Order of Business.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 683 No. 5

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Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of An Bord Bia (Transfer of Functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara relating to Fish Marketing) Order 2009 (back from committee); No. 12a— motion re Withdrawal of Fines Bill 2007; No. 12b— motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 12c— Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 — Financial Resolution; No. 12d— motion re Ryan Report on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse; No. 25 — Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, Second Stage (resumed); No. 3 — Merchant Shipping Bill 2009, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 12, 12a, 12b, 12c and 12d shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 25 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today; and the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There are three proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 12, 12a, 12b, 12c and 12d agreed to?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  I welcome the opportunity to say that the all-party motion brought forward on the Ryan commission on the initiative of Deputy Kenny during the week on the Order of Business is very important as this House should send one clear message that the crimes committed, which were outlined in this report, are heinous. They must be condemned by all sides of this House. I welcome the motion and thank the Government Whip for bringing it forward in agreement with all sides of the House.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No. 12d relates to the Ryan report and the Labour Party supports this motion, as do all Members of the House. It is just a preliminary step and the Dáil will have a two-day debate when many of the issues can be explored fully. In the context of the motion, I ask the Minister specifically about reports that the Ryan commission is strongly leaning towards the destruction of all the documents collated, collected and used by the commission in the course of its work.

I understand it may be necessary for the documents to be held confidentially for a protracted period but it would seem extraordinary for the records of the Ryan commission to be disposed of. There are strong indications that the commission is leaning towards the destruction of the documents but this would be an appalling insult to the people who suffered in various institutions.

[889]Will the Government clarify with the Attorney General the position on the civil and criminal records which people who were inmates in the various institutions have?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I must remind the Deputy——

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Will the Government clarify by the time of the debate whether——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  ——that there is a narrow proposal before the House.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——people who were criminalised will be fully exonerated?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There is a narrow proposal for the motion to be taken without debate. We are not having Question Time. That is not my fault but is the way Standing Orders operate.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The matter of the records is one of national importance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I must observe Standing Orders and so must Deputy Burton.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The destruction of the Ryan commission records——

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Will we let James up again?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——is an issue of national importance. It would cause unbelievable stress to the people who gave evidence.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The matter will be debated in due course.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  There is something fishy about the Greens this morning.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The Sinn Féin Deputies are in agreement with No. 12d, the motion before us regarding the child abuse commission, which I have jointly signed with the other leaders of the parties here. There is a proposal for a further substantive motion and two-day debate. Will the Minister confirm, before agreement to the Order of Business, that the all-party motion signalled will have full agreement? Will she confirm that as with the motion before us today, there will be full participation and consultation with all the parties in the drafting of same?

Will the relevant Ministers also agree to consult with the representatives of the various victims and survivors of abuse in the various institutions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  As I explained to Deputy Burton, this is not Question Time. There is a narrow proposal before the House.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  This is relevant to No. 12d.

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

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  No. 12d clearly indicates the substantive motion will be addressed. I am seeking clarification that not only will there be consultation with all the parties but also with the representatives of the various victims groups and the survivors to ensure their valued and essential input is also sought and involved in the construction of the motion.

Will the Taoiseach meet with the representatives of the 18 religious orders in the coming week? If so, will he press for full disclosure of assets——

[890]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is not Question Time. There is a narrow proposal to be put to the House. I must call on the Minister to reply.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——including those held overseas and not just those on the island of Ireland?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  As I told Deputy Burton, there is a narrow motion before the House and it is not Question Time.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I want to acknowledge the all-party approach to the motion which is what the public would expect. The Ryan commission laid bare the most horrific catalogue of the abuse of children ever in this State. Besides the appalling abuse, it has done incredible damage to the reputation of this country once again. Our public would expect us all to come together on these issues. I acknowledge the support of all sides of the House on this matter. It is intended to have the same approach in two weeks to a more substantial motion. Discussions will take place between the Government and the representatives of the Opposition parties.

The documents held by the Ryan commission are a matter for Mr. Justice Ryan. Very often in these cases, information is given on a confidential basis. I know this arose in my case with the Dunne inquiry into organ retention when it was not legally possible to publish its documentation. Whether it can be retained is a different issue and I will speak to the Attorney General on that.

