Thursday, 9 December 2010
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 35a, Supplementary Estimate [Vote 25], back from committee; No. 8, motion re proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010; No. 1, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008 - amendments from the Seanad; No. a4, Social Welfare Bill 2010 - Second Stage (resumed) and Remaining Stages; and No. b4, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the DÃ¡il shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today and business shall be interrupted not later than 8 p.m.; Nos. 35a and 8 shall be decided without debate and any division demanded on No. 35a shall be taken forthwith; the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. a4: the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2 p.m. today and the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m. today 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 Social Protection; the DÃ¡il shall sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 1 p.m., there shall be no Order of Business within the meaning of Standing Order 26 and, accordingly, the following business shall be transacted: No. b4, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010 - Second Stage (resumed) and Remaining Stages, the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 11 a.m. and the proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1 p.m. 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 Finance.
Before we deal with any of the business today, we need to get clarity from the Government with regard to its own future. On 22 November the Green Party announced that it intended to withdraw from Government after the budget and the associated financial legislation was passed, and that there would be a general election at the end of January.
The Taoiseach subsequently said it was his intention to dissolve the DÃ¡il when the budgetary measures had been enacted and that therefore there would be an election, presumably, in February. From news reports this morning it would appear that the Green Party Members have changed their minds again and have now found a new basis on which to prolong the life of the Fianna FÃ¡il-led Government.
I thought we were to refer to the Supplementary Estimate, which I wish to move. As the Taoiseach has said, the general election will be in 2011. Post-budgetary measures will need to be addressed here in the House and we are working towards a legislative process at which stage the Taoiseach will then decide the date of the general election.
We will not have a debate on it at this time. Is the proposal that the DÃ¡il shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 35a Supplementary Estimate [Vote 25] and No. 8, motion re proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010 without debate agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. a4, Social Welfare Bill 2010 - Second Stage (resumed) and Remaining Stages agreed to?
This is not agreed. The Government is again using guillotines to shorten the debate on one of the most appalling Social Welfare Bills to come before the House. It wants to take money away from carers and blind people. We have calculated what would be saved by taking this money from 3,000 blind people.
I will proceed if the Ceann Comhairle would allow me. The bottom line is that this is being done for the sake of a miserly â¬90 million; out of â¬6,000 million, it is unbelievable that this â¬90 million could not be found somewhere else-----
The Minister for Health and Children, who is across the floor of the Chamber, scoffed in July at the thought of hundreds of millions of euro being made available through drugs savings but she issued a press release yesterday or the day before stating that this is what she intends to do.
We want more time to discuss it. We want more time for members of the Government to explain their rationale and perhaps examine their conscience on why they are going to go after carers who save this State hundreds of millions of euro by looking after their loved ones at home.
-----and have to hear the people. They will not listen but they will have to hear them. The TÃ¡naiste and the Ceann Comhairle should listen; we oppose this utterly. We want more time to discuss this Bill. We want every Member of this House to have an opportunity to exercise his or democratic right and express the views of his or her constituents here.
The Labour Party is opposed to guillotining the debate on the Social Welfare Bill at 2 p.m. today. It is bad enough that this Government is cutting the payments and allowances that are being made to people who are blind, widows, people who are out of work, people with disabilities and people who are caring for members of their families. It is bad enough that those cuts are being brought in under this budget but it adds insult to injury to do it in the way the Government is doing it by saying that it will close discussion on the Bill at 2 p.m. today without giving an opportunity to every Member of the DÃ¡il who wants to contribute to it to do so and, more particularly, without giving us an opportunity to tease out some of the hidden cuts contained in the budget.
No, that is the reason. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for drawing attention to this because it is the reason I am opposing this measure. We will not have an opportunity, as he said, to debate all these matters because the proposal from the Government is to guillotine the debate on it. On top of the insult that is being added to injury, this morning we learned that the senior executives in Allied Irish Bank will be paid a bonus, which is more than a carer will get for a full year, something the Government failed to legislate for when the bank guarantee was brought in.
