Dáil debates

Thursday, 6 July 2006

10:30 am

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No a12a, motion re establishment of joint committee on child protection; No. a12b, motion re membership of committee; No. 12, motion re Standing Order 121; No. 13, proposals for legislation on broadcasting — instruction to joint committee; No. 14, Supplementary Estimate for Public Services [Vote 40] — back from committee; and No. 14a, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the disposal of shares in Aer Lingus Group plc by the Minister for Finance in accordance with section 3(2) of the Aer Lingus Act 2004.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of oral questions to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, which shall be taken for 75 minutes immediately on the conclusion of No. 14a; (2) Nos. a12a, a12b, 12 and 13 shall be decided without debate; (3) the proceedings on No. 14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes, any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith, and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share time, and which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (4) the proceedings on No. 14a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; (ii) the speech of each other member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; (iii) members may share time; (iv) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and (5) the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 September 2006.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are five proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Sullivan report into the failure in communications between the DPPs office and the Attorney General's office in respect of the constitutional crisis whereby a self-confessed child rapist walked free for a temporary period will be published today. Will the Minister for Finance tell the House when it is expected we will discuss that? I raised this matter yesterday with the Taoiseach and he personally did not have any objection to discussing it. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was reluctant to allow any discussion on the Sullivan report, even within the committee being established to deal with this matter. Will the House have an opportunity to discuss this report today?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I raised this matter on a number of occasions with the Taoiseach. This issue convulsed the country and it seems the Government has deliberately contrived to hold over the Sullivan report until there is no opportunity for the House to debate it. People outside this House have a genuine difficulty in appreciating why an issue which caused such tumult in the country cannot be discussed in the Dáil before the summer recess.

I notice it is all over the newspapers this morning and that the Taoiseach was able to tell us the essence of the report as long ago as last Wednesday. This is in keeping with what happened to the electronic voting report, where it was passed to the Minister, either knowingly or otherwise, or perhaps because he was one of the affected parties against whom adverse findings were made. I do not know the rationale.

The Taoiseach had the report and was able to tell us last Wednesday what is in it. His spin doctors were able to tell whatever journalist is covering the story for this morning's newspapers what is in it. However, it is deliberately contrived that it will be published to the Members of this Dáil after the Order of Business. That is not acceptable.

I propose that, as the House is to conclude business on No. 14a at 4 p.m., the Minister for Finance agree to permit at least one hour for preliminary statements to be made in the House on the Sullivan report and that Question Time be taken after that.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Will the Minister for Finance accede on behalf of the Government to extend the time we have today so the Sullivan report can be discussed and we can broaden the terms of reference of the committee, as is necessary, to include the Sullivan report? There is too much déjÀ vu from beef tribunal days in the way matters are dealt with here. I also ask that we consider membership of the committee. This issue has constitutional implications——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are discussing the late sitting.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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We are indeed.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot go into every detail.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am explaining why we need a later sitting. At present, not all parties are to be represented on the committee which will deal with a constitutional matter.

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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It is the people's Constitution, not that of a couple of larger parties.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I formally second Deputy Rabbitte's proposal that we have an extension of time today. It is the minimal request the Minister could expect in respect of addressing the Sullivan report. The hour indicated is hardly adequate to deal with the import of the issue. We should seriously consider reconvening in the morning to give it the full address it properly deserves. However, in anticipation of opposition from the Government benches and to make it as easy as possible for the Minister to agree, I join in the appeal for the extension of time to accommodate that opportunity.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am taking the Order of Business on the basis that it is outlined. The report due to be published today will be aired in full in the media and elsewhere.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As I understand, in his reply to Deputy Kenny, the Taoiseach mentioned that it would probably be raised at the joint committee on child protection being established to deal with all issues surrounding child protection. One of the terms of reference will be to consider the implications arising from and the consequences of the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006 in the CC case. The failure in communications to the Attorney General on certain matters despite protocols already in existence is the issue addressed by the Sullivan report. These matters can be taken in that context.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Government can send the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, on his weekly slot on the "Today with Pat Kenny" show.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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An amendment has been proposed that does not disrupt the schedule — it delays the rising of the House for one hour — so that spokespersons will have an opportunity to make an initial statement.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point. Only the Government can propose the business.

