Dáil debates

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

11:00 am

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 18, Finance Bill 2007 — Report and Final Stages; No. 19, the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 20, Prisons Bill 2006 [Seanad] — Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m.; (2) the proceedings on the resumed Report and Final Stages of No. 18 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put down from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Finance; (3) the Report and Final Stages of No. 19 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. tonight by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Education and Science; (4) and Private Members' business, No. a61 — motion re rail freight (resumed), shall be taken at 7 p.m. tonight, or on the conclusion of No. 19, whichever is the later, and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 18 agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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I oppose, for the same reasons I have stated previously, the guillotining of legislation going through the House.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 18 be agreed to," put and declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with No. 19 agreed?

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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I believe this is the 20th piece of legislation we have guillotined in recent weeks. We have seen the results that arise from the guillotining of Bills, with emergency legislation being introduced to deal with legislation that was not debate properly in the House. Again, for that and the other reasons stated, we are opposed to the guillotine.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. 19 be agreed to."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 70 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Beverley Flynn, Brian Cowen, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)

Against the motion: 52 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, James Breen, Pat Breen, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Eamon Gilmore, John Gormley, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Catherine Murphy, Denis Naughten, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Joe Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton)

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

Question declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

12:00 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is my hope that the election process in Northern Ireland today will result in a situation where the Assembly can be restored and where all politicians can work towards that restoration and the implementation of the St. Andrew's Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. I am sure I share the hopes and express the wishes of everybody in that regard.

When will No. 38, the education Ireland Bill be published? It deals with the teaching of English as a foreign language. It is expected some time in 2007 but the Taoiseach may have a date.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Like Deputy Kenny, I hope there will be a good turnout today and that the political process in the North goes well.

Preparatory work on the heads of the Bill is ongoing regarding the education Ireland Bill. This Bill will regulate the body dealing with educational services, including the teaching of English. It will probably be the second half of the year before it is published.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Having taken the Ceann Comhairle's medical advice, I will now refrain from speaking further.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Rabbitte is in full voice; he will speak for the Deputy. It is the Mullingar accord.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I gave the Taoiseach notice yesterday, and he might tell the House when he has the information, about the issue of whether we are likely to deal with the regulation and control of management companies prior to the general election.

In respect of a different piece of legislation, newspaper reports today will cause the Taoiseach some surprise as much as they did on this side of the House. They relate to the pulling of a commercial for Trócaire by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland because the commercial has a political end. Most of us would be very surprised——

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

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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There is a Broadcasting Bill before the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot discuss what might be in the Broadcasting Bill.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle is absolutely correct; we cannot do so. However, the Taoiseach might be able to say that this matter will be dealt with because it is a blow to the fundraising of Trócaire. The abandonment of a prepared commercial is a blow to the organisation and, more important, to its development and goals.

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

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I would hope that the Broadcasting Bill would provide the opportunity to ensure that this unintended effect does not happen again.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are others ways in which the Deputy can raise the matter and the Chair will facilitate him.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I had the opportunity to receive a briefing on the first matter raised. The Government's legislative programme published on 30 January 2007 provides for the publication of the property services regulatory authority Bill. This legislation will give effect to the recommendations of the auctioneering and estate agents review group, including the establishment of the property services regulator with the authority to control and regulate the provision of property services provided by auctioneers, estate agents and property management agencies.

A cross-departmental team has been working on a number of issues in this area but, like many things, it is not simple as there is a cross-cutting nature to many of the matters. The Government has approved a high level inter-departmental committee to examine a number of tasks. It is unlikely that everything can be included in one piece of legislation so a number of different legislative and administrative areas could be affected. The group is up and running and the legislation for property services is under——

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Are the Taoiseach and I at cross-purposes? I am interested in that information but the specific point that interests most of my constituents is the regulation and control of management companies, which is a separate point from auctioneering and the practices that were revealed recently in that respect.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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They are all linked.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will it be dealt with in this Bill?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is a question about whether it can all be dealt with in one Bill.

Meetings were held with the Law Reform Commission which has done some work on this matter. I am informed that one piece of legislation will not be sufficient to cover all the areas; it will just cover a number of them. Work is ongoing on the Bill to which I referred. It is a question of including all the aspects. The Law Reform Commission has done good work in highlighting a number of the areas. The Bill will include more than we first thought and the cross-departmental team are working on it. I will send the Deputy a note if he wishes.

The other issue raised by Deputy Rabbitte has been brought to my attention. The issue of gender is an important aspect of the Irish Aid programme. It seems extraordinary that the commercial would be pulled because of this issue. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has already undertaken to talk to the BCI to see if this can be resolved.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Was a complaint received?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I do not think a complaint was received. The Minister's office contacted me last night. I think the BCI was concerned about the political nature of the commercial because of the petition involved. I have listened to some fairly political advertisements recently which had a ferocious go at me, and nobody seems to worry about it.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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That was groundless.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I cannot see how anyone would get so sensitive about this.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Maybe no one complained.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Taoiseach is a man. This has to do with women.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Following on from the issue Deputy Rabbitte raises on legislation controlling management companies, apart from the urgent need for apartment owners to have new regulations to protect their rights, the Taoiseach undertook to consider the specific situation not of apartment owners but of house owners in big estates who were dragooned into management companies and saddled with fees completely unnecessarily. He said he would look into unscrambling their position so they could legally get out of those completely unnecessary contracts.