Today the Government is asking us to agree to the ordering of business that will allow for the ramming through of the Social Welfare Bill that seeks to savagely strike out again at the most vulnerable in our society. Against all of that, as has just been referred to, the executives in Allied Irish Bank, a bank that is now virtually State-owned, will be paid bonuses up to a sum of some â¬40 million, we are told, and the cheques will be in the post by 17 December in time for Christmas.
We have to get real. The Government is taking its eye off the ball in that regard for sure. Shamelessly, the Government is seeking to place the most vulnerable in the worst possible situation facing into Christmas and the New Year. There is no way we can agree to the passage of this Bill, or the ordering of what is here - let there be no mistake about it. One can look at budgets in isolation but it is total madness to do that. During the past 12 months, from budget 2010 to budget 2011, the Government will have taken â¬16.50 out of the pockets of carers across this State. That is an absolutely outrageous situation-----
It is appropriate to reiterate that the Government had trebled the amount of expenditure on social welfare. It has moved from a level of expenditure of â¬6.7 billion in 2000 to â¬20.9 billion. It is a bit precious of the deputy leader of Fine Gael to come forward with his new found empathy for those who are less well off.
It is appropriate to say that the Minister for Health and Children was in a position to get a â¬200 million saving on patented drugs in the last number of months through her negotiation and her skills.
On the issues raised by the Labour Party, the Taoiseach put it well in this House when he spoke about the differences between the parties. With Fine Gael we would not have any tax increases and with the Labour Party we would have no social welfare decreases.
These measures would be neither credible nor acceptable, and the most preposterous of all is what Sinn FÃ©in is saying, where we would not have any money at all over the next number of years to pay any social welfare benefits.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 76 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 68 (James Bannon, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pearse Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Noel Grealish, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, 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, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
The current Minister may not have been Minister for Health and Children at the time but I doubt she would have done any better in the negotiations given her propensity for lavish travel and painting her nails. We only need to consider her record, for example, her failure to implement redundancies, which costs the country â¬200 million per annum, and to address drugs reference pricing, which costs another couple of hundred million each year.
I oppose the taking of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill tomorrow in light of what today's newspapers reports concerning â¬40 million of bonuses to bankers. The definition of a bonus is an additional payment for some form of extra achievement. What in the name of God have the banks achieved in recent years? Would AIB have been able to pay bonuses if taxpayers had not bailed out and recapitalised it? Why was this issue not negotiated and sorted out when the bank bailout was being given and the banks' loans were being guaranteed?
We still do not have clarity on the universal social charge. Will it apply to pensioners and medical card holders? We need an answer to that question.
The Government has lost its moral compass. As I pointed out, blind people will no longer have the independence to go to the shop because they cannot afford to feed their dog, whereas bankers will be given bonuses to go to the Caribbean. What type of Government does that to people? This decision has caused outrage, anger and shock and it is wrong.
The Minister for Finance must stop using the law to protect bankers. He should use it to sort them out. I have a proposal for him. Let him show leadership by taxing at 99% the bankers' bonuses in the emergency legislation to come before the House tomorrow.
On the proposal to the deal with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill, the measure to cut the minimum wage is at the end of the legislation. As Deputy Penrose pointed out yesterday, the arrangements the Government proposes for the taking of the Bill will mean, in practice, that it is unlikely the DÃ¡il will have an opportunity to specifically address the cut in the minimum wage. Among the matters which will not receive the attention they deserve under the proposed arrangements is the statement by the Minister for Finance on budget day that those on the new reduced minimum wage will not be brought into the tax net. That is not true.
I am pointing out the reason we need more time to debate the Bill. These are the types of issues the House needs to be debate but we will not have an opportunity to do so. The Minister for Finance stated that those on the new national minimum wage will not be brought into the tax net. On page C30 of the budgetary documentation, we are informed that the universal social charge, which will apply to the national minimum wage, is a tax.
People on the minimum wage will be brought into the tax net. The effect of what the Government is doing is to reduce by â¬40 per week the earnings of a person working 40 hours per week and to take from these earnings â¬8.42 on the universal social charge. This will bring the national minimum wage for someone working 40 hours per week to below â¬300 per week, specifically to â¬297.
On a point of order, it has been brought to the attention of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that he misled the House in his Budget Statement on Tuesday. I offer him an opportunity to correct the record.
