Thursday, 21 July 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It is not agreed. There are a number of proposals being made, several relating to the imposition of a guillotine. Not so many months ago, if those who are now Government Whips had seen proposals for seven guillotines on a single day, they would have been apoplectic. In many cases there is no need for the proposals to guillotine legislation because it will not be opposed and will pass virtually on the nod. The Bills have been exhaustively debated and are not contentious. I am arguing against the imposition of seven guillotines today and ask that even at this late stage, the Chief Whip and Tánaiste consider removing the guillotines. This would allow debate to take place in a proper fashion with every one of the proposals before us, many of which are quite detailed changes in our legislation and require more time for every Deputy to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
The Tánaiste: All of these are pieces of reforming legislation and I would expect Members of the House to support them. One of the proposals, for example, deals with amendments from the Seanad to the child care Bill. I recall last week that Deputy Ó Caoláin specifically asked for those amendments to be made, and they were made in the Seanad.
The Tánaiste: The House will today agree the amendments made in the Seanad which were proposed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. It would be somewhat strange for the House to want to delay the implementation of those amendments and important child care legislation.
The Tánaiste: No. 17b relates to the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 and the proposal will allow the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government to introduce amendments to the Bill which will, for example, deal with the long outstanding issue of the name of Dingle and Daingean Uí Chúis. There are also a number of technical amendments relating to the birds directive.
The Tánaiste: The Government has a number of pieces of reforming legislation before the House and there is absolutely no reason this legislation should not be enacted. I see no reason for the Opposition, or parts of it, to want to delay the reforms being dealt with.
An Ceann Comhairle: We read the papers. I remind Deputies that while all this is ongoing, it is now 11.05 a.m. and all the business to be dealt with will be held up. I ask Deputies for their co-operation.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: If the Deputy wishes it, I can do it. The Tánaiste definitely did not listen and misrepresented exactly what I stated. I indicated that most of the legislation was not contentious and would probably go through on the nod because there is agreement across the board on it. I ask that the guillotines be lifted. We have shown in recent months that when guillotines were imposed, they were not required. Where legislation is welcome and not controversial, we have accepted the reasoning——
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: ——behind quick passage. We have agreed with Ministers in putting legislation on the agenda today to facilitate debate. All I ask is that the guillotines be lifted as the legislation will be passed in the timeframe outlined by the Government. There should be ample opportunity to debate the different amendments to these pieces of legislation, which are far-reaching in some cases. We do not want it said, in a number of months, that proper scrutiny was not given to the issue and legislation could be struck down by the Supreme Court.
The Tánaiste: There are a number of pieces of legislation and, in fairness, Deputy Ó Snodaigh is correct in that these Bills are not being opposed, as I understand it. The times we have set down to conclude the debate on each of the pieces of legislation is to provide a form of discipline for the House to ensure we get through all of them.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. a1, Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009, amendments from the Seanad, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 24, Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Regulations) (No. 2) Bill 2011, Second Stage (Resumed), agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with 29a, Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2011, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 September 2011, agreed to?
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: ——for Opposition parties to oppose the motion on the adjournment of the Dáil for the summer and try to add to the myth that politicians are on holiday when the Dáil is not sitting in plenary session. I am not going to add to this fable today.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: ——in recess, we fulfil many of the other functions of our office. That can involve doing research, working in our constituencies or reading important documents that inform the work we have to do. I recognise that those in government will use the break to do much of the work that needs to be done in their Departments. I am sure they will take this opportunity to do work that will be of great importance to the country in the autumn.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: It is fair to point out that many politicians on both sides of the House have specific briefs that require a considerable amount of work and research. Politics can demand dedication from people other than politicians — it is also required from the family members of Deputies, for example. Politicians are often away from home for days or weeks on end. I accept that the hours are long for Dublin Deputies, but it is fair to recognise that when the House is sitting, rural Deputies are away from home for the best part of the week.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The recess presents an opportunity to work from home, but that does not mean one is not working. I emphasise that regardless of their policies or allegiances, most politicians work very hard and believe in what they are doing.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Taoiseach should report to the House on the summit and give us a chance to debate its outcome. Between now and the recall of the Dáil, those of us on this side of the House will continue to work and prepare to come back here as a vigilant and active Opposition. Despite our depleted numbers, we will hold the Government to account.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Ba mhaith liom chuile rath a ghuí ar gach éinne i gcaitheamh an tsamhraidh. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtógfadh gach Teachta briseadh mar go dteastaíonn sé. Tá súil agam go ngéillfidh an Tánaiste don iarratas atá déanta agam go dtiocfaimid ar ais ar chúis faoi leith atá thar a bheith tábhachtach don tír.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: ——many outside these walls work much harder. It is only fitting to record the fact that hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers will have a very fretful summer on foot of a High Court decision and the failure of the Government to introduce emergency legislation. We do not accept that the House should be adjourned, given that the Taoiseach is today attending an EU summit of immense importance to the State.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Many promises have been made by the Government in the course of this Dáil session. It promised to resolve the issue of the interest rate and deal with senior bondholders. We have heard a great deal of rhetoric but seen very little action.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Reports in the media today suggest something may be brewing in the discussions between France and Germany. It would be unacceptable if the Taoiseach were to fail to present himself before the House to give us a full account of the summit and reassure Deputies and the people as a whole — the taxpayers and citizens of the State — that he has finally taken a stand, done the right thing and represented the interests of citizens fully and fairly.
