Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 8, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; No. 9, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of three interim economic partnership agreements; No. 10, technical motion re further Revised Estimates [Votes 26, 31, 34 and 35]; No. 20, Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 4, Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2010 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 8, 9 and 10 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded on No. 10 shall be taken forthwith.
Private Members’ business shall be No. 36, Electoral Representation (Amendment) Bill 2010 — Second Stage, and the proceedings on the Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 May 2010.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please bear with me for a moment, Deputy. I will put the proposals to the House and you may make a brief comment then. There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 8, 9 and 10 agreed to?
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Taking No. 9 without debate would be outrageous. We have been down this road before with regard to economic partnership agreements, but these three agreements have not been discussed in African parliaments. With regard to the first of the three, which deals with the Southern African Customs Union and the Southern African Development Community, there has been a specific attempt by some countries to come together on 18 June. Today is Africa Day. These three agreements affect hundreds of millions of Africans.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I will be brief. We have been down this road before. This process was used previously when agreements were referred to a select committee. I will attend the select committee with a couple of others, we will debate them inadequately and they will then be rammed through. They affect the right of Africans, for example, to put taxes on extractive industries that are robbing their countries. They require more than 80% reduction in relation to tariffs.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: It is, because we insult ourselves and our foreign policy in this way. We are correctly proud of our policy on aid and on the relief of hunger, but we contradict it comprehensively by ramming through these agreements without discussion.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please co-operate with the Chair, Deputy. You are refusing latitude on the Order of Business. It is entirely inappropriate to make a Second Stage speech. There will be other times to raise this matter.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I am not making a Second Stage speech. I have said why the first interim agreement is inappropriate. The second one deals with eastern Africa and the same thing applies. Let us be clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate. Ten out of 47 African countries have signed these agreements. This is the imposition of old, failed policies on African countries that can ill afford them.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: There are no other ways. What you would like is that they would drift off to a select committee with about three of us in attendance and hundreds of millions of people, for a decade, pay with their lives, their exports and their right to livelihood. It is a time for ending the hypocrisy of contradicting our aid and hunger policy by ramming through these agreements that are not properly considered.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I will finish now. They should be considered by plenary session in this Chamber. We should not compromise. The African countries are holding their meeting on 18 June. Today is Africa Day. Let us have a debate on these agreements. Then they can go to any select committee the House wishes. Let us not use the select committee as a cover for absence of transparency and morality in our foreign policy.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: There are no other ways to raise this matter, as Deputy Higgins has pointed out. In support of what he has said, I ask that a full and open debate take place in this House. The matter may be referred to a select committee thereafter. Perhaps, at this stage, a useful intervention may well be made by Members of this House in their own right and with their own knowledge. Can that be facilitated, a Cheann Comhairle?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I fully concur with the arguments presented by Deputy Higgins. It is scandalous that this is being kicked to the sidelines, where scant attention will be paid to what is at the core of the propositions involved. It has to be done in this Chamber, openly and transparently. I fully support his objections.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: I raise a point of order. As three Members of the House have asked for a debate on this issue, it is appropriate that the Government respond to those requests before you put the question, a Cheann Comhairle.
The Taoiseach: We are asked to approve the terms of the interim agreements as soon as possible. All other member states have signed them and the European Community is anxious to implement them in order to ensure compliance with World Trade Organisation rulings.
|Ahern, Dermot.||Ahern, Michael.|
|Ahern, Noel.||Andrews, Barry.|
|Aylward, Bobby.||Blaney, Niall.|
|Brady, Áine.||Brady, Cyprian.|
|Brady, Johnny.||Browne, John.|
|Byrne, Thomas.||Calleary, Dara.|
|Carey, Pat.||Collins, Niall.|
|Conlon, Margaret.||Connick, Seán.|
|Coughlan, Mary.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cuffe, Ciarán.|
|Curran, John.||Dempsey, Noel.|
|Devins, Jimmy.||Dooley, Timmy.|
|Fahey, Frank.||Finneran, Michael.|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael.||Fleming, Seán.|
|Flynn, Beverley.||Gogarty, Paul.|
|Gormley, John.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Hanafin, Mary.||Harney, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Kelleher, Billy.|
|Kelly, Peter.||Kenneally, Brendan.|
|Kennedy, Michael.||Killeen, Tony.|
|Kitt, Michael P.||Kitt, Tom.|
|McDaid, James.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McGrath, Michael.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Michael.|
|Mulcahy, Michael.||Nolan, M. J.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Brien, Darragh.|
|O’Connor, Charlie.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Donoghue, John.||O’Flynn, Noel.|
|O’Hanlon, Rory.||O’Keeffe, Edward.|
|O’Rourke, Mary.||O’Sullivan, Christy.|
|O’Sullivan, Maureen.||Power, Peter.|
|Power, Seán.||Ryan, Eamon.|
|Sargent, Trevor.||Scanlon, Eamon.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Treacy, Noel.|
|Wallace, Mary.||White, Mary Alexandra.|
|Bannon, James.||Barrett, Seán.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burke, Ulick.|
|Burton, Joan.||Byrne, Catherine.|
|Carey, Joe.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Coonan, Noel J.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Creed, Michael.|
|Creighton, Lucinda.||D’Arcy, Michael.|
|Deasy, John.||Deenihan, Jimmy.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Ferris, Martin.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Higgins, Michael D.||Hogan, Phil.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McCormack, Pádraic.|
|McEntee, Shane.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McHugh, Joe.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Naughten, Denis.|
|Neville, Dan.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Keeffe, Jim.|
|O’Shea, Brian.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Ring, Michael.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sheahan, Tom.|
|Sheehan, P. J.||Sherlock, Seán.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Upton, Mary.|
|Varadkar, Leo.||Wall, Jack.|
Deputy Enda Kenny: Last week the Tánaiste was unable to give a clear answer in respect of legislation necessary to deal with information given to the review group looking into the question of children who may have died in the care of the State. I find it strange that the HSE, which is responsible for the delivery of services in accordance with the policy laid down by the Government and the Minister for Health and Children, has legal problems transmitting information and documentation to a review body set up by the Government. We have gone down the road of bureaucracy to an enormous extent.
