Order of Business.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 699 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 11 — motion re referral to joint committee of a proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2010; and No. 23 — statements on banking.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 10 and 11 will be decided without debate. Standing Order 56(3) shall not apply regarding No. 23 and the proceedings thereon will, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply. The statements of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons from Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin, who will be called upon in that order, will not exceed ten minutes in each case. The statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case. Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply, which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members’ business shall be No. 80, motion re banking crisis.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 10 and 11 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 23 agreed to? Agreed.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Ceann Comhairle is in a state of shock that the proposals were agreed. Well done. It is a new year’s resolution.

One of the first acts of the so-called rainbow Government of 1994-97 was to make an exceptional fund available for the repair of county roads. What we witnessed on yesterday’s “Six One” news and the reports from all over the country require that some emergency Government funding be made available to local authorities. The current estimate is €150 million. Did the Government consider this matter at its meeting this morning and is there to be a response from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government?

What is the expected publication date of the proposed wildlife (amendment) Bill, which is mentioned in section A of the Government’s legislative list? Is it to be published before the end of March?

I gave the Taoiseach notice of my next questions, as I have raised them previously. Upon the closure of the Dell complex in County Limerick, the Government set up a task force to deal with the consequences and opportunities for the mid-western region. Under the chairmanship of Mr. Denis Brosnan, that task force produced an interim report that was to be debated in the Dáil, but no such debate has occurred. Will the Taoiseach instruct the Chief Whip to make Government time available at an appropriate time so that the House can debate the recommendations in the task force’s report?

May I make a similar request in respect of the publication of the scheme dealing with the lost at sea situation, namely, that time be allocated for a debate in the House prior to the scheme being sent to a committee?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  On the situation that has arisen as a result of the recent very severe weather, I first want to thank and congratulate everyone who has been involved at local authority level [40]and in the provision of local services on their efforts throughout that difficult period in keeping our road network going and helping communities at risk or vulnerable people who had to be looked after.

Obviously, there is an assessment taking place of the damage done to, as all of us will be aware, the national and regional roads. It would be important that local authorities would give priority to the surface dressing of the parts of the roads affected. Not all roads were affected, but this situation must take priority in the context of their existing allocations rather than looking to restoration or new road developments. Looking to this as a priority is something that local authorities will now need to consider.

The wildlife (amendment) Bill is due this session. I will ask the Chief Whip about any debate that could be arranged based on the Limerick situation.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Everyone in the House and the general public are horrified by the scenes of Haiti on our television screens and in newspapers. Will time be provided this week for a report from the Minister? I saw the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power, at yesterday’s European meeting in connection with this matter, but some time should be provided this week for a statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister of State on what is occurring in terms of Ireland’s contribution to the aid and rescue efforts, as it would allow the House some short time to offer comments and to discuss how an Irish effort might be mobilised, improved or increased to assist in that significant humanitarian horror.

Before Christmas, I asked the Taoiseach about the Government’s proposal to have an election in June for a directly elected mayor of Dublin. I pointed out that our difficulty with the proposal was that we did not know what it was we were supposed to be electing. No legislation has been published or details announced by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding what the office will entail and how it will relate to the rest of the local government system in Dublin.

Deputy Seán Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  He does not know.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I was somewhat surprised not to see the Bill in the Government’s list of legislation to be published this session. It is still in section C of the legislative list, namely, a Bill for which the Government has not yet approved heads. Are there heads for the Bill? Does anyone know what the directly elected mayor of Dublin will do, what type of office it will be and what types of power it will have? Will the Taoiseach encourage the Minister who is not the “Minister for Snow” to tell the rest of the House what this office entails and to supply the House with the heads of the Bill if he has prepared them?

Does the Taoiseach have any indication as to when the heads of the Bill might be before the Government? Apart from the fact that we do not know what the office will entail and even if the Government’s proposal is a serious one with which the Government intends to go ahead, we have reached a stage involving a degree of electoral sharp practice. Were we to have an election in June for something as important as this, we would at least need a better state of knowledge about it than we currently possess. Once and for all, will the Taoiseach clarify whether there will be an office of a directly elected lord mayor of Dublin; will the election be in June; when will we see what the office entails; and can the House see the Bill’s heads, assuming they have been prepared?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  On the same issue.

[41]Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Where are the Green Party Members? Are they attending a public event?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Are they on the sun bed?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Cá bhfuil an glasraí?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Ó Caoláin without interruption, please.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  They were eaten for dinner.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Where is the Workers Party?

