Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 7, motion re sittings and Business of the Dáil; No. 7a, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions, on a supplementary Order Paper; No. 7b, motion re council regulation on the establishment of an evaluation mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis, on a supplementary Order Paper; No. 7c, motion of confidence, on a supplementary Order Paper.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that Nos. 7, 7a and 7b shall be decided without debate and the proceedings in respect of No. 7c shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. tomorrow. The following arrangements shall apply: the speech of the Taoiseach and the leaders of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, or a Member nominated in his stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; the speech of each other member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; Members may share time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed 20 minutes.
There are two proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 7, 7a and 7b without debate, namely, motions re sittings and Business of the Dáil, the ministerial rota for parliamentary questions and council regulations agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 7c, namely, motion of confidence, agreed to? Agreed.
I call Deputy Enda Kenny on the Order of Business.
Have sitting arrangements yet been made for July, given that we have to deal with legislation in respect of NAMA, the Lisbon referendum Bill and the consequences of the Ryan Commission report? Will the House sit during July in order to deal with those important matters?
Arising from that, will the Taoiseach clarify whether it is the Government's intention to have the legislation dealing with a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty taken in July, assuming that agreement is reached at the European summit later this month?
Following the question about the proposed second Lisbon referendum, will the Taoiseach indicate his intention with regard to the timing of the by-election in Donegal South West? Is it his current intention to defer this to the same day as the proposed referendum, or will he, given the results of the two recent by-elections as so well demonstrated in the Chamber this afternoon, ensure that the by-election is held immediately, as I believe it should be?
I seek the guidance of the Ceann Comhairle with regard to a matter whereby the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, has refused to give me the names and identities of the national schools owned by the 18 religious teaching orders who recently met with the Taoiseach. The Minister acted thus on the grounds that it would take too much time to deliver the information to a Deputy.
I refer to two matters on the Order of Business which have some relevance to the debate on the Ryan Commission report. Has the Government decided to give priority to legislation required concerning the usage of soft information to protect children at risk of abuse? The Oireachtas joint committee report published in September recommended the Bill be published before Christmas. It is currently on the C list and there is no timeframe for when it will be published.
The second issue relates to the report on the Monageer tragedy. The Government indicated it was considering a mechanism to facilitate the publication of those sections of the report euphemistically referred to as "having been redacted", but which were in fact censored, including seven recommendations contained in it. Members have no means of knowing whether those seven recommendations are, for example, in some way replicated in the Ryan commission report. We should have access to that information before we start the debate on the Ryan commission report. What does the Government intend to do with regard to bringing the Monageer report before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children so that the censored portions of it are accessible to Members?
The Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews, indicated to the House on Question Time recently that he would find a mechanism to provide the information referred to by Deputy Shatter, probably to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. If we are to learn from the report, we need to know what was contained in the recommendations. It is extraordinary that a report was published with some seven of the recommendations blacked out with the result that nobody could learn from them. It is vital that a mechanism is found to have them put into the public arena. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children is the appropriate mechanism for that. I urge the Taoiseach to ensure that happens as quickly as possible.
One of the issues that should be raised in the negotiations with the religious orders involved in the Ryan report is the question of asking them to withdraw any threat of legal action so that we can see the recommendations and get the uncensored version.
Will time be allocated to Independent Deputies on the Ryan commission report into child abuse? It is important that Independent Deputies are treated in the same way as other Deputies. Will the Taoiseach guarantee speaking time for Independent Deputies?
I understand that the first Bill mentioned by Deputy Shatter is being worked on by the Minister and officials. However, I am not sure to what extent it is being worked on or when it will be finalised and published.
I do not have a timeframe. On the Monageer report, it was not a question of the Government being involved in censoring of information, but a question of legal issues which arose. Deputies Andrews and Harney are taking advice from the Attorney General on these with regard to what mechanism can be found to provide the information. Both Deputies have indicated their willingness to try and overcome the issue so as to enable the Oireachtas committee to be more fully informed of the issues currently redacted.
In response to Deputy McGrath, I hope Deputies will be given an opportunity to speak if they wish. I hope all parties will co-operate to ensure that some Independent voices can be heard on the issue.
What has happened to the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Bill produced by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security? At a time when there is urgent need for investment and jobs, it is surprising that this legislation has gone missing. There is no encouragement to other committees to engage in positive work when this committee has not even been given the courtesy of being informed if, when or how the Bill will be proceeded with.
On the separate issue, I understand the Minister has corresponded with Deputy Barrett, as Chairman of the committee, and has indicated his availability to discuss ideas and proposals. That should be taken up as soon as possible.
Will the Taoiseach endeavour to have the recently published legislation on the regulation of management companies of multi-unit accommodation processed through the Houses before the summer recess? Will he prioritise it, due to the urgency of the situation? There is a crying need for this legislation as many apartment complexes are suffering severely because of the recession.
Is the Taoiseach aware that countless hundreds of Coillte forestry workers lost their jobs this week in the forests of Ireland? Many of them have been put on short time and are receiving social welfare payments, despite the fact that there are endless amounts of work to be done in State forests. Can the Taoiseach give those workers some indication as to why they were laid off?
Deputy Connaughton, you will have to find another way of raising that matter. We cannot deal with it now. The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question on the matter or raise it on the Adjournment.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced a planning Bill the week before last. Many new councils will soon draw up their county development plans. When will the Bill be published and will it be passed before the county development plans are agreed?
Is it intended to combat the ongoing rise in crime by passing the various items of legislation in this area? Some have been on the Order Paper for two or three years and some were mooted five years ago. Is it expected that these Bills, which are urgently required, will be dealt with in this or the next session, if there is another session?
In the last Dáil, the Government did not oppose the Labour Party's Private Members' Bill on the protection of whistleblowers. It passed Second Stage and is on the Order Paper. Given the failure to protect the public interest by self regulating bodies, including the Medical Council, will the Taoiseach provide Government time for conclusion of this legislation or announce a timescale for the introduction of Government legislation? In the last Dáil, the Government decided not to oppose our Bill, which has been left in limbo.
What is the present position with regard to the necessary protections for whistleblowers? Anyone who saw an excellent television programme last night will be aware of the victimisation of those who have taken great risks in the public interest. They are entitled to legislative protection. It is unjustifiable for the Government to delay legislation which is prepared. The Government should allow the Bill to proceed to final stages or produce alternative legislation.
My understanding is that the Government wishes to proceed in a sectoral way regarding whistleblowing legislation rather than with the comprehensive, omnibus Bill, which was, as the Deputy stated, given a Second Reading in the House.
What is the position regarding the proposed NAMA legislation? We were promised that we would have the heads of the Bill before the House rises for the summer. If the Dáil sits for an extra week from 2 July, does the Taoiseach propose to have the Bill brought before the House in that time? We were also promised urgent legislation to deal with a new system of banking regulation. Will we have the heads of the Bill over the summer or will the legislation be passed in the summer? Obviously, the legislation will be of some importance in restoring Ireland's financial reputation.
On the timescale, given what we said, we will obviously give priority to this issue which, as the Deputy is aware, is highly complex. The Bill is being drafted as a matter of priority in the Department of Finance. The optimum position would be for it to be available and approved by Government and published and considered for enactment by the House before the Dáil rises. If that is not possible, as the Minister for Finance has stated, the recall of the Dáil in September is also a prospect.
On inter-country adoption, does the Adoption Bill passed by the Seanad make provision to address the current impasse which is affecting families who are waiting adoptions from Vietnam and other countries? The civil union Bill was promised this session. With only weeks of the session left, when can we expect to have sight of this legislation?