Deputy Enda Kenny: When does the Taoiseach expect the legislation the Attorney General spoke of this morning to be produced? Does he want to indicate the nature of the legal obstacles raised by the query in respect of giving HSE documentation to the review group?
Deputy Enda Kenny: Deputy Neville has raised the question of mental health and the strategy, A Vision for Change, on many occasions. The programme for Government indicates a revised plan that can be implemented in respect of this strategy will be published in 2010 and the question of moving the Central Mental Hospital to a new site will be progressed. What is the position in so far as that element of the programme for Government is concerned?
I am concerned by what is happening in the horseracing industry. The Taoiseach has an interest in this and, on 13 May, he indicated legislation would be introduced to incorporate offshore and telephone betting for all involved, which would provide a new source of funding for the industry. When is the legislation expected? This is a serious issue for the country and, as the Taoiseach will be aware, it is an important part of Ireland’s identity. We are losing ground rapidly and it would not do to have the industry diminished by virtue of not taking action in time.
The Taoiseach: With regard to the question on mental health facilities, I ask the Deputy to table a question to the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Moloney, who can update him regarding those matters. I do not have that information available to me.
The legislative amendment we talked about bringing forward this morning at our meeting related to making sure there is a legal basis, unambiguously provided, that will allow for the exchange of information between the HSE and the Department of Health and Children. This is an issue that involves the Chid Care Act, the Data Protection Act and constitutional provisions where a court order is in place based on in camera proceedings. These issues have to be resolved legally and they can, and will, be resolved legally. The purpose of the legislation is to allow for the exchange of information to take place that would satisfy the people on the review group to set about doing their work and getting whatever information they require in that respect. Factual information requested by the group will be furnished as a matter for urgency by the HSE no later than Friday of this week to enable them to get on with this work. In the meantime, the statutory provision should be brought forward as well to deal with the matter fully.
With regard to the question on betting legislation, I took the opportunity of a recent speech to the horseracing industry to state that we have sought and found a way legally in which we can deal with the question of people applying for licences with which to have bets placed outside the jurisdiction and the legislation will be prepared during the course of this year.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: There is a report in today’s Irish Independent to the effect that the Moriarty tribunal is to make an interim report to the Dáil. Does the Taoiseach know anything about that and has the Government been informed that such a report is to be made to the Dáil?
In the course of an interview over the weekend the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, indicated that the three outstanding by-elections, the election for the Dublin mayor and the children’s referendum would be held this year, on the same day. Considering what the Minister had to say appears to be somewhat at variance with what the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have been telling the House over a number of weeks, will the Taoiseach say whether Deputy Gormley is wrong in taking that view?
The Taoiseach: As I have said, the Government has neither discussed nor made any decision on that matter. People are giving their views, when asked, but there is nothing additional to be said in this regard until the Government makes some decisions.
The Taoiseach: On the other point raised by Deputy Gilmore, I understand the Moriarty tribunal may be in touch with the Oireachtas. I am not aware of any interim report being prepared. The tribunal chairman will probably outline to us what his plans are to progress matters, depending on what timeframe might be involved. We shall see what emerges in that regard but I do not have any knowledge of an interim report coming forward.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Against the further daily revelations about the crisis state of leadership and management as regards child protection in the State, the Tánaiste on Thursday indicated in questioning from this Deputy and others that there would be no objection to the Minister of State with responsibility for children addressing the issues raised by the recommendations in the Ryan report. Can the Taoiseach indicate whether that is to be facilitated this week? We were given to understand that a debate could be arranged on the matter and the Minister or State was more than willing to attend the House. Both the Tánaiste and the Minister of State concerned confirmed this. On the first anniversary of the Ryan report, can the Taoiseach indicate to the House that we shall have such a facilitation to properly deal with statements — and questions to follow — on the recommendations of the Ryan report and all the other reports pertaining to children and child care provision by the State over the years?
