Thursday, 17 June 2010
Order of Business.
It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, repealing Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA, back from committee; No. 13, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, back from committee; No. 14, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 and for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA; No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of three interim economic partnership agreements, back from committee; No. 5, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 Second Stage (resumed); and No. 16 motion re Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 5 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.45 p.m. today; the proceedings on No. 16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time, and which shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; Question Time today shall be taken on the conclusion of No. 16 or at 3.30 p.m., whichever is the later and shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m.; and in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. for 30 minutes.
Included in that group is No. 15, with regard to the approval of economic partnership agreements between the European Union and three groups of African countries. On Tuesday, 25 May 2010, I raised this issue and at the end of the discussion the Taoiseach suggested something which I am afraid was not strictly accurate:
We are asked to approve the terms of the interim agreements as soon as possible. All other member states have signed them and the European Community is anxious to implement them in order to ensure compliance with World Trade Organisation rulings.
The agreements have not yet been before the European Parliament, but this is not the most important point. At the end of the discussion the Taoiseach stated:
It is expected that this will be dealt with by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. We have been asked to put the agreements forward for approval.
The Taoiseach did not state by whom we were asked, and most importantly he then stated, "I can undertake that the matters can be debated in the House when they have been dealt with at committee." They have been dealt with at committee and yesterday a limited number of Deputies had a good discussion. Even the Minister of State would agree that it is in everybody's interest that a wider number of Deputies in a plenary session of the Dáil have an opportunity to discuss the African issues and the European Union and Africa relationship issues involved. There is also the question of the Parliament being involved in a vigorous sense in debating policy, particularly in the circumstances we have post-Lisbon treaty. Will the Tánaiste give an indication that the Taoiseach's words meant something and that we will debate these issues here as promised now that they have come back from committee?
I do not want to disrupt or delay the Order of Business but I strongly support my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, on this issue on the grounds he has raised. I will not go over them again. It is particularly important in the aftermath of the Lisbon treaty that national parliaments such as ours are seen to be playing the role intended for them in the European sphere, in particular with regard to the relationship between the member states of the European Union and other countries, such as those on the African continent.
Deputy Higgins raised an issue which I understand was the subject of robust debate in the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. We provided additional time for that debate but if it is agreeable to the House, I propose that we set aside time after the Order of Business for further discussion on No. 15.
My objection was to the grouping of the motions and not solely to No. 15. I concur with Deputy Shatter that grouping together various issues in motions taken without debate makes it difficult for us to put our points across. We are expected to vote for a range of issues without debate. Two of these issues come from committees.
I have a problem with the referral to joint committee of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 for approval because this is a matter which we have agreed should be debated in the Dáil. I seek a commitment from the Tánaiste that it will be debated in this House when it returns from committee. The matter concerns the suspension of certain rights of people arrested in connection with gangland crimes. I ask the Tánaiste to make a similar commitment to that which she gave on No. 15 so that we can debate the matter in the House. At least we will be debating the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.
We should have debated Nos. 12 and 13 in the Dáil and not only in committee because Deputies cannot attend every committee. As Deputy Shatter noted, the issues arising should be discussed by the entire House rather than in committees.
In regard to No. 14, we refer matters to joint committees to allow a better discussion to take place on issues of importance. The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, on behalf of the Government, has rightly decided that we will opt into this directive, which is important, and we should not divide the House on the proposal.
I oppose the guillotine on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. This is an important Bill and we want more time to discuss it because it is having an awful effect on the poor. Members of this side of the House are fed up with supplying money to the banks and taking it from the poor. We oppose the motion and call for a vote on it.
Like Deputy Ring, I oppose the guillotine on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. I draw Members' attention to the contrasting ways in which different sections of our society are treated by the Government. Yesterday, the Government announced another €250 million for the EBS and the chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank told an Oireachtas committee that the lion's share of the €22 billion put into his bank will never be seen again.
-----that dealing with the banks would not cost the taxpayer any money. We spent €22 billion and this man stated that the lion's share will never be seen again. It seems there is no end to the billions the Government will commit when it comes to the banks and the better off in our society but it will literally not give the poorest the time of day because it is guillotining the debate on issues of concern to them.