While not wanting to pre-empt the Taoiseach’s meeting with the institution’s representatives, the religious orders and the victims, it will be very robust.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 12, 12a, 12b, 12c, and 12d agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 25 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 June 2009 agreed?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No. While it has been traditional for the Dáil to adjourn for a period when elections are being held, given the state of the economy people are shocked at the notion of such a break. There is no way the Labour Party will support the Government’s proposal that the Dáil having resumed on Tuesday week will then adjourn on 2 July sine die for the rest of the summer.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That proposal is not before the House.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  We are laying down a marker that this is not acceptable to the Labour Party.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It will be a short summer break.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is the proposal agreed for the Dáil adjourning? Agreed. I call Deputy Hogan on the Order of Business.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  First, I want to wish you, a Cheann Comhairle, a happy birthday.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The English poet, Arthur O’Shaughnessy, said, “For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.”

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  One could certainly apply that to the Government.

[891]Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  A Cheann Comhairle, I urge you to ask Deputy Hogan to move on quickly as Deputy Finian McGrath is threatening to sing.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Deputy Healy-Rae should have done that.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Will the Minister, Deputy Harney, clarify if it is the Government’s policy, as enunciated by the Minister for Finance yesterday, that the social welfare budget must be cut to stay in line with various provisions announced in the Budget Statement on April 7? Will the Minister for Social and Family Affairs be bringing forward proposals for another budget in three weeks to implement the measures outlined by the Minister to reduce the social welfare budget? Perhaps she will restore the Christmas bonus that was cut in the last budget so she can be in line with some Government backbenchers who are telling their constituents that it will be restored.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy must ask a question that is in order. Those are the rules.

Deputy Johnny Brady: Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  The local election candidates of the Deputy’s party are telling lies.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Is it the Government’s intention to bring forward another budget because we have not had one for at least two months? Will the Government bring forward another budget or social welfare Bill after 9 June?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is this promised legislation, Deputy Harney?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Deputy Hogan is obviously from the intellectual wing of Fine Gael who reads the Daily Mail and then believes it, which is even worse.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  There are no plans to bring forward the legislation referred to by the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  There are no plans. I call on Deputy Higgins.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  There are no plans for this week but what about next week?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Is it the Government’s policy that the social welfare budget should be cut?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I cannot discuss Government policy on the Order of Business.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  It was announced outside of the House.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  What is Fine Gael’s policy?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who is taking the Order of Business on behalf of the Government has stated there is no such business promised.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Is someone telling lies?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Does the Minister for Finance——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  What is Fine Gael’s policy?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Deputy Kelleher does not know more than the Minister for Health and Children does.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  She has answered your question.

[892]Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  That is for this week but what about next week?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  A Cheann Comhairle, I am sure you will agree that the Minister for Finance enunciates Government policy regarding the budget. Is it Government policy to reduce the social welfare budget?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  A Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Higgins has indicated he wishes to contribute on the same issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I will ask the Minister the question again to clarify it for the Deputy but first I will allow Deputy Higgins in on the same issue.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe had the benefit of an opening address by you, a Cheann Comhairle. This was followed by a statement by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in which he said one of the key features of a social crisis with employment in an affluent country like Ireland is that large social welfare provision can be a disincentive to work which is a difficult issue to tackle. It is in the interest of all Members to know if there is a change in policy. There is no doubt whatsoever that the implications of the Minister’s statement yesterday constitute a promise to have a change in social welfare policy. The only way this can be achieved is by a supplementary social welfare Bill. It is very helpful if the Minister, Deputy Harney, says there will be no change which I welcome. However, it is of significance to us that the Minister for Finance was only three weeks ago suggesting Ireland had a magnificent social welfare system that protected the poor.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I believe the Deputy has made his point.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  If there is a change in Government policy, it is in here we want to hear about it rather than——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Hogan asked that question already.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  ——at an OSCE conference which is a festival of right-wing thinking and where extremists of free market thinking like to pad up each other.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Does Deputy Higgins remember the £1.50 increase in the old age pension when his party was last in Government?

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  There is nothing wrong with windy statements in such places.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Deputy Quinn is a great admirer of the free market.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  However, if there is to be a change in policy, it is in here we want to hear it.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Labour Party did not do much for the old age pension.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I cannot discuss left-wing or right-wing festivals on the Order of Business. I call the Minister.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Fianna Fáil took the medical cards off the old age pensioners.

Deputy John Cregan: Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  What about the £1.50 for the pensioners?

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It is better than withering on the vine.

[893]Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Fianna Fáil is still taking the medical cards from them.

