Tuesday, 7 February 2006
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 11, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2006; and No. 3, the Finance Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 11 shall be decided without debate and supplementary questions Nos. 10 to 23 addressed to the Taoiseach on the Order Paper of today shall be taken before questions to the Taoiseach tomorrow at the commencement of Taoiseach's question time. Private Members' business shall be No. 41 — motion re Irish farming sector.
There are two proposals to put to the House, namely, the proposal to deal with No. 11 without debate, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2006, and No. 3, the Finance Bill 2006, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
Tá Pairtí an Lucht Oibre ag cur i gcoinne na tairisceana maidir le ceadú beartaithe ag Dáil Éireann i ndáil leis na Rialacháin um Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 (Comhlachtaí Poiblí) 2006. Is é an fáth go bhfuilimid ag cur ina choinne ná go bhfuiltear ag iarraidh orainn an rud seo a thógaint gan díospóireacht. Táimid á rá gur cheart go mbeadh díospóireacht ann i gcónaí nuair a thagann aon ábhar i leith na Gaeilge os comhair an Tí. Níor cuireadh na rialacháin seo faoi bhráid an chomhchoiste, fiú amháin.
The Labour Party is opposing the motion on the proposed approval by Dáil Éireann under the Official Languages Act 2003 of these two Schedules of organisations on the basis that it is being taken without debate. Even the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has not seen these regulations, nor has it had the opportunity to debate them. We seek a debate on these regulations in the Dáil and this is an ideal opportunity to review the operations of the Official Languages Act and for the Minister to explain why certain organisations are being included in the operations of the Act and others are not. In general, there is insufficient debate on Irish language affairs and an opportunity such as this should not be passed up.
Ní chuirfidh mé moill ar an Teach, ach is féidir liom a rá go bhfuil an tAcht an-tábhachtach i saol na tíre seo má táimid i ndáiríre faoin Ghaeilge. Táim den tuairim go mbeadh an Rialtas sásta go mbeadh díospóireacht ann dá mbeadh sí ag teastáil ón bhFreasúra. Táim ag rá thar ceann an Chomhaontais Ghlais go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh díospóireachta ar an gceist seo agus go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go dtuigfeadh na heagraíochtaí poiblí a ainmneofar anseo cad go díreach atá i gceist, dár linne, ó thaobh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla de. Táimid ag cur i gcoinne Uimh. 11 anseo de bharr go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh díospóireachta. Táimid ag súil go mbeidh an Rialtas sásta díospóireacht a thabhairt dúinn.
Cuidím leis an méid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta O'Shea. Ba chóir go mbeadh díospóireacht againn sa Teach seo. I support the opposition to the proposition put before us, as articulated by Deputy O'Shea. This matter merits a full and participatory debate and it is all too seldom we have the opportunity to debate matters and measures on the Irish language and its application in the affairs of State. This is a further opportunity to examine the proposed introduction of regulations on the Irish language. Accordingly, I join my colleagues in opposing the proposition as presented.
Today we read the story of a school that had to pay €10,000 to parents of a child who was bullied. Since I raised the matter of the Martin report on indiscipline in schools, I have received a flood of correspondence from teachers and parents. Indiscipline seems to be endemic in some schools and is an issue that should be debated in this House. When will the Martin report on indiscipline be published?
I am concerned at a trend that seems to be emerging. The advice given by the Attorney General to the Government seems not to have been adhered to. For example, random breath testing was unconstitutional before Christmas but it is now both constitutional and legal.
His advice to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, to go to the United Nations in an effort to close down Sellafield was the wrong avenue and the Minister is now taking Britain and the European Commission to court.
It does. I am aware that the Ceann Comhairle is from a land-locked county and that, if Ted Nealon's guide is correct, it is his birthday so I am going to give some flexibility. The advice given by the Attorney General was that it was impossible to introduce administrative fines in the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill.
Will the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources be removed to save the Government from embarrassment because of fines imposed by Britain?