Sinn Féin Deputies object to the imposition of a guillotine on Second Stage of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. The measures proposed in the Bill will present serious difficulties to lone parents and those who depend on jobseeker's allowance. We resolutely oppose the Bill against the backdrop of yesterday's revelation that, despite all the alleged belt-tightening, former taoisigh are being provided State moneys to employ two special assistants for five years subsequent to their departure from office and one for a lifetime thereafter.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 71 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 65 (James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Joe Behan, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Joe McHugh, Olivia Mitchell, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Curran and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Question declared carried
It is not agreed to. Sinn Féin has objected to renewal of the measures in the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act in each of the years of our representation here, particularly since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. We have made the objection consistently on each occasion on the grounds that this is legislation with no application whatsoever. It is superfluous to the needs of the legislative measures that exist to address matters that have been or may be addressed under its terms now or at any time in the future. We would call for the Offences against the State Acts to be removed from the Statute Book. The Good Friday Agreement committed to remove all repressive legislation from the Stature Books in both jurisdictions - here and in the neighbouring island. The continuation-----
I am not making it long; it is short and to the point. The measures in the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 should not be renewed here today. It would be a statement of confidence in the primacy of the democratic process and peaceful and political pursuit of honourable objectives validly held by Members in this House and people throughout the island if there was sufficient strength among the political voices here to state that we no longer need this legislation. We believe it was never needed. We make the case again that it should not be renewed.
It is proposed that No. 15 be taken immediately on the conclusion of the Order of Business and be brought to a conclusion after 20 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply - the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time, and which shall not exceed five minutes in each case;
Yesterday the directors of Anglo Irish Bank appeared before Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. They confirmed to the committee that €22 billion of taxpayers' money had already gone into that bank. It was appalling to hear that much of that money will not be recovered by the taxpayers.
I have a question. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to give me some latitude this morning because I will be doing this for a long time. Does the Government plan to continue the taxpayers' guarantee for existing bond investors in Anglo Irish Bank after September? The €22 billion represents three times the budget for the Department of Education and Skills. It is outrageous that taxpayers are still bailing out this bank and we do not know when it will end.
In the proposed business for next week the Government is back to its old bad habits. There are six pieces of legislation, which it proposes to guillotine. We get this coming towards the end of a session with a Government that cannot find enough business for the House to deal with for most of the year. Last week, for example, we had a short week with truncated business. When we come to the last few weeks of the session the Government introduces lots of legislation, guillotines it and gets it through as fast as possible. It is proposed to take the Health (Amendment) Bill 2010 and the European Financial Stability Facility Bill 2010, both of which the Government intends to complete next week. In other words it seeks to complete all Stages of those two Bills but neither has yet been published. At a minimum, when will we see the these Bills that the Government wants done and dusted in one go next week?
The health (amendment) Bill will be published tomorrow and the other legislation was signed off by the Cabinet on Tuesday. I assume it will be published tomorrow but I will revert to the Deputy on the matter.
The Civil Partnership Bill will next come to Report and Final Stages. My understanding is that all parties support the passage of this Bill so will the Tánaiste confirm that it will come before this House for final passage before the summer recess?
I have two questions. One relates to the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill 2010. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is leaving the Chamber but it is one of his pieces of legislation. It concerns the process of releasing people from the Central Mental Hospital with some kind of supervision. Will that come to the Dáil in this session before the summer?
The revised Limerick regeneration plan was to come before the Cabinet this week. There seems to be some lack of clarity on whether it was decided. Will the Tánaiste confirm if it got the Government's backing and if there is a decision to allocate funding this year in order to implement the regeneration plans in Limerick?
Matters going before the Cabinet are not matters for the Order of Business. The Government is committed to the delivery of the Limerick regeneration programme and the Minister of State in charge of it will make a public announcement. I do not have a date for that.
Another piece of legislation promised to the House and the people and which was to be passed before the summer recess is the psychoactive substances Bill, which is the legislation dealing with head shops. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has just left but when will it be published so we can have a look at it and have enough time to properly debate it in the House on Second Stage? Given the short time available, it should be left until the autumn to have a proper debate on Committee and Report Stage.
That legislation was sanctioned by the Cabinet and we are ad idem that the legislation should be passed before the Houses rise for the summer recess. I am sure we will get the co-operation from everyone to ensure that legislation will get through.