Deputy Johnny Brady: Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  We are taking them from the rich.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  One wonders if there is a Fianna Fáil Party at all when an Independent Minister is taking the Order of Business. All the Fianna Fáil candidates will not put the Fianna Fáil logo on their election posters. They are ashamed of being Fianna Fáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Do not mind that.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I got this election leaflet this morning from a Fianna Fáil candidate. Looking at it one would think he is the same as Deputy Harney, an Independent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Ring, you cannot display photographs in the Chamber.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  All the Fianna Fáilers are not putting, “Vote Fianna Fáil” on their election literature. They are ashamed of Fianna Fáil. Where are all the Ministers this morning?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Where is Deputy Kenny this morning? He is out canvassing for the elections.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  Deputy Kelleher should take it easy.

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

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  The problem with Fianna Fáil candidates is they have realised they are going nowhere. The only ones in power over there are the Independents.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Deputy Ring is perpetually independent.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  The Members over there are like the Clare football team.

A Deputy:  Deputy Ring himself is confused.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Ring will have to raise that somewhere else. I call on Deputy Harney.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Fianna Fáil backbenchers are only cowards. They have let down the poor, the weak and the over 70s. A vote for Fianna Fáil is a vote for no medical cards.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Ring, I will have to ask you to leave the Chamber if you continue.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  First, I join with Deputy Hogan in wishing the Ceann Comhairle a happy birthday. While he is unable to socialise with his colleagues within the environs of this House, I hope he gets an opportunity to enjoy his birthday somewhere.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Thank you very much.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  He should have a drink with Deputy Healy-Rae in County Kerry.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Or in limbo.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Second, the Minister for Finance was referring yesterday to the need for incentives to work and I hope that every Member of this House would support such incentives.

[894]Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  A job would be a good incentive.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  We have one of the highest rates in Europe of social welfare benefits for old or unemployed people. Moreover, contrary to a view put forward by Fine Gael’s candidate in Dublin South this morning, an unemployed married man receives €339 per week and not €204 per week. Were Members to at least get the facts right, they might have appropriate debates in the Chamber.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It depends——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It depends in some cases on whether the person was self-employed beforehand and the Minister should know that.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Apropos of the question asked by my colleague, Deputy Hogan, Members have not been provided with clarity in respect of Government policy on social welfare. Furthermore, in this House before Christmas, I raised the issue of a dole office for the people of Balbriggan, a community in which 4,000 people now are unemployed. Although it is almost June, there still is no sign of any facility despite half the main street of Balbriggan lying idle——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should ask a question that is in order.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  ——due to the Government’s handling of the economy.

Deputy Johnny Brady: Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Could Deputy Reilly not let the Department one of his properties?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy may only ask a question that is in order.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I will repeat the question of the Minister, as well as of the Fianna Fáil backbenchers and frontbenchers. What is Fianna Fáil policy? It cancelled the Christmas bonus.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Leave it at that now.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Does it now intend to cut the dole as well?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This matter is not covered by the Order of Business.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  That is what Deputy Brian Lenihan has intimated in the press.

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

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Where was the Deputy going to get the additional €2.5 billion?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The e-voting man.

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

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The only way Fine Gael could have got it was by cutting the rates of social welfare.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I can tell the Minister what is Fine Gael policy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Crawford, please.

[895]Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Was it not Deputy Dempsey who asked what was €50 million in the overall scheme of things?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  It was only small change to the e-voting man. The dunce.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Fine Gael would have cut social welfare to make the savings.

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

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Does he know what it is now, in the overall scheme of things? Many jobs in SR Technics also could have been saved but the Government chose not to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Government increased social welfare by 500%.

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

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  I support the request of my colleague, Deputy Bannon, for a full debate in this House on agriculture. At a time when agriculture is going through serious mismanagement, a full debate is required and I ask the Whips to organise it——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy cannot discuss that. It is a matter for the Whips.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  ——as soon after the break as possible.

