them a long and happy retirement. I am sure he will not be a stranger to the House.
Deputy Richard Bruton: On behalf of Fine Gael I join in the note of congratulation. I cannot remember many people getting a standing ovation from all sides of the House and even from the bull pen. One has to be something special to get that. Mick’s is a testimony to the triumph of hope over expectation. He continues to loyally support the Lily Whites despite their continual disappointments which shows his great loyalty. We have also enjoyed the fruits of his loyalty, kindliness and his ethic of hard work. We really appreciate it and hope that Mick and his family enjoy many long years in retirement. The future is bright for the Lily Whites.
Deputy Joan Burton: On behalf of all the Labour Deputies I join in the tributes to Mick Phelan. He is one of the people who always brightens up Dáil Éireann, particularly when one comes in on a wet day, such as today, and he encourages one to keep on going, just as he encourages Kildare to keep going. He has given long service stretching back to the time of Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach. He served before that in the Army and the Military Police and has a military bearing on all occasions. It has been a particular delight to have worked with Mick and to have been the recipient of his courtesy and encouragement on so many occasions. When one comes here as a new Deputy it can be very confusing; it is somewhat like the first day at school having to learn the ropes. I hope that Mick and his wife Patricia enjoy a happy retirement. I know that he brought the luck to the ushers in their recent lotto win.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I join with the others in the House in congratulating Mick on, at long last, escaping from here. Long may he have an enjoyable retirement with Patricia. When I first met him he was one of the most courteous people here. I am not saying the others were not courteous but he has been very helpful in all of my dealings with him and in his dealings with the rest of the party. One of these years the Lily Whites might get somewhere and I wish him luck in that pursuit. I realise he is a great fan of the GAA throughout the country, not only the Lily Whites. I hope he will enjoy many more matches in future. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat agus gach rath ortsa agus ar do chlann.
Deputy Mary Alexandra White: On behalf of the Green Party, An Comhaontas Glas, I add my best wishes to Mick on his retirement. On my first day here in the Dáil I could not get over the courtesy and efficiency of all the ushers but Mick was one of the first people I met and I believed it was auspicious to meet him on my first day. I recognise he has a great fondness for his home constituency in Kildare and his love for the GAA. He served admirably in the Congo and at one time stated, referring to the dangers there, if people knew what it was like they would not have half the fear in Leinster House. I wish him, his family and his wife Patricia every happiness and continued good health in a long and happy retirement.
An Ceann Comhairle: Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Mick as ucht an mhéid atá déanta aige i rith na mblianta ar son mhuintir Theach Laighean. I express my deepest gratitude to Mick for his service to the Members and staff of Leinster House throughout the past 27 years. His professionalism, dedication, kindness, courtesy and friendship are something every Member of the House and the Staff in Leinster House deeply appreciate. I wish him well in the future and we will miss him.
Deputy Richard Bruton: Discord need not necessarily break out straight away. I wish to ask about some legislation. Many welcomed the press release from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform yesterday to the effect that there would be legislation to deal with gangland crime. However, I note the signal from Government is that the legislation will not appear until October. Can the Minister not do a little better than that? There is a sense of great urgency about this matter and wide support for it. Will the Minister do better? Will the Tánaiste consult with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to try to fast-track it?
What is the position with the legislation to establish the National Asset Management Agency? We read in the newspapers that it will be introduced in July. Will the Dáil be held back from summer recess to complete the passage of that legislation? Is that the intention of Government?
What is the position with the legislation that dates back to a series of commitments made last October in respect of the rationalisation of State agencies? There was to be a merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, the merger of qualifications authorities in education, the merger of museums and the National Gallery, the merger of fisheries boards and the merger of the Taxi Regulator and the DTA, Dublin Transportation Authority? All of these require legislation but there appears to be no fixed date for them. If these are genuine rationalisations to achieve taxpayer savings we would expect to see the legislation surface. Where is the legislative programme to achieve these savings promised by the Government?
