Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Order of Business
First, I commend the "RTE Investigates" programme last night and the team involved in it. As the Taoiseach said already, what was revealed was truly shocking and also very damaging to the body politic in general, with the actions of a few tarnishing the many public representatives who give of their best in the public service. No public official and no politician should seek to benefit themselves by using or abusing their office. What was revealed last evening is truly unacceptable.
In that context, it is important that the Taoiseach gives us a timescale for key legislative measures that would respond to some of the issues raised in the programme last night. I refer in particular to the timescale in advance of the next general election. The Taoiseach spoke earlier about the planning Bill, which he says includes provision for an independent planning regulator. When can we expect the conclusion of that Bill? Is it the Taoiseach's intention to circulate to other parties a schedule for the completion of that Bill and its enactment before the general election? What are the Taoiseach's thoughts on that?
There is also legislation promised relating to the Standards in Public Office Commission. Is it proposed that there would be the power of initiation of investigation by the commission, so it could initiate its own investigations as opposed to having to wait for a complaint to be made? That is an important point.
Furthermore, the Taoiseach will recall that the former Minister, former Deputy John Gormley, had initiated independent inquiries into allegations of planning irregularities in a number of counties, including Cork, Carlow, Meath and Galway. Public advertisements had been produced and so forth. His successor, former Deputy Phil Hogan, suppressed those investigations and said they were not to proceed. He considered them to be inappropriate for some reason. Then there was an internal review. Can the Taoiseach indicate what happened to that internal review? It may have been quashed by the High Court. A barrister was supposed to be appointed to review complaints in Donegal. However, none of this has been published. The Taoiseach might not have immediate answers on the matter now, but perhaps he would revert to me on the internal review that replaced the investigations John Gormley had initiated and on the status of the review in County Donegal, where allegations were made and a barrister was brought in to examine them.
In practical terms, the legislative response is the crucial response to the issues that were raised in the programme. It is important that we get a timescale for that. We are open to agreeing a timescale with the Government in terms of bringing through the House the vital legislative measures that would make a difference for the future.