Dáil debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

2:30 pm

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the amendments to the convention establishing the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation; No. 10, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the amendments to the convention for the establishment of the European Radiocommunications Office and the ratification of the instrument amending the ERO convention; No. 11, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the double taxation conventions between Ireland and the Republic of Iceland, Hellenic Republic and Canada; No. 11a, motion re referral to joint committee of the report of the independent commission of inquiry into the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973 — on the Supplementary Order Paper; No. 12, motion re membership of committees; No. 13, motion re appointment of ordinary Members to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; No. 24, Council of Europe Development Bank Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 25, Road Traffic Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 26, Disability Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business shall be No. 36, Consumer Rights Enforcer Bill 2004, Second Stage, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 November 2004.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are two proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13, motions regarding referrals to select committees, membership of committees and the appointment of an ordinary Member to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, without debate, agreed?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is unacceptable to members of the parties which form the Technical Group that they are excluded from consideration for No. 13, which relates to the appointment of an ordinary Member to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The 25 Members to whom I refer are not represented on the commission. I ask that the Ceann Comhairle, who represents all Members of the House, take that on board. At present, a significant number of Members of the House are excluded from serving on the commission. Does the Ceann Comhairle find that acceptable and will he seek to have it amended?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is an Independent Member from the Seanad on the commission. That was what was agreed when it was put in place.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 10, 11, 11a, 12 and 13 without debate be agreed", put and declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Has the Government received advice from the Attorney General regarding payments taken from persons over 70 years of age who were allocated medical cards and who are occupying long-stay public beds? This advice, which relates to a matter of major concern for up to 10,000 people, is long awaited.

We are just ten days from the appointed date for reaching agreement on the current difficulties relating Northern Ireland. After that date, it appears the British and Irish Governments will take an alternative view or approach. Does the Taoiseach wish to provide an update on what is happening in respect of this matter or must we wait until after 25 November to discuss matters relating to the Good Friday Agreement and current difficulties between the DUP and Sinn Féin?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Attorney General has completed the report. I must check, however, whether he has passed it on to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children. I will confirm the position for the Deputy through my office.

On the second issue, discussions are taking place on a daily basis. Not much has changed from what I said last week. It is to be hoped that the Governments will be in a position to outline to the parties during the course of this week what we are endeavouring to do. The parties will then be able engage in consultations with their colleagues. I am anxious to debate the matter in the House but the timing of such a debate would be somewhat problematic. I will keep in touch with Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte and the other party leaders on this matter. However, we will not just cut matters dead without holding a debate. I will ensure that such a debate takes place before matters are finalised.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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As we speak, US forces are pounding Falluja with apparently little regard for civilian casualties or the rights of the wounded. Has the Taoiseach registered a protest to the American ambassador——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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——or does the Government intend to continue to make Shannon available for the transport of troops, regardless of the casualties in Iraq?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise. I call Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is traditional to permit party leaders to put——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Leaders' Questions was introduced to facilitate the leaders of parties.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I could have raised the matter under the general socialist cover but I chose not to do so. This is a serious matter about which many Members are concerned.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I accept that but it is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I thought the Taoiseach might take the opportunity to comment on what we have witnessed, via our televisions screens, in Falluja.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is an abuse of the Order of Business to raise questions on all kinds of issues.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What we see on our televisions is abuse of civil rights and the Geneva Convention.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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If a humanitarian attitude were adopted, it might allow an opportunity to remark on the measures needed to alleviate some of the suffering in Falluja. However, I will not comment on that matter at this stage.

I understand Deputy Kenny's reasons for seeking a debate on Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach stated that he would keep in touch with the party leaders. Will he make a formal arrangement in terms of engaging the parties in Opposition which have their own contacts and which may wish to make suggestions that would be helpful but which have no other means of putting forward such suggestions than by seeking a debate? As the Taoiseach stated, such a debate would be quite public in nature. Will he acknowledge that it is far from acceptable for this to be the only means by which Opposition parties can engage in matters of continued mutual interest relating to developments in Northern Ireland and that there should be another way of dealing, in a bilateral or multilateral way, with parties in Opposition? Will the Taoiseach take that on board, particularly as he stated that a debate might not be appropriate?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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The coastal zone management Bill was withdrawn. It was felt that it would be better to incorporate it into the marine service Bill. I understand it is not possible to indicate when the latter will be published.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question on the legislation?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am asking a question on the legislation. Matters relating to the marine appear to be continually placed on the long finger. Will the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation will be forthcoming?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The coastal zone management Bill was designed to establish a new legal framework for the integrated management of the coastal zone and to replace the Foreshore Acts. It is being incorporated into the marine services Bill to put in place a comprehensive and new legislative provision to deal with the seafood sector and the marine coastal zone. I will see if the Minister has a date for the publication of the legislation.

A number of Deputies have been helpful in respect of matters relating to Northern Ireland, either in terms of making visits or talking to people, either here or elsewhere, to elicit their views. It would be good if they could arrange with the small team we have working on Northern Ireland issues to have those views heard or to have what is happening explained. The position between the parties is sensitive at present. I do not mind having debates at any time but we must recognise the positions of the parties at this stage in the negotiations. I would be glad, at any stage, to make available——

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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It was the Taoiseach who introduced the small team.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——facilities in which people may engage in discussions or in which the views of contacts might be heard.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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In light of the resignation of the entire Aer Lingus management team today, is it the Taoiseach's intention to implement the provisions of the Aer Lingus Act 2004?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The legislation was enacted some months ago. The management of the company and the Department of Transport have been engaging with the three individuals in respect of its workings.

5:00 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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What is the position regarding the publication of the Estimates on Thursday, particularly in view of the comments of the Minister for Finance that they may not be complete and that more information, above and beyond what is normally put forward, may be provided on budget day? How are we supposed to have, as the Taoiseach promised last week, a detailed debate on the Estimates if we do not receive the full details we normally receive on Thursday next? The Minister for Finance has made several references to "holding back" until budget day. That makes a nonsense of——

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Book of Estimates will be published on Thursday. The Minister for Finance was reported as saying that because the public private partnership aspect of the capital programme was not up to the level that it was, he intended in the budget to use additional resources to make up the capital programme. The day-to-day Estimates will be published in the normal way on Thursday afternoon.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Will the Taoiseach confirm that the health Bill has come before Cabinet today? Will he advise the House when he expects it to proceed through the various Stages?

Will the Taoiseach also advise if the documents from the Department of Transport that advised that some €6 million of Irish taxpayers' money has been used to pay for the transport of US forces through Shannon Airport is correct?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach should reply on the health Bill. I suggest that the Deputy submit a question on the other matter.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Taoiseach intend to continue to abuse the trust which taxpayers have in Government by using moneys in this irresponsible way?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is out of order.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The health Bill will be before the House shortly.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In view of the precarious situation in An Post and the possibility of industrial action coming up to Christmas, is it not now opportune for the Government to speed up the process for the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which has already been ordered but which is becalmed somewhere?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Bill has been ordered for Second Stage. I will raise with the relevant Minister the issue of moving the Bill forward.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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Does the Taoiseach regard the proposal to remove the complete surgical team from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital as best and safe practice?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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Is this what the Taoiseach means when he states there will be no loss of momentum in the health service?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is out of order.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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I believe it does.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Is the Taoiseach aware that the women who were the victims of Dr. Neary were in Leinster House today?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. This is not general Question Time.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I am asking about the medical practitioners bill and the fact that a redress board is required.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It will be early next year.