Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. a11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Sustainable Energy Act 2002 (Section 8(2)) (Conferral of Additional Functions — Renewable Energy) Order 2012, to be referred to joint committee, and No. 1, Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Bill 2012 [Seanad] — Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 33, Protection of Employees (Amendment) Bill 2012 — Second Stage, which shall take place at the conclusion of the opening speeches on No. 1 or at 7.30 p.m., whichever is the later, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes tomorrow night; and No. a11 shall be decided without debate.
Deputy Micheál Martin: As Deputy Gerry Adams said earlier, today is May Day and the beginning of summer. I know he has a habit of pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but he was fooling people if he could describe this as the beginning of summer.
Deputy Micheál Martin: We are witnessing a severe variation in climate and, in the past decade or two, scientists and others have identified significant changes. It is my contention that the Government has not taken this agenda seriously enough and I do not get any sense of urgency or that there is an ongoing focus on the serious issues around climate change. When will the climate change Bill be published and when can we get down to debating it?
No. 20 on the Order Paper is the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011. When will this Bill be returned to the House? An issue has arisen of late where a political party has raised approximately €1.2 million in North America through thousands of corporate donations. The legislative framework we enacted must have firewalls to ensure money Irish political parties cannot access in North America cannot be accessed and used via circuitous routes for electoral funding here now that the inkjet gap has been filled.
The Taoiseach: A policy review is ongoing of climate change. The Minister had a difference of opinion on targets which had been set and that might not be achievable. It will probably be late this year or early next year before the climate change Bill is brought to the House.
The political funding Bill is on Second Stage and awaits resumption of the debate. I expect that if the Deputy’s party Whip raises the issue at the Whips meeting, we can get it back into the House urgently.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Thank you. There is a firm commitment to develop a cultural plan for future commemoration events such as the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. This morning I met relatives of the 1916 leaders to discuss their proposals for the development of an historic quarter in the vicinity of the national monument at Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. The Taoiseach is aware of these proposals and actually walked the lanes with the relatives and listened to what they had to say. Does he agree or is he able to tell the Dáil that their proposals are the most appropriate for the site in terms of its history, heritage, culture and tourism potential? Does the Government have a mind to bring forward legislation, if needed?
The Taoiseach: It is an important issue. I walked the area some time ago with the relatives. As the House knows, money has been set aside in the Office of Public Works for a commemorative process. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, is chairing the committee dealing with the issue, in which he has a particular interest. To be honest, there are quite a number of complications about the ownership of the site and the planning permission issued for Nos. 14-17 Moore Street which encompasses the national monument site. However, it should be possible to arrive at a resolution, if that is the correct word, or a situation where one could have a very decent outcome to a lot of the deliberations in this regard. I ask Deputy Gerry Adams to deal directly with the Minister who is chairing the committee and has visited the site and, possibly, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Brian Hayes, in order that he might receive a more detailed response. I do not want to say anything that will put him on the wrong track. It is an important entity and, if we get it right, I foresee a brilliant opportunity for people to understand how a small country achieved its independence at the start of the last century.
Deputy Gerry Adams: We should consider how the Titanic quarter was developed or how the conflict resolution centre at the H-blocks prison is being developed and compare them with what is happening at this very important site.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The Government has indicated that as part of the EU-IMF arrangements it is its intention to sell off the forests of Coillte, if not the lands, a distinction that, frankly, some of us find a little bizarre and confusing and a prospect which many in this country——
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: It concerns legislation. Many are very angry, shocked and concerned that the Government is considering selling such a vital asset to pay off bankers’ gambling debts. Given that this is its commitment, the legislative programme lists the forestry Bill which is supposed to deal with the management of our forests. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment that, at the very least, the Bill will be discussed in the Dáil before the Government makes a final decision to dispose of our forest heritage to whatever venture capitalist fancies taking over them?
