Dáil debates

Thursday, 2 November 2006

10:30 am

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 13, statements on the White Paper on Irish Aid; No. 12, Citizens Information Bill 2006 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 14, statements on Transport 21 (resumed) in accordance with the Order of the Dáil of 2 March 2006. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 13 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and five minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements 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, the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Private Members' business shall be No. 25, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Second Stage (resumed), to be taken immediately after the Order of Business and to conclude after 90 minutes.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13 agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I wish to ask the Tánaiste a number of questions. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the agreement reached at St. Andrew's, the British Government announced an upfront payment of £50 billion sterling over ten years if the parties in Northern Ireland agree to have the Assembly restored. When is it envisaged the Irish Government will make a similar announcement in respect of what moneys the Government promised in principle will be put upfront?

Yesterday, charges against six men of unlawful carnal knowledge of young girls were dropped and other charges of sexual assault were brought against them. Under the terms of the committee examining legislation since the summer, will the Tánaiste tell the House how many similar cases are in the system?

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 Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Of course it arises.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is under legislation.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will hear the Minister on legislation.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Under public order legislation, I wish to raise the issue of the young girl from Ballymun being kicked in the face by a mindless blackguard shown on the YouTube page "ballymun guy gives ballymun skobie girl a kick in her mouth".

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I have.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It is very appropriate.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is it proposed to amend the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act so that, in regrettable circumstances where material like this appears on the Internet, the Government is entitled to have it removed forthwith before the process of the law takes its course in respect of the mindless blackguardism of the individual involved? I am sure the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has strong views in this regard.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The package unveiled yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the parties in Northern Ireland is a very significant programme of expenditure over a number of years. We will study it to ascertain what has already been committed and what is new. The Irish Government will makes its intentions known with regard to additional new expenditure and infrastructural development to aid the peace process in Northern Ireland when it has had an opportunity to study the British package.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That will obviously happen before 24 November.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I do not know whether it will be before that date but the Government will make its intentions clear when it has had an opportunity to study the issues.

With regard to the cases of sexual assault, I do not want to comment on pending court proceedings. However, I ask the Deputy to acknowledge at the least that yesterday's charges proved I was correct when I said there was no black hole in the law.

On legislation dealing with anti-social behaviour and public order offences, it is the intention of the Department to commence the ASBOs provisions as soon as possible, hopefully in early January with regard to ASBOs for adults and by March with regard to ASBOs for children, the process for which is slightly more complex.

Legislation to amend the law to take items off the Internet is not under contemplation at present. However, offensive material of that kind could in certain circumstances constitute a contempt of the criminal process. In any event, it might also constitute a breach of privacy for some of the people involved. As the Deputy knows, legislation is before the Seanad in that regard.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I have been raising the issue of the large number of people on low incomes who must have resort to money lenders. We clarified yesterday that the legislation apparently promised by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to curb or, as he put it, ban high interest rate charging does not exist and will not be forthcoming.

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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That is not what I said.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Apparently, however, legislation is forthcoming to refurbish the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill. Is the Bill, which was published in 2002, being withdrawn? When will the promised legislation be brought before the House?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The heads of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill will come before Government in the near future for consideration. In that context, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has indicated that he is seeking legal advice at present to inquire as to whether a change could be made to the Consumer Credit Act to limit interest payments payable under consumer lending. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Consumer Credit Act, in the passage of which the Deputy played some part, made no such provision for limitation of mathematical limits on interest rates charged but did provide other protections for consumers.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Do I take it from that reply that the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Bill 2002 is being withdrawn by the Government?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Yes, that is correct.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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On the legislation that may arise with regard to the peace dividend, if I can say that, in Northern Ireland, has any progress been made on the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill? No date is provided for it but that did not stop other Bills being published although they are very much on the slow track or may not even see the light of day. Will a date be set for publication of the Bill so there is some indication that the Government is taking the matter seriously?

