Thursday, 24 March 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 5a, statements on the current situation in Libya. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings in relation to No. 5a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 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 ten minutes.
An Ceann Comhairle: We are speaking about time and speaking arrangements only. I want to be clear on this, in case anyone misunderstands. The motion before the House relates to speaking times for the issue before us.
An Ceann Comhairle: The motion before the House relates to speaking times for the debate on the situation in Libya. I will deal with other matters after that. Does the House agree to the speaking arrangements?
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: This relates to timing. If you do me the courtesy of allowing me to make my point, I will establish how that is the case. The Taoiseach briefed the House on the Government’s approach to the EU summit, which will commence this evening.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am ruling on this. We are dealing with a purely technical matter. I will deal with other issues when I have dealt with this one. Deputy McDonald, you are not agreeing with the speaking arrangements.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, I am on my feet. Please resume your seat. This ruling is important for the proper order of the House. I will allow debate in the ordinary way on the Order of Business. However, we are dealing with a technical matter about speaking arrangements. We either agree to the arrangements as outlined or we do not. If Deputies are not agreeing to them I ask them to say so and we will put them to a vote. Are the speaking arrangements agreed to?
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: There is a precedent for a Member rising to object to arrangements because he or she wants another debate. That has been allowed in the past. Members have objected to the time allocated for a motion. An objection must be tied to the timing arrangements, which are contained within the motion. That is what is being objected to.
An Ceann Comhairle: The motion before the House deals with the allocation of time for the debate on Libya. I take it the Sinn Féin Deputies do not agree to the arrangements. Deputy Lenihan is indicating, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Deputies, that they do not agree either. I call Deputy Lenihan.
Deputy Joe Higgins: This is not simply a matter of precedent. Standing Order 26(2)(a) states that the Taoiseach, or the Tánaiste, “may propose, on motion made without notice, arrangements for sittings and for the taking of such business until such business has been disposed of; save where any such proposal is opposed, the Ceann Comhairle shall permit a brief statement from a representative from each party in opposition and the Taoiseach before he or she puts the question thereon”.
An Ceann Comhairle: That is correct. That is why I allowed Deputy McDonald to make a point relating to the motion. The motion before the House is a simple one about speaking arrangements. I have ruled on the matter and that is the situation.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy will take his seat for a moment, I will explain. What I am trying to do over the next couple of weeks is to bring in amendments to Standing Orders that will allow Deputies, particularly those on the Opposition benches, to raise legitimately issues of concern. However, let us please adhere to the existing Standing Orders until we get a chance to do that. There is no point in my having an argument with Deputy Higgins on a technical issue. The reality is that there is a simple motion before the House in regard to the speaking arrangements — that is it. If the Deputy does not agree with it, he can say why he does not agree with the particular arrangements as outlined by the Tánaiste. After that, we will put it to a vote.
Deputy Joe Higgins: That is precisely why I rose to my feet. I want a variation of the proposed order from the Tánaiste so that he can explain to us in the first instance what happened to his forced march to Frankfurt——
Deputy Joe Higgins: ——and the time set aside for it. I want a slight variation from the Tánaiste’s position to allow him to explain to us why at the European Council today, what the Taoiseach promised us on Tuesday has changed in regard to——
An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy please resume his seat? Let us not make fools of ourselves in this matter. There is no point trying to fool me into thinking that the Standing Order allows for that sort of a debate. It does not.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I want the time to be changed slightly so the Tánaiste can explain to us why it is off the agenda today that the Irish Government is seeking lower interest rates and for bondholders to take their pain, which the Taoiseach promised on Tuesday he would do in Brussels today and tomorrow. Is that not in order?