The Taoiseach: I will provide confirmation on two points. First, the Government has no intention of selling the lands involved. It has a view of the potential sale of State assets, including timber, and in its own time will make its own decision in the best interests of what it is we have to do. Second, the forestry Bill will be introduced this session. Therefore, I can confirm for the Deputy that there will be a full discussion before a decision is made on this particular State asset.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: It is vital that the health (pricing and supply of medical goods) Bill is introduced to ensure an adequate supply of vital medicines will constantly available at an affordable cost to minimise the threats posed to patient safety.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: I want to raise the issue of patient safety in the context of A Vision for Change and the legislative measures involved therein. As the Minister for Health is present, the Taoiseach might be able to answer on the issue of facilities in Clonmel, a matter which ended up in the High Court, in which the case was lost last week. When will the Government inform the people of south Tipperary where they stand under A Vision for Change and what their future is?
Deputy Ray Butler: It is of utmost important that the bail Bill be pushed forward in this House. I refer to this Bill, in particular, because of a serious incident which took place recently in my constituency. It involved a young man being granted bail in the local courthouse who, almost immediately afterwards, proceeded to reoffend by committing another very serious crime which resulted in great distress being caused to those affected by his actions. We are all aware of increases in the levels of crime and serious criminal activity throughout the country.
The Taoiseach: I can confirm for Deputy Ray Butler that the draft heads of the Bill are at an advanced stage, but I cannot give him an exact date for its publication. It is a matter of priority for the Minister for Justice and Equality.
Deputy Brian Stanley: As far as I know, the local government (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is supposed to be published before the summer. Will it include a provision for directly elected mayors and cathaoirligh, a badly needed overhaul of local government——
Deputy Timmy Dooley: In the light of the leaked agenda for the Aer Lingus board meeting scheduled for Friday and the implications for maintenance workers, will the Taoiseach tell us when he intends to bring forward the legislation promised on the separation or otherwise of Shannon and Cork Airports from the DAA?
The Taoiseach: I do not have a date for the publication of that legislation, except to say these matters are under consideration. The Deputy is aware that the Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar, received the Booz report on State airports and consideration is being given to a number of propositions made.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: What progress has been made in the production of the health insurance (risk equalisation) Bill which has been promised and is deemed highly necessary? On housing, what progress has been made on the Bill to regulate voluntary housing associations which has been promised for some time and has a certain urgency attached?
The Taoiseach: I understand from the Minister for Health that the health insurance (risk equalisation) Bill should be ready before the summer recess. I hope this will be the case as a good deal of work has been done on the Bill.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: What progress has been made with the criminal justice (legal aid) Bill? Where is it at? When does the Taoiseach expect the pyrite panel, under Mr. Tuohy, to report? Will the report come before the House and will we get a chance to debate it? Several financial institutions, most of which are owned either by this state or the British state, have refused to engage in Mr. Justice Finnegan’s resolution process for Priory Hall. I thank the Taoiseach for the work he has done so far on Priory Hall. The resolution process is about to get under way but some banks, owned by the House or the people, are refusing to get involved in the resolution process. Will the Taoiseach undertake to ensure they come to the table and that we get a full resolution?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Broughan can see the Taoiseach any time he wants and he knows that. The criminal justice (legal aid) Bill will be later this year. I spoke to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government today. He has received confirmation from the banks that they will engage in the resolution process of Mr. Justice Finnegan. When I was in Baldoyle at the announcement of the $500 million investment by Mylan, I met a number of the Priory Hall people. My views on this matter are clear. I am pleased to note the banks have confirmed they will engage in the resolution process.
Deputy Seamus Kirk: The Minister has raised the possibility of the abolition and perhaps merger of various local authorities as part of local government reform. I take it this will involve legislation. Will the Taoiseach indicate when we can expect it?
The Taoiseach: We approved the legislation last week. I am unsure whether it included the two provisions referred to by Deputy Kirk. It has been cleared by Government and has gone for publication. We will check the two specific issues raised by the Deputy.
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