Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 February 2007

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. 16a, motion re membership of committees; No. 1, European Communities Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Second Stage; and No. 24, Health Bill 2006 — Second Stage, resumed. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 16a shall be decided without debate.

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. 16a without debate agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Will the Government agree to a debate on the annual report of the National Competitiveness Council, which was published yesterday? I understand that Pfizer, one of the flagship companies in Ireland's pharmaceutical sector, which has never seen any job losses, is about to announce significant job losses in Cork. There have been similar job losses in Motorola, Vodafone and Xerox.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will allow the Deputy's question, but we cannot have a debate on the matter.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to make the point that this is not an isolated incident. There is a trend of job losses in our traded sectors.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have a debate at this stage. The Deputy asked whether a debate will be allowed.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is the question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Such a question should apply only to promised debates, but I will allow the Deputy to ask a brief question now.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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As the announcement is being made as we speak, it is appropriate, timely and urgent to raise the matter now. I hope the Chair will indulge me if I stray slightly beyond the boundaries of Standing Orders.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, Deputy, I could not set a precedent like that. Your colleagues might expect the same facility.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I am definitely inside those boundaries.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The Chair is grumpy this morning.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I would like to raise a second matter. We have spent the week trying to clarify what will be done about the gaping hole in the regulatory structure that the Government put together for health insurance. Will emergency legislation be introduced to deal with that lacuna? Will it be handled in a leisurely fashion over the coming weeks and months? There seems to be an extraordinary lack of clarity in respect of these serious issues. The Government seems to have been caught flat-footed. We need clarity. I read in today's newspapers that the Government intends to establish a forum to deal with pay issues. Is this being done within the terms of social partnership?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That question would be more appropriate to the responsible line Minister.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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It seems that the forum will deal with all aspects of public sector pay policy, which is the collective responsibility of the entire Government

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter should be raised with the Minister for Finance.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I am entitled to ask whether a legislative measure will be introduced so that the new forum we have heard about will be put in place.

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

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Was the Tánaiste consulted about the appointment of Mr. Tom Mulcahy to the——

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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It just arose.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will allow the first two questions.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is relevant to ask——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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May I just ask——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Of course it is relevant to ask, but there are other ways in which the Deputy can raise the matter

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps the Chair will let me complete my sentence before he rules it out of order. Is it appropriate that the same person should chair two bodies?

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 Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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He will act as a supervisor——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The matter can be raised in other ways.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste wants to answer.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is a legislative initiative.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It has nothing to do with legislation.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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It does not seem appropriate to merge the chairmanship of two boards.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Tánaiste will be allowed to answer the first two questions.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The possibility of having a debate on the National Competitiveness Council's annual report can be considered by the Whips. If it is thought proper that there should be a debate on the matter, I am sure it can be arranged. As I said last week, the Government will consider two reports on health insurance — the Competition Authority's report on the market and the expected report from the Barrington group on risk equalisation and community rating — when they are to hand.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Is it not the case that irrevocable decisions which will have a bearing on this legislation will have to be made in the next few days?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is right.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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What emergency legislation, if any, is planned to deal with the steady deterioration in the health service? There is a real danger that all the key workers in the service — nurses, administrative staff and even hospital consultants — will be in dispute with the Government in the next couple of months. What will the Government do to ensure that patients can access the care they need?

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 Deputy must use another means to raise it.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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With regard to promised legislation, the dismal record of the Government is only matched by our dismal performance in the football match yesterday. A series of legislative measures was promised by the Government and it is the Government who sets the timetable for legislation. There are less than 20 days left until the Dáil rises for Easter. According to the legislative programme published in 2003, the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill was to be published in late 2003, the Animal Health Bill in early 2004 and the Minerals Development Bill in 2004. The Pharmacy Bill, to protect patients, was due to be published in 2004, the National Monuments Bill in late 2003, the Charities Regulation Bill in 2005, the Nurses and Midwives Bill, which should have been considered an urgent priority, was due to be introduced in 2004 and the esteemed Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, promised that the Dublin Transport Authority would be put on a statutory footing by way of legislation before last Christmas. Will the Tánaiste explain why the Government cannot even score within its own timetable?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I will not comment on the football match because I did not see it——

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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It is not the Government's fault.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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——but I can guarantee that nobody is suggesting that Steve Staunton should step aside for the Deputy to take over.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It is like the Government — the promises are better than the delivery.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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She might do a better job.