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  A Sunday roast and greens.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  They have been washed away.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Have they left the Government?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Ó Caoláin without interruption, please.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Did they walk out when the Taoiseach stuffed them last night?

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Did the Deputy buy up all “The Quiet Revolution” books?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Allow Deputy Ó Caoláin to proceed without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I went to a book store twice and I could not get a copy of it.

  5 o’clock

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Listed No. 51 under section C of the Government’s legislative programme is the local government (office of the Dublin mayor and regional authority of Dublin) Bill. This is promised legislation, for which the heads of the Bill has not yet been approved by Government. Yet the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is telling us that an election for this office will be held in June. Such an office does not exist at this point, yet we have been told by the Minister that an election will happen on an undefined date, as of now, but a date in June.

I remind the Taoiseach that the position is that a vacant seat exists in this House. This seat has been vacant for the past seven months plus, but the Government has yet to indicate its intention to call a by-election in Donegal South-West. While the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government enthusiastically rants on about an election in June for a position that does not exist——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy has drifted from the point he raised. He was speaking about the Lord Mayor of Dublin position but then went on to speak about a by-election; I ask him to return to his original point.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Deputy Carey has told us that the Government is too preoccupied to even set a date for a by-election in Donegal South-West. I do not know with what it is preoccupied but it is not with addressing the unemployment reality facing County Donegal where 15,000 people were unemployed in December 2008 and that number rose to more than 20,000 in December 2009. Will the Taoiseach move the writ for the by-election in Donegal [42]South-West? Will he further take notice that if he is not prepared to do so within a reasonable period, I have no doubt the Opposition certainly will do so?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Heads of that Bill are currently being circulated. It will be brought to Government for approval and thereafter published and debated in the House. As the Deputy said, there is a commitment in the programme for Government that an election on that matter will be held during 2010.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is due to take place in 2010?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The indicative date is June.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The indicative date?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We have to pass the legislation, the heads of which are being circulated.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Perhaps we could do it after we elect a mayor?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It might not happen at all.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I join others in the House in speaking of the terrible situation that has developed in Haiti. It is clear extreme hardship and great pain and suffering is being endured by that nation after the terrible earthquake that occurred there last week. The international community is seeking to mobilise itself to meet the scale of a problem that is regarded as unprecedented in emergency aid terms in modern memory. It is appropriate that we take some time in this House during the course of this week to have statements on the situation there, to express our solidarity with the Haitian people and to indicate to our own people the level of assistance and help, in terms of material help, financial help and personnel assistance, that we will try to bring to bear on that situation in an effort to assist these beleaguered people at this time.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  What of the Donegal South-West by-election? Has the Taoiseach any announcement for the people there?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Not today, no.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Is the Taoiseach prepared to indicate that a spring by-election will take place in Donegal South-West?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Spring of which year?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We were dealing with the first issue the Deputy raised. Could we leave that matter and address it some other day?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Not today.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Perhaps next year.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  There is silence on this matter but it is a pressing one for the people of Donegal South-West in the first instance and also for the Members of this House. It cannot fail to have been noticed by many people that there is no appetite on the part of this Government to face the electorate of Donegal South-West——

[43]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy should not worry.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——yet a position that does not yet exist is being trundled about for an election in June.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We could have the two elections on the same day.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I call Deputy Creed.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  When does the Government expect to publish the animal health and welfare Bill, as agreed in the revised programme for Government? This proposed instrument will abolish and close fur farms and prohibit stag hunting in the future. Will the Taoiseach clarify his response to the Deputy Kenny on the loss at sea scheme report?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  What was the Deputy’s second point?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The lost at sea scheme report was raised by Deputy Kenny but I did not catch the Taoiseach’s reply to that matter. Will there be a debate in the Dáil on that report?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Yes. The Whip says he will provide time for that.

In regard to the first matter, we do not have a date for that.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  In view of the serious allegations recently that a FÁS manager tried to force a member of his staff to approve dodgy exam results, thus breaking examine verification rules and bringing FÁS nationally into disrepute in terms of the way that some of the results are produced, will the Taoiseach order an immediate investigation into this matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is ongoing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  There is no legislation on this matter. The Deputy can table a parliamentary question on it and has many other ways of raising this matter.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  This is about a specific allegation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am guided by the Chair on this.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Did the Taoiseach say an investigation into this matter is ongoing?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I believe an investigation is ongoing.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  Into this specific matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I believe that, but I am not the Minister dealing with it.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  I opened the Government’s new legislation programme for spring 2010 with a degree of anticipation only to note that the national monuments Bill is still languishing in section C of it. Can the Taoiseach indicate if the words “publication expected in 2010” will carry more weight than the words “publication expected in 2009”? This Bill was due to be published in 2003. Can the Taoiseach give a guarantee that it will come before the House during this year or at least during the latter half of it?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is widely anticipated.