Deputy Joe Higgins: The same can be said of some Members. It has been a difficult year. However, more time is needed for three strong reasons. First, the EU summit will probably decide to continue the policy of the leaders of the European establishment, which is to continue to force working-class people in this country and elsewhere in Europe to salvage a rotten financial system. The Taoiseach should report back to us and give us an opportunity to discuss the outcome of the summit. Second, approximately 250,000 low-paid workers, among the most vulnerable workers in our society, have been left without the protection of the joint labour committees and the employment regulation order system which the bosses had struck down in the Supreme Court. This is the busiest and most pressurised time of the year in the hotel and restaurant sectors and other areas. Tens of thousands in these sectors are open to pressure and exploitation. It is shameful for the national Parliament to adjourn for the summer without giving these workers the protections they need. Third, an opinion poll published this morning suggests 55% of the people are dissatisfied with the Government. Significantly, a majority of Labour Party supporters are dissatisfied.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Everybody deserves a break. Whatever differences I have with the Members on the other side of the House, I recognise it has been a fairly intense few months in here and all of us have a difficult situation to deal with. I do not doubt that Members have been working hard in their own way by their own lights in order to attempt to deal with the situation.
Also, it is important to dispel the myth that politicians will all be swanning off for the next six or eight weeks on holidays. They deserve a break and no doubt will take one, but many of them will be working for most of that time, either in their constituencies or on the issues that affect the country.
That being said, however, there is a strong and legitimate case for keeping the Dáil convened for a few more days. First, the issue of the European summit is a serious matter. While there are some positive noises about what may happen there in terms of trying to deal with the debt crisis, there have been similar sounds before previous summits which turned out to be quite other than what people hoped and the contagion spread. People are anxious and deserve to hear a full report and to have this House interrogate fully the outcome of that summit.
In particular, one element of the Taoiseach’s speech yesterday in terms of what might come out of that summit alarmed me greatly and if any such arrangement is put in place, it is certainly something that we need to discuss. It is that if there was any talk of lengthening the maturities on loans and lowering interest rates, it may include a collateral arrangement where appropriate.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I just want to make a point. That is a very serious question. That means assets of the State would be used as collateral against changes in interest rates. That is a serious business and we need to know if that is the case.
Another reason is the Dáil owes it to a vulnerable section of society to clarify whether it will have the educational supports it needs come September. Heading into the summer, parents of children with special needs who have been refused applications for special needs assistants need to know whether they will have them in the autumn. There are 400 or so held over, but it is uncertain for many parents whether they will have them. The Dáil has an obligation to the parents of the most vulnerable children in this country to clarify that situation before the summer break.
Lastly, I have asked since the publication of the McCarthy report for some discussion in this House about what State assets may be on the chopping block for sale in order to pay off the bankers and bondholders and I have been referred constantly to the Chief Whip. We have asked the Chief Whip in meeting after meeting to have this discussion and the Government consistently refuses to discuss the question of billions of euro in State assets that may be up for sale. We should not adjourn the Dáil until that matter is discussed and clarified and the public gets a chance to know what may be up for sale to pay off bondholders.
The Tánaiste: We should acknowledge that the House, since the general election, has sat for 38% longer than was previously the case. The recess that is being proposed for this summer is the shortest that I certainly can recall, and I am in the House 22 years. The date originally proposed by the previous Government for the adjournment of the Dáil for the summer was 7 July and the date for resumption was 29 September. What we are talking about is a much shorter recess.