The Tánaiste: On the issue of crime legislation, the Minister is most anxious to have it during this session. I realise it is a tight timescale but I believe we will get the co-operation of the House once it is introduced.
On the NAMA legislation, the Taoiseach indicated yesterday this is a key priority for the Government. Work is ongoing on its preparation and we are doing our utmost to have it available as quickly as possible. If we can have it during this session then so be it. Every effort is being made to publish the legislation as quickly as possible.
On the rationalisation of agencies, I am aware the Taxi Regulator aspect is being facilitated in the Transport Bill before the House. In my legislative area, I would hope to have the legislation dealing with the NCA, National Consumer Agency, and the Competition Authority during this session if at all possible. As the Deputy will be aware we are carrying out an overall review of the Competition Authority in addition to the amalgamation. We will do our utmost to try to have it as quickly as possible. I can revert to the Deputy on the specifics of the others.
Deputy Joan Burton: I refer to the notice published yesterday on the NTMA website advertising and tendering for advisers for NAMA. We have received legal advice that proceeding with NAMA as a shadow agency is very fraught in terms of the constitutional and legal proprieties. Information held by the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator and other agencies is confidential under the terms of the legislation. Thus far, the Minister for Finance has spent between €2 million and €6 million in fees to Merrill Lynch and a preliminary fee of €3.8 million to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Deputy Joan Burton: Will the Tánaiste indicate if it is the intention of the Government to proceed with a shadow NAMA with all costs on the taxpayer but without legal clarity, particularly in the context of the legal advice that legislative power is required? I inform the Tánaiste that in respect of NAMA and particularly in respect of the earlier reply on SR Technics——
Deputy Joan Burton: If the Tánaiste were on “The Apprentice” she would be told, “You are fired” because of the lack of performance. Can the Tánaiste tell us what is happening on NAMA and when the legislation will appear?
The Tánaiste: A Cheann Comhairle, as you know, this is the Order of Business and not Leaders’ Questions. I work within the rules that have been set down by the House, therefore I am curtailed in answering on the specifics of any piece of legislation. As Deputy Burton is aware, members of the NTMA and the new chief executive designate of NAMA are appearing at the moment before an Oireachtas committee, and I am sure the questions can be addressed through that forum.
The Tánaiste: As I indicated to the House two or three minutes ago, the legislation is a serious priority for the Government and every effort is being made to publish it and bring it to the House as quickly as possible.
Deputy James Reilly: I wish to raise two matters. First, with the equivalent of St. James’s Hospital being closed for a year due to delayed discharges, and with people lying on trolleys, 498 last week——
Deputy James Reilly: ——when will the nursing homes Bill be introduced? I have a second point on legislation. Given the clear lack of communication between the Minister for Health and Children and the CEO of the HSE, resulting in a possible €50 million loss to the HSE through the new consultants’ contract, will a supplementary budget be introduced——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Some time ago, the European Commission issued instructions to the governments of all member states to introduce conservation policies for eel fishing. This is pending, subject to a decision at the end of May, but it appears the Minister or his predecessor indicated their intention to ban eel fishing for 90 years. The Joint Committee on European Affairs deemed this to be excessive on the basis that Ireland’s contribution to the diminution of fish stocks is small. As the measure will involve both primary and secondary legislation, will the Tánaiste tell the House whether the Minister will defer agreeing to the European Commission’s proposals until after the Bill on the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector has been introduced, or might it be possible to defer the secondary legislation that will be needed?
The Tánaiste: As Deputy Durkan is aware, the Bill on the inland fisheries deals with structures and the amalgamation of the regional fisheries boards. It does not refer specifically to the secondary legislation. However, I will ask the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to contact the Deputy directly on the matter.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I know, but this is an important issue for the people concerned. I thank the Tánaiste for her reply, but the senior Minister is the person with responsibility. Would it be possible to defer the decision at least until adequate consideration has been given by the responsible person?
Deputy James Bannon: Given the recommendations by Teagasc regarding biofuel pumps, which is impacting on rural areas, particularly in my area of the midlands, when will the Bill to amend the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 be published?