On another matter that needs to be taken seriously, will the Tánaiste lend his support to the request from my party for a debate on the Stern report on climate change?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter has already been raised.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is a matter I raised yesterday. I raise it again respectfully on the basis that it is urgent and cannot wait for a climate change review. It has economic implications as well as more ecological——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Only promised debates in House can be raised on the Order of Business, as the Deputy knows.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I ask that it would be promised, if that is all right.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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It is not possible at this stage to indicate a date for publication of the register of persons considered unsafe to work with children Bill. The Deputy may be aware that a committee of the House is at present considering child protection issues. One of the issues that has arisen in that context is the question of soft information and whether it is constitutionally possible to have a register that deals with soft information rather than simply with convictions. This is an issue to which attention is being given by Members of the House in the context of that committee.

I understand the climate change issue was raised among the Whips yesterday. It is a matter which can be dealt with by agreement among the Whips.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Will the Tánaiste support a debate?

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Tánaiste for his comments on the Northern Ireland package. I ask that the six Border counties be considered in any package put forward by the Government. There has been no inward investment in counties Donegal, Cavan or Monaghan as a result of the Troubles.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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It is an extremely important matter. The question is appropriate, as you know, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should raise it under Standing Orders in a more appropriate way.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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My second question is extremely appropriate. Given that the Minister for Health and Children has put forward her case regarding health in The Irish Times, when can we have a full debate in the House on the health Bill, the team report and many other issues? It is a totally one-sided debate at present.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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This is the third week in a row I have indicated that the health Bill will be dealt with in the new year.

On the Deputy's other point, when the announcement is made, issues concerning the Border counties will be dealt with in that context. At this stage, I will simply note the commitment of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, to the Ulster Canal project, of which the Deputy will be very supportive.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Will the Tánaiste indicate when Report Stage of the Building Control Bill is likely to be taken?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Order for Report Stage has been made. It is a matter for agreement among the Whips as to when it will be dealt with.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In view of the appallingly slow provision of broadband on a nationwide basis, will the Government consider withdrawing the electronic communications (miscellaneous provisions) Bill and replacing it with a more comprehensive Bill that would address the issues that now affect the business and domestic community, which anxiously awaits the provision of broadband? Might such legislation be delivered along the lines it is delivered in Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

On promised legislation, what is the status of the legal costs Bill? The Tánaiste has been known to wax eloquent on this subject. It would be helpful if he could explain when the Bill is expected to be brought before the House. Is there any sense of urgency in this regard? Is it hoped to have the Bill through the House before the general election?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The electronic communications Bill will be published this session and the Deputy will be in a position to make any criticisms he has of its contents when it comes before the House.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste will not be disappointed.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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On the legal costs Bill, as the Deputy knows we have the Haran report. An implementation group, which is part of the process of bringing the Bill forward, has been established under the chairmanship of Mr. Desmond Miller. I hope it will be dealt with next year.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Next year. Hope springs eternal.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Minister for Education and Science has indicated that she intends to have the student support Bill passed by the end of this year but it has not yet been published. When will it be published?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Bill is to be published this session.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Will it be passed by the end of this year?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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If the Opposition co-operates in the business of this House much could happen before the end of the year.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We cannot co-operate until the Bill is published.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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It will be passed by the end of the academic year.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I would like to ask about the progress of one of the planks of Progressive Democrat policy in the last general election, namely the establishment of a national transformation fund as part of the programme for Government. The Progressive Democrats promised to eliminate all deficits in public transport infrastructure.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot debate the matter now.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I would like to know what is happening with that fund. Will the money from the sale of Aer Lingus go into it? How many kilometres of metro will it build?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Let the Tánaiste beam it up.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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It is proposed that the National Development Finance Agency Bill will be published this session.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is not the question I asked. The national transformation programme is on page six of the programme for Government. Has it, like their tax objectives, been abandoned by the Progressive Democrats?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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On a point of order, Deputy Bruton is being disorderly.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I thought we needed only one Ceann Comhairle.

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

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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There has certainly been a transformation. There has been more than one.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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There seem to be many inconsistencies in Progressive Democrats policy, given that Senator Morrissey——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy does not have an appropriate question we will have to move on.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I want to ask about legislation. Senator Morrissey wants to build skyscrapers in the bay while Deputy Fiona O'Malley would have the city underwater.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question relevant to the Order of Business?