Deputy Shortall is making an absolutely valid point which I support. The Sinn FÃ©in Deputies absolutely object to the guillotining of this Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill. What a grand name. If ever there was a misnomer for a compendium piece of legislation, this is it. This is an enabling Bill to reduce the minimum wage. Calling it a â¬1 reduction, or going from â¬8.65 to â¬7.65, does not seem to hit quite the same note, but let us make no mistake about it - this will be at least â¬40 per week from the pockets of families who are depending on the basic standard of income. It is an absolutely disgraceful proposition that will cause untold harm to those families who are trying to cope at that level.
The second reason I object is that the Bill facilitates a capping of the salaries for higher public servants. However, the cap is far too high at â¬250,000. Let us face reality here. A quarter of a million euro is too much in these circumstances-----
The Government has not gone far enough. These are the critical points that are wrong with the entire compendium proposal, the so-called "in the public interest" Bill. I have never heard anything as ludicrously described as this piece of legislation.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 78 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Joe Behan, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 69 (James Bannon, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pearse Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Noel Grealish, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, 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, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
I wish to inquire after a number of Bills. First, I wish to refer to the legislation coming before the House tomorrow. Given the savings that will be made from the reduction in the minimum wage amount to a mere â¬83 million in one year and that â¬40 million in bonuses are to be paid this year to bankers and â¬55 million was paid last year, which is an equivalent sum, will the Minister for Finance or the TÃ¡naiste give an undertaking that these bonuses will be taxed at 99%? In the United States, President Obama taxed them at 90% and the Government here should show some leadership and go further. The people want that.
This is a burning issue for the people of this country. They have realised the trouble we are in and how we got here, despite the Government spin, namely, through lack of regulation, political ill judgment and bankers being paid bonuses for achieving figures, not for achieving security for their bank or best outcomes for their clients. The Government has an opportunity to show some leadership, late in the day as it might be.
Second, on the Order of Business, where stands the corporate donations legislation, the legislation on the lord mayor, which is going through the House at present, and the climate change Bill? These are all Bills which the Green Party, which is supporting the Government, is very keen to have passed and it is now making noises about delaying its promise of an election in January lest this legislation not be passed. It is clear the climate change Bill is one the Greens have been very slow to introduce but they could change the political climate by changing the Government.
Will the TÃ¡naiste tell us the date of the next general election, rather than talking about 2011? As we all know, that would mean 24 December 2011 if she had her way. The people need to know that, and they need to know the Greens will keep their word this time - that they are going to stay green and not turn yellow yet again.
The heads of the electoral (amendment) Bill have been agreed and approval has been given to draft. The Dublin mayor Bill is on Committee Stage, which will be taken next week. I believe the Minister is bringing the climate change Bill to finality for publication.
I wish to raise two matters. First, Deputy Shortall asked the Minister for Finance to correct the record of the House relating to the statement he made during his Budget Statement that people on the new national minimum wage would not be brought into the tax net. It is clear from the way in which the universal social charge is being applied that it is a tax and that as a result, people on the national minimum wage are being brought into the tax net. I ask the TÃ¡naiste to address this. An opportunity should be given some time today for the Minister for Finance to correct the record of the House.
Second, we have been told that once the budget is through, the Green Party would leave Government and there would be a general election. This would mean that, apart from the financial legislation that arises out of the budget, no other legislation would be brought forward by this Government-----
I am trying to find out what is going on. I do not care who answers. The only thing I care about is that we can rely on the answer this time. We got an answer on 22 November that the Greens were going to pull out of Government and that there would be a general election in January. Is that still the case?
On the issue of the Minister for Finance, it was clear the Minister was referring to the income tax net in his discussions. With regard to the legislation which Deputy Gilmore inquired about, the Taoiseach indicated that the post-budgetary legislation would be dealt with, at which stage he will decide when the election will take place.
The Finance Bill will be taken when we resume after the recess. As the Taoiseach indicated, the proposal is that the House would resume a week earlier than previously expected and that once the Finance Bill is available, we will discuss it.
Deputy Gogarty should not worry. The only old banger in here is the one he has been driving in the Green Party for years. It is just about clapped out.