Question put: "That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 68 (Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Michael Woods, G V Wright)

Against the motion: 58 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, James Breen, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Paul Connaughton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing without debate with No. a12a, motion re the establishment of a joint committee, No. a12b, motion re committee membership, No. 12 motion re Standing Order 121, and No. 13, proposals for legislation on broadcasting, agreed?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is not agreed.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Nos. a12a and a12b relate to the establishment and membership of the special committee on child protection. The names of the proposed members are before the House. I notice there is no member from the junior partner in government, the Progressive Democrats.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am on the committee.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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We thought the Minister was gone.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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If the paralysis and dysfunction in the Progressive Democrats is such that no member will serve with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is a member ex officio, the House should be advised.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The new untouchables.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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If the dysfunction among the junior partner is so serious, it is a matter for the Government overall, whose other party also has its difficulties. Are we to proceed to approve the committee on the basis that the Progressive Democrats will not nominate a Member to serve on the committee?

11:00 am

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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By contrast the Green Party would wish to nominate a Member to the committee but is being denied that opportunity. I ask that the terms of reference for this joint committee on child protection represent the political diversity in the Chamber to the greatest extent possible, given that we are dealing with an issue that is pertinent to the Constitution, which is the people's Constitution and is not the preserve of any select group of political nominees. I ask the Government to recognise that the membership of the committee is too narrow to reflect the degree to which it needs to deal with a matter that has constitutional implications. For that reason I oppose the membership as outlined. The Green Party asks that our spokesperson, Deputy Cuffe, be allowed serve on the committee given that he has been involved in the debate and in trying to resolve the difficulties to date.

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Dún Laoghaire, Progressive Democrats)
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He could be the Progressive Democrats nominee.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The cat is out of the bag.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps Deputy Fiona O'Malley might like to serve on the committee herself.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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She is too busy on other committees.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Government has made a mistake in not allowing an hour's debate on the matter this evening. Having deliberately suppressed the matter until today, we are now asked to give full sanction to the committee. Before we decide on whether to vote on the proposal, I ask the Minister for Finance to guarantee that the committee will be properly resourced in terms of back-up staff, in view of the outrage felt by the community at large by the constitutional crisis that was caused. What facilities will be available to the committee? Why were the negotiations concluded by the Minister of State with responsibility for children instead of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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In line with the Taoiseach's oft-repeated commitment to establish a committee representative of all parties in the House, Sinn Féin nominated one of its number to serve on this committee but, like the Green Party, was denied that access and opportunity to play its part in what is a very important——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Technical Group is represented.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Deputy to continue without interruption.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is a serious issue and I find it bewildering that Members can find anything humorous within it. It is anything but humorous. The issue of all-party participation is crucial to the success of the committee's deliberations. Like the Green Party, we have been denied that opportunity and, as the Chief Whip can confirm, in repeated representations to secure the right of access to participate in this committee, the establishment of which we have fully endorsed from the outset, I now ask that an amendment be introduced to accommodate the full participation of all the identifiable groupings in this Chamber, including the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Progressive Democrats, if it still wishes to exercise the same right of participation. Any other formula in moving forward with the committee will be fundamentally flawed and will set off the work of the committee on the wrong foot.

While we do not want to call for a division, we may be forced to do so if we are excluded as the committee would not meet its purpose. I ask the Minister for Finance on behalf of the Government to indicate acceptance to the right to additional participation. I note that the Minister and the Minister of State nominated ex officio have full voting rights in any event. Does the formula of ex officio offer a means of accommodating the need to have voices from the Green Party and Sinn Féin? It certainly does.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The composition of the committee is based on proportionality of representation in the House. It is also important to have a committee with such numbers as will lend itself to effectiveness so that it can get through the important business it needs to do. Obviously the committee will report back to a plenary session of the House when every Member will have an opportunity to discuss and debate its deliberations. This composition of the committee meets with precedent on the establishment of all such joint committees. The Technical Group has nominated a Member. The suggestion from Deputy Rabbitte that the Progressive Democrats should have two out of the 11, which would suggest almost 20% representation, is not something that party would seek anyway.

Paddy McHugh (Galway East, Independent)
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It is too much for a 3% party.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Those nominated by the Government represent both parties in government. The main Opposition parties made their nominations and the Technical Group made its. In the interests of efficacy, proportionality of representation, getting on with the important business and reporting back to this House so that we can make the necessary decisions, we propose proceeding as suggested.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will put the question.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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This committee is comparable to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. It is unacceptable to exclude smaller parties.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Nos. a12a, a12b, 12 and 13 be agreed."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 65 (Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Michael Woods, G V Wright)

Against the motion: 16 (James Breen, Paudge Connolly, Jerry Cowley, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, Dan Boyle, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Finian McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Trevor Sargent)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Boyle and Crowe.