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

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Minister, Deputy Roche, also gave such an undertaking. It is an urgent situation because people are being dragged into court and hounded by the developers, essentially, masquerading as management companies——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We must deal with the legislation. We cannot discuss it in detail.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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We want to know when the legislation freeing those people from this burden will be brought forward.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There are two issues in this regard. First, the Minister some months ago gave a directive to local authorities not to continue that process.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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They are continuing.

Paddy McHugh (Galway East, Independent)
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They are continuing.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should give me the details of the case — any case.

Paddy McHugh (Galway East, Independent)
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They are disobeying the Minister. They are ignoring him.

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

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I recently provided the details to the Minister with regard to a private estate in my area, and he acknowledged the correspondence.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has given a direction. Obviously, he said if anyone had information——

Paddy McHugh (Galway East, Independent)
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They are ignoring it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy. Deputies should confine themselves to the Order of Business. Questions more appropriate to a line Minister should be addressed to a line Minister.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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This is appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy made a Second Stage speech. Is legislation promised?

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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My question was on legislation promised by the Taoiseach. When is it due?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I explained to Deputy Rabbitte that a number of aspects are involved. The cross-departmental team is working on the issue but it is broader than what I have stated.

On the housing issue raised by Deputy Joe Higgins, the Minister has given a directive for contracts already entered into. That matter must be considered in the context of what the cross-departmental team is doing.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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On promised legislation, the Taoiseach told us he uses public transport. He has never been on the No. 3 or No. 14 bus in my constituency because if he had been——

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

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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——he would provide time for the Dublin Transport Authority Bill. The Government is not prioritising public transport. I want to ask the Taoiseach when we will have that debate in the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should confine himself to the legislation. A number of Deputies are offering.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I would like an answer.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are spending €33 billion on——

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Will we debate the Bill?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are spending €33 billion on public transport. I thought that was a fair priority.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Will we debate the Bill? That is the question.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, we will.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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When?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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This session.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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There is a proposal to introduce a new social assistance payment for low income families with young children. I am told legislation is at an advanced stage but it is not on the legislative programme. When might we expect that? Has the Government approved the heads of a Bill?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should table a question to the Minister.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister told me last week it is at an advanced stage. I want to know when it will be published. Will the Taoiseach provide that information?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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If he told the Deputy it was at an advanced stage, it must be at an advanced stage.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach knows nothing about it.

Joe Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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On the question of the Voluntary Health Insurance board, when will we have the promised corporate status Bill to give VHI corporate status?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Bill is almost ready. It will be published shortly.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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There is much legislation on the A list. Does the Taoiseach expect two pieces of legislation on the A list, the student support Bill and the adoption Bill, to be published within the next month?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The student support Bill will be published this session. I do not have a date for the adoption Bill but the student support Bill is nearly ready. It is due this session.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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A number of families are affected by the adoption (Hague Convention, adoption authority) Bill. It would be useful if the Taoiseach could indicate whether it will be published during the lifetime of the Government. On the international convention for the protection of migrant workers and their families, the latest communication from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which is the lead Department in checking the requirements for ratification, would seem to suggest the Government has no intention of ratifying the convention. Is that the case?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will have to check with regard to the second convention — I do not have it listed. Was the first question on the adoption Bill?

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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The first question was on the Hague Convention. The second one was on the international convention for the protection of migrant workers and their families. We have been in correspondence before in this regard, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reviewing it. I have reached the conclusion it is not the Government's intention to ratify the convention. Is that the case?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will check with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on that. On the Hague Convention, the adoption Bill will be published this session.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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I thank the Taoiseach.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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At present, local authorities throughout the country are transferring hundreds of tenants in private rented accommodation onto a scheme known as the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. Legislation to provide for that scheme has not yet been published, however. When will the social housing Bill be published? Can the Taoiseach tell the House on what authority or what legislative basis are local authorities currently entering into arrangements with landlords for——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The first question is in order. The second question is a matter for the Minister.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The social housing Bill is listed for early summer. The Deputy should put the other question to the Minister.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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In view of the imminent deal on open skies between the EU and the US, when will the tourism and development plan promised for Shannon Airport be published in preparation for open skies?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a question for the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. I call Deputy Burton.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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It is a question for the Government.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The White Paper on overseas development has recently been posted to every citizen in booklet form. One of the goals set out in the White Paper is equality for women as part of the millennium development goals. Is it proposed, in the context of the difficulties Trócaire has been having, to incorporate the White Paper——

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

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The White Paper has been circulated to every house in the country. Will it be incorporated into legislation here?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We must move on.