[44]The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Draft heads of that Bill have been circulated. If the Deputy is awaiting that legislation, I advise him that to avoid disappointment in terms of making a contribution to that legislation, perhaps he would cast his eye over some other legislation as well.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  The House agreed the Second Stage reading of the Student Support Bill more than 22 months ago and the Taoiseach wrote to me about this prior to the Christmas period. The Minister for Education and Science said over Christmas that he supports the principle of one body giving grants to students rather than the 33 proposed in the Bill. Is it the intention of the Government to withdraw the Student Support Bill or what is the Government’s intention in this respect?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand that Bill is awaiting Committee Stage.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  The point is that the Minister for Education and Science has said that he now supports the principle of one agency doing this. Does that not require this Bill to be thrown out and a new Bill enacted? Has this matter come before Government?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will have to come back to the Deputy on the specifics and the Minister’s intentions on this.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I have asked the Minister for Health and Children about a matter and I now want the Taoiseach’s help on it. I cannot find the Minister for Health and Children, nor can I get her to take responsibility for anything. This matter relates to the prescription charges Bill. As the Taoiseach is aware, the administration of medical cards for those aged over 70 has been removed from the regions and centralised in Dublin. There is an ongoing dispute about this. People cannot get through to the office by telephone. Those over the age of 70 are worried about their medical cards and they are waiting for months to be notified about them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Is legislation promised in this area?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Yes, there is the prescription charges Bill. Those with medical cards are to be charged for prescriptions, even though they are entitled to a medical card but they cannot get it because nobody in the office in Dublin will answer the telephone and nobody will take responsibility for this matter. I have written to the Minister and to Professor Drumm and the only reply I got from the Minister is to the effect that she has no responsibility for this. I have not even got a reply from the Professor Drumm, the real Minister for Health. Will the Taoiseach intervene and not have this abuse of the elderly who are worried about their medical cards and whether their nursing home care is being paid? Their chemists and doctors tell them that there medical cards have not been renewed and they do not have medical cards even though they qualify for them. It is an abuse of the elderly and I want something done about it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That Bill is on the A list and it should be dealt with shortly.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Will the Taoiseach talk to the Minister for Health and Children regarding a debate on the other issue?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Notwithstanding the absence of a certain Minister with responsibility for the environment and his continued absence in this House on the Order of Business, I respectfully suggest that somebody might send the relevant Minister a note to the effect that issues that occupied the minds of members of the public during the past six to eight weeks are sufficiently serious to warrant his appearance in the House on the Order of Business on the first day of this session in 2010.

[45]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy is expanding the Order of Business to provide for that.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  There is a list of impressive legislation, from six to eight, on the pink order paper. We note them, but there are other important issues.

During the last session I and other Members raised questions about the company law consolidation and reform Bill and we were told it was not possible to indicate when the Bill would be published. As this legislation is urgently required and has been for some time, would it be possible for the Taoiseach to indicate when it might be likely to come before the House?

I and other Members also asked about the collective investment schemes consolidation Bill. The Bill was No. 46 on the Government legislation programme in the last session; it is now No. 45. We were told that publication was expected in 2010; now it is expected in 2011. What happened in the meantime? What frightened the Minister and those drafting the Bill to cause them to defer it in that fashion?

My last question pertains to the Multi-Unit Developments Bill 2009, which was supposed to progress in tandem with the landlord and tenant Bill. The former has been already abandoned in the Seanad, awaiting Committee Stage. Discussions are taking place between the various stakeholders, as the Taoiseach previously informed the House, but we do not see any evidence of progress. Since many of the——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy is anticipating the debate on the Bill.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  No; I am talking about the Bill that is on the Order Paper. When is it likely that the Bill will come before the House in a realistic fashion, given that many of the residents of such multi-unit developments have found themselves up to their necks in water in the past six weeks?

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Or without a roof.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We are still preparing amendments to the Multi-Unit Developments Bill based on submissions and on the Second Stage debate. The company law consolidation and reform bill will be published later this year at the earliest. I understand it is a massive Bill. The collective investment schemes consolidation Bill will be published next year rather than this year because consultations are taking place with the Department of Finance, and the Minister has other legislative priorities in the immediate future. There is no date for the landlord and tenant Bill.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  What about the Multi-Unit Developments Bill? I did not hear that part.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It was the first one mentioned.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  It is currently in the Seanad, I am advised.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I did not ask the Taoiseach where it was.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  If it is in the Seanad it is a matter for the other House.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I am sorry; it is not. It is a matter for this House.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  It is a matter for the Government.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  This Bill was promised five years ago in various shapes and forms.