Question declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 14a agreed?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I do not agree. The motion proposes that the Dáil approves the disposal of shares in Aer Lingus by the Minister for Finance, in accordance with section 3(2) of the Aer Lingus Act 2003. It is not appropriate to put this motion before the House today. I vehemently oppose it, irrespective of how it presents and I object to the taking of it today. It is not appropriate for this House to approve the disposal of a critical and strategic national asset.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot discuss the content of the motion on the Order of Business.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The people of Ireland have given no mandate for the disposal of Aer Lingus ——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak on the motion.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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——in any shape or form. I suggest the Minister should remove the motion from today's Order of Business.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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This matter was not put before the people at the last election. It is a matter of great significance to my constituents and to other Deputies. The decision needs to be based on a wider mandate than the one claimed by the Government as it stealthily proceeds along its proposed path. I ask that we postpone this motion to allow for wider and longer term consultations. The future of Aer Lingus concerns not only the people working for it but also the country at large, which——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It would be more appropriate for the Deputy to wait until the motion comes before the House before making his point.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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——as an island nation, depends on the viability of the company. I urge the Ceann Comhairle to take that into account.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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There is widespread opposition to the taking of this motion. The general principles which were circulated to us provide completely inadequate information on the terms of the transaction being proposed by the Government. It is clear from the general principles that the Government is walking away from the commitments it made to the pensioners. Vague proposals were made with regard to——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy will have an opportunity to raise her issues when the motion is debated.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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——protecting strategic assets. The Labour Party objects to the taking of this motion today.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This is an important matter which has to be dealt with by the House today in compliance with legislation. The necessary work in terms of preparing for a successful IPO has been ongoing for some time. Subject to legal constraints and market sensitivities, the Minister of Transport will outline for the House the substantial progress which has been made. Consultations are ongoing between management and unions on all outstanding issues. From a Deputy who represents a constituency with great dependency on the company——

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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It goes beyond that, it affects the whole country.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Government is selling the company to the sharks.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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——I would have expected support for the development agenda outlined by management to ensure Aer Lingus plays a significant role in the economic life of north Dublin and the country.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Minister should ask the former sugar workers about that.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The national airline is going down the tubes.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The voters will note his objection to ensuring this matter proceeds.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 14a be agreed to."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 67 (Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Paddy McHugh, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Michael Woods, G V Wright)

Against the motion: 52 (Dan Boyle, James Breen, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, John Perry, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is proposal No. 5, that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 September, agreed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is not agreed. Deputy Martin Brady informed me that Fianna Fáil backbenchers are not just tired, they are exhausted. They wish to get out of here.

Noel Davern (Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy better tell Deputy Hayes because he has his safari suit on.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I propose an amendment to proposal No. 5, that Dáil Éireann on its rising on Thursday, 13 July shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 September 2006. Fine Gael and the Labour Party published a joint document on Dáil reform calling for longer sitting periods. My amendment would shorten the summer recess by three weeks. We must discuss the Sullivan report, the Barron report, the report on the Supreme Court decision, published on Monday, and the Harris report. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has a new way of producing legislation by holding a press conference on draft legislation on privacy and defamation. These issues are of great importance to the population at large. I recommend that the Dáil sit next week and return on 12 September. Not only will that arrangement give Members of the House time to discuss these important issues but it will also demonstrate to the public that Dáil reform, efficiency and professionalism are matters we take seriously.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is a modest and reasonable proposal that the House sit for another week and return in the middle of September. I am always surprised that the Government appears to be insensitive to the inevitable snide commentary that going on leave today, as it will be presented, until 27 September attracts for this House and politics generally. It is immensely damaging that we are not seen to take a reasonable break in line with other parliaments. This House sat 55 fewer days this year than the parliament in the neighbouring island.

The Barr report on the shooting of John Carthy in 2000 has been completed for some time but has not been brought before the House and the report on the death of Pat Joe Walsh has not yet been made available to Deputies and ought to be debated here. The Barron report has not been discussed, it has been deliberately contrived that the Sullivan report will not be discussed and the e-voting report has not been discussed. The Dalton report exposes the glaring inadequacy of political supervision of the State company that runs greyhound racing and the shenanigans associated with the redevelopment of Shelbourne Park. Mr. Dalton has brought difficulties to light that were not included in his narrow terms of reference, following a particular sequence of events leading to the dismissal of the chief executive. A great many other matters have been brought to his attention and have now been passed to the Committee of Public Accounts.