A number of Members have referred to the important meeting taking place today in Brussels of the Heads of State and Government. It is an important meeting that has been convened by President Van Rompuy. First, the fact that the meeting is taking place represents a significant achievement for this country and for the Government. For some time we have been seeking to have the debate about the debt crisis moved from being dealt with on a country-by-country basis to being dealt with on a European-wide basis, seeking a European solution to a European problem. The fact that we are at a point today where there is a summit meeting taking place which is addressing a European solution to that crisis represents a very significant achievement for the country, for the Government and for the diplomatic work that we have been doing over the course of the past four months or more in that area.
The Tánaiste: ——and express the hope that there will be a positive outcome for Ireland from that meeting. I certainly hope that there will be such a positive outcome and if there is, I hope it will be welcomed, not only by those of us who are on the Government side of the House but right across the House. Much work has gone in over a long period of time to reach the point where today, hopefully, this country will get a positive outcome from the meeting that is taking place in Brussels.
I am proposing that the House itself, in terms of its formal plenary session, will adjourn today and reconvene on 14 September. However, it is appropriate that the outcome of the summit meeting today is considered by the parliamentary system. I understand it is proposed that there will be a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on Tuesday at 4 o’clock to discuss the outcome of the summit. As the House will be aware, every Member of the House is entitled to attend meetings of committees. If it is the case that the number of Members interested in attending that committee is more than what would be accommodated in the committee room, we can have that meeting of the committee here in the Chamber so that any Member of the House who wants to discuss the outcome of today’s summit, from which, hopefully, there will be satisfactory conclusions, can do so here in the House. We can use the Chamber for the meeting of that committee and Members can be here in the Chamber at 4 o’clock on Tuesday next.
The Tánaiste: Finally, on the issue of workers and the outcome of the High Court decision on the JLCs, as we stated here on a number of occasions the Government is preparing legislation to deal with that issue and we hope to have that legislation before the House early in the new session.
|Bannon, James.||Barry, Tom.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Butler, Ray.||Buttimer, Jerry.|
|Carey, Joe.||Coffey, Paudie.|
|Conlan, Seán.||Connaughton, Paul J.|
|Coonan, Noel.||Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.|
|Costello, Joe.||Creed, Michael.|
|Daly, Jim.||Deasy, John.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Farrell, Alan.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Flanagan, Charles.|
|Flanagan, Terence.||Gilmore, Eamon.|
|Griffin, Brendan.||Harrington, Noel.|
|Harris, Simon.||Hayes, Brian.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Healy-Rae, Michael.|
|Heydon, Martin.||Humphreys, Heather.|
|Humphreys, Kevin.||Keaveney, Colm.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Seán.|
|Kyne, Seán.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||Lyons, John.|
|McCarthy, Michael.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McFadden, Nicky.||McLoughlin, Tony.|
|Mathews, Peter.||Mitchell O’Connor, Mary.|
|Mulherin, Michelle.||Murphy, Dara.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.||O’Donovan, Patrick.|
|O’Dowd, Fergus.||O’Mahony, John.|
|O’Reilly, Joe.||O’Sullivan, Jan.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Phelan, John Paul.|
|Ryan, Brendan.||Shatter, Alan.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Spring, Arthur.|
|Stanton, David.||Timmins, Billy.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Wall, Jack.|
|Walsh, Brian.||White, Alex.|
|Boyd Barrett, Richard.||Browne, John.|
|Calleary, Dara.||Collins, Joan.|
|Collins, Niall.||Colreavy, Michael.|
|Cowen, Barry.||Crowe, Seán.|
|Daly, Clare.||Doherty, Pearse.|
|Donnelly, Stephen.||Dooley, Timmy.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Fleming, Sean.|
|Fleming, Tom.||Higgins, Joe.|
|Kitt, Michael P.||McDonald, Mary Lou.|
|McGrath, Finian.||McLellan, Sandra.|
|Murphy, Catherine.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|O’Brien, Jonathan.||O’Dea, Willie.|
|O’Sullivan, Maureen.||Pringle, Thomas.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Stanley, Brian.|
Deputy Pearse Doherty: Can the Tánaiste confirm if the Taoiseach is refusing to come before the finance committee to brief Members on one of the most important European summits on the week we will inject €19 billion of taxpayers’ money into the banks?
Deputy Joe Higgins: On the matter of arrangements for the sittings the Tánaiste gave us the impression and explained that the finance committee would be a substitute for the Dáil. It was taken in good faith and we assumed this meant the Taoiseach would be here. Otherwise, what is the point of it?
