Dáil debates

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

5:00 pm

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Order of Business shall be No. 10, motion re European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006; No. 11, proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a Council framework decision on simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of the member states of the European Union, back from committee; No. 20, Institutes of Technology Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed; and No. 21, Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage, resumed.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10 shall be decided without debate; and the proceedings on No. 11 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, Labour Party and Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, may share time and which shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (ii) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 32, Courts (Register of Sentences) Bill 2006 — Second Stage, and the proceedings on Second Stage thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 31 May 2006.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10 without debate agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11 agreed? Agreed. 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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I note from a reply given to me by the Minister for Education and Science that the final date for receipt of third level grant applications is 31 August. The Minister promised to introduce new legislation which would streamline payments and make them expeditious. When can we expect the legislation to be published? Will it be implemented in order that it will take effect this September and apply to payment of grants which have been approved?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That legislation is being prepared but it will not be taken this year. It will be ready in 2007.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Given that the Cabinet was unable to agree this morning and there are no heads of a Bill prepared, will the House sit next week on the matter which has arisen as a result of the Supreme Court case?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a matter for the House to decide on Thursday morning.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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In time honoured tradition I am entitled, on the basis of convention, to ask if the House is scheduled to sit next week.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The House will make that decision.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Why does the Ceann Comhairle not allow the Taoiseach to answer for himself for a change? As he is aware, the decision on whether the House sits is a matter for the Government and he should not engage in games as though it is for the House to decide.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The House will decide on that issue on Thursday.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is a matter for the Government. Whether we sit or not is decided by the Government, not by the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is not, Deputy. It is a matter for the Members of this House.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Let us not play games. I am merely asking the Taoiseach, having regard to the gravity of the situation that has arisen concerning the protection of our children, whether it is proposed by the Government that we sit next week.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is being repetitive. That question has been dealt with this afternoon.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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As I have said numerous times, in order to protect and safeguard our children, if the Government can complete the Bill with the legal people who are working with us on this matter, the Whip will ask the House to sit for a period next week so we can pass the Bill. That is our intention. I must again correct Deputy Rabbitte — it was not a question that the Government could not agree this morning. We must examine all aspects of this matter, as I explained earlier. We want to ensure we protect our children properly with legislation that stands the test of time. We must do it appropriately and we have to make sure we get that right.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I wish to set down a marker that the Green Party will be supporting a sitting of the Dáil next week to close that legal loophole which currently gives an absurd defence for child abuse in legislation. I wish to ask a question on promised, related legislation, namely the Child Care (Amendment) Bill, which was previously the Foster Care Guardianship Bill. Will the Government respect the European ruling that requires the Government to take action before July on outlawing the hitting of children? It is another issue but one that, nonetheless, is governed by European legislation. Will the Government comply with that ruling by July?

I wish to ask another question on promised legislation, which has been asked repeatedly in the House. In the circumstances we have been debating, the public will want to know why the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children still languishes with no indication of publication. Surely at this point, there is a need to expedite that legislation, given the immense public concern.

Photo of Olwyn EnrightOlwyn Enright (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach said he is satisfied the law is wide-ranging and protects children. The reality is that if Mr. A was released from prison next week, he would be able to get a job working with children in a voluntary or paid capacity.

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 Olwyn EnrightOlwyn Enright (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I do. In light of that, there is another loophole left open by not having that register enacted. Will the Taoiseach try to enact it in this Dáil term?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach acknowledge that there is a breakdown of confidence among parents as to the protection available to their children because of the Government's incompetence? Will the Taoiseach consider examining this particular legislation to ensure that, at the very least, we can deal with the matter? Clearly, there is all-party support for it, yet it has been long-fingered for quite some time.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made her point. She should allow the Taoiseach to answer the question.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Every time this programme comes out, it is on the margins and no publication date is announced.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot make a speech at this stage.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Anyone who abuses our children is open to the full rigours of the law.