With regard to the TÃ¡naiste's reply to the previous questioner, will the Finance Bill be before the DÃ¡il on 12 January? Is that when we will address it? What is reason the Government intends running it forward to the beginning of the first week back? How quickly afterwards do the members of the Government intend to hand in their resignations in the park? What is the programme of legislation which the Government expects?
I notice that this morning a lobby has started again in regard to the climate change Bill, which I am happy to support. Is it the case that the Government is in disarray and the Green Party wants to see other legislation being forced through?
I indicated previously that the date of publication of the Finance Bill is something I do not have at present because the Department and the Minister are working on it, which takes a considerable amount of time and deliberation. With regard to the legislation for the next session of the DÃ¡il, the Chief Whip will bring that forward in the normal way.
I have two questions. On the issue that has just been raised - promised legislation is an important matter - it was announced earlier this week by the Taoiseach that the DÃ¡il will return a week early, as Fine Gael had been seeking, presumably on 12 January. Does the TÃ¡naiste know why it is returning a week early? It was assumed it was returning a week early to take the finance Bill. If we are returning a week early and not taking the finance Bill, is there anyone in government who can tell us why we are returning a week early? Is Deputy Gogarty the assistant TÃ¡naiste? Can he inform the House? That is the first question.
My second question relates to a very serious matter. On the night on which the budget was being debated in this House, the Department of Justice and Law Reform published a very extensive and comprehensive report by Judge Michael Reilly, the Inspector of Prisons, into catastrophic failures in every aspect of the justice system for which the Minister is responsible that resulted in the death of a Mr. Noel Keegan on 31 December 2009. That report is a matter of substantial-----
That report is a matter of substantial public concern. Will DÃ¡il time be made available to debate it? I suggest to the TÃ¡naiste that the DÃ¡il sit from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow with the agreement of the Whips to facilitate the Minister making a statement to the House on the report and Members of the House in addressing the issues in that report. The essential issue that arose from the report is that Mr. Keegan lost his life-----
We have debated in this House reports on the catastrophic systemic failures within the child care services. This is the equivalent within our justice service. At the very least, the Keegan family, who have been seriously wronged and bereaved, are entitled to have the report considered by Members of this House this week. I ask that the Minister, on behalf of the State, apologise in this House on behalf of the State to the family for the tragedy that has befallen it.
To be fair to the Deputy, the issues that have arisen on foot of the report are very serious. When this matter arose, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform advised his Opposition colleagues that he was initiating an investigation arising from a very regrettable incident that took place. I join the Minister in sympathising with the family of the late Mr. Noel Keegan. Perhaps the Whips will be in a position to facilitate a discussion on the report.
Is there proposed amending legislation dealing with NAMA? As the TÃ¡naiste will be aware, NAMA has opposed a number of high-profile examinerships recently. An example pertains to the Whelans Group, in respect of which NAMA sought to oppose the examinership as proposed. This has an impact on jobs, which are being lost. Is it possible to review the legislation and look to the broader responsibility NAMA should have for the taxpayer? While its initial remit clearly pertains to the taxpayer in terms of returning funds that are owed, there is a broader consideration in terms of the protection of jobs. Is there potential to review the legislation as part of the current programme of legislative measures?
I am not aware of any review that is to take place of NAMA legislation. Perhaps I will advise the Minister for Finance of the issues that have arisen and ask him to revert to the Deputy.
Yesterday the HSE clarified that 199 children died in care in the ten years up to April 2010. Committee Stage of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill is complete and it is ready to proceed to Report Stage. Its objective is partly to protect children in care and to implement some of the recommendations of the Ryan report. I want clear assurance from the TÃ¡naiste, on behalf of the Government, that this legislation will be prioritised over the vanity projects of the Green Party, including the provision of another layer of bureaucracy in the Dublin area. I want assurance from the party that really leads the Government, not the Green Party. The legislation is about protecting children in care and is extremely important. I want to be absolutely sure that the issue of children in danger of dying in care - there have been 199 deaths in the past ten years - will be prioritised over other issues before the dissolution of this DÃ¡il.
The Government will be more than happy to facilitate that legislation as a matter of urgency, perhaps on our return after Christmas. I believe it is on Report Stage.