The Taoiseach: The implementation plan was actually initiated in July last year. That anniversary takes place in July, but the Minister of State is available to discuss the matter in the House, with the agreement of the Whips. It cannot be dealt with this week, but I am sure during the course of next month some type of arrangement can be made for that to happen.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: For the record of the House, I asked a question and there was a very clear answer to the effect that the Minister of State would give an update on the implementation plan as the Tánaiste was not in a position to do that, with notice of a question.
Deputy Liz McManus: I have two questions. Today is International Missing Children’s Day, and the European Commission has issued something of a criticism of Ireland, to the effect that the Minister has not activated the missing children’s hotline, as have many other European countries. It is three years since the original decision was made and considering our record is so poor as regards missing children——
My second question relates to legislation which deals with the imposition of windfall tax on electricity suppliers. This matter was originally tacked on to a totally different Bill, namely, the Energy Biofuels Bill, and I want to compliment our Whip on ensuring that as it is a financial Bill it will be taken separately. Will the Taoiseach say when we can expect this Bill and what will it be called?
Deputy Joan Burton: I want to ask the Taoiseach about two matters. As regards the €750 billion stabilisation fund for the eurozone countries, could the Taoiseach say whether the Attorney General was able to advise if that would require legislation and in the event, when it will be brought before the House?
The Taoiseach will recall that after Christmas the Labour Party had a Private Members’ motion to have a full proper inquiry into the banking crisis. The Government tabled its own motion to have two private scoping inquiries, one to be conducted by the Governor of the Central Bank and the other by Herr Klaus Regling and Mr. Max Watson. We were told that both of those reports would be presented to the Minister and the Government next Monday and Tuesday. The Government undertook at the time to publish those reports immediately and bring them before the House or the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government will proceed to fulfil its promises in this regard? In the event, the Government, I understand, has then to give details of an in-depth inquiry to be conducted with speed into the collapse of the banks in Ireland, possibly giving details, also, as regards the lead up to the blanket guarantee of all the debts of the covered institutions.
The Taoiseach: The Attorney General is examining the issue of whether legislation is required. I do not have information on his final deliberations in that regard, but I can check this. Unfortunately, he is away for a couple of days.
On the other matter, this will be dealt with by the authors of the report themselves. I understand they are making progress with that report, but I am not aware when we will have it. I suspect, as the Deputy says, that it will be the end of this month. As soon as it is provided and considered by Government it will be published and will be debated in the House. We shall take it from there.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: On the inquiry that has been announced into the involvement of the State in the short life of Daniel McAnaspie, I have a number of questions. Will the Taoiseach agree to lay the terms of reference of that inquiry before the House, for the information of Members? Can he assure us that there will not be any confidentiality issues that might delay the inquiry, similar to other issues that we were talking about earlier? Can the Taoiseach assure the House that the role of the Department of Education and Skills and indeed, the Children’s Court, in respect of the neglect of Daniel McAnaspie, will also be investigated? Finally, when does he expect to receive a report from that inquiry?
The Taoiseach: The terms of reference of the report will be determined by the HIQA guidelines for such investigations under the new arrangements that were introduced in January. I can only refer the Deputy to those. Obviously, I cannot anticipate the length of time it will take people to conduct the report, in line with those guidance criteria. I am not aware of any confidentiality issues that might arise in that respect. The new procedures under which the late Mr. McAnaspie’s case will be dealt with, are set out in the HIQA guidance arrangements.
The Taoiseach: It is an independent group, comprising three persons, presumably from a panel of 15. It will determine, based on the HIQA guidance criteria, in what way the child care provisions of the legislation and so on were dealt with in this case and whether it was done properly. I can only refer the Deputy to the HIQA guidelines.
The Taoiseach: I cannot give the Deputy any such assurance. I can only give her the assurance that the procedure that has been established for all of these cases will be applied in this case. I refer the Deputy to the HIQA guidelines in that respect.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I am dealing here with promised legislation. What are the legal implications? I am seeking a simple answer to a straight question. The HSE, as an agency of a Department, is saying there are legal implications——
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: This is an important and emotive issue. Could the Taoiseach bring to the House as a matter of urgency the health information Bill, which has been mentioned many times before? There has been a serious dearth of information in the House for a long time.