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Yes. I would like to ask about the timeframe of the immigration and residence Bill. In view of the concerns of the UK Home Office about the Mafia-style gangs it says exist in the two incoming members of the European Union, has the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform been in contact with the authorities in Sofia and Bucharest?

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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The Bill does.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The heads of the legislation have been published and the consultation and drafting process is already under way. The Deputy will be aware that it is proposed under the legislation as published that there should be a power for the State to exclude on a summary basis people who engage in criminal or anti-social behaviour. That is the only legislative initiative in this area.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Criminal Justice Act 2006 modified the law on penalties for offensive weapons. There seems to have been a significant increase in the number of stabbings in the country.

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

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do. Does the Tánaiste have any proposal to amend the law on the minimum age for buying, selling or possessing an offensive weapon, one that is always determined as illegal? I know it is difficult to control. Does he have any suggestions? In June the Government published the Harris report Irish in Primary Schools: Long-Term National Trends in Achievement. We have not debated that here. Reportedly the NCCA is to send a draft of its recommendations to the Minister for Education and Science. Are we likely to have a debate on that? Has the Tánaiste been contacted by the Moriarty tribunal?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Chair might point out that the Deputy has been called twice, which is not the norm.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I could have asked my six questions in a row but the Chair wanted two groups of three. Fine Gael and the Labour Party are today launching a programme on mathematics; two threes are six and six ones are six, whichever way the Ceann Comhairle wants it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes, but questions that are in order would be more appropriate and would set a good example to the Deputy's colleagues.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste made comments outside the House about the Moriarty tribunal, when reports one and two will be published and which Members will be embarrassed by it. Has he been contacted about his public statements?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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There is no promised legislation on the age at which one can purchase a knife, for obvious reasons if Deputy Kenny reflects on it. On the Harris report, the Minister for Education and Science has indicated that she is anxious to have a new approach to the teaching of Irish in our schools. If the House wants to discuss it I am sure time will be made available. The Moriarty tribunal has never contacted me and the focus of its inquiries seems to be nearer to Deputy Kenny than to me.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the Tánaiste has clearly stated that he has not been contacted by the Moriarty tribunal, yet he stated that the focus of the inquiry is closer to Deputy Kenny. Could he elaborate on that?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order. I call Deputy Ferris.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Deputy should read the newspapers.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Tánaiste is leaking again.

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North, Sinn Fein)
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In light of the Government's decision yesterday to ban drift netting, the Minister yesterday indicated that some legislation may be necessary for the proposed compensation and hardship packages to come through. Will legislation be necessary and when is it proposed to take it? Will this House have a debate on the issue?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I understand that a statutory instrument is all that is required to deal with the ending of licensing of drift netting for salmon. Compensation issues will, as in the past, be handled on an administrative basis and will not require legislative change.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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In view of the widespread deaths on our roads and the amount of breathalyser testing for drink driving going on around the country, does the Government propose to introduce drug testing of drivers?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies may ask questions only on legislation promised.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The law on drink driving has been recently dealt with in this House and amended. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, keeps it constantly under review. Deputy Hayes will appreciate from today's and yesterday's newspapers that Garda enforcement has been escalated dramatically. The size of the road traffic corps is increasing dramatically. I am not in a position to say if any further legislation is contemplated on the particular issue the Deputy raised as to whether everybody involved in every accident should be compulsorily breath tested. That issue would require reflection.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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That is not the question the Deputy asked. How is the hearing over there?

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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I asked whether the Government proposes to introduce drug testing of drivers. The reality is——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should allow the Tánaiste to answer the question.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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I wanted to explain it further.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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No legislation is promised on that.

James Breen (Clare, Independent)
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Will the recommendations of the all-party committee on mobile telephone masts be implemented? In view of the pending High Court action of an Ennis resident against a mobile telephone mast operator, will the Tánaiste tell the Minister to instruct the ESB not to go ahead with that mast until the court case is over?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

James Breen (Clare, Independent)
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My first question was in order. The second might be slightly, but not altogether, wrong.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will leave the matter with the all-party committee.