Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 February 2007

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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It is proposed to take No. 2, the Prisons Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage. It is proposed, not withstanding anything in Standing Orders, that parliamentary questions for answer next week on EU matters shall be taken on the same day as statements on the EU Council Meeting in Brussels scheduled to be taken on Wednesday, 7 February 2007 and to be moved to be taken first as ordinary oral questions to the Taoiseach on that day. Private Members' Business shall be No. 67, motion re cancer services, 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 put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with parliamentary questions for answer next week on EU matters agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I understand we are to discuss the Moriarty tribunal in the House on 15 February by way of statements only. Can I have an assurance from the Tánaiste that adequate time will be given for questions and answers at the end of that period?

What is the Government's response in respect of the risk equalisation legislation? Is it necessary to amend it in view of the welcome announcement yesterday of the safeguarding of jobs in Fermoy? Is it the view of the Tánaiste and the Government that the new company will have to pay risk equalisation?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That would be a matter for the line Minister. Is legislation promised?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I asked if it is necessary to amend the legislation.

As someone who believes in inequality in Irish society, the Tánaiste has allowed the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency to close down on a day that the Committee of Public Accounts found the Government collectively responsible for the wastage——

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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——of €35 million in respect of the Media Lab project. In the context of company law, does the Tánaiste intend to introduce any flexibility for an agency which has done so much good work for those who have experienced domestic violence? The agency must close under the Companies Act.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy wishes to raise the matter, the Chair will facilitate him in the appropriate matter.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The agency has closed down because the Tánaiste did not give it sufficient money. Under the Companies Act, it is bound to close down. Will the Tánaiste do something about it?

Deputies:

It got its money.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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For three months.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Has the Government consulted all the parties in Northern Ireland in respect of the all-island committee which might meet in the precincts of Leinster House? I understood there was to be cross-participation by all parties. Has the Tánaiste discussed this with all the parties or is it some type of side deal?

The Tánaiste has been very forthright in condemning Fine Gael proposals in respect of amending the bail laws to give judges the right to electronically tag persons whose whereabouts the gardaí believe should be known. Today there is evidence of a person who raped an elderly widow having 60 convictions and who was out on bail when that happened.

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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My question is——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy cannot walk into the House on a Thursday morning and ask five or six questions which are more appropriate to line Ministers. As he is the leader of a party, the Chair is flexible with the Deputy but it cannot go any further.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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All these questions are about legislation. Does the Tánaiste intend to amend the bail laws to allow judges have the authority, if they see fit, to electronically tag persons who look for bail? In the case to which I referred, a person with 60 convictions raped a 75-year-old widow.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is abusing his position.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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In regard to the Moriarty report, the Deputy will be aware there was discussion between the Whips on the format of the debate on that subject in this House. No final agreement has been reached.

In regard to risk equalisation, the Deputy will be aware that legislation on health insurance is promised and the consideration of the Cabinet will be directed to the Barrington report when it is available and also to the Competition Authority report when it comes to hand.

In regard to domestic violence, I have not closed anything. I have guaranteed that funding will continue to the agency in question, which comprises four people and one full-time member. It has dealt with fewer than 40 people over five years. Many agencies in the country are funded by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey. It is not true to state this is a national agency or that its funding has been curtailed. I have made it very clear that its funding will continue until such time as a decision is made on an appropriate national approach to domestic violence.

The committee on all-island matters is being discussed. There will be discussion with party leaders of all eligible parties North and South.

In regard to bail, as I have indicated, a major package on criminal justice and policing will come before the House in the next few weeks.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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After ten years.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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It will be fully debated in this House and everybody will have the opportunity to put forward their ideas. The bail issue will be dealt with in that context.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The debate on the Moriarty report will not be decided by the Whips but by the Government which may choose to consult the Whips. Will the Tánaiste stand over a situation where work over almost ten years will not be permitted to be subject to a question and answer session in the House, given his record on this side of the House when the subject matter of this report was sitting where he is now ?

In terms of the schedule of business for next week, I notice there is a motion to withdraw the money advice bureau service Bill. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, promised that this Bill would cap interest rates by moneylenders. He resiled from that position but he got a few weekends out of it.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Another public relations effort.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The two of us did a couple of programmes and he told us he was going to introduce a new Bill. Will the Tánaiste show me where the new Bill is on the schedule?

Is the arrangement in regard to a North-South committee of Deputies and MPs a side deal between the Taoiseach and Sinn Féin or was the Tánaiste party to it? Since it is with MPs rather than MLAs, have the Unionist parties been consulted about their participation in it? The Tánaiste will recall that the work of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution recommended that it would be on a cross-community basis. Will he advise us on that point?