The Saville inquiry investigated the killing of 14 people in 1972 in Derry, which is very close to the Tánaiste's constituency. The outcome of that inquiry was welcomed across the political and religious divides. In 1974, 34 people were killed in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, most in my own constituency in Dublin Central. The justice committee produced a report, arising from the Judge Barron investigations, requesting that the Government seek through negotiations and meetings with the British Government for the British authorities-----
It relates to the establishment of an inquiry under an independent chairperson that would have access to the relevant documents. Some 56,000 documents were not made available by the British authorities. It was a tragedy in the Republic and no action has been taken on an inquiry.
It relates to a legislative inquiry. A tribunal of inquiry involves legislation. That is the recommendation from the justice committee that the Irish Government would pursue the matter with the British authorities so the documents which were not accessible to the Barron inquiry or the justice committee would be made available to an independent chairperson who would consider those documents with a view to coming to some finality.
Will the Minister give some indication on this? The previous Taoiseach raised the matter with the previous British Prime Minister. The Tánaiste might give some indication on the intentions of the Government in this matter.
Will the funding that has been withdrawn by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform from the Justice for the Forgotten group, which is carrying out all the good work on behalf of victims and relatives-----
I have two questions. With regard to the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill, the elections were to be held this year, so will the legislation changing the law on the periods come before the House? When will it come before the House as people want to know if the election will be postponed this year?
The head shops legislation is very important. As Deputy Gilmore stated, in the last week of the session we do not want to see guillotines and the House sitting until midnight, with legislation being pushed through before coming to the courts in six months because it is unconstitutional. The head shop issue is very important and people are very concerned about it. Will the Tánaiste confirm that we will have enough time to go through the Bill and that it will not be pushed through this House without proper thought and time?
It is the Government's intention to have the head shops legislation on the floor of the House and everyone is anxious for it to be enacted quickly. The Údarás na Gaeltachta legislation will be this session.
The Bill on the European stabilisation fund - a type of IMF for Europe - is coming before the House on Thursday. It is an important Bill with implications for Ireland and significant amounts are involved. We can view this in the context of statements yesterday concerning the €20 billion of the €22 billion given to Anglo Irish Bank having gone down the drain, according to the chief officers of that bank. We have been given no information or briefing on the matter and I do not know if the European affairs committee has got any either.
This is on the Order of Business. It is being rushed in next Thursday and I believe everybody in the House will support it. Rushing finance Bills with no information or detail on the small print is a recipe for disaster. The Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, did this when Minister for Finance and it allowed Anglo Irish Bank to get involved-----
Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Finance if he will provide a written briefing to Opposition finance spokespersons and also to the members of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, who are heavily involved with this matter? There is a need to properly monitor and examine the position in the best interests of the country. The legislation is extremely important.
The Minister for Finance has been more than forthcoming in respect of these issues and in briefing his colleagues. It is appropriate to state that the legislation relating to banking matters that has been passed by the House has been extensive in nature and was the subject of much discussion here. I do not accept the Deputy's view that legislation which was passed by the House in the past two years was inappropriate. It is time people reiterated that if we were to proceed with the Labour Party's proposal in respect of Anglo Irish Bank, the cost to the taxpayer would be €42 billion.
The Multi-Unit Developments Bill was due to be taken last week. We have been waiting six or seven years for this legislation and it is important that the Second Stage relating to it be completed prior to the summer recess. Will the Tánaiste ensure this happens? In view of the number of companies that have gone bust, there are major difficulties for young people in the type of apartment blocks to which the legislation relates.
Deputy O'Rourke, who was the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, recently gave an interview in which she appeared to indicate that the referendum on the relevant amendment should be held this year. She also appealed to the Opposition not to require that the three outstanding by-elections should happen simultaneously. Is that now the Government's position and will the amendment to the Constitution be the subject of a referendum this year?
It was unfortunate that our deliberations on the Multi-Unit Developments Bill could not be completed last week. However, we will try to get it through because it is long awaited and much needed.
The Government is anxious to pursue the constitutional amendment. However, a decision has not been taken with regard to either what will be the format of the referendum or when it will take place.
Before we proceed to the next item, I wish to inform the House that we had some visitors earlier, namely, Senator Therese Murray, President of the Massachusetts Senate, and her colleagues. However, the Senator and her group have since left.