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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It is a political football.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Bray was never renowned for its soccer.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Charities Bill, the Dublin Transport Authority Bill and the Pharmacy (No. 1) Bill will be published this session. The Nurses and Midwives Bill will be published this year.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Given that the Tánaiste represents the San Marino of Irish politics, he is not in any position to judge anybody's performance. On today's Order Paper there is a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council amending a directive on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use. Will the Government provide time, under a new Order of Business, to use that proposal to discuss the situation at Pfizer in Cork? It has just been announced that the Ringaskiddy plant is to close and the Little Island and Loughbeg plants——

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

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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This relates to the meaning of this House. This is an issue of concern to the Cork region——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is absolutely right——

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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——and time must be provided in the House to discuss it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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——and the House has provided facilities for Members.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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It is an urgent issue and I ask the Tánaiste to respond to it.

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

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I appreciate there are other ways through the Ceann Comhairle's office but I am asking the Tánaiste to respond.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will facilitate the Deputy if he wishes to raise it.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I appreciate that.

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 is aware that the House agreed the Order of Business a few minutes ago.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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The announcement has just been made.

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 Pfizer, I understand that 65 people are to be made redundant and the two plants are to be sold as going concerns.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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If they are not sold, the jobs will be gone.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Yes, but IDA Ireland has a tremendous record and the Minister, Deputy Martin, has a great record in Cork for delivering jobs. I was in Amgen's headquarters in Thousand Oaks in California recently——

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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That could have caused the problem.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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——and there is a US$1.1 billion investment in Carrigtwohill in Cork, of which the Deputy is well aware. I do not wish to talk down the Cork region or its economy. IDA Ireland has such a good record with regard to pharmaceutical capacity, which is always sought after, that I believe there will be alternative purchasers for those plants.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I have inquired a number of times about the current whereabouts of promised legislation, that is, the Postal Services Bill, which the Taoiseach admitted fell off the wagon. It was deemed to be important legislation two years ago but for some mysterious reason it disappeared. Is it intended to restore that proposal to the Order Paper or does disagreement exist within the Government as to whether it should have been there in the first place? Is that the reason it fell off the wagon?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Two years ago it was taken off the list of proposed legislation but that fact does not appear to have impinged on the Deputy, who regularly asks about its whereabouts. It is gone.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Why was it removed? Is it because the Tánaiste disagreed with it? Were there internal policy differences?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I wish to raise two issues. In the interests of clarity, given that many organisations are anxious to know the Government's intentions with regard to the proposed referendum on children, has a wording been agreed and, if so, when will it be circulated to Members of the Opposition so we can analyse it? Is it the Government's intention to hold the referendum before Easter? The second issue relates to legislation for which the Tánaiste is responsible, that is, the Judicial Council Bill. This has been promised since 2004. Has the retirement request from Judge Brian Curtin been agreed by the Government? When will the legislative framework be provided that will enable such contentious issues in the future to be dealt with in a structured manner?

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 clearly stated to the House this week the position regarding the referendum, and it has not changed since then. We are in a process of study and consultation and the Deputy has been consulted about the matter. The situation has not changed dramatically since the Taoiseach spoke on it.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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When are we likely to have agreed wording?

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 Judicial Council Bill——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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When are we likely to have the wording and is it the Government's intention to bring a referendum Bill before the Dáil before Easter? It is a legitimate question.

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 answered the question clearly the other day. The answer does not change from Member to Member.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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What is the answer?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The answer is the same.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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What is it?

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 made it clear the other day and it will not become clearer——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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He did not make anything clear.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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——by me repeating what he said.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Does the Tánaiste not know? Is he that much out of the loop?

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

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The second matter is the Judicial Council Bill. It is now three years since I consulted the Judiciary about this matter and I am still awaiting a response about certain points.

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

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

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The Tánaiste mentioned in one of his replies that the House had agreed the Order of Business today. However, we had no opportunity to reflect on the Order of Business.

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

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Yes, it is appropriate. There was no proposition before the House as to whether the European Communities Bill 2006 was something this House should address today. The elements in that and the powers the Tánaiste would like to see vested in his office as a result are obnoxious.

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 Bill shortly.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to make that clear.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Not at this point, Deputy. You can speak on the Bill later.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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In the setting of offences and maximum penalties, I am aware of the type of jurisdiction the Tánaiste would like to preside over——

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

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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——but hopefully he will not get the opportunity in that regard.