Photo of Olwyn EnrightOlwyn Enright (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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We should not make it easy for them to do that.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I totally agree with that.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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After the event.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is why we have legislation under which an offender can get 14 years or life imprisonment. We have very tough laws in this area.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are on the Order of Business and have moved on from Leaders' Questions. There is no provision requiring leaders to ask questions.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Child Care (Amendment) Bill is for this session. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is dealing with the register.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Which legislation?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Child Care (Amendment) Bill.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I asked about two pieces of legislation. Can we get an answer on both?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Exactly.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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We have the register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children. That requires a separate answer to the question concerning the Child Care (Amendment) Bill. They are separate pieces of legislation.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Child Care (Amendment) Bill is for this session. The legislation for a register of persons who are considered unsafe to work with children will concentrate on developing procedures for vetting convictions through the vetting unit. The development of such a register gives rise to a range of legal, policy and practical implementation issues. The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children are in discussions on dealing with that issue. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is handling it.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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North of the Border there is no problem. The Taoiseach is dragging his feet again.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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When will Second Stage of the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill be taken?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is a matter for the Whips.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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A few minutes ago, I asked that if exactly the same case happened again, as in the case of Mr. A, in the same circumstances, what law is in place——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am not going to hear the Deputy on this matter.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am going to make my point. My question is about proposed legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair was more than lenient today.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am going to make my point. I am asking a question on proposed legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We have spent one hour today on Leaders' Questions, for which 21 minutes are normally allowed, and therefore, I am moving on. I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The question I am asking is on promised legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must come directly to the legislation.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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If a law is in place to get a conviction——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am asking a question if you do not mind, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. He is not asking a question.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I will not resume my seat.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is making a statement.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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This is a very serious and important issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I will ask the Taoiseach directly then. What legislation is he bringing forward to protect——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must name the promised legislation.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Legislation was promised over the weekend——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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What legislation?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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——by the Taoiseach to correct the Supreme Court judgment.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter has already been dealt with on the Order of Business.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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It has not been dealt with.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It has been.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Can I ask a very simple question to which the country wants an answer?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes, provided the Deputy is in order but he cannot drive a coach and four through the Order of Business.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The question is in order. A few minutes ago, the Taoiseach claimed that legislation was in place to prevent exactly the same case from recurring.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am sorry but I am not going to hear the Deputy making a statement. I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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If that is the case, what legislation is the Taoiseach bringing forward this week?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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We know what is needed but obviously the Government does not.

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

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am not being disorderly.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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He is.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The country wants to know.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Can the Taoiseach not answer the question? Could this case happen again?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a question for the Order of Business.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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It arises from the Supreme Court's judgment.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The matter was dealt with for over an hour during Leaders' Questions. I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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You should allow the Taoiseach to answer the question, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy will not allow Deputy Broughan to speak, we will move straight on to the next business.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am asking about legislation. The Taoiseach claimed——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is not a matter for the Taoiseach to answer questions about what legislation. On the Order of Business, it is a matter for Deputies to specify the legislation they want to know about.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach has not named it yet.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the legislation?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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He has not given me the Bill's title yet. I am asking a simple question. Earlier I asked——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the Deputy's question?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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A few minutes ago, the Taoiseach told us that legislation exists to prevent such a case from happening again. I do not believe it does.

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

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I do not believe such legislation exists and if it does not, the Taoiseach has misled the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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What legislation is being brought forward to correct it?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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They cannot agree. That is the problem.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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That is not——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call the Taoiseach on promised legislation.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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What exactly is the Taoiseach promising?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will try to be helpful. There are two issues. There is a range of sexual offences legislation, and I mentioned the several Acts earlier. The new Bill is about one issue arising from the Supreme Court's judgment. If a sex offender was out tonight, which is the question the Deputy was asking——

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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In the same circumstances.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The individual could be charged under any of the Acts.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I am asking about if he was convicted, that is the question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not going back over Leaders' Questions again. That is what the Deputy is doing now. I call Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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It is okay, the Taoiseach has clarified the matter. It is a charge, not a conviction.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Just before asking the Taoiseach about the minerals development Bill, may I ask him about another matter? Yesterday, in Raheny, we had another Mafia-type assassination.

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

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I want a chance to ask the Taoiseach about this. Our chief superintendent has said there is a need for political leadership. In the Taoiseach's view, can the current Minister give that kind of leadership?