[46]To what extent have discussions taken place — as he has previously stated in the House — between the stakeholders, whoever they are——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We cannot have an extensive debate on this matter on the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I mentioned the Bill in my reply. The Deputy may not have heard it.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I did not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am sorry. I spoke first about the last Bill the Deputy mentioned.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Yes. It would be helpful if the Taoiseach could speak up a little. I am becoming hard of hearing in my old age.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am sorry. Amendments to the Multi-Unit Developments Bill are being prepared in the Department based on consultations which have taken place and on the Second Stage debate in the Seanad.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Following the closure of Dell this time last year, the Tánaiste set up a task force under the chairmanship of Dennis Brosnan, which reported last September. We have asked on numerous occasions in the House that this interim report be debated. Is it possible to allow time to discuss the report? The task force will meet with local representatives next Friday and I believe its members are becoming disillusioned because their proposals have not been considered by Government. Is it possible for us to have a debate in the House on the report?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I told the leader of the Deputy’s party earlier that it was a matter for the Whips.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  The Taoiseach will be aware that as far back as 2003, Fine Gael published detailed proposals for the vetting of those working with children, both in a paid capacity and as volunteers. In light of reports today that only one third of our teachers have been vetted, will any urgency be given to the national vetting bureau Bill, which is currently in section C of the Government legislation programme?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I understand that is being dealt with by the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews. There are complexities in the Bill, but it is receiving priority in the Departments concerned.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  As the Taoiseach is aware, the Adoption Bill 2009 will go through the House on Thursday. With the passage of this Bill, the Hague Convention will be ratified. Up to 80 couples who are attempting to adopt from Ethiopia and Russia are currently in a transition phase, but after the ratification of the Hague Convention both of these countries will be excluded. I ask the Taoiseach to intervene and implement a transition arrangement to accommodate and facilitate these couples, many of whom have been already disappointed by the breakdown of the bilateral agreement with Vietnam.

I am surprised the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment did not correct Deputy Ó Caoláin when he announced that 15,000 people were unemployed in Donegal.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  That was the figure more than 12 months ago.

[47]Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  As the Deputy should be aware, that figure is 20,000.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We are on the Order of Business. That is nothing to do with legislation.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I am sorry, but the Deputy was not listening.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  In addition, I thank the Taoiseach for holding off on the announcement of the by-election because Fine Gael is holding its convention on 12 February.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  That is for another day.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  And the Labour Party on the fifth.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am sure, in the best tradition, it will be the strongest possible candidate that comes through.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Is that a reflection of the Taoiseach’s thoughts? If Fianna Fáil has a good candidate, as we do, it will be all right.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It is just a bit of humour between me and Deputy McHugh. We get on well.

With regard to the Adoption Bill, I am aware of the situation to which he refers, as is the Minister of State, Deputy Andrews. The Minister of State has been in touch with various groups to discuss this matter. We will use our best endeavours but I do not wish to raise expectations or suggest that a serious problem does not arise. I am acutely aware that many people have invested much time and hope in the adoption process only to find their adoptions may be more difficult to finalise because of the legal situation. The Minister of State is acutely aware of this, as are other members of the Government and all of us in the House. We must try to assist as best we can and in a humane way, given the limitations of what can be done.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  As the Taoiseach is aware, the year has opened with a series of appalling assassinations in my constituency. Is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform planning any further measures or resources for the Garda Síochána to allow it to combat drug-fuelled crime? In the recent budget, the allocations of many anti-drug groups were slashed——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  This does not relate to promised legislation. The Deputy will have to find another way of raising this issue. There are so many other ways.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  This is the only time I see the Taoiseach. These groups work to combat drug use, but the Government has slashed their budgets by a third and they will be cut to zero next year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy, you may raise this issue as a matter on the Adjournment or in a parliamentary question. There are so many ways.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The end result is that my constituents are faced with desperate murders on their streets and the Government does not seem to be doing anything about it.

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

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I commiserate with the families of the victims in recent instances in which there has been a callous disregard for human life. The Garda is carrying out rigorous investi[48]gations of the killings and persons have been charged with murder in respect of two of them. I do not want to go into detail about those instances, but the Garda Commissioner has kept the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform briefed on events. With regard to the recent tragic stabbings, the Minister has been advised that Garda investigations are well advanced.