The Ombudsman amendment Bill is promised for 2007. Will that legislation be brought before the House before the dissolution of the Dáil or is it, again, dependent on a new Government taking office after 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 Ombudsman (amendment) Bill is promised for this year and it is not on the list for publication this session.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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In light of the impossible situation in St. James's Hospital and other hospitals where beds are not available for seriously ill people, when will the nursing homes support Bill be coming before the House so additional beds can be provided?

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 this year.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The HSE yesterday advised doctors that both Monaghan and Louth——

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 Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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——hospitals will be taken off medicine by the end of the year.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Once the Deputy mentioned Monaghan at all it would not be appropriate on the Order of Business.

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

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for calling me earlier as I must leave the Chamber.

I cannot leave without raising the issue of job losses in Cork and I hope the Government will take note.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I wish to ask about legislation. Thousands of people are waiting to buy what were commonly known as local authority flats and legislation was promised to deal with this issue. The social housing miscellaneous Bill is to be introduced. Will it be introduced before the election to ensure the value which these people have added to their homes will not be further eroded by inflation?

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Legislation in this regard is projected for early summer.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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During the week the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Rabbitte, raised with the Taoiseach the issue of the threatened or promised — depending on which way one looks at it — increase of 30% in fees for auctioneers because they have not enough work to make themselves rich without working. In any event, the Taoiseach indicated the property services regulatory authority Bill would give powers to the Minister to control the prices paid. He indicated the Bill was a matter of urgency and was likely to be before the Dáil before Easter.

It states in the list of Bills that publication is expected in 2007. I am used to reading these lists and I know this means there is not a snowball's chance in hell of this legislation coming before the House before the general election. Does this mean nothing will be done about this 30% increase?

My colleague, Deputy Shortall, indicated to the Ceann Comhairle yesterday that she wished to raise an issue. She cannot be here this morning and I ask to be permitted to raise the matter on her behalf. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, promised some time before Christmas that he would introduce a short Bill to deal with a number of miscellaneous issues in the transport area, including the right of local authorities to have resident-only parking in various parts of towns and cities. This is a particular issue around Croke Park. I do not see that Bill on the list. I understand significant work has been completed on this short Bill and if it were to be brought to the House I imagine the Opposition would co-operate in passing it.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I will return to the Deputy on the latter point. The Bill is not on the list. As the Deputy stated a number of issues are currently being worked on. The legislation dealing with auctioneers is being worked on in my Department. It will be published this year but not before Easter.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The Tánaiste said he did not see the match between Ireland and San Marino. I presume he was not at Croke Park last Saturday with 80,000-plus fans for the first game under lights——

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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He was wearing his blue shirt that night.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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——and did not see the rather obnoxious behaviour of some of those fans after the match.

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 Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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My question relates to the large degree of public urination that took place in little side streets beside Croke Park——

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

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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Is the Minister considering raising the derisory €2 fine applying to public urination? When will he impose on-the-spot fines as requested by the Garda Síochána for some time? As it is not an arrestable offence, does the Minister propose to make it an arrestable offence and impose on-the-spot fines?

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 level of fines the Deputy will be aware that the recently published Fines Bill will increase the general level of fines across a range of offences.

Members of the Garda Síochána use the Public Order Act to deal with offensive behaviour, such as that described by the Deputy.

The Criminal Justice Act provides, not for on-the-spot fines, but for a letter to issue to people who have been arrested for those offences. In those circumstances they are given the option of paying a fixed penalty or facing prosecution.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Some time ago the Taoiseach sent me a list of the international conventions that are outstanding as not having been ratified by Ireland. He indicated that most of them are delayed in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has replied to questions in the same vein. Ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption was promised during discussion on the White Paper on Irish Aid. Will this happen in the lifetime of 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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Legislation relating to corruption is being studied in my Department and I intend to bring it before the House this year.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources arranged a wide-ranging consultation on the Broadcasting Bill and on webcasting. What is the progress on the broadcasting Bill to set up the broadcasting authority? Will anything happen in the lifetime of this Government?

The former Minister promised me about four years ago that we might have a Green Paper on the postal services, given the ongoing decimation of the post office network and the fact that quite a few postmasters and postmistresses earn less than the minimum wage.

When will the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform give a reply to the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee on the substantive issue?

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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It arises because it is the only opportunity I have to speak to this Minister. He is the Minister who is making a response.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are any amount of opportunities for the Deputy.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Tánaiste; Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The broadcasting Bill is expected in the early summer.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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What about the other matters?