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: All I acknowledge is that the Ceann Comhairle allowed my colleague to stand but he did not allow her to speak. As I have been here for a few years, I know there is ample precedent to object to the Order of Business because of the exclusion of an item that is of current importance and that Members would wish to see addressed on any given day.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Given the length of time this exchange has taken, Deputy McDonald’s point would have long been made. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to allow the Deputy to conclude her point, which is only fair and reasonable and will not in any way——
An Ceann Comhairle: If Deputy McDonald wishes to make a point in regard to the speaking times for the debate on Libya, and that only, I will certainly allow her to do so. I apologise if I interrupted the Deputy on that point. However, Deputy McDonald should not abuse my generosity in allowing her to speak a second time because that is the issue we are dealing with. When we have dealt with that issue, Members can raise matters that are in accordance with Standing Order 26. I call Deputy McDonald.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his outstanding generosity in allowing me to speak. The objection is the basis of the time allocation. Time must be cleared for the Government to give an account to this House of how and why a negotiating position, strategy and approach that was outlined in great detail to this House as recently as Tuesday has now completely changed.
|Bannon, James.||Barry, Tom.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burton, Joan.|
|Butler, Ray.||Buttimer, Jerry.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Byrne, Eric.|
|Cannon, Ciarán.||Carey, Joe.|
|Collins, Áine.||Conaghan, Michael.|
|Conlan, Seán.||Conway, Ciara.|
|Coonan, Noel.||Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.|
|Costello, Joe.||Creed, Michael.|
|Creighton, Lucinda.||Daly, Jim.|
|Deasy, John.||Deering, Pat.|
|Donnelly, Stephen.||Donohoe, Paschal.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Farrell, Alan.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Ferris, Anne.|
|Fitzgerald, Frances.||Fitzpatrick, Peter.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Griffin, Brendan.||Harrington, Noel.|
|Harris, Simon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Heydon, Martin.|
|Howlin, Brendan.||Humphreys, Heather.|
|Humphreys, Kevin.||Keating, Derek.|
|Keaveney, Colm.||Kehoe, Paul.|
|Kelly, Alan.||Kenny, Seán.|
|Kyne, Seán.||Lawlor, Anthony.|
|Lynch, Ciarán.||Lynch, Kathleen.|
|Lyons, John.||McCarthy, Michael.|
|McFadden, Nicky.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McHugh, Joe.||McLoughlin, Tony.|
|McNamara, Michael.||Maloney, Eamonn.|
|Mathews, Peter.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Mitchell O’Connor, Mary.||Mulherin, Michelle.|
|Murphy, Dara.||Nash, Gerald.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Nolan, Derek.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Donovan, Patrick.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Phelan, Ann.||Phelan, John Paul.|
|Quinn, Ruairí.||Ring, Michael.|
|Ryan, Brendan.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Spring, Arthur.||Stagg, Emmet.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Tuffy, Joanna.||Twomey, Liam.|
|Varadkar, Leo.||Walsh, Brian.|
|Adams, Gerry.||Boyd Barrett, Richard.|
|Collins, Joan.||Colreavy, Michael.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Daly, Clare.|
|Doherty, Pearse.||Ellis, Dessie.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Halligan, John.|
|Healy, Seamus.||Higgins, Joe.|
|McDonald, Mary Lou.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McLellan, Sandra.||Murphy, Catherine.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|O’Brien, Jonathan.||O’Sullivan, Maureen.|
|Pringle, Thomas.||Ross, Shane.|
|Stanley, Brian.||Tóibín, Peadar.|
An Ceann Comhairle: Before moving on with the Order of Business, I will put on the record what is authorised under Standing Order 26(3). It is: questions from any Member “about business on the Order Paper; about the taking of business which has been promised, including legislation promised either within or outside the Dáil; about the making of secondary legislation; about arrangements for sittings; and as to when Bills or other documents on the Order Paper needed in the House will be circulated:”
Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Governor of the Central Bank has indicated that the stress tests on the banking system will be announced by this day week. On all previous occasions when such stress tests were made, the Minister for Finance made a statement in the House responding to the results of the stress tests conducted by the Central Bank, indicating how the capital shortfalls, burden sharing or other arrangements to be put in place to ensure a shortfall were made up. I ask the Tánaiste if time will be set aside and on what date next week for that purpose.
