Thursday, 1 April 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of an initiative for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the rights to interpretation and to translation in criminal proceedings (back from committee); No. 22a statements on banking; and No. 22b statements on obesity. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10 shall be decided without debate and, in respect of No. 22a, the statements shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes; the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes; Members may share time; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and immediately following the statements a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 30 minutes. In regard to No. 22b, the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes and the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes and 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 ten minutes. On rising, the Dáil shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 April 2010.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I welcome that time has been provided for statements on banking and for a questions and answers session in this regard, as agreed by Government on Tuesday. Perhaps the Tánaiste will provide clarification on the following matter. I note the Anglo Irish Bank report states: “We continually invest in the development and training of our staff as well as maintaining quality relationships with our stakeholders...”
Deputy Enda Kenny: The report continues: “At Anglo Irish Bank we recognise our corporate obligations and responsibilities and are committed to fulfilling them.” In regard to the statements and questions and answers session, can we take it that in view of the comment by Mr. Peter Bacon, the architect in part of the structure of NAMA, who today described Anglo Irish Bank as the Celtic Chernobyl and in view of the extent of intensive activity——
Deputy Enda Kenny: I am not holding up progress. In view of the intense activity between Anglo Irish Bank and the Government after the guarantee date, does the Government propose to extend the scope of the inquiry beyond the guarantee date? This would be in the interests of everybody finding out the truth in this regard.
Will the Government respond to the fact that Anglo Irish Bank wrote off €109 million in loans for directors? Before the statements commence, will the Tánaiste confirm, in view of the employment situation in respect of the Quinn Group, if there has been contact between Anglo Irish Bank and the Government in respect of Mr. Quinn who is a major stakeholder in that bank?
Deputy Joan Burton: The financial announcements yesterday by Anglo Irish Bank included a statement that the Government had issued an €8.3 billion promissory note, IOU, to the bank. The Labour Party has agreed to the arrangements as outlined by the Tánaiste but no detailed advice has been made available to us as the Opposition in regard to under what legislation the €8.3 billion promissory note——
Deputy Joan Burton: ——if the Government will undertake to give more time to this issue when the Dáil returns. A commitment of €8.3 billion, signed without the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, telling us yesterday that it was going into the Anglo Irish Bank accounts, payable at €830 million a year for the next ten years——
Deputy Joan Burton: We are agreeing to the order but will the Government say now that it will give the Opposition more information about the deal done with Anglo Irish Bank that appeared in the bank’s accounts yesterday?
Deputy Joan Burton: I want a commitment from the Government that it will give the Opposition a further briefing and come back after Easter and spend longer than 30 minutes on questions on this matter. This is the future of our country.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Before Sinn Féin indicates acceptance or otherwise of the proposition in regard to speaking time on the banking issue, on Tuesday this week Government Members of this House supported a motion which transferred €1.93 billion of debt from Bank of Ireland to NAMA yet——
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Give me a break. The situation is that on the back of that public aid to Bank of Ireland it has in the past couple of days increased the premia on its home insurance customers by in excess of 50%.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: This is happening at the same time as Government is pressing ahead with proposals to bail out these banks. The Minister signalled the Bank of Ireland as the strongest and most likely to survive in all the circumstances maintaining, yet at a time when property is valued at least 50% less than heretofore it has increased——
The Tánaiste: I reiterate that I have full confidence in the Garda investigation that has been taking place and in regard to which considerable progress has been made. The investigation has been vigorous and focussed.
The Tánaiste: It is important to say, on the issue of the scope of the inquiry, that the Government agreed to the holding of an inquiry to deal with the issues that arose heretofore on the basis that it is hugely important that this information is available to us.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I want to repeat my two questions to the Tánaiste which she did not answer. Will the Government extend the inquiry beyond the date of the guarantee? There was intense activity between Anglo Irish Bank and the Government. We need to know the truth about what happened in there.