I cannot remember the name of the Bill but it was the subject matter of a famous press conference on 10 October last on the steps of Government Buildings when the Tánaiste said to the Taoiseach "I think we got away with it". The Tánaiste promised there would be urgent legislation. I have the statement from the press conference somewhere. When will that Bill, whatever it is called, be brought before the House? Does the Tánaiste still think he got away with it?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It could be called the "I think we got away with it Bill".

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Or the "getting a little help from my friends Bill".

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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With regard to the Moriarty tribunal report, the Deputy seems to imply he cannot put down questions other than during the debate. Of course, he is mistaken. The House provides that the Deputy can put down questions at any point.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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How they have changed.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Single party Government, no thanks. Jesus Christ.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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With regard to Deputy Brennan's Bill, he will bring the text of a better Bill to the Government in the next three weeks. In those circumstances it would be wrong to leave two Bills lying on the Order Paper.

The Government has considered the issue of the committee and I have been fully consulted regarding the committee to be established.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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"The Taming of the Shrew".

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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There will be full dialogue with all party leaders in this House and in Northern Ireland. The SDLP, Sinn Féin and the unionist parties in Northern Ireland will all be consulted.

With regard to the ethics legislation, I must correct the record of the House. Deputy Rabbitte has a capacity for misquoting people. The phrase the media picked up was, "we survived that". That was what was said.

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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A different concept.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I did not say "we got away with it". While I am correcting the record I must say to Deputy Kenny that I did not say inequality was good for anything either.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The one that got away.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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However, the Deputy will be pleased to know the Bill will be published this session.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Tánaiste is still getting away with it.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Eat your heart out.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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We should check the record for an accurate recall of what was said.

I ask the Tánaiste to reflect on the call for statements on the Moriarty report. There is a world of difference between questions tabled for written or even oral reply and exchanges in the Dáil Chamber. Given his legal background, I am sure he appreciates that.

Following the number of tragedies suffered on trawlers during the Christmas and new year period, will the Tánaiste urgently bring forward the merchant shipping (safety convention) Bill which will implement the amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention? The Bill is listed as No. 68 in the Government legislative programme for spring 2007 but no indication is given on the list of when the Bill will be introduced. Does the Tánaiste agree there is a need for urgency in matters dealing with safety at sea, particularly following recent experiences and the growing pressure on families involved in fishing and merchant shipping?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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When a tribunal report is being discussed in the House it is not usual for Members to question each other on it. The House has considered many tribunal reports in the last year or two and there has never been a question and answer session, as far as I can recollect.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That did not happen when the Tánaiste was on this side of the House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste was able to speak about the second report even before it was published, out on the plinth.

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 when the legislation referred to by Deputy Sargent will be brought before the House. I must stress that safety at sea does not depend on the passing of that legislation. Trawler safety must be acted upon regardless of legislation or international conventions.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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The introduction of the Bill would give Members an opportunity to debate the issue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Is it intended to incorporate in promised legislation a means by which the public can be protected from the antics of Ministers who propose expenditure which is unwarranted, unjustified and unjustifiable?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Durkan, do you have legislation in mind?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I will quote the legislation, Ceann Comhairle. I refer to the electronic voting debacle. Will action be taken to ensure such activities are not repeated? Such a measure could be incorporated in the ethics Bill.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Ethics legislation has already been dealt with this morning. I call Deputy Quinn.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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As a man who has often boasted of his anxiety to comply with ethical requirements, is the Tánaiste prepared to bring forward an amendment or appendage to the ethics Bill which would protect taxpayers from the antics of certain Ministers?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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Some Opposition spokesmen ask very stupid questions.

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

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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There must be an answer to my question.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I can give the Deputy an answer. The ethics legislation will be published this year. There is a mechanism for saving the people from foolish expenditure.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I know what it is.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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A change of Government.

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 called the electoral process. It is the process whereby the electorate were saved from having €200 million spent on a taxi hardship fund and hundreds of millions of euro spent on compensating Telecom shareholders during the last five years.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste has been like Rip Van Winkle during the past five years. He was part and parcel of all of that.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What about PPARS and electronic voting?

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Order Paper shows the Building Control Bill to be on Report Stage and therefore no longer in the hands of the Select Committee. When is the Bill likely to come back to 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 Bill is on Report Stage and should come before the House as soon as possible.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Tánaiste is pretty good at taking a prompt but he does not understand the question. The Government is in control of business. The Select Committee has considered the Bill and the scheduling of Report Stage is a matter for the Chief Whip, who is sitting behind the Tánaiste.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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And discussion by the Whips.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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If the Tánaiste does not have the answer today, can he convey it to me?