The Taoiseach: There is a need to provide legal certainty for the sharing of information so that the review group can undertake the process it has been asked to undertake by the Minister. The second issue is with regard to the validation of numbers. Many numbers are being mentioned.
The Taoiseach: The HSE is currently undertaking a process of collating files from the 32 community care areas across the country so it can provide an accurate figure for the number of deaths of children in care and of children who were known to social services over the last decade but were not in the care of the State, in line with the new HIQA guidelines which were published in March of this year. That is an additional element which will require an intensive search of files across the country, a process which is now under way.
It is not simply a matter of why there is no figure available for the number of children who have died in the care of the State. We must also check those who were brought to the attention of social services but were not in care and those who went beyond the age of 18 and thus were no longer children but required after-care services up to the age of 21. Since the category of people being inquired about has been extended, all these files must now be checked. It is not restricted to those who were in State care. This is why there must be an extensive trawl through files. This must be done properly so the correct information can be obtained. There are 32 community care areas in which that exercise must take place, back-dated over the last ten years. We must understand the work involved.
Of course it would be far better if that information were immediately available. I am simply explaining the circumstances; more time will be required to obtain the information. The category of people involved has been extended to include not only those who were in State care but those who came to the attention of social services but were not in care and those who required after-care services after reaching the age of majority.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I listened carefully to the Taoiseach’s answer to Deputy Kenny on the legislation the Government believes is needed to underpin this transfer of information, but he did not give any indication of the timeframe involved. I would appreciate if he could tell us when he expects the Bill to be published and dealt with in the House.
The Limerick north side and south side revised regeneration plans were to go to Cabinet. Have they been agreed by Government and, if so, are there any implications for the legislation? Secondary legislation may be required because the bodies involved were set up by statute.
Deputy Joe Costello: My question relates to the 1975 European Union directive on waste. As the Taoiseach knows, EU directives must be transposed into legislation three years after they have been agreed. However, this directive has not yet been transposed into domestic legislation after 35 years. Last year, the Commission took the Government to the European Court of Justice and won a decision against it.
Deputy Joe Costello: This is to do with legislation. The result has been that the Government has had to pay its own legal fees plus three quarters of the EU’s fees, with fines to come down the road. In the meantime, rural house-building has continued apace without adequate septic tanks or treatment facilities. We now have tens of thousands of housing units throughout the country——
Deputy Joe Costello: ——which are in breach of the required rules. When will that legislation be introduced? When will we get it right? How has it taken all this time for successive Ministers for the environment to introduce this legislation?
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Tánaiste told me on Thursday in the context of the speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions that it was not the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to protect whistleblowers. On Friday night the Minister for Justice and Law Reform made a speech to the Law Society which the media interpreted as meaning that there would be such legislation. I accept that neither Deputy Ahern nor the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, tells the Taoiseach everything he is up to; I will have a private word with the Taoiseach about that some time. Does he intend to introduce legislation to protect whistleblowers, or was this another kite flown by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform?
The Taoiseach: That is the situation as has been outlined to date. The Director of Public Prosecutions made some comments on this matter in recent times. I understand the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Deputy Ahern, spoke to the Law Society recently about measures to be taken with regard to white-collar crime, which did not relate specifically to whistleblower legislation. I am not aware that there has been a change in terms of moving to an omnibus Bill, but I will check for the Deputy.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: In the Irish Examiner this morning, there were large headlines to the effect that the water safety authority knew that 46 children had been drowned in Ireland last year. The Road Safety Authority can tell us, county by county and road by road, how many people have died in road traffic accidents in a given year. Does the Taoiseach agree that it defies belief that the people charged with responsibility for children do not know how many have died while under their care?
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: It adds insult to injury that these people are refusing to hand over files. Will the Taoiseach show them who is in charge in this country, who they are working for and what their responsibilities are?
The Taoiseach: We are hopeful that Bill will be published this session. On the other issue, the Deputy was in the House for the previous debate on these matters where it was made clear that there are legal issues involved that we must resolve. We cannot give a direction contrary to the law but must instead bring in new legislation to deal with the situation, which is what we are doing. I have also explained to Members who have inquired in the House today that the remit of the investigation is extending beyond children who died in State care to include those who may have been notified to child protection services but were not in State care and who subsequently died. All of that must be checked.
There are currently 5,500 thousand children involved with the State services in terms of foster care, institutional care or special care. That adds up to a substantial number in a ten-year period as per the extended remit. While I would like to have that information for the House today, it is in the process of being obtained. We have indicated that we will legislate in this area to ensure there is sufficient interaction between the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive so that the necessary information is available to Mr. Shannon and Ms Gibbons.
Deputy Billy Timmins: When can we expect to see the report by the passport service into the illegal use of Irish passports in Dubai, which was received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs more than a week ago?
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