I ask the Minister to reflect on the proposal. There is much business for this House to do next week. We have spent the last three weeks railroading important legislation through the House without giving it adequate scrutiny. Everybody is aware of that. Legislation has been introduced almost without notice and, in some cases, all Stages have been taken together with no adequate opportunity to scrutinise it. That this House sit for an additional week and return in the middle of September is an eminently reasonable proposal and would avoid much of the negative commentary and coverage that the business of politics will attract as a result of the Government's decision to shut down the House until 27 September.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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The Government should acknowledge the widely held view that with the House rising today until 27 September the Government wishes to insulate itself from scrutiny and accountability. Dáil Éireann is where accountability takes place. We support the motion, although we would prefer that the House return on 5 September. Even that date is out of line with other parliaments. We would prefer to have parity with the Westminster Parliament given that we are part of a peace process and party to the Good Friday Agreement, one of whose objectives is parity of esteem. Parity of esteem means one must earn one's esteem and that can be earned by having parity in the number of sitting days, for a start. What work takes place can be assessed after that.

Westminster sits for 55 more days that this Parliament. How can the Dáil justify sitting 96 days, not even reaching 100, while across the water parliament sitting another 55 days is considered normal? That makes it difficult to secure parity of esteem in terms of accountability for the democratic process in this jurisdiction. If we are serious about resolving matters in the North, we could start by getting our own house in order and ensure this House sits for the same length of time as the parliament across the water.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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While accepting the argument for a shorter summer recess, it is important to emphasise that Members will attend committee meetings during this month and in September. Rather than that being seen as a way of avoiding the responsibility of returning earlier we should look on it as an opportunity. Many Members will be here in any event. It is important for the democratic process that the truth is put on the record.

The majority of Members work extremely hard and for long hours. I do not know the comparisons between this Chamber and the neighbouring island but we have left this House after midnight over the past couple of nights. Those hours were worked by people of all views. It is important not to lose sight of those facts and not to peddle a false impression as to the extent of the input of Members. That also applies to the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas who work with us over these long and difficult days.

It should not be seen as one side arguing with the other about the number of days. We should acknowledge to each other the extent of the input and effort made by all Members in ensuring we have a vibrant, democratic Chamber. However, not everybody is heading away this weekend and not everybody will be away throughout September. We could accommodate more sittings to address many of the important points Members have made. Rather than take the view that it will call their bluff, perhaps the Government should consider the argument and agree that things could be done differently and better. More sittings and fewer long nights that stretch into the early hours of the morning might accommodate a better quality of deliberation as well.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Obviously, I cannot accept the amendment. It is important to point out, as has been mentioned by one speaker, that although we are discussing closing the plenary session of the Dáil, the committee system will continue.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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The education committee finishes today.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The purpose of establishing a committee system was to ensure there was the ability to continue the accountability mechanism that Parliament provides to the Government, as provided for in the Constitution. We should not suggest that this is not the case because it is the case. During this month and in September the House will sit in its respective committee formats and continue the work those committees decide must be done as a matter of urgency, within their remit and terms of reference.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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There are no Ministers at those meetings.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Those of us privileged to be Ministers will continue our work as a Government. This month will see the beginning of an Estimates process, the setting out of a budgetary strategy to be agreed by Government and preparations of budgets for the following year. It is not a question of work ending after today; work will continue in the context of the continuing progress we are making. It is important that the committee system is seen during July and September to provide the level of accountability that has been ascribed to it.

I ask that the motion put down by the Government be accepted. Deputy Sargent referred to the esteem in which the Parliament should be held. The Parliament will always be held in esteem when it conducts its business properly and appropriately instead of trying to grab cheap headlines, like Deputy Sargent did last week, when he was abusing privilege in this House. He might reflect on that during the summer.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny has tabled an amendment, that the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 September.

Question put: "That the words and figures proposed to be deleted stand."

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I would like to give the 16 backbenchers the opportunity to get closer to the Ministers before the summer recess. As a teller, under Standing Order 69 I propose that the vote be taken by other than electronic means.

