Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 6a, motion re Standing Orders 39, 120 and 121; and No. 10, statements in relation to the Moriarty tribunal report (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 6a shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 20, motion re universal social charge (resumed), to conclude at 8.30 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I do not want to deliberate too long on this matter but it is incorrect to say that Dáil Éireann cannot express its belief that a Deputy’s behaviour merits his or her resignation from the House. On previous occasions in 2001 and 2002, this House passed motions stating that a Deputy’s behaviour merited his resignation. Those motions were in respect of the late Deputy, Liam Lawlor, and they were introduced during Government time on both occasions. The Taoiseach had no difficulty in supporting those motions as leader of Fine Gael. We clearly cannot compel a resignation but we can express our belief there should be one. I understand that the Whips are meeting later today. I do not think it will be possible to debate a motion today because of the statements and questions allowed for under the Order of Business but we could agree on the allocation of Government time to debate it and if it has to be early next week, we would settle for that. Will the Government make time available for a debate and a vote on that?
Deputy Gerry Adams: Sinn Féin objected to the Order of Business yesterday because the Government proposed statements rather than a debate. The Taoiseach has indicated that he will attempt to reach agreement on a motion of censure which could be passed without debate. As that could be done this evening, is it his intention to revert to the House with a revised Order Paper?
The Taoiseach: The Whips are meeting at 5 p.m. and I hope they can reach agreement on a conclusion to this matter. The motion of 30 January 2001 in respect of the tribunal then sitting to investigate the late Deputy, Liam Lawlor, stated:
This resulted from a decision of the High Court. An amendment was tabled to the motion and the Dáil divided, with 79 Deputies for the motion and 72 against it. The Whips will meet to ascertain whether we can arrange an agreed position, which I would be happy to take in Government time.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: In light of the unprecedented intervention by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to lend support to the Judiciary as a result of criticism of Mr. Justice Moriarty by certain individuals, does the Government intend to bring forward legislation to deal with this matter? Was the Minister speaking in a personal capacity or on behalf of the Government? As a result of that matter, does the Taoiseach have concerns about the ownership of media organisations and the potential for undue influence being brought to bear in regard to the coverage of certain matters?
The Taoiseach: The Minister was speaking on behalf of the Government. It was not the first time this happened but on this occasion an unwarranted attack was made on the entire Judiciary as an institution. While people may well criticise individual members of the Judiciary, they are appointed to be independent and objective in their analysis. In the case arising from the tribunal, it is possible to have tribunal reports adjusted or corrected by the courts. That demonstrates that the intended impact of these attacks is unjustified in the sense that one cannot say that all the members of the Judiciary as an institution share the same mentality. There are plenty of examples of tribunal reports being corrected by order of another court. While a tribunal is not a court, courts have adjusted or corrected other reports by judges. Deputy Shatter was speaking on behalf of the Government in condemning and deploring unwarranted and unjustified attacks on members of the Judiciary and the Judiciary as an institution. It is simply not good enough.
Deputy Michael McGrath: As the Taoiseach knows, the bank stress test results are due to be announced tomorrow. I assume they will be announced, in the normal way, by the Central Bank. Given the serious impact they will have on the future of our banking sector, when will the Minister for Finance come before the House to make a statement on the result of the stress tests and take questions from members of the Opposition? Will the Taoiseach give us an update or progress report on the Fine Gael plans to impose burden sharing on senior bondholders, as announced previously?
The Taoiseach: The results will be announced around 4 p.m. tomorrow, I understand, by the Governor of the Central Bank. The Minister for Finance will address the Dáil around that time and there will be an opportunity for at least a round of contributions from the spokespersons on finance. The Minister will outline decisions that are being taken by Government with regard to preparing for the results of the stress tests and taking definitive steps to ensure we have a strong, working, credible banking structure so that we can move towards restoring a good, sound financial system in which banks can do what they are supposed to do, which is to manage people’s money and provide access to credit for business and for expansion opportunities. The Minister for Finance will address the Dáil tomorrow around 4.30 p.m. and there will be an opportunity for spokespersons on finance to make a contribution at that stage.
The Taoiseach: These greyhounds have been running for years. The list of legislation will be published next Tuesday. As I stand here I cannot actually tell the Deputy whether the Department has said this will be on the A list, but I will let him know during the course of the day.
Deputy Joe McHugh: In light of the British Government’s plan to produce a consultation paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, I ask the Taoiseach to consider instituting a parallel consultation or engagement through our own Department of Finance to deal with the effect this will have on our Border area. Through this consultation, there may be a proposal for a 12.5% corporation tax rate, a review of tax credits——
An Ceann Comhairle: That is a matter for a parliamentary question. The issues we deal with are promised legislation or time for debates. It is not a free-for-all. Questions such as this may be tabled as parliamentary questions to the appropriate Minister. If it is promised legislation, the Deputy may ask when it will be introduced.
An Ceann Comhairle: Otherwise, we will be here for too long. The Deputies are eating into the time for the debate, and that is why I must keep order. I ask people to co-operate. I am not trying to be awkward. Please understand what is allowable on the Order of Business. Is there promised legislation? If not, the Deputy will have to resume his seat.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: There was a promise to address the issue, and I am asking whether it will be addressed in the form of legislation. I refer to mortgage defaults, about which promises have been made outside the House, and it is in accordance with the Standing Orders laid down by the House to raise matters of promised legislation.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To restart, when will there be proposals to deal with mortgage defaults? This is an issue that we in Sinn Féin have raised consistently. It is serious and it is coming at us down the road. This is highlighted by the fact that Irish Life & Permanent has been delisted from the stock markets here and in London, given that fact that the bank was heavily involved in mortgage and development lending.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: Is there a proposal to deal with debt relief or debt forgiveness, as distinct from interest relief, which is being talked about at this point? We will hear the results of the stress tests——
The Taoiseach: There was a sub-group that dealt with this, but I do not think they came forward with a view about legislation. It is an important and serious issue. I will ask the Whip to report the up-to-date position to the Deputy today.
Deputy Martin Ferris: In light of the actions of the previous Government after the dissolution of the Dáil, does the Taoiseach intend to introduce any legislation to outlaw this form of cronyism? I am referring in particular to the actions of Pat Carey regarding Shell, and appointments to State boards and so on.
The Taoiseach: As the Deputy knows, it is the intention of the Government to introduce a system under which, for future appointments, the appointee will appear before the relevant committee of the Dáil to present his or her credentials and proposals for the committee, agency or board concerned. That is good for the appointees themselves; if they feel they can add something to a board or agency, they will have the opportunity to come before an Oireachtas committee to explain their vision for the position for which they wish to apply.
I raised with the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, the fact that there should not be a rush to make appointments during the hiatus between one Government and the next, as happened in this case. Obviously Governments have done this over the years, but it seems to have gone to extraordinary lengths on the last few occasions.
In the programme for Government, there is a promise to change the Adjournment Debate so that it will deal with current issues and be taken in the middle of the day. When does the Taoiseach hope to get that up and running?
The Taoiseach: I dealt with the last point at the start of the first ordinary Question Time in the Dáil. I understand we will have a debate and contributions from Members about Dáil reform and making the place more effective. I must say I am all for that. We should have an opportunity for topical issues to be raised by Members so that they can not only give a short contribution and receive a relevant answer, but also ask a follow-up question. In this way we will ensure the debate is not as sterile as it has been over the years, with Ministers of State who sometimes had no responsibility at all in the relevant areas reading prepared replies which might have been written much earlier and might not have reflected the evolving situation in some cases. That will be helpful.
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