Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
On my behalf and behalf of my party, I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his forbearance, generosity of spirit and indulgence of our good selves, the Members of the House, and for his fairness at all times throughout the year. I wish you and your family a very well-deserved break. I wish the same to all Members in the House, as well as to the staff of the House, including Mr. Peter Finnegan, his team and all the ushers, who make life so agreeable to us all. We genuinely thank them. We thank members of the media as well for their very fair and rigorous scrutiny of Dáil proceedings. They keep us on our toes at all times. We had a very agreeable evening last night on this side of the House with members of the press corps. It all augurs very well for 2019. I wish everybody concerned a very happy Christmas and a good break over the holidays.
Having said that, and while wishing the Taoiseach a happy Christmas, it is the end of the pleasantries. It is with some regret that I must state that the Taoiseach is treating the Dáil in a very shabby and dismissive manner when it comes to Brexit preparedness. What has happened this week and in the weeks prior to this is simply not good enough. The Taoiseach has acknowledged that potentially up to 45 pieces of legislation could be required in the event of a hard Brexit, including some statutory instruments, regulations and primary legislation. Deputy Howlin yesterday asked a reasonable question on the Order of Business when he inquired when a comprehensive briefing would be provided to the Dáil on this legislative proposition. The reply was basically that a Member could turn up tomorrow at the stakeholders' forum if he or she wants to find out more. Since when has the stakeholders' forum take precedence over Dáil Éireann in matters of legislation? The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade reiterated the point in his newspaper article this morning by stating the stakeholders' forum "would be the first to know".
Deputy Lisa Chambers asked a very legitimate question yesterday on infrastructure, port facilities and airports etc. and the impact on those from Brexit in general. These are precise and reasonable questions but she was told the Office of Public Works had been in extensive discussions with various Departments and almost everybody else but at the end there was a dismissive line, as it was argued it would be premature to release any details. Why is that? On 20 November, Deputy Chambers asked a basic question of the Minister for Justice and Equality concerning any potential legislative changes arising from Brexit. In fairness to the Department and the Minister, his reply would have been applauded by Sir Humphrey in that great television series, "Yes, Minister", as it was a comprehensive answer that did not answer anything. It simply indicated that there was ongoing analysis but there would be no revelations.
There are only 29 scheduled sitting days between our return and 29 March. Journalists were told last weekend that the Cabinet would be updated on Brexit preparedness and the Taoiseach has indicated there will be a package of measures revealed tomorrow, with legislators welcome to attend the public forum and put up their hands to ask questions on these matters. Why is the Government not willing to inform the Dáil in a timely manner about all of this? Surely detailed briefing papers concerning the legislative measures should be published and presented to the House. Will the Government publish the details of the legislative requirements in the event of a hard Brexit today and present them to the House? Will it publish updated budget projections taking into account a hard Brexit? Will the Taoiseach provided updated and transparent answers on the requirements concerning port and airport infrastructure to the House? Will he send papers on all those points to the leaders of the political parties before the end of the session today?