Deputy Joe Carey: I would like to ask the Tánaiste about the current position on the full US pre-clearance facility at Shannon Airport. Legislation has to come before the House to enable it to become operational. What is the current position?
Deputy Terence Flanagan: I welcome the publication of the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009. However, the Bill is more than four years late. We have had a toothless quango in operation in the past number of years and millions of euro have been paid out. Also, there has been no regulation of the property management companies. Can the Tánaiste confirm the multi-unit developments bill and the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 will go through the House in the current session?
The Tánaiste: It was indicated yesterday that the multi-unit developments Bill will be brought before Government on Tuesday with a view to its imminent publication. Hopefully we will get it to the House as quickly as possible.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: We are due to get the Adoption Bill 2008 from the Seanad soon, but the bilateral agreements with Vietnam and Russia are still outstanding and hundreds of families throughout the country cannot adopt because the agreements have broken down. It is important that is resolved before the Bill goes through. Will the Tánaiste treat this as a matter of urgency? Will a high-level ministerial delegation go to Vietnam to deal with the issue? There is a different issue in Russia, but will the Government address the issues urgently for the hundreds of families throughout the country who want to adopt?
The Tánaiste: We hope to get the Adoption Bill 2008 from the Seanad fairly quickly. This serious issue has been raised with all Members of the House and the Minister of State at the Department of Health for Children, Deputy Andrews, is doing his utmost to deal with the imminent decision——
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Last September, when we discussed in the Chamber the response to the Anglo Irish Bank crisis, I got the impression from the Minister for Finance that the companies legislation would be amended to define the role of the public interest directors. Such an amendment would enable the public interest directors who have been appointed at a number of banks to fulfil their role. Under the legislation, their duty is to the shareholders, in a limited sense. I recall the Minister suggested in the debate that if such an amendment was necessary it would be made. When will it come before us? It will enable the public interest directors, for example, to respond to the absence of credit, which is one reason they were put in place.
The Tánaiste: The Companies Act 1990 comes under my Department. As the Deputy is aware, we are carrying out a number of serious reviews of the Act and more than 1,200 sections will be brought before the House for consideration. The specific issue the Deputy mentioned is an overarching one between the Companies Act and what will happen in financial regulation. The view is that issues appertaining to financial regulatory matters will be transferred in due course so they are under the auspices of the Department of Finance rather than my Department. I will deal specifically with companies which are financial institutions but there are other overarching matters that must be dealt with. I will ask the Minister for Finance to prepare a briefing note for the Deputy.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: While I will not delay the House, one would appreciate that those who have been named, and they have been named from a wide source, will be sitting there, going through the annual meetings of the banks, with the shareholders asking questions. Much more importantly, however, this was an important gesture as to how the public interest is served. If they are to serve the public interest as was the intention, they need legal clarity. I appreciate the memorandum.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I wish to ask the Tánaiste about three matters regarding legislation. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government made two announcements recently, one with regard to electronic voting and the other concerning directly elected mayors. Yesterday in the House, the Taoiseach confirmed that the directly elected mayors will require legislation. When will it come before the House? Given the long overdue decision with regard to the scrapping of the e-voting project, will the dismantling of this project also require legislation?
The Tánaiste: On the issue of directly elected mayors, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is commencing the drafting of that legislation. Naturally, there is a timeframe as there is to be an electoral process and it will be done as quickly as possible. The second issue raised does not require legislation. The third item will be a matter for the Whips to decide and I am sure the Deputy’s Whip will express his views on trying to bring that Stage to the House as quickly as possible.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: I wish to raise an issue in which the Tánaiste has a particular interest. A little boy called Jack, which is his name and is not an assumed name, is about to lose his special needs assistant. He has a particular need that cannot be covered by the other special needs assistants in the school. When will we see the removal of the suspension of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act? Things are happening under the suspension of that Act that should not be allowed in any civilised country. It was introduced to ensure that children with special needs in education would be treated properly but the Government walked in during the budget last year and simply suspended it. One would not see it in a dictatorship. When will the suspension be——
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