Deputy Enda Kenny: I understand there is a great deal more to come out which will not be very edifying. We need the inquiry to be extended beyond that date . Will that be the case? In view of the many messages now coming through about people who are worried about their employment in the Quinn Group, was the Government, through the Minister for Finance, in contact with Anglo Irish Bank as it is the Quinn Group’s bank?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: On a point of order, in her reply the Tánaiste indicated that today’s exchanges would be the conclusion of the discussion on the banking issue. As Deputy Burton has pointed out, we agreed yesterday to the 90-minute arrangement which is provided for today. Our understanding in agreeing to that was that the debate would resume on the issue after Easter and would remain on the Order Paper in the same way as, for example, statements on the budget remain on the Order Paper and are returned to over a period of time. I would like the Tánaiste to clarify that point.
My second point also concerns a point of order. On the issue of the banking inquiry, the Government issued a statement yesterday evening in which it stated that it would make available papers and documents to the inquiry if it sought them. The papers and documents concerned are relevant to the Government’s decision to include Anglo Irish Bank in the bank guarantee scheme. The problem with that, from the point of view of the Standing Orders of the House, is that the terms of reference of the inquiry exclude the Government’s decisions in respect of the guarantee and the month of September 2008. I want the Tánaiste to clarify a point regarding this matter, namely, whether the Government will bring into the House a proposal to amend the terms of reference of the inquiry to allow for the Government’s decisions to be subject to the inquiry and to allow September 2008, which was a critical month, to be subject to that inquiry.
The Tánaiste: The statements will wrap up this afternoon. The Central Bank Bill will be up for discussion when we resume after the Easter break. In normal circumstances, there are many opportunities to raise these issues during the questioning of the Minister during Question Time. If people consider other debates to be important, this matter can be discussed between the Whips. Today I am not in a position to give extra time.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: ——-because the arrangement whereby 90 minutes would be agreed for discussion of this issue today was agreed yesterday. The Labour Party agreed to that yesterday and I intend that it will honour that agreement.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Part and parcel of that agreement was an understanding that we would be enabled to return to this issue after Easter. I do not want that opportunity to be closed down because it would be quite different from what we agreed to yesterday. Statements on banking policy would remain on the Order Paper, in the same way statements on the budget and so on remain on it, and we would return to them as time allows in the period after Easter. That is all I am seeking. If the Tánaiste will confirm that the statements will remain on the Order Paper after Easter, then we are agreed.
The Tánaiste: ——a few minutes ago and which the Deputy did not happen to hear, that the Whips can meet and discuss this matter. If there is a necessity for further discussion that can be agreed between the Whips. That is all I said.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. 22b, statements on obesity, agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 agreed?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: It is not agreed. The proposal is that the Dáil shall adjourn until Tuesday, 20 April 2010. It has been the tradition that the Dáil adjourns for a fortnight for Easter. Whatever argument there may have been in the past about whether that is a good or bad idea or good or bad practice, it is certainly not acceptable for the times in which we are living. There is a range of things which we need to address, including the results issued yesterday regarding Anglo Irish Bank which is now in State ownership, the worst ever results in corporate history, the difficulties facing the Quinn insurance group and implications of that for health insurance and the release yesterday of the live register figures which would normally receive much more attention than they got.
It is a mark of the sign of the times that 435,000 people are on the live register, the tenth successive month which it has been over 400,000. We need to discuss the industrial relations situation and the cuts in the education service, some of which was debated yesterday in respect of SNAs. There is no justification for this. When we address this issue we should take account of how these decisions are seen by the public who send us here. The idea that, at a time like this with so many issues which require attention, the Dáil should be closed down for over a fortnight for Easter is not acceptable and credible. The Labour Party is opposed to this proposal.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I share the same opinion. The proposal to go into recess for two weeks is excessive. A single week for Easter is more than adequate, appropriate and justifiable but to go into a second week, even though that has been the precedent heretofore is in the current circumstances, as has been well outlined, not in any way sustainable, no matter what explanation can be offered. The Government has not shown the basic argument as to why we should take this decision. Sinn Féin will also oppose this proposal.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Andrews, Chris.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Carey, Pat.||Collins, Niall.|
|Conlon, Margaret.||Connick, Seán.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Cregan, John.|
|Cuffe, Ciarán.||Curran, John.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Haughey, Seán.|
|Healy-Rae, Jackie.||Hoctor, Máire.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Kennedy, Michael.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Tom.||Lenihan, Brian.|
|Lenihan, Conor.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|McGuinness, John.||Mansergh, Martin.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Donoghue, John.|
|O’Flynn, Noel.||O’Hanlon, Rory.|
|O’Keeffe, Batt.||O’Rourke, Mary.|
|Power, Seán.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Bannon, James.||Behan, Joe.|
|Breen, Pat.||Bruton, Richard.|
|Burke, Ulick.||Burton, Joan.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Costello, Joe.|
|Coveney, Simon.||Crawford, Seymour.|
|Creed, Michael.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|D’Arcy, Michael.||Deasy, John.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Flanagan, Charles.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|McCormack, Pádraic.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McGinley, Dinny.||McHugh, Joe.|
|McManus, Liz.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Morgan, Arthur.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Mahony, John.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|O’Sullivan, Maureen.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Reilly, James.|
|Ring, Michael.||Sheahan, Tom.|
|Sheehan, P.J..||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
|Varadkar, Leo.||Wall, Jack.|
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Government Chief Whip, the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, had responsibility for the national drugs strategy. In the reconfiguration of ministerial portfolios, the job previously held by the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, did not reappear. Which Minister is now responsible for the national drugs strategy?