Newspaper reports this morning suggest that the chief executives of various banks are already being briefed about the results of these stress tests. It is important for the Government to be accountable to this House with regard to stress tests and specifically relating to the amounts of capital required and if an extension of burden sharing beyond the subordinated bonds already subject to burden sharing can be agreed, or as part of our negotiating position with the European authorities. As the Government is no doubt aware, its predecessor raised this question with regard to unguaranteed senior debt at the time of the EU and IMF discussions. The European Central Bank at that stage set its face against any such burden sharing for unguaranteed senior debt.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: ——that a statement is made in this House outlining the Government’s precise position on the issue. Nothing would damage our international reputation more than uncertainty on an issue of that character.
The Tánaiste: The results of the stress tests are expected next week and the Minister for Finance will make a statement following the announcement of the stress tests. The timing of that statement will depend on when the stress tests are announced and made available. It is the intention of the Minister for Finance to make a statement in response.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: As we will not today have an account from the Government, an explanation of the U-turn or how it is that the much trumpeted strategy around getting a deal on the interest rate for the bailout is now off the table——
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Colleagues have asked the question about the U-turn and where I learned of it. It is amply articulated today in various media outlets, which is not the place any Deputy elected to the House should learn of such a change in the Government’s position. This is especially true today, when bond yields have risen over 10% and the position of the State is so precarious and fragile. The Government’s negotiating strategy, which was watery weak to begin with, has now plunged into utter incoherence. The Government has resisted providing such time today and I ask that next week, at least, the Taoiseach presents himself before the House to give an account of the outcomes of the summit and attempts to give us some sense of the strategy, such as it is, which the Government is pursuing on this critical matter.
The Tánaiste: First, I reassure Deputy McDonald that there is no U-turn. The Taoiseach is attending the European Council meeting today. There are serious issues being faced by the country and we find ourselves in difficult economic circumstances; this is allied to the challenging work that must be undertaken to get the country out of its economic difficulties and serious discussions which must take place with European partners and institutions. I am sure every Member in the House would support the Taoiseach in the work he is undertaking today and tomorrow on behalf of this country.
The Tánaiste: I assure Deputy McDonald and every other Member in the House that the Taoiseach’s work today is to do the very best for this country and he has the full support of the Government in doing that. I am sure he will have the full support of every Member in the House in doing it.
The Tánaiste: Members are aware that we had on Tuesday an opportunity to have a discussion prior to the Council meeting, which is a relatively new arrangement. There will be an opportunity for the Taoiseach to report back to the House after the Council meeting and the arrangements for that can be discussed between the Whips. As far as this country’s strategy and approach are concerned, what the Taoiseach is doing today is representing Ireland and doing the very best for this country. There is no U-turn of any kind.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I expect that when the Taoiseach reports to this House next week, he will tell us that the matter of the interest rate was on the table and that we have a result. I also expect the issue of burden sharing is being addressed in a concrete way and that he did not perform a U-turn on corporation tax. The Tánaiste has said this is a matter for the Whips but I would like a more concrete assurance.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I have two brief issues. The reality is that the Taoiseach and the Government are in full flight before the wrath of Chancellor Merkel. The Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny, has been warned not to raise the issue this weekend because of the difficulties of the European People’s Party in various member states. Frankly, it is a pathetic capitulation in front of the European establishment.
Deputy Joe Higgins: With regard to arrangements for sittings, the staff looking after security and other important issues in Leinster House are having a unilateral change of conditions forced on them from Monday which will impact severely on what is not a very high wage. As a Member of this Dáil I am very uncomfortable with that so will the Tánaiste intervene to ensure this does not happen and that negotiations will take place in the normal way to get fair play for those who look after the staff and Members in the Oireachtas?
The Tánaiste: It has been the practice that following European Council meetings the Taoiseach will report to the House on the meeting. That practice will continue and we will make arrangements for that. Not unpredictably, Deputy Higgins is already declaring a sell-out, capitulation or various other denunciations before there is any outcome. He is being tediously predictable in that.
The Tánaiste: With regard to the other issue raised by Deputy Higgins, since he was last a Member, an Oireachtas Commission has been established which deals with issues relating to staffing in the Houses and so on. The issues he raises are matters for the commission.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: We learned from the programme for Government that the Government proposes to introduce a mini-budget in June. Yesterday, under questioning from my party, the Minister for Finance indicated he will introduce counterbalancing, revenue raising measures which will have to generate additional revenue of €1.5 billion by 2013. While the mini-budget has been dressed up as a jobs fund, it will include austerity measures to the tune of €1.5 billion. When will a finance Bill giving effect to these measures be published?