On other issues, is there any hope the sale of alcohol Bill will be brought forward? The present situation, whereby young people can buy drink in off-licences and so on without any control, is completely untenable. I wish to ask three questions pertaining to the Minister’s own portfolio. First, I refer to the mental health (amendment) Bill, which pertains to a crucial issue at a time when people are under much pressure and require as much support as they can get. The other items are the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill and the health information Bill. These Bills must be brought forward quickly because the current position in respect of the information that Members are receiving and the knowledge as to who is eligible for what health services is extremely serious. I received a letter from the Health Service Executive this week that completely contradicts what has been promised in the past. People had been promised that no service would be removed from them——

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

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  ——until a better service was provided. The Minister has failed completely in this regard——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The House cannot deal with that now. I call the Minister on the legislation.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  ——and I seek proper information.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The sale of alcohol Bill is expected later this year. The mental health (amendment) Bill is expected next year and the heads of the health information Bill will go before the Cabinet shortly. I do not have a date for the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill at present.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  The Minister did not provide a date for any of the items.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Despite the Ceann Comhairle’s heroic efforts to try to kick-start the Dáil reform procedure, nothing has happened in that regard and matters are regressing at a rapid rate. Since the beginning of May 2009, 34 Adjournment debates have been allowed by the Ceann Comhairle. However, on only one occasion did a senior Minister come into the House.

[896]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  That is right.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That was the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Coughlan, who attended because the subject pertained to job losses in her own constituency.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  A coincidence.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  A total of 15 of the Adjournment debates were taken by one very junior Minister of State, Deputy Áine Brady, and many of the debates did not relate to her area of responsibility. A further seven were taken by another Minister of State, Deputy Calleary. Two thirds of the debates have been taken by two of the most junior Ministers in the House.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  They are training them.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  We are all equal.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Not Deputy Kelleher.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  When this matter was raised a short time ago by my party leader, Deputy Gilmore, the Taoiseach responded positively. He stated that every Minister should seek, as a matter of courtesy, to be present in the House when a matter relevant to his or her Department is being taken. However, even though 15 Adjournment debates were on health, the Minister for Health and Children never turned up in the House at all. Fianna Fáil should get a grip on their Independent supporters in the Cabinet and tell them to do their job. They are not doing it now and are treating this House with contempt.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  When the Ceann Comhairle and others tried to kick-start Dáil reform, they were told that a special committee comprised of Fianna Fáil and Green Party Members would tell them what the Dáil reforms would be.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  The Green Party is not here.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  The yellows.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Nothing has come of that. May I assume that next week, given that neither Fianna Fáil nor the Green Party is out canvassing——

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  That is what Deputy Stagg thinks.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  ——the people concerned may do some work on Dáil reform?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  They are watching each other.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Minister, on Dáil reform.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a matter for all the parties, and not a single party, to agree to Dáil reform.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It is not.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As the Ceann Comhairle is aware, there has been a refusal to agree to serious Dáil reform for several years.

[897]Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  There have been no proposals on which Members have refused to agree.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  There is nothing on which to agree.

Deputy John Cregan: Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Opposition Members do not wish to work extra time.

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  I welcome the publication yesterday of the Multi-Unit Developments Bill, for which Fine Gael strongly campaigned. People have been waiting for 12 years for this Bill to be published and were one a cynic, one would suggest it was being published nine days before the local elections for electioneering purposes. When does the Minister expect the Bill to come before the House and when does she expect it will become law?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Bill is before the Seanad in the first instance and will come before the Dáil on completion of its passage in that House.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  In view of recent developments, I wish to raise two items in respect of promised legislation. What is the current status of, and intention towards, the legislation to provide for the collection and exchange of information relating to the dangers of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or risk thereof to children? Its original status in the legislative programme was that its publication was expected but that it was not possible to indicate when. Has the position in this regard changed due to recent events?

Second, I refer to the Bill to transfer transmission assets from the ESB to EirGrid. That is an issue in which the Green Party should be taking a particular interest, if one could only see a Green Party Member.

Deputy Trevor Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Over here Deputy.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Perhaps my sight is failing but I do not appear to be able to do so. Their visibility rating——

Deputy Trevor Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  The Deputy’s eyesight is terrible.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I apologise, Deputy Sargent is present. Where are his colleagues?

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  They are not canvassing anyway.

Deputy Trevor Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  How are Deputy Durkan’s glasses today? Not enough carrots.

A Deputy:  A needle in a haystack.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Can some degree of importance be accorded to that legislation in view of the emphasis placed on energy and energy-related issues?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The soft information Bill is a priority for the Government and at least two senior officials in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are working on that legislation as a matter of urgency. I do not have a date for the second item of legislation.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  On the second item of legislation, would it be possible to seek out the Minister responsible and encourage him to attend the House for the Order of Business? Although many people outside the House may be giving out or probably are being abusive at present, Members love him and wish to see him in the Chamber, as would the Ceann Comhairle. Hugging trees is one matter but coming before the House to——

Deputy Trevor Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Hug Deputy Durkan.