In today's newspapers, the Minister with responsibility for the marine states that organised criminality exists in the sea fishing business. In respect of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, currently in abeyance on Committee Stage——
As one of the Deputies in the Minister's party asked, how can we send a member of the Colombia Three to the United States with a presidential pardon while the son of a fisherman may be banned forever from entering the United States?
It emerged last week the Government does not know whether it is coming or going on the M50. I would like to hear the Taoiseach's views on legislation promised by the Secretary General of the Department at the Committee of Public Accounts. When will this legislation be before the House? Will it come before the House before the reshuffle of Ministers of State? The legislation would be concerned with whatever tolling——
There is no point in the Taoiseach asking me. I do not know. The Taoiseach did not seem to know last week and the Minister for Transport now says it is not what he said on television at 9 o'clock. I do not know. There is no point asking me.
With respect, this is not a response worthy of the Taoiseach. I asked a simple question, which the Ceann Comhairle accepts is admissible. When will the legislation be before the House?
While I am on my feet and the Taoiseach is receiving a more precise answer, what is the impediment to creating some new vacancies among these underworked Ministers of State and promoting some eager backbenchers?
I have raised a matter of promised legislation for several years. The response is always that the legislation is pending, coming soon or that the legislation is large and difficult. This matter dates back to 1990, before I was elected to this House. According to reports, the Abbey Theatre will have charitable status. Legally, this requires a charities regulation Bill. The previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform did not introduce the Bill and I wonder if the incumbent will introduce it. Is it the case that it has been introduced unofficially and we have not been informed of this? I would like to know whether it will be published this year as we have been told. Will the Taoiseach give us an assurance? It has slipped year by year. If it is not brought forward this year——
Before Christmas the Taoiseach promised us that the electricity Bill was due to come before the House in the next session. However, suddenly and mysteriously it disappeared off the promised legislation paper. What was the cause of this? Did the Minister get an electric shock? Has he seen or heard something that has convinced him to do nothing in this area? Will the Taoiseach give an indication as to whether the Deloitte & Touche report is likely to be incorporated in that legislation or the Single Electricity Market Bill, the only similar Bill on the clár?
While the Taoiseach may not be embarrassed by the M50 debacle, I wonder whether he is embarrassed by the fact that elderly people and their relatives come to our clinics wondering when they will receive the money robbed from them. I am embarrassed because I told them the legislation would be introduced last autumn. That was what the Minister for Health and Children told me. I then told them it would be introduced before Christmas because that was what I was told by the Minister for Health and Children. When exactly can we tell them that they will get back their money which was robbed from them?
Given the fact that the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission has now been discredited and the fact that it is the child of British securocrats, will the Taoiseach support an Independent Monitoring Commission repeal Bill brought forward by Sinn Féin Deputies last week? Will he allow Government time to take it and will he support it?
Regarding the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill which is indicated in the current schedule for legislation and expected in mid-2006, will the Taoiseach indicate whether it will be addressed in the course of this or the subsequent term of this Dáil?
In support of Deputy Perry, the committee debate on the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 collapsed this morning. We heard a fine valedictory speech from the outgoing Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, who apparently has a different legal opinion from the Taoiseach. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has a third legal opinion and the Attorney General a fourth.
My question is on promised legislation. The Taoiseach is aware that yesterday evening Dublin City Council voted in favour of a scheme for the sale of local authority flats. For this to happen a number of legislative proposals on the desk of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government since July must be enacted. The Taoiseach will agree that this is important and must happen. The legislation concerns the common areas of flat complexes, service charges and changes to the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978. When will we see these changes come before the House?
Will the Taoiseach clarify the position in regard to two international conventions? I understand the optional protocol of the United Nations Convention Against Torture has been transferred to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for opinion and that it is his conclusion that Ireland will not sign or ratify it. In regard to the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, I understand the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may have advised the Government that it is not proceeding with ratification of that convention. Is that the case? Does the Government intend to ratify either or both of those conventions? Has it accepted advice not to ratify them?