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Yesterday, the Taoiseach and the House set out in the clearest and most strenuous language that the abuse and sheltering of abusers which has come to light in respect of the Roman Catholic Church will not be tolerated and that any undue interference by the Vatican would not only be viewed negatively, but would have negative consequences for the relationship between this State and that one. I acknowledge fully the sincerity of Ministers Shatter and Fitzgerald in respect of the State’s obligation to protect fully our children. We demand of the church or any other private institution that they respect the laws of the land. We have to be very sure that the laws of the land are robust and are implemented. In that respect, when we come back in the autumn, I ask that the child welfare and protection agency Bill, the children first Bill and the national vetting bureau Bill have realistic timetables, and that, having castigated the church, we do not have a situation in which the State fails our children.
The Tánaiste: As far as this Government is concerned, the State will not fail our children. The Government has responded very quickly to the Cloyne report and its implications. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minster for Justice and Equality have set out the legislative measures the Government will take, and they will be progressed. The Taoiseach yesterday set out very clearly the Government’s reaction to the interventions by the Vatican. As the Deputy is aware, I have sought a formal response in respect of that from the Vatican.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Three referenda are promised. My understanding was that they would be run with the presidential election. The time is getting very short. What plans are there to have the consultation process set up by the commission and to have these referenda, allowing that we are not coming back until 14 September? Will the Tánaiste clarify whether these referenda will go ahead on 21 October, the date which I understand is proposed for the presidential election?
The Tánaiste: The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has not yet set a date for the presidential election. It is intended that the three referenda will be held on the same date as the presidential election and this will mean that the legislative provisions for those referenda will be before the House when we come back. The Taoiseach has given an undertaking to party leaders that when texts are settled, there will be consultation after that.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Tánaiste said there is no official date but we are all aware that a date was mentioned at a certain party convention. If it is a later date, so be it, but there is a finite date by which the presidential election must be held because the seven years will be up.
Is it possible to get a detailed timetable of what is proposed in terms of the date for the legislation, getting it through both Houses, how much debate we will have and the details of the setting up of the commission?
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: All of this takes time. Given what the Tánaiste has said, it would appear that from the time the Dáil recommences the Government has exactly one month and seven days, which is a very short timeframe to get legislation through both Houses, deal with basic issues and satisfy all the constitutional requirements for having a referendum.
The Tánaiste: When we are in a position to do so, we can communicate a timetable to the Opposition parties. Again, it is for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to set the date and that date has not yet been set.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: I seek the assistance of the Ceann Comhairle in clarifying the situation next week in regard to a report from the European meeting today. The Tánaiste has been helpful in indicating that the finance committee——
Deputy Timmy Dooley: As a member of the finance committee, I would like to know the procedures, whether the committee is due to sit and whether the Minister for Finance or the Taoiseach will come before the committee to address the matter.
The Tánaiste: The information I have been given is that the finance committee will convene next Tuesday at 4 p.m. and that it will consider the outcome of the summit today. First, we do not yet have an outcome. As other Members have said, some summit meetings can be entirely predictable and the issues concern the conclusions that are reached, their form or whether further work must be done later. We cannot predict the outcome of that meeting other than to say we very much hope there will be a positive outcome from that summit meeting today. That has been the way in which the Government has prepared for it.
This is really a matter for the committee. I do not know who the committee has invited and that is a matter for it. Obviously, the Government will decide who will make a presentation to the committee, and that will to some extent depend on the outcome of the summit.
Deputy Brendan Ryan: Is the proposed review of the impact and possible re-balancing of the universal social charge under way as yet? What will be the terms of reference of that review? Who is best placed to assess the impacts of those charges and, therefore, best placed to carry out the review? When will the review be complete? It is important——
Deputy Joe Higgins: I was going to suggest the arrangement for a full report back from the EU leaders summit next week would necessitate the Taoiseach being present. I was a member of the finance committee and Deputy Boyd Barrett and I are going to request the Chairman to request that the Taoiseach be in attendance.
Deputy Seán Crowe: There is a serious aspect. Is legislation needed to establish the early flood warning system body? There was a previous Fine Gael Private Members’ motion in the House on the issue. This body is supposedly being established.
The Tánaiste: I do not believe legislation is promised in this regard and I am not sure legislation is necessary. The issue of early flood warnings can be pursued with the Minister responsible for the Office of Public Works.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: I understood the Tánaiste to say he expects the legislation on the JLCs to be prepared in time for the return of the Dáil. Do I take it that this legislation will be debated here in September?
The Tánaiste: What I said is that the Government is treating the preparation of that legislation as a matter of priority. As Deputy O’Dea is aware, it is quite complex, particularly given the nature of the judgment given by the courts. It is a priority for the Minister and we hope to have that legislation early in the new session.
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