[898]Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  ——accept responsibility for his ministerial portfolio is a different matter. Perhaps Deputy Johnny Brady has carried out an experiment like Einstein on him.

Deputy Johnny Brady: Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  What legislation is this?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Perhaps, like the disappearing battleship, Deputy Johnny Brady has carried out an experiment and the poor Minister has——

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

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  In the context of the all-party motion to which Members have committed themselves regarding the Ryan report and supporting the full implementation of the report’s recommendations, I refer to the case of Melissa Mahon, the 14-year old girl and the man who was convicted yesterday of her unlawful killing. Will the Minister for Health and Children provide for an independent investigation because this child was in the care of the HSE?

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

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  In the week of the Ryan report’s publication, Members must be aware that abuse and the harrowing events related in that case equally require investigation. She was under the care——

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

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——of the HSE.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

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

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Can the Minister disclose whether she will hold an independent investigation?

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

  11 o’clock

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  I am delighted the Minister for Health and Children is taking the Order of Business as I can question her. The Oireachtas representatives from Laois-Offaly had a meeting with the HSE approximately six weeks ago at which approximately €6 million worth of cuts in that constituency alone were outlined. We have heard nothing since. It was to include the closure of all respite beds, the removal of transport for dialysis patients and the cutting of front-line staff, including speech and language therapists and home help. Can I ask the Minister——

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

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  ——under the health information Bill, because this is information people want, whether these are on hold——

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

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  ——or whether we will merely see an announcement in this regard on 6 or 7 June.

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

[899]Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  It is an important issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I know it is but the Deputy must ask a question that is in order.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  She asked about the health information Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Does the Minister have information on the health information Bill?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As I said, the heads will go to Government shortly.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  What about the cuts in it?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It has nothing to do with the budget.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  It has everything to do with the budget.

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Is there any intention at Cabinet level to introduce support measures for the dairy sector? The Minister’s officials attended the committee yesterday and some of the language that was being used about the soft landing in the dairy sector, where farmers are getting 20 cent a litre for their milk——

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

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Is there any such intention at Cabinet? They are getting 20 cent a litre. I met a man recently in my home village who told me——

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

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  I told him I had not met him in the pub recently. He asked how could he have met me there when he would need five gallons of milk to have a pint of Guinness.

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

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  On what date will legislation come before the House to set up the full US pre-clearance facility at Shannon?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I understand the legislation is finalised and it is a matter for the Whips to decide when we will discuss it. The Bill has been published.

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  When will it be before the House?

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  It is not even on the horizon.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It will be in the next few weeks.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  I understand the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been speaking on the margins of the Council of Agriculture Ministers about the issue of the overwhelming power of the multiples in the retail market and the need to address that issue. Has this issue been addressed at Cabinet and is legislation envisaged in the area of competition law to tackle the enormous pressure that small food companies are being put under? Is there a proposal to introduce a code of conduct for the retail sector?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is legislation promised in this area?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  No, I do not believe legislation is promised. The Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith, has raised that matter at the full meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers.

[900]Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  On the margins.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  No, it was not on the margins. It was raised at the full Council last Monday.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Minister’s press statement said it was on the margins.

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

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Thank you. I am glad to see——

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Minister’s press statement said it was on the margins.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  It probably was not raised at all.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  The matter was raised at the full Council meeting.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  It is like the rest of the lies the Department tells.

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

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  I am glad to see the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, in the House today. On the industrial relations (amendment) Bill, I want to raise the fact that 160 jobs are probably at risk at meat plants in Midleton and Youghal. Perhaps the Ministers could look into the matter to see if anything can be done.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I raised the issue of the living alone allowance with the Ceann Comhairle two weeks ago and I was told by the Tánaiste at that time that I would receive a letter. When will this legislation come before the Dáil? At Christmas we were promised that it was to come to the House immediately. When will we actually have it in the Dáil?

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In case the Deputy is in any doubt, that legislation does not apply to me, if that is the purpose of the question.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  No, I am not talking about the Minister.

Deputy Mary Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  While I do not have a date, I understand the Minister for Finance is working on a number of measures in that regard. With regard to the industrial development authority legislation, it will be this session.


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