Question again put: "That the words and figures proposed to be deleted stand."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 69 (Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, James Breen, John Browne, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Paudge Connolly, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Paddy McHugh, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Peter Power, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Michael Woods, G V Wright)

Against the motion: 55 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelleher and Kitt; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Question, "That the Dáil adjourn until Wednesday, 27 September at 2.30 p.m.", put and declared carried.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Now that the House has decided to adjourn today and return in September, I wish to take this opportunity to wish you, a Cheann Comhairle, and your staff a relaxed time during the summer. I thank you for your efficiency and courtesy during your time in the Chair, despite the fact that we might have had some altercations. I also wish the staff of the House every good wish during the summer period. I thank them for their co-operation, courtesy and dedication at all times. I thank all the Members for their participation in democracy and express the hope that they will return here in September with their loins girded for the hustings.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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That is a bit premature.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In particular, I pay tribute to Seán Sheils, one of the longest serving members of the staff, who is retiring. Mr. Sheils has been the senior bar manager here for the last 38 years. With Denis Reid he has formed the longest working coalition within the Houses of the Oireachtas for a great number of years. I wish Seán every success in his retirement. He has assured me that he will not write the book for some time because therein lies not one story, but many.

12:00 pm

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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On behalf of the leader of the Labour Party, I also want to convey our best wishes to you, a Cheann Comhairle, for a good break. It is a pity we are taking such extended leave but that is nothing to do with you, Sir. Your staff have been working very hard, particularly in recent days with the late sittings. I thank the staff of the House for their endeavours. I also wish to congratulate Seán Sheils and wish him all the very best. I think it is a pity he is not going to write the book. Not enough is written about political life in Ireland. When one looks at our history, and particularly as this year marks the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the literary works of many great leaders — those involved in 1916 and before — are quite remarkable. That literary tradition should be encouraged. If the barman wants to write the story he will find an audience and I wish him well if he intends to do so.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I join Deputies Kenny and McManus in wishing you a good restful summer holiday. As you have advised us many times with your medical hat on, it is important to take a break. I am not sure whether you would recommend such a long break for health reasons. However, I appreciate that is not your choice but maybe the Government had its own reasons for wanting a long break.

I thank the staff and wish them well for the summer. No doubt we will bump into each other during the days and months ahead as the office will remain open and we will meet more staff than Ministers. I hope we will all be safe and well rested when we meet in a full Dáil in September.

I wish Seán Sheils all the best in his retirement and thank him for his many long years of service. I hope that during the summer the Government might reflect on the need to sit down in a spirit of consensus and work on Dáil reform in order that we can agree on what makes for a good working democracy.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I join other colleagues in extending good wishes to yourself and to all the elected representatives of all parties and none for the summer period ahead. It will be a busy time for all of us, perhaps more so than in previous summer recesses with the looming general election.

I wish the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas similar good wishes, those who serve us directly in the Chamber, those who record the daily proceedings, the ushers and all the support staff whose courtesy towards Members is very much appreciated. I wish the members of the press well. I am sure they will be able to fill their column inches with other pursuits over the summer period rather than commenting on the affairs of this Chamber and, maybe, that will be a rest for some of us as well.

I have no doubt that everybody has some little break planned. I just want to share with the House before resuming my seat that I have it on good authority that a number have planned exotic destinations. I have it on good authority that the Progressive Democrats Party has made a very special holiday arrangement for its president, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. I understand its members have chipped in together and he is being sent to Coventry for the summer where we hope he has a wonderful time.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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On behalf of the Taoiseach I join leaders of political parties in wishing you and your staff a restful period ahead and thank you for your co-operation and for discharging your responsibilities so conscientiously during the course of the term. I look forward to everyone coming back in good and robust health, ready for the fray. As one who is, perhaps, less frequently in the bar than many, I wish Seán Sheils a happy retirement. I thank Seán for his friendship, discretion, courtesy and professionalism. He will be missed by many of us. He has been a fixture for a long time. When long-standing members of staff leave there is always a sentimental aspect to it. I am sure he will enjoy his good health with his family and I have no doubt he will be very busy in the years ahead also. I wish him well and thank him for the many times he poured a good pint.

Liz O'Donnell (Dublin South, Progressive Democrats)
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On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I too wish colleagues on all sides a good summer break, mindful of the fact that many of us will return to our constituencies and come into the House on committee business. I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for your courtesy during the year and in particular for your chairmanship of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, of which I am privileged to be a member. The commission has done significant work in the first couple of years of its existence. I congratulate the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas for putting in place many changes for the benefit of the Houses and the Members. There have been significant improvements in the facilities for Members and the provision of extra staffing resources for Members of both Houses.