Some time ago, the Taoiseach promised publicly in The Irish Field that he would introduce legislation regarding the horse and greyhound fund in so far as it relates to online and off-course betting. It was promised that it would be introduced before Christmas and is very urgent. Will the TÃ¡naiste indicate whether it will be published before Christmas? If not, will it be published in January?
It will be introduced in the finance Bill, which will be taken after Christmas. I believe there is parallel legislation under the Betting Act to be introduced also.
In light of the fact that the Green Party is trying to bring forward some of its pet legislation, such as that to establish a Dublin lord mayor, does the TÃ¡naiste's party not regard it as important to bring forward the legal costs Bill to deal with the anomaly whereby those in the legal field are not being affected by the cutbacks affecting everybody else?
In light of all the problems associated with young people misbehaving because of excessive drinking, including in housing estates, for example, can the sale of alcohol Bill be dealt with to control the sale and abuse of alcohol?
In view of the fact that the recent international student assessment shows literacy levels in Ireland have dropped catastrophically; that the biggest drop in literacy in any country since 2000 has been in Ireland; and that the same survey shows that one in six of our students has low literacy and that almost one in four males is not functionally literate, does the TÃ¡naiste not agree that there is a need for a radical shake-up in education policy in terms of literacy resources given to primary and lower level secondary schools?
Does the TÃ¡naiste agree that the greatest failure of all is that we will not be able to compete for new jobs in the new economy considering that the people who scored highest in the international assessment of literacy and other educational attainments are from China and the Far East, and that we in Ireland are falling behind very significantly? What is the TÃ¡naiste doing about it? Will she introduce a plan before the dissolution of this DÃ¡il to address this very serious issue?
In regard to legislation on the student support grant coming before the House next Thursday, in respect of which legislation we in the Opposition benches will be assisting, will the TÃ¡naiste clarify whether existing students who have the highest grants on the grounds that they live farthest from their educational institutions will lose those grants if they live within the new-----
I ask that the Minister clarify that by next Thursday. Her Department could not provide clarity on that yesterday within one hour, and I appreciate it was one hour. I was trying to get clarity on this matter but I could not get any response from the Minister's Department during that period of time, which I found unacceptable, having telephoned her office and the office of the Secretary General. That is not good enough.
On the issue of PISA, I have noted what the Opposition spokespersons had to say on the matter. I introduced new educational measures with regard to our teaching standards, our entry requirements into teaching, an extension of the degree programme, BEd, to a four year programme, greater interventions by the inspectorate, a new probation service and I have instructed that in our curriculum development the emphasis now must be on literacy and numeracy. That education policy was announced by me two weeks ago. We will have an opportunity on Thursday for a considerable amount of discussion on educational matters through the Student Support Bill, and also parliamentary questions, at which stage I will be more than happy to give further information to the Deputy.
Cathain ata sÃ© i gceist an Bille um ÃdarÃ¡s na Gaeltachta a fhoilsiÃº? An mbeidh sÃ© rite roimh deireadh na DÃ¡la seo? An mbeimid in ann toghchÃ¡n ÃdarÃ¡s na Gaeltachta a shocrÃº ar an lÃ¡ cÃ©anna leis an olltoghchÃ¡n? An bhfuil sÃ© i gceist aon BillÃ eile a bhaineann leis an Ghaeilge nÃ³ leis an straitÃ©is, atÃ¡ glactha an Rialtas le roinnt seachtainÃ anuas, a chur chun cinn?
NÃl an plean Ã¡ fhoilsiÃº go hoifigiÃºil go fÃ³ill. TÃ¡ sÃ© rÃ©idh. SÃlim go bhfoilseoidh an Aire Ã© roimh an Nollag. Ag Ã©irÃ as na moltaÃ atÃ¡ sa straitÃ©is 20 bliain, caithfear Bille Ãºr a chur os comhair an TÃ chun athstruchtÃºrÃº a dhÃ©anamh ar ÃdarÃ¡s na Gaeltachta.
In recent days we have seen the eventual closing of the trial of Tony Walsh and his conviction on a number of charges of child sexual abuse. Will the TÃ¡naiste confirm that the Minister for Justice and Law Reform is now moving to provide for the publication of that section of the Murphy report which had previously been redacted pending the outcome of the trial? When can we expect to see that report published in full?