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 the Government's intention to get through the legislative programme as efficiently as possible. The Deputy might reflect on the following fact.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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When is the Bill coming to the House? That is the question.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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In one week this summer, on Tuesday we spent 55 minutes on the Order of Business, on Wednesday we spent an hour and ten minutes and on Thursday we spent an hour and 45 minutes.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The people are sick and sorry at the waste of time every week while we talk about doing our business instead of doing it.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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They are sick and tired of the Government.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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May I raise a point of order?

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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I remind the Tánaiste that if people who occupy the seat he occupies now had answered questions to elected people in the House we would not have had the Moriarty tribunal, that spent ten years trying to get answers to questions that Deputy McDowell and his like have refused to answer. The Tánaiste is a disgrace.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste has made reference to the length of time taken up by the Order of Business.

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 Jim O'Keeffe.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Does he remember that on the last day the House sat before the Christmas recess he walked out in the middle of the Order of Business, insulting the House and the people who elect the Members?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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On the Order of Business, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair will get around to you eventually, Deputy Ó Caoláin. The Chair is trying to ensure we keep order in the House.

11:00 am

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The Government promised two Bills on the subject of fines. The Fines Bill was to provide for the updating and indexation of fines and related matters, and the Enforcement of Fines Bill was to end imprisonment, where practicable, for inability to pay fines and to provide for new ways of enforcing the payment of fines. Yesterday, the Fines Bill was circulated and the promotion of the Bill seems to suggest it will end imprisonment for inability to pay fines. Of course, it does no such thing. Will we see the enforcement of fines Bill in the life of the Government to end imprisonment, where practicable, for inability to pay fines?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Fines Bill was circulated yesterday. It provides for the payment of fines by instalments. Other legislation is being considered for the recovery of fines by way of imposition on wages and other payments due to people. The second Bill is being worked on in my Department.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It has been promised for four years.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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However, in the meantime——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Four years have elapsed. When will Members see it?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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In the meantime, I wish to make two points. First, it is necessary there should be some sanction for those who do not pay fines imposed on them by the courts.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Yes. The Fine Gael Bill provided for this.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Second, the new legislation will make it possible for those who do not have this sum of money available to them immediately to pay it by means of instalments.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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When will the House see the enforcement of fines Bill?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The question has been answered. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I will repeat the question. When will Members see the enforcement of fines Bill, which has been promised for the past four years 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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It is being worked on in the Department at present.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Members know that. That means they will not see it in the lifetime of this Government.

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

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Deputy Jim O'Keeffe should do it himself.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I have already done so. There is a Bill before the House——.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Jim O'Keeffe should note the Chair wishes to put the House on notice that the Order of Business cannot go on indefinitely.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Fine Gael will put the Bill through when it is in the next Government.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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When Members are called by the Chair to put their question, the Tánaiste, or whatever Government Member is responding, is entitled to be heard in silence. If the House does not want that, we will move directly onto the next business.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The House is entitled to answers.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The House is entitled to straight and honest answers.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Did the remarks made by the Tánaiste last weekend signal legislative intent of what can only be described as the dangerous and alarming proposal to detain asylum seekers in detention centres?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is 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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As the Deputy is aware, the immigration and residence Bill is promised legislation. It has been the subject of extensive consultation and will be published during this session. As I indicated to the Law Society, consideration is being given to requiring certain high risk abusers of the asylum seeking process to remain in one place while their applications are being considered.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Does the Tánaiste have any idea as to the stress and anxiety caused to leaving certificate students by the failure of the CAO's computer system?

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

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The reason I raise this——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair will allow the Deputy to raise that matter in another, appropriate way.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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It is a question on legislation. A representative from the Institute of Guidance Counsellors stated on radio this morning that this matter may require amending legislation from the Minister for Education and Science.

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

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The deadline is today. Will it be extended?

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

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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While no legislation is promised in respect of this issue, for the information of the House and those who may be affected, I have spoken to the Minister for Education and Science today and the website is now working. She personally witnessed its operation. Moreover, any person who is worried about the situation is free to send a postal application, as long as they get a certificate of postage for today.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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They must pay again.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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They have already paid.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Instead of adding to people's anxieties, I urge——

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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I am not doing so.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I ask people to use the website, which is operational today. If they have any doubts or difficulties, they should go to a post office and send in a form with a certificate of postage.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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They should post it off with a tenner.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The post offices are being closed down.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I wish to make it clear there is no intention of extending the deadline because that would give rise to other legal complications.

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

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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While the representative of the CAO was saying there was no problem on the radio this morning, parents were ringing in to state they could not get through.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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As the Chair has pointed out to the Deputy, there are ways this matter can be raised in an appropriate manner——

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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I seek clarity regarding this issue.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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People's money was taken.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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——and the Chair will facilitate the Deputy.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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There should be some concern for the students involved, as well as their parents, who are already anxious enough at this time of year.