I thank all the staff, personal assistants, secretaries, clerical staff and the ushers who look after us so well, including our constituents when they come to visit the House. All the reports from our constituents when they come to visit the Oireachtas confirm that they are treated with tremendous courtesy and professionalism by the staff. I acknowledge that.

I wish Seán Sheils well as he goes into his retirement. He is a good friend to all Members. I wish all the staff and support staff in your office, a Cheann Comhairle, a good break for the summer.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank leaders and Members of the House for the kind remarks. I thank the clerk, assistant clerk, ushers and all the staff in the House that we see and those we do not see. I believe we run a very efficient parliament. The contribution of each and every one of the staff, along with the Members, ensures we have a parliament of which we can be very proud.

I join in the good wishes to Seán Sheils. I am not surprised that everybody has a kind word to say about him because he is a native of Baileborough in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan so it is only what I would expect. Is not that right Seymour?

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Crawford has a place around there.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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At this time of year I put on my medical hat and advise Members to take a break. I know that Members will work in committees in July and September. I am sure the public is unaware there are many Members who will take no break and will work every single week of the recess and have done so for many years. I advise all Members to take a break of at least two to three weeks. It will be good for them and their health, good for their families and in the medium term will be good for their constituents. When you are away on your break, do not forget that your constituency colleagues of all parties will be only too delighted to look after your work. I advise you to enjoy the recess.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The only Members who will take two or three weeks off are people with very safe seats such as Deputy Twomey.

Deputies:

Call a spade a spade.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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When will the civil law miscellaneous provisions Bill come before the House? Earlier, under Standing Order 31, a Deputy raised an issue concerning a company in Wexford. Is any legislation contemplated to protect a company that has been overcharged by the banking institutions?

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

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am not aware of any specific legislation for Wexford in that respect. In regard to the previous Bill, it is ordered for Second Stage.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I do not mean specific legislation for Wexford. I think the Minister has misinterpreted. I am referring to banks overcharging companies in general. Is any legislation coming forward to prevent banking institutions overcharging?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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In recent years we have established the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority which has a consumer protection remit. Any problems should be referred to that authority where I am sure they will be dealt with competently.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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What about the civil law miscellaneous provisions Bill?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is ordered for Second Stage.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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When the Ceann Comhairle said he was going to give us some advice, I thought he was going to tell us to use sunscreen. That would probably be all we could legitimately call proper advice.

I wish to raise the issue of the Disability Act. As a former Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Finance had an interest in this and was probably the only Minister to do something constructive as Minister.

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

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I have a question on secondary legislation relating to the Disability Act. Sectoral plans were to be put in place by every Department, including the Departments of Finance, Health and Children, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which are all lead Departments. These plans were to be put in place by 31 July but were to be laid before the House before then. The Minister knows that nothing can happen without the sectoral plans. It is now a year since they were promised but we still have not got them. Will anything happen before the end of July and how will we deal with it?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I attended a Cabinet sub-committee yesterday where the matter was completed. Sectoral plans will be provided before the appointed date and will be laid before the Oireachtas for further consideration after that.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Will they be dealt with in committee or will they be laid before the Houses?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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They will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as required under the legislation. How they will be taken is a matter for the Whips who will decide whether that will be in committee or plenary session. It is a matter of procedure at that stage. They will be taken in whatever format is deemed appropriate.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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To clarify, is the Minister saying that this matter will not be dealt with until we return in the autumn?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am saying the provisions of the Disability Act will be complied with in full, the sectoral plans will be prepared and published and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas before 31 July, as is required under the legislation.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is no coincidence that with the Dáil going into recess today, a number of reports are being published. One of those reports will be the report commissioned on the future funding of the terminal at Cork Airport. Given that we will not have an opportunity to discuss the report in the House, will it be published in full so that we can make a rational assessment of the situation?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Was the report promised in the House? There is no provision under Standing Orders to raise reports unless they have been promised in the House.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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We will not have an opportunity to discuss it in the House over the next three months. Will the report be published?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know. I will ask the line Minister to contact the Deputy's office about the arrangements.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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When will the defamation and privacy Bills be published?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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They were discussed at Cabinet last week. It is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make arrangements for how and when they will be published. I will ask his office to contact the Deputy.