The Garda faces severe challenges in dealing with gangland murders. Often, it receives no co-operation from the associates of those affected. In some cases, persons who have been identified by the Garda as being at risk, rather than co-operating with it, seek to thwart the Garda so they can get on with their gangland activities.

It was against that background last year that the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, introduced a series of strong anti-gang legislative measures, of which the Deputy will be aware.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will he implement it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act facilitates the use as evidence in trials of material gained by secret surveillance. The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act provides for trying certain crimes involving criminal gangs in the Special Criminal Court unless the Director of Public Prosecutions directs otherwise. It introduces several new organised crime offences with maximum prison sentences of 15 years to life, such as involvement in organised crime and directing or controlling a criminal organisation. It simplifies the procedures relating to extension of time for questioning of suspects and increases the penalties for intimidation of a witness or a juror. The Minister is publishing a DNA Bill today, which also will prove invaluable in the fight against serious crime. Legislation on the use of knives and similar weapons is extremely robust and heavy penalties are already in place. Last year, the Minister piloted through the Oireachtas the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which introduced a maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place from one to five years and gave the Garda extended power of search without warrant in respect of knives and offensive weapons. Quite apart from the legislative response, the Garda has the resources available to it when dealing with this serious issue.

I acknowledge to the Deputy that this is an issue about which there is universal concern throughout our society and not only, as he will be acutely aware because of recent activities, in his own constituency. I assure him that everything possible can and will be done to bring those who have been involved in such heinous murders to justice.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  While the Taoiseach expressed sympathy to the residents of Haiti earlier, I wish to ask him a couple of questions. First, will he join with me in extending sympathy to the relatives and friends of Andrew Grene, an Irishman who holds Irish citizenship and whose body was recovered this afternoon in that country? Second, will he ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to urge his colleagues at European Union level to make available the European Union battle group, which has a humanitarian role, to go to assist in the area if necessary? The United Nations General Secretary has sought assistance in the form of additional troops and personnel and the European Union has a ready-made body to do that.

The second issue pertains to the roads and was raised earlier. As the Ceann Comhairle is quite rightly about to inform me, it is on the Adjournment tonight.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Yes, I was just going to do that.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Will the Taoiseach ensure that the Minister for Transport will be available for the Adjournment debate tonight? Simply, during the recent weather crisis——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Timmins is anticipating——

[49]Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  ——the Government abdicated its responsibility.

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Timmins is listed as a contributor.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  A photo opportunity on the steps of Government Buildings is not adequate.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  A guest appearance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy is listed as a contributor.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I refer to complete and utter chaos and to a Government in exile without either a plan or structures.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy will be making all those points later on.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  There was nothing but a photo opportunity on the steps of Government Buildings, which simply is not good enough.

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

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy was nowhere to be seen.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I call on the Taoiseach, briefly.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  It simply was not good enough. In response to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I drove into Dublin that night——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Deputy Timmins, please.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  ——and did not see a single garda until I came to the gates of Leinster House.

Deputy Dermot Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Deputy was missing.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  While the Minister can smile away, he is responsible for them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  First, I join Deputy Timmins in again sympathising with the Grene family. I understand that the body of Mr. Grene has been recovered today in the United Nations headquarters building. He was a person who was committed to public service and to helping the poor and deprived and was well regarded in the United Nations. The Government sends its deepest sympathy to his family. Other Irish citizens who are there at present have been involved in much good work in recent years, one of whom I know personally. I wish them well and hope they are able to contribute positively in the present as they have done in the past. I make the point that the Government established the rapid response corps in the aftermath of the tsunami and some personnel from that corps have gone to Haiti in recent days. While it is a small number, the people concerned are committed and have expertise in areas that would be of assistance in the emergency which has enveloped that country.

Third, I will not repeat my earlier comments to Deputy Kenny regarding the response of local authority personnel when dealing with what was an extremely difficult situation over Christmas. The emergency co-ordination unit, despite criticism from the Opposition, worked hard, co-ordinated well and ameliorated what could have been an even worse situation.

[50]Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  When will legislation be brought before the House to give a legal footing to the plebiscite that was held in Dingle-An Daingean more than three years ago? The plebiscite was held more than three years ago and resulted in a 98% majority in favour of giving back——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  The Deputy should table a parliamentary question on this matter.

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  ——An Daingean its dual name of Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis. It has been more than three years since the plebiscite was held.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The auld triangle went Dingle-An Daingean.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We will move on.


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