Deputy Tom Sheahan: Are any issues that might arise from Ireland’s exclusion from the terms of the Schengen Agreement likely to be dealt with by way of primary or secondary legislation, and if so, to what extent? I refer specifically to the difficulties——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I have questions on three items of promised legislation. When will the legislation be introduced to the House to transpose EU directive 2008/6/EC which provides for the completion of the liberalisation of the postal sector in Ireland by 1 January 2011 and to consolidate all previous legislation? Have discussions taken place between the various interested parties? Has the matter been discussed in Cabinet and have the heads of the Bill been agreed? Perhaps the Tánaiste would reply to that question for a start.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Not for the first time. The next item relates to the national vetting bureau Bill. That is deemed to be a fairly urgent piece of legislation. I asked about it on 17 February and subsequent to that. The status of the Bill is that publication is expected in 2010. Given that it is serious legislation that is urgently required, what action is taking place to expedite the process through Cabinet?
The Tánaiste: This is a priority for the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews. The Bill is being worked on as a priority and he hopes to bring it to the House as quickly as possible. It is very complex legislation.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Everyone agrees that a great deal of crime is committed by persons while on bail. This has been an issue for some considerable time. Legislation is promised and publication is expected but at this stage it is not possible to indicate when. In view of the fact that it is urgently required legislation, which everyone agrees is necessary, could the Tánaiste indicate to the House whether it has been discussed to date in Cabinet and if any action has been taken to try to bring it through this House at an early date?
Deputy James Reilly: I wish to raise two matters. I hope you will agree, a Cheann Comhairle, that they are both in order. I asked the Taoiseach yesterday about “head shops”. All I got were dark mutterings under his breath in response. Could the Tánaiste tell us whether there are any plans to ask the Minister for Health and Children to issue a directive to ensure that all substances sold in “head shops” have to be passed by the Irish Medicines Board and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. It is a ministerial directive; we do not have to wait for European approval and we can protect our young people immediately.
The second issue I would like to raise is that of Tallaght hospital. We know there was a debacle there in regard to unread X-ray results and that the complement of radiologists at the hospital is half that in St. Vincent’s, although the former hospital sees twice as many patients, both outpatients and accident and emergency patients.
Deputy James Reilly: The legislation I refer to is No. 66 on the clár and pertains to the licensing of health facilities. When this legislation is introduced, will it be the intention to address these issues to ensure our health facilities are safe? I am told today that the three posts put in place to address the X-ray issue are filled by locums——
Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Yesterday in the Dáil, a remark made by the Taoiseach was very damaging to my reputation. He referred to me as a “gurrier”. I have looked up the Oxford English Dictionary and the Anglo-Irish dictionary and noted there is no explanation for the word. Therefore, it must be an awfully bad word entirely.
Deputy Terence Flanagan: Although the Tánaiste is the Minister for Education and Science, will she outline to the House the progress made on meeting the management of Cadbury Ireland to secure the future of the 1,200 employees in Dublin and Kerry? This is a crucial issue and has been raised frequently in the House by Deputies Bruton and Sheahan of Fine Gael.