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

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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As an aside, the problem with that issue is that the deadline is 5.15 p.m. today.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry Deputy, we must move on. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I ask the Tánaiste to clarify his remarks regarding risk equalisation in health insurance. Quinn Direct is lining up to make another financial killing on people's health——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must confine himself to questions on legislation. The matter has already been discussed this morning. It is now 11.05 a.m. and we should have moved on to the Business of the House.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Neither the Ceann Comhairle nor the Tánaiste appears to appreciate that we have an emergency——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have a debate on the legislation. Has the Deputy a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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A leisurely stroll in regard to legislation for this matter is not what is required at present. Emergency legislation is needed.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are other ways in which this issue can be raised.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The wolf is at the door.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy wishes to raise it, he can submit a notice to my office.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I am asking the Tánaiste, as I am perfectly entitled to do——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will not spend the entire morning debating matters that are appropriate to a line Minister.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Ceann Comhairle is being very unreasonable. Will emergency legislation be tabled?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will move on. If Deputy Joe Higgins does not wish to allow his colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, to contribute, we will move on to No. 67.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Can the Ceann Comhairle ask the Tánaiste to answer? I asked a question that was in order.

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

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I asked a question that was in order. Will the Tánaiste answer?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Tánaiste, on the question.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I have already indicated there is promised legislation, a report from the Barrington group and a report from the Competition Authority. When the Government has considered the aforementioned reports, the issues raised by the Deputy will be fully addressed in the context of that legislation.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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That will only give another three-year free run.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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Expectations were raised last week when the Tánaiste publically declared his support for new legislation on management companies. Is it intended to introduce new legislation within the lifetime of the Government to deal with this issue?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is 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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It is the Government's intention to legislate in this area. However, as the Deputy is probably aware, having paid attention to what happened at the conference organised by the Government, the exact nature of such legislation is still the subject matter of consultation among stakeholders and interested parties.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Last night, the Minister of State with responsibility for children briefed the Opposition spokespersons on justice in respect of Government thinking on a referendum to protect children and to give them greater rights in the Constitution. Although a briefing document has been circulated, obviously the spokespersons must see the specific wording. What timeframe is envisaged by the Government to deal with this matter? It will require careful consideration by the House, as well as a subsequent period of reflection for the public. From the guidelines issued, I understand there are five separate proposals, which constitutes a considerable block of words to be inserted in the Constitution. I seek an indication from the Tánaiste regarding a preferred timeframe for the implementation of this matter and for putting this issue to the people. I understand this matter was discussed by the Cabinet this week.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Taoiseach has already indicated the overall position in this regard. Under the referendum legislation, as the Deputy is aware, all legislation to amend the Constitution must pass through both Houses of the Oireachtas. Subsequently, a period must elapse before it can be put before the people. It is a well-defined process. There is also the question of the establishment of a commission to provide independent guidance to people in respect of the contents of the legislation.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I am aware of that. I introduced the legislation myself.

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 a well-established matrix in terms of time for the holding of referenda.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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What are the Government's thoughts on the timeframe?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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First, the Government is anxious to receive the general response of the Opposition parties and other interested stakeholders. It will be greatly interested to see the Opposition's response to the briefing received last night.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What is the answer?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Members did not hear an answer.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No. 67, Private Members' business——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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If I may——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy had his opportunity.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Members did not get an answer.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Howlin interrupted the Minister when he was replying and——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I wish to ask a question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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——we cannot have an orderly Order of Business if the Member called is not heard in silence.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle should listen for a second. There is no point in having an Order of Business if questions are simply ignored. I put it to the Ceann Comhairle that he has a responsibility to at least ensure that questions are answered.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair has no responsibility in the matter. The Chair——

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The Chair is putting the Opposition in its place.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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What is the preferred timeframe for the Government to take this matter? Does it intend to hold the referendum on child protection in advance of the general election? That is a simple question.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Before the Tánaiste replies——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That question was dealt with. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe has already contributed to the Order of Business and will not do so again. We will not create a new precedent this morning.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I wish to ask a related question on the same issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will move on to Private Members' Business, unless he allows this——

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Members should at least get a reply.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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This matter pertains to amending the Constitution. Can Members not hear a reasoned comment?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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In response to Deputy Howlin's point, the Government intends to deal with this matter as quickly as possible. If there is all-party agreement on this issue it will happen much faster than if there is not. This is how things happen in this House.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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An opportunity is not even being given for all-party comment.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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In answer to the Deputy's question, the Government intends to proceed with an amendment along these lines before the next general election, if possible.