An independent report was done on the recommendations made by the Department of Finance to the previous Government. Will opinions given by the Department be made public, as recommended by the report? If the Department’s views and analyses had been made public during previous Administrations, we may not be in the mess we are in today. Will the Department’s views on the measures in the forthcoming mini-budget aimed at raising revenue of €1.5 billion by 2013 be made available to Opposition parties?
The Tánaiste: I presume Deputy Doherty is referring to the Government’s commitment to introduce a jobs budget. The Government has given a commitment to introduce, in the early part of its life, a budget to provide measures that will generate and support employment creation. As Deputies will agree, the most important step needed to get the country back on its feet and the economy moving again is to get people back to work. The purpose of the jobs budget is to introduce measures which will enable jobs to be created and get some movement in our economy.
Various Departments with line responsibility for employment creation and support are working on and making inputs into this process. Once the process is completed, the jobs budget will be introduced in the House and the finance Bill which arises from it obviously will be published thereafter. In the meantime, the Government would be glad to receive proposals or suggestions from individual Members or political parties. Any such proposals would be examined by the Department of Finance.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: The Minister for Finance announced yesterday that counterbalancing measures are being examined by the Department of Finance. I asked whether the Department’s opinions will be made available to other parties, as the independent report recommended. The Tánaiste did not answer the question.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am sure the Tánaiste will have noted the great concern caused by the second reported outbreak of the superbug, KPC, at Limerick Regional Hospital in the past two weeks. Many items of promised legislation date back to the previous Dáil or indeed a number of Dáil terms. In terms of prioritising health legislation, does the Government intend to fast-track the eligibility for health and personal social services Bill and the licensing of health facilities Bill? Both Bills have been promised for a long period. The Government parties were, like Sinn Féin, Opposition voices for a long period and will be aware that the former Government was extremely dilatory in bringing forward these essential Bills. Will the new Government be different in this respect? In the context of the concerns I have outlined, will it endeavour to ensure that the Department of Health and Children brings forward these essential Bills with the speed they deserve?
The Tánaiste: The new Government is already different in that respect. It is a new departure for the Dáil to be back in session immediately following the formation of the Government. Previously, when new Governments were formed, there was generally a period of recess to allow them to prepare their legislative programmes and so forth. As the Deputy will be aware, some recesses lasted for a number of months. The Dáil is back in session immediately following the formation of this Government.
The Government has also restored to the Order Paper a list of Bills that can proceed straightaway. Individual Ministers have been asked to bring forward their legislative priorities in the coming weeks and I expect the Minister for Health and Children will do so in the context of the legislation to which the Deputy Ó Caoláin referred. I will ask the Minister to respond directly to the Deputy on the issues he raises.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I thank the Tánaiste for his response which we can evaluate only in the context of delivery. The House may be in session but the substance, which must be the legislative programme, is lacking. I encourage the Government to expedite the publication of the programme of legislation it intends to progress for all Departments, not only the Department of Health and Children, in the coming term.
The Tánaiste: As the Taoiseach indicated yesterday and, I believe, the previous day when these questions were raised, it is intended to publish a full legislative programme in the next number of weeks.
Deputy Sean Fleming: Two years ago today, the Fine Gael Party placed a motion on the Order Paper signed by the current Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and many members of the new Government. The motion called on the then Government to reduce the numbers of Ministers of State to 12. The Tánaiste’s party supported the motion when the House divided on it. When will legislation be introduced to give effect to the motion for which both Government parties voted? If the introduction of such legislation is not planned, does the Tánaiste accept that Fine Gael and the Labour Party took a dishonest approach in undermining public confidence in the political system by voting for one thing in Opposition while doing the opposite in government?
The Tánaiste: There is no legislation promised on the matter. The Government has announced the Ministers of State it has appointed to implement a very ambitious programme for Government. The number of Ministers of State is considerably less than the number appointed by previous Governments on their formation.
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