Deputy Terence Flanagan: The Ceann Comhairle should give me a moment. When the Taoiseach visited Chicago recently, did he have an opportunity to meet the management at Kraft? We found out yesterday an extraordinary amount of money, £17 million sterling, was awarded to the chief executive of Kraft.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: When the Ceann Comhairle is dealing with the matter raised by Deputy McCormack, he might also look at the index to see if the word “felon-setter” is in it. The Minister for Foreign Affairs used it in the House on Tuesday to describe Deputy Burton.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: On secondary legislation, arising from the reconfiguration of Departments will it be necessary to have orders of the House or motions to regulate the position of committees that mark Departments directly?
Deputy Denis Naughten: My point refers to promised legislation. In light of the embargo on the recruitment of front line staff in the health service that sees one in five front line posts vacant and which is having a direct impact on services for the elderly, psychiatric services and acute hospitals, it has been brought to my attention that, in recent days, 50% of the staff of one intensive care unit were not present, thereby threatening lives. In light of this fact, when will the nurses and midwives Bill be published? Will the Minister ensure that the embargo on front line health service staff is lifted? It is not a question of finance because the finances are in place in many cases. Front line staff cannot be appointed because of the embargo, thereby putting lives at risk.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The nurses and midwives Bill is actually on the pink list, which means it should be published before the next session. I do not know if staff will be working during the Easter period but I strongly urge that the Bill be published. A very serious issue is arising for hospitals that do not have enough expert professional staff to serve the public. This is putting patients in danger. We need to see the Bill published.
The Tánaiste: There is legislation promised. It was approved by the Government on 20 January. There are some technical and drafting matters to be addressed by the Office of the Attorney General prior to publication. That is what has caused the delay. It is expected that the Bill will be published very quickly.
Deputy Joan Burton: Yesterday, the European Commission announced that, in the context of the horrendous amounts of money going to the banks, it will carry out an in-depth investigation into the banks, particularly Anglo Irish Bank.
Deputy Joan Burton: The European Commission deals with the Government. The Tánaiste is the deputy Head of Government. It is a most appropriate question for the deputy Head of Government. It is a most appropriate question for the Tánaiste.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am not arguing about the appropriateness of the question. I am just saying that the Minister for Finance will be in later. There will be a question and answer session and the Deputy should please ask the question at that stage.
Deputy Joan Burton: No, this is not a matter between the Minister for Finance and the Commission, but rather between the Government and the Commission. Its statement related to Ireland and it said it is carrying out an in-depth investigation. It said it had reached agreement earlier in the year about the €8.3 billion for Anglo. At that point, did the Government reach an agreement with the Commission about the in-depth investigation?
Deputy Joan Burton: The Commission announced yesterday an in-depth investigation into everything to do with the banking collapse in Ireland. That includes the Irish Government. Can we just be told whether the Government has been advised and if it has reached an agreement with the Commission?
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: I want to ask the Tánaiste about a survey that has been carried out by the ASTI which found that one in three schools is dropping a science subject for the leaving certificate. The biggest casualty is physics, followed by chemistry.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: Apparently, one of the barriers is the perception that science does not relate to everyday life. The Department for which the Tánaiste is responsible has dropped science from its title, so what type of signal does that send out in terms of how science is valued within the Irish education system and in terms of trying to get the economy moving again?
The Tánaiste: I am on record as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment as saying that science, technology and innovation are very much to the forefront as regards the skills requirements of this country. How we support young people in taking decisions to participate in science subjects is very much to the forefront of my mind.
The Tánaiste: The title has been changed to indicate greater synergy between the skills needs of this country and educational development. The Deputy may rest assured that the issue of science will be very much to the forefront of what I want to drive as part of the Department.
Deputy Michael D’Arcy: I want to ask the Tánaiste for her views on the education patrons Bill which, as she will know, facilitates the VECs in becoming patrons of primary schools. What are the Tánaiste’s views on that Bill, because it seems to me this would be a perfect vehicle, in terms of legislation, to allow Educate Together, which is a patron for primary schools, to become a patron for secondary schools?
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